Koons, Jonathan (ca. 1855)
A well-to-do American farmer in Millfield Township, Athens
County (a remote district of Ohio), and an early American Spiritualist
medium. Koons became interested in Spiritualism in
1852 and was told at a séance that he was ‘‘the most powerful
medium on Earth’’ and that all of his eight children—even the
seven-month-old baby—had psychic gifts. Acting on spirit instructions,
he built a ‘‘spirit room,’’ a single-room log house, 16
feet by 12, for use by the spirits and equipped it with all kinds
of musical instruments. This log house soon became famous
and people flocked from great distances to see a variety of curious
phenomena. The eldest boy, Nahum, a youth of 18, sat at
the ‘‘spirit table,’’ the audience in benches beyond.
When the lights were put out a fearful din ensued that was
sometimes heard a mile away. Surprising feats of strength were
also manifested, yet no one present was struck or injured by the
flying objects or target-shooting pistol bullets. The sitters were
touched by materialized hands that, in the light of phosphorized
paper, were seen carrying objects. Spirit faces were also
seen. Through a trumpet that sailed about in the air, voices
called out the names of the guests even if they concealed their
identities; deceased relatives and friends spoke to them and
gave proof of survival.
The circle was attended by a host of ministering spirits said
to number 165. They claimed to belong to a race of men known
under the generic title ‘‘Adam’’ (red clay), antedating the theological
Adam by thousands of years. They represented their
leaders as the most ancient angels. One of these ancient angels,
who instructed the circle, was called ‘‘Oress.’’ Generally they
signed themselves in the written communications as ‘‘King’’
No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3, and sometimes ‘‘Servant and Scholar
of God.’’ Foremost among them was the ‘‘John King’’ who
claimed to have been Henry Morgan, the pirate.
Two or three miles from the Koons’ farm was another lonely
farmhouse, belonging to John Tippie, where another ‘‘spirit
room’’ was laid out on the same plan. The manifestations in the
Tippie family were identical to those in the Koon log house.
Each had a ‘‘spirit machine’’ that consisted of a complex arrangement
of zinc and copper for the alleged purpose of collecting
and focusing the magnetic aura used in the demonstrations.
The Tippies had ten children, all mediums.
J. Everett of Athens County, Ohio, who investigated the
Koons’ phenomena, published the messages of the spirits
under the title Communications from Angels (1853) and also printed
a number of affidavits testifying to the occurrences in the
spirit house, with a chart of the spheres drawn by Nahum
Koons in trance.
Charles Partridge writes of his visit in the American Spiritual
Telegraph of 1855
‘‘The spirit rooms will hold . . . 20 to 30 persons each. After
the circle is formed and the lights extinguished, a tremendous
blow is struck by the drum-stick, when immediately the bass
and tenor drums are beaten with preternatural power, like calling
the roll on a muster field, making a thousand echoes. The
rapid and tremendous blows on these drums are really frightful
to many persons; it is continued for five minutes or more and
when ended, ‘King’ usually takes up the trumpet, salutes us
with ‘Good evening, friends’ and asks what particular manifestations
are desired. After the introductory piece on the instruments,
the spirits sang to us. They first requested us to remain
perfectly silent; then we heard human voices singing, apparently
in the distance, so as to be scarcely distinguishable; the
sounds gradually increased, each part relatively, until it appeared
as if a full choir of voices were singing in our room most
exquisitely. I think I never heard such perfect harmony. Spirit
hands and arms were formed in our presence several times,
and by aid of a solution of phosphorous, prepared at their request
by Mr. Koons, they were seen as distinctly as in a light
The Koons family did not fare well at the hands of their
neighbors. Their house was attacked by mobs, fire was set to
their crops and barns, and their children were beaten. Finally
they left the countryside and began missionary wanderings,
which lasted for many years. Their mediumship was given free
to the public, and they did a great service to the cause of early
American Spiritualism.
The phenomenally noisy ‘‘spirit room’’ of the Koons bears
a striking resemblance to some shaman performances, where
the medicine man enters an enclosed area and manifests noisy
spirit communications.

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