Of the Committee's two enumerated accusations put forward as proof of fraud by Mme. Blavatsky, the second was that the "Shrine" (cupboard), formerly located in the "Occult Room" at Theosophical Headquarters, Adyar, had been "a Conjurer's Box" (400), in which Mahatma letters and other objects appeared or disappeared when a hidden confederate reached in by a secret passageway at the back of the Shrine (204).

A. The Shrine:  Its Design and Construction
B. Location of the Shrine
C. Curtain and Wall-Cloth
D. Inspecting the Wall, March to October, 1883
E. The Almirah
F. The "Boarding" or Door
G. Relative Positions of Door and Shrine
H. The "Recess" and the "Bricked Frame"
I. The "Sideboard"
J. "Traces of the Hole in the Wall"



But Richard Hodgson, who never saw this Shrine, nor acknowledged any plan of it or its surroundings as reliable except his own, lacked the evidence necessary to support this charge.

1. Evidence (suppressed by Hodgson, by reason of omission from his report) shows the Shrine was built not in secret nor by Mons. Coulomb but at a local cabinet-maker's shop, Deschamps' (51); and, was designed for easy dismantling in event of travel (221) . [13]   The doors unhinged, a drawer and shelves and a back of three panels came out, while the remaining sides were held only by "corner brackets" (221).

2. While suppressing everything he learned from or about Deschamps, Hodgson asserted that, aside from the three panels at the back, "the rest of the Shrine appears to have been of solid construction" (221).  But this "appears" only in his drawing (see Plate II, "Plan of Occult Room, With Shrine and Surroundings"), where, as if to support this allegation, he shows the front as solid, whereas it certainly contained "double doors" (321).

3. Mme. Coulomb, in a passage Hodgson suppressed, says the panels "at the back" - not in the back, as in his Plan --- were "made on purpose to be taken out and slid back when necessity demanded it" (51); and, that to convert the Shrine into a conjuror's box, it was necessary to: (a) divide the rear middle panel; (b) nail to it a leather handle (51-2).  And Mons. Coulomb added, (c) conceal the division between half-panels by a mirror within the Shrine (222).

4. Hodgson gave nothing but the Coulombs' word for any divided panel, or handle; nor, any explanation for not having these (at the "exposure" of May 18, 1884, the panels as found were all full-size).

5. Hodgson gave no evidence the required mirror existed in the necessarily critical size or position.

6. Hodgson suppressed the fact the Shrine had shelves;  [14] nor did he show that the disputed movements within the Shrine could have been made via a specifically positioned aperture in the back.

7. A stick, probing immediately behind the Shrine (suspended on wires), encountered no "handle", no "hole in the wall", nor anything suspicious (221, 333).

8. Ignoring inspection from within, Hodgson made the absurd assertion, "no careful examination could ever have been made of the back of the Shrine" unless it was "removed from the wall" (224).  But, as no claim was made that the mirror was immobile, it must have been removed when, in presence of witnesses, Damodar Mavalankar regularly took "all the things out of the Shrine" during cleaning (337) --- a task substantiated by a "Blavatsky-Coulomb letter" in a passage Hodgson suppressed ( 55 cf. 212) ---; and, also when visitors examined the interior, e.g., the one hostile witness to Shrine phenomena (aside from the Coulombs) admits, "No opening of any kind was visible in the back of the Shrine" (341), not merely in "part of the back" (as though part were hidden by a mirror).

9. While showing this "muslin" was behind not "over" the Shrine (221, 327), Hodgson suppressed Mme. Coulomb's assertion the panel was divided "because by pulling the panel up all one piece it would have shown, notwithstanding the many folds of muslin which hung in festoons over the shrine" (51-2).  Analysis of undisputed figures in his own report (height and depth of Shrine cf. height and distance of curtains hanging before the Shrine) shows that any half-panel raised 6 inches (52) at the back would have bee visible to an observer either within or without the curtained enclosure (see Plate II).  Yet, during Shrine phenomena, no one ever reported seeing or hearing any suspicious movement, though up to fifteen persons were present at once (suppressed by Hodgson). [15]

10. No claim was made that the alleged half-panel locked in place; yet, before witnesses, Damodar "used to rub the frame hard with the towel, and if there were any workable panel at that time, it could not but have moved under the pressure" (337); and, as happened, a visitor could test his suspicions by manual inspection of the rear panels (334).  Yet, once positioned, no movement was ever detected until the Shrine was later taken down and the back struck by hand (224).  Why?

11. Hodgson admits the "upper part" (not "portions of the upper part", as would be the case if his Plan of the Shrine were correct) leaned against the wall (221); and he failed to show that, thus tilted, any panel at the back could have been slid up even an inch, obstructed as it was by the covered wall behind.

