The famous spirit control of Florence Cook. Katie claimed to be the daughter of the equally famous spirit entity "John King," but there is even less proof of her identity than of her father's.
Katie began to manifest in the Cook house when Florence was a girl of 15. She was seen almost daily, the first time in April 1872, showing a deathlike face between the séance curtains. Later her materializations became more perfect, but it was only after a year of experimental work that she could walk out of the cabinet and show herself in full view to the sitters.
She became a nearly permanent inhabitant of the Cook household, walked about the house, appeared at unexpected moments, and allegedly went to bed with the medium, much to Cook's annoyance. When Florence Cook married, complications arose. According to Florence Marryat, Captain Corner felt at first as if he had married two women and was not quite sure which one was his wife.
According to all accounts Katie was a beautiful girl. In his famous investigations of psychic phenomena, Sir William Crookes had 40 flashlight photographs of Katie. In most of them she noticeably resembled Cook, but Crookes had no doubt of her independent identity. He wrote:
"Photography was inadequate to depict the perfect beauty of Katie's face, as words are powerless to describe her charm of manner. Photography may, indeed, give a map of her countenance; but how can it reproduce the brilliant purity of her complexion, or the ever varying expression of her most mobile features, now overshadowed with sadness when relating some of the bitter experiences of her past life, now smiling with all the innocence of happy girlhood when she had collected my children round her, and was amusing them by recounting anecdotes of her adventures in India?"
Katie claimed that her name during her earthly existence was Annie Owen Morgan. She said she was about 12 years old when Charles I was beheaded. She married, had two children, and committed many crimes, murdering men with her own hands. She died quite young, at age 22 or 23. Katie said her attachment to Florence Cook served the purpose of convincing the world of the truth of Spiritualism. This work was given her on the other side as a service to expiate her earthly sins, she claimed. On her farewell appearance, after three years of constant manifestations, she declared that her years of suffering were now over; she would ascend to a higher sphere from which she could only correspond with her medium through automatic writing at long intervals, although Cook would be able to see her clairvoyantly.
In her early manifestations in the séances of the Davenport brothers, Katie King was apparently far less spiritual than at the time of the Crookes records. Robert Cooper, describing a direct voice consultation of the spirits by the Davenports, wrote:
"The next minute a shrill female voice was heard immediately in front of us. It was like that of a person of the lower walks of life and talked away, like many persons do, for the mere sake of talking. It was intimated that it was 'Kate' who was speaking. There was a great attempt on her part at being witty, but according to my ideas on such matters, most of what was said would come under the category of small—very small—wit."
In another passage he wrote: "Unlike John, Kate will talk any length of time, as long in fact as she can find anything to talk about, even if it be the most frivolous nonsense; but I must do her the justice to say that she talks sensibly enough at times, and I have heard great wisdom in her utterances, and satisfactory answers given to profound philosophical questions."
The "Katie" who assisted "John King" in the séances of Frank Herne and Charles Williams was apparently not identifiable with Katie King, since the former—after the materialization of a black hand—was described as a descendant of an African. Her voice was like a whisper, but perfectly distinct. The transportation of Agnes Guppy-Volckman to Williams's room was put down to her achievement.
A rather dubious Katie King manifested through the mediumship of Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Holmes, of Philadelphia. Henry T. Child and Robert Dale Owen stated that they saw her materialize on May 12, 1874. Owen said he believed that she was identical to Cook's control, though her features differed from those in the photograph of the London Katie. The nose was straight, not aquiline, and the expression was more intellectual. Crookes, when he saw a photograph of the Philadelphia Katie, did not hesitate to declare her a fraud.
To justify her appearance in the United States, the Philadelphia Katie King declared, "Some of my English friends misinterpreted my parting words. I took final leave not of your Earth, but of dear Florrie Cook, because my continuance with her would have injured her health." This was a rather limp explanation that did not fit the fact that Cook, under the control of another spirit, "Marie," continued her materialization séances without injury to her health. On November 2, 1874, Owen reaffirmed his belief in the genuineness of the Katie King phenomena, but only a month later withdrew his assurances in the face of convincing evidence that he had been the victim of fraud. Child made a similar statement.
In October 1930 Katie King unexpectedly manifested in the circle of Glen Hamilton in Winnipeg, Canada. Photographs were taken. According to Hamilton,
"Obviously it was wholly impossible to say whether or not this Mary M.-Mercedes-Katie King is the same being as the entity appearing in the experiments of Crookes and others. We have the word of the controls in this case that it is so and we have seen how, so far, these controls have repeatedly established the fact that they know whereof they speak…. While there are, I may say, some points of similarity to be traced between Katie as photographed by Crookes and Katie as photographed in the Winnipeg experiments, both faces for instance being rather long in formation, the eyes in both being large and luminous, the angle of the jaw in both being rather pronounced, the later Katie is so much younger in appearance, her beauty so much more apparent that it is evident that we cannot use the earlier record of her presence in any way as conclusive proof that there is any connection between the two."
Meanwhile, serious doubts have been cast upon the Katie King phenomena of Florence Cook. In his book The Spiritualists (1962), Trevor H. Hall presents persuasive evidence that Crookes may have used the Katie King séances as a cover for an illicit love affair with Cook. More recently, Ray Stemman reported that Katie King materialized in Rome in July 1974 with the medium Fulvio Rendhell.
Hall, Trevor. The Spiritualists. New York: Helix Press, 1963. Revised as The Medium and the Scientist. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1984.
Medhurst, R. G., and K. M. Golney. "William Crookes and the Physical Phenomena of Mediumship." Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 54 (1964).
Stemman, Roy. Spirits and Spirit Worlds. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975.