The claimed manifestation of temporary, more or less organized, apparitions in varying degrees of form, often possessing human physical characteristics and said to be shaped for a temporary existence from a substance called " ectoplasm. " Materializations were attributed by Spiritualists and some psychical researchers to spirit agency, although a few postulated that they might arise from some unknown natural force independent of departed spirits, but emanating from gifted psychics. Most modern parapsychologists believe that materializations were simply performances staged by mediums and their accomplices to deceive the people sitting with them, who had hoped to come into contact with the supernatural.
For a century psychical researchers investigated claims of materialization and from time to time researchers came forward to declare their belief in the genuineness of the phenomena they had witnessed. Materialization was also closely associated with other physical phenomena such as apports and spirit photography. As researchers became more sophisticated in detecting fraud, the number of people willing to risk announcing themselves as materialization mediums steadily declined. Materialization was pushed to the edge of the Spiritualist movement.
As recently as 1960, there was a major expose of a group of materialization mediums at Camp Chesterfield, an independent Spiritualist camp near Anderson, Indiana. The mediums, including the camp's leading medium Mabel Riffle, were caught on infrared film impersonating spirits and moving in and out of a trap door. Then in the mid-1970s, Lamar Keene, a medium from Florida, resigned from his church and confessed to playing tricks on his congregation and on other clients who came to him for readings.
The manner in which materialization phenomena is finally evaluated will radically affect any account of the era of materialization mediums. It is a unanimous conclusion, however, that fraud occurred and that trade catalogs selling products to help accomplish materializations circulated through the Spiritualist community. It is also true that all of the notable materialization mediums, with the exception of D. D. Home, were at one time or another caught in fraud, and that no clear case of even a partial materialization exists. The belief in materialization rests upon evidence of the most questionable kind.
The Origin of Materialization Phenomena
In its early stages, materialization was confined to the appearance of heads and hands, or vague luminous streaks of light. Figures were materialized later. Like much of the physical phenomena of Spiritualism, it had its origin in the United States, where it was reported at a comparatively early period in the history of the movement.
As early as 1860, séances were held with the Fox sisters by Robert Dale Owen and others, at which veiled and luminous figures were seen. One sitter, a Mr. Livermore, claimed to recognize the spirit of his dead wife during séances with Kate Fox extending over some six years. However, there were no other sitters and the séances were held in the dark. In England the mediums Frank Herne and Charles Williams succeeded a few months later in "materializing" shadowy forms and faces in a dark séance room.
However, it was Florence Cook, whose phenomena was championed by physicist William Crookes, who produced the most sensational materializations. At the begining of her Spiritualistic career, she was a pretty young girl of 16 or 17. She was at that time a private medium, though at the outset she held some materialization séances with Herne. From her childhood, it was said, Cook was attended by a spirit girl who said her name on Earth had been Annie Morgan, but that her name in the spirit world was "Katie King." Under the latter name, Cook's control was destined to become famous in Spiritualist circles.
During a séance the medium was usually put into a sort of cupboard or cabinet, tied to her chair, and the cords sealed. After a short interval a form clad in flowing white draperies would emerge from the cabinet.
On one occasion, a séance was held at the Cooks' house, at which several distinguished Spiritualists were present. Among the invited guests was William Volckman, who decided to test for the good faith of the medium and "Katie's" genuineness. After some 40 minutes of close observance of the materialized spirit, Volckman concluded that Cook and Katie were the same, and just as the white-robed figure (probably not Cook, but an accomplice) was about to return to the cabinet he rushed forward and seized her. His indignant fellow sitters released the "spirit," the light was extinguished, and in the confusion that followed the spirit disappeared. Cook was found a few minutes later bound as when she was placed in the cabinet, the cords unbroken, the seal intact. She wore a black dress, and there was no trace of white drapery in the cabinet.
Crookes, whose investigation into the phenomena of this medium extended over a period of years, had better opportunity to examine "Katie's" claims than Volckman. He wrote that the spirit form was taller than the medium, had a larger face and longer fingers, and whereas Cook had black hair and a dark complexion, Katie's complexion was fair, and her hair a light auburn (all observations consistent with the theory that a friend of Cook's portrayed the materialized spirit). Moreover, Crookes, enjoying "Katie's" complete confidence, often had the privilege of seeing her and Cook at the same time.
Strong doubts have been expressed about the genuineness of the spirit form "Katie King." Crucial to the argument is the integrity of William Crookes. In his detailed study of the situation in 1962, Trevor Hall concluded that Cook and Crookes were having an affair. Two years later the Society for Psychical Research released a report of an interview with a person who claimed to have known Cook and to whom she confessed her fraud.
But Cook was not the only medium who was controlled by "Katie King." With her father, "John King," she became a popular spirit with materialization mediums. From that time on, materialization was extensively practiced both by private and professional mediums. Among them were Mary Showers and her daughter, Lottie Fowler; William Eglinton; and D. D. Home; in later years materializations were noted to have occurred in the presence of Eusapia Palladino.
Many sitters claimed to see in such draped figures and veiled faces the form and features of deceased relatives and friends, although frequently there was little reason for such a claim—parents recognized their daughter by her hair, a man recognized his mother by the sort of cap she wore, and so on.
There is no doubt that fraud entered into materialization séances. Lay figures, muslin draperies, false hair, and similar properties have been found in the possession of mediums; accomplices have been smuggled into the séance room; lights are frequently turned low or extinguished altogether. Add to this the fact that the "spirits" upon being grasped frequently turned into the medium and it will be clear that skepticism was justified.
Psychical Researchers and Materialization
Toward the end of the nineteenth century psychical researchers began to turn their attention toward materialization phenomena and were impressed with what they observed. French researcher Camille Flammarion attributed the materializations he had witnessed in the presence of Eusapia Palladino to fluidic emanations from the medium's body, while judging the recognition given them the result of illusion. Other researchers said the physical organization formed by the spirit was composed of fine particles of matter drawn from the material world.
Gustav Geley, in his book Clairvoyance and Materialisation (1927), says, "this is no longer the marvelous and quasi-miraculous affair described and commented on in early spiritualistic works." Charles Richet, in Thirty Years of Psychical Research (1923), was possibly the strongest witness of all. He writes: "I shall not waste time in stating the absurdities, almost the impossibilities, from a psychophysiological point of view, of this phenomenon. A living being, or living matter, formed under our eyes, which has its proper warmth, apparently a circulation of blood, and a physiological respiration which has also a kind of psychic personality having a will distinct from the will of the medium, in a word, a new human being! This is surely the climax of marvels! Nevertheless, it is a fact."
"Materialisation is a mechanical projection; we already know the projection of light, of heat and of electricity; it is not a very long step to think that a projection of mechanical energy may be possible. The remarkable demonstrations of Einstein show how close mechanical or luminous energy are to one another.
"I have also, like Geley, Schrenck Notzing, and Mme. Bisson, been able to see the first lineaments of materialisations as they were formed. A kind of liquid or pasty jelly emerges from the mouth or the breast of Marthe which organises itself by degrees, acquiring the shape of a face or a limb. Under very good conditions of visibility, I have seen this paste spread on my knees, and slowly take form so as to show the rudiment of the radius, the cuvitus, or metacarpal bone whose increasing pressure I could feel on my knee."
Richet's Marthe was the medium Marthe Béraud, also known as " Eva C. " Geley relates his experiences with her in his 1920 book From the Unconscious to the Conscious :
"I have very frequently seen complete representations of an organ, such as a face, a hand, or a finger. In the more complete cases the materialised organ has all the appearance and biologic functions of a living organ. I have seen admirably modelled fingers, with their nails; I have seen compete hands with bones and joints; I have seen a living head, whose bones I could feel under a thick mass of hair. I have seen well-formed living and human faces! On many occasions these representations have been formed from beginning to end under my own eyes…. The forms have, it will be observed, a certain independence, and this independence is both physiological and anatomical. The materialised organs are not inert, but biologically alive. A well-formed hand, for instance, has the functional capacities of a normal hand. I have several times been intentionally touched by a hand or grasped by its fingers…. Well-constituted organic forms having all the appearance of life, are often replaced by incomplete formations. The relief is often wanting and the forms are flat. There are some that are partly flat and partly in relief, I have seen in certain cases, a hand or a face appear flat, and then, under my eyes assume the three dimensions, entirely or partially. The incomplete forms are sometimes smaller than natural size, being occasionally miniatures."
From Thoughtforms to Full-Grown Phantoms
Many of the photographs taken of Eva C.'s materializations suggest the evolution of thoughtforms. A Professor Daumer contended that ectoplasmic forms were neither bodies nor souls. He offered the term eidolon (shape). A number of Eva C.'s phantom forms resembled pictures she had seen, caricatures of presidents Wilson and Pioncaré, and they often had folds as if a paper had been uncreased to be photographed.
Richet remarked that the supposition of fraud would presume extreme stupidity on Eva's part because she knew that photographs would be taken; moreover, there was no reason to suppose that a materialization had to be analogous to a human body and three dimensional. "The materialisation of a plaster bust is not easier to understand than that of a lithographic drawing; and the formation of an image is not less extraordinary than that of a living human head," he said.
