Direct Voice
Theoretically, an isolated paranormal voice in space without
visible source of agency. In classical Spiritualist séances, the
voice issued primarily from a trumpet that sailed about the séance
room in the dark and appeared to serve as a condenser.
At other times mediums dispensed with the trumpet, and the
voice could be heard from the center of the floor or from any
part of the room.
H. Dennis Bradley records an experience in which the communicator
began his sentence in the middle of the room; halfway
up he dropped the trumpet while his voice traveled upward
to the extreme right-hand corner of the ceiling and there
ended on the pronouncement of the last syllable of his last
word (Towards the Stars, 1924, p. 20).
Physically the phenomenon requires the supposition that
some material more solid than air is withdrawn from the medium’s
or from the sitter’s body to produce the necessary vibrations
in the surrounding atmosphere. Séance room communications
speak of improvisation of a larynx—a strange notion,
yet the improvisation of human limbs and entire bodies is even
The first vague description of a ‘‘voice box’’ is to be found
in an out-of-the-body experience of Stainton Moses, who stated,
‘‘I did not observe how the sound was made, but I saw in
a distant part of the room near the ceiling something like a box
round which blue electric light played, and I associate the
sound with that.’’
The ‘‘voice box’’ of ‘‘Walter,’’ the control of Margery (i.e.,
Mina Crandon) has been photographed as a white mass on the
medium’s shoulder, connected to her left ear and nostril with
tubes of the mysterious substance ectoplasm. This psychic microphone
seems to be very closely associated with the medium’s
organism. ‘‘John Watt,’’ the control of Mrs. Thomas Everitt,
claimed that he used the medium’s breath in speaking. If
Everitt held her hand over her mouth the volume of the voice
diminished, and it ceased entirely if Everitt placed her palm on
her mouth. The spirit of Cecil Husk warned Dennis Bradley
not to smoke excessively on the days he was sitting in séances,
since smoking sometimes affected the vocal organs from which
part of the ectoplasmic force was taken.
Thomas Colley described an instance in which Frank W.
Monck was wakened from a trance to greet a materialized fellow
student. He and the spirit had to speak in turn; there was
an impasse if they tried to speak at once. Harry Bastian’s direct
voice was heard when his mouth was full of water, but it immediately
ceased if his nose was temporarily stopped. Everitt
could never speak simultaneously with the spirits. Her lips and
tongue moved but no sound was made. Other mediums felt no
Multiple Spirit Voices
Signor Damiani, in his testimony before the London Dialectical
Society in 1870, spoke of a séance with D. D. Home in
which two voices were heard besides that of the persistently
speaking medium.
David Duguid often spoke simultaneously. George Valiantine
and Etta Wriedt had no difficulty in joining with the spirit
voices. According to Noel Jaquin, the problem consisted not so
much in the use of the physical voice, but in the coordination
of thought. He experienced an incoherence in thinking while
the direct voice was heard and could only master through
strong mental effort.
Independent conversation by two or three voices was occasionally
carried on in the Wriedt séances. J. A. Findlay reported
the same with the medium John C. Sloan. Admiral Usborne
Moore was told that the spirits seemed to speak with his voice.
During that time he often experienced a slight cough and irritation
of the throat. Others observed that the sitters’ voices
weakened after a prolonged direct voice conversation. An interesting
experiment was tried with Wriedt. She was asked to
sit with seven deaf mutes from Flint, Michigan. No one in the
room could utter an articulate word except for herself. No
voices were heard.
Eugene Crowell writes of séances with a Mrs. Andrews in The
Identity of Primitive Christianity and Modern Spiritualism
(1875–79) ‘‘One of the common forms of manifestations at
Moravia is singing by spirits. This generally occurs when the
persons assembled sing with animation, the spirits seizing the
moment when they are ‘with one accord’ raising their voices,
to join in the strain, and generally the spirit voice is heard
clearly above all others.’’ He continued later ‘‘When our spirit
friends had conversed more freely than usual, the medium afterwards
complained of much soreness and tenderness of the
throat and lungs, evidently without any definite idea of its
cause. It seemed to me that the spirits . . . were compelled to
draw directly from the vocal and pulmonary organs of the medium
those elements that are liberally supplied by public cirEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Direct Voice
cles, and which are necessary for the production of spirit
Findlay’s On the Edge of the Etheric (1931) states that the communicators
often make use of a psychic tube from the mouth
of the medium to the trumpet. This might explain why the independent
voice resembled that of the medium and also why
moisture was sometimes found within the trumpet it but is consistent
with the medium’s speaking directly into the trumpet.
