The claimed manifestation of temporary, more or less organized,
apparitions in varying degrees of form, often possessing
human physical characteristics and said to be shaped for a temporary
existence from a substance called ectoplasm. Materializations
were attributed by Spiritualists and some psychical
researchers to spirit agency, although a few postulated that
they might arise from some unknown natural force independent
of departed spirits, but emanating from gifted psychics.
Most modern parapsychologists believe that materializations
were simply performances staged by mediums and their accomplices
to deceive the people sitting with them, who had hoped
to come into contact with the supernatural.
For a century psychical researchers investigated claims of
materialization and from time to time researchers came forward
to declare their belief in the genuineness of the phenomena
they had witnessed. Materialization was also closely associated
with other physical phenomena such as apports and spirit
photography. As researchers became more sophisticated in detecting
fraud, the number of people willing to risk announcing
themselves as materialization mediums steadily declined. Materialization
was pushed to the edge of the Spiritualist movement.
As recently as 1960, there was a major expose of a group of
materialization mediums at Camp Chesterfield, an independent
Spiritualist camp near Anderson, Indiana. The mediums,
including the camps leading medium Mabel Riffle, were
caught on infrared film impersonating spirits and moving in
and out of a trap door. Then in the mid-1970s, Lamar Keene,
a medium from Florida, resigned from his church and confessed
to playing tricks on his congregation and on other clients
who came to him for readings.
The manner in which materialization phenomena is finally
evaluated will radically affect any account of the era of materialization
mediums. It is a unanimous conclusion, however, that
fraud occurred and that trade catalogs selling products to help
accomplish materializations circulated through the Spiritualist
community. It is also true that all of the notable materialization
mediums, with the exception of D. D. Home, were at one time
or another caught in fraud, and that no clear case of even a partial
materialization exists. The belief in materialization rests
upon evidence of the most questionable kind.
The Origin of Materialization Phenomena
In its early stages, materialization was confined to the appearance
of heads and hands, or vague luminous streaks of
light. Figures were materialized later. Like much of the physical
phenomena of Spiritualism, it had its origin in the United
States, where it was reported at a comparatively early period in
the history of the movement.
As early as 1860, séances were held with the Fox sisters by
Robert Dale Owen and others, at which veiled and luminous
figures were seen. One sitter, a Mr. Livermore, claimed to recognize
the spirit of his dead wife during séances with Kate Fox
extending over some six years. However, there were no other
sitters and the séances were held in the dark. In England the
mediums Frank Herne and Charles Williams succeeded a few
months later in materializing shadowy forms and faces in a
dark séance room.
However, it was Florence Cook, whose phenomena was
championed by physicist William Crookes, who produced the
most sensational materializations. At the begining of her Spiritualistic
career, she was a pretty young girl of 16 or 17. She was
at that time a private medium, though at the outset she held
some materialization séances with Herne. From her childhood,
it was said, Cook was attended by a spirit girl who said her name
on Earth had been Annie Morgan, but that her name in the
spirit world was Katie King. Under the latter name, Cooks
control was destined to become famous in Spiritualist circles.
During a séance the medium was usually put into a sort of
cupboard or cabinet, tied to her chair, and the cords sealed.
After a short interval a form clad in flowing white draperies
would emerge from the cabinet.
On one occasion, a séance was held at the Cooks house, at
which several distinguished Spiritualists were present. Among
the invited guests was William Volckman, who decided to test
for the good faith of the medium and Katies genuineness.
After some 40 minutes of close observance of the materialized
spirit, Volckman concluded that Cook and Katie were the same,
and just as the white-robed figure (probably not Cook, but an
accomplice) was about to return to the cabinet he rushed forward
and seized her. His indignant fellow sitters released the
spirit, the light was extinguished, and in the confusion that
followed the spirit disappeared. Cook was found a few minutes
later bound as when she was placed in the cabinet, the cords unbroken,
the seal intact. She wore a black dress, and there was
no trace of white drapery in the cabinet.
Crookes, whose investigation into the phenomena of this
medium extended over a period of years, had better opportunity
to examine Katies claims than Volckman. He wrote that
the spirit form was taller than the medium, had a larger face
and longer fingers, and whereas Cook had black hair and a
dark complexion, Katies complexion was fair, and her hair a
light auburn (all observations consistent with the theory that a
friend of Cooks portrayed the materialized spirit). Moreover,
Crookes, enjoying Katies complete confidence, often had
the privilege of seeing her and Cook at the same time.
Strong doubts have been expressed about the genuineness
of the spirit form Katie King. Crucial to the argument is the
integrity of William Crookes. In his detailed study of the situation
in 1962, Trevor Hall concluded that Cook and Crookes
were having an affair. Two years later the Society for Psychical
Research released a report of an interview with a person who
claimed to have known Cook and to whom she confessed her
But Cook was not the only medium who was controlled by
Katie King. With her father, John King, she became a popular
spirit with materialization mediums. From that time on,
materialization was extensively practiced both by private and
professional mediums. Among them were Mary Showers and
her daughter, Lottie Fowler; William Eglinton; and D. D.
Home; in later years materializations were noted to have occurred
in the presence of Eusapia Palladino.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed. Materialization
Many sitters claimed to see in such draped figures and
veiled faces the form and features of deceased relatives and
friends, although frequently there was little reason for such a
claimparents recognized their daughter by her hair, a man
recognized his mother by the sort of cap she wore, and so on.
There is no doubt that fraud entered into materialization séances.
Lay figures, muslin draperies, false hair, and similar
properties have been found in the possession of mediums; accomplices
have been smuggled into the séance room; lights are
frequently turned low or extinguished altogether. Add to this
the fact that the spirits upon being grasped frequently turned
into the medium and it will be clear that skepticism was justified.
Psychical Researchers and Materialization
Toward the end of the nineteenth century psychical researchers
began to turn their attention toward materialization
phenomena and were impressed with what they observed.
