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In this section we will examine different aspects of this phenomenon and give examples of such noted practitioners from ages past to present.
The Modern Spiritualists Movement
Kate, Maggie and Leah Fox
On March 31 of 1848, the Fox family of Hydesville, New York, began to experience a series of events that would affect all of them the rest of their lives. The family had been hearing strange rapping noises throughout their house for over a week. Twelve year old Kate Fox began to make her own rapping sounds which the noises in the house would soon imitate. Eventually the noises would respond to questions such as "what are the ages of the children in this house?
The Fox's House Hydesville, NY
The two youngest sisters, Kate and Maggie began interpreting these knockings for visitors, using a "numeric alphabet" and eventually Kate and Margaret were joined by their elder sister Leah and began holding seances in Leah's home (Aveni 155). The sisters went on to become very famous mediums and are, according to the Columbia Electronic encyclopedia, sometimes regarded as the founders of American Spiritualism. They received endorsements from such people as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Horace Greeley and became very famous, even receiving an invitation to the White House to conduct a seance for the wife of President Pierce.
Example of automatic writing produced during a seance involving Kate and Maggie Fox
Though several skeptics of the time declaimed them as fraudulent and demonstrated how they could be making the rapping noises without supernatural aid, the most damning proof of their fraudulence comes from the mouth of Margaret Fox herself, who told a reporter in 1888 that she had began the noises as a trick to frighten their mother, using at first an apple tied to a string on the floor, but later using the cracking sounds made by knuckles and toes. She also explained that she and Kate had gotten very good at reading peoples faces to figure out the answers to questions that were posed, so they could give the right answer (Aveni 160-161). She later recanted this confession and some people believe to this day that the Fox Sisters could truly communicate with the dead.
Spiritualism and Mediumship
Medium: A person who has the ability to communicate
with the spirits of the dead or with agents of another world or dimension.
Also called psychic.Types
of mediums: Trance medium, light trance medium, physical medium
Florence Cook (Physical Medium)
Florence Cook was the first British medium who exhibited full materializations in good light. The first attempt to produce 'Katie King' was made in April, 1872. A face like a death-mask was seen between the curtains of the cabinet. It is curious to note from a letter of Miss Cook to Mr. Harrison that previously in the afternoon Katie "told us that we must give her a bottle of phosphorescent oil because she could not get the phosphorus that was necessary from my body because my mediumship was not sufficiently developed." The bottle of oil was employed in the place of psychic light and lit up Katie's face. At this stage of development the medium was still conscious. Later she passed into trance. As time went on increased facility and practice enabled Katie King to show herself more clearly. Her face was felt and found hollow at the back. Later it filled out, the drapery became less abundant and in a year's time she walked out of the cabinet. Not long afterwards she withstood the first ordeal of flashlight photography. Her resemblance to the medium in the materialization attempts was soon noticed. She could not help it. To prove that she was distinct from her she changed the color of her face to chocolate and jet black. As a further proof the medium was tied by the sitters or sometimes by the spirits in the cabinet. Moreover, Katie King was different in stature, manner and personality.
Sir William Crookes and Katie King
It was reserved for Sir William Crookes to furnish the decisive proof of Katie's separate existence. The report of his long series of experiments, conducted in the Cook home and in his own laboratory, was published in 1874 and aroused a storm of ridicule, sarcasm and protest. Previous to this he felt prompted to come before the public in defense of Miss Cook in a curious incident.
(Authentic) Invitation to a Mr. Banks to attend a seance hosted by Florence Cook
On December 9th, 1873, the Earl and Countess of Caithness and Count de Medina Pomar were the guests of Mr. Cook. Mr. W. Volckman, one of the other guests present, became suspicious of Katie King, rushed forward, seized her hand, then her waist. A struggle ensued in which two of the medium's friends went to Katie's help who - in the testimony of Mr. Henry Dumphy, a barrister - appeared to lose her feet and legs and made a movement similar to that of a seal in water. According to his version Katie glided out of Mr. Volckman's grip, leaving no trace of corporal existence or surroundings in the shape of clothing. According to Volckman she was forcibly freed. The incontestable fact, however, was that five minutes later when the excitement subsided and the cabinet was opened Miss Cook was found in black dress and boots with the tape tightly round her waist as at the beginning of the seance, the knot sealed with the signet ring of the Earl of Caithness and untainted as at first. She was subsequently searched but no trace of white drapery was discovered.
