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Hayden, Maria B. (ca. 1852)

Hayden, Maria B. (ca. 1852)

Influential American medium of Boston and wife of W. R. Hayden, editor of the Star Spangled Banner. Maria Hayden was the first American medium to visit England after the beginnings of modern Spiritualism in the United States, and subsequently had a great influence on the development of the Spiritualist movement. She arrived in England in October 1852 in the company of a man named Stone, who professed to be a lecturer on "electro-biology," the art of inducing hypnotism by gazing at metallic disks.

Hayden was an educated woman and possessed a limited type of mediumship consisting mainly of raps; however, they furnished information beyond the knowledge of the sitters. In the British press she was treated as an American adventuress. The magazine Household Words was the first to ridicule her. Blackwood's Magazine, The National Miscellany, and other papers followed. Many disclosures were published claiming that the medium could not give correct answers unless she saw the alphabet.

The first man who confessed he was puzzled and unable to account for the phenomena was Robert Chambers. He describes his visit to Hayden in an unsigned article in Chamber's Journal on May 21, 1853, and admitted to having witnessed correct information when the alphabet was behind the medium's back. The Critic was the next to call attention to the inadequacy of the theory put forward by the skeptics. A Dr. Ashburner, one of the royal physicians, came forward for the defense and so did Sir Charles Isham. Other people of importance admitted that the phenomena were worthy of serious investigation, although they were unwilling to commit themselves.

Hayden's most important conquest was the conversion to Spiritualism of Augustus de Morgan, the famous mathematician and philosopher. The book by Mrs. de Morgan From Matter to Spirit (1863, first edition anonymous), the preface of which was written by her husband, gives a detailed account of Hayden's séances. Additional notes were published in Mrs. de Morgan's Memoir of Augustus de Morgan (1882).

The veteran socialist Robert Owen, age 83 at the time, also had several sittings. As a result he boldly embraced Spiritualism and proclaimed in the Rational Quarterly Review a formal profession of his new faith. The publication of the first English periodical on Spiritualism dates from Hayden's visit. The publisher was W. R. Hayden, who joined his wife in England, and the periodical was titled The Spirit World. The first and last issue appeared in May 1853.

After a year's stay in England Maria Hayden returned to the United States, graduated as a doctor of medicine, and practiced for 15 years with such remarkable healing powers that James Rhodes Buchanan, the famous pioneer in psychometry, declared her to be "one of the most skillful and successful physicians I have ever known." She was later offered a medical professorship in an American college.

The great medium D. D. Home gave one of his first public séances at the Haydens' home in March 1851. It is possible that Hayden's mediumship dated from that visit.

Sources:

De Morgan, Augustus. A Budget of Paradoxes. Chicago: Open Court Publishing, 1915. Reprinted as The Encyclopedia of Eccentrics. La Salle, Ill.: Open Court Publishing, 1974.

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