French researcher Camille Flammarion attributed the materializations
he had witnessed in the presence of Eusapia Palladino
to fluidic emanations from the mediums body, while
judging the recognition given them the result of illusion. Other
researchers said the physical organization formed by the spirit
was composed of fine particles of matter drawn from the material
Gustav Geley, in his book Clairvoyance and Materialisation
(1927), says, this is no longer the marvelous and quasimiraculous
affair described and commented on in early spiritualistic
works. Charles Richet, in Thirty Years of Psychical Research
(1923), was possibly the strongest witness of all. He
writes I shall not waste time in stating the absurdities, almost
the impossibilities, from a psychophysiological point of view, of
this phenomenon. A living being, or living matter, formed
under our eyes, which has its proper warmth, apparently a circulation
of blood, and a physiological respiration which has
also a kind of psychic personality having a will distinct from the
will of the medium, in a word, a new human being! This is surely
the climax of marvels! Nevertheless, it is a fact.
Materialisation is a mechanical projection; we already
know the projection of light, of heat and of electricity; it is not
a very long step to think that a projection of mechanical energy
may be possible. The remarkable demonstrations of Einstein
show how close mechanical or luminous energy are to one another.
I have also, like Geley, Schrenck Notzing, and Mme. Bisson,
been able to see the first lineaments of materialisations as
they were formed. A kind of liquid or pasty jelly emerges from
the mouth or the breast of Marthe which organises itself by degrees,
acquiring the shape of a face or a limb. Under very good
conditions of visibility, I have seen this paste spread on my
knees, and slowly take form so as to show the rudiment of the
radius, the cuvitus, or metacarpal bone whose increasing pressure
I could feel on my knee.
Richets Marthe was the medium Marthe Béraud, also
known as Eva C. Geley relates his experiences with her in his
1920 book From the Unconscious to the Conscious
I have very frequently seen complete representations of an
organ, such as a face, a hand, or a finger. In the more complete
cases the materialised organ has all the appearance and biologic
functions of a living organ. I have seen admirably modelled
fingers, with their nails; I have seen compete hands with bones
and joints; I have seen a living head, whose bones I could feel
under a thick mass of hair. I have seen well-formed living and
human faces! On many occasions these representations have
been formed from beginning to end under my own eyes. . . .
The forms have, it will be observed, a certain independence,
and this independence is both physiological and anatomical.
The materialised organs are not inert, but biologically alive. A
well-formed hand, for instance, has the functional capacities of
a normal hand. I have several times been intentionally touched
by a hand or grasped by its fingers. . . . Well-constituted organic
forms having all the appearance of life, are often replaced by
incomplete formations. The relief is often wanting and the
forms are flat. There are some that are partly flat and partly in
relief, I have seen in certain cases, a hand or a face appear flat,
and then, under my eyes assume the three dimensions, entirely
or partially. The incomplete forms are sometimes smaller than
natural size, being occasionally miniatures.
From Thoughtforms to Full-Grown Phantoms
Many of the photographs taken of Eva C.s materializations
suggest the evolution of thoughtforms. A Professor Daumer
contended that ectoplasmic forms were neither bodies nor
souls. He offered the term eidolon (shape). A number of Eva C.s
phantom forms resembled pictures she had seen, caricatures of
presidents Wilson and Pioncaré, and they often had folds as if
a paper had been uncreased to be photographed.
Richet remarked that the supposition of fraud would presume
extreme stupidity on Evas part because she knew that
photographs would be taken; moreover, there was no reason to
suppose that a materialization had to be analogous to a human
body and three dimensional. The materialisation of a plaster
bust is not easier to understand than that of a lithographic
drawing; and the formation of an image is not less extraordinary
than that of a living human head, he said.
Daumers speculation is strangely contrasted by Glen Hamiltons
report (in Psychic Science) on the building and photographing
of a three-dimensional ectoplasmic ship in the Winnipeg
circle. The entities John King and Walter claimed
responsibility for the experiment. Coming through the mediums
Mary M. and X, they carried on a dialogue feigning that
they were aboard Kings pirate ship among a crew of ruffians.
It was hinted that this playacting had a psychological purpose
the recovery of past memories and the creation of the thought
image of a sailing ship. Eventually the ship was built, but because
of some indecision in giving the signal to take a flash
photograph, it came into port badly damaged. Hamilton remarks
No matter how great we may conceive the unknown powers
of the human organism to be, we cannot conceive of it giving
rise to an objective mass showing purposive mechanistic construction
such as that disclosed in the ship teleplasm of June
4th . We are forced to conclude that the supernormal
personalities in this case (by some means as yet unknown to us)
so manipulated or otherwise influenced the primary materialising
substance after it had left the body of the medium, or was
otherwise brought into its objective state, as to cause it to represent
the idea which they, the unseen directors, had in view,
namely the idea of a sailing ship (Psychic Science, vol. 11, no.
4, Jan. 1933).
The appearance of images instead of forms was said to have
something to do with the available power. Geley often observed
strange, incomplete forms, imitations or simulacra of organs.
His theory was as follows
The formations materialised in mediumistic séances arise
from the same biological process as normal birth. They are neither
more nor less miraculous or supernormal; they are equally
so. The same ideoplastic miracle makes the hands, the face, the
viscera, the tissues, and the entire organism of the foetus at the
expense of the maternal body, or the hands, the face, or the entire
organs of a materialisation. This singular analogy between
normal and so-called supernormal physiology extends even to
details; the ectoplasm is linked to the medium by a channel of
nourishment, a true umbilical cord, comparable to that which
joins the embryo to the maternal body. In certain cases the
materialised forms appear in an ovoid of the substance. . . . I
have also seen on several occasions, a hand presented wrapped
in a membrane closely resembling the placental membrane.
The impression produced, both as to sight and touch, was precisely
that of a hand presentation in childbirth, when the amnion
is unbroken. Another analogy with childbirth is that of pain.
Materialization Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed.
The moans and movements of the entranced medium remind
one strangely of a woman in travail.