12. The testimony of Damodar, custodian of the Shrine in H.P.B.'s absence (337), was itself sufficient to destroy Hodgson's accusations regarding the Shrine; hence he ridiculed ("! !") the idea that Damodar spoke truthfully or, during the period of Shrine phenomena, knew nothing of any "hole in the wall immediately behind the Shrine" (341).  To sustain this charge, however, Hodgson had to suppress the Coulombs' admission that it was "only on the morning of the 16th May," 1884, that Mons. Coulomb first told Damodar "there was a secret passage behind the 'shrine' "; and, that Damodar --- to "reward" them for this "confidential communication," as Mme. Coulomb laments --- exposed their "great secret" to Mme. Blavatsky and officials at Adyar, thus bringing about the couple's expulsion and the inspection of the rooms two days later (92, 106, 110).

Not only did Hodgson, in his account of the exposure, misrepresent the sequence of events and the relationship of the principals involved, not only did he distort the testimony of some Theosophical witnesses and suppress that of others concerned with this incident, but he altogether suppressed the relevant testimony of his own chief witnesses and the affidavits and documents which Mme. Coulomb had naively published, testimony and evidence which prove Hodgson's account of the "exposure" and his main charge against Damodar to be particularly false and extraordinarily misleading.


Equally irresponsible is Hodgson's charge that "the position selected for the Shrine was peculiarly convenient for obtaining secret access to it from the back" (226).

1. That the wall behind it was also the "party-wall" of H.P.B.'s bedroom is less of a coincidence than that this was the east wall of the Occult Room, and, conformable with occult ritual and Asiatic custom (which Hodgson ignored), the Shrine was to hang in the east.

2. That the Shrine was positioned partly before the wall's "thin" portion, then backing an open recess (220), accords with:  (a) the evidence and Hodgson's testimony (221, 327) --- not with his Plan --- which show the Shrine was positioned symmetrically with reference to this whole wall, their vertical centerlines conjoining this portion; (b) had it, instead, been located before a closed full-depth section of the wall, suspicion would have arisen that the wall concealed a recess enclosing a conjuror, an objection not so easy to put down.

3. As if to enhance this alleged convenience, Hodgson (see Plate II) put in the northwall of the bedroom a "DOOR", appropriately concealed (by curtains) from the Sitting-Room where H.P.B. entertained prospective converts.  As if to give assurance that a confederate could pass here unheard as much as unseen, there appears across the doorway the representation of a curtain.  Compare this representation with the same appearing at the front of the recess in the northwall of the Sitting Room, denoting "curtains" (346). [16]  But Hodgson gave no evidence a doorway was there then, and certainly no passageway was there before mid-December, 1883, when the bedroom could be entered only by "passing through the drawing-room" (326) --- for a confederate's surreptitious entry into the recess, "peculiarly convenient," indeed!

4. Having thus provided a "DOOR" for the convenience of Mons. Coulomb, alleged confederate (323), Hodgson forthwith produces a "new room" peculiarly convenient for Mme. Coulomb who, disguised "as a Mahatma," once "passed away at the east side of the balcony, departing into the new room", according to this report (243) of her claims.  His Plan (see Plate II), showing this structure, purports to represent conditions existing some time between December 15, 1883 and "about or shortly before the middle of January, 1884" (222-23).  But this "NEW ROOM" was only built later, after H.P.B. left for Europe, 1884,  [17] and on February 1, 1884, "the wood required for the new room" was not even yet obtained (77)!  Thoughtfully, Hodgson did not bother his readers with this contrary evidence.


But it was not enough that Hodgson should claim there had been a secret passageway through wall and Shrine.

1. As he admitted, between this wall and Shrine there was tacked calico wall-cloth and hung muslin curtain (221, 327).

2. But Hodgson made no claim whatever that these barriers contained openings corresponding or not to alleged apertures in wall and Shrine ("not the smallest trace," reported a Member of the Council of the S.P.R., who had been present at the "exposure"); neither did he intimate that the muslin or calico ever had been disturbed since first put there --- even though he questioned the tailor who prepared them (327).

3. While Mons. Coulomb kept discreetly silent on this problem, Mme. Coulomb simply ignored the calico and misrepresented the muslin's position.  How did Hodgson meet this evidence?  That he was well aware it presented an imminent, fatal danger to his case appears from the fact that, although his drawing shows the other curtains, Hodgson suppressed and omitted from his Plan all sign of this curtain and wall-cloth.  So "peculiarly convenient" was the Shrine position immediately in front of these barriers that, by a typical "vanishing act," Hodgson caused the muslin and calico to disappear!  He well knew that to Science it makes no difference whether a letter or a saucer passes through a brick wall or whole muslin or calico --- it would be a "miracle" in any case!


Even if Hodgson's Plan were not grossly defective in representing conditions of the Shrine and Surroundings as these existed during the period indicated, it would not cover more than a minor part of the related evidence, for this period is only one month (222-23) of the 14-or-so months during which phenomena occurred in the Shrine.  Other and different construction details were in effect during the other 13 months, according to Hodgson's own admission.  Despite this, he altogether failed to present a plan to accord with conditions obtaining within these other periods, by far the major portion of time under inquiry.  Why this important omission?

