Valiantine, George (ca. 1874-?)
Valiantine, George (ca. 1874-?)
Controversial direct voice medium of Williamsport, New York. He was a small manufacturer when at the age of 43 his mediumship was discovered by accident. At a hotel where he was staying he heard distinct raps on the door. No physical agency could be detected and he was deeply puzzled. A lady acquaintance who was familiar with Spiritualism later persuaded him to hold a séance.
The result was surprising. His deceased brother-in-law, Bert Everett, claimed to be present and rapped out that the spirits for a long time had been trying to attract Valiantine's attention. "Everett" then instructed Valiantine to make a cabinet. One evening, the medium went into trance and "Bert Everett" appeared in a materialized form. But direct voice communications became the chief feature of the séances as Valiantine's organism appeared to lend itself to this manifestation. "Bert Everett" found assistants in other controls: "Dr. Barnett," who often gave medical prescriptions, "Hawk Chief" and "Kokum," two Native Americans with booming voices and "Black Foot," another Native American, the last usually speaking in deep tones from the center of the floor.
In 1923 The Scientific American of New York offered a prize of $2,500 for the production of genuine physical phenomena. Valiantine was one of the mediums tested. Gardner Murphy of Columbia University and Kenneth Andrews of the New York World visited him at Wilkes-Barre for two preliminary sittings. Both sittings were successful and they returned with an initial favorable impression. Thereupon Valiantine came to New York.
During his first two séances before the committee of The Scientific American, eight distinct spirits manifested and spoke to the sitters. For the third séance, an electrical control apparatus had been secretly fixed to the medium's chair. It was meant to disclose to observers in another room whether the medium left his chair during the séance, under the cover of darkness, to reach for the trumpet. The apparatus did not register the medium's full weight for fifteen seconds on one occasion and from 1-14 seconds on other occasions.
For this reason, although the voices admittedly came from high in the air and carried on prolonged conversations, the result, in the report published in the July 1923 issue of The Scientific American, was ruled out as evidence. Over the construction of the report, which conveyed the impression that Valiantine was actually caught in fraud, a controversy arose between psychical researcher J. Malcolm Bird and British author H. Dennis Bradley, who pointed out the weaknesses of the report and its important admissions, which, however, were not sufficiently emphasized.
On several occasions, Bradley vigorously defended Valiantine. He met him at Arlena Towers, Ramsey, New York, in the home of Joseph de Wyckoff, a wealthy American financier who had been in close association with Valiantine for some years.
In November 1923, Wyckoff received long scripts from Valiantine which Valiantine said he had obtained through direct writing in his home. They were signed by "Everett" and "Dr. Barnett," and referred to a project involving an expedition to Guiana. Wyckoff discovered by chance that Valiantine's handwriting showed striking resemblance to the spirit scripts and took them to a handwriting expert who pronounced them identical. Wyckoff showed the report to Valiantine. He insisted that he did not do the writings. A test séance was arranged at his own house at Williamsport. Valiantine, at his request, was tied up. The séance was a failure. Wyckoff thereupon broke off his relations with Valiantine.
Not long afterwards, Wyckoff went to Europe. He met Bradley, who convinced him, by showing indirect evidence that he obtained in sittings with Gladys Osborne Leonard, that his evaluation of the Valiantine communications was unjust. Thereupon Wyckoff cabled to Valiantine from Europe and invited him to come and join him. Valiantine arrived in February 1924 and gave séances almost daily for five weeks in Bradley's home.
In the presence of more than fifty prominent people, over one hundred different spirit voices manifested and carried on long conversations in Russian, German, Spanish and even in idiomatic Welsh. Caradoc Evans, the Welsh novelist, spoke with his father's spirit in Cardiganshire Welsh.
