Keeler, Pierre L. O. A.
American slate-writing medium who sat for physical phenomena
before the Seybert Commission in 1885. The committee
did not find the phenomena unexplainable by normal
means and came to no definite conclusion except that it could
‘‘dismiss the theory of a spiritual origin of the hand behind Mr.
Keeler’s screen.’’
Alfred Russel Wallace describes in his book My Life (2 vols.,
1905) some remarkable sittings with the medium in 1886 in the
company of Elliott Coues, one General Lippitt, and a Mr. D.
Lyman. In good light Wallace examined the enclosed space,
the curtain, the floor, and the walls. After various telekinetic
demonstrations, a hand appeared above the curtain, the fingers
moving excitedly. Wallace narrates
‘‘This was the signal for a pencil and a pad of notepaper,
then rapid writing was heard, a slip of paper was torn off and
thrown over the curtain, sometimes two or three in rapid succession,
in the direction of certain sitters. The director of the
séance picked them up, read the name signed, and asked if
anyone knew it, and when claimed it was handed to him. In this
way a dozen or more of the chance visitors received messages
which were always intelligible to me and often strikingly
appropriate. . . . On my second visit a very sceptical friend
went with us and seeing the writing pad on the piano marked
several of the sheets with his initials. The medium was very
angry and said that it would spoil the séance. However, he was
calmed by his friends. When it came to the writing the pad was
given to me, over the top of the curtain, to hold. I held it just
above the medium’s shoulder, when a hand and pencil came
through the curtain and wrote on the pad as I held it.’’
At another séance, according to Wallace,
‘‘. . . most wonderful physical manifestations occurred. A
stick was pushed through the curtain. Two watches were handed
to me through the curtain, and were claimed by the two persons
who sat by the medium. The small tambourine, about ten
inches in diameter, was pushed through the curtain and fell on
the floor. These objects came through different parts of the
curtain, but left no holes as could be seen at the time, and was
proved by a close examination afterwards. More marvelous still
(if that be possible) a waistcoat was handed to me over the curtain,
which proved to be the medium’s, though his coat was left
on and his hands had been held by his companion all the time;
also about a score of people looking on all the time in a welllighted
room. These things seem impossible, but they are nevertheless
Later in his career Keeler concentrated solely on slate writing,
which he combined with pellet reading. A. B. Richmond,
in his book What I Saw at Cassadaga Lake (1888), describes a sitting
in which Keeler received an answer to a pellet inside a pair
of locked slates, the key to which was in his pocket.
Admiral Osborne Moore, in his book Glimpses of the Next
State (1911), writes of a successful séance in which, on five slates,
474 words were written and two pictures drawn in a period not
exceeding ten minutes. The letters signed by names on the pellets
were very commonplace. They contained no proof of identity.
Still, Moore believed that the sitting was a striking exhibition
of spirit power because there was full light and the slates
were held above the table with no cloth or covering of any sort
over them. He knew the reports of past slate writing through
William Eglinton, S. T. Davey, and others, and said he
thought that no explanation he had read was applicable to
Keeler’s case.
Hereward Carrington, during his investigations in the Lily
Dale camp in August 1907, came to a different conclusion. He
admitted that Keeler’s slate writings were the most puzzling
phenomena of their kind he had ever witnessed, but, as pointed
out in his report (Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical
Research, vol. 2), there was sufficient evidence of fraud.
In the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research
(July 1908) an instance is mentioned in which Keeler was seen
writing on a slate held on his lap under the table.
Carrington also stated that Richard Hodgson, Henry
Ridgely Evans, David P. Abbott, and others thought that
Keeler was a clever trickster, yet he said he did not wish to be
dogmatic on the point since he was unable to explain many stories
told to him by apparently good observers. Carrington reported
only on his own sittings, saying that both the slate writing
and direct voice were certainly fraudulent.
Keeler was also exposed by Walter F. Prince in 1921. In retrospect
it seems doubtless that Keeler’s phenomena—like
those of so many other exponents of slate writing—were fraudulent.
Prince, Walter F. ‘‘A Survey of American Slate Writing Mediumship.’’
Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research
15 (1921).

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