Just as the curtain and wall-cloth behind the Shrine would have proved readily embarrassing had they appeared in his Plan, so there was another difficulty which was quite as dangerous and had to be done away with, but by less obvious means.  Adept at causing "appearances" and "disappearances" by literary legerdemain, Hodgson proceeded to conceal "the hole in the wall" when only he could do so.

1. He tries to have it believed that from March to about November, 1883, a "hole in the wall immediately behind the Shrine" was hidden from view in the bedroom by a sliding panel in a "wooden boarding" nailed "at the back of the recess" while an almirah (wardrobe) with a secret corresponding aperture and panel "stood in front of this recess" (221-22).

2. As only one dissatisfied witness gave any account of inspecting this "boarding," Hodgson lets pass unchallenged the testimony that the almirah itself "was sometimes removed in the presence of several witnesses, and we all had every reason to be sure that the wall was intact" (337); neither does he dispute testimony the almirah was removed during an inspection by skeptical visitors so far back as April 1, 1883 (333).

3. But Hodgson could afford to do this only because he suppressed Mme. Coulomb's allegation that from the beginning (March, 1883) the "small breach" in the brick-and-plaster wall had been concealed on the east side only by the almirah which actually stood within the recess and "against the wall" itself (52, 54)!

4. And Mme. Coulomb pretends that no one asked to have the almirah removed for inspection before it was replaced by the "boarding" during the "heat" of summer, 1883 (54)!

5. But after this, who would believe her claim the "boarding" was erected as early as summer?  The earliest evidence Hodgson gave for its presence in the recess (no word of the almirah then) was of October 14, 1883 (341), whereas the previous month the wall at the back of the still-open recess was seen by Dr. Rajamiengar to be "bare and intact" as viewed from H.P.B.'s bedroom (334).


During the period of Shrine-phenomena attributed by Dr. Hodgson to surreptitious entry from the recess, the recess held in turn; firstly, the almirah, brought from Bombay (52); next, the "wooden boarding"; lastly, a "bricked frame."

Without the necessary sliding panel in the back of the almirah, if for no other reason, such secret access was impossible during most of this time, when the almirah stood within the recess.  Besides other requirements, such a panel had to:  (a) then exist; (b) be constructed so as to escape or defy inspection; (c) correspond in position with the alleged shrine-and-wall passageway.

1. Hodgson had only the Coulombs' word that the sliding panel shown by Mons. Coulomb in the almirah, May 18, 1884, had existed in 1883; nor did Hodgson claim his inspection of it in any way discredited previous examination showing the panel was "evidently new".

2. That this almirah-panel could not have escaped discovery had it existed in the recess is evident from Mme. Coulomb's assertion (suppressed by Hodgson, discredited as it was by H.P.B.'s undisputed removals of the almirah when requested) that H.P.B. was fearful lest she be "asked by some one to have the almirah removed to inspect the back of it" (54).

3. At the "exposure," it was found that, pursuant to H.P.B.'s instructions (77), Mons. Coulomb had built a north-south partition separating bedroom and sitting-room,  [18] a partition stopping short of where the almirah stood as if permanently situated, beside the northwall with its back and sliding-panel exposed to view from the sitting-room.  Strange behaviour if H.P.B. feared lest someone "inspect the back of it"!

4. Ignoring this, Hodgson also failed to explain why such a trick panel, if retired from use by November, 1883 (222), would go neglected until May, 1884, dangerously inviting discovery and exposure, when the alleged conspirators had every motive and opportunity to remove it.

5. Significantly, Hodgson made no claim that either the vertical or horizontal placement of this panel was aligned with the assumed shrine-wall passageway.

6. As if to conceal his own measurements of this panel's size and position, Hodgson also made the almirah "vanish."  Unlike the Plan previously published by Hartmann ("absurdly inaccurate," according to Hodgson [19] ), his own Plan simply omits the almirah.


Mme. Coulomb claimed that the "boarding" was: (a) made only after a decision to substitute it for the almirah in the recess; (b) made to be a "sham door;" (c) made by "carpenters" who built into it a panel designed to be "slid off about ten inches" (54).

1. Doubtless it was what he learned from these carpenters that caused Hodgson to suppress all of this.  But building a "sham door" to be put where any door would only arouse unwanted suspicion --- as it soon did (342) --- is a self-evident absurdity.

2. While Hodgson ignored the origin of what he called "the boarding," six witnesses concerned definitely recognized it as a "door" (325, 326, 328, 330, 335).  As if to prevent similar recognition by his readers, Hodgson in his Plan illustrated no other door (except that graphically misrepresented as a curtain in the northwall recess of the bedroom).

3. Incompatible though it was with his false juxtaposing of almirah and door, Hodgson did not deny that H.P.B. used this door to hang her clothes upon, in the recess behind the Shrine (332, 341).  A spare door, apparently similar to others on the premises, it may well have been used previously for this same purpose in the bedroom's northwall recess and as a shutter to close off a window originally there, these wall-recesses being used interchangeably as windows or doorways (220).  Tiring of the repeated removal of almirah to satisfy skeptical visitors, perhaps H.P.B. simply exchanged positions of almirah and door before October 14, 1883.  If so, in the almirah's new position against the window glass of the northwall recess, how could any sliding panel in its back --- recalling Mme. Coulomb's remark --- escape being seen from outside?  On all this, Hodgson, of course, was silent.