But the seeds of suspicion had been sown. Wyckoff soon leveled a second charge against Valiantine, which grew out of a sitting in the St. Regis Hotel in New York on April 19, 1924. When the sitting was closed by the address of "Dr. Barnett," it was revealed that the trumpet had fallen sideways between Valiantine's legs, with the small end against the edge of the chair. As the medium was setting it upright, Wyckoff struck a match and scolded him for his action. Moreover, as Malcolm Bird pointed out in a letter to Light, "examination of the trumpet developed the facts that it was quite warm at the point where a human hand would naturally and conveniently grasp it, and that the mouthpiece was damp."
Bradley answered that this is exactly what would happen with independent voice phenomena. In his own séances, in which a luminous trumpet was seen sailing about the room, at the finish the inside was found moist, according to Bradley, for the simple reason that it is necessary for a spirit to materialize the vocal organs and breathe in order to produce its voice.
The following year, Valiantine paid another visit to England. In March 1925, he gave two test sittings before the Society for Psychical Research at Tavistock Square. Five words were spoken at the first, none at the second. They were considered blank.
Following this failure, Una, Lady Troubridge and Miss Radcliffe Hall of the society attended some sittings in Bradley's house. Later they were joined by Dr. V. J. Woolley, research officer of the society. Eleven distinct and individual voices were heard. Woolley agreed that he heard them and could not account for them. He was also satisfied that the movement of the luminous trumpet in the air was supernormal. Shortly afterward E. J. Dingwall, in company with Dr. Woolley, the other research officer of the society, obtained voices in daylight inside Valiantine's trumpet.
In his reports published in the Journal of the SPR (vol. 26, pp. 70-71; vol. 27, p. 170) and the Proceedings (vol. 36, pp. 52-53), Woolley wrote of these experiences and stated:
"Both of us heard raps which seemed similar to those she [Lady Troubridge] has described, but as I wish only to deal in this account with evidential utterances I do not propose to consider them in further detail. Both of us also heard whispering sounds, apparently in the trumpet, at times when we were convinced that Mr. Valiantine's lips were entirely closed, and I was able also to distinguish the words 'Father Woolley,' but nothing further."
The Coming of Confucius
But the most important phase of Valiantine's mediumship was yet to come. Strange languages were heard in séances in New York, and it was decided to test their nature by inviting a scholar. Dr. Neville Whymant, an authority on Chinese history, philosophy, and ancient literature, who happened to be in New York, was requested by Judge and Mrs. Cannon to come to a séance. He was slightly amused, but accepted. To quote from his notes:
"Suddenly, out of the darkness was heard a weird, crackling, broken little sound, which at once carried my mind straight back to China. It was the sound of a flute, rather poorly played, such as can be heard in the streets of the Celestial Land but nowhere else. Then followed in a low, but very audible voice the words 'K'ung-fu T'Zu.' Few persons, except Chinese, could pronounce the name correctly as the sounds cannot be represented in English letters. The idea that it might be Confucius himself never occurred to me. I had imagined that it might be somebody desirous of discussing the life and philosophy of the great Chinese teacher."
When, however, correct personal information was given, Whymant decided to test the matter. He said: "There is among your writings a passage written wrongly; should it not read thus?" At this point, Whymant began to quote as far as he knew, that is to say, to about the end of the first line. At once the words were taken out of his mouth, and the whole passage was recited in Chinese, exactly as it is recorded in the standard works of reference. After a pause of about fifteen seconds, the passage was again repeated, this time with certain alterations which gave it a new meaning. "Thus read," said the voice, "does not its meaning become plain?" Previous to the voice of "Confucius," Whymant heard a Sicilian chant and conversed with one of the controls, "Cristo d'Angelo," in Italian.
At the next séance at which Whymant was present, after having been absent through illness, "Confucius" again manifested and, omitting all ceremonious expressions, referred to Whymant's indisposition, saying "the weed of sickness was growing beside thy door." This metaphor was used in ancient Chinese literature but it is no longer current in the language. Nor was the dialect in which "Confucius" spoke any longer used in the Chinese Empire.
There are only about twelve Chinese sounds of which it can be definitely said that it was known how the Chinese of Confucius' time would have pronounced them. The voice which claimed to be that of Confucius used these archaic sounds correctly. Moreover, there were at that time only about six Chinese scholars in the world whose knowledge would have been equal to the one displayed by the direct voice. None of them was in America at the time.
