Mediums and Channelers
Mediums and Channelers
The idea that humans survive physical death, that some part of the human being is immortal, profoundly affects the lives of those who harbor such a belief. While Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and many other religions promise their followers some form of a life after death, many thousands of men and women feel that they have proof of a life beyond the grave based on the evidence of survival that manifests through spirit mediums.
Some psychical researchers maintain that the principal difference between a psychic-sensitive and a trance medium is that the psychic attributes his or her talents to some manifestations of extrasensory ability, such as clairvoyance, precognition, or telepathy, whereas the medium credits his or her abilities to the interaction with spirits.
Mediums most often relay messages from the other side through the agency of a spirit control or spirit guide, an entity who claims to have lived on Earth and acquired certain skills, knowledge, and wisdom before its own physical death. The concept of a spirit guide dates back to antiquity, and serious scholars and researchers have been asking the same question for hundreds of years: Is this alleged entity, who claims to speak through the medium, really a spirit, or is it the voice of the medium's subconscious?
Some mediums would probably concede that the action of the subjective mind is not entirely eliminated during trance and the arrival of the spirit control, but from their viewpoint their subconscious is taken over by the guide. An aspect of mediumistic phenomena on which both psychical researchers and mediums will be likely to agree is that there is an intelligence that directs and controls them. Another area of agreement would probably be that this intelligence is a human intelligence. Once again, the area of dispute would be whether that human intelligence issues from the living or from the dead. Interestingly, spirit communication still requires both a soul and a body—the soul of an alleged deceased human personality and the physical body of the medium.
In the 1970s, after the publication of Jane Roberts 's (1929–1984) books The Seth Material and Seth Speaks, "channeling" became a more popular name for mediumship, and it remains so to the present day. Jane Roberts received contact with an entity named Seth after undergoing a trance state while Robert Butts, her husband, recorded the thought, ideas, and concepts communicated by the spirit in notebooks. The material dictated by Seth was literate and provocative, and especially well-suited to a generation of maturing sixties' flower children and baby boomers. It wasn't long before Seth discussion groups around the United States were celebrating such concepts as the following: 1) We all create our own reality; 2) Our point of power lies in the present; and 3) We are all gods couched in "creaturehood." Nor was it long before "channelers" were emerging in large numbers throughout the country, and individuals such as Jach Pursel, Kevin Ryerson (1953– ), and J. Z. Knight (1946– ) had attained national and international celebrity status.
Perhaps in the mind of the channelers, the designation of "mediums" conjured up images of the traditional darkened seance parlors and ectoplasmic spirit guides, imagery that had become unacceptable to the modern spirit communicator, who more often relays messages from guides and master teachers in the full light of a platform setting or a television studio and seldom claims to materialize anything other than an engaging performance for the assembled audience. Then, too, just as in the 1930s when mediums were often compared to radio receiving sets for transmissions from the spirit world, it likely occurred to someone that the contemporary medium might be thought of as being similar to a human television channel, receiving thoughts and images from beyond. Whichever title is preferred by those who claim to relay messages from the spirits, the process of communication remains the same: Spirit entities occupy the physical body of the channelers or the mediums and speak through them.
Although the very idea of establishing contact with great spirit teachers from the beyond or from other dimensions of reality seemed new and exciting to the great masses of men and women in the 1970s, from the viewpoint of those individuals who research such matters it seemed only as though another cycle had once again reached its season and general public interest in spirit contact had returned. It was time again to recognize those sensitive men and women—modern-day shamans, so to speak— who were carrying on the tradition of spirit communication first set in motion in the nineteenth century by such great mediums as Daniel Dunglas Home (1833–1886), Mina "Margery" Crandon (1889–1941), Leonora E. Piper (1857–1950), and Eileen Garrett (1892–1970)—all of whom were quite likely to be completely unknown to the general public and even, perhaps, to the contemporary crop of channelers themselves. In addition to the pioneer work accomplished by such long-forgotten spirit mediums as those named above, the entire New Age Movement of the late twentieth century owes a great debt to the controversial Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831–1891), who was the first to popularize "channeling" wisdom from ancient teachers and masters, as well as the mystique of past lives and lost worlds.
In 1987, the ABC television network presented a miniseries based on actress Shirley MacLaine's (1934– ) book Out on a Limb (1987), which dealt with many subjects exciting to New Age enthusiasts, such as reincarnation, extraterrestrial visitation, ancient mysteries, and spirit communication. Perhaps the most captivating segments of the miniseries depicted MacLaine receiving spirit communication through channeler Kevin Ryerson. The actress and the channeler played themselves in the five-hour dramatization on prime-time television, and an international audience of millions were able to see for themselves how Tom McPherson, the 400-year-old spirit of an Irishman, spoke through Ryerson to advise MacLaine. Due to the popularity of Out on a Limb as a book and as a miniseries, channeling became a kind of craze throughout North America. The actress herself conducted a series of seminars in which she openly discussed her beliefs in past lives, UFOs, and spirit communication. Channeling and the claimed accessibility of the world beyond death achieved a peak of popularity which led to an outpouring of television programs, motion pictures, books, New Age expos, psychic fairs, and the "birth" of new channelers in a virtual cosmic population explosion. The interest in channelers and after-death communication continues to find its expression in such individuals as Sylvia Browne (1936– ), James Van Praagh (ca. 1960– ), and John Edward.
Even in this day of mass communication, Skylabs, the Internet, and increasingly sophisticated technology people are still fascinated by mediumship, channeling, and contacting the spirit world. According to J. Z. Knight (1946– ), another of Shirley MacLaine's favorite channelers, through her guide, Ramtha, believes the reason for their continued popularity is that there really aren't any mysteries left in humankind's material journey. Millions of people have reached a kind of peak in their evolution. Knight explained: "This has nothing to do with class distinction. Rich and poor, superstars and mediocrity alike feel that there must be more to life than this. The rich ask if there isn't more to life than material things. They also ask, 'Who am I?' 'Why am I doing this?' The poor ask if there isn't more to life than strife and suffering."
Knight says that Ramtha, the 35,000-year-old warrior from Lemuria who speaks through her, calls this point in people's lives the "time of fantastic realism." Ramtha also said that the human journey has reached a point when the self seeks to turn inward to self-examination. "In this age of communication and travel and the media, we have all been brought so close together," Knight said. "There really isn't much left to discover about our binary-thinking world. The next step will have to be that the analogical mind takes things into a different perspective, and we find ourselves in an 'unknown mind,' discovering what the ultimate journey is all about."
Christopher, Milbourne. Mediums, Mystics & the Occult. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1975.
Klimo, Jon. Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1987.
Maclaine, Shirley. Out on a Limb. New York: Bantam Books, 1983.
Paranormal News. http://paranormal.about.com/science/paranormal/library/blnews.htm. 1 October 2001.
Weinberg, Steven Lee, ed. Ramtha. Eastsound, Wash.: Sovereignty, Inc., 1986.
Sylvia Browne (1936– )
Spiritual advisor, trance medium, and psychic detective Sylvia Brown has proclaimed that her goals are to prove that the soul survives death, that God is a real and loving presence, and that there is a divine plan to everyone's life.
Browne is an example of the modern channel/medium who has become a media personality, thanks to her 27 years of making television and radio talk show appearances, 47 years of giving psychic readings, and 25 years of conducting paranormal research. Slowly building a reputation as a psychic-sensitive and trance channeler in California throughout the sixties, seventies, and eighties, Browne arrived upon the national scene in December of 1998 when she appeared on the Montel Williams Show to promote her biography, Adventures of a Psychic. The best-selling book was quickly followed in 1999 by The Other Side and Back: A Psychic's Guide to Our World and Beyond. These books, coupled with her appearances on Larry King Live, the Montel Williams Show, and Unsolved Mysteries, soon increased her popularity quotient to celebrity status.
Born Sylvia Shoemaker in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1936, she first gave evidence of her psychic ability at the age of five when she experienced frightening premonitions of the deaths of her two great-grandmothers just weeks before their passing. Fortunately for the sensitive child, she had her grandmother, Ada Coil, an established and respected psychic counselor and healer, to guide her and to help her to understand her paranormal talents, including the ability to communicate with those in the spirit world. Developing as a deep trance medium, Browne learned to allow her guide "Francine" to enter her body and communicate directly with people.
For many years Sylvia Browne quietly shared her insights with family and friends and became well known in the Kansas City area for her talent in helping people foresee their future. Even after moving to California in 1964, she continued assisting people on a private basis.
About 10 years after making the move to the West Coast, Browne decided that after having spent 18 years as a Catholic school-teacher, she now wished to research the paranormal and her own psychic abilities through a professionally established and legally sanctioned organization. In 1974, she incorporated the Nirvana Foundation for Psychic Research, a nonprofit organization known today as the Sylvia Browne Corporation. Soon the readings in her home with a dozen or so friends in attendance had grown to gatherings of two or three hundred people in churches and town halls. Although she was raised predominantly a Roman Catholic, she was familiar with the Jewish, Episcopalian, and Lutheran backgrounds of her extended family. In 1986, she established a church called the Society of Novus Spiritus (New Spirit), which, though based essentially upon Christian Gnostic theology rejects the concepts of sin, guilt, and retribution and is devoted to the building of a spiritual community that loves both the Father and Mother God.
While many spirit mediums reject reincarnation as contradictory to their concept of the divine program of spiritual evolution for the spirits of the deceased on the other side, Sylvia Browne accepts past lives as a central theme in her philosophy. She states that she has conducted thousands of hypnotic regressions and hundreds of trance sessions, which have convinced her that to understand the laws of karma/reincarnation is to possess one of the keys to understanding the true meaning of life. Browne is not dogmatic regarding any of her personal views, however, and she makes a point not to force her beliefs on anyone else.
There are hazards in establishing a high profile as a medium or a psychic-sensitive. Orthodox religionists condemn them as satanic; skeptics accuse them of exaggerating their claims of success; and nearly everyone charges them with being in the "spooky" business only to take money from the gullible and the grieving. In addition, various research groups often demand to conduct their own tests to decide whether or not the medium or the psychic has what they deem true paranormal abilities.
Brill's Content (2001) claimed to have examined 10 of the Montel Williams programs that featured Browne's work with the police as a "psychic detective," dealing with 35 cases. According to their analyses, in 21 the details were too vague to be verified. Of the 14 cases remaining, interviews with the law-enforcement officers involved in the investigations or family members of the victims produced comments that Browne had contributed nothing of value to the solving of the cases.
Regardless of the skeptics and the critics who seek to undermine her reputation, Sylvia Browne has counseled hundreds of men and women who will attest to the value and accuracy of her psychic readings. According to her supporters, Browne has been able to help thousands of men and women gain control of their lives, understand the deeper meaning of life, and find God in their own individual way.
Browne, Sylvia. Life on the Other Side: A Psychic's Tour of the Afterlife. New York: E. P. Dutton, 2000.
Browne, Sylvia, and Lindsay Harrison. The Other Side and Back: A Psychic's Guide to Our World and Beyond. New York: Signet, 2001.
Browne, Sylvia, and Lindsay Harrison. Past Lives, Future Healing: A Psychic Reveals the Secrets to Good Health and Great Relationships. New York: Penguin, 2001.
Florence Cook (1856–1904)
In his book Researches into the Phenomena of Spiritualism (1874), Sir William Crookes (1832–1919), the famous and respected British scientist, states that he walked with a materialized spirit form, talked with it, and took more than 40 flashlight photographs of the entity. The lively and charming spirit form was named Katie King, and she materialized through the mediumship of a teenager named Florence Cook.
When she was 15, Cook began sitting in seances with her mother in their home in Manchester, England, and she soon found that she was capable of producing writing she claimed was dictated by spirits from the other side. Her mediumship progressed rapidly, and within a short period of time, she was conducting dramatic demonstrations of spirit phenomena at meetings of the Dalston Society, a Spiritualist group. At some of these meetings the phenomena became so powerful that Cook was levitated above the heads of the sitters.
It was at this time that the teenaged medium met the spirit personality of "Katie King," who claimed to be the daughter of John King, alias Henry Owen Morgan, the infamous buccaneer. King promised to be Cook's spirit control and to produce many types of remarkable phenomena for a period of three years.
Cook was conducting her seances only at her parental home, and her father, mother, two sisters, and their household maid served as her steady circle of sitters. The teenager's reputation as a medium of remarkable talents had spread, and wealthy citizens of Manchester were offering retainers that would guarantee their attendance at her spirit circles whenever they required them.
In April of 1872, Katie King made an attempt to materialize, and she appeared only as a deathlike face between the gauze curtains of a seance cabinet. As spirit and medium strengthened their spiritual bond, King's ability to materialize became more and more advanced. Then, after a year's time, the spirit being could step out of the cabinet and show herself in full body to those who had gathered for Cook's seances. Sitters were allowed to touch her and even to photograph her.
As the spirit responded to questions concerning her life before death, she told a story of having been in the crowd that watched King Charles I of England lose his head at the chopping block in 1649. She had been but 12 then, and within a few more years, she was married. King confessed, however, to having been a violent, rather than a domestic, type; and she related with a macabre kind of eagerness how she had herself "done in" many people with her own hands before her death at the age of 23.
In a letter written February 3, 1874, Sir William Crookes described a seance in which Cook entered the spirit cabinet and slipped into trance. Moments later, Katie King emerged to say that the medium was not well enough that night to permit her to materialize to the level where she might wander very far from the cabinet. The spirit form did come a short distance amidst the sitters, but all the while they could hear the moanings and sobbings of Florence Cook.
Crookes stated that he sat in a position where he could clearly see the entranced form of Florence Cook and the materialized form of Katie King at the same time. Although he was impressed by the lifelike quality of the spirit control and by the fact that he could both see and hear Florence Cook while Katie King moved elsewhere in the seance room, the scientist was not firmly convinced by the demonstration.
At a later sitting, when Cook was feeling better, Katie King materialized for nearly two hours. Crookes reported that the charming spirit took his arm as she walked, and he found it hard to believe that his lovely companion could indeed be a visitor from beyond the grave. He asked permission to clasp King in his arms and was astonished when his request was granted.
During that same seance when he was allowed to touch the materialized spirit form, Crookes was also able to compare the features of the young medium and the spirit when King stood behind the form of the entranced Florence Cook. The medium lay in her customary black velvet dress, and the spirit form stood behind the couch in her flowing white drapery. Then, holding one of the medium's hands in one of his, Crookes knelt before the spirit and passed a lamp slowly up and down the whole figure of Katie King. Such a meticulous and brightly illumined examination thoroughly satisfied the eminent scientist that he had beheld a materialized spirit being and not "the phantasm of a disordered brain."
Crookes repeated the process three times, in each instance pausing to examine yet another aspect of either the spirit or the medium, whose psychic energy had manifested the spirit form. Later, in addition to a number of decided differences between the medium and the spirit, he listed various points of physical dissimilarities that he had observed between Florence Cook and Katie King: King was a good four and one-half inches taller than the medium. The skin of the spirit form's neck was very smooth both to touch and to sight, while Florence had a large blister on her neck that was distinctly visible and rough to the touch. Katie's ears were unpierced, while Florence habitually wore earrings. King's complexion was very fair, while Cook's was very dark. The spirit entity's fingers were much longer than the medium's, and King's face was also much larger.
For a period of over six months, Crookes studied the phenomena of Florence Cook at close hand. For as long as a week at a time, the young medium would be a guest at the Crookes's residence, constantly in the presence of some member of his family. Crookes became so familiar to the spirit that Katie King would allow him to enter the seance cabinet whenever he wished or to touch her at any time. The scientist wrote that it was a common thing for the seven or eight workers in his laboratory to view the materialized King in full glare of the electric lights.
After he had seen the spirit many times in the full light of his laboratory environment, Crookes added to the points of difference between the medium and the spirit form. In an article for a newspaper, he stated that he had the most absolute certainty that Florence Cook and the materialized entity were two separate individuals, so far as their physical bodies were concerned. There were several small blemishes on Cook's face which were absent on King's. The medium's hair was a very dark brown, whereas the spirit's hair was a rich golden auburn.
On the evening of Katie King's final appearance in the seance cabinet, she gave each of the members of the circle a farewell message and relayed a few general directions for the future well-being of Florence Cook. Crookes stated that after the spirit being had closed the curtains of the cabinet, she conversed with him for some time, then walked across the room to where the medium was lying on the floor in a state of deep trance. Stooping over her, King touched Cook and said, "Wake up, Florrie. Wake up! I must leave you now."
Crookes testified that the medium and the materialized spirit conversed with one another for several minutes, as Cook begged King to stay with her a little longer. "My work is done," King told her. "God bless you."
Sir William Crookes was outspoken in his defense of the validity of the phenomena produced by the young medium Florence Cook and her spirit control, Katie King. "Every test that I proposed [Florence Cook] agreed to," he told his scientific colleagues in the Royal Society. "She is open and straightforward in speech.…Indeed, I do not believe she could carry on a deception if she wished to try.…And to imagine that an innocent school-girl of fifteen should be able to conceive and then successfully carry out for three years so gigantic an imposture as this, and in that time should submit to any test which might be imposed upon her, should bear the strictest scrutiny, should be willing to be searched at any time, either before or after a seance, and should meet with even better success in my own house…does more violence to one's reason and common sense than to believe [Katie King] to be what she herself affirms."
The controversy over the scientist and his "pet ghost" has not been quieted to this day. One of the most common theories proposed by the detractors of the phenomena produced by Florence Cook is that Sir William Crookes fell in love with the 15-year-old medium and thereby became blinded to her trickery. Although the issue has been muddied by such charges, the experiments and reports of an illustrious scientist with the courage to bring his knowledge and training to psychic research stand as a matter of public record.
Florence Cook married Elgie Corner in 1874 and about the same time acquired a new spirit control named Marie, who followed in Katie King's ghostly footsteps by stepping out of the spirit cabinet, even singing and dancing to the delight of those clients assembled for a seance. At a sitting on January 9, 1880, during a materialization seance, Sir George Sitwell reached into the spirit cabinet and grabbed Marie. When the lights came up, the lively spirit Marie was found to be the medium Cook clad only in her corsets and petticoat and wrapped in white drapery.
Apologists for the medium argue that all of the incredible phenomena produced by Florence Cook Corner and witnessed by numerous psychical researchers, including the eminent scientist Sir William Crookes, should not be dismissed because of one incident of cheating. Skeptics counter that all of Cook's mediumistic materializations of Katie King and Marie were really dramatic impersonations for true believers in Spiritualism and that Crookes had become too infatuated with the young medium to be effectively objective.
Cook withdrew from public mediumship until 1899, when she accepted an invitation from the Sphinx Society in Berlin to sit under test conditions and demonstrate her abilities. According to many observers, the remarkable phenomena that Cook produced during those tests went a long way toward clearing her somewhat tarnished reputation.
Sir William Crookes stoutly maintained that Florence Cook had produced genuine spirit phenomena under the strictest of controls imposed upon her. When he learned of her death, he expressed his deepest sympathy for her family in a letter dated April 24, 1904, and declared that for many people their belief in an afterlife was strengthened because of the mediumship of Florence Cook.
Brandon, Ruth. The Spiritualists. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983.
Fodor, Nandor. These Mysterious People. London: Rider & Co., 1935.
Mina "Margery" Stinson Crandon (1888–1941)
Mina "Margery" Stinson Crandon ranks as one of the most thoroughly investigated and controversial mediums of the twentieth century. Psychical researchers put the ever-cooperative woman in uncomfortable situations, encased her in awkward contraptions, and sometimes wound her in enough adhesive tape to make her look like a mummy. In spite of such laborious efforts to disprove the validity of her phenomena, Margery Crandon again and again materialized spirits and performed astounding feats of psychokinesis, or mind over matter.