4. At the "exposure," it was found that one of the four panels of a door (at the back of the northwall recess of the sitting-room, shown in Plate II) could be slid open, the same door, so Hodgson claimed (but did not prove), that had been in the recess behind the Shrine (223).  Again, he had only the Coulombs' testimony that this panel had been moveable before some time in 1884.  Even the missionaries' agent admitted that, as a sliding panel, it was "evidently of recent construction" (339).

5. Hodgson found it could "be opened and shut only with considerable difficulty" (339); and, while concocting theories of "disuse" and "grit" to explain this, he made no claim his inspection showed the panel was designed for easy, silent movement.

6. Neither could he say why H.P.B. would have neglected to nail shut such a panel, if abandoned for "about five months" (340), and situated as it was (according to the missionaries' agent) "without the slightest attempt at concealment" (339), needlessly inviting scandal.


1. Necessary to his case though the claim was, nowhere did Hodgson maintain that his measurements of this door revealed its "secret aperture" could ever have opened into the alleged wall-Shrine passageway.

2. The door had been "at the back of the recess" (221, 70), "on" (328, 331-32), and nailed "on the east side of the wall" behind the Shrine (333).  But thus positioned, as seen in Figure A, Plate I, the sliding panel and the "hole in the wall" do not align, both being blocked by solid barriers.  To correct this, the door is reversed in Figure B, but note that now the door, as taken from Hodgson's drawing, cannot be "on" the wall nor "at the back of the recess."  Moreover, with the bevelled edges of the door reversed against the convergence of the bedroom-recess walls, the "block" (lowest sidepiece of the door), which held the moveable panel in place (340) when in the north recess of the sitting-room, would itself no longer be held in place by recess-walls.

3. The horizontal juxtaposition of door and Shrine, assumed in Figure B, depends entirely on Hodgson's graphic positioning of the Shrine (critical by inches), a location for which he admitted no firsthand knowledge, named no authority, reported no testimony.

4. Since "The wall" (not "portion of wall") "immediately" behind the Shrine was "covered" (not "partly covered") by two widths of white calico which "met in a vertical line passing behind the centre of the Shrine" (221, 327), if Hodgson's Plan is correct the widths would have been (a) unequal, (b) odd-sized, viz., 4ft. 9in. and 6ft. 9in. wide.  But if H.P.B. had made such a peculiar demand upon the tailor (when, otherwise, the same wall could conveniently accommodate two equal widths, each of two yard-wide strips sewn together and overlapped 3in.), and if the tailor had prepared wall-cloth of such specific, troublesome widths to cover asymmetrically a commonplace wall about 12ft. wide, it would have been such an unusual and significant circumstance that Hodgson could not have resisted exploiting it to prop up his case, after his questioning the tailor (327).  But his very silence here disrupts any notion his positioning of the Shrine was correct.

5. Relocated at the only place both logic and evidence suggest, coincident with the joining of wall-cloth and the vertical centerline of the wall behind, the centerpoint of the Shrine back measured 5ft. 9in. from the Occult Room's northwall; and here the south vertical sidepiece (3in. wide) of the door in the recess behind would block one-third of the width of the alleged Shrine-aperture, and would reduce by almost one-half the effective width of the "hole in the wall" (as Hodgson related Shrine and "hole").  Instead of a "sham door" being built to accommodate an already-fixed passageway, we find Hodgson displacing the Shrine one foot northward, as if to move the imaginary passageway (marked by the alleged aperture in the Shrine back) out of line with this obvious obstruction! [20]

6. Again, Hodgson's Plan denies the reader a view of the vital, vertical dimensions.  Despite this, we may approximate the truth, although it is sufficient in itself to merely object that he once again failed to prove his case at a most critical juncture, inasmuch as he omitted to show that the location of the known aperture in this door he examined and measured could have coincided with the alleged position of wall-and-Shrine aperture.  Why so serious an omission?

Assuming that, as shown with the vertical crosspiece, the horizontal crosspiece of the door illustrated as positioned upon the center cross-line of the door and was 4in. wide (like the vertical crosspiece illustrated), the door fitting the back of the recess and being approximately 8ft. in height (222), the lower south panel (as situated within the recess) would then extend 3ft. 10in. to the floor below.  If this panel dropped to make an aperture of ten inches below the crosspiece, the aperture would be located vertically 3ft. to 3ft. 10in. above the floor of the recess.  This floor was about two feet higher than the floor of the Occult Room (220).

On the opposite side of the wall and within the Occult Room, the Shrine, of equal dimensions in width and height (221, the width being approximately four feet according to Hodgson's Plan), would be situated approximately 3ft. 10in. above the Occult Room floor (328 cf. 334), allowing four inches of this for the drawer and shelf below (221).  A division halving the rear middle panel of the Shrine would then be 5ft. 10in. (3ft. 6in. plus 4in. plus 2ft.) above the Occult Room floor or 3ft. 10in. above the recess floor.  In fact, as thus arrived at by mean calculation deduced from Hodgson's own Plan and figures, the alleged opening in the back of the Shrine, shown on raising the reported top half-panel, would not correspond with the aperture in the door in the recess but would be blocked altogether by the door's upper south panel and the horizontal crosspiece in the door below this panel.  No wonder Hodgson was careful to omit any plan of vertical dimensions!