In 1927, when Valiantine paid a third visit to England further tests of importance took place. Countess Ahlefeldt-Laurvig brought an ancient Chinese shell to a sitting in the apartment of Lord Charles Hope. At the top of the shell, circular folds ended in a small hollow mouthpiece. In China the shell was used as a horn and blown on occasion. The sitters tried it but could produce no sound whatsoever. Yet at one period during the sitting, from high up in the room, the shell horn was blown, and the peculiar notes were rendered in the correct Chinese fashion.
But the most important Chinese test tried was in making a phonograph record of the voice of "Confucius." The attempt was successful. The voice of "Confucius," (who died in 479 B.C.E.) was recorded in 1927 in London. It has curious flute-like tones, which rise and fall, and sometimes break into a peculiar sing-song tone. Whymant could only interpret a few sentences because the voice was faint and became blurred in the recording. But he recognized a number of the peculiar intonations. He could gather the meaning of the recorded speech by the tonal values. The voice was identical with the one he heard in America.
From H. Dennis Bradley's summary of this strange occur-rence it is interesting to quote:
"I have heard the K'ung-fu T'ze voice speaking on two or three occasions in archaic Chinese. I have also heard the same voice with its peculiar intonation, speaking to me personally in English. The voice has spoken slowly, but with quite beautiful cadences. It possessed an extraordinary dignity."
In his books Towards the Stars (1942) and The Wisdom of the Gods (1925), Bradley published many important accounts of sittings with Valiantine. On several occasions he heard Valiantine speak simultaneously with the voices. He listened to the voices of the controls of Valiantine in séances with other mediums and heard "Feda," the control of Gladys Osborne Leonard, and "Cristo d'Angelo," who later associated himself with the Marquis Centurione Scotto, speak through Valiantine.
Including the 1927 period, Bradley conducted over a hundred experiments of which he deemed 95 percent successful. This high percentage of success was undoubtedly partly due to the powerful direct voice mediumship which Bradley and his wife themselves developed after the first sittings with Valiantine in New York. But the physical manifestation was only part of the evidence. Bradley observed of Valiantine in his book … And After (1931),
"He is a man of instinctive good manners but it is essential to state that he is semi-illiterate. He possesses no scholastic education whatever, beyond the ordinary simplicities; he is illversed in general conversation and ideas. I mention these facts because many of the communications which have been made in the direct voice under his mediumship have been brilliant in their expressions and culture."
On April 26, 1929, Valiantine arrived for the fourth time in England from America. He spent one day with Bradley and then left with the Bradleys for Berlin. The sittings were held in a Ms. von Dirksen's house. Bradley considered them comparatively poor in result. Some members of the Berlin Occult Society, for which the séances had been arranged, subsequently claimed imposture and supported their assertions by referring to Bradley's and Valiantine's refusal to permit strict control. These charges were published five months afterward by Dr. Kroner in the Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie. Kroner attended only three of the sittings. Two lady sitters made direct allegations of fraudulent movements on Valiantine's part. However, no definite proof of having caught Valiantine in fraud was brought forward.
In May 1929, Valiantine gave a series of séances at the house of the Marquis Centurione Scotto in Genoa. One of the sittings, held in the presence of psychical researcher Ernesto Bozzano, was rigorously controlled. Valiantine was fastened to his chair and an adhesive bandage secured over his mouth. The knots were sealed, the doors were locked.
The results were excellent. The enthusiasm, however, was soon marred by a charge made by Rossi and Scotto. Rossi claimed to have distinctly felt Valiantine in one of their sittings lean forward and speak into the trumpet. He also said that Castellani caught hold of Mrs. Bradley's hand which was touching the back of his (Castellani's) head. Both of them were furiously indignant and left immediately. Castellani later withdrew his allegation against Mrs. Bradley and Rossi also became wavering. (These allegations charged the Bradleys with being Valiantine's accomplices. Evidence that such was the case would be forthcoming.)
