Eddy Brothers, Horatio (1842-1922) and William (1832-1932)

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Eddy Brothers, Horatio (1842-1922) and William (1832-1932)

American farmer mediums of Chittenden, a small hamlet near Rutland, Vermont. In 1874 the New York Daily Graphic assigned Henry Olcott to investigate the rumors of strange happenings in the house of the Eddy family. After ten weeks in the Vermont home, Olcott, who had no previous psychic experience, came away with a dislike of his gruff hosts and a remarkable story, which he told in 15 articles. These articles were later published in book form under the title People from the Other World (1875). This book and another, M. D. Shindler's A Southerner Among the Spirits (1877), are the primary sources for our knowledge of the Eddy brothers.

According to Olcott, the family tree showed psychic powers for generations back. In 1692, in Salem, their grandmother four times removed was sentenced to the pyre as a witch. In Horatio and William, the psychic "taint" made its appearance in infancy. A fanatical father tried to suppress it with the utmost cruelty. He employed means of torture to break their trances, poured boiling water over them, or placed red-hot coal on their heads. When the children grew older, their father realized the money-making possibilities in their strange gift and hired them out as mediums.

As eloquent evidence of the savage treatment the boys had received at the hands of ignorant investigators, Olcott saw grooves of ligatures, scars of hot sealing wax, and marks of handcuffs on their limbs. The boys exhibited every phenomenon of physical mediumship, from raps to materialization.

During ten weeks of investigation, Olcott claimed that he saw about 400 apparitions of all sizes, sexes, and races issue from their cabinet. The chief apparition was a giant Indian named "Santum" and an Indian woman by the name of "Honto." Olcott had every facility for investigation, measured the height and weight of the apparitions, roamed freely about, and became quite satisfied that the explanation of impersonation was insufficient. He found that the production of materialized forms was William Eddy's strong feature. Horatio Eddy usually sat before a cloth screen, not a cabinet, and, unlike his brother, was always in sight. Musical instruments were played behind the screen, and phantom hands showed themselves over the edge. If the same séance was held in darkness, the phenomena became very powerful. Vigorous Indian dances shook the floor, and the room resounded with yells and whoops. "As an exhibition of pure brute force," Olcott writes in one of the articles, "this Indian dance is probably unsurpassed in the annals of such manifestation."

Frank Podmore, in his book Modern Spiritualism (1902), characterizes Olcott's account as an imaginative history and quotes in confirmation C. C. Massey's account of a fortnight stay with the Eddy brothers, which thus describes the nightly apparition of a deceased relative of someone present:

"A dusky young man would look out and we had to say in turn, all round the circle 'Is it for me?' When the right person was reached three taps would be given and the fortunate possessor of the ghost would gaze doubtfully, upon which the ghost would look grieved, and that generally softened the heart of the observer, and brought about a recognition in the remark 'Lor, so you be.' And that sort of thing went on night after night at the Eddy's."

Because of Olcott's later adventures in Theosophy, some credence is lent to the charge that he was gullible.


Olcott, Henry S. People from the Other World. Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing, 1875. Reprint, Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle, 1972.

Podmore, Frank. Modern Spiritualism. London: Methuen, 1902. Reprinted as Mediums of the Nineteenth Century. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1963.

Shindler, M. D. A Southerner Among the Spirits. Memphis, Tenn., 1877.