Cox, Edward William (1809–1879)
Lawyer and well-known British psychical investigator in the
days preceding the foundation of the Society for Psychical Research.
Cox was born in 1809 in Taunton, England, and educated
there. Cox’s career in psychical research was concentrated
during the last decade of his life. He was a member of the
investigating committee of the London Dialectical Society,
which published its famous Report on Spiritualism in 1871. He
did not accept the ‘‘spirit’’ hypothesis and in its stead argued
for the existence of a psychic force that would explain many
forms of psychic phenomena. His idea was explained in a booklet,
Spiritualism Scientifically Examined with Proofs of the Existence
of a Psychic Force (1872), and in a larger work, The Mechanism of
Man An Answer to the Question ‘‘What Am I’’ (1876). For systematic
research into the mystery of psychic phenomena, he
founded, in 1875, the Psychological Society for Great Britain.
Cox is most remembered for his work with William Crookes
in his first experiments with D. D. Home. He was a shrewd and
most capable investigator and well aware of most of the tricks
used by fraudulent mediums in the production of fake materialization
phenomena. Cox was supportive of Home’s mediumship
and shared his opinions in a letter to Crookes
‘‘In the investigations in which you so kindly assisted me
there was nothing of this precaution and mystery. You sat with
me anywhere, at any time, in my garden, and in my house; by
day and by night; but always, with one memorable exception,
in full light. You objected to no tests; on the contrary you invited
them. I was permitted the full use of all my senses. The experiments
were made in every form ingenuity could devise, and
you were as desirous to learn the truth and the meaning of it
as I was. You sat alone with me, and things were done which,
if four confederates had been present, their united efforts
could not have accomplished. Sometimes there were phenomena,
sometimes there were none. When they occurred they were
often such as no human hand could have produced without the
machinery of the Egyptian Hall [the scene of conjuring magician
J. N. Maskelyne’s shows]. But these were in my own drawing-room,
and library, and gardens, where no mechanism was
possible. In this manner it was that I arrived at the conviction—
opposed to all my prejudices and preconceptions—that there
are forces about us of some kind, having both power and intelligence,
but imperceptible to our senses, except under some imperfectly
known conditions. . . .’’
However, he was highly critical of Florence Cook and Mary
Showers. Cox’s letter to the medium D. D. Home, published
in Home’s Lights and Shadows of Spiritualism (1877), is thought
to refer to these two mediums. He was present on the occasion
in which Cook and Showers appeared in what was supposed to
be a joint materialization. He noted that both materialized
forms were solid flesh and breathed and perspired.
Cox died at his home in Middlesex, England, on November
24, 1879.
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Cox, Edward W. The Mechanism of Man An Answer to the Question
‘‘What Am I’’ London Longman, 1876.
———. What Am I A Popular Introduction to Mental Philosophy
and Psychology. London Longman, 1974.
Dingwall, E. J. The Critic’s Dilemma Further Comments on Some
Nineteenth Century Investigations. Dewsbury, England The Author,
Hall, Trevor H. Florence Cook & William Crookes A Footnote
to an Enquiry. London Tomorrow Publications Ltd., 1963.
———. The Spiritualists The Story of Florence Cook and William
Crookes. New York Helix Press, 1962.