Commonwealth of Independent States See
Communication (Between Living and Dead)
The possibility of communication between the living and the
world of the dead (spirits and nonhuman intelligences) was the
dominant issue raised by Spiritualism in the mid-nineteenth
century, and the verification of Spiritualist claims dominated
psychical research through the first half of the twentieth century.
Spiritualist claims that certain individuals could regularly
demonstrate communication with the dead and psychical research’s
quest for scientific proof of this alleged phenomenon
emerged in response to the Enlightenment’s critique of supernaturalism
and demands for scientific verification of any such
Claims of communication with the dead have been an integral
part of human experience since the beginning of history.
Accounts of spontaneous contact date to ancient times, as do reports
of specialists who claimed an extraordinary ability at regular
contact with the dead. Such specialists were known by a variety
of names, but in Spiritualism they have been referred to
as mediums. Most Spiritualists have been satisfied that the
human organism of a talented medium is the best mechanism
for communication with spirits. The clarity and reliability of
communication are usually considered dependent upon whether
unseen operators can make use of the medium’s sensitivity
when his or her will and consciousness are passive. This function
has been termed sensory automatism by psychical researchers.
Sometimes communication is assisted by a mechanical indicator
such as a planchette or Ouija board. Throughout the
twentieth century mechanical devices to effect communication
without using the human organism, such as the Ashkir-Jobson
Trianion, have been invented. Such devices, of course, involve
the presence of human observers, who, it might be supposed,
could exert a mediumistic element, if only subconsciously. It
was long hoped that a suitable instrument could be invented
that would elevate communication with the dead to the domain
of pure physics, but, with some notable exceptions, few scientists
have been willing to risk ridicule by devoting their energies
to such a project. One exception was inventor Thomas A. Edison,
who hoped to construct an instrument for communicating
with departed spirits. A review of mechanical devices used in
spirit communication follows.
Mechanical Communication
In his book Startling Facts in Modern Spiritualism (1874), N.
B. Wolfe records a spirit prediction that a ‘‘thought indicator’’
instrument for spirit communication would be invented about
60 years later. In fact, during the 1930s a group of British psychical
researchers formed the Ashkir-Jobson Trianion and devised
several apparatuses, among them the communigraph
and the reflectograph, to facilitate spirit communication by
mechanical means.
From time to time other experimenters have also attempted
to develop mechanical methods of spirit communication. In
1948 N. Zwaan, a Dutch delegate to the International Spiritualist
Federation Congress in London, demonstrated an electrical
device he claimed produced a field of energy capable of stimulating
the psychic senses into activity. In 1949 Mark Dyne
called a meeting of Spiritualists in Manchester, England, where
Dennis Russell demonstrated a Zwaan ray apparatus, and the
Spirit Electronic Communication Society was founded. In 1952
the Teledyne Research Unit was formed with Don Emerson as
medium, and with spirit guidance the Teledyne instrument was
constructed employing Zwaan ray principles.
Other devices included the dynamistograph and the
Vandermeulen spirit indicator.
In the 1970s there was widespread interest expressed in the
electronic voice phenomenon or Raudive voices, developed
by Friedrich Jürgenson in Sweden and Konstantin Raudive in
Germany. Jürgenson and Raudive claimed that voices of dead
people could be recorded on a tape recorder, that these voices
could answer questions andor offer verifiable evidence of survival.
The simplest technique involved merely making a recording
in a quiet room with an open microphone, with a preliminary
announcement, then to playing the tape back at
maximum volume. A second method involved connecting the
tape recorder to a simple diode circuit. A third method consisted
of coupling an ordinary broadcast receiver to the tape recorder,
which was tuned to a frequency that appeared devoid
of normal signals.
Paranormal voices distinct from either radio signals, extraneous
sounds, or the ‘‘white noise’’ backgrounds were said to
Common Ground Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
have been recorded. In some cases the voices occurred at a different
speed from the recording. They were sometimes noted
to have broken through or interrupted radio sounds.
