A spirit entity, the earliest permanent control of the medium
Leonora E. Piper. ‘‘Phinuit,’’ who succeeded the soi-disant
spirit of Sebastian Bach, said that he was French and a physician
in Metz, but never furnished convincing proof of identity.
His statements about himself were hazy and contradictory. As
N. S. Shaler wrote in a letter to William James of ‘‘Phinuit’s’’
first year of manifestation in 1894, ‘‘Whatever the medium is,
I am convinced that this influence is a preposterous scoundrel.’’
Philosophical Research Society Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
Attempts to verify the statements of ‘‘Phinuit’’ resulted in
failure. The archives of Metz were searched. No trace was
found of him. He could not even speak French. When an explanation
was asked, he declared that he had forgotten his maternal
tongue. Later, on closer questioning, he disclosed uncertainty
over whether he was born at Metz or Marseilles, and
finally concluded that his name was not ‘‘Phinuit,’’ but ‘‘Jean
Alaen Scliville.’’
Richard Hodgson regarded the existence of ‘‘Phinuit’’ as an
open question. To F. W. H. Myers, it seemed clear that the
name ‘‘Phinuit’’ was the result of a suggestion at one of the
early séances. Other psychical researchers thought it most
probable that ‘‘Phinuit’’ was nothing more than a secondary
personality of Piper.
According to ‘‘Imperator,’’ a later control, ‘‘Phinuit’’ was an
earthbound spirit who had become confused and bewildered in
his first attempts at communication and had lost his consciousness
of personal identity. The ‘‘Edmund Gurney’’ control also
bore out ‘‘Phinuit’s’’ claim to an independent existence. He
said to Sir Oliver Lodge in 1889 ‘‘Dr. Phinuit is a peculiar type
of man . . . he is eccentric and quaint, but good-hearted . . . a
shrewd doctor, he knows his own business thoroughly.’’
‘‘Phinuit’s’’ regime was exclusive from 1884 to 1892, but beginning
in 1892 he shared control with George Pelham. In
1897 the ‘‘Imperator’’ group took over Piper’s sessions and
‘‘Phinuit’’ was entirely suppressed.
Piper, Alta C. The Life and Work of Mrs. Piper. London K.
Paul, Trench, Trubner, & Co. Ltd., 1929.
Sage, M. Mrs. Piper and the Society for Psychical Research. New
York Scott-Thaw, 1904.