‘‘King, Katie’’
The famous spirit control of Florence Cook. Katie claimed
to be the daughter of the equally famous spirit entity ‘‘John
King,’’ but there is even less proof of her identity than of her
father’s.
Katie began to manifest in the Cook house when Florence
was a girl of 15. She was seen almost daily, the first time in April
1872, showing a deathlike face between the séance curtains.
Later her materializations became more perfect, but it was
only after a year of experimental work that she could walk out
of the cabinet and show herself in full view to the sitters.
She became a nearly permanent inhabitant of the Cook
household, walked about the house, appeared at unexpected
moments, and allegedly went to bed with the medium, much
to Cook’s annoyance. When Florence Cook married, complications
arose. According to Florence Marryat, Captain Corner
felt at first as if he had married two women and was not quite
sure which one was his wife.
According to all accounts Katie was a beautiful girl. In his famous
investigations of psychic phenomena, Sir William
Crookes had 40 flashlight photographs of Katie. In most of
them she noticeably resembled Cook, but Crookes had no
doubt of her independent identity. He wrote
‘‘Photography was inadequate to depict the perfect beauty
of Katie’s face, as words are powerless to describe her charm of
manner. Photography may, indeed, give a map of her countenance;
but how can it reproduce the brilliant purity of her complexion,
or the ever varying expression of her most mobile features,
now overshadowed with sadness when relating some of
the bitter experiences of her past life, now smiling with all the
innocence of happy girlhood when she had collected my children
round her, and was amusing them by recounting anecdotes
of her adventures in India’’
Katie claimed that her name during her earthly existence
was Annie Owen Morgan. She said she was about 12 years old
when Charles I was beheaded. She married, had two children,
and committed many crimes, murdering men with her own
hands. She died quite young, at age 22 or 23. Katie said her attachment
to Florence Cook served the purpose of convincing
the world of the truth of Spiritualism. This work was given her
on the other side as a service to expiate her earthly sins, she
claimed. On her farewell appearance, after three years of constant
manifestations, she declared that her years of suffering
were now over; she would ascend to a higher sphere from which
she could only correspond with her medium through automat-
‘‘King, Katie’’ Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
862
ic writing at long intervals, although Cook would be able to see
her clairvoyantly.
In her early manifestations in the séances of the Davenport
brothers, Katie King was apparently far less spiritual than at
the time of the Crookes records. Robert Cooper, describing a
direct voice consultation of the spirits by the Davenports,
wrote
‘‘The next minute a shrill female voice was heard immediately
in front of us. It was like that of a person of the lower walks
of life and talked away, like many persons do, for the mere sake
of talking. It was intimated that it was ‘Kate’ who was speaking.
There was a great attempt on her part at being witty, but according
to my ideas on such matters, most of what was said
would come under the category of small—very small—wit.’’
In another passage he wrote
‘‘Unlike John, Kate will talk any length of time, as long in
fact as she can find anything to talk about, even if it be the most
frivolous nonsense; but I must do her the justice to say that she
talks sensibly enough at times, and I have heard great wisdom
in her utterances, and satisfactory answers given to profound
philosophical questions.’’
The ‘‘Katie’’ who assisted ‘‘John King’’ in the séances of
Frank Herne and Charles Williams was apparently not identifiable
with Katie King, since the former—after the materialization
of a black hand—was described as a descendant of an African.
Her voice was like a whisper, but perfectly distinct. The
transportation of Agnes Guppy-Volckman to Williams’s room
was put down to her achievement.
A rather dubious Katie King manifested through the mediumship
of Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Holmes, of Philadelphia.
Henry T. Child and Robert Dale Owen stated that they saw her
materialize on May 12, 1874. Owen said he believed that she
was identical to Cook’s control, though her features differed
from those in the photograph of the London Katie. The nose
was straight, not aquiline, and the expression was more intellectual.
Crookes, when he saw a photograph of the Philadelphia
Katie, did not hesitate to declare her a fraud.
To justify her appearance in the United States, the Philadelphia
Katie King declared, ‘‘Some of my English friends misinterpreted
my parting words. I took final leave not of your
Earth, but of dear Florrie Cook, because my continuance with
her would have injured her health.’’ This was a rather limp explanation
that did not fit the fact that Cook, under the control
of another spirit, ‘‘Marie,’’ continued her materialization séances
without injury to her health. On November 2, 1874,
Owen reaffirmed his belief in the genuineness of the Katie King
phenomena, but only a month later withdrew his assurances in
the face of convincing evidence that he had been the victim of
fraud. Child made a similar statement.
In October 1930 Katie King unexpectedly manifested in the
circle of Glen Hamilton in Winnipeg, Canada. Photographs
were taken. According to Hamilton,
‘‘Obviously it was wholly impossible to say whether or not
this Mary M.-Mercedes-Katie King is the same being as the entity
appearing in the experiments of Crookes and others. We
have the word of the controls in this case that it is so and we
have seen how, so far, these controls have repeatedly established
the fact that they know whereof they speak. . . . While
there are, I may say, some points of similarity to be traced between
Katie as photographed by Crookes and Katie as photographed
in the Winnipeg experiments, both faces for instance
being rather long in formation, the eyes in both being large
and luminous, the angle of the jaw in both being rather pronounced,
the later Katie is so much younger in appearance, her
beauty so much more apparent that it is evident that we cannot
use the earlier record of her presence in any way as conclusive
proof that there is any connection between the two.’’
Meanwhile, serious doubts have been cast upon the Katie
King phenomena of Florence Cook. In his book The Spiritualists
(1962), Trevor H. Hall presents persuasive evidence that
Crookes may have used the Katie King séances as a cover for
an illicit love affair with Cook. More recently, Ray Stemman reported
that Katie King materialized in Rome in July 1974 with
the medium Fulvio Rendhell.
Sources
Hall, Trevor. The Spiritualists. New York Helix Press, 1963.
Revised as The Medium and the Scientist. Buffalo, N.Y. Prometheus
Books, 1984.
Medhurst, R. G., and K. M. Golney. ‘‘William Crookes and
the Physical Phenomena of Mediumship.’’ Proceedings of the
Society for Psychical Research 54 (1964).
Stemman, Roy. Spirits and Spirit Worlds. Garden City, N.Y.
Doubleday, 1975.

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