Daumer's speculation is strangely contrasted by Glen Hamilton 's report (in Psychic Science ) on the building and photographing of a three-dimensional ectoplasmic ship in the Winnipeg circle. The entities "John King" and "Walter" claimed responsibility for the experiment. Coming through the mediums Mary M. and X, they carried on a dialogue feigning that they were aboard "King's" pirate ship among a crew of ruffians. It was hinted that this playacting had a psychological purpose: the recovery of past memories and the creation of the thought image of a sailing ship. Eventually the ship was built, but because of some indecision in giving the signal to take a flash photograph, it "came into port badly damaged." Hamilton remarks:
"No matter how great we may conceive the unknown powers of the human organism to be, we cannot conceive of it giving rise to an objective mass showing purposive mechanistic construction such as that disclosed in the ship teleplasm of June 4th . We are forced to conclude that the supernormal personalities in this case (by some means as yet unknown to us) so manipulated or otherwise influenced the primary materialising substance after it had left the body of the medium, or was otherwise brought into its objective state, as to cause it to represent the idea which they, the unseen directors, had in view, namely the idea of a sailing ship" (Psychic Science, vol. 11, no. 4, Jan. 1933).
The appearance of images instead of forms was said to have something to do with the available power. Geley often observed strange, incomplete forms, imitations or simulacra of organs.
His theory was as follows:
"The formations materialised in mediumistic séances arise from the same biological process as normal birth. They are neither more nor less miraculous or supernormal; they are equally so. The same ideoplastic miracle makes the hands, the face, the viscera, the tissues, and the entire organism of the foetus at the expense of the maternal body, or the hands, the face, or the entire organs of a materialisation. This singular analogy between normal and so-called supernormal physiology extends even to details; the ectoplasm is linked to the medium by a channel of nourishment, a true umbilical cord, comparable to that which joins the embryo to the maternal body. In certain cases the materialised forms appear in an ovoid of the substance…. I have also seen on several occasions, a hand presented wrapped in a membrane closely resembling the placental membrane. The impression produced, both as to sight and touch, was precisely that of a hand presentation in childbirth, when the amnion is unbroken. Another analogy with childbirth is that of pain. The moans and movements of the entranced medium remind one strangely of a woman in travail."
To the legitimate objection that one biological process was natural and the other anomalous, Geley answered: "Normal physiology is the product of organic activity such as evolution has made it. The creative and directive idea normally works in a given sense, that of the evolution of the species, and conforms to the manner of that evolution. Supernormal physiology, on the other hand, is the product of ideoplastic activity directed in a divergent manner by an abnormal effort of the directive idea."
It was also soon noted that the "ectoplasmic" shapes tended to conform to the bodily pattern of the medium. After observing the Davenport brothers, Rev. J. B. Ferguson said:
"I have seen, with my natural vision the arms, bust and, on two occasions, the entire person of Ira E. Davenport duplicated at a distance of from two to five feet where he was seated fast bound to his seat. I have seen, also, a full-formed figure of a person, which was not that of any of the company present. In certain conditions, not yet clearly understood, the hands, arms and clothing of the Brothers Davenport and Mr. Fay are duplicated alike to the sight and the touch. In other cases, hands which are visible and tangible, and which have all the characteristics of living human hands, as well as arms, and entire bodies, are presented, which are not theirs or those of anyone present."
Crookes was satisfied that "Katie King" was independent from the medium Florence Cook. Yet on certain occasions he noted a striking resemblance between phantom and medium. There is an unusual account in the history of the medium Elizabeth d'Esperance that seems to suggest that a total exchange is within the bounds of possibility. During a series of sittings with d'Esperance in Sweden a crucial test was requested and the medium bravely stated to "Walter," her spirit control, that she would take the responsibility. D'Esperance writes:
"A very uncomfortable feeling pervaded the circle but it afterwards gave place to one of curiosity. My senses became keenly alert, the cobwebby sensation, before described, grew horribly intense, and a peculiar feeling of emptiness, which I had previously had, became so strong that my heart seemed as though swinging loosely in an empty space, and resounding like a bell with each stroke. The air seemed to be full of singing, buzzing sounds that pressed on my ears, but through it I could hear the breathing of the sitters outside the curtains. The movements made in the air seemed to sway me backwards and forwards. A fly alighting on my hand caused a pain like that of a toothache to shoot up my arm. I felt faint, almost dying.
"At last the arranged-for signal was given, that all was ready. The curtains were thrown open, and a materialised form stood fully revealed beside me. The lens of the camera was uncovered, the plate exposed, the magnesium light flashed. Then the curtains fell together. I remember the feeling of relief and thinking: Now I can give way. It is possible that I did faint. I do not know. But I was aroused by the sound of a voice saying in my ear: She is not here, she is gone. It was one of the family who spoke and the terror in the boy's voice roused me effectually. I wanted to reassure him, and asked for water, and wondered at the same time whose voice was it that made the request. It was like my own but seemed to come from the air or from another person. The water was brought and drunk, but though I felt refreshed the act seemed to be performed by that other person who had spoken. Then I was left alone …
"Now comes the strangest part of this strange experiment. The photographic plate was carefully developed and a print made, which revealed a most astonishing fact. The materialised form, well in focus, was clad in white, flowing garments. The hair was hanging loosely over the shoulder, which, like the arms, were without covering. The figure might have been that of a stranger, but the features were unmistakably mine. Never has a photograph shown a better likeness. On a chair beside it and a little behind, was a figure clad in my dress, the black bands on the wrist, and the tape round the waist showing themselves clearly and intact, but the face was that of a stranger, who seemed to be regarding the proceedings with great complacency and satisfaction. Needless to say, we looked at this extraordinary photograph with something like petrifaction. We were utterly at a loss to understand its meaning, and no explanation was forthcoming, except a rueful remark from Walter, who when questioned replied that 'Things did get considerably mixed up.' "
In Light (December 19, 1903), L. Gilbertson remarks:
"My own theory of the strange head is that the manifesting spirit was driven out of the materialised form by Madame's sub-self, which had gained an abnormal excess of power through the weak condition of her normal organism. Finding itself ousted, the visitor took refuge with Madame's other part, and proceeded to operate on it in the way generally known as transfigu-ration. Succeeding in this operation, it is not difficult to believe, as Madame says, that it seemed to be regarding the proceedings with great complacency and satisfaction."
To account for the variant phenomena from one séance to the next, Spiritualists hypothesized that if the health of the medium was weak or the power, for any other reason, low, materialization usually did not progress beyond the stage of resemblance to the medium. In line with this hypothesis Enrico Morselli proposed a psychodynamic theory (Psycologia e Spiritismo, 1907) according to which the ectoplasmic substance resulted from a kind of human radioactivity and the directive idea had its origin in the medium's subconscious mind. But Morselli also added that the medium's subconscious mind may establish telepathic communication with the sitters' subconscious minds and may shape the ectoplasmic forms according to their thoughts and desires. While the second part of the hypothesis seemed far-fetched, the first was supported by many reports. The influence of the human mind, however, was evident to a certain stage only. The phantom shapes did not keep the medium's physiognomy, gestures, and voice for long and displayed, after the transitory period, an apparent independence. Their bodies were said to have temperature and blood circulation and to breathe and behave in every way as an unrelated entity.
Epes Sargent writes in Proof Palpable of Immortality (1875) that a feminine spirit who manifested herself at Moravia in the séances of Mary Andrews on one occasion produced, in rapid succession, facsimiles of her personal appearance at six different periods of her corporeal life, ranging from childhood to old age. The phantoms of Etta Roberts were often said to transform themselves into the forms of other persons in view of the sitters.
From his experiences, E. A. Brackett (another author of books on Spiritualism) concluded that the sitter's will has an influence over the phantom shapes as well. In his séances with Annie Eva Fay, he found that by the exercise of his will he could cause the materialized forms to recede.
Interdependence of Phantom and Medium
A community of sensation between the medium and the materialized phantom was described as part of the drama of the séance. The interaction between the two bodies was reportedly constant, a fact that is today seen as a rationalization to explain away what is now viewed as further evidence of the fraud in the séance room. Florence Cook once had a dark stain on a covered part of her body after an ink mark had been made on "Katie's" face while the medium was locked in the cabinet. Annie Fair-lamb ("Mrs. Mellon") reported: "I feel as though I were that form, and yet I know I am not and that I am still seated on my chair. It is a kind of double consciousness—a faraway feeling, hard to define. At one moment I am hot, and the next moment cold. I sometimes have a choking, fainting, sinking sensation when the form is out."
Describing an early materialization séance of Rosina Thompson, F. W. Thurstan stated: "All this while Mrs. T. was in full consciousness, but she kept exclaiming that she felt 'all hollow' and another thing she noticed was that whenever 'Clare's' fingers touched anyone she distinctly felt a pricking sensation in her body, very similar to her experiences when she had been placed once on an insulating stool and charged with electricity and persons had touched her to make sparks come from her."