Because of the ambiguity of so many of the claimed paranormal
voices and the susceptibility of a listener to hallucinate
sounds from faint signals, there was initially a good deal of
skepticism about the electronic voice phenomenon, but there
was also much responsible scientific support. Interest in the
phenomenon declined since it failed to produce results over a
period of time.
Motor Automatism
Motor automatism refers to the action of the body, independently
of the conscious will, in the production of extraordinary
phenomena. Such motor automatism is seen in the movement,
under the hand, of the séance table, Ouija board, planchette,
coin, tumbler, or pendulum inside an alphabetical circle; in the
striking of the pendulum against a glass; in raps when a nervous
explosion appears to explain the phenomenon; in automatic
writing, and in trance speaking. A stranger manifestation
of motor automatism has been reported in some rare cases
of stigmata, in which messages appear in raised letters on the
surface of the medium’s skin.
On occasion, the motor effects of the divining rod employed
as a means of communication. According to Professor
E. Garnett of the Transvaal University College is quoted in
Stanley de Brath’s book The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism
(1947), ‘‘During the past few months my son has discovered
that in reply to definite question, the rod [divining rod] behaves
as planchette. The method he adopts is as follows The
rod is held at forehead level, almost vertical. Questions are
asked in usual tone and pitch of voice. For ‘Yes’ the rod moves
forward and downward. For ‘No’ the rod moves backward and
The tilting of the table in table turning séances or the gentle
tapping by a table leg indicating a letter of the alphabet was a
crude and laborious, but popular form of communication during
the nineteenth century. The Ouija board and other alphabetical
arrangements represent a simplification of the process.
Raps are more effective, and they eliminate the medium’s subconscious
to a greater degree, but they are rarer. The planchette
approaches automatic writing, and trance speaking is
motor automatism at its most effective.
Sensory Automatism
Sensory automatism may involve some degree of mediumistic
consciousness and is witnessed in the delivery of messages
by clairvoyance, clairaudience, and telepathy, or in the perception
of symbolic visions. The clairvoyant messages may be
presented pictorially to the medium’s mind, externalized in a
crystal ball or other shining surface, or heard in seashells or by
inner audition.
Many instances of message-bearing symbolic visions are recorded
by Ernest Bozzano in the Annals of Psychical Science (volume
6, 1907). In one instance, a mother saw a little bird flying
in a deserted plain a little bird whose wings suddenly fell off.
Soon after the vision her son died.
Independent Physical Signals
In a third and further-developed stage of communication,
Spiritualists have claimed that both motor and sensory automatism
are dispensed with and messages occur in apparent independence
through the operation of a mysterious psychic force.
Observers have seen tables move without being touched and
heard percussive sounds that could not be traced to the medium’s
Sir William Crookes recorded the following observations
with the famous medium D. D. Home ‘‘One of the most amazing
things I have seen was the levitation of a glass water-bottle
and tumbler. The two objects remained suspended above the
table, and by tapping against each other answered ‘yes’ to questions.
They remained suspended about six to eight inches
above the table for about five minutes, moving in front of each
person and answering questions.’’
At another time Crookes observed ‘‘During a séance with
Mr. Home a small lath moved across the table to me in the light
and delivered a message to me by tapping my hand; I repeating
the alphabet and the lath tapping me at the right letters. The
other end of the lath was resting on the table, some distance
from Mr. Home’s hands.
‘‘The taps were so sharp and clear and the lath was evidently
so well under control of the invisible power which was governing
its movements, that I said ‘Can the intelligence governing
the motion of this lath change the character of the movements,
and give me a telegraphic message through the Morse alphabet
by taps on my hand.’ Immediately I said this the character of
the taps changed and the message was continued in the way I
had requested. The letters were given too rapidly for me to do
more than catch a word here and there and consequently I lost
the message; but I heard sufficient to convince me that there
was a good Morse operator at the other end of the line, wherever
it might be.’’
