Wood, C. E. (1854-?)

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Wood, C. E. (1854-?)

British materialization medium. She was born in October 1854. In 1873, at the age of 18, she was employed, with Annie Fairlamb, as an official medium by the Newcastle Spiritual Evidence Society. Fairlamb was a year younger. Both mediums apparently demonstrated telekinesis. Wood had shown the first signs of psychic power a year before at a meeting of the society to which she had been taken by her father, a mechanic. She stayed with the society for three years.

In 1874, partial materializations were obtained. Over the next few years there were some outstanding phenomena reported. For example, T. B. Barkas, a prominent Newcastle investigator, wrote in the Medium and Daybreak (May 4, 1877):

"I have seen, through the mediumship of Miss Wood, in a private house, living forms walk from the curtained recess, which it was utterly impossible for her to simulate. I have seen children, women and men of various ages, walk forth under her mediumship. I have seen a materialised form and the medium at the same time. I have had through her mediumship a childlike form standing beside me for about half an hour together; the child has placed its arms around my neck and permitted me at the same time to place my arm around her neck, and has laid its cheek against mine, breathed upon my face, and, in fact, caressed me precisely as a child would do its parent or guardian. This was not in darkness but in light, and in the presence of professors and fellows of one of the leading universities in the kingdom. I have, under these conditions, and after having handled the psychic form, seen it gradually vanish or dematerialise and become invisible in the middle of the room."

Barkas also remarked that "she is subject to strange controls, which there is some difficulty in banishing."

Alfred Smedley, in Some Reminiscences (1900), also reported on séances with Wood. While the medium was enclosed in a wire cage her phantom "Bennie" left excellent paraffin wax molds of his foot. In front of the sitters, he dipped his foot into the hot dish of paraffin and cold water, then put his left leg across his right knee, tapped the mold, dematerialized his leg, and, when the mold was free, handed it to Mr. Adshead. In the same séance, another left leg mold was obtained from "Maggie," Wood's deceased sister. On measurement it was found to be one inch less in length and one and three quarter inches less in breadth than Wood's foot.

In 1878, Henry Sidgwick engaged her for séances at Cambridge University and at the house of Arthur Balfour. F. W. H. Myers and Edmund Gurney were among the investigators. Alfred Russel Wallace wrote in his book My Life (2 vols., 1905) that Myers showed him several books full of notes on these séances and described to him the test that they applied. They tied the wrists of the medium securely with tape, leaving two long ends that they tacked down to the floor, covered with sealing wax, and sealed. As the medium lay on a mattress on the bare floor, the light was sufficient to see phantom figures of children and adults issuing from the cabinet. The tapes, knots, and seals were found afterward to be untampered with.

On the chance objection that the medium might provide herself with tape, tacks, wax, and seal, they varied the color of the sealing wax and the pattern of the seal and also employed a hammock that, by means of pulleys, was put on a weighing machine. Nevertheless, the phenomena occurred as before. Myers had never published these experiences.

Morell Theobald (at one time involved in a massive fraudulent mediumship scandal) in his book Spirit Workers in the Home Circle (1887) had some moving if nonevidential observations of Wood. "Pocka," a "vivacious coloured little sprite about three feet high" not only came out of the cabinet, but "went to my wife who was sitting 4 or 5 feet from the cabinet, took her hand, and as my wife leaned downwards she put her tiny arms round her neck and kissed her. Crossing over the room she took my hands, then my daughter's and afterwards my daughter-inlaw's hands, fondled them a bit, and retired to the cabinet."

However, like most materialization mediums who operated for any length of time, Wood was caught in fraud. In the mid-1870s, for example, the materialized form was seized and found to be the medium, after which Wood opined "that she was an unconscious instrument temporarily in the hands of an evil power." In 1882 Wood was exposed in Peterborough by spirit grabbing. "Pocka," her Indian child control, was found to be the medium on her knees, partially undressed and covered with muslin, which she attempted to conceal about her person.


Smedley, Alfred, and T. P. Barkas. Some Reminiscences of Alfred Smedley also an Account of Miss Wood's Mediumship. London: "Light," 1900.