Findlay’s spirit communicators also offered a description of
how the artificial larynx is made. It read
‘‘From the medium and those present a chemist in the spirit
world withdraws certain ingredients which for want of a better
name is called ectoplasm. To this the chemist adds ingredients
of his own making. When they are mixed together a substance
is formed which enables the chemist to materialize his hands.
He then, with his materialized hands, constructs a mask resembling
the mouth and tongue. The spirit wishing to speak places
his face into this mask and finds it clings to him, it gathers
round his mouth, tongue and throat. At first, difficulty is experienced
in moving this heavier material, but by practice this becomes
easy. The etheric organs have once again become
clothed in matter resembling physical matter, and by the passage
of air through them your atmosphere can be vibrated and
you hear his voice.’’
Findlay’s explanation received confirmation two years later
at a séance recorded by the Rev. V. G. Duncan in his book Proof
An Account of Spiritualistic Séances (1933). The mediums in this
instance were the Misses Moore. When asked how it was possible
to speak to us on earth the communicator stated,
‘‘I can only explain it like this. You know when you have
been to the dentist for an extraction and been given an anaesthetic,
he puts that queer mask over your face for you to breath
the gas into your lungs. I have to use a contrivance like that in
order to speak to you. This contrivance is composed of etheric
matter, partly provided by the mediums and sitters, and partly
supplied from our side. It is a kind of transformer, and it has
a double purpose. It helps to retard my vibrations and so allows
me to make my voice audible to you and provides a temporary
set of vocal organs.’’
Findlay’s views are further enlarged upon in his second
book, The Rock of Truth (1933).
The Nature of Direct Voice
The process of direct voice speaking appears to be similar
to ordinary speech. After a long sentence the controls would
pause for breath, and the indrawing sound became distinctly
audible. However, the phenomena differed from medium to
medium, and the vocal effects varied from one to the other.
The invisible communicator could laugh, whistle, or sing. ‘‘Walter,’’
the control of Mina Crandon (‘‘Margery’’), could give expression
to all sorts of moods—surprise, contentment, joy,
anger, and melancholy—by whistling. Once Margery and
‘‘Walter’’ reportedly laughed at the same instant. The two
chuckles came from a common point in space and gave the impression
of being tangled together, as though conceivably from
a common physical organism.
The language spoken may be unknown both to the medium
and to the sitters. Yet the nationality of the medium may have
a curious influence. English, for instance, is easier spoken when
the medium is English than of another tongue. As an explanation
it has been suggested that the material to build up the artificial
larynx may be drawn from the oral cavity and therefore
may be less adaptable to unusual inflections. The experience
of Abraham Wallace with the spirit entity ‘‘John King,’’ who
unexpectedly spoke to him in broad Scotch, suggested to some
a participation on the part of the sitter. When interrogated on
the subject, King replied, ‘‘Why, I got it from you.’’
The bewildering variety of strange languages spoken
through some mediums remain mysteries, though secret
knowledge by the medium or collusion with sitters has been hypothesized
as a likely explanation. In the séances of George
Valiantine (repeatedly caught in fraud), Portuguese, Basque,
Welsh, Japanese, Russian, Hindustani, and ‘‘ancient pure’’ Chinese
was supposedly spoken. Neville Whymant, a famous orientalist,
studied this linguistic phenomenon, and on March 25,
1927, it was recorded on a gramophone in Lord Charles
Hope’s apartment in London after a special telephone cable
was laid to the Columbia Gramophone Company’s recording
house. A megaphone was connected to the recording machine
and two assistants stationed outside the séance room gave the
signals at various times. In the presence of Lord Hope and H.
Dennis Bradley and his wife, three voices spoke in English, one
in an Indian dialect, one in Hindustani, one in Italian, and two
in Chinese. Whymant said the latter, which claimed to be the
voice of Confucius, was apparently the same one he heard in
New York.
Was Confucius actually present When the question was
asked in the Crandon circle in Boston, ‘‘Walter’’ explained the
matter this way ‘‘When K’ung-fu-T’zu manifests in our séance
room he is not necessarily personally present. However, at the
time of Whymant’s interview with K’ung-fu-T’zu through Valiantine
in trance, the Master was actually present in person.’’