Deceiving Spirits and the Play of the Subconscious
To anyone seriously pursuing the possibility of spirit communication,
the questions that present themselves are numerous.
Are the communications to be accepted at their face value
as emanating from spirits Can they be explained by the subconscious
powers of the medium, of the sitters, or of others
As early as 1853 G. H. Lewes observed (and exploited for
purposes of derision) that suggestion may play an important
part in the shaping of the contents of mediumistic verbiage. He
described a sitting for raps with Maria B. Hayden when, by
carefully emphasized hesitation at the appropriate letters he
had a conversation with one of the Eumenides. At the same sitting
he induced the table to confess, in reply to his mental question,
that Hayden was an impostor and that the ghost of Hamlet’s
father had 17 noses!
In The Book of Mediums, French medium Allan Kardec writes
of an instance in which the medium evoked Tartuffe, who he
showed himself in all his classical peculiarities. When the medium
asked, ‘‘How is it that you are here, seeing that you never
had any real existence’’ Tartuffe answered ‘‘I am the spirit of
an actor who used to play the part of Tartuffe.’’
But no such fencing was possible in the following case, also
recorded by Kardec ‘‘A gentleman had in his garden a nest of
little birds. This nest having disappeared one day, he became
uneasy as to the fate of his little pets. As he was a medium he
went into his library and invoked the mother of the birds to get
some news of them. ‘Be quite easy,’ she replied to him, ‘my
young ones are safe and sound. The house-cat knocked down
the nest in jumping upon the garden wall; you will find them
in the grass at the foot of the wall.’ The gentleman hurried to
the garden and found the little nestlings, full of life, at the spot
Highly improbable communications came sometimes even
through mediums of established reputation. In a sitting with
Lenora Piper in 1899, the biblical Moses reportedly communicated
prophecies as well as a variety of meaningless utterances.
There have been numerous communications attributed to
‘‘deceiving’’ spirits. Theodor Flournoy, in his 1911 classic text
Spiritism and Psychology, records instances in which mediumistic
conversations were carried on for days with the spirits of friends
who announced their sudden death. It was found afterward that
they were in flourishing health and had no idea of the distress
they had caused.
It was known from early times that communications allegedly
coming from the spirits cannot always be trusted. Emanuel
Swedenborg wrote in his spiritual diary ‘‘When spirits begin
to speak with man he must beware lest he believe them in any
thing; for they say almost anything. Things are fabricated by
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Communication (Between Living and Dead)
them and they lie. If man then listens and believes, they press
on and deceive and seduce in divers ways.’’
To some extent the character of an established control may
be responsible for untrustworthy communications. Hester
Dowden observed that the controls seem to have a private circle
of acquaintances to draw from. These acquaintances always
choose to come through the same control and are generally as
trustworthy as the keeper of the unseen barrier. When the control
was seeking a communicator Dowden often noticed that
quite foolish and irrelevant little messages were spelled out as
if spirits of the poltergeist type had been playing with the Ouija
Communications that seem to originate in an extraneous
mind are sometimes followed by others in which the subconscious
element is overwhelming. Dowden cited a case in which
description of a haunted castle was given. She wanted to stop
the communication as one of no interest when her guest interrupted
and said that he was very much interested, since the
story that came through was the plot of his new play.
Generally the communications are earnest and their tone is
moral and religious. In discussing the various angles presented
by the contents of mediumistic communications, F. W. H.
Myers concluded
‘‘The high moral quality of these automatic communications
is a phenomenon worth consideration. I must indeed confess
myself unable to explain why it is that beneath frequent incoherence,
frequent commonplaces, frequent pomposity of these
messages, there should always be a substratum of better sense,
of truer Catholicity than is usually to be heard, except from the
leading minds of the generation. The almost universally high
tone of genuinely automatic utterances—whether claimed as
spirit communications or proceeding obviously from the automatist
himself—has not, I think, been sufficiently noticed or
adequately explained.’’