As a result of the ordeal the medium became ill and Sir William Crookes came forward, in three letters in the Spiritualist press, with his experiences with Florence Cook. In his first letter he said that when Katie was standing before him in the room in the house of Mr. Luxmoore, he had distinctly heard from behind the curtain the sobbing and moaning of Miss Cook from the pangs of trance. The second and third letters contained accounts of seances held in Crookes' own house and at Hackney.
"the temptation to repeat a recent celebrated experiment became almost irresistible. Feeling, however, that if I had not a spirit I had at all events a lady close to me, I asked her permission to clasp her in my arms so as to be able to verify the interesting observations which a bold experimentalist had recently somewhat verbosely recorded. Permission was graciously given and I accordingly did - well as any gentleman would do under the circumstances. Mr. Volckman will be pleased to know that I can corroborate his statement that the 'ghost' (not 'struggling' however) was as material as Miss Cook herself."
On March 12th, 1874, Katie came to the opening of the curtain and summoned him to the assistance of the medium. Katie was in white. Crookes immediately went into the cabinet and found Miss Cook, clad in her ordinary black velvet dress, lying across the sofa. Katie vanished. Later in May Crookes actually saw the two forms together during the photographic experiments. To protect herself from the injuries of the flashlight Miss Cook, lying on the floor, muffled her face with a shawl. The account of Crookes says:
Katie King leaving curtained room
"I frequently drew the curtain on one side when Katie was standing near and it was a common thing for the seven or eight of us in the laboratory to see Miss Cook and Katie at the same time under the full blaze of the electric light. We did not on these occasions actually see the face of the medium, because of the shawl, but we saw her hands and feet; we saw her move uneasily under the influence of the intense light and we heard her moan occasionally."
An account of a seance on March 29th furnishes still better evidence for the simultaneous appearance of the two figures. Katie allowed Crookes to go into the cabinet. From shorthand notes taken at the time Crookes quotes his experiences:
Sir William Crookes
"I went cautiously into the room, it being dark, and felt about for Miss Cook. I found her crouching on the floor. Kneeling down, I let air enter the phosphorus lamp, and by its light I saw the young lady dressed in black velvet as she had been in the early part of the evening, and to all appearances perfectly senseless; she did not move when I took her hand and held the light quite close to her face, but continued quietly breathing. Raising the lamp I looked around and saw Katie standing close behind Miss Cook. She was robed in flowing white drapery as we had seen her previously during the seance. Holding one of Miss Cook's hands in mine, and still kneeling, I passed the lamp up and down so as to illuminate Katie's whole figure, and satisfy myself thoroughly that I was really looking at the veritable Katie whom I had clasped in my arms a few minutes before and not at the phantasm of a disordered brain. She did not speak but moved her head and smiled in recognition. Three separate times did I carefully examine Miss Cook, crouching before me to be sure that the hand I held was that of a living woman, and three separate times did I turn the lamp to Katie and examine her with steadfast scrutiny until I had no doubt whatever of her objective reality."
He also noticed that the blister which Miss Cook's neck showed was not to be found on Katie's neck and that Katie's ears were not pierced for earrings whereas Miss Cook's were.
Katie King and Florence Cook together
Of the many precautionary measures taken by Crookes to prevent fraud the electrical test devised by Cromwell Varley should be especially mentioned. The medium was placed in an electric circuit connected with a resistance coil and a galvanometer. The movements of the galvanometer were shown in the outer room to the sitters on a large graduated scale. Had the medium removed the wires the galvanometer would have shown violent fluctuations. Nothing suspicious occurred, yet Katie appeared, waved her arms, shook hands with her friends and wrote in their presence.
As an additional test Crookes asked Katie to plunge her hands into a chemical solution. No deflection of the galvanometer was noticed. This would have been infallibly the case if Katie had had the wires on her because the solution would have modified the current.
Katie King showing signs of stress after being photographed
Florence Marryat also testifies of having seen Katie together with Miss Cook. She writes in There is no Death:
"She called me after her into the back room and dropping her white garment, stood perfectly naked before me. 'Now,' she said, 'you can see that I am a woman.' Which indeed she was, and a most beautifully made woman too."