As Bradley pointed out there was a truly bizarre aspect in the situation:
"The Marquis Centurione Scotto, Mr. Rossi and Madame Rossi, unknown before to me or to Valiantine, visit me in England in 1927. The Marquis, to his astonishment, speaks to his [dead] son in Italian. The Marquis and Mrs. Rossi then develop voice mediumship entirely from, and because of, their meeting and initiation with Valiantine. Valiantine then, in 1929, visits them in Italy and is accused of being a fraud. The poet is right when he declares 'It is a mad world."'
In 1931, Valiantine was again invited to England. This visit ended on a tragic note. Bradley asked him to devote six evenings to experiments for psychic imprints (molds). Striking previous successes were recorded in the book The Wisdom of the Gods. Since then, famous people whom Bradley knew had died and their original left and right hand imprints were in the possession of palmistry authority Noel Jaquin. Scientifically, therefore, the experiments held potential promise. The claimed spirits of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Dewar, and Sir Henry Segrave all apparently complied with Bradley's eager request, but the plastic substance used in the séances, unknown to Valiantine, was chemically prepared. A stain was found on Valiantine's elbow and expert examination disclosed that the spirit thumbprint of "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle" was exactly similar to the print of Valiantine's big toe on his right foot, a spirit thumbprint of "Lord Dewar" to that of Valiantine's left big toe, a spirit fingerprint of "Sir Henry Segrave" to the print of Valiantine's middle finger and another spirit impression to that of Valiantine's elbow.
Ex-Chief Detective Inspector Bell, the head of the fingerprint department at New Scotland Yard, declared that in a court of law the resemblance would be sufficient to hang a man charged with murder. According to Bradley, when Valiantine was confronted with this evidence, he broke down completely and sobbed. He would not, however, admit fraud. His only answer to questions was: "I cannot understand it."
Bradley believed that the rapid accumulation of money and fame as a professional medium did not have a beneficial effect upon Valiantine's character. He found that he had progressively changed, becoming a conceited and arrogant man. Yet "his reason for attempting these imprint frauds will remain incomprehensible. He received no money from me, and for him to imagine that in the presence of imprint experts he could commit palpable fraud and escape detection was a sign of sheer lunacy."
Besides Valiantine, his controls were also compromised, as on the night, just near the end of the sitting, when "Bert Everett" spoke in his usual shrill tones, announcing that an imprint had been made which was excellent. Mr. X., with whom Valiantine stayed during the visit, obtained the fingerprint of "Walter Stinson," control of the American medium Mina Crandon (known as "Margery"). This print was identified by Noel Jacquin as identical to that of the middle finger of Valiantine's left hand.
After the exposure, Valiantine gave twelve séances to Dr. Vivian. The report stated that while two voices were speaking, Valiantine was simultaneously heard to draw the attention of the sitters to the two voices. Surgeon Admiral Nimmo had two sittings in daylight. The voice that he heard to come distinctly from within the trumpet gave intelligent and evidential communication. In the presence of a second doctor, the voices were heard again, speaking distinctly and intelligently. During the phenomena, the doctors kept Valiantine's face under acute observation but they did not discover any movement whatever on it.
The experiences of Whymant with the voice of "Confucius" came before the Society for Psychical Research in 1927. Whymant delivered a lecture, played the phonograph record of the voice, and submitted his account of twelve séances. No action was taken. Thereupon the records were the subject of a book by Whymant, published in 1931 under the title Psychic Adventures in New York. In Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (vol. 40, pt. 125), the report of Lord Charles Hope on his sittings in 1927 concluded: "I was disappointed at the lack of evidence for survival which the voices had given me. I was left uncertain whether Valiantine was a genuine medium or not." (For other cases of imprints and molds, see plastics. )
Bradley, H. Dennis. … And After. London: T. Werner Laurie, 1931.
——. Towards the Stars. London: T. Werner Laurie, 1924.
——. The Wisdom of the Gods. London: T. Werner Laurie, 1925.
Whymant, Neville. Psychic Adventures in New York. London: Morley & Mitchell, 1931.