Further suggestions relating to the problem are found in
Mrs. E. Duffey’s book Heaven Revised (1889). In answer to her
doubts as to the presence of illustrious spirits a vision was given
to her, of which she writes ‘‘I beheld, or seemed to behold—for
it was not sight, it was a perception as strong as the sense of seeing—a
succession of links extending from sphere to sphere and
from spirit and spirit, until it had finally found utterance on
Colley heard direct voices in the darkness of the night when
sleeping in the same room with Monck, while holding his hand
over the mouth of his sleeping companion. During an operation
on Eileen Garrett in 1931, while she was unconscious and
gagged, the doctors in attendance heard voices in her proximity.
One voice spoke in a tongue that none of the doctors understood.
According to Reid Clanny’s account of the strange case
of Mary Jobson, individuals connected with the Jobsons were
sometimes accosted in their own homes by a voice that spoke
in the presence of the girl and they were told to go and see her.
In the first attempts at communication or when the spiritual
power was insufficient, the direct voice was feeble or hoarse,
writers said. With an increase of power or practice it became
characteristic in tone and distinctive in enunciation. It had a
conspicuous selective intelligence, tending to address itself to
the right person in the right language.
As soon as the power began to ebb, the trumpet was used increasingly.
This waning of power is curiously described in Mrs.
G. K. Hack’s notes of the July 8, 1928, séance in Millesimo Castle
‘‘The power suddenly failed and consequently the pronunciation
of the words he used became confused and the sounds
almost inarticulate, until at last they became a sort of prolonged
whistle which gradually extinguished itself and formed
itself into a mournful sigh.’’
The general strength of the voice varied individually. Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle heard a voice in Chicago that he could
only compare to the roar of a lion. Duguid’s voices were usually
husky. But on one occasion his speaking was so loud and harsh
that the sitters became alarmed and asked the spirit to retire.
Similarly, in Mrs. Robert Johnson’s séances, remonstrations
had to be made because of the volume of the voice.
In Elizabeth Blake’s case the voices were occasionally heard
at a distance of one hundred feet. ‘‘Kokum’’ and ‘‘Hawk Chief’’
(Valiantine) had tremendous, resounding voices. H. Dennis
Bradley recorded that their voices were heard by his wife in a
bedroom on the upper floor thirty to forty yards away with all
the doors closed. ‘‘Kokum’s’’ voice carried to a distance of two
hundred yards. Mediums such as Blake, Valiantine, Wriedt,
Hazel Ridley, and Mrs. Murphy Lydy often produced the phenomenon
in full light. The usual demonstration was to shut the
light out of the trumpet with the palm of the medium and hold
the small end to the sitter’s ear. Mrs. Lydy gave several successDirect
Voice Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
ful platform demonstrations in this manner in May 1931, in
J. B. McIndoe of Glasgow constructed a telephonic apparatus
for the hearing of the voice in daylight. A sensitive telephone
transmitter was placed under a tightly buttoned, high,
black oilskin coat, on the larynx of the medium Andrew McCreadie.
The sitters were connected with a telephone receiver
through which they could hear voices in daylight. The result
was the same if a trumpet was placed with the small end under
the oilskin coat on the medium’s larynx. Through the large
end, if one closely listened, voices came through.
Many and varied experiments were conducted to attempt to
prove the reality of the phenomenon. Ventriloquism on the
medium’s part was the first natural explanation. This was, however,
rejected by researchers James H. Hyslop and Hereward
Carrington in their respective experiments and was also discounted
by J. Malcolm Bird as part of his séances with ‘‘Margery.’’
According to Carrington, at a near range it is impossible for
a ventriloquist to produce the illusion of distant sounds or
voices; he must then depend upon near ventriloquism, and the
nearer the listener’s ear to the mouth of the performer the less
perfect the illusion, until at quite close range the illusion vanishes
altogether and the sounds are correctly located as issuing
from the ventriloquist’s mouth. There is no such thing as
‘‘throwing the voice’’ across the room, or to any distant location
in space he said. The voice merely seems to issue from the spot
because the performer distracts the attention of his audience
to it. Deprived of light to aid the view, the illusion cannot be
produced and the investigators who sit quite close to the medium
can immediately locate the voice at its point of origin.
The medium was often asked to hold water in her mouth to
see whether the voices were independent. With Emily French,
of Buffalo, New York, the voices were tested by Hyslop, Dr.
Isaac Kauffmann Funk, and others for a full week. Findlay recorded
how often he had his ear at the mouth of the medium
Sloan when one or more voices were speaking, yet no sound
came from the mouth. In other experiments a special solution
was used which, under the effect of the saliva, changed color in
proportion to the time during which it was held in the mouth.
If one of the sitters also took an amount into his mouth and
ejected it at the same time as the medium, the color should be
identical. It was by this test that Abraham Wallace claimed to
have established the good faith of Susannah Harris.