To the legitimate objection that one biological process was
natural and the other anomalous, Geley answered Normal
physiology is the product of organic activity such as evolution
has made it. The creative and directive idea normally works in
a given sense, that of the evolution of the species, and conforms
to the manner of that evolution. Supernormal physiology, on
the other hand, is the product of ideoplastic activity directed
in a divergent manner by an abnormal effort of the directive
It was also soon noted that the ectoplasmic shapes tended
to conform to the bodily pattern of the medium. After observing
the Davenport brothers, Rev. J. B. Ferguson said
I have seen, with my natural vision the arms, bust and, on
two occasions, the entire person of Ira E. Davenport duplicated
at a distance of from two to five feet where he was seated fast
bound to his seat. I have seen, also, a full-formed figure of a
person, which was not that of any of the company present. In
certain conditions, not yet clearly understood, the hands, arms
and clothing of the Brothers Davenport and Mr. Fay are duplicated
alike to the sight and the touch. In other cases, hands
which are visible and tangible, and which have all the characteristics
of living human hands, as well as arms, and entire bodies,
are presented, which are not theirs or those of anyone
Crookes was satisfied that Katie King was independent
from the medium Florence Cook. Yet on certain occasions he
noted a striking resemblance between phantom and medium.
There is an unusual account in the history of the medium Elizabeth
dEsperance that seems to suggest that a total exchange
is within the bounds of possibility. During a series of sittings
with dEsperance in Sweden a crucial test was requested and the
medium bravely stated to Walter, her spirit control, that she
would take the responsibility. DEsperance writes
A very uncomfortable feeling pervaded the circle but it afterwards
gave place to one of curiosity. My senses became keenly
alert, the cobwebby sensation, before described, grew horribly
intense, and a peculiar feeling of emptiness, which I had
previously had, became so strong that my heart seemed as
though swinging loosely in an empty space, and resounding
like a bell with each stroke. The air seemed to be full of singing,
buzzing sounds that pressed on my ears, but through it I could
hear the breathing of the sitters outside the curtains. The
movements made in the air seemed to sway me backwards and
forwards. A fly alighting on my hand caused a pain like that of
a toothache to shoot up my arm. I felt faint, almost dying.
At last the arranged-for signal was given, that all was ready.
The curtains were thrown open, and a materialised form stood
fully revealed beside me. The lens of the camera was uncovered,
the plate exposed, the magnesium light flashed. Then the
curtains fell together. I remember the feeling of relief and
thinking Now I can give way. It is possible that I did faint. I do
not know. But I was aroused by the sound of a voice saying in
my ear She is not here, she is gone. It was one of the family who
spoke and the terror in the boys voice roused me effectually.
I wanted to reassure him, and asked for water, and wondered
at the same time whose voice was it that made the request. It
was like my own but seemed to come from the air or from another
person. The water was brought and drunk, but though I
felt refreshed the act seemed to be performed by that other
person who had spoken. Then I was left alone . . .
Now comes the strangest part of this strange experiment.
The photographic plate was carefully developed and a print
made, which revealed a most astonishing fact. The materialised
form, well in focus, was clad in white, flowing garments. The
hair was hanging loosely over the shoulder, which, like the
arms, were without covering. The figure might have been that
of a stranger, but the features were unmistakably mine. Never
has a photograph shown a better likeness. On a chair beside it
and a little behind, was a figure clad in my dress, the black
bands on the wrist, and the tape round the waist showing themselves
clearly and intact, but the face was that of a stranger, who
seemed to be regarding the proceedings with great complacency
and satisfaction. Needless to say, we looked at this extraordinary
photograph with something like petrifaction. We were utterly
at a loss to understand its meaning, and no explanation
was forthcoming, except a rueful remark from Walter, who
when questioned replied that Things did get considerably
In Light (December 19, 1903), L. Gilbertson remarks
My own theory of the strange head is that the manifesting
spirit was driven out of the materialised form by Madames subself,
which had gained an abnormal excess of power through
the weak condition of her normal organism. Finding itself ousted,
the visitor took refuge with Madames other part, and proceeded
to operate on it in the way generally known as transfiguration.
Succeeding in this operation, it is not difficult to believe,
as Madame says, that it seemed to be regarding the proceedings
with great complacency and satisfaction.
To account for the variant phenomena from one séance to
the next, Spiritualists hypothesized that if the health of the medium
was weak or the power, for any other reason, low, materialization
usually did not progress beyond the stage of resemblance
to the medium. In line with this hypothesis Enrico
Morselli proposed a psychodynamic theory (Psycologia e Spiritismo,
1907) according to which the ectoplasmic substance resulted
from a kind of human radioactivity and the directive
idea had its origin in the mediums subconscious mind. But
Morselli also added that the mediums subconscious mind may
establish telepathic communication with the sitters subconscious
minds and may shape the ectoplasmic forms according
to their thoughts and desires. While the second part of the hypothesis
seemed far-fetched, the first was supported by many
reports. The influence of the human mind, however, was evident
to a certain stage only. The phantom shapes did not keep
the mediums physiognomy, gestures, and voice for long and
displayed, after the transitory period, an apparent independence.
Their bodies were said to have temperature and blood
circulation and to breathe and behave in every way as an unrelated
Epes Sargent writes in Proof Palpable of Immortality (1875)
that a feminine spirit who manifested herself at Moravia in the
séances of Mary Andrews on one occasion produced, in rapid
succession, facsimiles of her personal appearance at six different
periods of her corporeal life, ranging from childhood to
old age. The phantoms of Etta Roberts were often said to transform
themselves into the forms of other persons in view of the
From his experiences, E. A. Brackett (another author of
books on Spiritualism) concluded that the sitters will has an influence
over the phantom shapes as well. In his séances with
Annie Eva Fay, he found that by the exercise of his will he
could cause the materialized forms to recede.