7. Finally, Hodgson relates, when operated, the moveable lower south panel in the door had to be forced down "about 10 inches" (222) and into "the hole in the terrace made for the panel to sink into" (340).  But on examining the floor of the recess behind the Shrine position, did he find there traces of this necessary "hole"?  Not if his strange silence at this point means anything!


The skeptical visitor of October 14th, 1883, having raised "doubt" on finding a door in the recess behind the Shrine, H.P.B. had it removed and the front of the recess closed up by a wall (222).

1. Had this door concealed a secret passageway through the brick-and-plaster wall behind the Shrine, obviously the only way to insure its concealment during these alterations would have been to leave the door in the recess and wall it up.  According with Hodgson's calculations, it could have been removed later in secret, if necessary.

2. Yet, by November 10th, it was gone (325, cf. 236-37).  (See Section V).  The recess, however, was not closed up by the new, papered, plastered, brick-and-wood wall until "about the middle of December, 1883, or perhaps several days later" (222).  Where then was the "secret passageway" during the interim, when carpenters (329) erected the wood frame, when masons (77) laid the brick and plaster (no claim was made that Mons. Coulomb did this work), when Mrs. Morgan arrived to find the bricked frame "being substituted" for the door (325), and when General Morgan "frequently examined the shrine and the wall at the back of the shrine up to January 1884. . . ."? [21]  Here, Hodgson's silence seems to say, "The less said, the better!"

3. On May 18, 1884, a sideboard was found against this new wall, and passage existed between bedroom and recess by way of apertures in sideboard and wall (see Plate II), though nothing but the Coulombs' word indicated these apertures existed before H.P.B.'s departure in 1884.  Although Hodgson examined the sideboard  [22] and (bricked?) frame (228), he reported nothing to counter the objections that these apertures were newly-prepared, even when he quoted (from Annie Besant) the description by Mr. Judge:  "a rough, unfinished hole in the wall. . . . From each edge projected pieces of lath, some three inches, others five inches long. . . . The plaster was newly broken off, the ends of the laths presented the appearance of freshly broken wood, and the wallpaper had been freshly torn off." [23]

4. Hodgson claimed the sideboard was so situated directly after the wall was finished (222); but, instead, the order for the sideboard's construction was not given until some time afterwards (326), a remarkable oversight if it had been intended to conceal an aperture planned since the door's removal 45 days or so earlier!

5. "M. Coulomb states that he removed the bricks as soon as the sideboard was in position" (223), which, according to Hodgson, was just before "the anniversary" or Convention time at Adyar, 1883.  Dr. Hodgson credited Mme. Coulomb's allegation that, about mid-January, 1884 (223), her husband could not close up this aperture because it was "near Madame's departure" --- twenty-five days prior thereto (77)! --- and "visitors were constantly coming and going" (76).  Yet, he ignores the absurdity of Mons. Coulomb in the sideboard, noisily knocking and ripping through the new wall, with the Morgans looking on, as Theosophists arrive for Adyar's biggest event, the Convention!

6. The "Shrine-phenomena," says Hodgson, "which were in abeyance during these alterations, began again immediately after their completion" (223).  Why should this be so if, as he insinuated (248), sleight-of-hand was sometimes used at the Shrine with impressive results?  As a matter of fact, restrictions on phenomena were put in effect as early as October 8, 1883, due to H.P.B.'s "physiological enfeeblement." [24]

7. That Mme. Coulomb knew such Shrine-phenomena were not "in abeyance" until "the sideboard was in position" is shown by her contrary claim (suppressed by Hodgson) that the bricked-frame aperture preceded the sideboard which was made later and, "In order to conceal the hole which had been made in the new frame" (71).  Apparently, only her imagination --- or lack of it --- concealed "the hole" before this!

8. That Hodgson claimed he "entered a space through a hole the dimensions of both of which were at least an inch less than the dimensions given by Dr. Hartmann" (229) in describing the recess and bricked-frame aperture, proves nothing.  Hodgson failed to claim:  (a) that the spatial relation of this "hole" to "space" duplicated the actual relationship at issue as found at Adyar; (b) that both had to be entered under 27in. from floor-level; (c) that to enter by duplication he had to "crawl in," as through an adjacent sideboard, before he "stood upright" (229); nor (d) does he say how much difficulty he had getting in.  He even fails to tell whether he got out the same way!

9. Witnesses objected that the narrowness of the hollow left between the front and back walls of the recess was insufficient to house anyone performing trickery.  How reliable Hodgson was in answering this appears in his Plan where, as if to widen this space for a trickster, the thickness of the back wall "of bricks" (220) --- which had fronted on two rooms and so bore two layers of plaster as against one for the new wall --- is graphically reduced to no more than the thickness of the front wall "of half-size bricks" (222).