D'Esperance, who never touched tobacco, suffered from nicotine poisoning if her sitters smoked during the ectoplasmic process. W. Reichel, author of Occult Experiences (1906), observed that the phantoms of the medium C. V. Miller smelled of tobacco and even of food and wine if the medium had liberally partaken of them before the séance. When the materilized child of Florence Marryat filled her mouth with sugar-plums, she nearly choked the medium. "Mahedi," the Egyptian phantom of medium F. W. Monck, discovered a dish of baked apples in the room. "I got him to eat some," wrote Archdeacon Thomas Colley. "Our medium was at this time six or seven feet away from the materialised form and had not chosen to take any of the fruit, averring that he could taste the apple the Egyptian was eating. Wondering how this could be, I, with my right hand, gave our abnormal friend another baked apple to eat, holding this very bit of paper in my left hand outstretched towards the medium, when from his lips fell the chewed skin and core of the apple eaten by 'The Mahedi'—and here it is before me now after all these years in this screwed up bit of paper for any scientist to analyse."
Ectoplasm was seen as a sensitive substance. It was to be handled with caution and protected from the light. Gustav Geley observed that the shock of sudden light was proportional to the duration of the light and not to its intensity. A magnesium flash would hurt the medium less than the rays of a pocket lamp. If the ectoplasm had solidified, the danger of injuring the medium was less, but a danger nevertheless. Reportedly, the medium could suffer if the phantom was hurt, but the injury did not necessarily appear on the corresponding part of the medium's body. A phantom hand could be pierced through with a knife and the medium might shriek with pain, yet his hands would bear no trace of the wound. F. L. Willis had an experience of this kind in his mediumship. However, séance-room atrocities seldom went beyond spirit grabbing.
When Florence Marryat was conducted into the cabinet by the materialized spirit of Mary Showers, she was told:
"You see that Rosie is half her usual size and weight. I have borrowed the other half from her, which, combined with contributions from the sitters, goes to make up the body in which I show myself to you. If you increase the action of the vital half to such a degree, that, if the two halves did not reunite, you would kill her. You see that I can detach certain particles from her organism for my own use, and when I dematerialise, I restore these particles to her, and she becomes once more her normal size. You only hurry the re-union by violently detaining me, so as to injure her."
In an earlier account given to a Mr. Luxmoore by "Katie King," the danger was graphically but less scientifically pictured. To the question "When you disappear, where is it to?" she answered, "Into the medium, giving her back all the vitality which I took from her. When I have got very much from her, if anyone of you were to take her suddenly round the waist and try to carry her you might kill her on the spot; she might suffocate. I can go in and out of her readily, but understand, I am not her—not her double; they talk a deal of rubbish about doubles; I am myself all the time."
Colley's experience with "Mahedi" appeared to conform to the above theories. This phantom was a giant. His physical strength was so great that he could lift the archdeacon from his chair to the level of his shoulders apparently without effort. He reminded the archdeacon of a mummy of gigantic proportions he once saw in a museum.
Colley described the "Mahedi's" first visit through the medium F. W. Monck:
"He wore a kind of metal skull cap, with an emblem in front which trembled and quivered and glistened, overhanging the brow. I was allowed to feel it, but there was little resistance to my fingers, and it seemed to melt away like a snowflake under my touch, and to grow apparently solid again the moment after. For once (February 18, 1878) by daylight, it was arranged, as a most dangerous experiment, that I should grasp the white-attired Egyptian and try to keep him from getting back to invisibility through the body of the medium. I was, by an invisible force, levitated, as it seemed instantly some eighteen or twenty feet from my drawing room door right up to where the medium stood, whom, strangely and suddenly, wearing white muslin over his black coat, I found in my arms just as I had held The Mahedi. The materialised form had gone, and the psychic clothing that he evolved with him from the left side of my friend must also have gone the same way with the speed of thought back to invisibility through the medium."
It is difficult to find a corroboration of this experience in the literature of Spiritualism. Far more often it was said that the spirit dissolved in the grabber's hand. William Volckman had that experience with "Katie King." Most of the time, however, when the light was switched on the spirit was found to be identical to the medium. Cases of transfiguration in a state of deep trance may offer an excuse, but generally it is a safe assumption that a successful grabbing of the medium in the spirit's guise establishes a prima facie case for fraud. The question that usually complicates the case is of the drapery that is visible in the dark and may serve for purposes of transfiguration. The drapery often disappeared when the light was switched on, but often it was found and turned out to be very material and enduring.
Some Early Explanations
According to the explanation of the controls, the phenomena of materialization were not produced by a single spirit. "John King," in a séance with Cecil Husk, disclosed to Florence Marryat:
"When the controls have collected the matter with which I work—some from everybody in the circle, mostly from the medium's brain—I mould with it a plastic mask, somewhat like warm wax in feel, but transparent as gelatine, into the rough likeness of a face…. I therefore place this plastic substance over the spirit features and mould it to them. If the spirits will have the patience to stand still I can generally make an excellent likeness of what they were in earth life, but most of them are in such haste to manifest that they render my task very difficult. That is why very often a spirit appears to his friends and they cannot recognise any likeness."
The solidity of the materialized form varied. Some mediums only produced vaporous phantoms called "etherealizations." The exertion of force apparently had no relationship to the spirit entity's solidity. For example, an early illustrative account appears in Spiritualism by John Worth Edmonds and G. T. Dexter (2 vols., 1853-55):
"I felt on one of my arms what seemed to be the grip of an iron hand. I felt distinctly the thumb and fingers, the palm of the hand, and the ball of the thumb, and it held me fast by a power which I struggled to escape from in vain. With my other hand I felt all round where the pressure was, and satisfied myself that it was no earthly hand that was thus holding me fast, nor indeed could it be, for I was as powerless in that grip as a fly would be in the grasp of my hand."
The word materialization was first used in 1873 in the United States in place of "spirit forms." Hands and arms were seen in the séances of the Davenport brothers in the earliest days of modern Spiritualism. According to Epes Sargent's The Scientific Basis of Spiritualism (1881), "as far back as 1850, a full spirit form would not infrequently appear." Chemist James J. Mapes became the first scientist to speculate on a means by which such temporary organisms might be produced in accordance with the kinetic theory of gases, with a minimum of actual material particles, if enough energy of motion were imparted to them.
Phantom Eyes and Hands
A record published in the Report on Spiritualism of the London Dialectical Society (1871) narrates the metamorphosis of a psychic light into an eye: "Mr W. Lindsay said there was a large bright eye in the centre of the table, from whence other eyes appeared to emanate and approach and retreat." Eyes winking humorously were frequently reported in the Boston séances of "Margery" (the name used in the literature for Mina Crandon ).
F. W. Pawlowski, professor of aeronautical engineering at the University of Michigan, writes about his experiences with Franek Kluski in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (1925, pp. 481-504):
"Bright bluish stars appear and begin to move high above the table, near the ceiling. When they approached me at a distance of about 16 inches I recognised to my great astonishment that they were human eyes looking at me. Within a few seconds such a pair of eyes develops into a complete human head, and with a hand moving a luminous palm illuminating it clearly. The hand will move around the head as if to show itself more clearly to the onlooker, the eyes looking at one intensely and the face smiling most pleasantly. I have seen a number of such heads, sometimes two at a time, moving through the air like drifting toy balloons from one sitter to another. On several occasions the apparitions appeared just behind my back, and I was aware of them from the sound of their breathing, which I could hear distinctly before they were noticed by the sitters opposite to me. When I turned around I found their faces just about a foot from me, either smiling or looking intently at me. Some of these were breathing violently as if after a strenuous run, and in these cases I felt their breath on my face. Once I listened to the heartbeat of an apparition. They conducted themselves as callers at a party. The expression of curiosity in their eyes is most appealing. I have seen a similar look only in the eyes of children at the age of the awakening of their intelligence. On one occasion I saw two of them flying high above our heads in the higher room, illuminating each other with the plaques and performing fancy evolutions. It was really a beautiful sight, something like an aerial ballet."
William Crookes testified that the phantom hand "… is not always a mere form, but sometimes appears perfectly life-like and graceful, the fingers moving and the flesh apparently as human as that of any in the room. At the wrist, or arm, it becomes hazy and fades off into a luminous cloud."
To the touch the hand was sometimes icy cold and dead, at other times warm and lifelike. Crookes said he saw a luminous cloud hover over a heliotrope, break a sprig off and carry it to a lady; he also claimed to have seen a finger and thumb pick petals from a flower in Home's buttonhole and lay them in front of several persons sitting near him. Phantom hands playing the keys of an accordion floating in the air were frequently seen.
Once in the full light of day in Hall's drawing room, with D. D. Home's feet and hands in full view the entire time, William Howitt, S. Carter Hall, and Emma Hardinge Britten claimed they saw 20 pairs of hands form and remain visible and active for about an hour. "One evening," wrote John Ashburner of his experiences with the medium Charles Foster, "I witnessed the presence of nine hands floating over the dining table" (Notes and Studies on Animal Magnetism and Spiritualism, 1867).
Signor G. Damiani testified before the London Dialectical Society as having seen, at a séance of the Davenport brothers in London in 1868, "… five pink transparent hands ranged perpendicularly behind the door. Subsequently," he said, "I placed my hand in the small window of the cabinet, when I felt each of my five digits tightly grasped by a distinct hand; while my own was thus held down, five or six other hands protruded from the hole above my wrist. On withdrawing my hand from the aperture, an arm came out therefrom—an arm of such enormous proportions that had it been composed of flesh and bone, it would, I verily believe, have turned the scale (being weighted) against the whole corporeal substance of the small Davenport."