Mina Stinson was born in Canada in 1888 and moved to Boston when she was quite young. In 1918, after an unsuccessful marriage, she became the wife of a senior Boston surgeon, Dr. Le Roi Goddard Crandon, whose family dated back to the Mayflower. They bought the house at Number 11 Lime Street on Beacon Hill, and became popular in Boston society. Crandon was a highly respected instructor at Harvard Medical School, and Mina was known as a lady with a sharp and lively wit.
In 1923, Crandon became extremely interested in psychical research, and he convinced Mina and a number of their friends to begin to explore the possibilities of contacting the dead. The group began with the customary attempts at table-tipping and spirit raps, and Crandon was astonished when it became evident that Mina was a powerful medium. After a few sessions Mina's deceased brother Walter, who had died in a train crash in 1911, announced his presence as her spirit control and within a brief period of time he began speaking through Mina and demonstrating a wide variety of spirit phenomena. Walter, speaking in down-to-earth language, often colored with profanity, stated that it was his mission to perform the process of mind over matter, rather than delivering flowery inspirational messages from the other side.
Although Mina was regularly producing dramatic phenomena, attendance to the seances were by invitation only in order to protect Crandon's standing at Harvard. Within a few months after they had begun the private seances, the Crandons submitted to the first formal investigation of Mina's mediumship under the auspices of Professor William McDougall, head of Harvard's Department of Psychology, and a committee from the university. After five months of observation, the committee declared its opinion that the spiritistic mind over matter phenomena were produced through fraudulent means.
In November of 1923, J. Malcolm Bird (1886–1964) of Scientific American magazine attended one of the Crandons' seances and was impressed with the spiritistic manifestations he witnessed. At that time, Scientific American was offering a prize of $2,500 to anyone who could provide conclusive proof that psychic phenomena truly existed, and Bird asked Mina to submit to a series of their tests. The investigating committee for the magazine included Harry Houdini (1874–1926), Hereward Carrington (1880–1958), Dr. Walter Franklin Prince (1863–1934), Dr. D. F. Comstock, Dr. William McDougall (1871–1938), and J. Malcolm Bird, secretary of the committee. To protect Mina Crandon's social standing as the wife of a prominent Boston surgeon and Harvard professor, Bird gave her the pseudonym of "Margery," which is how she shall always be remembered in the annals of psychical research.
The tests began in January 1924 under the general supervision of Crandon. The strictest of control conditions were enforced to ensure that fraud of any kind, conscious or unconscious, on the part of the medium could not go undetected. The most controversial aspect of the tests has to do with the role of the famous magician Harry Houdini in the experiments. Houdini was outspoken in his declarations that he had exposed Margery as a fraud. The medium's defenders proclaim that the greatest myth in the history of psychical research is that Houdini caught Margery cheating and exposed her. On one point there is agreement: Houdini seemed determined to expose Margery as a fake by whatever means necessary.
During one night of tests, Houdini brought an electric doorbell into the seance room and said that he would challenge the spirit to ring it for the circle. Once Margery was in a trance state, a low voice, that of Walter, the medium's deceased brother and her spirit control, bemoaned the presence of Houdini. "Still trying to get some publicity by haunting seance rooms, eh?" the spirit voice taunted the magician.
Walter then directed Malcolm Bird, secretary of the committee, to take Houdini's doorbell out of the room so that he might examine it and see what kind of trickery the magician had planned. Bird hesitated for a moment, then picked up the apparatus and left the room. When he returned a few moments later, Bird frowned in displeasure at the magician, accusing him of having placed pieces of rubber on the contact points of the bell so that it could not possibly ring. Houdini offered no defense of his actions, and he was admonished that dishonesty would do the committee no service.
The words of admonishment were scarcely out of Bird's mouth when the electric bell began to ring in vigorous spurts of clanging sound, and Walter's booming voice filled the seance room. "How does that suit you, Mr. Houdini?" the spirit control mocked.
Houdini's tricks to confuse Margery were methodically uncovered by the all-seeing spirit guide Walter, and the magician's attendance at the sessions in the medium's seance room became more and more infrequent. When the committee demanded that the magician make good his boast that he could duplicate all the effects that the medium had manifested during her seances, Houdini found that he had suddenly been called away on business.
The investigating committee from the Scientific American never seemed to exhaust their list of inventive tests by which they might challenge the abilities of the patient Margery. For one experiment, the medium allowed herself to be encased in a wooden compartment which would permit only her arms and legs to protrude. With her limbs grasped firmly by the researchers, Margery was still able to ring bells, snuff out candles, and set in motion rocking chairs on the opposite side of the room.
In order to better investigate the spirit voices that seemed to be under Margery's control, the committee carefully measured an amount of colored water that would easily fill her mouth. With her mouth full of the colored water, the voices of Walter and other entities were still able to speak freely and to answer all questions put to them. After the experiment's completion, the water was removed from the medium's mouth and remeasured. The color remained the same and the amount of water withdrawn varied not more than a teaspoonful.
The water test had not adequately impressed all the investigators, however, so they devised a balloon which could be placed in the medium's mouth and inflated while the seance was in progress. Once again, the voices were able to engage in free discourse, even though Margery's larynx was completely blocked off. A number of the spirit voices expressed their scorn with the feeble attempts that the investigators were making in an attempt to mute them.
Although Margery was always remarkably patient and good-humored regarding the tests that the committee devised, there were some overeager members among the researchers who did not return her good will. Before the research seances had begun, each of the investigators had signed an affidavit stating that none of them would touch the ectoplasm that streamed forth from the medium's body, but on one occasion, a committee member seized the substance as it moved over his wrist. Margery emitted a terrible shriek of pain, and later she became ill and hemorraged for several days. Another time when she was in deep trance, a researcher drove a thick needle into her flesh. Although the medium did not flinch while entranced, she suffered greatly from the wound when she awakened. On still another occasion, Margery was badly burned by corrosive chemicals which a zealous investigator had designed for an experiment.
After six weeks of tests, the committee remained undecided as to the validity of the phenomena produced by Margery, but an enthusiastic J. Malcolm Bird began writing positive articles concerning the authenticity of the medium's abilities. When it seemed apparent that there was no general consensus accepting or rejecting Margery's mediumship as providing proof of survival, Houdini became furious, fearing that they were about to hand over the prize money of $2,500 to the Crandons. Because of his open and much publicized skepticism of spirit mediums and Spiritualists, Houdini felt that his very reputation as a master magician was being challenged and insulted, so he wrote his own report, Houdini Exposes the Tricks Used by the Boston Medium Margery, and had it published as a booklet in 1924. As should be obvious from the title, Houdini presented his own explanations of how each of the phenomena manifested by Margery had been accomplished through trickery. The angry magician even went so far as to accuse two of his fellow committee members, Hereward Carrington and J. Malcolm Bird, of having assisted Margery in perpetrating her fraudulent mediumship.
In spite of crude and careless acts on the part of certain members of the committee throughout the grueling tests, Margery Crandon retained her goodwill toward the persistent investigators and produced a remarkable variety of phenomena, ranging from breezes, raps, spirit writing in several languages, independent voice manifestations, apports, and the imprint of spirit fingerprints in paraffin. Many members of the committee made public declarations that Margery Crandon had control of forces beyond the present knowledge of twentieth-century science. Hereward Carrington went on record as stating that after attending more than 40 sittings with Margery he had arrived at the "…definite conclusion that genuine supernormal would frequently occur. Many of the observed manifestations might well have been produced fraudulently…however, there remains a number of instances when phenomena were produced and observed under practically perfect control."
Unfortunately for Margery and her many friends and supporters, it was discovered that a fingerprint that had been allegedly left in wax by Walter was found to be that of a Boston dentist, Dr. Frederick Caldwell, who admitted that he had given Margery a bit of wax in which his own print had been pressed. One such exposure of fraud could not prove that all of Margery's spirit phenomena had been produced as products of clever deception, as Houdini had declared, but the falsification of her spirit control's fingerprint caused the majority of researchers who had examined and tested her mediumship to decide that perhaps she had, after all, been too good to be true.
Mina Crandon herself remains a mystery. The most famous medium of the 1920s has become a martyr in the minds of Spiritualists, a courageous woman who submitted to test after complex test for the sake of demonstrating the truth of survival after death. For psychical researchers, she stands as a classic example of a talented medium who, though capable of occasionally producing genuine phenomena, from time to time resorted to trickery. For the skeptics, she is simply another clever fraud who deceived the gullible until she was exposed by the harsh light of scientific investigation.
Mina Stinson Crandon died in her sleep on November 1, 1941. Although she was said to have spent her final years unhappy and disillusioned, tending to her husband during a long convalescence, then succumbing herself to illness, her supporters never ceased to remind her that her fame as a medium was known throughout the world.
Fodor, Nandor. These Mysterious People. London: Rider & Co., 1935.
Steiger, Brad. Voices from Beyond: Do They Prove Survival? New York: Award Books; London: Tandem Books, 1968.
Tietze, Thomas R. Margery. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.
John Edward is an internationally acclaimed psychic medium. At the age of 31, he has attained the ability to touch the deepest aspects of the human spirit: longing and curiosity.
The debut of his highly rated cable TV show, Crossing Over with John Edward, on the Sci Fi Channel, went from a large audience of 275,000 households to more than 614,000 households within a year and was moved from late-night to prime-time, five days a week. His overwhelming popularity bought him syndication and a network spot on CBS.
Born and raised John MaGee Jr. in Long Island, New York, to a father who was a policeman, Edward remembers exhibiting at a very young age an uncanny ability to "know" family history and events that took place before he was even born.
It wasn't, however, until Edward had a reading with Lydia Clar, a famed psychic from New Jersey, that he embarked on developing his abilities. At age fifteen, it was Clar who made him aware that his psychic abilities were extraordinary and should be used to help and assist others. Before his reading with her, despite being somewhat aware of his childhood abilities, Edward said he was actually quite skeptical. He did not believe Clar when she said his destiny was to be a medium.
Attributing the nourishing environment and acceptance of his family to "psychic phenomena," Edward found it easy to flourish and eventually fine tune his gifts. Graduating from college with a degree in public administration and health care administration, he was able to maintain a management position in a health care facility in the Northeast, while continuing his research in the field of parapsychology. He also made time for lecturing, teaching, writing, and doing readings for others, until the demand for his time and ability grew to such a point that he decided to devote himself exclusively to "speaking to the dead."
In a June 18, 1998, interview with Larry King on Larry King Live, Edward explained:
Basically, I act as a bridge, I go between the physical world and the non-physical world. And what I do— I'm somewhat of a waiter—I go to the other side, not literally go there, but I go to the other side and get information and I bring it out and I serve my client the information and hope that they understand it.
Elaborating on "how" the energy comes from the "other side," Edward says it comes in different ways: "clairvoyance" (clear-seeing), "clairaudience" (clear-hearing), "clairsentience" (clear-sensing), "clairalience" (clear-smelling), and "clairhambience" (clear-tasting). Then it is up to him to interpret what is being communicated through these various senses, or what the loved ones on the other side are trying to communicate.
Detractors such as James Randi, a.k.a. "Amazing Randi" (of the James Randi Educational Foundation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida), say that Edward does nothing more than do "cold readings"—using the same technique that has been long used by magicians to entertain and mediums. The technique involves posing a series of questions and suggestions, each shaped by the subject's previous response. For example, a generic statement might be uttered, such as, "I sense a father-figure here," and when that gets a response, adding something like, "I'm getting that his death resulted from a problem in his chest" (which Randi says can be anything from a heart attack to emphysema to lung cancer). If the subjects answers "no," then the response is normally, "Well, I'll get back to that.…"
Others say Edward's show benefits from the use of "creative editing." They argue that many of the "misses" are left out of the final airing and the successes "enhanced." Some even suggest that a lot of information comes from detailed questionnaires filled out by the audience members, who go through a stringent selection process before being accepted on the set.
The skeptics haven't deterred the vast numbers of people who feel that John Edward has helped them deal with loss, grief, and closure, and given them the ability to move on with their lives. Edward's book One Last Time, released in November 1999, hit number one on the L.A. Times' best-seller list. Edward has also been featured in the HBO documentary Life Afterlife and appeared not only on Larry King Live, but on Leeza, Roseanne, Maury, Sally, Entertainment Tonight, The Crier Report, and Charles Grodin —among others.
about john edward.
http://www.johnedward.net/aboutjohn.htm. 15 october 2001.
"can the living talk to the dead? psychics say they connect with the spirit world, but skeptics respond: 'prove it.'" usa today. http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20010620/3415680s.htm. 18 october 2001.
edward, john. "after death communication." the psychic reader, june 1999. http://www.berkeley psychic.com/reader/archive/june99/afterdeath communication.html. 18 october 2001.
entertainment weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/commentary/0,6115,104073~3~0~scifispsychic talk,00.html 28 march 2001.
leon jaroff. "talking to the dead." time magazine, vol. 157, no. 9: (march 5, 2001).
Arthur Augustus Ford (1896–1971)
In his autobiography written in collaboration with Marguerite Harmon Bro, the highly respected medium Arthur Ford, an ordained minister of the Disciples of Christ Church, explained the working relationship that he enjoyed with his spirit guide, Fletcher. When Ford wished to enter trance, he would lie down on a couch or lean back in a comfortable chair and breathe slowly and rhythmically until he felt an in-drawing of energy at the solar plexus. Then he focused his attention on Fletcher's face, as he had come to know it, until gradually he felt as if his guide's face had pressed into his own "at which instant there is a sense of shock," as if he were fainting or "passing out." At this point, Ford says, he loses consciousness—and when he awakens at the completion of a seance, it is as if he has had a "good nap."
Born into a Southern Baptist family on January 8, 1896, in Titusville, Florida, young Arthur had no real psychic experiences as a child, other than the occasional instances when he seemed to know what people were about to say. He was drawn to the religion, but he annoyed the local clergy with his persistence in asking questions about church doctrines, especially those concerning life after death. Although he was excommunicated from the Baptist church at the age of 16, in 1917 Ford entered Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky on a scholarship, with the intention of becoming a minister. His education was interrupted when the United States entered the First World War that same year, and Ford joined the army in 1918.
Ford advanced to the rank of second lieutenant, but he was not among the doughboys who served in the trenches overseas. Although he never saw action in Europe (the war ended soon after he enlisted), Ford observed firsthand the ravages of the terrible influenza epidemic as it struck the army camps. He began to have visions concerning those who would die of influenza, and at the same time, he heard the names of the soldiers who would be killed in action in Europe. For several frightening months, Ford thought that he was going insane. It was not until he had returned to his studies at Transylvania College that Dr. Elmer Snoddy, a psychology professor, suggested that Ford might be experiencing some kind of extrasensory phenomena, rather than insanity.
In 1922, Ford married Sallie Stewart and was ordained a minister of the Disciples of Christ Church in Barbourville, Kentucky. He began to gain immediate attention as a powerful presence in the pulpit, but his developing mediumistic abilities were creating an increasing amount of friction with his conventional ministry and his personal relationships. After five years of marriage, he divorced his wife and left the church to begin lecturing about life after death. It was not long before his lecture appearances included his entering self-induced states of trance and relaying messages from the spirit world to members of his audiences. Ford's spiritistic talents were rather spontaneous and undisciplined, however, until he made the acquaintance of the great Hindu Yogi Paramhansa Yogananda (1893–1952), who taught him how to achieve a Yogic trance state and establish control of his burgeoning psychic abilities.
In 1924, Ford encountered another important influence in his life, the entity Fletcher, who would become his spirit control. In this particular instance, it was more a matter of reacquaintance, for Fletcher was a boyhood friend of Ford's who had been killed in action in Europe during World War I. With the advent of Fletcher as his spirit guide, Ford began a lifepath that would soon lead to world fame. In the late 1920s, Ford established the First Spiritualist Church of New York, the first of numerous churches and spiritual organizations that he would found or lead. Such luminaries as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930) called him one of the most amazing mental mediums of all times.
In 1929, Ford received a message that he believed to have originated from the spirit of the late master magician Harry Houdini (1874–1926) and conveyed it to Mrs. Houdini's attention. Immediately a storm of fierce arguments pro and con erupted in the media. It was well known that before his death Houdini had left a coded message with his wife that he would attempt to send her from beyond the grave to prove life after death. Some feature writers championed the authenticity of Ford's relayed after-death communication from Houdini, while others quoted his widow as saying that the message was not correct.
On February 9, 1929, however, according to Ford's supporters, Beatrice (Bess) Houdini wrote the medium to state with finality: "Regardless of any statement made to the contrary: I wish to declare that the message, in its entirety, and in the agreed upon sequence, given to me by Arthur Ford, is the correct message prearranged between Mr. Houdini and myself."
Eventually it came to be widely known that the various words in the Houdini code spelled out the secret message: "Rosabelle, believe." Ford's detractors argued that there was nothing paranormal involved in the medium's providing the secret message to Mrs. Houdini. Houdini's spirit had not whispered the words to Ford, they insisted. Rather, Ford had carefully studied an interview that Bess Houdini had given the year before in which she had inadvertently revealed the code to several reporters when she explained that the message her late husband would pass on from the world beyond was based on their old vaudeville mind-reading routine that used a secret spelling code.
Arthur Ford was at the center of another great afterlife controversy when Fletcher brought forth Bishop James A. Pike's son James A. Pike, Jr., who had committed suicide in February 1966, at the age of 22, as well as other communicating entities during a seance on September 3, 1967. This particular seance, which took place in Toronto, Ontario, was unique in that it was not limited to a drape-darkened room, but was taped and televised on CTV, the private Canadian television network. Allen Spraggett, the religion editor of the Toronto Star and a former pastor of the United Church of Canada, arranged the seance and later told the Associated Press that he believed that during the seance there had been strong evidence for communication with the dead or of extrasensory perception at the least.
At the beginning of the seance, Ford placed a dark handkerchief over his eyes, commenting that it was easier to go into trance if he did not have light, and the bright lights of the television studio would make the reception of the trance state that much more difficult. Once he had attained the trance state, Fletcher soon made an appearance. Fletcher said that he had two people eager to speak. The first communicating entity was that of a young man who had been mentally disturbed and confused before he departed. He revealed himself as James A. Pike, Jr. He said how happy he was to speak with his father. Next Fletcher brought forward George Zobrisky, a lawyer who had taught history at Virginia Theological Seminary. Zobrisky said that he had more or less shaped Bishop Pike's thinking, a point which the clergyman readily conceded. Louis Pitt then sent greetings to the bishop, who recognized Pitt as having been acting chaplain at Columbia University before Pike had become chairman of the Department of Religion.
Fletcher next described an "old gentleman," who, after some discussion, Bishop Pike recognized as Donald McKinnon, a man who had been the principal influence on his thinking at Cambridge. The last spirit to come forward told Fletcher that he had called himself an "ecclesiastical panhandler" in life. Bishop Pike appeared to know at once what man had carried such a humorous self-described title. Allen Spragget, serving as moderator, asked Fletcher for a precise name. "Oh," said the spirit control, "something like Black. Carl. Black. Block."
"Carl Block," Bishop Pike agreed, "the fourth bishop of California, my predecessor." Then addressing the spirit directly, Bishop Pike said, "I admired and respected you, and yet I hoped you weren't feeling too badly about some changes."
Speaking through Fletcher, Bishop Block told his successor that he had done a "magnificent job" and that he had "magnificent work yet to do."
Bishop Pike said later that he did not see how any research done by Arthur Ford could have developed such intimate details about his life and such facts about the roles that certain individuals had played in shaping his thinking. He felt that the details had been "quite cumulative…not just bits and pieces, an assortment of facts." Bishop Pike stated that the information provided through Fletcher had formed a pattern. "Also, the persons who purportedly communicated had one thing in common—they were in varying ways connected with the development of my thought. They knew me at particularly significant times in my life, turning-points."