Katie King and Sir George Sitwell
On May 21st, 1874, Crookes witnessed the farewell meeting between Miss Cook and Katie behind the curtain. Katie woke Miss Cook from her trance. The farewell was very moving. They were talking affectionately and Miss Cook shed many tears. She never saw Katie again. Another influence which called herself "Marie" and danced and sang in a professional style took her place. On January 9th, 1880, Marie was grabbed by Sir George Sitwell. She did not dissolve. She was found to be the medium wearing only her corsets and flannel petticoat. The divested pieces of garment were brought out of the cabinet by another sitter. This time the medium did not fall ill. It is said that she was enveloped in white drapery when Sir George Sitwell grabbed her. This, however, may have been an optical illusion of the darkness as in cases of tranfiguring or transfiguration undergarments are not known to be resorted to supplant ectoplasmic effects. Moreover, in spite of the ordeal she fulfilled another seance engagement the next morning. But, according to Florence Marryat, following this exposure she declined to sit unless someone remained in the cabinet with her. The choice fell on the authoress. She was tied to her with a stout rope and remained thus fastened together the whole of the evening. Marie appeared, sang and danced just the same as the day before when she was seized. Owing to the many trials she had to undergo, the medium who, since 1874, was known by marriage as Mrs. Elgie Corner, for some time gave up public mediumship. In 1899, on the invitation of the Sphinx Society she sat, under test conditions, in Berlin. Marie materialized and produced astounding phenomena. The question whether she was occasionally a fraud is a very delicate one. The Sitwell exposure is the only condemnatory evidence. Camille Flammarion writes in a satiric vein that Home "gave it to me as his personal opinion that Miss Cook was only a skillful trickster and has shamefully deceived the eminent scientist, and as for mediums, why there was only one absolutely trustworthy and that was himself, Daniel Dunglas Home." Crookes certainly never found the least sign of deception and when he was notified of the death of Mrs. Corner, in a letter dated April 24, 1904, he expressed his deepest sympathy and declared again that the belief in an afterlife owes so much of its certainty to her mediumship.
Clairvoyance: A form of extrasensory perception whereby a person perceives distant objects, persons, or events, including "seeing" through opaque objects and the detection of types of energy not normally perceptible to humans.
Jeane Dixon 'AKA' Jeane L. Pinckert ( Clairvoyant )
Clairvoyance during the spiritualist period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was one of the aspects studied by members of the Society for Psychical Research. Psychics of many descriptions have claimed clairvoyant ability up to the present day.
While experimental research into clairvoyance began with SPR researchers, experimental studies became more systematic with the efforts of J. B. Rhine and his associates at Duke University, and such research efforts continue to the present day.
Current thinking is that most are born with clairvoyant abilities but then start to turn them off as children, and are brought up to adhere to demonstrable social norms. Numerous institutes offer training courses that attempt to revive the abilities present in those early years.
Oracles and divination
Physical object used during a seance at which time questions are asked of the spirit and answers are given by spirit presence. (Also known as dactylomancy).
Types of Oracles: Spirit table, pendulums, Ouija boards, spirit trumpet, scrying board, magic mirror, ect.
Group table tipping session
When the movement of modern spiritualism first reached Europe from America in the winter of 1852, the most popular method of consulting the spirits was for several persons to sit around a table, with their hands resting on it, and wait for the table to move. If the experiment was successful the table would rotate with considerable rapidity, and would occasionally rise in the air, or perform other movements.
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For believers the table was made to serve as a means of communicating with the spirits; the alphabet would be slowly called over and the table would tilt at the appropriate letter, thus spelling out words and sentences.
Promotional poster from Davenport and Bro's and Fay Seance road show
One of the most famous users of this device were the Davenport Brothers ( Ira Erastus Davenport 1839 - 1911 ) and ( William Henry Davenport 1841 - 1877 ). The Davenports began performing in 1854, less than a decade after the spiritualism movement had taken off in America.
They toured the United States for ten years and then traveled to England where spiritualism was beginning to become popular.
William Henry Davenport shortly before his death with Harry Houdini
In 1868 the team was joined by Harry Kellar. And William Fay, Kellar and Fay eventually would leave the group to pursue their own career together as a magician team. The Davenports were rejoined by William Fay for a final American tour before William Henry's death in 1877.
Before his death in 1911, Ira Erastus was interviewed by escape artist Harry Houdini, a noted skeptic of spiritualism. Ira told Houdini that he and his brother had never actually confirmed belief in spiritualism to their audiences and that the announcements made by Dr. Ferguson were simply part of the act.
Psychokinesis and telekinesis
The word psychokinesis is derived from the Greek language. The words tele meaning distant and psyche meaning breath, life or soul, and kinein meaning "to move."