The Personal Character—Difficulties and
Complications of Communications
The great question in all communications that originates in
the subconscious is why they should take on the form of personal
character. William James offered an explanation, that ‘‘all
consciousness tends to personal form.’’ He believed that genuine
communications are extremely rare and that the information
occasionally imparted by supernormal means is immediately
seized upon by the subconscious mind and presented in
a dramatized and elaborated form. His supposition is borne
out by the observations of Frederik van Eeden with the medium
Rosina Thompson. The sum total of his findings was that
after the genuine information has ceased, the role of any spirit
is easily and imperceptibly taken up by the medium.
What is the mechanism of communication In the trance
mediumship of Leonora Piper the controls took pains to give
an explanation, later summarized by Richard Hodgson
‘‘We all have bodies composed of luminiferous ether enclosed
in our flesh and blood bodies. The relation of Mrs.
Piper’s ethereal body to the ethereal world, in which communicators
claim to dwell is such that a special store of energy is accumulated
in connection with her organism, and this appears
to them as ‘light.’ Mrs. Piper’s ethereal body is removed by
them and her ordinary body appears as a shell filled with this
‘light.’ Several communicators may be in contact with this light
at the same time. There are two chief masses of it in her case,
one connected with the head, the other in connection with the
right arm and hand. Latterly, that in connection with the hand
has been brighter than that in connection with the head. If the
communicator gets into contact with the light and thinks his
thoughts, they tend to be reproduced by movements in Mrs.
Piper’s organism. Very few can produce vocal effects, even
when in contact with the light of the head, but practically all can
produce writing movements when in contact with the light of
the hand. Upon the amount and brightness of this light, caeteris
paribus, the communications depend. When Mrs. Piper is in ill
health the light is feebler and the communications tend to be
less coherent. It also gets used up during a sitting and when it
gets dim there is a tendency to incoherence even in otherwise
clear communicators. In all cases coming into contact with this
light tends to produce bewilderment, and if the contact is continued
too long or the light becomes very dim the consciousness
of the communicator tends to lapse completely.’’
Multiple Communications
To obtain communications from two different intelligences
at the same time, one writing and the other speaking, was nothing
unusual in Piper’s mediumship. Attempts were even made
at gaining the use of the left hand by a third intelligence for simultaneous
communication. Hodgson reported that at a sitting
where a lady was engaged in a profoundly personal conversation
with Piper’s control ‘‘Phinuit’’ concerning her relations,
‘‘the hand was seized very quietly and, as it were, surreptitiously,
and wrote a very personal communication to myself purporting
to come from a deceased friend of mine and having no
relation whatsoever to the sitter; precisely as if a caller should
enter a room where two strangers to him were conversing, but
a friend of his is also present and whispers a special message
into the ear of the friend without disturbing the conversation.’’
The attempt to write with the left hand was successfully
made on March 18, 1895, in a sitting with a Miss Edmunds. Her
deceased sister wrote with one hand and ‘‘G. P.’’ with the other,
while ‘‘Phinuit’’ was talking—all simultaneously on different
subjects. Very little, however, was written with the left hand.
The difficulty appeared to lie chiefly in the deficiencies of the
left hand in writing.
Piper’s case was not unique. Dr. David Underhill (later the
husband of Leah Fox), in his story of the mediumship of Abby
Warner (related in E. Hardinge Britten’s Modern American Spiritualism),
quotes affidavits and writes from his own experience
that Warner often gave three separate communications at
once—one with her right hand, another with her left, and a
third through rapping.
Robert Dale Owen testified to the same versatility in Kate
Fox. William Crookes confirmed Owen’s observations ‘‘I have
been with Miss Fox when she has been writing a message automatically
to one person present, whilst a message to another
person on another subject was being given alphabetically by
means of raps and the whole time she was conversing freely
with a third person on a subject totally different from either.’’