In many ways, the life of Arthur Ford was quite tragic. In 1930, a truck went out of control and struck the car in which he was driving with his sister and another woman as passengers. The two women were killed outright, and he suffered serious internal injuries, a broken jaw, and crushed ribs. During his long hospitalization, he became addicted to morphine and attempted to free himself of the resultant insomnia by drinking heavily. While at the height of his popularity, he was also an alcoholic, suffering blackouts and failing to appear for scheduled demonstrations.
In 1938, Ford married an English widow, Valerie McKeown, whom he had met while on tour, but in spite of their initial happiness together, his bouts with alcoholism doomed the marriage from the beginning. His public displays of drunkenness had become so humiliating that his faithful spirit control, Fletcher, threatened to leave Ford unless he began to exercise some degree of self-control. Ford continued to drink and Fletcher left the medium. Soon thereafter, Ford entered a deep depression and suffered a complete physical breakdown.
The Twelve-Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous managed to help Ford attain a level of control over his drinking problem, though he was never able to give up alcohol completely. In the 1950s, Fletcher returned as his spirit control, and Ford began once again to provide demonstrations of afterlife communications that many individuals found provided proof of survival of the spirit after death. Among Ford's many positive accomplishments during this period of revival was his participation in the founding of Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship in 1956. Arthur Ford spent the final years of his life in Miami, Florida, where he died of cardiac arrest on January 4, 1971.
ford, arthur (as told to jerome ellison). the life beyond death. new york: g. p. putnam's sons, 1971.
ford, arthur, with marguerite harmon bro. nothing so strange: the autobiography of arthur ford. new york: harper & brothers, 1958.
spraggett, allen. arthur ford: the man who talked with the dead. new york: new american library, 1973.
steiger, brad. the world beyond death. norfolk, va.: donning, 1982.
tribbe, frank c., ed. an arthur ford anthology. nevada city, calif.: blue dolphin, 1999.
Eileen Garrett (1893–1970)
Eileen Garrett, who became one of the most respected mediums of the twentieth century, continued to study the phenomena of her mediumship throughout her long career, and she consistently questioned the source of the power that guided her for so many years.
Both of her parents committed suicide shortly after her birth in 1893 in Beauparc, County Meath, Ireland, and she was adopted by an aunt and uncle. Garrett had what many researchers recognize as a typical medium's childhood: She was ill a great deal, suffered many family tragedies at a young age, and began to experience visions and to see "people" who weren't there. Little Eileen had imaginary playmates, saw various forms of light and energy around people and animals, and became aware at an early age that life did not end with physical death when she saw a kind of grayish smoke rising up from the bodies of pets after they died.
Garrett was plagued by tuberculosis and other respiratory illnesses throughout her childhood, and when she was 15 she left Ireland for the milder climate of England. She lived there with relatives for only a short time when an older gentleman named Clive began to call on her. After a courtship of a few months, she married him, and during the course of their brief marriage, she bore him three sons, all of whom died at young ages. She eventually gave birth to a daughter, Eileen, and succumbed once again to ill health. By the time she had recovered, the marriage had ended in divorce.
During World War I, Garrett opened a hostel for convalescent soldiers. While she was caring for the wounded men, she attracted the attention of a young officer who asked her to marry him. Although she had a premonition that their life together would be very short, she agreed to a marriage just before he left for the front. Within a brief period of time apart, she had a vision of his dying, and two days later she received word that he was missing in action. Shortly thereafter, she was notified that he had been killed in Ypres. She was recuperating from yet another illness when she met a young man whom she married one month before the armistice in 1918—in spite of the fact that her intuitive abilities informed her that this union would not become any more permanent than her previous states of matrimony.
Eileen Garrett did not learn that she was a trance medium until shortly after the armistice in November, when she accidentally fell asleep at a public meeting in London and the spirits of deceased relatives of the men and women seated around her began to speak through her. One gentleman present was familiar with the phenomenon of mediumship, and he explained to the young woman what had happened to her. He went on to say that he had communicated with an Asian spirit named Uvani that had manifested through her while she was entranced, and the entity had informed him that henceforth he would serve as Eileen Garrett's guide and spirit control. Uvani had declared that together they would do serious work to prove the validity of the survival of the human spirit after physical death.
At first Garrett was horrified at the prospect of a spirit sharing her subconscious and eavesdropping on her private thoughts and her private life. For weeks she slept with the light burning in her bedroom, fearful that Uvani might put in a materialized appearance. Such stress contributed to another bout of illness, and her developing mediumship contributed to the breakup of her third marriage. Until she sought advice from James Hewat McKenzie (1869–1929), founder of the British College of Psychic Science, she was troubled by fear of the unknown and doubts about her sanity. Under the guidance of McKenzie and his wife, Barbara, Garrett was assured that her spirit guide would not be at all interested in her daily life and that his whole purpose was based on a sincere wish to be of service to humanity. Garrett concentrated on developing her mediumship and studied with the college until McKenzie's death in 1929.
Although she had another of her premonitions concerning the transient nature of her role as wife in the state of marriage, Garrett had fallen in love and planned to be married for a fourth time. As strange as it might seem, both Garrett and her fiance became ill on the same day. She barely survived a mastoid operation, and he died of pneumonia. Confused about the course in life she was to follow, Eileen Garrett decided to come to the United States and devote herself to the process of understanding mediumship and survival after death by submitting to an intense barrage of tests at the hands of academic parapsychologists and psychical researchers.
Hereward Carrington (1880–1958), one of the leading researchers during that period, had devoted decades to psychical investigations, with a special emphasis on the various phenomena of mediumship. After years of scrupulous tests and experiments, he had concluded that 98 percent of all such phenomena are fraudulent. But when he began a series of tests with Eileen Garrett, he declared her to be a "medium's medium." He found that she was a generous woman who had always been "on the fence" with regard to her own highly acclaimed mediumship and who had offered herself to science in a sincere effort to learn more about the spirits who communicated through her.
During the years in which she perfected her ability to communicate with the spirits of the deceased through her spirit guide, Eileen Garrett often expressed doubts about Uvani's spiritual independence and frequently voiced her suspicions that he might only be a segment of her own subconscious mind. Eventually, she had four trance communicators. Uvani, a fourteenth-century Arab soldier, remained always as the control, but there was also Abdul Latif, a seventeenth-century Persian physician, who dealt primarily with healing, and Tahotah and Ramah, who claimed no prior earthly incarnations and who spoke only seldom and then on philosophical and spiritual matters. Such indecisiveness about the source of her abilities dismayed the Spiritualists, who in her developmental years in London, had tutored her with the utmost seriousness.
Eileen Garrett became a persistent and highly qualified researcher in her own right. In 1951, she founded the Parapsychology Foundation, Inc., in New York City, and in 1952 reestablished her magazine Tomorrow as a quarterly journal of psychic science. In 1959, the foundation began publishing the International Journal of Parapsychology and in 1970, the Parapsychology Review. She also authored such books as Adventures in the Supernormal (1949), The Sense and Nonsense of Prophecy (1950), and Many Voices: The Autobiography of a Medium (1968).
In an article entitled "The Ethics of Mediumship" for the Autumn 1960 issue of Tomorrow, Eileen Garrett stated that she was not one who "assumes that the gift of mediumship necessarily brings with it greater insight into the phenomena of that mediumship." She goes on to advise the serious medium to "withdraw herself from the ideas thrown out by the inquirer" and regard herself "as a mechanism, clear and simple, through which ideas flow." According to an accomplished medium such as Garrett, those who had similar gifts should put themselves into a "receptive mood" which will enable them to "accept the flow of events and ideas to be perceived and known."
Continuing with this line of thought, she wrote:
If the medium allows herself to be thus used, things will happen of themselves—a technique old as wisdom itself, and not contradictory to Zen. One allows the feminine perceptive principle of the unconscious to emerge and thus one is not swamped by the demanding consciousness of the self or the inquirer. This instructive feminine element is, according to Jung, the common property of all mankind. It cannot be coerced. It must be respected and nurtured.
To Eileen Garrett, mediumship was not a "breaking-down of the personality," but a state of wholeness. She regarded the tendency of "enthusiastic sitters to regard the medium as priest or priestess" as the "major danger area in mediumistic activities." She wisely concluded that "…communication with the 'other world' may well become a substitute for living in this world. Understanding that this world in which we live has priority in this existence is the core of mediumship ethics."
Eileen Garrett died on September 15, 1970, in Nice, France, following a period of declining health.
Angoff, Allan. Eileen Garrett and the World Beyond the Senses. New York: William Morrow, 1974.
Carrington, Hereward. The Case for Psychic Survival. New York: Citadel Press, 1957.
Garrett, Eileen. Many Voices: The Autobiography of a Medium. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1968.
LeShan, Lawrence. The Medium, the Mystic, and the Physicist. New York: Viking Press, 1974.
Daniel Dunglas Home (1833–1886)
The clientele of Daniel Dunglas Home was one of the most exclusive that ever gathered around any one medium: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Mark Twain, Napoleon III, the Empress Eugenie, Tolstoy, and many other notables on both sides of the Atlantic. Home was poked and probed and examined by dozens of scientists, and he graciously submitted to hundreds of tests by psychical researchers. No skeptical investigator ever succeeded in exposing him, and two of the most prestigious scientists of the day, Sir William Crookes (1832–1919) and Dr. Robert Hare (1781–1858), stated that, in their opinion, the phenomena manifested by Home was genuine. Home conducted over 1,500 seances and produced phenomena at all times, under all manner of conditions, in broad daylight, under artificial lighting, indoors, outdoors, in private homes, in hotel rooms, and on public lecture platforms.
Born near Edinburgh, Scotland, on March 20, 1833, Home was said to have been rocked in his cradle by unseen entities. His mother was also said to have had the gift of "second sight," as clairvoyance was called in those days, and Mary McNeal Cook, an aunt who adopted Home when he was but a year old, began noticing clairvoyant impressions from the child almost as soon as he began to speak. At the age of four he began having visions which proved to be accurate. A frail child who contracted tuberculosis at an early age, Home's early childhood was marked by long periods of convalescence. When he was nine, his aunt and uncle moved to the United States, where they settled in Greeneville, Connecticut.
Home was 17 when the physical phenomena which was to direct the course of his life began to occur around him. In his memoirs, Home writes that he first heard "…three loud blows on the head of the bed as if it had been struck by a hammer." His first impression was that someone had hidden in his bedroom to frighten him, but the next morning at breakfast, the table at which he had seated himself was shaken nearly to pieces by a wild flurry of rappings.
His aunt, near hysteria, left the home to summon three clergymen from the village to drive the devil out of her house. Unable to make the rappings cease with their prayers, the ministers advised Cook to ignore the disturbances.
While it may have been possible to heed the ministers' advice regarding the mysterious rapping sounds, Cook found it impossible to ignore the activity of the furniture when tables and chairs began to move about the rooms. As the townspeople gathered to watch the strange, unexplainable occurrences, Home gave his first impromptu seance. According to an account in the local newspaper, scores of people from Greeneville and nearby communities came to ask questions of the "talking table" in the Cook residence. The table would raise or lower a leg and tap out answers to queries put to it by the astonished villagers, and even a strong man could not make the heavy table duplicate such movements when Home was not there to control it.
By the early 1850s, his fame had spread, and the teenager was soon beleaguered by scientists, clergymen, and medical doctors, each seeking to be the first to explain his mysterious talents. Home's powers began to grow stronger, and numerous individuals testified to instantaneous healings accomplished by the young medium. At the same time, Home displayed an amazing ability to divine the future and to clairvoyantly determine happenings at great distances.
In 1852, when, at the age of 19, he made his first trip to New York, Home was eagerly received by those who had been awaiting an opportunity to see firsthand the various wonders that had been attributed to the youthful medium. Dr. Robert Hare, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, attested to the absolute authenticity of Home's strange talents, but the American Association for the Advancement of Science refused to hear the report of its distinguished member. Although the association declined even to examine Home or to witness any phenomena produced by him firsthand, the elite of New York society outdid themselves in bidding for the medium's appearance at their homes.
In 1855, after three years of exhaustive tests with those scientists who were not fearful of risking their reputations by examining his mediumistic talents, Daniel Dunglas Home set out for England and France. The overseas press had been awaiting the medium's arrival, and so had the greatest hostesses of London society. Home soon captivated England as thoroughly as he had the United States. Those who attended his seances could expect to see spirit lights, to hear raps and the voices of disembodied spirits, and perhaps even to experience the thrill of being lifted into the air by unseen hands.
The English novelist Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1831–91), who was well versed in the occult, reported a series of seances held in his home in which the medium had set heavy tables rolling like hoops, and invisible musicians had played familiar melodies on accordions. Spirit hands and arms materialized, and Bulwer-Lytton claimed to have seen objects being transported about the room by ethereal fingers.
In Florence, Italy, Home is reported to have caused a grand piano, at which the Countess Orsini was seated, to rise into the air and to remain levitated until she had completed the musical number that she had been playing. Home's mediumship was witnessed by such members of the aristocracy as Prince Murat, Napoleon III, and the Empress Eugenie. During one seance, Napoleon Bonaparte appeared and signed his name, and his grandson attested to its authenticity. The young medium's demonstrations in Florence were of such a dramatic nature that frightened whispers began to circulate that Daniel Dunglas Home was one of Satan's own. Public fervor became so heated that Home was attacked and wounded by an unknown assailant.
As he lay in pain recovering from his wound, the spirits appeared to deal Home a psychological blow. They informed him that they would remove his powers for a period of one year, beginning on February 10, 1856. True to their word, Home found that he was unable to summon any spirit control or to produce any phenomena whatsoever after that date.
The 23-year-old medium traveled to Rome, where he sought consolation in the Roman Catholic Church. He was without funds, ill, and sorely disillusioned with his spirit guides for having deserted him. Home expressed a wish to shun everything pertaining to the material world, and for a time he considered entering a monastery. Although the church became a mainstay to Home during his period of despondency, the relationship was terminated at the stroke of midnight on February 10, 1857, when Home's bedstead resounded with hearty spirit raps, and a voice from the other side announced the return of his powers of mediumship.
Father Ravignan, who had been Home's confessor and close friend, was convinced that the young man had been sincere about his embracing the church, but the Roman Catholic clergyman could in no way sanction mediumship and the contacting of spirits. Although Home was grateful to the church that had ministered to him during his hour of greatest need, he saw clearly that there could be no more harmony between them.
The wealthy and powerful of Europe had been waiting to see if the medium's powers would truly return to him after their year of desertion. When Home reappeared on the scene, once again materializing spirit forms and producing raps on the walls, his elite clientele immediately restored him to celebrity status. He demonstrated his dramatic control of unseen forces before the courts of Napoleon III, Empress Eugenie, and Prince Murat, and won hundreds of new supporters.
Back in Rome, Home married Alexandrina, the wealthy sister-in-law of a Russian nobleman. Alexander Dumas (1802–1870), the French novelist, was Home's best man. The marriage ceremony was performed with both Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox rites—a gesture that Home intended as an expression of his good will toward the church, in spite of the interminable religious controversies in which he was embroiled.
It was in the presence of the Russian novelist Count Leo Tolstoy that Home first produced the phenomenon with which he has come to be most commonly associated in the annals of psychical research. In full view of several sitters and with Tolstoy's hands firmly clasping his feet, Home levitated from his chair until he was seen floating above the heads of the members of the seance circle.
Home's wife died in London in 1862, and without her contributions to their upkeep from her family's wealth, he was forced to give lectures and other public demonstrations that proved to be exhausting. He decided to return to Rome and express his creativity through sculpturing, rather than mediumship, but he was ordered to leave Italy on the charge of sorcery. He promised once again to abandon the summoning of spirits, but Italian officials put little faith in such vows. Home was forced to leave the country, and he returned to Britain in 1864.
The single event in Home's remarkable psychic career that is most remembered occurred on the evening of December 13, 1868, when he was seen to float out of the window of a third-floor home in Ashley House and return through another window to rejoin the men who witnessed the extraordinary act of levitation. Among those who observed the feat were Captain Wynne, the Earl of Dunraven, and the Earl of Crawford, all men of solid character and integrity. Ever since the phenomenon was first reported, skeptics have insisted that the witnesses themselves helped to perpetuate a fraud. Others have suggested that Home merely hypnotized the illustrious men into believing that he floated in and out of the windows on the third floor or that he had discovered nasty secrets about all of them and used blackmail to pressure them into going along with his account.
In 1869, William Thackeray's publication The Cornhill Magazine printed an article which created a sensation in all of England. The author told of another seance in which Daniel D. Home levitated from his chair to a height of about four feet, then assumed a horizontal position and floated about the room.
By then the controversy over the "Wizard Home" had reached such proportions that the press was demanding a scientific investigation of such remarkable feats. Sir William Crookes seemed to be the scientist most likely to succeed in revealing Home's alleged wonders as hoaxes, if he was a hoaxster. Crookes, a member of the Royal Society, was a chemist and physicist, inventor of the X-Ray tube, and a scientist eager to test the medium under the strictest of laboratory conditions. Home did not shrink from the challenge. On the contrary, he appeared as eager as Crookes to enter into a full series of experiments and tests. He imposed no restrictions on Crookes's probings, and he voiced no objection to producing all spiritistic phenomena in a bright light.
Crookes found that Home's strange talents were strong enough to resist the antagonistic influence of the laboratory. In one of his reports on the medium, Crookes stated that he was prepared to attest that the phenomena he had witnessed "are so extraordinary and so directly oppose the most firmly-rooted articles of scientific belief—[such as]…the ubiquity and invariable action of gravitation—that even now, on recalling the details of what I witnessed, there is an antagonism in my mind between reason, which pronounces it to be scientifically impossible, and the consciousness that my senses both of touch and sight—and these corroborated, as they were, by the senses of all who were present—are not lying witnesses when they testify against my preconceptions."
Crookes studied firsthand the full gamut of Home's phenomena, from levitation to the movement of objects. The physicist noted that the movements were generally preceded by "…a peculiar cold air, sometimes amounting to a decided wind. I have had sheets of paper blown about by it, and a thermometer lowered several degrees." Crookes also observed luminous points of light and glowing clouds that formed and often settled on the heads of various investigators. In some instances, the scientist saw these luminous clouds form hands which carried small objects about the laboratory.
On one occasion, Crookes watched while a beautifully formed small hand rose up from an opening in a dining table and handed him a flower before it disappeared. The scientist testified that the materialization occurred in the light of his own room while he was securely holding the medium's hands and feet. During another such experiment when a hand materialized before him, Crookes reached out to clasp it, firmly resolving not to allow it to escape. He stated that there was no struggle on the part of the spirit hand, but it gradually seemed to become vaporous and slowly faded from his grasp.
A spirit form materialized in a corner of the laboratory during the course of one experiment, took up an accordion into its hands, and glided about the room playing the instrument. Crookes's report of the incident indicated that the phantom was visible for several minutes before it disappeared at a slight cry from one of the female sitters. Intrigued by this particular demonstration, Crookes designed a special cage wherein he placed an accordion which he invited the spirit to play. During the laboratory-controlled experiment, the accordion floated about the "spook-proof" cage and unseen fingers played a variety of melodies on the keyboard of the instrument.
