What does "pay out at right angles" and "drew away the white material...it fell back over the shoulders and became part of the clothing of the visitor mean?

Mr. Eglinton in a state of trance paced about the room between the sitters for five minutes, and then— He began gently to draw from his side and pay out at right angles a dingy, white-looking substance, which fell down at his left side. The mass of white material on the floor increased in breadth, commenced to pulsate and move up and down, also swaying from side to side, the motor power being underneath. The height of this substance increased to about three feet, and shortly afterwards the "form" quickly and quietly grew to its full stature. By a quick movement of his hand Mr. Eglinton drew away the white material which covered the head of the "form" and it fell back over the shoulders and became part of the clothing of the visitor. The connecting link (the white appearance issuing from the side of the medium) was severed or became invisible, and the "form" advanced to Mr. Everitt, shook hands with him, and passed round the circle, treating nearly everyone in the same manner.

" The History of Spiritualism," by Arthur Conan Doyle

1 Answer 1


The phrase to pay out is usually used of a rope. It means that you gradually allow it to lengthen away from you. It is the opposite of pulling the rope in. So in this case Mr Eglinton holds the white substance and then gradually pulls it out and allows it to lengthen and fall on the floor. When there is enough of it there he reveals that the white substance is just a covering and he pulls away the covering to reveal the human form underneath it. The link back to his side then becomes severed and the newly arrived figure moves independently round the group at the seance.

  • Thanks. does "visitor" refer to the "form"?
    – user121593
    Sep 4, 2020 at 14:09
  • Yes the visitor is the figure who appears from the medium.
    – mdewey
    Sep 4, 2020 at 15:34

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