Ninel Kulingina (Russian psychic and medium)
The occurrences of PK have been recorded since ancient times. Manifestations of PK have occurred in spiritualism such as alleged materialization's and dematerializations, apports, levitation's, table-tipping, raps, and the appearances of ectoplasm and pseudopods. One 19th century D. D. Holmes was known for his ability to levitate and to handle hot coals without being burned. But, also during this time, there were individuals known as "electric people" who experienced a"high-voltage syndrome". They made knives and forks cling to their skin, and with a touch could send furniture flying across a room.
A still shot from a film made of Nina Kulingina and shown during the First Moscow International Conference on Parapsychology (1968)
(Click play button to see clip)
Ninel Kulagina demonstrated that she could by mental direction alone, move objects across the table, displace compass needles, and make a pile of matches explode outwards. And she could subsequently show that by PK, she could separate the white of an egg, which had been broken in a saline solution, from its yolk, and stop the heart of a frog.
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The concentrating effort required to move objects by PK accelerated her pulse to 200 beats per minute, dangerously raised her blood pressure and upset her EEG wave pattern, which are the type of physical changes that normally only occur when a person is suffering great stress. They left the Leningrad housewife exhausted, dizzy, and depressed, and blurred her eyesight. They were eventually to result in a heart attack; this stopped her from taking part in further experiments.
Extra Sensory Perception: Ability to acquire information by means other than the five canonical senses
ESP testing at the Rhine Institute in the 1950's
The Rhine Research Center Institute for Parapsychology is one of the world's oldest and best known foundations devoted to paranormal study. A nonprofit organization based in Durham, North Carolina, the Center applies scientific methods toward the exploration of extrasensory perception and psychokinesis
In 1927, Dr. J. B. Rhine (1895-1980) began conducting studies of psychic phenomena in the university's psychology department at Duke University.
Precognition (extrasensory awareness of a future event or events)
Michel de Notre Dame
Also known as Nostradamus, he was born in the year 1503 in ST. Remy de Provence, France. Nostradamus went to Medicine University at the age of 18, but he finished in 1533. He got married at the age of 30 and he had two children, but his happiness was for a short time, because his wife and children died in a big plague. He traveled all over the country for 8 years; then he stopped at d'Orval monastery where he wrote he's first important manuscript "The Prophecies of a lonely man".
In 1554 he moved to Marseilles to help aid those in need during the great plague in Salon. He remarried with a rich widow, Anne Ponsart Gemelle. The rumors said that here he started to have his visions about the future.. alone, isolated in his room in the tower,. Nostradamus wrote here many of his books: De Mysteries Egyptorum and the famous Centuries. The works came out in two editions and all the time he wrote them he was completely isolated. No one was allowed to enter his room without his permission.
In 1555 he completed the Centuries, a book of more than 900 predictions about the fate of France, the world, and celebrated persons of his time. The title of the book refers to the fact that the contents are arranged in sections of 100 verses each. An expanded version was published in 1558. His prophecies are written as four-lined rhymed verses (quatrains) in vague, often cryptic language,. his fondness for anagrams and his penchant for sprinkling his verses with Hebrew, Latin, and Portuguese words further complicates interpretation of his writings.
Levitation is a phenomenon of psychokinesis (PK) in which objects, people, and animals are lifted into the air without any visibly physical means and float or fly about.
Public display of physical medium Colin Evans levitating during a seance in the 1930's
Some physical mediums claimed to have experienced levitations. The most famous is Daniel Douglas Home, who reportedly did it over a forty-year period. In 1868 he was witnessed levitating out of a third-story window, and he floated back into the building through another window. When levitating Home was not always in a trance, but conscious and later described his feelings during the experiences.
Once he described "an electrical fulness (sic)" sensation in his feet. His arms became rigid and were drawn over his head, as though he was grasping an unseen power which was lifting him. He also levitated furniture and other objects.
The Catholic Church excommunicated Home as a sorcerer. He was never discovered to be a fraud like other mediums who used wires and other contraptions to levitate objects.
Spontaneous human combustion
Spontaneous human combustion: The burning of a person's body without a readily apparent, identifiable external source of ignition.
May 18, 1957, Anna Martin, 68, of West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The idea that a human body can burst into flames without an external source of combustion is not accepted by mainstream science, although some individual scientists believe it is possible. This is not a new debate, but one that has been conducted over the last several centuries, and is still ongoing.