In addition to his famous feats of levitation—a phenomenon that Crookes personally witnessed on three different occasions— Daniel Dunglas Home was well known for his ability to handle fire without being burned or incurring any ill effects. During one demonstration, Crookes watched in astonishment as "…Home went to the fire, and after stirring the hot coals about with his hand, took out a red hot piece nearly as big as an orange, and putting it on his right hand, covered it over with his left hand so as to almost completely enclose it, and then blew into the small furnace that extemporized until the lump of charcoal was nearly white-hot.…"
Sir William Crookes took extensive notes on all phases of Home's abilities, and a number of his reports were published in the Quarterly Journal of Science. However, his colleagues in the Royal Society of Science were immensely disappointed in his affirmation that the phenomena produced by Home were genuine. Most of the members of the prestigious society of scientists had long before made up their minds that Daniel Dunglas Home was a faker, and they had set Sir William Crookes to the task of exposing him. The chemist and physicist who had only a short time before been acclaimed as one of Great Britain's most brilliant scientists was now being viciously attacked by his colleagues as a gullible simpleton who had been taken in by Home's parlor magic tricks.
Crookes stood firm, and he challenged his fellow members of the Royal Society to prove his errors by showing him where the errors lay, by showing him how the medium's tricks had been performed. "Try the experiment fully and fairly," Crookes answered his critics. "If then fraud be found, expose it; if it be truth, proclaim it. This is the only scientific procedure, and this it is that I propose steadily to pursue."
Although the Royal Society stood as one in refusing to witness a new series of tests with Home, the ridicule that was heaped upon Crookes was not enough to greatly damage his solid reputation. Twenty years later, when Sir William Crookes was president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, he publicly reaffirmed that his previous assessment of the experiments with Daniel Dunglas Home had been valid and that he found nothing to retract or to alter in his original findings.
In 1871, Home married for the second time, and once again his wife, Julie de Gloumeline, came from a wealthy Russian family. He ceased giving mediumistic demonstrations for the public or for science during the 1870s, and on June 12, 1886, Daniel Dunglas Home died from the tuberculosis that had first assailed him in his youth. Home remains one of the most remarkable figures of the nineteenth century, and if one of the most respected scientists of that era is to be believed, he was one of the most amazing spirit mediums who ever lived.
Although Home was accused many times of fraudulent mediumism, in 1907 the respected psychical researcher Hereward Carrington stressed in his book The Physical Phenomenon of Spiritualism (1907) that in spite of such persistent accusations, Daniel Dunglas Home was never exposed as a fraud. Such prominent magicians as Harry Houdini (1874–1926) and John Mulholland, well known for their efforts to expose mediums as charlatans, claimed that they could duplicate Home's phenomena, but they never actually did so. Houdini even announced that he could duplicate the famous Home feat of levitating in and out of the third-floor windows at Lord Adare's home, but he canceled the event without explanation.
Brown, Slater. The Heyday of Spiritualism. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1970.
Edmonds, I. G. D. D. Home, the Man Who Talked with Ghosts. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 1978.
Fodor, Nandor. An Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1966.
——. These Mysterious People. London: Rider & Co., 1935.
J. Z. Knight (1946– )
J. Z. Knight channels "Ramtha," or "the Ram," for the purpose of presenting his message to humankind. The Ram says that he lived only one time on Earth, 35,000 years ago, as a young man from Lemuria who grew up in the port city of Onai in Atlantis. Through the vehicle of J. Z. Knight, who was his daughter in that existence, he claims that he did not die a physical death during that lifetime but learned to harness the power the of mind so that he could take his body with him to an unseen dimension of life. Ramtha states that he is now a part of an unseen brotherhood that loves humankind. He is, therefore, fulfilling a mission of aiding and preparing humankind for a great event that has already been set in motion.
Entertainers such as Shirley MacLaine, Linda Evans, and Richard Chamberlain have been in the audiences of Ramtha, along with throngs of people around the United States and Canada. Since 1978, thousands have studied the Ramtha videos, cassettes, and books. For a period of time, it seemed impossible to pick up a weekly tabloid without finding an article about Ramtha and his high-profile disciples in its pages. In 1988, Ramtha founded the School of Enlightenment on J. Z. Knight's ranch in Yelm, Washington, which continues to hold teaching seminars. Knight and her followers make clear that the school is neither a church nor a nonprofit organization. They pay business taxes and run the school as a business.
Born Judith Darlene Hampton on March 16, 1946, in Dexter, New Mexico, Knight grew up in poverty and married Caris Hensley, a gas station attendant, soon after attending Lubbock Business College in Lubbock, Texas. The marriage produced two sons, but ended in divorce. It was while she was working as a cable television salesperson in Roswell, New Mexico, and Tacoma, Washington, that she began using the initials "J. Z.," signifying her first name and her nickname, "Zebra," derived from her penchant for wearing black-and-white clothing.
It all began for J. Z. Knight one day in 1977 when she and her second husband, Jeremy Wilder, a dentist, were cutting out and putting together small pyramids and experimenting with "pyramid energy." She jokingly put a pyramid on her head, and as it slipped down over her eyes, Ramtha appeared physically before them in their kitchen in Tacoma.
In the beginning, Knight said that she believed that the power of the pyramid may have induced the manifestation of the spirit entity, but she grew to understand that it was a combination of the student being ready and the teacher appearing, plus her own spiritual energy and her willingness to take a step into the unknown. "I feel I may have created a state of readiness in my mind," she said. "Part of my mind said, 'Girl, here you are doing something really bizarre.' Another part of my mind said, 'This is wonderful—you are starting to reach out and explore.' I think by virtue of that process alone, the entity's consciousness was able to become visual to me at that time."
It took two years of Ramtha's working with J. Z. Knight before she got used to his presence. Frankly, she stated, it was her persistent love of God that maintained her. "To have gone through the two-year study with Ramtha and his teachings, then to have the courage to change my life and to allow myself to be used as an instrument and to face a critical world and go on with the teachings led to a very beneficial personal growth and depth for me," she said. "I have been nailed to the cross of the media, and yet nothing will keep me from progressing because I know the truth."
After her period of study with Ramtha, Knight gave her first public channeling in November 1978, and word of the content and the mystique spread quickly and gained a wide following for the 35,000-year-old entity and his channel. Knight's increased popularity and the demand for public appearances placed a strain on her marriage, and in 1981, she divorced Wilder to marry Jeff Knight, a trainer of Arabian horses. In the late 1980s she underwent a series of financial and legal stresses, and she filed for divorce from Knight in 1989.
Knight has said that Ramtha occurs in her life in three different ways. The first is when she leaves the body in trance. She claims to have no conscious recollections of what transpires when Ramtha takes over. In her personal assessment, he is a consciousness that works through her brain and mind and manipulates her body in order for that to occur. "We both cannot occupy the same space," she said, "so I was afraid of letting go because that meant death, in a sense, to me. It took me two years to get over that fear."
In her opinion, Ramtha is a "channeled consciousness," rather than a spirit. "As a consciousness that has hyperlucidity, Ramtha can be considered superconsciousness that affects itself through physical mass," Knight said.
Secondly, Ramtha appears separate from her. The channeler said that she had come to understand that his visual appearance "may be a hologram of his consciousness that was actually working through my brain to create that vision."
The third manner that Ramtha can manifest is that he can answer J. Z. Knight when she has a question. "I can actually hear the answer that is translated in my head," she said. "I hear that as a vocal voice. Ramtha has never imposed by taking over my body. Regardless of what anybody says, I am not being possessed. It is of my own free will."
Ramtha told the thousands of men and women who gathered for the series of popular lectures and seminars that they were gods, possessed of a divine nature, fully capable of creating and realizing whatever goals they desired. When answering questions from individuals, he addresses them as "master," thereby indicating that he considers them on the path of self-mastery. Consistent with other New Age teachers, Ramtha teaches that all those who meditate upon the vital life-force within will be directed to the path of self-realization.
Although J. Z. Knight has been criticized by those who point out that there is no substantial evidence that Ramtha's Lemuria or Atlantis ever existed and that 35,000 years ago, humankind was still at the hunter and gatherer stage of development, she has received the harshest criticism for the high prices she charges for her seminars. The channeler admitted that at first she had difficulty with Ramtha's insistence that she must charge people for the teachings, but the entity told her that people did not appreciate knowledge that they receive for free.
"The only way we ever gain wisdom is when we interact and experience life," she explained. "We pay the price of experiencing life in order to gain wisdom, the virtue of which is the prize of evolution. So the price people pay to attend the teachings is equal to the price they pay in life to gain knowledge and wisdom. It is equal and relative to personal experience, which always comes with a price."
Klimo, Jon. Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1987.
Knight, J. Z. A State of Mind. New York: Warner Books, 1987.
Steiger, Sherry Hansen, and Brad Steiger. Hollywood and the Supernatural. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.
Weinberg, Steven Lee, ed., with Randall Weischedell, Sue Ann Fazio, and Carol Wright. Ramtha. East-sound, Wash.: Sovereignty, 1986.
Carlos Mirabelli (1889–1951)
Cesar (Carlos) Augusto Mirabelli was born in 1889 in Botucatu in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. From his earliest childhood, he demonstrated a strong interest in religion. He hoped to enter into the service of the Roman Catholic Church, but these aspirations were never realized, and he took employment with a commercial firm in Rio de Janeiro.
Things did not go smoothly for Mirabelli on the job, and the strange happenings that had begun to occur around the place of business were soon attributed to the peculiar young man. While some of his fellow employees were drawn to the short man with the light-blue eyes, others found him arrogant and conceited and complained that his eyes seemed to look right through them. And then there were the eerie manifestations that seemed always to take place around him.
Mirabelli was examined by medical doctors and sent to the Juqueri Asylum where the director, Dr. E. Costa, recognized the young man's peculiarities to be due to psychism rather than insanity. Costa conducted a number of tests with his patient and became the first doctor to verify the reality of Mirabelli's mediumship. Costa returned Mirabelli to Rio de Janeiro, where he arranged for the young medium to demonstrate his abilities. Under the strictest of controls, Mirabelli confounded an assembly of doctors by utilizing apparent teleportation to send a painting over a distance of several miles from one house to another. This experiment was reported in sensational detail in the Brazilian newspapers, and the career of the medium Mirabelli had been launched.
By 1926 Mirabelli had produced phenomena before a total of nearly 600 witnesses, most of whom had been recruited from the ranks of Brazil's leading scientists, medical doctors, administrators, and writers, with an occasional learned visitor from abroad. As a trance-speaking medium, Mirabelli particularly excelled in xenoglossy, the ability to speak in languages unknown to him in his normal state. Not only did he speak in foreign tongues, but he gave spontaneous lectures on philosophy, astronomy, sociology, politics, medicine, history, and the natural sciences. These speeches were delivered alternately in German, French, Dutch, English, Greek, Polish, Syrian, Albanian, Czech, four Italian dialects, Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, and several African dialects, in addition to Latin, Ancient Greek, and his native tongue, Portuguese.
As an automatic-writing medium, he produced lengthy and erudite written dissertations in 28 languages, in a speed impossible to achieve under normal writing conditions. While entranced, it is said that Mirabelli wrote treatises in the style of Lombroso, Kepler, Voltaire, and Galileo. These works included an essay on evil written in Hebrew and signed by Moses, a tract on the instability of empires by Alexander the Great, and an essay on the mysterious things between heaven and Earth by Shakespeare. Although unable to verify such prestigious authorship, linguists were said to be amazed at the masterful control that the medium exercised over each of the languages employed in these treatises. Such accomplishments are made the more impressive by noting that Mirabelli's formal education ended with primary school.
As a physical medium, Mirabelli once materialized the spirit bodies of a marshal and a bishop, both long deceased, and both of whom were instantly recognizable to many who had assembled for the seance. Levitation seemed almost to be a specialty of the medium, and witnesses once observed him levitate an automobile to a height of six feet, where it was suspended for a period of three minutes. Once when Mirabelli visited a pharmacy, a skull rose from the back of the laboratory and came to rest on the cash register. Before a gathering of doctors, who lent their names to a deposition, Mirabelli caused a violin to be played by spirit hands. To exhibit spirit control, Mirabelli caused billiard balls to roll and stop at his command.
At a party with more than a thousand guests in attendance, the medium conducted an invisible orchestra of trumpets and drums which entertained the astonished partygoers with a lively march. During numerous seances, Mirabelli caused such inanimate objects as books, bells, chairs, and chandeliers to move at his command. The list of doctors and other witnesses who attested to Mirabelli's psychic abilities include the names of many well-known persons. Time and again, psychical researchers subjected the medium to the most rigorous examinations, but none ever caught him in an act of trickery.
While he was undergoing examination by the members of the Lombroso Academy, Mirabelli was bound to a chair in which he raised himself to a height of more than six feet and hung suspended for over two minutes. Several members of the academy walked beneath the levitated medium and satisfied themselves that they were witnessing an authentic phenomenon and not a magician's trick.
During one seance held for the academy at the unlikely hour of 9:00 A.M., the dead daughter of Dr. de Souza materialized. The doctor recognized his daughter and the dress in which she had been buried. He was allowed to embrace the spirit form and numerous photographs were taken of the scene. The spirit being remained in material form for a period of 36 minutes. This seance was witnessed by a large assembly, including 20 medical doctors and seven professors. Investigated by scientists and psychic researchers from all over the world, the mediumship of Mirabelli offered yet another question mark to the skeptical mind and another source of reassurance to the believer.
In 1990, Dr. Gordon Stein found a picture in the collection of the London Society for Psychical Research that depicted Mirabelli in a white laboratory coat levitating to a height of several feet in the air. The photograph was inscribed to Theodore Besterman, an SPR researcher who was known to have visited the medium in August of 1934. At the time, Besterman had prepared a contradictory report about Mirabelli's paranormal abilities which, according to Mirabelli's defenders, reflected more upon Besterman's inexperience as a psychical researcher than the medium's ability to produce genuine phenomena. In 1992, Guy Lyon Playfair published an illustrated article about the incident in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research in which he points out that the famous levitation photograph reveals signs of careful retouching which eliminated the ladder under Mirabelli's feet. Proponents of Mirabelli's mediumship argue that if the photograph was deliberately faked by Mirabelli, it would be the first evidence of trickery on his part ever discovered by any investigator.
Mello, Da Silva A. Mysteries and Realities of This World and the Next. Trans. by M. B. Fierz. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1950.
Eusapia Palladino (1854–1918)
At the time of her death in 1918, Eusapia Palladino had been both the most thoroughly investigated physical medium in the history of psychical research and the most controversial and startling personality ever to confront a team of investigators into the unexplained. She could be at once flirtatious and so suggestive in her conversation that some researchers were embarrassed by her frank sexuality; and at the same time, she dominated her husband so completely that the beleaguered man had to take her maiden name as his own when they were married. Palladino could hardly sign her own name and reading was beyond her knowledge, but the world's leading scientists and psychical researchers testified that this enigmatic woman was somehow able to tap into strange powers as yet unnamed by conventional science.
Born in Bari, Italy, in 1854, Palladino's mediumship was discovered by a family who employed her as a maid when she moved to Naples as a young girl. The quality of the phenomena that she produced brought her to the attention of Professor Chiaia, who, in turn, introduced her to the professor Cesare Lombroso (1835–1909). When the great psychologist's initial reports on Eusapia Palladino were published, it was not long before she was sitting with research groups in Paris, St. Petersburg, Turin, Genoa, London, and New York. As far as the audacious Eusapia was concerned, it mattered little where she conducted her seances. Her mysterious talents were not bound by geographical locations. She was able to produce incredible psychic effects whenever and wherever she sat.
In 1908, a special committee was selected by the British Society for Psychical Research (BSPR) for the sole purpose of investigating the claims that had been made by a number of celebrated scientists on behalf of the medium. The committee was especially chosen for their skepticism and was composed of Everard Feilding, Mrs. W. W. Baggally, and Hereward Carrington (1880–1958), each of whom had exposed many fraudulent mediums in the course of their investigations. Previous test results with the medium at Cambridge in the summer of 1895 had been contradictory, with some of the researchers convinced of her abilities, and others equally certain that they had caught her in acts of trickery. Subsequent examinations of Palladino by psychical researchers in Paris in 1898 and various cities in Italy during the years 1901–7 had produced the same mixture of acceptance and doubt.
Between November 21 and December 19, 1908, the team of professional skeptics spent several weeks in the Hotel Victoria in the medium's native city of Naples and were able to observe an incredibly wide range of spiritistic phenomena. Each of the members published lengthy reports on the remarkable Palladino, and each of them came away from the exhaustive series of seances quite convinced that the medium had the ability to release an extremely potent paranormal force. They also noted that Palladino would cheat if she were allowed to do so, but because of their strict controls, she was forced to abandon the easier path of trickery and produce genuine phenomena.
Working under the strictest control the investigators could exert upon her, Palladino allowed the committee to examine both her person and her room as thoroughly as they might wish. She utilized a spirit cabinet that was formed by stretching two black curtains across one of the corners of the room. Inside this makeshift affair, the investigators placed musical instruments and a variety of other small, movable objects. The medium sat directly in front of the closet with at least a foot of space between her chair and the curtains.
After warming up with simple displays of table levitation, Palladino would call for a dimming of the lights. Almost instantly, the medium would summon her spirit control, John King, who would subsequently cause the objects behind the curtain to come floating out. Musical instruments would be played by unseen hands, and the sound would be easily heard by all sitters in the room. The highlight of every seance was the materialization of spirit hands and bodies. These materializations always came last in any seance, as if the woman's inborn sense of the dramatic knew how best to leave an audience wanting more.
Hereward Carrington, who published a great deal of material about the medium, related one incident wherein Palladino had asked him to replace a small table that had been levitated from the closet behind her. Carrington pushed aside the curtains and attempted to place the table on the floor where it had been situated. He was startled when some powerful force resisted his doing so.
Outside the cabinet, the other members of the committee had observed Carrington's difficulty in replacing the small table. One of the psychical investigators crouched under the table and clamped both of his hands around the medium's feet. Two other researchers were stationed at her side. They all assured Carrington that the medium had not moved since she had asked him to replace the table and that they would prevent her from making any moves at all. Once these precautions had been taken, Carrington resolutely tried again to replace the stubborn table behind the curtain of the spirit cabinet—but each time some unknown force repelled his efforts. At last the invisible entity seemed to grow tired of the game, and with a considerable burst of energy, sent both Carrington and the table tumbling out of the cabinet and sprawling to the floor.
In 1909, at a later sitting in New York where Palladino had been brought by great demand on the part of American psychical researchers, the medium capped her usual repertoire of paranormal feats by materializing a small hand in the air. Carrington later reported that the hand appeared white in the dim light of the laboratory and that its arm was visible up to a ghostly elbow. The wrist was encased in a lacy cuff. The hand and forearm were clearly seen by all the researchers in the room, and Palladino's own limbs were tied to two men, one on either side of her. While the investigators watched as if mesmerized, the ghostly hand moved to the medium's bonds and deftly untied the knots. When the spirit had undone the ropes, it threw one of the bonds at an observer and struck him in the chest. The other rope was thrown against the far wall of the sitting room.
The good-natured medium laughed at the antics of the ambitious spirit hand and bade the researchers to bind her once again. The men had no sooner fastened the knots a second time when the spirit hand rematerialized and quickly untied them.
The mystery of Eusapia Palladino's mediumship is a many-faceted one. Carrington wrote, for example, that she was often caught attempting the most crude kind of trickery— pranks that even the most inexperienced psychical researcher would be certain to catch. Her nature was permeated with mischief and guile, and she would try to cheat at card games or even croquet. Carrington felt that she did these things to those who would test her to see how far she might go in taunting them—or because she was basically a lazy person, to see if she could fool them with a few tricks so that she might be spared the effort of going into trance. When she found that she could not deceive the knowledgeable investigators from the various research committees—most of whom were accomplished amateur magicians—Palladino would settle down to producing some of the most remarkable psychic phenomena ever recorded and witnessed by an investigating body of skeptics.
