[Note on “A Physiological Test for Thief-Catching”]
Theosophist, December, 1880
Article selections by Dr. Batkuram S. Mehta | Note by H.P.B.
. . . A few days ago an ornament of gold . . . was found to be missing. A careful search was made, but to no avail. There was no longer any doubt that it had been taken away by somebody . . . Instead of informing the police, I thought it better first to try one test about which I had often heard.
[Here the Dr. describes a test by which all suspects were made to chew on dry rice, the theory being that the guilty one would produce less saliva than the others and could thus be singled out from among them. The Dr.’s test caused him to single out one man.]
But as I had great confidence in him and as I thought he was entirely incapable of such a crime, I was doubtful about the accuracy of the test.
[The Dr. repeated the test, and again the same man was singled out.]
I told all of them that I had been enabled by means of the test to detect the thief, but, in order to save him from disgrace, I would give him twelve hours to restore the lost article. . . . Next morning I was delighted to find the lost article in one of the windows of my house.
From the subsequent information that I received, and the demeanor of the person suspected, I was convinced that I had detected the right man by this wonderful little physiological test.
Dr. Batukram is quite correct in his diagnosis, and it would be well if all pretended “miracles” were examined with like common sense. But there is another method of thief-catching practiced in India in which the thief’s physiology plays no part. We refer to the “rolling-pot.” In this case the thief-finder causes without human contact a brass-pot to oscillate and finally roll over and over on its side, like a wagon-wheel, until it comes to the place where the thief or his plunder is, and there stops. Will some friend who has witnessed this experiment kindly describe the details and results of it very carefully for the benefit of our readers?