Monck, Rev. Francis Ward (ca. 1878-?)

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Monck, Rev. Francis Ward (ca. 1878-?)

British clergyman who started his career as minister of the Baptist Chapel at Earls Barton, England, and gave up his ecclesiastical vocation for professional mediumship. His adhesion to Spiritualism was first announced in 1873. He claimed great mediumistic powers, toured the British Isles, and healed the sick in Ireland. As a result he was called "Dr." Monck by many people, although he was not a physician.

In London he convinced Alfred Russel Wallace, William Stainton Moses, and Hensleigh Wedgwood (brother-in-law of Charles Darwin) of his genuine psychic gifts by giving a remarkable materialization séance in bright daylight. He also excelled in slatewriting. An account by Wallace of a puzzling slate-writing demonstration was certified by Edward T. Bennett, then assistant secretary to the Society for Psychical Research, London. He convinced Judge Dailey, an American, that the dead returned through his body. Monck's reputation was high.

Disaster struck Monck in 1876 shortly after the trial of fellow medium Henry Slade. At a Huddersfield séance on November 3, a conjurer named H. B. Lodge suddenly demanded a search of the medium. Monck ran for safety, locked himself into his room upstairs, and escaped through the window. As a further evidence of his guilt, a pair of stuffed gloves was found in his room. In the medium's luggage were found "spirit lamps," a "spirit bird," cheesecloth, and reaching rods, as well as some obscene correspondence from women.

There were other cases in which Monck was caught in flagrant fraud. Sir William Barrett wrote of "a piece of white muslin on a wire frame with a black thread attached being used by the medium to simulate a partially materialised spirit." The trial that followed the Huddersfield exposure was a great sensation. Wallace appeared as a witness for the defense and deposed that "he had seen Dr. Monck in the trance state, when there appeared a faint white patch on the left side of his coat, which increased in density and spread till it reached his shoulder; then there was a space gradually widening to six feet between it and his body, it became very distinct and had the outline of a woman in flowing white drapery. I was absolutely certain that it could not be produced by any possible trick."

In spite of the eminent scientist's vote of confidence, the court found Monck guilty and sentenced him to three months' imprisonment. The blow was a stunning one, but some friends never lost their faith in Monck. There was no greater believer in his powers than Archdeacon Thomas Colley, who reported the most inexplicable and astounding experiences with Monck. Colley was in India at the time of the Huddersfield incident. After his return, he stoutly maintained that a dreadful miscarriage of justice must have taken place, and he published this account of a séance held on September 25, 1877: "Dr. Monck, under control of Samuel, was by the light of the lampthe writer not being a yard away from himseen by all to be the living gate for the extrusion of spirit forms from the realm of mind into this world of matter; for standing forth thus plainly before us, the psychic or spirit form was seen to grow out of his left side. First, several faces one after another, of great beauty appeared, and in amazement we sawand as I was standing close up to the medium, even touching him, I saw most plainly several times, a perfect face and form of exquisite womanhood partially issue from Dr. Monck, about the region of the heart. Then after several attempts a full formed figure, in a nebulous condition at first, but growing more solid as it issued from the medium, left Dr. Monck, and stood a separate individuality, two or three feet off, bound to him by a slender attachment as of gossamer, which at my request Samuel, the control, severed with the medium's left hand, and there stood embodied a spirit form of unutterable loveliness."

Colley was so sure of his own powers of observation that he challenged stage magician John Nevil Maskelyne and offered him 1,000 pounds if he could duplicate Monck's materialization performance. Maskelyne attempted the feat, and when Colley declared his performance to be a travesty of what had really taken place in Monck's presence, Maskelyne sued for the money. Mainly on the evidence of Wallace on behalf of Monck, judgment was entered against Maskelyne.

In his materialization séances, Monck rarely used a cabinet. He stood in full view of the sitters. Sometimes he was quite conscious. He had two chief controls: "Samuel" and "Mahedi." For a year their individual characters were deeply studied by Stain-ton Moses and Hensleigh Wedgwood who, with two other men interested in psychic research, secured exclusive rights to Monck's services for a modest salary.

Enduring evidence of Monck's phantasmal appearances was obtained by William Oxley in 1876 in Manchester in the form of excellent paraffin molds of hands and feet of the materialized forms (see plastics ). Oxley described his psychic experiences in Modern Messiahs and Wonder Workers (1889). Oxley's experiences tend to put aside the hallucination theory that psychic researcher Frank Podmore proposed in view of Colley's astounding experiences.

In his lecture before the Church Congress at Weymouth in 1903, Colley said: "Often when I have been sleeping in the same bedroom with him, for the near observation of casual phenomena during the night and, specially, that came through the dark I, on such occasions, would hold my hand over his mouth, and he would now and again be startled into wakefulness not unmixed with fear. For he could see the phantoms which I could not, when I had quietly put out the night-light for he would not sleep in the dark, which made him apprehensive of phenomena, physically powerful to an extraordinary degree."

Colley claimed to have witnessed astonishing marvels with Monck. He said he saw the birth and dissolution of numbers of full-sized solid forms. He saw a child appear, move about, be kissed by those present and then return to the medium and gradually melt into his body. He seized a materialized form and was flung with great force toward the medium and suddenly found himself clasping him. In 1905, when he published his experiences, he wrote: "I publish these things for the first time, having meditated over them in silence for twenty-eight years, giving my word as clergyman for things which imperil my ecclesiastical position and my future advancement."

One of the most astonishing psychic feats ascribed to Monck was his teleportation from Bristol to Swindon, a distance of 42 miles. This claimed miraculous feat in 1871 was described in the Spiritualist (1875, p. 55). In his later years, Monck concentrated on healing. The closing period of his life was spent in New York.


Oxley, William. Modern Messiahs and Wonder Workers. London: Trubner, 1889.

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Monck, Rev. Francis Ward (ca. 1878-?)

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