10. Moreover, Hodgson's references to his inspection of the (bricked?) frame are overshadowed by his conflicting claims that (a) he found it "stowed away in the compound" (228); and (b) "lying in the dust-heap of the compound." [25]

11. But that the bricked-frame was not designed, as claimed (71), to provide a secret aperture, is evidenced by:  (a) the aperture having to be hacked out from the framework, and not "properly" so (76), leaving lath projections, broken haphazardly;  [26] and, (b) had the bricked-frame and sideboard been built with coincident apertures in mind, the wall aperture would not have been restricted to 27in. X 14in. (228) or less, for the sideboard, "about 3ft. high and 34in. wide" (22), could have accommodated and concealed an opening almost thrice that area and would then have agreed with Mme. Coulomb's false description, "a sideboard . . .one of the wings of which covered a little more than the space of the aperture" (71).


As for the sideboard, since Mme. Coulomb claimed that all Shrine-phenomena occurring "during the last [1883] Anniversary were performed through this channel" (71), Hodgson had to show it had been situated then exactly as when found at the "exposure".

1. In trying, he resorted to such ambiguous terms as "in its position," "remained there," "in that place," "against the wall," etc.  He reported no firsthand testimony (aside from Coulombs') that, before H.P.B. left in 1884, it had been at the precise location illustrated in his Plan.

2. Instead, Hodgson claimed Mrs. Morgan gave "explicit testimony that it was placed in its position [?] before the anniversary," and this was "confirmed by the statements" of Hartmann, S. Row, P. S. Row, Rathnavelu, and by "testimony" of Ramaswamier and C. Iyer (331).  But his reported interview with Mrs. Morgan (325-26) contains no such "explicit testimony" (she only testifies that it "remained in that place [the bedroom?] during the time of the anniversary"); neither is it "confirmed" by any quotation from five of the six additional witnesses named!

3. Aside from the Coulombs, and against Damodar's denial (337) and his self-supporting citation of another demurring witness, C. S. Chetty (327), whose testimony Hodgson consistently suppressed,  [27] only one witness, Subba Row, said the sideboard came before the anniversary (327).  If Hodgson ascertained that Mr. Row here spoke as an eye-witness, he does not say so --- a pity, since Hodgson confessed to being misled in a similar situation (329).

4. Dr. Hodgson declared, "Mr. Damodar states that the sideboard did not come into existence till January, 1884, when the phenomena were no longer produced in the Shrine" (230).  But what Damodar said was that, "It was only in January, 1884, when Madame Blavatsky began to dine in the room next to the Occult Room, that the cupboard was put to the wall, so that dishes, plates, &c., might be put in it.  But this piece of furniture came into existence after the phenomena were no longer produced in the Shrine" (337).

5. Evidently, the sideboard appeared "during the anniversary" but after the date (December 28  [28] ) of the last Shrine-phenomenon attributed by Mme. Coulomb (73) to "this channel," though Hodgson pretended that these phenomena continued into 1884 until about the date (223) when, it was claimed, Mons. Coulomb removed the alleged half-panel from the Shrine (76).  As if to prevent recognition of this possibility, Hodgson represented "the anniversary" of 1883 as being confined to "December 27th" (230, 327), whereas that "anniversary" was December 27-30. [29]

6. What Hodgson did not prove was that the sideboard was on hand before the anniversary; and what neither he nor Mme. Coulomb claimed was that it was ready to conceal an entranceway to the recess when Shrine-phenomena occurred December 26th, 25th, and earlier, as testified to by S. Subramania Iyer, High Court Vakil, Madura, [30]  by Col. Olcott (376), or by Dr. Hartmann. [31]

7. While omitting to say the sideboard in 1884 was found nailed to the wall --- he says only that in 1883 it was "close against" the wall (222) ---, and while suppressing Mme. Coulomb's claim (71) this was done lest some skeptic should "want to remove it and inspect the back" (as though finding it nailed down would not be enough to excite curiosity!), Hodgson joins the Coulombs in silence on the question of examining the sideboard's interior.  What did H.P.B.'s dinner servants (326) say about it holding "dishes, plates, etc."?  Did it originally have shelves, preventing bodily entrance?  Whatever Hodgson learned here he kept to himself and let Damodar's account of its use go unchallenged.

8. Mme. Coulomb claimed "the back" of the sideboard "was taken out, and turned into a door" (71); and Hodgson gives a report that, "The carpenters say that Coulomb told them only to glue the back" (329).  Hodgson himself describes it as a "movable back" (327).  Despite all this, it was not the back that moved (as advance design would dictate for convenience in case of trickery), but only a "hinged panel" later inserted "in the back" (222-23), and of different thickness of wood, if Hodgson's Plan is credited (see Plate II).

9. Nowhere did Hodgson give evidence his inspection of this panel [32]  in any way contradicted previously published testimony by Hartmann and Judge that it appeared to have been made hastily and slipshod.

