‘‘King, John’’
One of the most romantic and frequently claimed spirit entities,
manifesting at many Spiritualist séances of different mediums
over many decades. He claimed that he had been Henry
Owen Morgan, the famous buccaneer who was knighted by
Charles II and appointed governor of Jamaica. ‘‘Katie King,’’
Florence Cook’s control, claimed to be John King’s daughter.
John King first manifested with the Davenport brothers in
1850, his first materialization following the flash of a pistol
fired by Ira Davenport in the dark. He remained as spirit manager
with the Davenports throughout their career, and in typtology
and direct voice he gave them sound advice during difficult
While faithfully serving the Davenport brothers, King took
charge of the séances in the loghouse of Jonathan Koons in the
wilds of Ohio. As the head of a band of 160 spirits, King
claimed descent from a race of men known as ‘‘Adam,’’ who
had as leaders ‘‘the most ancient angels.’’ They signed their
communications ‘‘King No. 1,’’ ‘‘No. 2,’’ and so forth, and
sometimes ‘‘Servant and Scholar of God.’’ In his last incarnation
King had strayed from the path of virtue and become a redoubtable
pirate. He communicated in direct voice through a
trumpet, his own invention, and through direct scripts. The
tone of these writings was sanctimonious and upbraiding (e.g.,
‘‘We know that our work will be rejected by many, and condemned
as the production of their King Devil, whom they profess
to repudiate, but do so constantly serve by crucifying truth
and rejecting all that is contrary to their own narrow pride and
vain imaginings.’’).
The Telegraph Papers of 1856 published a psychometric
reading of the writing of John King by a Mrs. Kellog and a Miss
Jay of New York, to whom the paper was handed in a sealed envelope.
Kellog became entranced and said
‘‘A person of great might and power appears before me—a
power unknown. I cannot compare him to anyone on earth. He
wields a mighty weapon. I can neither describe nor explain the
influence that emanates from him. I can only compare it to one
of whom we read in the Bible. It seems like unto one who ‘rules
the world.’ It does not seem to have been done by any human
being. It does not seem to me that a mortal could have been
employed even as the instrument for this writing. This is beyond
human effort.’’
Jay gave a similar reading ‘‘It must be a power so far exalted
in the scale of development as to grasp the great laws that govern
all material combinations. He does not seem to be of the
Earth, but to belong to another race of beings, whose spiritual
growth has continued for ages.’’
In the early years of British Spiritualism it was the aspiration
of many mediums to secure the influence of John King.
Mary Marshall was the first, Agnes Guppy-Volckman, GeorEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. ‘‘King, John’’
gina Houghton, Mrs. A. H. Firman, Charles Williams, William
Eglinton, and Cecil Husk followed. In the United States
he was claimed by Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Holmes and Helena
Petrovna Blavatsky during her early career as a Spiritualist. V.
S. Solovyoff, in his book A Modern Priestess of Isis (1895), suggested
that Blavatsky’s Mahatma Koot Hoomi was John King
transformed by Eastern garb.
On March 20, 1873, in a daylight séance conducted by
Charles Williams, John King manifested so successfully that a
sketch was made of him by an artist. A week later he appeared
again in solid and material form. He was usually seen in the
light of a peculiar lamp that he carried and that illuminated his
face and sometimes the room. In Paris on May 14, 1874, a
young man tried to seize him. John King eluded his grasp and
left a piece of drapery behind. The medium was found entranced.
He was searched, but no paraphernalia for deception
was discovered.
In time John King took charge of the physical phenomena
of Etta Wriedt in London. He greeted the sitters of Williams’s
and Cecil Husk’s circle by their names. W. T. Stead once found
a mislaid manuscript through communication in automatic
writing from John King. ‘‘Feda,’’ the control of Gladys Osborne
Leonard, informed H. Dennis Bradley during a séance
of his own that John King often helped with the voices and that
the volume of King’s voice was enormous.
Of all the public activities of John King, his association with
Eusapia Palladino was the most remarkable. He said in many
messages that Palladino was his reincarnated daughter. A curious
story of his appearance in strong light is told by Chevalier
Francesco Graus, an Italian engineer, in a letter to Vincent Cavalli.
The letter was published in Luce e Ombra in April 1907.
At the time of the narrative, Palladino worried herself ill over
the theft of her jewels. She was so affected by the reproaches
of the police inspector that she fainted. The table began to
move and rapped out, ‘‘Save my daughter, she is mad.’’ Graus
later wrote of the incident
‘‘A minute later in full light, a phenomenon occurred which
I shall never forget. On my left, in the space separating me
from Mme. Palladino, appeared the form of an old man, tall,
rather thin, with an abundant beard who, without speaking,
laid the full palm of his right hand on my head, which he
squeezed between his fingers as if to draw from it some vital
fluid, and when he saw fit he raised his hand and spread over
Eusapia’s head the fluid he had withdrawn from my brain. He
repeated this operation three times in succession, then the figure
dissolved. Mme. Palladino immediately returned to her
normal state. I remained for three consecutive days in such a
condition of cerebral prostration, on account of the fluid that
had been drawn from me, that I could not carry on the smallest
intellectual work.’’
King and Morgan
The identification of John King with Henry Owen Morgan,
the pirate, was investigated by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who
had in his possession a contemporary picture of the buccaneer
king. It bore no resemblance to the tall, swarthy man with a
noble head and full black beard who presented himself in
materialized form. But Doyle stated that a daughter of a recent
governor of Jamaica was confronted in a séance in London by
John King, who said to her, ‘‘You have brought back from Jamaica
something which was mine.’’ She asked, ‘‘What was it’’
He answered, ‘‘My will.’’ It was a fact. Her father had returned
with the document.
Through Etta Wriedt at Julia’s Bureau in London, John
King gave many particulars in regard to his corporeal life in Jamaica
and made beautiful bugle calls through the trumpet, saying
that was how he used to call his men together in the old buccaneering
days, one terrific blast being his signal to fight.
In February 1930 John King manifested in Glen Hamilton’s
circle in Winnipeg, Canada, and carried on a dialogue with
‘‘Walter,’’ who controlled another medium, feigning that they
were aboard a pirate ship among a crew of ruffians. This playacting
had a psychological purpose—the recovery of past memories
and the imagining of a sailing ship that was afterward
built out of ectoplasm.
The continued manifestation of John King with different
mediums over a period of some 80 years raises a number of interesting
questions. If the manifestations were genuine, why
should a relatively unimportant individual dominate séance
phenomena Why should such a personality exist virtually unchanged
for nearly a century Was there so little progress in the
spirit world Or did the interest of mediums in a well-defined
personality bring about conscious or unconscious fraud Or
was John King perhaps a fictitious personality like ‘‘Philip,’’
the experimental ‘‘ghost’’ created by members of the Toronto
Society for Psychical Research
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Medhurst, R. G., and K. M. Golney. ‘‘William Crookes and
the Physical Phenomena of Mediumship.’’ Proceedings of the
Society for Psychical Research 54 (1964).

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