Many people believe that Spontaneous Human Combustion was first documented in such early texts as the Bible, but, scientifically speaking, these accounts are too old and secondhand to be seen as reliable evidence.
There are people that claim to have survived spontaneous human combustion, and many have documented their experiences. It is unclear as to whether these incidences of partial burning represent spontaneous human combustion or another theoretical event called static fire. Static fire is believed to be generated by high levels of static electricity in the body.
Under certain conditions it may be possible for static charge to create a spark that might ignite flammable clothing. There are several documented cases of witnesses to spontaneous fire which might be explained by static fire. Some wick theorists claim that static fire could be the source of ignition for a wick fire.
To date there is no unopposed theory for the phenomenon known as spontaneous human combustion. Less popular explanations range from paranormal causations to alleged nuclear fusion triggered by a hypothetical subatomic particle.
Psychic Surgery: A paranormal surgical procedure, practiced chiefly in the Philippines and Brazil.
Mr. Arrigo the famed Brazilian psychic surgeon at work in 1971
Psychic surgery originated in the Philippine Islands. There are many psychic surgeons practicing there today.
Psychic surgery is performed through the mind and spirit of the healer. In a visionary experience, the healer beliefs they have been given the gift of healing and psychic surgery by the Holy Spirit.
In psychic surgery the healer uses the mind to concentrate spiritual power through the hands into the body of the patient. The healer in semi-trance or meditative state has his hands guided by the spirit; the spirit detects those parts of the body in which disease is developing and injects spiritual energy into those parts. Blood and tissue materialize on the patient's body; cartilage, bone, worms, stones and other objects might materialize on to the body.
Sometimes the spirit causes the healer's hands to enter the body and attract diseased tissue. This tissue is pulled out without leaving a wound or scar. the tissue closes as the hands are taken out of the body; energy projected from the healer's hands opens body tissue much as an orthodox surgeon uses a scalpel to do the same thing.
Fire walking: The act of walking barefoot over a bed of hot coals
Kuda Bux fire walking for London Council for Psychical Research in 1935
(Click to see clip)
The oldest recorded fire walk occurred over 4,000 years ago in India. Two Brahmin priests were competing to see who could walk farther over hot coals. The victor's triumph was recorded in writings surviving to this day. In a 17th century letter, Father Le Jeune, a Jesuit priest, wrote to his superior telling of a healing fire walk he witnessed among the North American Indians.
He reports of a sick woman walking through two or three hundred fires with bare legs and feet, not only without burning, but all the while commenting on that she could feel no uncomfortable heat. Some 30 years later, Father Marquette reported similar fire walk among the Ottawa Indians and Jonathan Carver writes in his 1802 book, Travels in North America that one of the most astounding sights he saw was the parade of warriors who would "walk naked through a fire with apparent immunity."
Kirlian photography: A form of contact print photography which supposedly shows an image of an aura
Photograph of a human hand using Kirlian Photography
Kirlian photography is named after Semyon Kirlian, who in 1939 accidentally discovered that if an object on a photographic plate is subjected to a strong electric field, an image is created on the plate. Kirlian proposed and promoted the idea that the resulting images of living objects were a physical proof of the life force or aura which allegedly surrounds all living beings.
This claim was said to be supported by experiments by the Kirlians that involved cutting part of a leaf off and the Kirlian images of such leaves, it was said, still showed the leaves as whole, as though the cutting had never happened.
Researchers at Drexel University, however, have claimed that they were unable to reproduce the effect when the glass used to capture the original leaf was replaced with new glass before the freshly cut leaf was photographed, leading them to conclude that the "cut leaf" phenomenon was caused by microscopic etching in the surface of the glass which occurred during preparing the images of the uncut leaf.
They also reported on a number of demonstrable causes such as surface moisture and pressure which can account for much of the variations in color, shape, and size of the resulting image. In addition to living material, inanimate objects such as coins will also produce images on the film in a Kirlian photograph setup.
(The material on this page was compiled from many different written texts.)
These are but a few examples of the the fascinating realm of psychical type phenomenon. We suggest that if you are interested in this subject matter please visit:
For further reading please feel free to visit the following web sites:
Society for Psychical Research, Inc.
West 73rd Street New York, New York 10023
British Society for Psychical
49 Marloes Road Kensington, London W8 6LA
Rhine Research Center of Parapsychology
2741 Campus Walk Avenue Building 500 Durham, NC 27705
Lily Dale Assembly
5 Melrose Park PO Box 248 Lily Dale, NY 14752
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