10. No evidence is given that in December, 1883, the part described as "the back" had stood against any wall.  Mrs. Morgan testified that, together with "a shelf," the sideboard was made "as a resting place for the dishes which might be passed through the upper part of a closed door" between bedroom and north terrace (326).  How could a servant, outside the serving-door, place dishes on the sideboard if it had been as Hodgson showed it, five feet away at the nearest corner (see Plate II)?

11. Mme. Coulomb (in a passage Hodgson suppressed) admitted that the sideboard was built as "a corner buffet" (71), but in Hodgson's Plan it was no corner buffet at all, being situated nearer to the center-point of the wall behind than to the corner.

12. By May 18, 1884, Coulomb had moved it down along the wall, evidently removing the shelf (since it appears in neither the Hartmann nor Hodgson plans).  Re-orientated and relocated at what must have been its intended position, together with suggested shelf area, the position and peculiar shape of the sideboard fully accords with Mme. Coulomb's designation, i.e., "a corner buffet" (see Figure C in Plate I).  Note especially the position of its original (front) door, and back (consisting of two sides).

13. Hodgson did not say when the serving-door was prepared, nor when the shelf was added.  Hence the assumption that, though the sideboard was finished before 1884, the shelf and special door were delayed, so that Damodar was right and it was "only in January, 1884" that (all parts of the combination being ready) "the cupboard was put to the wall" for use --- in the corner for which it was designed.


Having discredited Hodgson's claim a "hole between the recess and the Shrine" would have been both accessible and concealed, there remains his allegation it had "manifestly existed and had been blocked up," because Dr. Hartmann and others discovered "its traces" (224-25).

1. He gave no evidence these "traces" agreed in size (52) or vertical placement with the alleged aperture.

2. While his Plan makes the "Hole in wall" coincide horizontally with "the middle panel of Shrine," Hodgson admitted no firsthand evidence of this; [33] and, in lieu of pertinent, particular testimony, cited only Hartmann's inadequate assertion that the "traces" were found on "the wall behind the Shrine" (not specifying "that portion of wall behind the Shrine").

3. These "traces" were discovered "on moistening the wall behind the Shrine with a wet cloth" (225) --- which would only remove whitewash and reveal a re-finished surface, insufficient evidence on which to base a conclusion "that an aperture had existed, which had been plastered up."  Hodgson had no evidence to show that 35 to 48 square inches of brickwork had been "knocked out" (52) together with plaster (and lathwork?) and replaced or repaired.

4. This would have twice entailed disturbance of at least bricks, plaster, whitewash, tacked calico and hanging muslin --- difficulties both Hodgson and the Coulombs ignored.

5. H.P.B.'s written explanation, unpublished until the 1930's  [34] was that these "traces" had been left when Mons. Coulomb had replastered where his nails damaged the wall in a first futile attempt to hang the too-heavy Shrine --- an explanation supported by Hodgson's finding that the cabinet, of heavy wood, had to be held up both by wires above and shelf below and still did not rest level (221).

6. That the whitewash at point of repair matched the surrounding wall-finish (327) --- as it would not have done if applied separately in 1884 --- indicates this was done early in 1883, before the white calico was first tacked on (331).  What, if anything, H.P.B. told Hodgson about this, we shall never know, but if he heard any explanation he suppressed it.

7. In contrast to repair of nail-damage confined to the west-face of the wall behind the Shrine, the repair of any thorough aperture would have left corresponding "traces" on both surfaces of the wall.  But Hodgson had no such finding to report.

8. It is inconceivable that Mons. Coulomb, working in the dark, cramped recess early in 1884, could have re-bricked, re-lathed (?), re-plastered, re-finished, and re-whitewashed on the east face of this wall so as to match the surrounding, deteriorated surface, "leaving no perceptible trace" (75).  There was no reason why he should have tried it, for the east-face was concealed within the recess, and, if his wife's story was true (75-6), the bricked-framed aperture, sole entranceway to the recess, was intended to be sealed next against all discovery!

9. As if covering his tracks, Hodgson declared, "Now, with respect to the sideboard aperture and the recess, these were, as I afterwards found, still in existence when I arrived at Adyar, though Mr. Damodar stated to me that the recess had been blocked up.  This last statement of Mr. Damodar's I can regard only as a deliberate misrepresentation.  Had I known that the recess still existed, I should of course myself have endeavoured to enter, and should at once have discovered the untruth of Mr. Damodar's account of his own entrance" (228).

But what was the "deliberate misrepresentation"?  That "the recess had been blocked up"?  Later, Hodgson let pass unchallenged the remark of Annie Besant concerning the opening in the bricked-frame, that, long before Hodgson's arrival at Adyar, "Mr. Judge then sent for a man, who 'in my presence bricked up the aperture, replastered it, and then repapered the whole space.'" [35]

10. But Hodgson, master of word-jugglery, was too clever to say explicitly that Damodar had prevented his entering the recess by way of the opening in the wall, the bricked-frame aperture; nor did he deny that Judge had had it "bricked up" and "replastered. . . ."  Instead, Hodgson diverted his reader by insisting "the sideboard aperture" was "still in existence when I arrived at Adyar. . . ."  And, doubtless, it was still in the sideboard when he "saw it last, in the 'New Room' . . . ."  [36]  But, without one of Mme. Coulomb's typical miracles, crawling out the back of the sideboard in the "New Room" would not have put Hodgson through the already-bricked-up-and-replastered bedroom-wall and into the recess!  Neither does Damodar's account (336) "of his own entrance" say he entered through the sideboard aperture, for when he tested the recess the sideboard or "cupboard attached to the hole was removed" (336).