Carrington, Hereward. Eusapia Palladino and Her Phenomena. New York: B. W. Dodge, 1909.
Dingwall, E. J. Very Peculiar People. London: Rider & Co., 1950.
Tabori, Paul. Pioneers of the Unseen. New York: Taplinger, 1973.
Leonora E. Piper (1857–1950)
Psychical researcher Hereward Carrington (1880–1958) considered Leonora E. Piper to be the greatest psychical medium of her time. Piper was a resident of Boston, as was Margery Crandon (1888–1941), but her mediumship had already won the endorsement of such luminaries as William James (1842–1910), Dr. Richard Hodgson (1855–1905), and Sir Oliver Lodge (1851–1940) before Crandon had really begun her psychic career. Piper was a direct-voice medium, who while entranced, would allow her body to be taken over by spirits who would use her voice to speak and, on occasion, to write messages to those persons assembled for her seances.
Eight-year-old Leonora (often spelled Leonore) had been playing in the family garden when she suddenly felt a stinging blow on her right ear and heard a kind of hissing sound that gradually became a voice repeating the letter "S." Once this had been resolved, Leonora clearly heard the same voice tell her that her Aunt Sara had died, but her spirit remained near. Leonora's mother made note of the day and the hour in which she had received the spirit communication, and a few days later the family learned that Sara had died at the very hour on the very day that Leonora received the message.
Although this event signaled the advent of Leonora's mediumship, her mother wisely insisted on the young girl enjoying a normal childhood and the dramatic impact of any subsequent paranormal phenomena was underplayed. When Leonora was 22, she married William Piper of Boston, and shortly thereafter developed a friendship with a blind clairvoyant named Dr. J. R. Cocke, who had been attracting a substantial following as a result of his accurate medical diagnoses and cures. At their first meeting, Leonora Piper had fallen into a trance, walked in such a state across the room, where she sat at a table, picked up pencil and paper, and began to write messages from spirit entities. Prominent Bostonians were often seated in the seance circle at Cocke's home, the remarkable accuracy of Piper's trance communications soon spread throughout the city, and she was soon being pursued by men and women who wished to sit with her in her own seances.
At the beginning of her mediumship, Piper's spirit control claimed to be a young Native American girl, but within a short time, Cocke's guide, Phinuit, a French doctor, had switched his allegiance to Piper. Phinuit remained the medium's principal spirit control from 1884 to 1892, although other entities spoke or wrote through her, notably the spirit of George Pelham, a friend of the well-known psychical researcher Dr. Richard Hodgson. Pelham communicated through automatic writing until sometime in 1897 when both he and Phinuit essentially retreated back into the spirit world upon the arrival of a powerful control known simply as the Imperator.
Harvard University psychologist William James, author of The Varieties of Religious Experience, was brought to Piper's seance room by some rather astonishing reports which he had heard from his mother-in-law and his sister-in-law. The elder woman had heard the medium give the names, both first and last, of distant relatives. Later, James's sister-in-law had approached Piper with a letter written in Italian that had been sent to her by a writer who was known only to two people in the entire United States. The medium placed the letter to her forehead and gave details of its contents and described the physical appearance of the writer.
As he entered Piper's seance room, James identified himself with a false name in order not to provide the medium with even the slightest clue on which to work. In spite of his precautions, the psychologist came away from the sitting completely baffled as to how Piper had been able to give accurate information on all of the subjects about which he had queried.
James soon returned to Leonora Piper's seance room. He was uninterested in the spirit hypothesis, but he was convinced that the woman could only be obtaining her information through some paranormal means. Piper became William James's "one white raven." In a well-known passage from his works, James writes that the phenomena that he witnessed through the mediumship of Piper had weakened his orthodox beliefs. "To use the language of logic," he states, "I will say that a universal supposition may become false because of one particular example. If you are taught that all crows are black, and you wish to destroy this belief, it is sufficient to you to present to your teacher one white raven. My only white raven is Mrs. Piper."
It became the psychologist's conviction that, while in the state of trance, Piper was able to reveal knowledge that she could not have acquired through the normal sensory channels. "Science, like life, feeds itself on its own ruins," James said. "New facts break old rules."
Sir Oliver Lodge, after a series of experiments with Piper, told how the medium from Boston had completely convinced him "…not only of human survival but also of the faculty possessed by disembodied spirits to communicate with people on earth."
Hereward Carrington related that Piper's procedure during a seance was to make herself comfortable on a pile of cushions, then gradually pass into the trance state. Once entranced, the medium was impervious to pain and oblivious to everything that happened around her. After a few moments of trance, her right hand would reach out and accept the pencil that a sitter would place in her hand. At this point, automatic writing was produced and spirit communications were relayed to the members of the seance circle.
Professor James Hervey Hyslop (1854–1920) wished to observe this remarkable woman for himself and contacted Richard Hodgson, who at that time was conducting extensive tests with Piper, to make arrangements for his attendance at a seance. Hyslop was a stickler for taking extreme precautions. He drove up to the medium's house in a closed carriage, wearing a black mask which completely covered his face. After Piper had entered into the trance state, Hodgson motioned for Hyslop to take his place in a chair behind the medium.
From the time he entered the seance room until the moment the sitting was completed and he was out the door and back in his closed carriage, Hyslop did not utter a word. Even if the medium had not been in a trance state, she would not have been able to determine the identity of the silent man who sat behind her with his face completely covered. But in spite of these extreme precautions, Piper had mentioned Professor Hyslop's name several times during the course of the seance and had given the names of so many of his family members that it took him more than six months of correspondence with his kin back in the small Ohio town where he was born to verify all the information told him during the sitting.
Piper died on July 3, 1950. The majority of researchers who sat with Leonora Piper were more than willing to agree with William James when he said of her: "I wish to certify here and now the presence of a supernatural knowledge; a knowledge the origin of which cannot be attributed to ordinary sources of information, that is, to our physical senses."
Fodor, Nandor. These Mysterious People. London: Rider & Co., 1935.
Gauld, Alan. Mediumship and Survival. London: William Heinemann, 1982.
Piper, Alta L. The Life and Works of Mrs. Piper. London: Kegan Paul, 1929.
James van Praagh
Born in Bayside, New York, and the youngest of four children, James Van Praagh, remembers himself as being an average child, but having a tremendous fascination with death. Raised a devout Catholic, James served as an altar boy and entered the seminary at the age of 14. It was while he was attending the seminary that his "interest in Catholicism ended and his sense of spirituality began."
Although Van Praagh graduated from public high school and went on to graduate from San Francisco State University with a degree in broadcasting and communications, his direction would change slightly. He soon moved to Los Angeles and became deeply involved in the study of metaphysics and psychic phenomena. He was invited to a session with a medium who told Van Praagh that within two years he would be doing the same kind of work; that is, talking to the dead. At that time, Van Praagh claims he didn't even know what a medium was. His first reaction was that he had a hard enough time dealing with the living; why would he want to talk with the dead? Van Praagh would soon realize he would indeed continue in broadcasting and communications, just a bit less conventionally than what he studied at the university level.
At the young age of eight, while Van Praagh was fervently praying for God to reveal Himself to him, an open hand appeared through the ceiling of his room emitting radiant beams of light. Incredibly, he recounted, "I wasn't scared. It was actually very peaceful."
Perhaps this experience was an early sign that Van Praagh had an unusual sensitivity and gift to share between worlds. Often called a survival evidence medium, Van Praagh explained his discovered ability to bridge the gap between two planes of existence—that of the living and that of the dead—and has done so by providing evidential proof of life after death through detailed messages. "I'm clairsentient," he has said of himself, "which simply means clear feeling. I feel the emotions and personalities of the deceased. I am also clairvoyant," he added, clarifying that, "the first is feeling, the second is seeing, very much like Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost. "
When Van Praagh began doing psychic readings for his friends, although it seemed strange to him, he couldn't deny that the detailed messages he received were on target. Personality traits of the deceased come through as well as physical traits and death conditions or circumstances to validate the connection, he said. The true essence of the messages he receives from the departed are the "feelings behind them" and the actual "love bond" between the living and the dead—not words. "No words exist in the English language, or any other for that matter, which can describe the intense sensations," Van Praagh explained.
Learning how to fine tune and refine this gift into understanding what the emotions of the spirits wished to convey and how to relay those messages to the living, earned Van Praagh the status as one of the most recognized and foremost mediums in the world. His message has been broadcast on numerous appearances on such shows as Oprah, Larry King Live, Maury Povich, 20/20, and 48 Hours. A CBS television miniseries is being produced on Van Praagh's first book, Talking to Heaven (1997). Also in production is a television talk show, Beyond With James Van Praagh.
Humble in his success, Van Praagh said, "If I convey recognizable evidence along with even a fraction of the loving energy behind the message, I consider the reading successful." He said of his work: "When someone is alone and overwhelmed by grief, life seems over. But, when someone is able to make contact with a loved one by utilizing the information…grief and loneliness disappear and proper closure can take place." His message is that "our personalities do indeed survive death."
There are, of course, skeptics. Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine called Van Praagh "the master of cold-reading in the psychic world." Marcello Truzzi of Eastern Michigan University said he has studied "characters" like Van Praagh for more than 35 years and described his demonstrations as "extremely unimpressive."
James Van Praagh Biography. http://www.vanpraagh.com/bio.cfm. 15 October 2001.
Maryless, Daisy. "A Medium Becomes Large." Publishers Weekly, 19 January 1998.
Rubin, Sylvia. "Spirit of Success," San Francisco Chronicle, 24 April 1998.
Sefton, Dru. "A Spirited Debate." The San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 July 1998, p. E1.
Van Praagh, James. Talking To Heaven. New York: Dutton: 1997.
Witchel, Alex. "Gone, Perhaps, but No Less Chatty: A Visit With Friendly Spirits." New York Times–Sunday Styles, February 22, 1998.
In 1974, that was to change forever. Pursel, then a young corporate business executive with State Farm Insurance, was on the fast track in an accelerated program to move up the corporate ladder. But, while out of town and halfway through a five-day conference and training session, Jach would encounter "a teacher from another realm" who was about to take him on a long journey unlike any other, and one that would change the direction of his entire life forever.
Late one evening, after the day's events, Pursel sat on his bed, alone in the hotel room, closed his eyes, and began to relax. Using the routine he learned for meditation, he "breathed the tension out of his body" and thought he felt himself drifting off to sleep. Several years before, Peny had urged him to take a meditation course. Many times he had tried meditating, and although he observed great benefits from meditation in the lives of others, he saw little or no benefits in his own life. "Glorified napping" is what Jach called meditation, until, for whatever reason, he decided to give it another try.
Suddenly he realized he had not fallen asleep after all, as something strange and real began happening. He started "seeing things" in visualizations so vivid in detail that the colors, smells, sights, and sounds came to life. He felt the images bursting with a reality that caused his mind to race with excitement and anticipation.
Following a path through ferns, lush trees, and sweet smells, he was beckoned to a cabin with a thatched roof that was nestled among tall pines and sequoia trees. Feeling almost like he could hear the cabin breathe he started to reach for the latch on the door, when the door opened on its own. Stepping into the room, he saw a man standing in front of him. A warm light seemed to pour through the windows and doors, as the kind man spoke to Jach, identifying himself as Lazaris. Just then, Jach's meditation ended abruptly, but he furiously recorded every detail, writing as fast as he could, lest he forget. Excited, he called his wife to tell her about his successful meditation and that he hadn't fallen asleep.
Jach said he all but forgot about the experience for a time, but many months later, he decided to try meditating again, this time with Peny present. She asked him questions while he was in the meditative state, but the answers he gave to the questions "bored him," so he fell asleep—or so he thought. Two hours later, Jach started to apologize to Peny for sleeping, but barely got the words out. Peny was exhilarated as her words tumbled out to tell him that she had thought he was asleep too, until an "entity" had spoken through him, in a deep, resonant voice, saying he was "Lazaris"—the same one from months before.
Actually, Lazaris took over answering the questions, and lengthy dialogues took place between Peny and Lazaris. Peny recorded every word, and although Jach had a difficult time believing what he was hearing, and wished to avoid even talking about it, he did agree to sit and close his eyes and take what he called his "after-dinner nap" while Lazaris channeled through him. Over time, the words "just keep moving" continued to go through Jach's mind, as Peny and Michaell, a friend knowledgeable in Eastern philosophy and metaphysics, helped interpret what was being said. They experienced an overwhelming spirit of love as they witnessed the channeled messages. It would be two years, however, before Jach himself felt the compassion, concern, and wisdom of Lazaris, and when it came, he broke down sobbing, as he was filled with a perfect peace.
From that point on, Jach devoted his life to allowing Lazaris "to borrow his vocal chords" while he went into a deep trance, in order to teach and heal others. Lazaris explained that by Jach going into a "full-trance state," the information coming through him would not be colored or tainted with Jach's personality or personal interpretation, but it would come through as a pure message from Lazaris. Clarifying that Jach's energy field acts merely as an antenna—his body an amplifier for the "vibratory frequencies" that end up as sound—Lazaris was emphatic that there is no taking over or possessing of Jach's body any more than a news anchor on TV is really in the television set. Stating that Lazaris has never been in a physical body, nor do "they" desire to ever be, one of the main messages "they" wish to make known is that a consciousness exists far beyond what one could imagine or believe.
Since 1974, tens of thousands, including celebrities, have found friendships with what they describe as the loving, humorous, and witty Lazaris, who offers them emotional and spiritual guidance on a wide range of topics.
Kautz, William H. and Melanie Branson. Channeling: The Intuitive Connection. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987.
Lazaris. http://www.lazaris.com/lmintromf.htm. 15 October 2001.
——. Lazaris Interviews, Book 1. Beverly Hills: Concept: Synergy Publishing, 1988.
——. The Sacred Journey: You and Your Higher Self. Beverly Hills: Concept: Synergy Publishing, 1987.
Zuromski, Paul. "A Conversation with Jach Pursel and Lazaris." Body, Mind Spirit 7, no. 1: (January/February 1988).
Jane Roberts (1929–1984)
On September 9, 1963, 34-year-old Jane Roberts had finished her dinner and was sitting down to her usual evening session of poetry writing. Her husband, Robert F. Butts, was in his art studio, three rooms away, working on his painting. Roberts picked up her pen and stared at the blank piece of paper, waiting for the creative juices to begin flowing. She had no reason to suspect that this night would be any different from others in her life.
All at once she found herself in the throes of an experience she could only liken to a drugless trip. "Between one normal minute and the next, a fantastic avalanche of radical, new ideas burst into my head, with tremendous force, as if my skull were some sort of receiving station, tuned up to unbearable volume," she wrote later, describing the experience. "Not only ideas came through this channel, but sensations, intensified and pulsating. I was…connected to some incredible source of energy."
The startled young woman had no time to call out to her husband, but her pen began feverishly to cover the page before her with a multitude of thoughts and feelings. Consciousness and reality were all turned around, and the thoughts that she was receiving seemed to be invading her mind, taking up permanent residence. Feeling and knowing became one and the same thing, and the importance of intellectual knowledge paled before the sensation of wisdom gained beyond the power of reasoning. At the same time all this was happening, a small part of Roberts seemed to remember that this same scenario had been enacted the night before in a dream, but she had forgotten it. Somehow, though, she knew the two experiences were connected.
When she returned to full consciousness, Roberts found herself giving a title to the barrage of words that had streamed across the paper in front of her: The Physical Universe of Idea Construction. The title seemed to fit the hastily scribbled notes, but none of the material fit anywhere into Roberts's previous convictions regarding life and the human psyche. The sudden paranormal experience had turned her world upside-down and would eventually lead to a series of dramatic events that forever changed her life.
Jane Roberts and Rob Butts bought a book on extrasensory perception, and they decided to try some experiments with an old Ouija board that their landlady had found in the attic. The first two times they tried to move the planchette, nothing happened. Neither of them were surprised, for they had little faith in the board's capabilities. On the third try, they were both amazed when the planchette began to move across the board and spell out answers to their questions. The couple found out that they had contacted an entity calling itself Frank Withers, who claimed to have lived in their New York town of Elmira and died there in the 1940s. The spirit provided other details of his life on Earth, and Jane Roberts and Rob Butts were surprised when the information actually checked out in the town records.
On December 8, 1963, the spirit of Frank Withers said while he had lived a "rather colorless" existence by that name, he preferred to be addressed as Seth, because it better suited the whole self that he was trying to be. He went on to say that from his perspective, Rob would better be named Joseph, and Jane, Rupert.
After that session, which lasted until after midnight, Roberts was convinced that Seth was an aspect of either her or Butts's subconscious. She could not accept the idea that Seth might represent a separate entity that had survived death. In subsequent sessions, she was determined to resist the development of mediumship that was apparently growing stronger within her each time they sat down at the Ouija board. Then, on the evening of December 15, Roberts felt a great rush of words welling up within her. She felt nearly choked up with "piles of nouns and verbs" in her head. And then, "without really knowing how or why, I opened my mouth and let them out." Seth was no longer restricted to the Ouija board. He was now able to speak through Jane and to deal with complex subjects that changed their response to the universe and their own role within it.
There seemed little in either Roberts's or Butts's early lives to which a psychical researcher might point and reach a clear conclusion that a spirit medium or channel was in the making. Growing up in Saratoga Springs, New York, as far as Roberts could remember, she had never demonstrated any extrasensory abilities before Seth's arrival. She had begun writing poetry as a child, and she had always been creative, but there was nothing to indicate that the girl would grow into a psychic of substantial ability. Her parents divorced, and Roberts had lived with her mother as they struggled to make ends meet. It had been a poetry scholarship that got Roberts into Skidmore College and out of her relentlessly poor life.
Butts was a product of what Jane called middle-class American "social Protestantism." A talented painter, Butts's role in accumulating what would later come to be called "The Seth Material" was from the first that of scribe and questioner. They seldom used a tape recorder during their twice-a-week sessions, but Butts maintained meticulous notes. He observed the subtle changes in Roberts or Seth as he carefully transcribed Seth's words verbatim, and he had the pleasure of conversing with Seth, something that Roberts at times wished that she were able to do.
At first Roberts had been reluctant to give in too much to Seth, and she insisted on being able to keep her eyes open while she paced around the room. Later, she liked to sit in a rocker while in trance, and though she went through a period of closing her eyes for a couple of years, she returned to open, though half-lidded, eyes. Seth usually announced his presence by taking off Roberts's glasses and casting them to the floor or a nearby piece of furniture. The volume of his voice went through various stages of development. It was resonant and conversational, but on occasion, boomed out at an extraordinary volume.
Both Butts and Roberts were greatly affected personally by the lessons learned from their sessions with Seth. Butts benefitted from what Seth termed "inner visual data," and he even received a few useful art instructions from his unusual friend. Roberts saw her latent psychic abilities flower under Seth's tutelage. She received specific instructions from Seth on how to develop telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition. Of particular interest to her were her out-of-body experiences, which sometimes occurred under curious circumstances while she was in trance with Seth.
Through such books as The Seth Material, Jane Roberts essentially created a renewed interest in contemporary spirit mediumship, which was now updated as "channeling," likening the psychic-sensitive to a television set receiving channels telecast to it. Central to an understanding of the Seth Material is an awareness of the entity's basic teaching that all reality is created by thought and emotions. Specifically, what a person thinks and feels forms his or her surrounding reality. This process of reality-building is not static, however. It is dynamic. Therefore, reality is constantly changing, and it follows that a conscious awareness of this process can change any reality for the better. No one is at the mercy of past events. An individual cannot blame his or her parents, church, schooling, or any other person or event for making him or her the way he or she is. In ignorance, one may have made oneself unhappy, but with conscious awareness that person can make himself or herself a happy, productive individual. Because individuals create their own reality, they can therefore change it.