Interdependence of Phantom and Medium
A community of sensation between the medium and the
materialized phantom was described as part of the drama of the
séance. The interaction between the two bodies was reportedly
constant, a fact that is today seen as a rationalization to explain
away what is now viewed as further evidence of the fraud in the
séance room. Florence Cook once had a dark stain on a covered
part of her body after an ink mark had been made on Katies
face while the medium was locked in the cabinet. Annie Fairlamb
(Mrs. Mellon) reported I feel as though I were that
form, and yet I know I am not and that I am still seated on my
chair. It is a kind of double consciousnessa faraway feeling,
hard to define. At one moment I am hot, and the next moment
cold. I sometimes have a choking, fainting, sinking sensation
when the form is out.
Describing an early materialization séance of Rosina
Thompson, F. W. Thurstan stated All this while Mrs. T. was
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed. Materialization
in full consciousness, but she kept exclaiming that she felt all
hollow and another thing she noticed was that whenever
Clares fingers touched anyone she distinctly felt a pricking
sensation in her body, very similar to her experiences when she
had been placed once on an insulating stool and charged with
electricity and persons had touched her to make sparks come
DEsperance, who never touched tobacco, suffered from nicotine
poisoning if her sitters smoked during the ectoplasmic
process. W. Reichel, author of Occult Experiences (1906), observed
that the phantoms of the medium C. V. Miller smelled
of tobacco and even of food and wine if the medium had liberally
partaken of them before the séance. When the materilized
child of Florence Marryat filled her mouth with sugar-plums,
she nearly choked the medium. Mahedi, the Egyptian phantom
of medium F. W. Monck, discovered a dish of baked apples
in the room. I got him to eat some, wrote Archdeacon
Thomas Colley. Our medium was at this time six or seven feet
away from the materialised form and had not chosen to take
any of the fruit, averring that he could taste the apple the Egyptian
was eating. Wondering how this could be, I, with my right
hand, gave our abnormal friend another baked apple to eat,
holding this very bit of paper in my left hand outstretched towards
the medium, when from his lips fell the chewed skin and
core of the apple eaten by The Mahediand here it is before
me now after all these years in this screwed up bit of paper for
any scientist to analyse.
Ectoplasm was seen as a sensitive substance. It was to be handled
with caution and protected from the light. Gustav Geley
observed that the shock of sudden light was proportional to the
duration of the light and not to its intensity. A magnesium flash
would hurt the medium less than the rays of a pocket lamp. If
the ectoplasm had solidified, the danger of injuring the medium
was less, but a danger nevertheless. Reportedly, the medium
could suffer if the phantom was hurt, but the injury did not
necessarily appear on the corresponding part of the mediums
body. A phantom hand could be pierced through with a knife
and the medium might shriek with pain, yet his hands would
bear no trace of the wound. F. L. Willis had an experience of
this kind in his mediumship. However, séance-room atrocities
seldom went beyond spirit grabbing.
When Florence Marryat was conducted into the cabinet by
the materialized spirit of Mary Showers, she was told
You see that Rosie is half her usual size and weight. I have
borrowed the other half from her, which, combined with contributions
from the sitters, goes to make up the body in which I
show myself to you. If you increase the action of the vital half
to such a degree, that, if the two halves did not reunite, you
would kill her. You see that I can detach certain particles from
her organism for my own use, and when I dematerialise, I restore
these particles to her, and she becomes once more her
normal size. You only hurry the re-union by violently detaining
me, so as to injure her.
In an earlier account given to a Mr. Luxmoore by Katie
King, the danger was graphically but less scientifically pictured.
To the question When you disappear, where is it to
she answered, Into the medium, giving her back all the vitality
which I took from her. When I have got very much from her,
if anyone of you were to take her suddenly round the waist and
try to carry her you might kill her on the spot; she might suffocate.
I can go in and out of her readily, but understand, I am
not hernot her double; they talk a deal of rubbish about doubles;
I am myself all the time.
Colleys experience with Mahedi appeared to conform to
the above theories. This phantom was a giant. His physical
strength was so great that he could lift the archdeacon from his
chair to the level of his shoulders apparently without effort. He
reminded the archdeacon of a mummy of gigantic proportions
he once saw in a museum.
Colley described the Mahedis first visit through the medium
F. W. Monck
He wore a kind of metal skull cap, with an emblem in front
which trembled and quivered and glistened, overhanging the
brow. I was allowed to feel it, but there was little resistance to
my fingers, and it seemed to melt away like a snowflake under
my touch, and to grow apparently solid again the moment
after. For once (February 18, 1878) by daylight, it was arranged,
as a most dangerous experiment, that I should grasp
the white-attired Egyptian and try to keep him from getting
back to invisibility through the body of the medium. I was, by
an invisible force, levitated, as it seemed instantly some eighteen
or twenty feet from my drawing room door right up to
where the medium stood, whom, strangely and suddenly, wearing
white muslin over his black coat, I found in my arms just
as I had held The Mahedi. The materialised form had gone,
and the psychic clothing that he evolved with him from the left
side of my friend must also have gone the same way with the
speed of thought back to invisibility through the medium.
It is difficult to find a corroboration of this experience in the
literature of Spiritualism. Far more often it was said that the
spirit dissolved in the grabbers hand. William Volckman had
that experience with Katie King. Most of the time, however,
when the light was switched on the spirit was found to be identical
to the medium. Cases of transfiguration in a state of deep
trance may offer an excuse, but generally it is a safe assumption
that a successful grabbing of the medium in the spirits guise
establishes a prima facie case for fraud. The question that usually
complicates the case is of the drapery that is visible in the dark
and may serve for purposes of transfiguration. The drapery
often disappeared when the light was switched on, but often it
was found and turned out to be very material and enduring.
Some Early Explanations
According to the explanation of the controls, the phenomena
of materialization were not produced by a single spirit.