Confusion and Incoherence
The incoherency of some of the messages received through
mediums and the difficulties in communicating with the dead
presented a very complex problem. Richard Hodgson, on the
basis of his experiences with Piper, arrived at the following conclusions
‘‘If, indeed, each one of us is a spirit that survives the death
of the fleshly organism, there are certain suppositions that I
think we may not unreasonably make concerning the ability of
the discarnate spirit to communicate with those yet incarnate.
Even under the best conditions for communication which I am
supposing for the nonce to be possible, it may well be that the
aptitude for communicating clearly may be as rare as the gifts
that make a great artist, or a great mathematician, or a great
philosopher. Again, it may well be that, owing to the change
connected with death itself, the spirit may at first be much confused,
and such confusion may last for a long time; and even
after the spirit has become accustomed to its new environment,
it is not an unreasonable supposition that if it came into some
such relation to another living human organism as it once
maintained with its own former organism it would find itself
confused by that relation. The state might be like that of awaking
from a prolonged period of unconsciousness into strange
surroundings. If my own ordinary body could be preserved in
its present state, and I could absent myself from it for some
days or months or years, and continue my existence under anCommunication
(Between Living and Dead) Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
other set of conditions altogether, and if I could then return to
my own body, it might well be that I should be very confused
and incoherent at first in my manifestation by means of a
human body. I might be troubled with various forms of aphasia
and agraphia, might be particularly liable to failures of inhibition,
might find the conditions oppressive and exhausting, and
my state of mind would probably be of an automatic and
dream-like character. Now the communications through Mrs.
Piper’s trance exhibit precisely the kind of confusion and incoherence
which it seems to me we have some reason a priori to
expect if they are actually what they claim to be.’’
Myers pointed out the resemblance of such communications
to the fugitive and unstable discourse between different strata
of personality of which embodied minds offer an example. He
suggested that multiple personality may occur in the disembodied
as well.
The explanations of Piper’s control ‘‘George Pelham’’ presented
a Spiritualist explanation of the communication process
‘‘In trance the ethereal body of the psychic parts from the
physical body just as it does in dreams and then we take possession
of it for the purpose of communication. Your conversation
reaches us as if by telephone from a distant station. Our forces
fail us in the heavy atmosphere of the world, especially at the
end of the séance. . . . If I often blunder it is because I am making
use of an organism which does not fit me well. . . . When
clear communications are wanted you must not stun them with
questions. In order to reveal themselves to you the spirits put
themselves in an environment that discommodes them a good
deal. They are like persons who have received a blow on the
head and are in a state of semi-delirium. They must be calmed,
encouraged, assured that their idea will immediately be of
great importance. To put ourselves into communication with
you we must penetrate into your sphere and we sometimes become
careless and forgetful as you are. That is the reason why
we make mistakes and are incoherent. I am as intelligent as I
ever was, but the difficulties of communicating with you are
great. In order to speak with you it is necessary for me to reenter
the body and there dream. Hence you must pardon my
errors and the lacunae in my speech and memory.’’
A message claimed to be from the deceased W. T. Stead, recorded
in Julia’s Bureau on June 2, 1912, is similar ‘‘When I
see now for myself the extraordinary difficulties in getting messages
through from this side, I marvel not that we got so little
in all our searchings when I was with you but that we got as
much as we did. For it is you, your conditions which make the
Piper’s controls could not hold on long in the body of the
medium and often got confused through the eagerness of the
interrogator. The spirit of Robert Hyslop said to his son, ‘‘You
interrupt me, I ought to go now for my power is failing me and
I don’t know what I am doing.’’ Another time he said ‘‘James,
I am getting weaker, wait for me, I am coming back.’’ This experience
was common with all the communicators. Free, easy
chatter, safe from concentration on tests is conducive to better
communications. James H. Hyslop, in his sixteenth sitting with
Piper, when he adopted the methods of the Spiritualists, obtained
more identity proofs than in all the previous 15 sittings.
