Eddy Brothers, Horatio (1842–1922) and
William (1832–1932)
American farmer mediums of Chittenden, a small hamlet
near Rutland, Vermont. In 1874 the New York Daily Graphic assigned
Henry Olcott to investigate the rumors of strange happenings
in the house of the Eddy family. After ten weeks in the
Vermont home, Olcott, who had no previous psychic experience,
came away with a dislike of his gruff hosts and a remarkable
story, which he told in 15 articles. These articles were later
published in book form under the title People from the Other
World (1875). This book and another, M. D. Shindler’s A Southerner
Among the Spirits (1877), are the primary sources for our
knowledge of the Eddy brothers.
According to Olcott, the family tree showed psychic powers
for generations back. In 1692, in Salem, their grandmother
four times removed was sentenced to the pyre as a witch. In Horatio
and William, the psychic ‘‘taint’’ made its appearance in
infancy. A fanatical father tried to suppress it with the utmost
cruelty. He employed means of torture to break their trances,
poured boiling water over them, or placed red-hot coal on their
heads. When the children grew older, their father realized the
money-making possibilities in their strange gift and hired them
out as mediums.
As eloquent evidence of the savage treatment the boys had
received at the hands of ignorant investigators, Olcott saw
grooves of ligatures, scars of hot sealing wax, and marks of
handcuffs on their limbs. The boys exhibited every phenomenon
of physical mediumship, from raps to materialization.
During ten weeks of investigation, Olcott claimed that he
saw about 400 apparitions of all sizes, sexes, and races issue
from their cabinet. The chief apparition was a giant Indian
named ‘‘Santum’’ and an Indian woman by the name of
‘‘Honto.’’ Olcott had every facility for investigation, measured
the height and weight of the apparitions, roamed freely about,
and became quite satisfied that the explanation of impersonation
was insufficient. He found that the production of materialized
forms was William Eddy’s strong feature. Horatio Eddy
usually sat before a cloth screen, not a cabinet, and, unlike his
brother, was always in sight. Musical instruments were played
behind the screen, and phantom hands showed themselves
over the edge. If the same séance was held in darkness, the phenomena
became very powerful. Vigorous Indian dances shook
the floor, and the room resounded with yells and whoops. ‘‘As
an exhibition of pure brute force,’’ Olcott writes in one of the
articles, ‘‘this Indian dance is probably unsurpassed in the annals
of such manifestation.’’
Frank Podmore, in his book Modern Spiritualism (1902),
characterizes Olcott’s account as an imaginative history and
quotes in confirmation C. C. Massey’s account of a fortnight
stay with the Eddy brothers, which thus describes the nightly
apparition of a deceased relative of someone present
‘‘A dusky young man would look out and we had to say in
turn, all round the circle ‘Is it for me’ When the right person
was reached three taps would be given and the fortunate possessor
of the ghost would gaze doubtfully, upon which the ghost
would look grieved, and that generally softened the heart of the
observer, and brought about a recognition in the remark ‘Lor,
so you be.’ And that sort of thing went on night after night at
the Eddy’s.’’
Because of Olcott’s later adventures in Theosophy, some
credence is lent to the charge that he was gullible.
Sources
Olcott, Henry S. People from the Other World. Hartford,
Conn. American Publishing, 1875. Reprint, Rutland, Vt.
Charles E. Tuttle, 1972.
Podmore, Frank. Modern Spiritualism. London Methuen,
1902. Reprinted as Mediums of the Nineteenth Century. New Hyde
Park, N.Y. University Books, 1963.
Shindler, M. D. A Southerner Among the Spirits. Memphis,
Tenn., 1877.

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