A silver, luminous hand that began at the elbow and was seen in the process of formation is described in the report of a séance with D. D. Home in the Hartford Times, March 18, 1853: "In a moment there appeared a rather dull looking, grey hand, somewhat shadowy, and not quite so clearly defined as the first, but it was unmistakably there, and its grey hue could be clearly seen."
Eusapia Palladino was famous for her "third arm," which issued from her shoulders and receded into them. This arm was often seen independently and well materialized. The "counterpartal arms" of William Stainton Moses, extending from his shoulders straight out, and above his true arms, presented a similar phenomenon. They simply retracted into the medium, or vanished if an attempt was made to grasp them.
Describing "John King's" materialized hand, Charles Richet stated:
"I held it firmly and counted 29 seconds, during all which time I had leisure to observe both of Eusapia's hands on the table, to ask Mme. Curie if she was sure of her control, to call Courtier's attention, and also to feel, press and identify a real hand through the curtain. After 29 seconds I said: 'I want something more, I want uno anello (a ring) on this hand.' At once the hand made me feel a ring: I said 'adesso uno braceletto' and on the wrist I felt the two ends as of a woman's bracelet that closes by a hinge. I then asked that this hand should melt in mine, but the hand disengaged itself by a strong effort, and I felt nothing further."
Sitting with Eusapia Palladino, Filippo Bottazzi "four times saw an enormous black fist come out from behind the left curtain, which remained motionless, and advance toward the head of Mme. B." Eugene Crowell states in The Identity of Primitive Christianity with Modern Spiritualism (1874), "At Moravia, at one time, I saw an arm projected from the aperture of the cabinet, which with the hand, was fully three and a half feet in length. It remained in view, in free motion, for a time sufficient for all to observe and remark upon it. Its enormous length and size startled all present."
Despite such startling testimonies, the inference that telekinetic effects are produced by materialized hands should not be drawn hastily. Julien Ochorowicz noticed an alternative character about these manifestations: a well-materialized hand, when clearly visible, was mechanically inactive. Mechanical effects were generally produced by invisible hands. The same held true for chemical, luminous, and acoustic effects.
Phantoms of Fame and Name
The best records of full form materializations have been furnished by "familiar" spirits: "Katie King," who attended Florence Cook for three years; "Yolande," who appeared in Elizabeth d'Esperance's séances for a similar period; "Estella," who manifested in the Livermore sittings for five years; and "Bertha," a niece of E. A. Brackett who appeared to him through different mediums for two years. "Yolande's" case was unique in one respect—she was sexually assaulted by a man who took her for a real woman. This resulted in a profound injury and serious illness to the medium.
Materialized spirits seldom came in numbers and their range of activity was limited. The marvelous stories of C. V. Miller's mediumship, which was powerful enough to make 12 materialized figures appear at once, rest mostly on the testimony of W. Reichel. Corroboration by a repetition of the occur-rence is also wanting in the case of the peripatetic ghosts of George Spriggs, which were said to walk about the house and in the garden, and in the case of the open-air materializations of William Eglinton, in which the spirits walked 66 feet away from the medium.
Crookes was the first modern scientist who studied materializations under laboratory conditions. "Katie King" offered him every opportunity for investigation. She even allowed Crookes to enter the cabinet where, armed with a phosphorus lamp, he saw both the medium and "Katie" at the same time. In studying D. D. Home's mediumship, Crookes did not see many fully materialized figures. He observed: "In the dusk of the evening during a séance with Mr. Home at my house, the curtains of a window about eight feet from Mr. Home were seen to move. A dark, shadowy, semi-transparent form, like that of a man, was then seen by all present standing near the window, waving the curtain with his hand. As we looked, the form faded away and the curtains ceased to move."
Mrs. Crookes described a semitransparent phantom form playing an accordian, which she said was also seen by her husband, the Reverend Stainton Moses, and Sergeant Cox in a Home séance: "As the figure approached I felt an intense cold, getting stronger as it got nearer, and as it was giving me the accordion I could not help screaming. The figure seemed to sink into the floor, to the waist, leaving only the head and shoulders visible, still playing the accordion, which was then about a foot off the floor."
A description of a more solid case was given by Lord Adare who also sat in Home's séances:
"Her form gradually became apparent to us; she moved close to Home and kissed him. She stood beside him against the window intercepting the light as a solid body, and appeared fully as material as Home himself; no one could have told which was the mortal body and which was the spirit. It was too dark, however to distinguish features. I could see that she had her full face turned towards us, and that either her hair was parted in the middle, and flowed down over her shoulders or that she had on what appeared to be a veil."
The next systematic investigation was made by Charles Richet, who confides to his readers:
"At the Villa Carmen I saw a fully organised form rise from the floor. At first it was only a white, opaque spot like a handkerchief lying on the ground before the curtain, then this handkerchief quickly assumed the form of a human head level with the floor, and a few moments later it rose up in a straight line and became a small man enveloped in a kind of white burnous, who took two or three halting steps in front of the curtain and then sank to the floor and disappeared as if through a trap-door. But there was no trap-door."
The phantom "Bien Boa" possessed all the attributes of life. Richet writes: "It walks, speaks, moves and breathes like a human being. Its body is resistant, and has a certain muscular strength. It is neither a lay figure nor a doll, nor an image reflected by a mirror; it is as a living being; it is as a living man; and there are reasons for resolutely setting aside every other supposition than one or other of these two hypotheses: either that of a phantom having the attributes of life; or that of a living person playing the part of a phantom."
At another time he notes, "At certain moments it was obliged to lean and bend, because of the great height which it had assumed. Then suddenly, his head sank, sank right down to the ground, and disappeared. He did this three times in succession. In trying to compare this phenomenon to something, I can find nothing better than the figure in a jack-in-the-box, which comes out all of a sudden."
Hands That Melted Like Snow
The appearance of human organs or of complete bodies was followed by their dissolution. This phenomenon was observed under dramatic circumstances. Testimonies of this phenomenon were numerous: Frank L. Burr, editor of the Hartford Times, in a letter to Home's wife, gave his account of one of Home's last séances, held March 14, 1855, before his departure to England:
"Turning this strange hand palm towards me, I pushed my right forefinger entirely through the palm, till it came out an inch or more, visibly, from the back of the hand. In other words, I pushed my finger clean through that mysterious hand. When I withdrew it, the place closed up, much as a piece of putty would close under such circumstances, leaving a visible mark or scar, where the wound was, but not a hole. While I was still looking at it the hand vanished, quick as a lightning flash."
Crookes also wrote of Home: "I have retained one of these hands in my own, firmly resolved not to let it escape. There was no struggle or effort to get loose, but it gradually seemed to resolve itself into vapour, and faded in that manner from my grasp."
Crookes observed that the hands and fingers did not always appear to be solid and lifelike. Sometimes they looked like a cloud partly condensed into the form of a hand.
H. D. Jencken said before the London Dialectical Society, "I have once been enabled to submit a spirit hand to pressure. The temperature was, as far as I could judge, the same as that of the room, and the spirit hand felt soft, velvety; dissolving slowly under the greatest amount of pressure to which I could submit it."
"Katie's" wrist was once seized in anger by G. H. Tapp of Dalston, whom "Katie" had struck on the chest for a joke she resented. As Tapp described it, the hand "crumpled up in my grasp like a piece of paper, or thin cardboard, my fingers meeting through it."
"John King" was seen by Florence Marryat to "hold a slate so that both hands were visible, and then let one hand dematerialise till it was no larger than a doll's, whilst the other remained the normal size."
Filippo Bottazzi of the University of Naples wrote, "I saw and felt at one and the same time a human hand natural in colour, I felt with mine the fingers and the back of a strong, warm, rough hand. I gripped it and it vanished from my grasp, not becoming smaller, but melting, dematerialising, dissolving."
Eugene Rochas wrote in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques (vol. 18, 1908, p. 280) of a séance in which M. Montorguiel seized a materialized hand and called for a light. The hand melted and "all of us thought we saw a luminous trail from his hand to F.'s body," Rochas recalls. Hereward Carrington, one of the keenest fraudhunters among psychical researchers, wrote:
"I myself have observed materializations under perfect conditions of control, and have had the temporary hand melt within my own, as I held it firmly clasped. This 'hand' was a perfectly formed, physiological structure, warm, life-like and having all the attributes of a human hand—yet both the medium's hands were securely held by two controllers, and visible in the red light. Let me repeat, this hand was not pulled away, but somehow melted in my grasp as I held it" (The Story of Psychic Science, 1930).