The Voice Control Machine, designed by Mark Richardson,
of Boston, for use in the ‘‘Margery’’ séances was a modern control
apparatus. It consisted of a U-shaped tube in which small
luminous floats were placed on the surface of the water. The
medium blew into a flexible tube that had a specially constructed
mouthpiece and caused, by the pressure of air, the second
column of water to rise. This position was retained as long as
the mouthpiece was tightly held by the medium’s lips and
tongue. The collapse of the column of water could be immediately
detected in the dark by means of the luminous floats.
An even more satisfactory control was devised by psychical
investigator B. K. Thorogood. This was a cubical box, made of
layers of seven different materials, completely sound proof,
closed and padlocked, containing a large, very sensitive microphone,
connected by two wires emerging from the box to a distant
loudspeaker. While sitters in the séance room heard nothing,
the voice of ‘‘Walter’’ issued from the loudspeaker in the
distant room, suggesting that the voice had its origin through
the microphone in the box. Under such conditions the independence
of the voices in the ‘‘Margery’’ séances seemed
In direct voice communications there are two elements of
the paranormal—the voice in space and the contents of the
message. If it turns out that the trumpet was actually used by
the medium in the dark the validity of the communication may
yet be established by the other criterion. Hereward Carrington,
whose book The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism (1907) described
many possibilities of fraud, pointed out that many investigators
attended trumpet séances quite convinced that the
medium did the talking. They contended that the content of
the messages was the important thing.
There are many reports of voices heard in daylight with no
obvious human source. In The Blue Room (1927), Clive Chapman
describes séances with the New Zealand medium Pearl
Judd, when direct voices were heard in a well-lighted room.
Contemporary researcher D. Scott Rogo also reports similar
cases in his book An Experience of Phantoms (1974). Wellresearched
poltergeist cases occasionally include voices originating
in space in daylight.
Direct voice whispers in semidarkness were heard at sittings
with Gladys Osborne Leonard. Her control ‘‘Feda’’ claimed to
hear communicators talking in front of the medium. She conveyed
their messages, which were not heard by sitters. Later
confirmation came when sitters also heard the entities talking
in whispered words. Robert Blatchford was convinced that his
wife is spirit spoke to him in her particular manner of speech.
Medium Leslie Flint was tested by C. Drayton Thomas in 1948
and by Robert Chapman of the Sunday Express newspaper and
members of the Society for Psychical Research in 1971 and
1972, when use was made of throat microphones and nightsight
Historically, the Davenport brothers and Jonathan Koons
of Ohio were the first mediums through whom direct voice
phenomena were reported. It was ‘‘John King’’ who introduced
it, and it was also this control who invented the use of the trumpet
in séances.
Voice mediumship is one of the most dramatic forms of supernormal
manifestations. In view of the ease with which it was
acquired by H. Dennis Bradley, one may understand his enthusiastic
forecast in The Wisdom of the Gods (1925) ‘‘Communication
with the spirits in their actual voices may, within this century,
become as simple as the telephone or wireless. In fact, it
seems to me that it is a new and phenomenal form of wireless
communication.’’ In recent times, the electronic voice phenomenon,
popularly known as Raudive voices seems to have
partially realized this hoped-for development. It uses a simple
diode circuit and records claimed paranormal voices on a tape
Bailey, Wilson, G. No, Not Dead, They Live. Camden, NJ I.
F. Huntzinger, 1923.
Barbanell, Maurice. The Trumpet Shall Sound. London, Psychic
Press, 1933.
Bayless, Raymond. Voices from Beyond. New Hyde Park, N.Y.
University Books, 1975.
Bradley, H. Dennis. —And After. London, 1931.
———. Towards the Stars. London, 1924.
Drouet, Bessie C. Station Astral. New York G. P. Putnam’s
Sons, 1932.
Flint, Leslie. Voices in the Dark My Life as a Medium. New
York Bobbs-Merrill, 1971.
Hack, Gwendolyn K. Modern Psychic Mysteries Millesimo Castle,
Italy. London, 1929.
Moore, W. Usborne. The Voices. London, 1913.
Pincock, Jenny O’Hara. Trails of Truth. London, 1930.
Randall, Edward E. The Dead Have Never Died. London,
Sewell, May W. Neither Dead nor Sleeping. London, 1921.
Smith, Susy. She Spoke to the Dead. New York Award Books,
Thomas, C. Drayton. ‘‘A New Hypothesis Concerning
Trance-Communications.’’ Proceedings of the Society for Psychical
Research 48 (May 1947).