The first attempts in getting through are usually fraught
with greater difficulties. By a curious process of inversion, the
recently dead individual reproduces the symptoms of his last
bodily illness in the body of the medium without conscious effort
and causes her great discomfort. At the same time the communicator
lapses into the mental state he was in as he was
dying. Hyslop wrote on this point
‘‘The mental confusion relevant to the death of my father
was apparent in his first attempt to communicate through Mrs.
Piper, and when I recalled this period of his dying experience,
this confusion was repeated in a remarkable manner, with several
evidential features in the messages. Twice an uncle lost the
sense of personal identity to communicate. His communications
were in fact so confused that it was two years before he became
at all clear in his efforts. He had died as a result of a sudden
accident. Once my father, after mentioning the illness of
my living sister and her name, lost his personal identity long
enough to confuse incidents relating to himself and his earthly
life with those that applied to my sister and not to himself.’’ Hyslop
further observed
‘‘We may well suppose it possible that this coming back produces
an effect similar to the amnesia which so often accompanies
a shock or sudden interference with the normal stream of
consciousness. The effect seems to be the same as that of certain
kinds of dissociation which are now being studied by the
student of abnormal psychology, and this is the disturbance of
memory which makes it difficult or impossible to recall in one
mental state the events which have been experienced in another.’’
The extent to which the medium is affected by the psychic
state of the communicator at the moment of death is well illustrated
by Emma Hardinge Britten’s description of her famous
prediction of the loss of the steamer Pacific
‘‘That evening, just as my mother and myself were about to
retire for the night, a sudden and unusual chill crept over me,
and an irresistible impression possessed my mind that a spirit
had come into our presence. A sensation as if water was streaming
over me accompanied the icy chilliness I experienced and
a feeling of indescribable terror possessed my whole being. I
begged my mother to light up every lamp we had at hand; then
to open the door that the proximity of people in the house outside
our room might aid to dissipate the horror that seemed to
pervade the very air. At last, at my mother’s suggestion, I consented
to sit at the table, with the alphabet we had provided
turned from me and towards her, so that she could follow the
involuntary movements of my finger, which some power
seemed to guide in pointing out the letters. In this way was rapidly
spelt out ‘Philip Smith Ship Pacific.’ To my horror I distinctly
felt an icy cold hand lay hold of my arm; then distinctly
and visibly to my mother’s eyes, something pulled my hair,
which was hanging in long curls; all the while the coldness of
the air increasing so painfully that the apartment seemed pervaded
by Arctic breezes. After a while my own convulsed hand
was moved tremblingly but very rapidly to spell out ‘My dear
Emma, I have come to tell you I am dead. The ship Pacific is
lost and all on board have perished; she and her crew will never
be heard from any more.’ ’’
Just as the medium may prove hypersensitive to the
thoughts of the sitters when in trance, so it appears that
thought impressions of the spirits congregating around the
‘‘light’’ may have a garbling influence on the message of the
control. This possibility was strongly borne out by the attitude
of Piper’s control ‘‘George Pelham,’’ who many times asked the
waiting sitters to withdraw until he was through with his first
messages. The assumption was that at the same time the spirits
on the other side also left and saved him much confusion. Hyslop
noted several instances in which the communication came
through unintentionally.
The communication of names that have no special meaning
is usually difficult for the controls when the messages are sent
by telepathic or pictorial impressions. There is often confusion
of the letters.
Hyslop also believed that the nature of the communicator’s
mind can present another difficulty in clear communication. If,
for instance, the communicator was a good visualizer and the
medium is a poor one, the pictorial messages impressed on the
medium may come through imperfectly.
Hyslop made statistical calculations regarding the more important
communications through Piper in 15 sittings. There
were 205 in all; of these 152 were found to be true, 16 false, and
37 indecisive. In regard to 927 matters of detail alluded to in
these communications, 717 were true, 43 false, and 167 undecided.