Dramatic Exit of Spirit Visitants
The dissolution of a full phantom was one of the most dramatic moments in a materialization séance. "Katie King" agreed to demonstrate it and Florence Marryat captures the moment in her book There is no Death (1892):
"She [Katie King] took up her station against the drawing room wall, with her arms extended as if she were crucified. Then three gas-burners were turned on to their full extent in a room about 16 feet square. The effect upon 'Katie King' was marvelous. She looked like herself for the space of a second only, then she began gradually to melt away. I can compare the dematerialisation of her form to nothing but a wax doll melting before a hot fire. First the features became blurred and indistinct; they seemed to run into each other. The eyes sunk in the sockets, the nose disappeared, the frontal bone fell in. Next the limbs appeared to give way under her, and she sank lower and lower on the carpet, like a crumbling edifice. At last there was nothing but her head left above the ground—then a heap of white drapery only, which disappeared with a whisk, as if a hand had pulled it after her—and we were left staring by the light of three gas burners at the spot on which 'Katie King' had stood."
Sometimes the dissolution is unexpected, the medium later reporting that the power waned and the form could not be held together. In a séance with Annie Eva Fay, a deceased sister appeared to Marryat, who recalled: "Suddenly she appeared to faint. Her eyes closed, her head fell back on my shoulder, and before I had time to realise what was going to happen, she had passed through the arm that supported her, and sunk down through the floor. The sensation of her weight was still making my arm tingle, but 'Emily' was gone, clean gone. "
"Honto," the Indian spirit control of the Eddy brothers, smoked a pipe. The light from the burning tobacco enabled Olcott to see her copper-colored cheek, the bridge of her nose, and the white of her eye. She remained out too long. Darting back, she collapsed into a shapeless heap before the curtains, only one hand being distinguishable. In half a minute she appeared again.
The process of dissolution varied. Robert Dale Owen stated that he had seen a form fade from the head downward. William Oxley (author of Modern Messiahs and Wonder Workers, 1889) said he saw "Yolande" melting away from the feet upward until only the head appeared above the floor; this grew less and less until only a white spot remained. Then it too disappeared. Her materialization, as a rule, took ten to fifteen minutes. Her disappearance took place in two to five minutes, while the disappearance of the drapery lasted from one-half to two minutes.
At one of Annie Fairlamb's séances in Sydney, Australia, a form lay down on the platform, stretched out its limbs and each member of the body separately dematerialized.
Most often the figures collapsed and disappeared through the floor. The phantoms of Virginia Roberts, however, (as Marryat testified) if they were strong enough to leave the cabinet, invariably disappeared by floating upward through the ceiling. "Their mode of doing this was most graceful," Marryat wrote. "They would first clasp their hands behind their heads, and lean backwards; then their feet were lifted off the ground, and they were borne upward in a recumbent position." The phantoms of Carlos Mirabelli, the South American medium, similarly raised themselves and floated in the air before full dissolution, which began with the feet.
When matter apparently passes through matter or when apports are brought into the séance room, the process of dematerialization may be identical. This was suggested by d'Esperance (Shadow Land, 1897):
"A lady once brought a brilliantly colored Persian silk scarf, which Yolande regarded with great delight, and immediately draped about her shoulders and waist. This scarf she could not be induced to part with. When she had disappeared and the séance closed a careful search was made, but it was not to be found. The next time she came, the lady asked her what she had done with it. Yolande seemed a little nonplussed at the question, but in an instant she made a few movements with her hands in the air and over her shoulders, and the scarf was there, draped as she had arranged it on the previous evening…. She never trusted this scarf out of her hands. When sometimes she herself gradually dissolved into mist under the scrutiny of twenty pairs of eyes, the shawl was left lying on the floor, we would say, 'At last she has forgotten it'; but no, the shawl would itself gradually vanish in the same manner as its wearer and no search which we might afterwards make ever discovered its whereabouts. Yet Yolande assured us gleefully that we failed to see it only because we were blind, for the shawl never left the room. This seemed to amuse her, and she was never tired of mystifying us by making things invisible to our eyes or by introducing into the room flowers which had not been brought by human hands."
Marvels of Materialization
On May 25, 1921, Juliette Bisson reported seeing the materialization on the hand of "Eva C." of a naked woman eight inches high, with a beautiful body, long fair hair, and brilliantly white skin. It vanished and returned several times and either her hair was differently arranged or she appeared smaller. The little figure performed various gymnastic exercises and finally stood on Bisson's extended hand. (Bisson was Eva C.'s accomplice in producing materializations.) The materialization of small heads the size of walnuts in a glass of water was the peculiar feature of Lujza Ignath 's mediumship. "Nona," the control, said the heads were plastic thoughtforms.
Describing a visit to an unnamed materialization medium, Gladys Osborne Leonard states in her book My Life in Two Worlds (1931):
"My husband was sitting with his feet and knees rather wide apart. His gaze suddenly was diverted from the materialised spirit to a kind of glow near his feet. Looking down he saw a tiny man and woman, between 12 and 18 inches high, standing between his knees. They were holding hands and looking up into my husband's face, as if they were thinking 'What on earth is that?' They seemed to be interested, if not more so, in him, and the details of his appearance, as he was in theirs. He was too astonished to call anybody's attention to the tiny people, who were dressed in bright green, like the pictures of elves and fairies, and who wore little pointed caps. A slight glow surrounded them, or emanated from them, he wasn't sure which, but it was strong enough for him to see their little faces and forms clearly. After a moment or two they disappeared, apparently melting into the floor."
In a sitting with Countess Castelwitch in Lisbon, a communicator who called himself "M. Furtado" rapped out through the table that he would not allow himself to be photographed because he had forgotten what his face was like. At the next séance he said: "I have no face, but I will make one." The photographic plate revealed a tall phantom clothed in white, having a death's-head instead of a face. A similar but more gruesome instance was described in the reports of the Academia de Estudo Psychicos "Cesar Lombroso" of São Paolo, on the medium-ship of Carlo Mirabelli:
"The third sitting followed immediately while the medium was still in a state of exhaustion. A skull inside the closet began to beat against the doors. They opened it and the skull floated into the air. Soon the bones of a skeleton appeared one after another from neck to feet. The medium is in a delirium, beats himself and emits a bad smell like that of a cadaver. The skeleton begins to walk, stumble and walk again. It walks round the room while Dr. de Souza touches it. He feels hard, wet, bones. The others touch it. Then the skeleton disappears slowly until the skull alone remains which finally falls on a table. The medium was bound throughout the performance. It lasted 22 counted minutes in bright sunlight."
Alfred Vout Peters claimed to have seen in a séance with Cecil Husk the materialization of a living friend who was at the time asleep in his home. Horace Leaf reported (Light, January 29, 1932) on the materialization of the head, shoulders, and arm of a relative living 400 miles away. A conversation was carried on for several minutes on matters thoroughly appropriate, before the head bid him goodbye and vanished.
Colley noticed some unique feature of the mysterious spirit entity "Mahedi." The phantom could not speak English, so Colley had to use signs to make him understand that he wanted him to write. He looked puzzled at the lead pencil. When he was shown how to use it, he held it as he would hold a stylus and began to write quickly from the right to the left in unknown oriental characters, being "in a most peculiar way under the control of 'Samuel' "—one spirit controlling another spirit—the medium having nothing to do with it, since he was fully awake some 17 feet away and talking to a lady. Colley had samples of "Samuel's" handwriting and he understood "Samuel" to be in control. He later argued:
"It was something like what I had before seen and publicly reported relating to the evolution of a spirit form from another spirit form, which first form, as usual, extruded from the medium, so that (December 7, 1877) there stood in line our normal friend (entranced) and next to him the Egyptian thence derived, and from the Egyptian, in turn, the extruded personality of 'Lily,' all at the same time—the three in a row ranked together yet separate and distinct entities."
After all these marvels, Colley's description of the reabsorption of a phantom into the medium's side in plain view appears to lose its wild improbability. Of a séance held on September 25, 1877, Colley stated:
"As I brought my sweet companion close up to him, the gossamer filament again came into view; its attenuated and vanishing point being, as before, towards the heart. Greatly wondering, yet keen to observe, did I notice how, by means of this vapoury cord, the psychic figure was sucked back into the body of the medium. For like a waterspout at sea—funnel-shaped or sand column such as I have seen in Egypt—horizontal instead of vertical, the vital power of our medium appeared to absorb and draw in the spirit-form, but at my desire, so gradually that I was enabled quite leisurely thus closely to watch the process. For leaning against, and holding my friend with my left arm at his back and my left ear and cheek at his breast, his heart beating in an alarming way, I saw him receive back the lovely birth of the invisible spheres into his robust corporeal person. And as I gazed on the sweet face of the disintegrating spirit, within three or four inches of its features, I again marked the fair lineaments, eyes, hair and delicate complexion, and kissed the dainty hand as in process of absorption it dissolved and was drawn through the texture and substance of his black coat into our friend's bosom."
The archdeacon once spoke to a materialized phantom before her extrusion was accomplished and he saw recognition in her eyes and heard her whisper, during the psychic parturition, "so glad to see you."
On one occasion a minister friend of Francis Monck materialized; by common consent the medium was carefully awakened. Colley recalled: "Dazed for a moment, and then most astonished, our aroused friend looked enquiringly at the materialised spirit form, and jumping up from the sofa on which we had placed him he excitedly rushed forward to his one-time fellow-student, shouting 'Why, it is Sam' and then there was handshaking and brotherly greetings between the two. When both friends were about to speak at once there was a momentary impasse and neither seemed able to articulate; the medium's breath appearing to be needed by Samuel when he essayed to speak, while the materialised form was also checked in his utterance when the medium began to speak."
