The curtain-enclosed space in which mediums claim to condense
the psychic energy necessary for séance-room manifestations.
Hereward Carrington suggested an electrical analogy:
less expenditure of energy is required to charge a small electric
conductor to a given voltage than a large one, so it may be with
the cabinet, ‘‘which acts as a sort of storage battery, retaining
the energy and liberating it in bundles of quanta during the séance.’’
Nineteenth-century biblical scholar Allen Putnam saw the
ark of the covenant as an interesting model by which to understand
the Spiritualist cabinet:
‘‘The ark of the covenant was constructed expressly for use
as a spirit battery, or an instrument through which to give forth
the commands of the Lord. The special care taken to have the
ark and all its appurtenances charged with the auras or magnetisms
of a selected class of workmen, becomes very interesting
in these days when much wonder is expressed at the customary
stickling of spirits and mediums for right conditions. Biblical
history furnishes precedent for great particularity, when constructing
a cabinet for manifestations.’’
The cabinet is usually of very simple construction. It need
not be more than a curtain thrown across a corner of the room.
The Davenport brothers employed a special one. It had three
doors; the middle door had a curtained opening on the top.
Through this opening, phantom hands were immediately
thrust out after the doors were shut on the mediums tied within
to their seats. However, such an elaborate arrangement suggests
a conjuror’s apparatus, and the phenomenon of the Davenports
is considered by many people to have been a stage illusion.
It is described in some detail by Houdini in A Magician
among the Spirits.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, many of the famous
mediums, such as D. D. Home and Stainton Moses, had
never used the cabinet. Through the course of the twentieth
century it has gone almost entirely out of use; the majority of
contemporary psychics and channels have never used the cabinet.
Houdini, Harry. A Magician among the Spirits. New York:
Harper & Brothers, 1924. Reprinted as Houdini: A Magician
among the Spirits. New York: Arno Press, 1972.
Putnam, Allen. Bible Marvel Workers. Boston, 1876.