Seth's belief in mind as the builder expands the concept of human personality in a unique way. Since thoughts and emotions are believed to create reality, then dreams, too, have a separate reality. When individuals dream of themselves, they are seeing a fragment of their own personality, such as the probable self identified by Seth. According to the spirit entity, each individual has a counterpart in other systems of reality. These are not identical selves or twins, but other selves who are part of the whole person, developing ideas in a different way. Each of these probable selves represents a portion of the whole self existing in a different dimension, yet all are a part of the whole self. According to Seth, these various realities "merge in the overall perceptions of the whole self" and "ultimately the inner ego must bring about comprehension on the parts of the simultaneous selves. Each portion of the whole self must become aware of the other parts." Seth also maintained that all layers of the whole self continually exchange information on a subconscious level.
In such terms, Jane Roberts may then have been a physical manifestation of the personality Seth; she may even have been one of his probable selves. She could have been part of a completely other whole self, separate from the whole self of which Seth was a part. Roberts continually attempted to better understand the relationship she had with Seth and to explain the true nature of their connection.
On February 26, 1982, Roberts was hospitalized for an underactive thyroid gland, severe arthritis, and other complications. Through the years of their spiritual interaction, Seth had provided suggestions to ease certain of her physical conditions, but nevertheless, she died on September 5, 1984. Butts has continued disseminating the Seth Material and completed two books on which they had been working before his wife's death.
It is difficult to place Jane Roberts in a category, for she herself refused any attempts to analyze either her trance abilities or the phenomenon of Seth in the old traditional medium/spirit guide relationship. The material that Seth imparted to her was not often seen in traditional examples of mediumship and spirit guides. It may take years before the Seth Material can be appropriately evaluated.
Roberts, Jane. The Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher: The World View of William James. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1978.
——. Dialogues of the Soul and Mortal Self in Time. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975.
——. Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972.
Steiger, Brad. Exploring the Power Within. West Chester, Penn.: Whitford Books, 1989.
Rudi Schneider (1908–1957)
Rudi (Rudolf) Schneider was one of four brothers who produced mediumistic phenomena in the family's hometown of Branau, Austria. Although his older brothers—Willy, Hans, and Karl—demonstrated somewhat impressive abilities when they were children, it was Rudi who gained the greatest attention from scientific investigators.
Willy was the first of the Schneider brothers to receive more than a local reputation when a skeptic, a man named Kogelnik, witnessed one of Willy's seances and was convinced that he was observing genuine phenomena. Kogelnik brought Willy to the attention of the active psychical researcher Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing (1862–1929), who immediately tested and monitored the young medium. However, shortly after the tests had begun in earnest, "Olga," Willy's spirit control, asked that eleven-year-old Rudi be present. Although at that time Rudi's mediumship was only in the early process of development, von Schrenck-Notzing was intrigued by the fact that while Willy insisted upon complete darkness in which to produce phenomena, the younger Schneider felt contented to work under at least partially lighted conditions.
In January of 1926, a seance was held in the headquarters of the British Society for Psychical Research (BSPR) with Willy Schneider. The meeting had been organized by researcher Dr. E. J. Dingwall (1890–1986) and was attended by Douglas Dexter, a professional magician, and Dr. C. G. Lamb of the Engineering Laboratory at Cambridge. Schneider was carefully inspected by Dingwall the moment he set foot on the society's premises. The clothing that Schneider changed into before the seance—a set of pajamas and a dressing jacket—was the property of the society. Every precaution was taken to assure the investigators that whatever they might witness that night would be the result of psychic ability and not trickery.
The medium was led to a seat, and luminous strips were taped around both his ankles and his wrists so that his slightest movement could easily be seen by the members of the society. During the seance, as an added precaution, the medium's hands would be held by two researchers.
Enclosed in a gauze cage were a luminous cardboard ring and a tambourine. The cage itself was set on a table several feet in front of Schneider. As the seance progressed, the investigators were astonished to see the two enclosed objects float about in the gauze enclosure and dance like snowflakes through the air. The researchers found the phenomenon inexplicable, and Dingwall concluded his report with the statement that "…the only reasonable hypothesis is that some supernormal agency produced the result."
But even more impressive was the showing that Willy's brother Rudi made for the society six years later, on December 8, 1932. Days before he was to conduct the seance, representatives from a firm of building contractors inspected the seance room to assure the society that no hidden apparatus of any kind existed that might in some way simulate psychic effects. With the assistance of society member Lord Rayleigh and the Imperial College of Science, infrared equipment was installed in the seance room so that the slightest movement of Rudi's limbs could be detected. Before the sitting began, Rudi was trussed up in much the same manner as his brother had been.
After Schneider had entered a trance, Olga, his spirit contact, manifested and the medium levitated several times. The investigators were astounded to record an increase in his normal respiration rate of 14–26 times a minute to 250 to 300 times a minute. The medium maintained this rate for two hours, a feat that the researchers considered almost as remarkable as his ability to rise into the air and to flutter the curtains across the room.
The installation of the infrared equipment enabled the researchers to be assured that Rudi Schneider had not moved his limbs. However, C. V. C. Herbert, the man behind the controls, did report that the medium seemed to generate a mysterious force that had made the infrared beam oscillate at exactly twice the rate of his respiratory pattern.
In an intensive series of sittings conducted under the auspices of the Institute Meta-physique of Paris in 1930, Rudi Schneider had submitted to the experiments of Dr. Eugen Osty (1874–1938) and his son, Marcel. Osty enthusiastically confirmed the paranormal abilities of the medium and presented the results of his findings in a pamphlet entitled Unknown Power of the Spirit Over Matter in which he concluded that Rudi Schneider possessed the ability to move objects by sheer power of will. In Osty's assessment, the medium could not have produced such phenomena by fraudulent means because his hands and feet had been controlled by electrical apparatus and his body had been held down by researchers, who had prevented any movement on his part.
Between February and May of 1932, Rudi Schneider began another series of experiments in London with Harry Price (1881–1948), a psychical researcher who was attempting to have his National Laboratory for Psychical Research integrated into the Society for Psychical Research. Earlier, Price had been a champion of Willy's psychic abilities, and he appeared equally enthusiastic about Rudi's mediumistic talents. Price arranged for a complicated array of photographic equipment to photograph the resultant phenomena from every possible angle. While some of the sessions produced such manifestations as ghostly winds, the movement of objects, and the materialization of various forms, other tests were unsuccessful and left the observing scientists sharply divided in their opinions over the genuineness of Schneider's mediumship.
Price continued to proclaim the authenticity of Schneider's paranormal abilities, writing various articles insisting that he had passed every major test set before him and emerged unscathed from the ordeals of intense scientific investigation. Then on March 5, 1933, Price puzzled both his many admirers and detractors when he published an article in the Sunday Dispatch claiming that Rudi Schneider was a fraud. One of the photographs taken in April of the previous year, during the period of exhaustive experiments, revealed Schneider freeing a hand at the time that spiritistic phenomena had occurred. Why Price reversed himself so dramatically after having so publicly championed Schneider remains a mystery, though some psychical researchers felt that Price had become jealous of other investigators who appeared to have taken Schneider away from him to conduct their own tests. When other researchers who had examined Schneider began to waffle and backpeddle on their prior positive endorsements of his mediumship, proponents of Spiritualism denounced the psychic investigators as deceitful individuals who could not handle the truth of confronting genuine spirit phenomena. The renowned Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung (1875–1961), who had attended one of Schneider's seances in 1925, said, "I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud."
In The Strange Case of Rudi Schneider (1985), Anita Gregory concludes that any objective person who studied Schneider's life and his mediumship would form the impression that he was possessed of remarkable psychic abilities. Since he was a boy of 11, he had permitted himself to be thoroughly investigated by psychical researchers and had willingly accepted whatever strenuous conditions they chose to impose. In Gregory's assessment, "there is not one iota of evidence to suggest that he was ever in his life anything other than transparently honest." Today, psychical researcher John Beloff has decreed Rudi Schneider's mediumship to be rightly considered among the most authenticated in the annals of psychical research.
Until his death on April 28, 1957, at the age of 49, Rudolf Schneider continued to indulge various researchers who wished to test his mediumship, and he generously shared his talents with his friends and neighbors in Meyer, Austria, where he had supported his family by starting his own driving school.
Gregory, Anita. The Strange Case of Rudi Schneider. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1985.
Inglis, Brian. Science and Parascience: A History of the Paranormal. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1984.
Tabori, Paul. Companions of the Unseen. New Hyde Park: N.Y.: University Press, 1968.
Witch of Endor (c. 1025 b.c.e.)
The Witch of Endor receives her indelible moments in the spiritual history of the Judeo-Christian traditions in Chapter 28: 4–28 of I Samuel. Saul, King of Israel, had begun his reign with a great military victory over the Ammonites, but he, who had once been a humble man, allowed his early successes to go to his head. When it becomes apparent to King Saul that David, once a mere shepherd boy whose musical talents eased his troubled mind, has found favor in God's eyes and will soon claim the throne of Israel, Saul tries to kill him. But David has evolved from the boy who slew the giant warrior Goliath with a sling-shot and the giant's own sword to a capable leader with his own army. Thoroughly frightened and confused, King Saul wishes that he would once again be able to seek the advice of the great and wise Samuel, who, before his death, had served Israel as the last of the judges, the first of the prophets, and the founder of the monarchy, the sole ruler between Eli and Saul.
Receiving no answer to his prayers to God, Saul tells one of his servants to find him a woman who has a familiar spirit (i.e., a spirit medium ) who can speak to the dead. The servant reminds Saul that he had passed laws that forced all such mediums and wizards out of the land under penalty of death, but, he admits, he does know of such a woman who lives at Endor.
Saul disguises himself and, accompanied by two loyal men, comes to see the Witch of Endor after it is dark. Getting directly to the point, Saul asks the woman to ask her spirit control to summon someone from the dead so that he might speak with him. No fool, the medium plays it very carefully, and reminds the stranger that Saul has driven all such men and women who claim to have familiar spirits out of the land of Israel. If she even acknowledges that she has such abilities, she could be put to death.
Saul, desperate for counsel from the spirit of Samuel, swears to her by the Lord that no punishment will come to her if she will perform this favor for him. He promises that he will tell no one. Satisfied with her client's oath of secrecy, the witch asks whom she shall ask her spirit control to summon from the land of the dead. Saul answers, "Bring me Samuel."
When the woman sees the spirit of Samuel materialize before her, it is also given to her to know that her client is King Saul, none other than the very ruler who had banished all mediums and conjurors from Israel. Saul once again reassures her that no harm will come to her, but he can see nothing and asks her what it is that has startled her. She describes the elderly man covered with a mantle who has appeared, and Saul, knowing that it is the spirit of Samuel, bows before him.
Although it seems Saul cannot see the form of his mentor, he can clearly hear the prophet's words of distress at being disturbed and brought back to the land of the living. "Why are you bothering me by bringing me up like this?" a querulous Samuel demands. When Saul explains how worried he is—the Philistines are preparing to attack his forces and God appears to have turned his back on him—Samuel goes on to say that there is nothing he can do or say to help him, because the Lord has departed from him and will turn the kingdom of Israel over to David. Moreover, Saul and his sons will soon be with Samuel among the spirits of the dead, slain in battle by the Philistines.
Saul trembles and falls to the ground in a faint. He is weak because of fear and because he has not eaten a single bit of food all that day or night. The Witch of Endor prevails upon him to eat something, and Saul's two bodyguards agree with her insistence that he needs nourishment. The woman kills a calf that she has been fattening for a special occasion, prepares its meat along with some unleavened bread that she bakes, and Saul dines with her and his men before he takes his leave to meet his destiny on the battlefield.
The Dictionary of Jewish Lore and Legend states that the Witch of Endor was able to raise Samuel from the spirit world because he had been dead less than 12 months, "and the soul stays close to the body for this period." Certain traditional accounts of the incident state that other spirits, including Moses, came with Samuel because when they saw his spirit arise, they thought that the Resurrection of the Dead had begun. Other scholars are divided in their opinions whether the apparition of Samuel was real or fraudulent, some stating that the Witch of Endor only placed Saul into a trance and deceived him into believing that he had seen Samuel. The Witch of Endor has become the prototype for the spirit medium as a necromancer, a magician who raises the spirits of the dead.
Holy Bible: Contemporary English Version. New York: American Bible Society, 1995.
Unterman, Alan. Dictionary of Jewish Lore and Legend. London: Thames and Hudson, 1991.
Researchers into the Mystery of Spirit Contact
Researchers into the Mystery of Spirit Contact
To the uninformed layperson, psychical researchers who investigate individuals who claim to be able to make contact with the spirits of the departed are sometimes thought of as gullible men or women who go to seances in order to converse with the ghost of their late Uncle Henry. To be certain, mediums and their paranormal abilities are studied and tested, but not in an attitude of open acceptance. Such investigations are conducted in all earnestness and seriousness and under the strictest laboratory conditions possible. And rather than being gullible, the researchers are more likely to be skeptical and cautious observers, ever on the watch for trickery and evidence of charlatanism.
Many of those who research spirit contact believe that the difference between the genuine medium or channel and the great majority of humankind lies in the fact that the medium's threshold of consciousness may be set lower than that of others. In other words, the medium has access to levels of awareness that lie beyond the normal "reach" of the subconscious. The spirit medium usually works in trance, and while in this state of consciousness, he or she claims to be under the direction of a spirit guide or spirit control. Spiritualists believe in the reality of the guide as a spiritual entity apart from the medium. Psychical researchers theorize that the control personality is but a secondary personality of the medium that is able to dip into the psychic abilities residing in the subconscious.
The physical phenomena of mediumship are among the strangest and most dramatic of all occurrences studied by psychical researchers. Under laboratory conditions, serious reports have been made of the materialization of human heads, hands, and even complete bodies from a cloudy substance, known as ectoplasm, which somehow appears to issue from the medium's physical body. Mediums have been seen to levitate into the air, manifest stigmata on their bodies, and cause mysterious apports (arrivals) of flowers, medallions, and items of jewelry.
Some of the world's best minds have been vitally concerned with the mystery of survival, life after death, and whether or not it is possible to speak with the dead. The British statesman William E. Gladstone (1809–1898), who most of his life was an avowed skeptic of spirit contact and all paranormal occurrences, finally concluded that psychical research "is the most important work in the world today—by far the most important."
The famous statesman was not alone in his declaration of the importance of psychical research. Pierre Curie (1859–1906), who with his wife, Marie, discovered radium, stated shortly before his death that in his opinion psychical research had more importance for humankind than any other. Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), generally accepted as the "father of psychoanalysis," belonged to both the British and the American Societies for Psychical Research and once commented that he wished he had devoted more time to such study when he was younger. His colleague and sometimes rival, Carl G. Jung (1875–1961), remained actively interested in psychical experiments until his death.
Sir William Crookes (1832–1919), a British physicist, conducted many exhaustive studies of spirit contact and mediums. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) insisted that psychical research explored the most important aspects of human experience and that it was the obligation of every scientist to learn more about them. Julian Huxley (1887–1975), the biologist; Sir James Jeans (1877–1946), the astronomer; Arnold Toynbee (1889–1975), the historian; Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947), the philosopher—all of these great thinkers urged that their fellow scientists seriously approach psychical research.
In spite of the attention of such commanding intellects and the painstaking research of such individuals as Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge (1851–1940), Dr. Gardner Murphy (1895–1979), Hereward Carrington (1880–1958). J. B. Rhine (1895–1980), G. N. M. Tyrell (1879–1973), Dr. Karlis Osis (1917–1997), Dr. Stanley Krippner (1932– ), and Dr. Harold Puthoff (1930– ), psychical researchers are still regarded by a large section of the scientific community as being "spook chasers" and as outright rebels and heretics to the bodies of established knowledge. The basic reason for such disdain on the part of orthodox scientists is the understandable reluctance of the scientific establishment to grant a hearing to a body of knowledge that might very well reshape or revise many of the premises on which its entire structure is based.
Arthur Koestler (1905–1983), noted novelist and journalist, told of his visit with a leading mathematical logician and philosopher. Koestler expressed his interest in recent statistical work in psychical research. The logician loudly scoffed at such studies until Koestler, irritated by the man's closed mind, provided him with the name of the world-famous statistician who had checked the statistics. Upon hearing the statistician's name, the logician seemed completely nonplussed. After a few moments he said, "If that is true, it is terrible, terrible. It would mean that I would have to scrap everything and start from the beginning."
Orthodox scientists in the more conventional disciplines are not about to "scrap everything," and many of them feel that the best method of avoiding the research statistics compiled by psychical researchers is to insist upon the requirements demanded of all conventional sciences: (1) that they produce controlled and repeatable experiments; (2) that they develop a hypothesis comprehensive enough to include all psychic phenomena— from telepathy to poltergeists, from water dowsing to spirit contact.
The difficulties in fulfilling these requirements can be immediately grasped when one considers how impossible it would be to repeat, for example, the apparition of a man's father as it appeared to him at the moment of his father's death. This sort of crisis apparition occurs only at death, and the man's father is going to die only once. The great majority of psychic phenomena are almost completely spontaneous in nature, and ungovernable elements of mood and emotion obviously play enormously important roles in any type of paranormal experience. As G. N. M. Tyrell pointed out, people are never aware of a telepathic, clairvoyant, or precognitive process at work within them. They are only aware of the product of that process. In fact, it seems apparent from laboratory work that conscious effort at determining any psychic process at work within oneself will either completely destroy it or greatly diminish its effectiveness.
Those men and women who devote themselves to researching the possibility of life beyond death and spirit contact insist that science must not continue to ignore that which is not directly perceivable. By the same token, it falls upon the psychical researchers to exercise the greatest caution and the strictest controls when conducting tests with those who claim to be able to contact the dead.
- a thorough knowledge of the literature of the subject;
- a good grounding in normal and abnormal psychology, in physics, chemistry, biology, and photography;
- keen powers of observation and an ability to judge human nature and its motives;
- training in magic and sleight of hand;
- shrewdness, quickness of thought and action, patience, resourcefulness, sympathy, and a sense of humor;
- freedom from superstition;
- the strength to stand out against bigotry, scientific as well as theological.
carrington, hereward. the case for psychic survival. new york: citadel press, 1957.
murphy, gardner. challenge of psychical research: a primer of parapsychology. new york: harper & row, 1970.
murphy, gardner, and robert o. ballou, eds. william james on psychical research. new york: viking press, 1960.
rhine, louisa e. hidden channels of the mind. new york: william sloane associates, 1960.
steinour, harold. exploring the unseen world. new york: citadel press, 1959.
sudre, rene. parapsychology. new york: citadel press, 1960.
Hereward Carrington (1880–1958)
Hereward Carrington spent his childhood years in Jersey, one of Britain's Channel Islands, and received his early schooling in London. Although he would one day write over one hundred books in the field of psychical research, as a teenager, he was far more interested in becoming a stage magician than exploring the spirit world. If it weren't for a fascination with certain well-documented cases of the paranormal, such as those recorded by Fredric W. H. Myers (1843–1901) and other serious psychical researchers, his only interest in mediums would have been to seek to expose them in the manner of Harry Houdini (1874–1926).
Carrington moved to Boston when he was 20 and remained in the United States for the rest of his life. While at first he earned his living as a journalist, he began to spend more and more time continuing to research the unexplained, and in 1905, he joined the staff of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) as an investigator.