C. V. Miller, the San Francisco materialization medium, as a rule did not pass into trance and took the phantoms that issued from the cabinet by the hand and introduced them to his sitters. His amazing séances were duplicated by R. H. Moore, of San Diego, California. According to N. Meade Layne, in Psychic Research (June 1931), Moore was a well-known gentleman past 70 years of age, who did not go into trance and accompanied the forms that issued from behind a curtain within a few steps into the circle. The forms were never fully materialized; as a rule they were invisible below the bust, although the ectoplasmic drapery sometimes trailed nearly to the floor. Layne writes, "At a recent séance one of the forms, while conversing with the person at my side, advanced to within about 18 inches of my face. Dr. Moore then, after telling us what he was about to do, struck the head of the form lightly with his open hand to show the degree of materialization. The movement and the sound were plainly perceived. He then passed his arm through the form at the solar plexus" (Psychic Research, July 1930).
Besides the materialization of spirit entities, many other objects came forth in the séance room. Such phenomena, which blend into that of apports, often served to confuse researchers and distract them from the central issues of spirit contact. However, in the end, the other objects served to confirm the fraudulent nature of materializations.
Spirits were often observed enveloped in drapery. This was always considered one of the greatest puzzles of ghost lore, though if one considers materialization as basically fraudulent, the drapery was merely a prop to confuse the issue. The communications received through mediums did little to elucidate the subject, though it was taken up in the discussions of the clothing of spirits in the afterlife. "Spirit drapery" seems to have been constructed of a light material such as cheesecloth and was occasionally coated with a luminous substance such as phosphorus. However, the discussion of the phenomena as part of the larger inquiry into spirit existence is of some interest.
"Julia," in her communications to W. T. Stead (Letters from Julia, 1897), notes that the spirit "is at the first moment quite unclothed, as at birth. When the thought of nakedness crosses the spirit's mind, there comes the clothing which you need. The idea with us is creative. We think and the thing is. I do not remember putting on any garments." Her observation was confirmed by Caroline D. Larsen in My Travels in the Spirit World (1927): "From every spirit emanates a strong aura, a pseudo-phosphoric light. This aura is completely controlled by the mind. Out of this substance is moulded the vesture of the body."
About a conscious projection of his astral body, Sylvan J. Muldoon observed:
"On one occasion I noticed the clothing forming itself out of the emanation surrounding my astral body, when only a few feet out of coincidence, and the clothing was exactly like that covering my physical body. On another occasion I awakened and found myself moving along at the intermediate speed. A very dense aura surrounded me—so dense, in fact, that I could scarcely see my own body. It remained so until the phantom came to a stop, when I was dressed in the typical ghost like garb."
The idea of a power to form spirit clothing seems to have emerged slowly in materialization séances, where the formation of spirit drapery came to be viewed as preliminary to the building up of the body. It served, some speculated, the purpose of covering up imperfections or vacant spots in the temporary organism, protected the ectoplasmic substance from the effects of light, and satisfied the requirements of modesty (very important in both British and American societies). Once while "Yolande," (who was often seen together with medium Elizabeth d'Esperance outside the cabinet) was talking to a sitter, "the top part of her white drapery fell off and revealed her form," writes Oxley. "I noticed that the form was imperfect, as the bust was undeveloped and the waist uncontracted which was a test that the form was not a lay figure."
The drapery observed usually appeared to be white, sometimes of a dazzling whiteness, but could also be greyish in appearance; it was often luminous and so material that it was always the last to disappear when the séance concluded. The reason apparently was that the substance of the drapery, though its texture was finer, withdrawn from the medium's clothes to be molded by the invisible operators, like ectoplasm, into all kinds of patterns.
The medium Franek Kluski noticed that the curtains and carpets of his apartment, where his materialization phenomena were produced, were badly worn in an inexplicable manner. The observation was also made at the British College of Psychic Science that the lining of the underarms of a medium's jacket used exclusively for séance purposes and apparently subjected to no rough wear had to be renewed frequently. The wife of medium John Lewis of Wales, who had to repair the garment, said that the wear on the jacket was greater than on garments worn in his work as a coal miner. The color of the garment was apparently of no consequence because the spirit drapery remained white, even if the original dress was black.
In a séance with William Eglinton on September 9, 1877, a Dr. Nichols saw the materialized form "Joey" make, in the presence of three other persons, "20 yards of white drapery which certainly never saw a Manchester loom. The matter of which it was formed was visibly gathered from the atmosphere and later melted into invisible air. I have seen at least a hundred yards so manufactured," he said.
Katherine Bates writes in Seen and Unseen (1907), "I stood close over her [the phantom] holding out my own dress, and as she rubbed her hands to and fro a sort of white lace or net came from them, like a foam, and lay upon my gown which I was holding up towards her. I touched this material and held it in my hands. It had substance but was light as gossamer, and quite unlike any stuff I ever saw in a shop."
F. W. Thurstan said that when medium Rosina Thompson produced physical phenomena, "a soft, gauzy, scented white drapery was flung over my head and seen by the others on my side of the room." A spirit in séances with Annie Eva Fay supposedly made yards and yards of spirit drapery by rubbing her hands together with bare arms. Once she made a seamless robe and apparently dematerialized it instantaneously. William Harrison, editor of The Spiritualist, states in an account of a séance with Florence Cook,
"She ['Katie King'] threw out about a yard of white fabric, but kept hold of it by the other end, saying: 'Look, this is spirit drapery.' I said 'Drop it into the passage Katie, and let us see it melt away; or let us cut a piece off.' She replied: 'I can't; but look here.' She then drew back her hand, which was above the top of the curtain, and as the spirit drapery touched the curtain, it passed right through, just as if there were no resistance whatever. I think at first there was friction between the two fabrics and they rustled against each other, but that when she said 'Look here' some quality which made the drapery common matter was withdrawn from it, and at once it passed through the common matter of the curtain, without experiencing any resistance."
"Katie King" often allowed her sitters to touch her drapery. Sometimes she cut as many as a dozen pieces from the lower part of her skirt and made presents of them to different observers. The holes were immediately sealed. Crookes examined the skirt inch by inch and found no hole, no marks, or seam of any kind.
These pieces of drapery mostly melted into thin air, however carefully they were guarded, but sometimes they could be preserved. If they were, the medium's dress was damaged. "Katie King" said in her attempt to cover up the trickery that nothing material about her could be made to last without taking away some of the medium's vitality and weakening her.
A specimen of "Katie's" drapery was taken by a Miss Douglas to Messrs. Howell and James's cloth and dry goods store, London, with the request to match it. They said that they could not, and that they believed it to be of Chinese manufacture.
At a séance with Elizabeth d'Esperance, a sitter removed a piece of drapery that clothed one of the spirit forms. Later d'Esperance discovered that a large square piece of material was missing from her skirt, partly cut, partly torn. The stolen piece of drapery was found to be of the same shape as the missing part of the skirt, but several times larger, and white, the texture fine and thin as gossamer. After this experience d'Esperance seemed to understand a similar happening in England. "Ninia," a child spirit control, was asked for a piece of her abundant clothing. She complied, but unwillingly. After the séance d'Esperance found a hole in her new dress.
"Katie Brink," the spirit of the medium Elizabeth J. Compton, cut a piece of her dress for Richard Cross of Montreal, but on the condition that he would buy a new dress for the medium, for a corresponding hole would appear on her skirt. The cut piece was fine, gossamer-like material. The medium's dress was black alpaca, and much coarser. The cut piece fit the hole in the medium's dress.
William Stainton Moses was once given a piece of spirit drapery sweetened by "spirit musk." He sent it to the wife of his friend Stanhope Speer. The scent on the letter was fresh and pungent 17 years afterward.
Mediums explained that part of the power available to them for the materialization was consumed by the creation of spirit drapery. They added that, in some instances, for purely economical reasons, the operators accepted ready-made cloth brought in for them to wear. "John King" was supposedly photographed in such borrowed garments. There were stories that for similar reasons wearing apparel could be "apported."
This speculation made it easy for fraud to flourish. Florence Cook's mother was said to have once caught "Katie King" wearing her daughter's dress. Katie confessed that she borrowed it because the medium's power was weak. She said she would never do it again because the medium might be compromised. In other cases, it was claimed, yards of muslin and grenadine were apported expressly for draping purposes and left in the séance room. Further, traces of spirit cloth appeared in mediumistic plastics used to make impressions of spirit faces.
Souvenir Locks of Hair, Materialized Jewels, and Flowers
Materialized phantoms often gave locks of hair to sitters for souvenirs. "Katie King" did it very often. Once in the cabinet, she cut off a lock of her own hair and a lock of the medium's and gave them both to Florence Marryat. One was almost black, soft and silky, the other a coarse, golden red. On another occasion she asked Marryat to cut her hair with a pair of scissors as fast as she could. "So I cut off curl after curl, and as fast as they fell to the ground the hair grew again upon her head," Marryat said.