John King, in a séance with Cecil Husk, disclosed to Florence
When the controls have collected the matter with which I
worksome from everybody in the circle, mostly from the mediums
brainI mould with it a plastic mask, somewhat like
warm wax in feel, but transparent as gelatine, into the rough
likeness of a face. . . . I therefore place this plastic substance
over the spirit features and mould it to them. If the spirits will
have the patience to stand still I can generally make an excellent
likeness of what they were in earth life, but most of them
are in such haste to manifest that they render my task very difficult.
That is why very often a spirit appears to his friends and
they cannot recognise any likeness.
The solidity of the materialized form varied. Some mediums
only produced vaporous phantoms called etherealizations.
The exertion of force apparently had no relationship to the
spirit entitys solidity. For example, an early illustrative account
appears in Spiritualism by John Worth Edmonds and G. T.
Dexter (2 vols., 185355)
I felt on one of my arms what seemed to be the grip of an
iron hand. I felt distinctly the thumb and fingers, the palm of
the hand, and the ball of the thumb, and it held me fast by a
power which I struggled to escape from in vain. With my other
hand I felt all round where the pressure was, and satisfied myself
that it was no earthly hand that was thus holding me fast,
nor indeed could it be, for I was as powerless in that grip as a
fly would be in the grasp of my hand.
The word materialization was first used in 1873 in the United
States in place of spirit forms. Hands and arms were seen in
the séances of the Davenport brothers in the earliest days of
modern Spiritualism. According to Epes Sargents The Scientific
Basis of Spiritualism (1881), as far back as 1850, a full spirit
form would not infrequently appear. Chemist James J. Mapes
became the first scientist to speculate on a means by which such
temporary organisms might be produced in accordance with
the kinetic theory of gases, with a minimum of actual material
particles, if enough energy of motion were imparted to them.
Materialization Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed.
Phantom Eyes and Hands
A record published in the Report on Spiritualism of the London
Dialectical Society (1871) narrates the metamorphosis of
a psychic light into an eye Mr W. Lindsay said there was a
large bright eye in the centre of the table, from whence other
eyes appeared to emanate and approach and retreat. Eyes
winking humorously were frequently reported in the Boston séances
of Margery (the name used in the literature for Mina
F. W. Pawlowski, professor of aeronautical engineering at
the University of Michigan, writes about his experiences with
Franek Kluski in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical
Research (1925, pp. 481504)
Bright bluish stars appear and begin to move high above
the table, near the ceiling. When they approached me at a distance
of about 16 inches I recognised to my great astonishment
that they were human eyes looking at me. Within a few seconds
such a pair of eyes develops into a complete human head, and
with a hand moving a luminous palm illuminating it clearly.
The hand will move around the head as if to show itself more
clearly to the onlooker, the eyes looking at one intensely and
the face smiling most pleasantly. I have seen a number of such
heads, sometimes two at a time, moving through the air like
drifting toy balloons from one sitter to another. On several occasions
the apparitions appeared just behind my back, and I
was aware of them from the sound of their breathing, which I
could hear distinctly before they were noticed by the sitters opposite
to me. When I turned around I found their faces just
about a foot from me, either smiling or looking intently at me.
Some of these were breathing violently as if after a strenuous
run, and in these cases I felt their breath on my face. Once I
listened to the heartbeat of an apparition. They conducted
themselves as callers at a party. The expression of curiosity in
their eyes is most appealing. I have seen a similar look only in
the eyes of children at the age of the awakening of their intelligence.
On one occasion I saw two of them flying high above our
heads in the higher room, illuminating each other with the
plaques and performing fancy evolutions. It was really a beautiful
sight, something like an aerial ballet.
William Crookes testified that the phantom hand . . . is not
always a mere form, but sometimes appears perfectly life-like
and graceful, the fingers moving and the flesh apparently as
human as that of any in the room. At the wrist, or arm, it becomes
hazy and fades off into a luminous cloud.
To the touch the hand was sometimes icy cold and dead, at
other times warm and lifelike. Crookes said he saw a luminous
cloud hover over a heliotrope, break a sprig off and carry it to
a lady; he also claimed to have seen a finger and thumb pick
petals from a flower in Homes buttonhole and lay them in
front of several persons sitting near him. Phantom hands playing
the keys of an accordion floating in the air were frequently
Once in the full light of day in Halls drawing room, with D.
D. Homes feet and hands in full view the entire time, William
Howitt, S. Carter Hall, and Emma Hardinge Britten claimed
they saw 20 pairs of hands form and remain visible and active
for about an hour. One evening, wrote John Ashburner of his
experiences with the medium Charles Foster, I witnessed the
presence of nine hands floating over the dining table (Notes
and Studies on Animal Magnetism and Spiritualism, 1867).
Signor G. Damiani testified before the London Dialectical
Society as having seen, at a séance of the Davenport brothers
in London in 1868, . . . five pink transparent hands ranged
perpendicularly behind the door. Subsequently, he said, I
placed my hand in the small window of the cabinet, when I felt
each of my five digits tightly grasped by a distinct hand; while
my own was thus held down, five or six other hands protruded
from the hole above my wrist. On withdrawing my hand from
the aperture, an arm came out therefroman arm of such
enormous proportions that had it been composed of flesh and
bone, it would, I verily believe, have turned the scale (being
weighted) against the whole corporeal substance of the small
A silver, luminous hand that began at the elbow and was
seen in the process of formation is described in the report of
a séance with D. D. Home in the Hartford Times, March 18,
1853 In a moment there appeared a rather dull looking, grey
hand, somewhat shadowy, and not quite so clearly defined as
the first, but it was unmistakably there, and its grey hue could
be clearly seen.
Eusapia Palladino was famous for her third arm, which issued
from her shoulders and receded into them. This arm was
often seen independently and well materialized. The counterpartal
arms of William Stainton Moses, extending from his
shoulders straight out, and above his true arms, presented a
similar phenomenon. They simply retracted into the medium,
or vanished if an attempt was made to grasp them.
