Cox, Edward William (1809-1879)

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Cox, Edward William (1809-1879)

Lawyer and well-known British psychical investigator in the days preceding the foundation of the Society for Psychical Re-search. Cox was born in 1809 in Taunton, England, and educated there. Cox's career in psychical research was concentrated during the last decade of his life. He was a member of the investigating committee of the London Dialectical Society, which published its famous Report on Spiritualism in 1871. He did not accept the "spirit" hypothesis and in its stead argued for the existence of a psychic force that would explain many forms of psychic phenomena. His idea was explained in a booklet, Spiritualism Scientifically Examined with Proofs of the Existence of a Psychic Force (1872), and in a larger work, The Mechanism of Man: An Answer to the Question "What Am I?" (1876). For systematic research into the mystery of psychic phenomena, he founded, in 1875, the Psychological Society for Great Britain.

Cox is most remembered for his work with William Crookes in his first experiments with D. D. Home. He was a shrewd and most capable investigator and well aware of most of the tricks used by fraudulent mediums in the production of fake materialization phenomena. Cox was supportive of Home's medium-ship and shared his opinions in a letter to Crookes:

"In the investigations in which you so kindly assisted me there was nothing of this precaution and mystery. You sat with me anywhere, at any time, in my garden, and in my house; by day and by night; but always, with one memorable exception, in full light. You objected to no tests; on the contrary you invited them. I was permitted the full use of all my senses. The experiments were made in every form ingenuity could devise, and you were as desirous to learn the truth and the meaning of it as I was. You sat alone with me, and things were done which, if four confederates had been present, their united efforts could not have accomplished. Sometimes there were phenomena, sometimes there were none. When they occurred they were often such as no human hand could have produced without the machinery of the Egyptian Hall [the scene of conjuring magician J. N. Maskelyne's shows]. But these were in my own drawing-room, and library, and gardens, where no mechanism was possible. In this manner it was that I arrived at the conviction opposed to all my prejudices and preconceptionsthat there are forces about us of some kind, having both power and intelligence, but imperceptible to our senses, except under some imperfectly known conditions."

However, he was highly critical of Florence Cook and Mary Showers. Cox's letter to the medium D. D. Home, published in Home's Lights and Shadows of Spiritualism (1877), is thought to refer to these two mediums. He was present on the occasion in which Cook and Showers appeared in what was supposed to be a joint materialization. He noted that both materialized forms were solid flesh and breathed and perspired.

Cox died at his home in Middlesex, England, on November 24, 1879.


Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Cox, Edward W. The Mechanism of Man: An Answer to the Question "What Am I?" London: Longman, 1876.

. What Am I?: A Popular Introduction to Mental Philosophy and Psychology. London: Longman, 1974.

Dingwall, E. J. The Critic's Dilemma: Further Comments on Some Nineteenth Century Investigations. Dewsbury, England: The Author, 1966.

Hall, Trevor H. Florence Cook & William Crookes: A Footnote to an Enquiry. London: Tomorrow Publications Ltd., 1963.

. The Spiritualists: The Story of Florence Cook and William Crookes. New York: Helix Press, 1962.