In addition to such famous mediums as Margery Crandon (1888–1941), Eusapia Palladino (1854–1918), and Eileen Garrett (1893–1970), Carrington had a number of impressive sittings with William Cartheuser. Cartheuser appeared to have been representative of some of the many paradoxes with which serious researchers may find themselves confronted in paranormal investigations. The medium had a harelip and a cleft palate which caused a severe impediment in his speaking voice, yet at no time did any of the spirit voices produced by him give any evidence of unclear or unintelligible speech—although most of the visiting entities did speak in whispers. The female voices from beyond seemed obviously to be those of a male speaking in a falsetto. Many of the communicating spirits reflected the same opinions and temperament of the medium, but now and then Carrington felt that the alleged entities did make reference to information and the names of individuals that could only have been gained in some paranormal manner.
In assessing the mediumship of William Cartheuser, Carrington could only theorize that the alleged spirit controls upon which the medium relied to summon the departed were nothing other than the medium speaking in a number of different voices. On occasion, however, Cartheuser's simulated spirit guides enabled him, perhaps by the power of suggestion and a state of light trance, to come up with information that he could only have acquired through an unknown power of mind or through a surviving personality—and to relay those messages in voices free of his usual speech impediments.
Carrington devoted an entire book to his examination of the famous medium Eileen Garrett. In The Case for Psychic Survival (1957) he concluded that even though there existed only slight evidence for the genuinely spiritistic character of spirit guides, the alleged spirit personalities "…nevertheless succeed in bringing through a vast mass of supernormal information which could not be obtained in their absence." The mechanism of believing in a spirit control somehow seemed to act as some sort of psychic catalyst to bring about information acquired through paranormal means.
The psychical researcher went on to theorize that the function of a medium's regular spirit guide seems to be that of an intermediary; and whether the entity is truly a spirit or is a dramatic personification of the medium's subconscious, it is only through the cooperation of the guide that accurate and truthful messages are obtained. In Carrington's opinion, the essential difference between the kind of secondary personality in pathological cases and the spirit control personality in mediumistic cases is that in those instances of multiple personalities, the secondary selves acquire no supernormal information, while in the case of a medium's spirit control it does. "In the pathological cases," he said, "we seem to have a mere splitting of the mind, while in the mediumistic cases we have to deal with a (perhaps fictitious) personality which is nevertheless in touch or contact, in some mysterious way, with another (spiritual) world, from which it derives information, and through which genuine messages often come."
In his conversations with Uvani, Eileen Garrett's spirit control, Carrington learned that the entity claimed to have no control over the medium's conscious mind, nor would he feel that he would have the right to interfere with her normal thinking processes. During the trance state, however, Uvani said that he could work Garrett's subconscious like playing notes on a piano. When Carrington asked why a personality who claimed to have lived a life as an Asian could speak such excellent English through the medium, Uvani answered that he could not speak English, but as a spirit he had the ability to impress his thoughts upon his "instrument," Eileen Garrett, who thereby relayed the communication.
Carrington concluded, as a result of extensive analysis of mediumship techniques, that an intelligently influenced mechanism was somehow involved in producing the physical phenomena of spirit contact in the seance room. In an essay written in 1946, Carrington said that there appears to be a form of "unknown energy" that issues from the body of the medium, "capable of affecting and molding matter in its immediate environment. At times this is invisible; at other times it takes forms and becomes more or less solid, when we have instances of the formation of so-called ectoplasm. It is this semi-material substance which moves matter and even shapes it into different forms."
According to Carrington's observations, this ectoplasm issues from various parts of the medium's body—from the fingertips, the solar plexus, and the genitals. "It represents a psychic force," he claimed, "as yet unknown to science, but now being studied by scientific men as part and parcel of supernormal biology." Carrington was certain that this energy had a biological basis and was dependent upon the physical body of the medium for its production, regardless of whether it was directed by the subconscious mind of the medium or by the mind of an unseen, disembodied personality.
Although few psychical researchers had as much firsthand experience investigating instances of spirit contact and hauntings as Hereward Carrington, there were times when even he found himself dealing with something that affected him in a very primal, frightening way. It was on the night of August 13, 1937, that Carrington, his wife, Marie Sweet Smith, and a party of five others obtained permission to spend a night in a haunted house located some 50 miles from New York City. As he referred to the incident in his Essays in the Occult (1958), the summer tenant had been forced to move back to the city in the middle of July because neither he nor his wife could sleep uninterrupted and their servants had all left their employ because of the haunting.
Carrington insisted that he be told nothing of the history of the house until he had first had an opportunity to explore the place from cellar to attic. The house was lighted from top to bottom, and the party began its safari into the unknown. On the second floor, two or three of the group commented that they had sensed "something strange" in one of the middle bedrooms, especially in the area next to an old bureau. The tenant, whom Carrington identified only as "Mr. X," told the party that he and his wife had heard noises coming from that particular bedroom.
The group proceeded down a hallway until they came to the door that led to the servants' quarters. Carrington opened the door, glanced up, and saw that the top floor was brightly illuminated and that a steep flight of stairs lay just ahead of the investigators. With Carrington in the lead, the party ascended the stairs until they found themselves confronted by a series of small rooms. Carrington made a sharp turn to the right, and the moment he did so, he felt as though a sudden blow that been delivered to his solar plexus. His forehead broke out into profuse perspiration, his head swam, and he had difficulty swallowing. "It was an extraordinary sensation," he said, "definitely physiological, and unlike anything I had ever experienced before."
The veteran investigator was gripped by terror and panic and only through a firm exercise of will was he able to stop himself from fleeing in horror. His wife, who was only a step or two behind him, had just finished commenting on the "cute little rooms," when she suddenly uttered a frightened cry, turned, and ran down the stairs. Two unemotional, hard-nosed psychical researchers, completely accustomed to psychic manifestations of all kinds, had experienced "distinctly a bodily and emotional reaction—accompanied…by a momentary mental panic and sensation of terror" such as neither of them had ever known before.
Carrington saw to his wife, whom he found outside on the porch, breathing deeply of the fresh air; then he returned to the remainder of the group. Each of them had experienced identical sensations and had retreated to the lower floor, where they sat sprawled in chairs or leaned against walls, tears streaming down their cheeks.
Carrington made special note of the fact that two highly skeptical friends of the tenant had accompanied the group to the house out of boredom. Both of these skeptics experienced the same sensations as the other members of the group—a difficulty in swallowing, tears streaming from the eyes, and cold perspiration on the forehead.
A dog, belonging to a member of the party, resisted all manner of coaxing designed to lure it upstairs. It growled, planted its feet stubbornly, and the hair raised on its back. In short, Carrington commented, the dog behaved "very much as dogs are supposed to behave in the presence of ghostly phenomena."
Much later that evening, Carrington led another expedition up the stairs to the servants' quarters. This time, the atmosphere seemed to have purged itself of the poisonous influence, and no member of the party experienced any sensations similar to their previous excursion. The dog bounded up the stairs, poked its nose into all the corners, and behaved as if prowling around such a house were the most natural thing in the world. Carrington later sought to return to the house with a spirit medium and special apparatus for recording and testing sounds and atmosphere. He was denied permission to continue his investigation, because one of the friends of the tenant had given the story to the papers, and the owner of the house did not wish additional publicity about his haunted house.
Carrington broke with the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) over a disagreement concerning the mediumship of Mina "Margery" Stinson Crandon (1888–1941), and he formed his American Psychical Institute in 1933. His wife served as the institute's secretary, and their principal research area focused upon the testing of such spirit mediums as Eileen Garrett. Sometime in 1938, the Carringtons moved the institute to Southern California, where they continued to investigate claims of hauntings and spirit contact. Among his many books are such titles as The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism (1907); Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them (1920); and Psychic Science and Survival (1947). Hereward Carrington died on December 26, 1958, in Los Angeles.
Carrington, Hereward. The Case for Psychic Survival. New York: Citadel Press, 1957.
——. Essays in the Occult: Experiences Out of a Lifetime of Psychical Research. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1958.
Tabori, Paul. Pioneers of the Unseen. New York: Taplinger, 1973.
Sir William Crookes (1832–1919)
Sir William Crookes, a physicist and chemist of international reputation, was a professor at the University of London, editor of the Quarterly Journal of Science, president of the British Chemical Society, discoverer of the element thallium, and inventor of the radiometer and the Crookes tube, which made the later development of X-rays possible. In addition to these accomplishments, Crookes was one of the most thorough and exacting scientific investigators of spirit contact. After many years of painstaking research and experimentation with dozens of well-known mediums, he became convinced that a great deal of spiritistic phenomena was real and indicated proof of an afterlife.
Born in London on June 17, 1832, Crookes was one of 16 children of a well-known and prosperous tailor and his second wife. William also had five stepbrothers and stepsisters from his father's first wife. Although the young man had little formal education, his keen mind and natural abilities allowed him to enroll in the Royal College of Chemistry when he was only 16. Upon graduation in 1854, Crookes became superintendent of the Meteorological Department at Radcliffe Observatory, Oxford. A year later, he gained a post at the College of Science in Chester, Cheshire.
In 1856, when he was 24, he married Ellen Humphrey, and because of the large fortune he had inherited from his father, Crookes was able to establish a private laboratory and devote himself entirely to scientific work of his own choosing. Three years later, in 1861, Crookes discovered the element thallium and the correct measurement of its atomic weight. In 1863, when he was only 31, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.
Just when it seemed Crookes faced only a life of one triumph after another, he was grief-stricken when his youngest brother, Phillip, died in 1867. Cromwell Varley, a close friend and fellow physicist who was also a practicing Spiritualist, convinced William and Ellen to attend a seance and attempt to communicate with Phillip. Whatever spirit messages Crookes and his wife received during a series of seances in 1867, it appears that they were convincing enough to inspire the brilliant physicist to turn his genius toward the exploration of spiritistic phenomena.
Some scholars of the psychic field have declared the series of experiments that Crookes conducted with the famous medium Daniel Dunglas Home (1833–1886) to be the first strictly scientific tests of mediumistic ability. Of one such test, Crookes stated that Home went to the fireplace and after stirring the hot coals around with his bare hands, took out a red-hot piece nearly as large as an orange, and "putting it on his right hand, so as to almost completely enclose it, he then blew into the small furnace" he had made of his hand "until the lump of charcoal was nearly white hot," and then drew Crookes's attention to the flame that was "flickering over the coal and licking round his fingers." A number of witnesses to the experiment were also able to handle the hot coal without burning themselves after Home had transferred his "power" to them. Those who handled the coal without the transference of energy from Home "received bad blisters at the attempt."
Crookes no doubt created quite a stir among his more orthodox scientific colleagues when he told them that he had walked with a ghost, talked with a ghost, and taken more than 40 flashlight photographs of the specter. And when he went on to describe the spirit as a "perfect beauty" with a "brilliant purity of complexion that photography could not hope to capture," tongues began to wag that the great scientist had lost all form of objectivity and had grown much too attached to the spirit that he was supposed to be investigating. When such a man of stature as Crookes announced that he had judged medium Florence Cook 's (1856–1904) materializations of the spirit Katie King to be genuine, it was bound to spark controversy. Whether or not the "perfect beauty" with whom Sir William chatted and strolled about the seance room was a ghost or a hoax is a question that is still being debated to this day.
Florence Cook, the medium through whom Katie King materialized, first met the spirit in seances which she conducted when she was only 15. Katie promised to be Florence's spirit control for a period of three years and assist her in producing many types of remarkable phenomena. In April of 1872, Katie appeared only as a deathlike face between the gauze curtains of a seance cabinet, but as her control of the medium became more advanced, she could at last step out of the cabinet and show herself in full body to those sitters assembled for Cook's seances.
It has been said that the spirit of Katie King became almost as if she were a full-time boarder at the Cook household. When Florence Cook married, her husband complained that it was like being married to two women. Katie began to materialize at unexpected moments, and some nights she even went to bed with the medium and her long-suffering spouse.
Many people became thoroughly convinced of the validity of Katie King's existence because of Crookes' testimony. Others whispered scandal and made much of the many hours the physicist had spent alone with Florence Cook and her alleged spirit friend. Crookes, however, stood firm in his convictions that he had not been duped and summed up his investigations by stating that it was unimaginable to suggest that "an innocent schoolgirl of fifteen" should be able to devise and to carry out such a "gigantic imposture" so successfully for a period of three years. Crookes pointed out to his critics that in those same three years the fact that she submitted to any test that might be imposed upon her, was willing to be searched at any time, either before or after a seance, and visited his laboratory for the express object of submitting to the strictest scientific tests, certainly demonstrated her integrity. To insist further that the spirit Katie King was the result of deceit did more "violence to one's reason and common sense than to believe her to be what she herself affirms."
William Crookes's experiments in psychical research did little to prevent his receiving the Royal Medal from the Royal Society in 1875 or from being knighted in 1897. He supported the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) when it was founded in 1882 and even served as its president in 1886, but he conducted no tests of mediumship or any other paranormal phenomena after 1875. As a kind of summation of his views on the subject, Crookes once said: "The phenomena I am prepared to attest to are extraordinary and so directly oppose the most firmly rooted articles of scientific belief—amongst others, the ubiquity and invariable action of the force of gravitation—that even now, on recalling the details of what I witnessed, there is an antagonism in my mind between reason which pronounces it to be scientifically impossible, and the consciousness of my senses, both of touch and sight.…It is absolutely true that connections have been set up between this world and the next!"
After Lady Crookes died in 1916, Sir William immediately began attempts to communicate with her. According to some sources, he did receive messages from her spirit that he felt constituted proof of contact with the other side. Others say that an alleged spirit photograph of Lady Crookes appeared to have been manipulated in the developing process. Crookes died on April 4, 1919, survived by four of his eight children.
Gauld, Alan. The Founders of Psychical Research. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968.
Hall, Trevor. The Spiritualists. London: Duckworth, 1962.
Medhurst, R. G., and K. M. Goldney. Crookes and the Spirit World. New York: Taplinger, 1972.
Harry Houdini (1874–1926)
Although Harry Houdini died in 1926, his name remains synonymous with incredible demonstrations of stage magic and daredevil escapes. For Spiritualists and mediums, however, his name is also synonymous with the devil at worst, the Grand Inquisitor at the least. Houdini developed a strange kind of ambivalence, a love-hate attitude, toward the spirit world that, according to many of his biographers, developed after he failed to contact the spirit of his deceased mother through a medium. Others have commented that Houdini, known as a notorious self-promoter, initiated the highly publicized attempts to expose fraudulent mediums only because of the attention that such exploits would receive in the press.
Houdini was born Ehrich Weiss in Budapest, Hungary, on March 24, 1874, and he was only 13 weeks old when his family emigrated to the United States and settled in Appleton, Wisconsin. He was only a boy when he read the memoirs of the great French conjuror Robert-Houdin (1805–1871), who is today known as the "Father of Modern Magic." Ehrich became so impressed with the life and the talent of Robert-Houdin that he resolved to become a magician, and when he was 17, he added an "i" to his idol's name and became "Houdini."
Houdini practiced long hours with a childhood friend who also aspired to become a master conjuror. When his friend's interests drifted elsewhere, Houdini began playing carnivals and amusement parks with his brother, Theodore, billing themselves as the Houdini Brothers. Houdini also added the first name Harry, which was an adaptation of his family nickname, "Ehrie."
The Houdini Brothers' first major booking was at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893, and Houdini found great audience response to their act when he spontaneously added a handcuff escape during an evening performance. After the fair ended, he billed himself in a solo act as the "Handcuff King" and played a successful run at the Kohl and Middleton Dime Museum in Chicago. When that engagement came to a close, he rejoined Theodore in their double-act and played various high schools and social events. It was when the Houdini Brothers were performing at a girls' school that Houdini met Beatrice (Bess) Rahner, who would soon become his wife. After they were married, the newlyweds began playing the theatrical circuit as "The Houdinis," and Theodore went solo under his new stage name, "Hardeen."
Until they decided to try their luck in England in July 1900, the Houdinis barely managed to survive in show business. There had been brief stints with a circus, a burlesque show, a traveling medicine show, and an illfated attempt to begin a school of magic. Houdini was featuring escapes more and more in their act, but even the publicity gained from such risky ventures as freeing himself from a prison cell under the watchful eye of law enforcement officers didn't bring customers to the theaters. Utilizing his bold personality to the utmost degree, Houdini managed to secure a contract with the Alhambra Theatre, one of the largest music halls in London. By July 1901, Houdini and his daring escapes were receiving top billing all over Europe—and it wasn't long before accounts of his dangling from tall buildings wrapped in chains, freeing himself from casks, kegs, and trunks submerged in rivers, and escaping from coffins, giant milk cans, and huge mail bags were creating a stir back in the States, where audiences had once been unmoved by the Great Houdini.
It is difficult to ascertain exactly when or why Houdini became the great nemesis of Spiritualist mediums—or even if he really did, in fact, set about instituting any sort of vendetta against them. Some writers and researchers believe that Houdini truly did believe in survival of the spirit after physical death, and his supposed vicious attacks against spirit mediums were but an expression of his great disappointment that he never really found any whom he felt had truly provided him with actual proof of his mother's afterlife existence. Others maintain that he only set out to expose mediums as a means of keeping himself in the headlines.
Houdini's friendship with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930), the creator of Sherlock Holmes and an avid supporter of Spiritualism, suggests his sincerity in seeking to pierce the veil of death. During the Doyles' lecture tour of the United States in June 1922, Houdini and Beatrice joined Sir Arthur and Lady Doyle for a brief vacation in Atlantic City. On June 17, Houdini's mother's birthday, Lady Doyle said that she felt she could establish contact with her. Houdini later claimed that he had kept an open mind regarding the alleged communication, but he publicly renounced the messages that Lady Doyle had produced through automatic writing. Houdini doubted that his mother would have begun writing the message by making a cross, since she had been Jewish. And since she spoke only broken English and couldn't write the language at all, he was skeptical of the answers that she had written so perfectly. Doyle was outraged at what he felt was his friend's betrayal of trust and the belittling of a spirit communication. Their friendship ceased after Houdini's statement.
Houdini's attacks on Spiritualist mediums also draws a parallel in many researchers' minds to his strange vitriolic assault on his childhood hero, Robert-Houdin, who provided the source of young Ehrich Weiss's inspiration to be a magician as well as the origin of his professional name. As he was beginning his own rise to fame, Houdini wrote a book about Robert-Houdin in which he not only ceased praising him, but ruthlessly sought to destroy the great conjuror's reputation. In The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin (1908), Houdini twisted facts and fictionalized others in order to fit the accusations that he had contrived. Houdini's critics point out that this kind of underhanded procedure was what he appeared to do with so many mediums. While Houdini's admirers state that he exposed some of the most famous mediums of the day as being fraudulent, his critics protest that he resorted to trickery, then loudly claimed that he had caught them in deceit when it was truly he who was the deceiver.
Dr. Walter Franklin Prince, head of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) at the time of Houdini's campaign against mediums, stated that the magician showed "considerable bias by his selection of mediums and phenomena." According to Prince, Houdini "only chose to investigate those [mediums] already deemed spurious or very dubious by careful researchers in America and Britain, and ignored psychics and phenomena generally treated with respect by the same people."
Houdini's most publicized encounter with a medium was his alleged exposure of the famous Boston medium Mina "Margery" Crandon (1888–1941) in 1924. The investigating committee, sponsored by Scientific American magazine, had sought Houdini's expertise as a magician, but many of the members soon became irate over his attempts to employ trickery against the medium. Although Houdini claimed that he had caught Crandon in fraudulent actions, certain committee members felt that the medium's spirit guide, Walter, had been the one who had exposed Houdini and the tricks that he used in his attempts to confuse Crandon.