Describing John Kings materialized hand, Charles Richet
I held it firmly and counted 29 seconds, during all which
time I had leisure to observe both of Eusapias hands on the
table, to ask Mme. Curie if she was sure of her control, to call
Courtiers attention, and also to feel, press and identify a real
hand through the curtain. After 29 seconds I said I want something
more, I want uno anello (a ring) on this hand. At once
the hand made me feel a ring I said adesso uno braceletto
and on the wrist I felt the two ends as of a womans bracelet that
closes by a hinge. I then asked that this hand should melt in
mine, but the hand disengaged itself by a strong effort, and I
felt nothing further.
Sitting with Eusapia Palladino, Filippo Bottazzi four times
saw an enormous black fist come out from behind the left curtain,
which remained motionless, and advance toward the head
of Mme. B. Eugene Crowell states in The Identity of Primitive
Christianity with Modern Spiritualism (1874), At Moravia, at one
time, I saw an arm projected from the aperture of the cabinet,
which with the hand, was fully three and a half feet in length.
It remained in view, in free motion, for a time sufficient for all
to observe and remark upon it. Its enormous length and size
startled all present.
Despite such startling testimonies, the inference that telekinetic
effects are produced by materialized hands should not be
drawn hastily. Julien Ochorowicz noticed an alternative character
about these manifestations a well-materialized hand,
when clearly visible, was mechanically inactive. Mechanical effects
were generally produced by invisible hands. The same
held true for chemical, luminous, and acoustic effects.
Phantoms of Fame and Name
The best records of full form materializations have been furnished
by familiar spirits Katie King, who attended Florence
Cook for three years; Yolande, who appeared in Elizabeth
dEsperances séances for a similar period; Estella, who
manifested in the Livermore sittings for five years; and Bertha,
a niece of E. A. Brackett who appeared to him through
different mediums for two years. Yolandes case was unique
in one respectshe was sexually assaulted by a man who took
her for a real woman. This resulted in a profound injury and
serious illness to the medium.
Materialized spirits seldom came in numbers and their
range of activity was limited. The marvelous stories of C. V. Millers
mediumship, which was powerful enough to make 12
materialized figures appear at once, rest mostly on the testimony
of W. Reichel. Corroboration by a repetition of the occurrence
is also wanting in the case of the peripatetic ghosts of
George Spriggs, which were said to walk about the house and
in the garden, and in the case of the open-air materializations
of William Eglinton, in which the spirits walked 66 feet away
from the medium.
Crookes was the first modern scientist who studied materializations
under laboratory conditions. Katie King offered him
every opportunity for investigation. She even allowed Crookes
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed. Materialization
to enter the cabinet where, armed with a phosphorus lamp, he
saw both the medium and Katie at the same time. In studying
D. D. Homes mediumship, Crookes did not see many fully
materialized figures. He observed In the dusk of the evening
during a séance with Mr. Home at my house, the curtains of a
window about eight feet from Mr. Home were seen to move. A
dark, shadowy, semi-transparent form, like that of a man, was
then seen by all present standing near the window, waving the
curtain with his hand. As we looked, the form faded away and
the curtains ceased to move.
Mrs. Crookes described a semitransparent phantom form
playing an accordian, which she said was also seen by her husband,
the Reverend Stainton Moses, and Sergeant Cox in a
Home séance As the figure approached I felt an intense cold,
getting stronger as it got nearer, and as it was giving me the accordion
I could not help screaming. The figure seemed to sink
into the floor, to the waist, leaving only the head and shoulders
visible, still playing the accordion, which was then about a foot
off the floor.
A description of a more solid case was given by Lord Adare
who also sat in Homes séances
Her form gradually became apparent to us; she moved
close to Home and kissed him. She stood beside him against
the window intercepting the light as a solid body, and appeared
fully as material as Home himself; no one could have told which
was the mortal body and which was the spirit. It was too dark,
however to distinguish features. I could see that she had her full
face turned towards us, and that either her hair was parted in
the middle, and flowed down over her shoulders or that she
had on what appeared to be a veil.
The next systematic investigation was made by Charles Richet,
who confides to his readers
At the Villa Carmen I saw a fully organised form rise from
the floor. At first it was only a white, opaque spot like a handkerchief
lying on the ground before the curtain, then this handkerchief
quickly assumed the form of a human head level with
the floor, and a few moments later it rose up in a straight line
and became a small man enveloped in a kind of white burnous,
who took two or three halting steps in front of the curtain and
then sank to the floor and disappeared as if through a trapdoor.
But there was no trap-door.
The phantom Bien Boa possessed all the attributes of life.
Richet writes It walks, speaks, moves and breathes like a
human being. Its body is resistant, and has a certain muscular
strength. It is neither a lay figure nor a doll, nor an image reflected
by a mirror; it is as a living being; it is as a living man;
and there are reasons for resolutely setting aside every other
supposition than one or other of these two hypotheses either
that of a phantom having the attributes of life; or that of a living
person playing the part of a phantom.
At another time he notes, At certain moments it was
obliged to lean and bend, because of the great height which it
had assumed. Then suddenly, his head sank, sank right down
to the ground, and disappeared. He did this three times in succession.
In trying to compare this phenomenon to something,
I can find nothing better than the figure in a jack-in-the-box,
which comes out all of a sudden.
Hands That Melted Like Snow
The appearance of human organs or of complete bodies was
followed by their dissolution. This phenomenon was observed
under dramatic circumstances. Testimonies of this phenomenon
were numerous Frank L. Burr, editor of the Hartford
Times, in a letter to Homes wife, gave his account of one of
Homes last séances, held March 14, 1855, before his departure
Turning this strange hand palm towards me, I pushed my
right forefinger entirely through the palm, till it came out an
inch or more, visibly, from the back of the hand. In other
words, I pushed my finger clean through that mysterious hand.
When I withdrew it, the place closed up, much as a piece of
putty would close under such circumstances, leaving a visible
mark or scar, where the wound was, but not a hole. While I was
still looking at it the hand vanished, quick as a lightning flash.
