Stuart Cumberland At Work

On Friday the 23rd of November, 1888, The Flintshire County Herald treated its readers to  summary of a performance that had been given in London by the celebrated thought-reader Stuart Cumberland:-


At the Hotel Victoria, London, on Saturday evening, Mr. Stuart Cumberland gave illustrations of thought-reading as it might, he suggested, be applied to the detection of crime.

The company included magistrates, diplomatists, lawyers, authors, novelists. &c.

A photograph of Stuart Cumberland.
Victorian “Thought Reader” Stuart Cumberland.


Mr. Cumberland prefaced his experiments by stating that there was no such thing as a power of reading a person’s thoughts by looking into the mind and seeing what was posing there, but that what he termed thought-reading was the observation of the involuntary physical indications which corresponded to the thought or feeling that predominant in the mind.

With this explanation the experiments were proceeded with.


Mr. Vaughan, the well-known magistrate, was asked to take the chair, and in that capacity he forthwith became accessory before and after the fact to a series of as startling crimes as were ever perpetrated before a drawing-room gathering.

Mr. W. Lumley communicated to Mr. Vaughan his intention to murder Mr. Milner, Mr. Cumberland being out of the room at the time; and then Mr. Cumberland, blindfolded and holding Mr. Lumley’s hand, walked about among the company, and shortly fixed Mr. Milner as the gentleman who had been designated.

It should be said that Mr. Lumley was requested to concentrate his thought, during the search, upon the person whom he selected.


The next thing was the representation of a murder with robbery, Mr. Cumberland being out of the room as before, and blindfolded during the search.

Mr. P. Callan was good enough to slay Sir Charley, and a gentleman from the Russian Embassy took and secreted his watch.

Mr. Cumberland, holding the hand of the supposed criminal soon selected the victim from amongst the company, and, though discovery of the watch was more troublesome, it was at last satisfactorily accomplished.


After this, Mr. Cumberland found out which of three suspected men – Mr. W. S. Gilbert, Mr. B. L. Farjeon, and Mr. T. Lumley – had committed a sham assassination.

It should be added that not only did Mr. Cumberland discover the imaginary victims, but that he repeated the manner in which the pretended crime had been committed, pointing a dagger to the same part of the body, and in one case this was remarkable, as the original deed was a make-believe stabbing in two places.


Miss Julia Neilson was requested to fix her mind upon some article worn by any person present, and after it had been discovered, to bestow it in imagination upon some other person.

Mr. Cumberland, holding the lady’s hand, had no difficulty in finding the owner of a ring which had attracted her notice, and in ascertaining that she had mentally transferred that article to Mrs. W. S. Gilbert.


All the experiments were perfectly successful. though some appeared to present more obstacles than others.

At the conclusion, Mr. Vaughan expressed the thanks of the company to Mr. Cumberland, and said that what he had witnessed had certainly presented the subject to him in a new light.