Severed hair usually vanished, but not always. Crookes, in a later communication, spoke of a lock of "Katie's" hair he still possessed. Similarly a lock that Charles Richet cut from the head of an Egyptian beauty during the mediumship of Marthe Béraud remained intact. Richet stated: "I have kept this lock, it is very fine, silky and undyed. Microscopical examination shows it to be real hair; and I am informed that a wig of the same would cost a thousand francs. Marthe's hair is very dark and she wears her hair rather short."
Materialized phantoms apparently often wore ornaments. Admiral Usborne Moore, in his séances with the medium J. B. Jonson of Detroit, found these ornaments yielding to the touch. In other instances they were solid. "Abd-u-lah," the one-armed spirit of William Eglinton, appeared bedecked with diamonds, emeralds, and rubies. The materialization of precious stones is described by a Mrs. Nichols in the Spiritualist (October 26, 1877):
"For some time he moved his hands as if gathering something from the atmosphere, just as when he makes muslin. After some minutes he dropped on the table a massive diamond ring. He said: 'Now you may all take the ring, and you may put it on, and hold it while you count twelve.' Miss M. took it and held it under the gaslight. It was a heavy gold ring with a diamond that appeared much like one worn by a friend of mine worth £1000. Joey said the value of this was 900 guineas. Mr. W. examined it as we had done. He now made, as it seemed, and as he said, from the atmosphere two diamonds, very clear and beautiful, about the size of half a large pea. He gave them into our hands on a piece of paper. We examined them as we had the others. He laid the ring and the diamonds on the table before him, and there next appeared a wonderful cluster of rubies, set with a large ruby about half an inch in diameter in the centre. These we all handled as we had the others. Last there came a cross, about four inches in length, having 20 magnificent diamonds set in it; this we held in our hands, and examined as closely as we liked. He told us that the market value of the gems was £25,000. He remarked: 'I could make Willie the richest man in the world, but it would not be the best thing, and might be the worst.' He now took the jewels in front of him and seemed to dissipate them, as one might melt hailstones in heat until they entirely disappeared."
Stainton Moses was told by "Magus," one of his controls, that he would deliver him a topaz, the material counterpart of his spiritual jewel, which would enable him to see scenes in the spheres on looking into it. The jewel was found in his bedroom. Moses was excited. He believed it to be an apport, taken without the consent of the owner. He never received any definite information as to its origin. It cannot be traced how long the stone, which was set in a ring, remained in his possession.
Gems and pearls were frequently brought to Moses' circle. His theory was that they were made by spirits because he could see them falling before they reached the table, while others could not see them until they had fallen. Further, an emerald had flaws in it, and therefore it could not have been cut or have been an imitation.
Flower materializations were more frequent. There was a remarkable instance in d'Esperance's mediumship. On June 28, 1890, at a séance in St. Petersburg, in the presence of Alexander Aksakof and one Professor Boutlerof, a golden lily, seven feet high, appeared in the séance room. It was kept for a week and was photographed six times. After the week it dissolved and disappeared.
A record of the Livermore séances with Kate Fox on February 22, 1862, notes:
"Appearance of flowers. Cloudy. Atmosphere damp. Conditions unfavourable. At the expiration of half an hour a bright light rose to the surface of the table, of the usual cylindrical form, covered with gossamer. Held directly over this was a sprig of roses about six inches in length, containing two half-blown white roses, and a bud with leaves. The flowers, leaves and stem were perfect. They were placed at my nose and smelled as though freshly gathered; but the perfume in this instance was weak and delicate. We took them in our fingers and I carefully examined the stem and flowers. The request was made as before to 'be very careful.' I noticed an adhesive, viscous feeling which was explained as being the result of a damp, impure atmosphere. These flowers were held near and over the light, which seemed to feed and give them substance in the same manner as the hand. By raps we were told to 'Notice and see them dissolve.' The sprig was placed over the light, the flowers dropped, and in less than one minute, melted as though made of wax, their substance seeming to spread as they disappeared. By raps 'See them come again.' A faint light immediately shot across the cylinder, grew into a stem; and in about the same time required for its dissolution, the stem, and the roses had grown into created perfection. This was several times repeated, and was truly wonderful."
F. W. Thurstan observed in sittings with Rosina Thompson (Light, March 15, 1901) that when a pineapple was to be materialized the smell and notion of it was "in her head" all day. He believed that ideas of forms, actions, and words that would manifest at a séance were placed in the medium's mind days beforehand.
One place where animals have made a noticeable impact upon the world of paranormal research has been in claims of their manifestation in the séances of materialization mediums. There are abundant accounts of such apparitions, the strangest reports being attributed to three Polish mediums: Franek Kluski, Jan Guzyk and one Burgik.
It was claimed that Guzyk materialized dogs and other animals, and Kluski, a large bird of prey, small beasts, a lion, and an apeman. The year 1919 abounded with apparent animal materializations in the Kluski séances. An account in Psychic Science (April 1926) reads in part:
"The bird was photographed, and before the exposure a whirring, like the stretching of a huge bird's wings, could be heard, accompanied by slight blasts of wind, as if a large fan were being used…. Hirkill (an Afghan) materialised…. Accompanying him always was a rapacious beast, the size of a very big dog, of a tawny colour, with slender neck, mouth full of large teeth, eyes which glowed in the darkness like a cat's, and which reminded the company of a maneless lion. It was occasionally wild in its behaviour, especially if persons were afraid of it, and neither the human nor the animal apparition was much welcomed by the sitters…. The lion, as we may call him, liked to lick the sitters with a moist and prickly tongue, and gave forth the odour of a great feline, and even after the séance the sitters, and especially the medium, were impregnated with this acrid scent as if they had made a long stay in a menagerie among wild beasts."
According to one Professor Pawlowski's account in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (September 1925), the bird was a hawk or a buzzard. It "flew round, beating his wings against the walls and ceiling, and when he finally settled on the shoulder of the medium he was photographed with a magnesium flash, as the camera was accidently focussed on the medium before, and was ready."
An anthropoidal ape showed itself first in July 1919. Gustav Geley reports in his book Clairvoyance and Materialisation (1927): "This being which we have termed Pithecanthropus has shown itself several times at our séances. One of us, at the séance of November 20, 1920, felt its large shaggy head press hard on his right shoulder and against his cheek. The head was covered with thick, coarse hair. A smell came from it like that of a deer or a wet dog. When one of the sitters put out his hand the pithecanthrope seized it and licked it slowly three times. Its tongue was large and soft. At other times we all felt our legs touched by what seemed to be frolicsome dogs."
Col. Norbert Ocholowicz, in his book on Kluski, quotes an article by Mrs. Hewat McKenzie:
"This ape was of such great strength that it could easily move a heavy bookcase filled with books through the room, carry a sofa over the heads of the sitters, or lift the heaviest persons with their chairs into the air to the height of a tall person. Though the ape's behaviour sometimes caused fear, and indicated a low level of intelligence, it was never malignant. Indeed it often expressed goodwill, gentleness and readiness to obey…. After a long stay a strong animal smell was noticed. It was seen for the last time at the séance of December 26, 1922, in the same form as in 1919 and making the same sounds of smacking and scratching."
McKenzie also writes of a small animal reminding the sitters of the "weasel" so often sensed at Guzyk's séances: "It used to run quickly over the table on to the sitters' shoulders, stopping every moment and smelling their hands and faces with a small, cold nose; sometimes, as if frightened, it jumped from the table and rambled through the whole room, turning over small objects, and shuffling papers lying on the table and writing desk. It appeared at six or seven séances, and was last seen in June, 1923."
Charles Richet writes of Burgik in Thirty Years of Psychical Research (1923): "In the last séance that I had with him the phenomena were very marked. I held his left hand and M. de Gielski his right. He was quite motionless, and none of the experimenters moved at all. My trouser leg was strongly pulled and a strange, ill-defined form that seemed to have paws like those of a dog or small monkey climbed on my knee. I could feel its weight very light and something like the muzzle of an animal (?) touched my cheek. It was moist and made a grunting noise like a thirsty dog."
Col. E. R. Johnson reported in Light (November 11, 1922) of a séance with Etta Wriedt,
"It was quite common to meet one's departed dogs. I had one of these, a very small terrier, placed on my knees. It remained there for about a minute, and both its weight and form were all recognised. It was not taken away but seemed gradually to evaporate or melt. Two others, a large retriever and a medium-sized terrier, came very often, and all three barked with their direct voices in tones suitable to their sizes and breeds. Other sitters saw, heard and were touched by them. Those three had died in India some 30 years previously."
The flight of birds was often heard in séances with D. D. Home and later with the Marquis Scotto Centurione. A tame flying squirrel was materialized by "Honto," an Indian woman control, in the séances of the Eddy brothers.
Two triangular areas of light, with curved angles like butterfly wings, audibly flitting and flapping, were noticed in the February 24, 1924, séance of "Margery" (Mina Crandon). The flying creature, said to be Susie, a tame bat of the control "Walter," performed strange antics. The wings would hover over roses on the table, pick one up, approach a sitter and hit him over the head with it. Susie pulled the hair of the sitters, pecked at their faces, and flapped her wings in their eyes. Another large, beetlelike area of light that scrambled about the table with a great deal of flapping was called by "Walter" his Nincompoop. Peculiar motions were also performed by a patch of light said to be a tame bear, over a curtain pole. Clicking and whizzing it toboganed down the pole and climbed back again. Nothing definite could be established about these curious animated patches of light.