Crookes also wrote of Home I have retained one of these
hands in my own, firmly resolved not to let it escape. There was
no struggle or effort to get loose, but it gradually seemed to resolve
itself into vapour, and faded in that manner from my
Crookes observed that the hands and fingers did not always
appear to be solid and lifelike. Sometimes they looked like a
cloud partly condensed into the form of a hand.
H. D. Jencken said before the London Dialectical Society, I
have once been enabled to submit a spirit hand to pressure.
The temperature was, as far as I could judge, the same as that
of the room, and the spirit hand felt soft, velvety; dissolving
slowly under the greatest amount of pressure to which I could
Katies wrist was once seized in anger by G. H. Tapp of
Dalston, whom Katie had struck on the chest for a joke she
resented. As Tapp described it, the hand crumpled up in my
grasp like a piece of paper, or thin cardboard, my fingers meeting
John King was seen by Florence Marryat to hold a slate
so that both hands were visible, and then let one hand dematerialise
till it was no larger than a dolls, whilst the other remained
the normal size.
Filippo Bottazzi of the University of Naples wrote, I saw
and felt at one and the same time a human hand natural in colour,
I felt with mine the fingers and the back of a strong, warm,
rough hand. I gripped it and it vanished from my grasp, not
becoming smaller, but melting, dematerialising, dissolving.
Eugene Rochas wrote in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques
(vol. 18, 1908, p. 280) of a séance in which M. Montorguiel
seized a materialized hand and called for a light. The hand
melted and all of us thought we saw a luminous trail from his
hand to F.s body, Rochas recalls. Hereward Carrington, one
of the keenest fraudhunters among psychical researchers,
I myself have observed materializations under perfect conditions
of control, and have had the temporary hand melt within
my own, as I held it firmly clasped. This hand was a perfectly
formed, physiological structure, warm, life-like and having
all the attributes of a human handyet both the mediums
hands were securely held by two controllers, and visible in the
red light. Let me repeat, this hand was not pulled away, but
somehow melted in my grasp as I held it (The Story of Psychic
Dramatic Exit of Spirit Visitants
The dissolution of a full phantom was one of the most dramatic
moments in a materialization séance. Katie King
agreed to demonstrate it and Florence Marryat captures the
moment in her book There is no Death (1892)
She [Katie King] took up her station against the drawing
room wall, with her arms extended as if she were crucified.
Then three gas-burners were turned on to their full extent in
a room about 16 feet square. The effect upon Katie King was
marvelous. She looked like herself for the space of a second
only, then she began gradually to melt away. I can compare the
dematerialisation of her form to nothing but a wax doll melting
before a hot fire. First the features became blurred and indistinct;
they seemed to run into each other. The eyes sunk in the
sockets, the nose disappeared, the frontal bone fell in. Next the
limbs appeared to give way under her, and she sank lower and
lower on the carpet, like a crumbling edifice. At last there was
nothing but her head left above the groundthen a heap of white
drapery only, which disappeared with a whisk, as if a hand had
pulled it after herand we were left staring by the light of three
gas burners at the spot on which Katie King had stood.
Sometimes the dissolution is unexpected, the medium later
reporting that the power waned and the form could not be held
Materialization Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed.
together. In a séance with Annie Eva Fay, a deceased sister appeared
to Marryat, who recalled Suddenly she appeared to
faint. Her eyes closed, her head fell back on my shoulder, and
before I had time to realise what was going to happen, she had
passed through the arm that supported her, and sunk down
through the floor. The sensation of her weight was still making
my arm tingle, but Emily was gone, clean gone.
Honto, the Indian spirit control of the Eddy brothers,
smoked a pipe. The light from the burning tobacco enabled Olcott
to see her copper-colored cheek, the bridge of her nose,
and the white of her eye. She remained out too long. Darting
back, she collapsed into a shapeless heap before the curtains,
only one hand being distinguishable. In half a minute she appeared
The process of dissolution varied. Robert Dale Owen stated
that he had seen a form fade from the head downward. William
Oxley (author of Modern Messiahs and Wonder Workers, 1889)
said he saw Yolande melting away from the feet upward until
only the head appeared above the floor; this grew less and less
until only a white spot remained. Then it too disappeared. Her
materialization, as a rule, took ten to fifteen minutes. Her disappearance
took place in two to five minutes, while the disappearance
of the drapery lasted from one-half to two minutes.
At one of Annie Fairlambs séances in Sydney, Australia, a
form lay down on the platform, stretched out its limbs and each
member of the body separately dematerialized.
Most often the figures collapsed and disappeared through
the floor. The phantoms of Virginia Roberts, however, (as Marryat
testified) if they were strong enough to leave the cabinet,
invariably disappeared by floating upward through the ceiling.
Their mode of doing this was most graceful, Marryat wrote.
They would first clasp their hands behind their heads, and
lean backwards; then their feet were lifted off the ground, and
they were borne upward in a recumbent position. The phantoms
of Carlos Mirabelli, the South American medium, similarly
raised themselves and floated in the air before full dissolution,
which began with the feet.
When matter apparently passes through matter or when apports
are brought into the séance room, the process of dematerialization
may be identical. This was suggested by
dEsperance (Shadow Land, 1897)
A lady once brought a brilliantly colored Persian silk scarf,
which Yolande regarded with great delight, and immediately
draped about her shoulders and waist. This scarf she could not
be induced to part with. When she had disappeared and the séance
closed a careful search was made, but it was not to be
found. The next time she came, the lady asked her what she
had done with it. Yolande seemed a little nonplussed at the
question, but in an instant she made a few movements with her
hands in the air and over her shoulders, and the scarf was
there, draped as she had arranged it on the previous
evening. . . . She never trusted this scarf out of her hands.
When sometimes she herself gradually dissolved into mist
under the scrutiny of twenty pairs of eyes, the shawl was left
lying on the floor, we would say, At last she has forgotten it;
but no, the shawl would itself gradually vanish in the same manner
as its wearer and no search which we might afterwards
make ever discovered its whereabouts. Yet Yolande assured us
gleefully that we failed to see it only because we were blind, for
the shawl never left the room. This seemed to amuse her, and
she was never tired of mystifying us by making things invisible
to our eyes or by introducing into the room flowers which had
not been brought by human hands.