The great magician's crusade against fraudulent mediums, as well as his career as a conjuror and escape artist, was cut short on October 22, 1926, when a student who was visiting backstage at a Montreal theater wished to test Houdini's much vaunted muscle control, and caught him off guard with a punch to the stomach that ruptured his appendix. Houdini died nine days later on Halloween.
The controversy over whether or not the Houdini after-death code was broken will no doubt continue to rage on for many years. Houdini pledged to his wife, Bess, that if at all possible he would communicate with her after his death, and in order to prove his identity beyond all doubt and to eliminate the possibility of deception, the magician's prearranged message was a secret known only to Bess. To add to the mystique, Houdini, the master showman, stated that a seance should be held each anniversary of his death in an attempt for him to transmit the code words to a medium.
The Reverend Arthur Ford (1896–1971), formerly an orthodox clergyman, had become a trance medium and had gained an international reputation for the accuracy of his spirit communication, receiving accolades from such luminaries as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who called him one of the most amazing mental mediums of all times. In 1929, Reverend Ford received a message that he believed to have originated from Houdini and conveyed it to Bess Houdini's attention. Immediately a storm of fierce arguments pro and con erupted in the media. Perhaps betraying their own personal prejudices, some feature writers championed the authenticity of Reverend Ford's relayed communication from Houdini, while others quoted the magician's widow as saying that the message was incorrect.
On February 9, 1929, however, Beatrice Houdini wrote Reverend Ford to state with finality: "Regardless of any statement made to the contrary: I wish to declare that the message, in its entirety, and in the agreed upon sequence, given to me by Arthur Ford, is the correct message prearranged between Mr. Houdini and myself."
Critics of the paranormal downplay Ford's having received the code from the spirit of Houdini. They insist that Bess Houdini had inadvertently revealed the code to several reporters the year before when she explained that the message her late husband would pass on from the world beyond was based on their old vaudeville routine that utilized a secret spelling code that would pass information from her to Houdini. The various words in the code spelled out Harry's and Bess's secret message: "Roseabelle, believe."
Brandon, Ruth. The Spiritualists. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983.
Houdini, Harry. A Magician Among the Spirits. New York: Arno Press, 1972.
Mysteries of the Unknown: Spirit Summonings. Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1989.
William James (1842–1910)
William James is best known for his classic work on the mystical experience The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902). James had a career as a psychologist, a philosopher, and a teacher. His father, Henry James, Sr. (1811–1882), was a philosopher, a friend of the poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), and an ardent follower of the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). William's brother, Henry James (1843–1916), was the acclaimed novelist of such American classics as Daisy Miller (1879), The Europeans, and the psychological thriller The Turn of the Screw (1898). James studied both science and art before receiving a degree in medicine from Harvard University in 1869. Two years later, he began teaching courses at Harvard, first in physiology, then in psychology and philosophy.
James's interest in mediumship and the afterlife was closely allied with his research in the psychology of altered states of consciousness. In 1882, while in London, he met Fredric W. H. Myers (1843–1901), Henry Sidgwick (1838–1900), Edmund Gurney (1847–1888), and other founding members of the newly formed British Society for Psychical Research (BSPR). James was impressed by Myers, a fellow psychologist, and his theory of the subliminal self, a secondary consciousness containing a number of higher-level mental processes which might be responsible for phenomena otherwise attributed to spirits. Returning to Boston, James, together with Sir William Barret and others, helped establish the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) in 1885.
That same year, James was brought to the seance room of Leonora E. Piper (1857–1950), the medium whom many psychical researchers would later declare the greatest mental medium of all time. Taking such precautions as identifying himself with a false name, the psychologist came away from the sitting completely baffled as to how the medium's spirit control had been able to provide accurate information on all the subjects about which he had queried. Although he was never greatly impressed by the phenomena produced by the physical mediums, James began a lengthy study of mental mediums, whom he hoped would be able to exhibit as much genuine phenomena as Piper.
James served as vice president of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) from 1890 to 1910 and as president from 1894 to 1895. Although he was a stalwart champion of the scientific research of paranormal phenomena, he never quite found the proof in survival after death which he had hoped to discover through the study of mediumship. William James died on August 26, 1910, at his summer home in Chocurua, New Hampshire.
Burkhardt, Frederic, and Fredson Bowers, eds. The Works of William James: Essays in Psychical Research. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986.
Sir Oliver Lodge (1851–1940)
Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge was a world-renowned British physicist whose first experiences in psychical research date back to 1881, when Malcolm Guthrie, the owner of a drapery shop, invited him to join his investigations in thought transference in Liverpool. Lodge was quite amazed with the results, and he began to conduct his own tests. Shortly thereafter, he joined the Society for Psychical Research (SPR).
In 1889, Lodge invited the famous Boston medium Leonora E. Piper (1857–1950) to England for tests and saw that she was made comfortable in his own home. Ever the exacting researcher, he took every conceivable precaution to eliminate any possibility of foreknowledge or fraud on Piper's part. He went so far as to temporarily dismiss all of his servants and replace them with others who knew absolutely nothing about any member of the Lodge family or Piper. Although a guest in the Lodge home, the medium was kept incommunicado and was constantly watched by experienced professional detectives. With Piper's permission, her private mail was opened and read. Every possibility of her communicating with others and receiving any type of information was completely eliminated, yet Piper's spirit guides provided accurate communication in every test that Lodge devised, which helped convince the researcher that spiritistic phenomena were real.
"The messages received tend to render certain the existence of some outside intelligence or control," he said. "My sittings convinced me of survival. I am as convinced of continued existence on the other side of death as I am of existence here…I say this on distinct scientific grounds. I say it because certain friends of mine who have died still exist, because I have talked with them."
Five years later, in 1894, Lodge's first encounters with physical mediumship took place when he and Fredric W. H. Myers (1843–1901) traveled to the summer home of the French psychical researcher Charles Richet (1850–1935) to investigate the extraordinary Eusapia Palladino (1854–1918). Although Palladino had to be observed carefully to prevent her from resorting to trickery, Lodge was impressed with what he had witnessed. "Things hitherto held impossible do actually occur," the physicist concurred. "Certain phenomena usually considered abnormal do belong to the order of nature, and as a corollary from this, that these phenomena ought to be investigated and recorded by persons and societies interested in natural knowledge."
Oliver Lodge was knighted in 1902 while he was serving as president of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). In 1913, he was elected president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. His fascination with Spiritualism did nothing to prevent him from accomplishing highly regarded work with electricity and with early forms of radio before Guglielmo Marconi (1874–1937).
In August 1915, Lodge received what he considered proof of survival after death when, in Boston, Leonora Piper relayed what he considered to be convincing messages from Fredric Myers, who had died in 1901, and Edmund Gurney, who had passed on in 1888—two close friends and associates. Such dramatic assurances of life in the spirit world helped to prepare Lodge for the death of his son Raymond, who was killed on September 14, 1915, in his capacity as a medical officer of the Second South Lancers.
On September 25, Lady Lodge sat with medium Gladys Osborne Leonard (1882–1968), who described a photograph that had been taken of Raymond with a group of fellow officers. Lady Lodge knew of no such photograph. The medium said that Raymond's spirit was insistent that he should tell Lady Lodge that in this particular photograph, Raymond was holding his walking stick under his arm. The Lodges had numerous photographs of their son, but they did not possess a single one depicting a group of medical officers in which Raymond would be included. Lodge was impressed with the emphasis that the medium had placed upon Raymond's insistence that they should locate such a photograph.
Then, according to Sir Oliver's report on the case (Proceedings, S.P.R. Vol. XXIX), on November 29, a letter was received from a Mrs. Cheves, who was a stranger to the Lodges, but who was the mother of a friend of Raymond's. Cheves informed the Lodges that she had half a dozen photographs from a sitting by a group of medical officers in which Raymond and her son were present. Cheves inquired if the Lodges would like a copy of the photograph.
Although Lodge and his wife responded immediately and enthusiastically, the photograph did not arrive until the afternoon of December 7. In the interim, Lady Lodge had gone through Raymond's diary, which had been returned from the front, and had found an entry dated August 24 which told of such a photo having been taken. In his report for the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), Lodge noted that the photograph had been taken 21 days before their son's death. "Some days may have elapsed before [Raymond] saw a print, if he ever saw one," he wrote. "He certainly never mentioned it in his letters. We were, therefore, in complete ignorance of it."
While the Lodges were awaiting the photograph from Cheves, they visited another medium through whose spirit control Raymond gave them additional details concerning the group picture. Now, it seemed, Raymond was not so certain he held his walking stick, but he confirmed that there were a considerable number of men in the photograph, including two who were friends of his. These two men were prominently featured standing behind Raymond, one of whom annoyed him by leaning on his shoulder.
When the photograph was delivered to the Lodge home, Sir Oliver and Lady Lodge noticed at once that it offered a poor likeness of Raymond, but provided excellent evidence that their son had communicated to them from beyond the grave. The walking stick was there, though not under Raymond's arm, as the first medium had said. The fellow officers Raymond had named through the second medium were in the photograph and the general arrangement of the men was as both mediums had described it.
"But by far the most striking piece of evidence is the fact that some one sitting behind Raymond is leaning or resting a hand on his shoulder," commented Lodge in his report. "The photograph fortunately shows the actual occurrence and almost indicates that Raymond was rather annoyed with it, for his face is a little screwed up, and his head has been slightly bent to one side out of the way of the man's arm. It is the only case in the photograph where one man is leaning or resting his hand on the shoulder of another."
Lodge once again contacted Cheves and learned where he might obtain prints of other photographs that had been taken at the same time. Upon examination of all accessible prints, Lodge found that the basic group pose had been repeated with only slight variations for three different photographs. The Lodges felt the evidential value of the communication had been greatly enhanced by the fact that one medium had made a reference to the existence of Raymond's last photograph, and another medium, unknown to the first, had supplied the details of the photograph in response to Lodge's direct question. In his My Philosophy (1933), he wrote: "I am absolutely convinced not only of survival, but of demonstrated survival, demonstrated by occasional interaction with matter in such a way as to produce physical results."
Among the books written by Sir Oliver Lodge are such titles as: Man and the Universe (1908); Science and Religion (1914); Raymond or Life and Death (1917); Raymond Revisited (1922); Science and Human Progress (1927); Why I Believe in Personal Immortality (1928); The Reality of a Spiritual World (1930); and My Philosophy (1933).
Jolly, W. P. Sir Oliver Lodge. London: Constable, 1974.
Tabori, Paul. Pioneers of the Unseen. New York: Taplinger, 1973.
Fredric W. H. Myers (1843–1901)
Fredric William Henry Myers was born in 1843 in Keswick, Cumberland, England, into the family of a clergyman. He was educated at Cheltenham and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1865, he became a lecturer in the classics at Cambridge, but in 1872, he resigned that position to become a school inspector. Myers published several volumes of poetry, though it was as an essayist that he became known (Essays, Classical and Modern ).
Intrigued by the possibility of ghosts, spirits, and the survival of the soul since he was very young, Myers began sitting with mediums in 1872, often in the company of his friends, Henry Sidgwick (1838–1900) and Edmund Gurney (1847–1888). In 1882, he was one of the original group, together with Sidgwick and Gurney, who founded the British Society for Psychical Research (BSPR) and remained until the end of his life one of its most active and productive members, serving as the society's secretary from 1888 to 1899 and its president in 1900.
Although he was never a skeptic toward the paranormal, Myers deemed many of the manifestations of spirit mediums to be simplistic and puerile. In his opinion, the greatest evidence for survival of the human personality after death was to be found in what he called the "subliminal consciousness," that mysterious realm that lies beneath the threshold of ordinary consciousness wherein exist the faculties of telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, and precognition. All the phenomena of mediumism and the seance room Myers attributed to the manifestations of the subliminal consciousness.
Myers investigated one of the most evidential cases suggestive of the survival of human personality beyond the death experience recorded in the early annals of psychical research. The report, which has come to be known as "The Case of the Scratch on the Cheek."
In 1876 Mr. F. G., a traveling salesman, was sitting in a hotel room in St. Joseph, Missouri. It was high noon and he was smoking a cigar and writing out sales orders. Suddenly conscious of someone sitting on his left with one arm resting on the table, the salesman was startled to look up into the face of his dead sister, a young lady of 18 who had died of cholera in 1867. "So sure was I that it was she," he wrote in an account to the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) (Proceedings, S.P.R., VI, 17), "that I sprang forward in delight, calling her by name."
As he did so, the image of his sister vanished, and Mr. F. G. resumed his seat, stunned by the experience. The cigar was still in his mouth, the pen was still in his hand, and the ink was still moist on his order blank. He was satisfied that he had not been dreaming, but was wide awake. He had been near enough to touch her, "had it been a physical possibility." He had noted her features, expression, and details of dress. "She appeared as if alive," he stated. "Her eyes looked kindly and perfectly naturally into mine. Her skin was so lifelike that I could see the glow of moisture on its surface, and, on the whole, there was no change in her appearance."
Mr. F. G. was so impressed by the experience that he took the next train home to tell his parents about the remarkable visitation. But his mother nearly fainted when he told them of "a bright red line or scratch on the right-hand side" of his sister's face. With tears streaming down her face, his mother told him that he had most certainly seen his sister's spirit since only she was aware of a scratch that she had accidentally made while doing some little act of kindness after the girl's death. Feeling terrible over what had occurred, his mother had carefully "obliterated all traces of the slight scratch with the aid of powder" and had never mentioned the unfortunate occurrence to a single person from that day onward until F. G. had mentioned seeing it on the spirit form of his sister.
It seems a bit more than coincidence when the anonymous narrator, F. G., adds: "A few weeks later my mother died, happy in her belief that she would rejoin her favorite daughter in a better world."
In discussing this case, Fredric W. H. Myers wrote that, in his opinion, the spirit of the daughter had perceived the approaching death of her mother and had appeared to the brother to force him into the role of message bearer. Also, by prompting F. G. to return home unexpectedly at that time, the spirit had enabled him to have a final visit with his mother. Myers was further intrigued by the fact that the spirit figure appeared not as a corpse, but as a girl full of health and happiness "with the symbolic red mark worn simply as a test of identity." Myers discounted the theory that the spirit figure could have been a projection from the mother's mind. "As to the spirit's own knowledge of the fate of the body after death, other reported cases show that this specific form of post-mortem perception is not unusual," he concluded. "This case is one of the best attested, and in itself one of the most remarkable that we possess…It certainly seems probable that recognition was intelligently aimed at."
The Reverend Arthur Bellamy told Myers about the "lady" he saw one night sitting by the side of the bed where his wife lay sound asleep. Bellamy stared at the strange woman for several minutes, noting especially the elegant styling of her hair, before the lady vanished.
When Mrs. Bellamy awakened, the reverend described her mysterious caller. He was startled to learn that the description fit that of a schoolgirl friend of his wife's with whom she had once made a pact that the first one to die should appear after her death to the survivor. The astonished clergyman then asked his wife if there was anything outstanding about her friend, so they might be certain it had been she. "Her hair," she answered without hesitation. "We girls used to tease her at school for devoting so much time to the arrangement of her hair." Later, Bellamy identified a photograph of his wife's friend as being the likeness of the specter that had appeared at her bedside.
The results, speculations, and conclusions of Frederic W. H. Myers's many years of research were published posthumously in Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (coauthored with Edmund Gurney and Frank Podmore, 1903). Myers died in Rome in 1901 and was buried in Keswick.
Gauld, Alan. The Founders of Psychical Research. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968.
Spence, Lewis. An Encyclopedia of Occultism. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1960.
Society for Psychical Research (SPR)
In 1882, a distinguished group of Cambridge scholars founded the British Society for Psychical Research (BSPR) for the purpose of examining allegedly paranormal phenomena in a scientific and unbiased manner. The first president of the society was Professor Henry Sidgwick (1838–1900), and the council numbered among its members Edmund Gurney (1847–1888), Frank Podmore (1856–1910), Fredric W. H. Myers (1843–1901), and Professor William Barrett (1844–1925). The initial major undertaking of the newly formed society, the first of its kind in the world, was to conduct a census of hallucinations by means
of a circulated questionnaire that asked its respondents:
Have you ever, when believing yourself to be completely awake, had a vivid impression of seeing or being touched by a living being or inanimate object, or of hearing a voice; which impression, so far as you could discover, was not due to any external physical cause?
The SPR received answers from 17,000 people, 1,684 of whom answered "yes." From this, the committee which was conducting the census estimated that nearly 10 percent of the population had experienced some kind of visual or auditory "hallucination." Those people who indicated that they had experienced some paranormal appearance or manifestation were sent forms requesting details.
The census of hallucinations enabled the researchers to arrive at a number of basic premises concerning ghosts and apparitions, which were strengthened by subsequent research. The committee was able to conclude, for example, that although apparitions are associated with other events besides death, they are more likely to be linked with death than anything else. Visual hallucinations were found to be the most common (1,087). This seemed especially important to note because psychologists have found that auditory experiences are most common among the mentally ill. Of the visual cases reported, 283 had been shared by more than one witness. This was also noted to be of great importance because critics of psychic phenomena have always argued that the appearance of a "ghost" is an entirely subjective experience. Those who answered the committee's follow-up form indicated that they had not been ill when they had witnessed the phenomena they reported, and they insisted that the "hallucinations" were quite unlike the bizarre, nightmarish creatures which might appear during high fevers or high alcoholic consumption. Of the 493 reported auditory hallucinations, 94 had occurred when another person had been present. Therefore, about one-third of the cases were collective—that is, experienced by more than one witness at the same time.
After the findings of the census of hallucinations were made public, the SPR began to be flooded by personal accounts of spontaneous cases of ghosts and apparitions. In order to aid an appointed committee in the handling of such an influx of material, the SPR worked out a series of questions that could be applied to each case that came into their offices:
- Is the account firsthand?
- Was it written or told before the corresponding event was known?
- Has the principal witness been corroborated?
- Was the percipient awake at the time?
- Was the percipient an educated person of good character?
- Was the apparition recognized?
- Was it seen out of doors?
- Was the percipient anxious or in a state of expectancy?
- Could relevant details have been read back into the narrative after the event?
- Could the coincidence between the experience and the event be accounted for by chance?
Later, committee member J. Fraser Nichol established three points of critique that could be used by the investigator of spontaneous phenomena:
- That the experience be veridical—that is, that it relate to an actual event that was occurring, had occurred, or would occur;
- That there be an independent witness who testifies that the percipient related his experience to him before he came to know, by normal means, that the experience had been veridical; and
- That no more than five years have passed between the experience and the written account of it.
The American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR), first organized in 1885 with astronomer Simon Newcomb (1835–1909) as president, later became a branch of the British Society of Psychical Research (BSPR) and functioned in Boston under the guidance of Richard Hodgson (1855–1905), formerly of Cambridge University, until his death in 1905. The ASPR became independent of the BSPR and relocated to New York City in 1906 with James Hervey Hyslop (1854–1920), Professor of Logic and Ethics at Columbia University, as its secretary and treasurer. For the next 14 years, until his death in 1920, Hyslop expanded the scope of the society's work.
At the ASPR all-day ESP forum held on November 20, 1965, in New York City, Dr. Gardner Murphy (1895–1979), president of the ASPR, told assembled parapsychologists and representatives from other scientific disciplines that "…Progress in parapsychology in the direction of science calls for major, sustained effort…devoted to the building of theories and systematic models. The primary need is not for lots and lots of further little experiments, but for bold and sound model building."
Murphy concluded his address, "Advancement of Parapsychology as a Science," by stating that the future of parapsychology as a science is going to depend on multidisciplinary cooperation between the psychical researcher and "…the medical man, the anthropologist, the sociologist, the physicist, the biologist, the psychologist, and a great many other kinds of people working together within a broad perspective and giving each other mutual support."