Koons, Jonathan (ca. 1855)
Koons, Jonathan (ca. 1855)
A well-to-do American farmer in Millfield Township, Athens County (a remote district of Ohio), and an early American Spiritualist medium. Koons became interested in Spiritualism in 1852 and was told at a séance that he was "the most powerful medium on Earth" and that all of his eight children—even the seven-month-old baby—had psychic gifts. Acting on spirit instructions, he built a "spirit room," a single-room log house, 16 feet by 12, for use by the spirits and equipped it with all kinds of musical instruments. This log house soon became famous and people flocked from great distances to see a variety of curious phenomena. The eldest boy, Nahum, a youth of 18, sat at the "spirit table," the audience in benches beyond.
When the lights were put out a fearful din ensued that was sometimes heard a mile away. Surprising feats of strength were also manifested, yet no one present was struck or injured by the flying objects or target-shooting pistol bullets. The sitters were touched by materialized hands that, in the light of phosphorized paper, were seen carrying objects. Spirit faces were also seen. Through a trumpet that sailed about in the air, voices called out the names of the guests even if they concealed their identities; deceased relatives and friends spoke to them and gave proof of survival.
The circle was attended by a host of ministering spirits said to number 165. They claimed to belong to a race of men known under the generic title "Adam" (red clay), antedating the theological Adam by thousands of years. They represented their leaders as the most ancient angels. One of these ancient angels, who instructed the circle, was called "Oress." Generally they signed themselves in the written communications as "King" No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3, and sometimes "Servant and Scholar of God." Foremost among them was the "John King" who claimed to have been Henry Morgan, the pirate.
Two or three miles from the Koons' farm was another lonely farmhouse, belonging to John Tippie, where another "spirit room" was laid out on the same plan. The manifestations in the Tippie family were identical to those in the Koon log house. Each had a "spirit machine" that consisted of a complex arrangement of zinc and copper for the alleged purpose of collecting and focusing the magnetic aura used in the demonstrations. The Tippies had ten children, all mediums.
J. Everett of Athens County, Ohio, who investigated the Koons' phenomena, published the messages of the spirits under the title Communications from Angels (1853) and also printed a number of affidavits testifying to the occurrences in the spirit house, with a chart of the spheres drawn by Nahum Koons in trance.
Charles Partridge writes of his visit in the American Spiritual Telegraph of 1855:
"The spirit rooms will hold … 20 to 30 persons each. After the circle is formed and the lights extinguished, a tremendous blow is struck by the drum-stick, when immediately the bass and tenor drums are beaten with preternatural power, like calling the roll on a muster field, making a thousand echoes. The rapid and tremendous blows on these drums are really frightful to many persons; it is continued for five minutes or more and when ended, 'King' usually takes up the trumpet, salutes us with 'Good evening, friends' and asks what particular manifestations are desired. After the introductory piece on the instruments, the spirits sang to us. They first requested us to remain perfectly silent; then we heard human voices singing, apparently in the distance, so as to be scarcely distinguishable; the sounds gradually increased, each part relatively, until it appeared as if a full choir of voices were singing in our room most exquisitely. I think I never heard such perfect harmony. Spirit hands and arms were formed in our presence several times, and by aid of a solution of phosphorous, prepared at their request by Mr. Koons, they were seen as distinctly as in a light room."
The Koons family did not fare well at the hands of their neighbors. Their house was attacked by mobs, fire was set to their crops and barns, and their children were beaten. Finally they left the countryside and began missionary wanderings, which lasted for many years. Their mediumship was given free to the public, and they did a great service to the cause of early American Spiritualism.
The phenomenally noisy "spirit room" of the Koons bears a striking resemblance to some shaman performances, where the medicine man enters an enclosed area and manifests noisy spirit communications.