11. Dr. Hodgson's clever substitution of "sideboard aperture" for "bricked-frame aperture" --- at the expense of the absent Mr. Damodar --- can be regarded "only as a deliberate misrepresentation" to conceal from the public of 1885 the fact that Hodgson had seen the east face of this wall.  Eight years later, in his reply to Theosophical critics, he let slip the admission that, after all, he had entered and examined the recess, "as the bricked frame was removed during my stay at Madras." [37]

12. No one can doubt that, of all who inspected the east-face of "the wall immediately behind the Shrine," Richard Hodgson would have been the most likely to discover "traces" of any "hole in the wall" had these existed --- and the least likely to suppress such a discovery if made.  That, till the last, he remained careful not to say what he found there, and that, for so long by devious means, he tried to hide the fact he had been there at all, is sufficient proof that the Coulombs' secret passageway at the back of the Shrine had never existed.

The question is not whether there was a hole behind the Shrine, nor hardly a question of what made the holes in this S.P.R. Report --- but one of, what concealed these lacunae from the leaders of the S.P.R. for seventy-five years?


[13]  H.P. Blavatsky:  Collected Writings, vol. vi, p. 415.

[14]  Report of Observations, etc., p. 12.

[15]  Report of the Result of an Investigation into the Charges Against Madame Blavatsky, brought by the missionaries of the Scottish Free Church at Madras, and examined by a committee appointed for that purpose by the General Council of the Theosophical Society; 1885, Madras; p. 63.

[16]  Attention was first drawn to this misrepresentation by the remark of a friend, an Engineer, expert in reading architectural diagrams, who, taking Hodgson's Plan at face value, pointed to this "door", saying, "There was a curtain over that doorway."

[17]  A Guide to Adyar, by Mary K. Heff and Others; 1934, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Madras; pp.5-7.

[18]  See the Plan published by Hartmann, Report of Observations, etc., p. 42.

[19]  Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. ix, p. 138.

[20] Since its publication, only one author's error in "The Hodgson Report, 1885-1960" has been brought to notice.  Mr. Victor A. Endersby, C.E., whose own study of the subject has been influenced by the present writer's help and limited correction since June, 1960, has called attention to the fact that there was a superficial error in the original, here reading, "we find Hodgson displacing the Shrine two feet sidewise. . . ."  As the fundamental calculations show (4ft. 9in." in F-10 cf. "5ft. 9in." in F-11, also as originally published), this simply means that, instead of cheating "two feet" in his Plan in order to match Shrine and door apertures horizontally, Hodgson had only to fudge twelve inches.

[21]  Report of the Result of an Investigation, etc. p. 98 (testimony Hodgson suppressed).

[22]  Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. ix, p. 137.

[23]  Ibid., p. 142.

[24]  The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett from the Mahatmas M. and K.H., transcribed and compiled by A. T. Barker; 1926; London; p. 396.

[25] Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. ix, p. 137.

[26]  One reason why his report ignored the existence of this lathwork may be that, by so doing, Hodgson could charge a key-witness, B. D. Nath, with "deliberate falsification" when reporting Nath described "the boarding on the east side of the Occult Room wall behind the Shrine" (interpreted by Hodgson as the door) as "like" a Venetianed window (330-31).

[27]  See Report of the Result of an Investigation, etc., p. 99.  C. S. Chetty, Engineer, was a chief supplier of building materials for Adyar (77), a fact suppressed by Hodgson.

[28]  Ibid., pp. 63-64.

[29]  The Golden Book of the Theosophical Society, edited by C. Jinarajadasa; 1925, Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar; p. 222.

[30]  Report of the Result of an Investigation, etc., p. 63 (published early in 1885 and suppressed by Hodgson).
[31]  Report of Observations, etc. pp. 13-14, cf. p. 11.

[32]  Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. ix, p. 137.

[33]  Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. ix, p. 137.

[34]  H. P. Blavatsky:  Collected Writings, vol. vi, p. 415.

[35]  Proceedings, S.P.R., vol. ix, p. 142.

[36]  Ibid., p. 137.

[37]  Ibid., p. 140.  If guilty, H.P.B., would never have permitted this removal.  Why then was it ordered?  "Every facility," wrote Madame Blavatsky, "was given to him for investigation - nothing concealed from him, as everyone felt and knew himself quite innocent of the absurd charges made.  All this is now taken advantage of, and presented in an unfavourable light before the public"  (H. P. Blavatsky:  Collected Writings, vol. vii, p. 4).