According to Hodgson, three kinds of confusion could be
distinguished in the Piper communications (1) confusion of
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Communication (Between Living and Dead)
the spirit as to whether it was communicating or not, primarily
because of mental or bodily conditions when living; (2) confusion
in the spirit produced by the conditions into which it came
when in the act of communicating; and (3) confusion about the
result because of lack of complete control over the writing (or
other) mechanism of the medium.
Hodgson found that the best communicators were recently
deceased children and adults who had died in the prime of a
healthy life, like George Pelham, who only complained that the
dreams of the medium got in his way.
In his first report on Piper, Sir Oliver Lodge stated that
when ‘‘Dr. Phinuit’’ vacated his place for another communicator
the speeches were ‘‘more commonplace, and so to say
‘cheaper’ than what one would suppose likely from the person
himself.’’ Phinuit said that after ‘‘entering the medium’’ he only
remembered the messages entrusted to him for a few minutes
and then became confused. Apparently he was not able to depart
at once and kept on repeating incoherent statements.
Considering that in messages from the living the agents do
not appear to exercise control over the contents any more than
thoughts in dreams are controlled, it is a legitimate supposition
that, in some cases, the dead may not be more conscious of
sending a message than the living. Again, the communicator
may be perfectly conscious of the message, yet uncertain of its
receipt. The deceased Myers, purporting to communicate to
Alice Kipling Fleming (Mrs. Holland), said, ‘‘Does any of this
reach you, reach anyone, or am I only wailing as the wind
wails—wordless and unheeded’’ (Proceedings of the Society for
Psychical Research, vol. 21, p. 233).
Other Forms of Communication
Communication from the dead may come in dreams. One
of the oldest instances is given by Cicero in De Divinatione Two
friends go to Megare, one lodges at an inn, the other at a private
house. The latter, in his dream, hears his comrade call him
for assistance against an assassin. He awakens, then sleeps
again. The friend appears and tells him he has been killed and
thrown into a wagon by the innkeeper and that manure had
been thrown over his body. In the morning the friend finds the
story true in every detail.
Communicating with the spirits through raps is commonly
dated from the time of the so-called Rochester rappings at Hydesville,
New York, in 1848. Four months after the Hydesville
outbreak Isaac Post, a Quaker, revived David Fox’s idea of asking
the spirits to rap at the corresponding letter of the alphabet.
The Hydesville discovery was not without precedent, however,
as early as 858 C.E. it was described in a chronicle, Rudolf
of Fulda. Also, before 1848 a spiritualistic interpretation was accepted
by many for the phenomena of magnetic trance. The
Shakers experienced a special influx of spirit manifestation between
1837 and 1844.
The Rochester rappings and the physical phenomena followed
only appeared to confirm the existence of another world.
At first it seemed to be inhabited by nonhuman spirits, angels,
and other exalted beings. The manifestation of ‘‘John King’’ in
the log house of Jonathan Koons marked a transition between
nonhuman and human communicators. At first King said he
was semidivine, one of ‘‘the most ancient angels,’’ and claimed
kingly attributes. Later he confessed to have been Morgan, the
pirate king. From his early identity as the ruler of a primeval
Adamic race, King evolved into a more humble entity who, in
manifesting through mediums succeeding Jonathan Koons,
laid no more claim to royalty.
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Beard, Paul. Survival of Death For and Against. London,
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Cummins, Geraldine. Swan on a Black Sea A Study in Automatic
Writing The Cummins-Willett Scripts. London Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1965. Reprint, New York Samuel Weiser, 1970.
Ducasse, C. J. A Critical Examination of the Belief in a Life after
Death. Springfield, Ill. Charles Thomas, 1961.
Ellis, D. J. The Mediumship of the Tape Recorder. Harlow, England
David J. Ellis, 1978.
Hart, Hornell. The Enigma of Survival The Case for and
against an After Life. Springfield, Ill. Charles Thomas, 1959.
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