"Materialisation of both beasts and birds sometimes appeared," writes Gambier Bolton in his book Ghosts in Solid Form (1914), "during our experiments, the largest and most startling being that of a seal which appeared on one occasion when Field-Marshal Lord Wolseley was present. We suddenly heard a remarkable voice calling out some absurd remarks in loud tones, finishing off with a shrill whistle. 'Why, that must be our old parrot,' said the lady of the house. 'He lived in this room for many years, and would constantly repeat those very words.'
"A small wild animal from India which had been dead for three years or more, and had never been seen or heard of by the Sensitive, and was known to only one sitter, suddenly ran out from the spot where the Sensitive was sitting, breathing heavily and in a state of deep trance, the little creature uttering exactly the same cry which it had always used as a sign of pleasure during its Earth life. It has shown itself altogether on about ten different occasions, staying in the room for more than two minutes at a time, and then disappearing as suddenly as it had arrived upon the scene.
"But on this occasion the lady who had owned it during its life called it to her by its pet name, and then it proceeded to climb slowly up on her lap. Resting there quietly for about half a minute it then attempted to return, but in doing so caught one of its legs in the lace with which the lady's skirt was covered. It struggled violently, and at last got itself free, but not until it had torn the lace for nearly three inches. At the conclusion of the experiment a medical man reported that there were five green-coloured hairs hanging in the torn lace, which had evidently become detached from the little animal's legs during its struggles. The lady at once identified the colour and the texture of the hairs, and this was confirmed by the other sitter— himself a naturalist—who had frequently seen and handled the animal during its Earth life. The five hairs were carefully collected, placed in tissue paper, and then shut up in a light-tight and damp-proof box. After a few days they commenced to dwindle in size, and finally disappeared entirely."
The story of a materialized seal is told in detail in Light (April 22, 1900), on the basis of Gambier Bolton's account before the London Spiritualist Alliance. The story goes as follows:
Being well known as a zoologist, Bolton received a note from an auctioneer asking if he would come to see a large seal that had been sent from abroad. "The poor thing is suffering; come round and see what you can do," wrote the seal's temporary owner, and being deeply interested in the welfare of animals of all kinds, Bolton at once obeyed. The poor creature had been harpooned, and was languishing in a large basket. He saw at once that it could not live, but wishing to do what he could to prolong its life, he dispatched it to the Zoological Gardens. Later in the day he called to see how it was faring, and found that it had been put into the seal tank. When Bolton visited the tank the seal rose from the water and gave him a long look, which, as he humorously suggested, seemed to indicate that the animal recognized him and was grateful for its treatment.
The seal died that night, and ten days later Bolton was at a séance at which Frederick Craddock was the medium. A number of people of social and scientific repute were present. Suddenly someone called out from the cabinet: "Take this great brute away, it is suffocating me." It was the seal! It came slowly from the cabinet, flopping and dragging itself as do seals, which (unlike sea-lions) cannot walk. It stayed close to Bolton for some moments and then returned to the cabinet and disappeared. "There is no doubt in my mind," said Bolton, "that it was the identical seal."
Asking about the modus vivendi of animal materializations, Bolton obtained the following answer from the spirit controls:
"Their actions are altogether independent of us. Whilst we are busily engaged in conducting our experiments with human entities who wish to materialise in your midst, the animals get into the room in some way which we do not understand, and which we cannot prevent; obtain, from somewhere, sufficient matter with which to build up temporary bodies; coming just when they choose; roaming about the room just as they please; and disappearing just when it suits them, and not before; and we have no power to prevent this so long as the affection existing between them and their late owners is so strong as it was in the instances which have come under our notice."
In contradiction to this information, Ocholowicz made it a point that at the Kluski séances the animal apparitions were seen to be in the charge of human apparitions. The only animal that seemed to be able to act independently of a keeper was the "pithecanthropus," he said. Generally the animal and human apparitions were not active at the same time. When the animal was fully materialized and active, the keeper was passive and kept in the background, and vice versa. The testimony of clairvoyants also suggested that when animal apparitions were seen the necessary link was furnished by a friend of the sitter.
Materializations and Apports
In experiments with medium Thomas Lynn at the British College of Psychic Science, objects were photographed while supposedly in the process of materialization. They showed flecks and masses of a luminous material, possessing stringlike roots. These light masses floated over a harp lying upon the table and were visible to all present. A fingerlike projection extended from a mass of this luminosity, and extended toward the harp as if to play it. As the photo plates were developed, a bone ring was seen to hang from the medium's nose, and an object similar to the top of an infant's nursing bottle appeared to dangle from his lips by a cord. The medium's features also seemed somewhat altered. At a second sitting, a two-pronged fishhook and a small ring materialized. The photo plates of this materialization showed that some round object proceeded from the region of the medium's solar plexus. It had often appeared in the photographs; from it a root or string seemed to extend to the object materializing. In this case the root was strangely twisted.
Similar observations of what seem in retrospect simple conjuring were reported by Karl Blacher of Riga University, with the apport medium "BX." (Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie, June 1933). In trance and under control, nails, screws, or pieces of iron would be visibly drawn out of his chest, armpits, or arms, as could be clearly observed by means of luminous screens. On one occasion wire more than a yard long was drawn from the man's bared chest; at another time Blacher himself caught hold of an end that was protruding from the same spot and drew out a long, leather strap. At another sitting the medium produced a heavy slab of metal from his chest and from his left arm a piece of wrought steel weighing more than three pounds.
In a day when there was serious speculation over the reality of apports and materialization, the problem of explaining the various phenomena was becoming more and more complex. Consider the case of Lajos Pap, the Budapest apport medium (Light, July 14, 1933). Before his first apport of a frog, for two days he reported that he heard continual croaking. It seemed to him to come from his stomach, and he kept asking people if they heard it. He claimed he heard the chirping of apported grasshoppers long before their arrival; and, before the apport of a large packet of needles, he said he felt pricking sensations over the back of his hand. Pap was discovered in fraud by researcher Nandor Fodor.
Modern Views of Materialization
All of the accounts of the marvels of materialization belong to the past; such astonishing phenomena are seldom reported in modern times. There is widespread acceptance of the fraudulence of materializations and related phenomena. The more blatant cases of fraud punctuate any discussions. One of the most impudent was that of Charles Eldred, who always took his "highly magnetized" armchair to séances. In 1906 the chair was examined and it was found that the back was really a box with a concealed lock and key. Inside was found a collapsible dummy, yards of cheesecloth for "ectoplasm," reaching rods, wigs, false beards, a music box (for "spirit music"), and even scent (for "spirit perfumes").
Almost all of the materialization mediums who produced results to the point of having their marvels recorded were later caught in fraud.
By World War II the only question remaining for a few who were still interested was whether mediums who had been caught impersonating spirits might also at times have produced genuine materialization phenomena. While it would be untenable to suppose that spirits influenced mediums to purchase wigs, masks, cheesecloth and other properties used fraudulently at séances, it is arguable that genuine mediums might have sometimes cheated to fulfill the expectation of sitters for consistently remarkable phenomena.
A notable example often held up as illustrative of this possibility was the famous Italian medium Eusapia Palladino, who seemed to have produced materialization phenomena under fairly strict conditions with a variety of more-or-less skilled observers, but was also known to take shortcuts and cheat if the opportunity arose. Another controversial medium was Helen Duncan, convicted in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1933 for fraudulent mediumship in which an undervest was used as a materialized spirit. A few reputable observers believed she also produced genuine phenomena, although psychical researchers like Harry Price insisted that his photographs of "ectoplasm" clearly showed cheesecloth, rubber gloves, and pictures of heads clipped from magazine covers. Price did not discover how the mediums hid these objects but theorized that the cheesecloth was swallowed and regurgitated, other props perhaps being manipulated by accomplices.
However, the days of materialization mediums are clearly over. No modern medium has come forward with comparable phenomena to be tested in the more rigorous atmosphere of present times. Until they do, materialization must be consigned to the dustbin of rejected phenomena. No evidence of fraud was ever discovered on the part of one medium, D. D. Home, whose séances produced some of the most extraordinary phenomena, but his career now stands as an anomaly.
In his book The Spiritualists: The Story of Florence Cook and William Crookes (1962), Trevor H. Hall seeks to show that not only was the mediumship of Florence Cook fraudulent, but that William Crookes became her accomplice because he was infatuated with her. Crookes's psychical research occurred at the beginning of his career, before the unquestioned scientific accomplishments for which he was justly honored. Hall is a noted critic (even debunker) of psychical phenomena, and his book is well documented. The evidence is somewhat speculative and anecdotal, but does demonstrate how Crookes could have been hoodwinked by Cook. Some of Hall's colleagues, including K. M. Goldney and R. G. Medhurst, have attempted to salvage Crookes's reputation in light of Hall's charges.
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"Materialization." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3403802988.html
"Materialization." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. 2001. Retrieved May 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3403802988.html