Marvels of Materialization
On May 25, 1921, Juliette Bisson reported seeing the materialization
on the hand of Eva C. of a naked woman eight
inches high, with a beautiful body, long fair hair, and brilliantly
white skin. It vanished and returned several times and either
her hair was differently arranged or she appeared smaller. The
little figure performed various gymnastic exercises and finally
stood on Bissons extended hand. (Bisson was Eva C.s accomplice
in producing materializations.) The materialization of
small heads the size of walnuts in a glass of water was the peculiar
feature of Lujza Ignaths mediumship. Nona, the control,
said the heads were plastic thoughtforms.
Describing a visit to an unnamed materialization medium,
Gladys Osborne Leonard states in her book My Life in Two
My husband was sitting with his feet and knees rather wide
apart. His gaze suddenly was diverted from the materialised
spirit to a kind of glow near his feet. Looking down he saw a
tiny man and woman, between 12 and 18 inches high, standing
between his knees. They were holding hands and looking up
into my husbands face, as if they were thinking What on earth
is that They seemed to be interested, if not more so, in him,
and the details of his appearance, as he was in theirs. He was
too astonished to call anybodys attention to the tiny people,
who were dressed in bright green, like the pictures of elves and
fairies, and who wore little pointed caps. A slight glow surrounded
them, or emanated from them, he wasnt sure which,
but it was strong enough for him to see their little faces and
forms clearly. After a moment or two they disappeared, apparently
melting into the floor.
In a sitting with Countess Castelwitch in Lisbon, a communicator
who called himself M. Furtado rapped out through the
table that he would not allow himself to be photographed because
he had forgotten what his face was like. At the next séance
he said I have no face, but I will make one. The photographic
plate revealed a tall phantom clothed in white, having a
deaths-head instead of a face. A similar but more gruesome instance
was described in the reports of the Academia de Estudo
Psychicos Cesar Lombroso of Sao Paolo, on the mediumship
of Carlo Mirabelli
The third sitting followed immediately while the medium
was still in a state of exhaustion. A skull inside the closet began
to beat against the doors. They opened it and the skull floated
into the air. Soon the bones of a skeleton appeared one after
another from neck to feet. The medium is in a delirium, beats
himself and emits a bad smell like that of a cadaver. The skeleton
begins to walk, stumble and walk again. It walks round the
room while Dr. de Souza touches it. He feels hard, wet, bones.
The others touch it. Then the skeleton disappears slowly until
the skull alone remains which finally falls on a table. The medium
was bound throughout the performance. It lasted 22 counted
minutes in bright sunlight.
Alfred Vout Peters claimed to have seen in a séance with
Cecil Husk the materialization of a living friend who was at the
time asleep in his home. Horace Leaf reported (Light, January
29, 1932) on the materialization of the head, shoulders, and
arm of a relative living 400 miles away. A conversation was carried
on for several minutes on matters thoroughly appropriate,
before the head bid him goodbye and vanished.
Colley noticed some unique feature of the mysterious spirit
entity Mahedi. The phantom could not speak English, so
Colley had to use signs to make him understand that he wanted
him to write. He looked puzzled at the lead pencil. When he
was shown how to use it, he held it as he would hold a stylus and
began to write quickly from the right to the left in unknown oriental
characters, being in a most peculiar way under the control
of Samuel one spirit controlling another spiritthe
medium having nothing to do with it, since he was fully awake
some 17 feet away and talking to a lady. Colley had samples of
Samuels handwriting and he understood Samuel to be in
control. He later argued
It was something like what I had before seen and publicly
reported relating to the evolution of a spirit form from another
spirit form, which first form, as usual, extruded from the medium,
so that (December 7, 1877) there stood in line our normal
friend (entranced) and next to him the Egyptian thence derived,
and from the Egyptian, in turn, the extruded personality
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed. Materialization
of Lily, all at the same timethe three in a row ranked together
yet separate and distinct entities.
After all these marvels, Colleys description of the reabsorption
of a phantom into the mediums side in plain view appears
to lose its wild improbability. Of a séance held on September
25, 1877, Colley stated
As I brought my sweet companion close up to him, the gossamer
filament again came into view; its attenuated and vanishing
point being, as before, towards the heart. Greatly wondering,
yet keen to observe, did I notice how, by means of this
vapoury cord, the psychic figure was sucked back into the body
of the medium. For like a waterspout at seafunnel-shaped or
sand column such as I have seen in Egypthorizontal instead
of vertical, the vital power of our medium appeared to absorb
and draw in the spirit-form, but at my desire, so gradually that
I was enabled quite leisurely thus closely to watch the process.
For leaning against, and holding my friend with my left arm at
his back and my left ear and cheek at his breast, his heart beating
in an alarming way, I saw him receive back the lovely birth
of the invisible spheres into his robust corporeal person. And
as I gazed on the sweet face of the disintegrating spirit, within
three or four inches of its features, I again marked the fair lineaments,
eyes, hair and delicate complexion, and kissed the
dainty hand as in process of absorption it dissolved and was
drawn through the texture and substance of his black coat into
our friends bosom.
The archdeacon once spoke to a materialized phantom before
her extrusion was accomplished and he saw recognition in
her eyes and heard her whisper, during the psychic parturition,
so glad to see you.
On one occasion a minister friend of Francis Monck materialized;
by common consent the medium was carefully awakened.
Colley recalled Dazed for a moment, and then most astonished,
our aroused friend looked enquiringly at the
materialised spirit form, and jumping up from the sofa on
which we had placed him he excitedly rushed forward to his
one-time fellow-student, shouting Why, it is Sam and then
there was handshaking and brotherly greetings between the
two. When both friends were about to speak at once there was
a momentary impasse and neither seemed able to articulate;
the mediums breath appearing to be needed by Samuel when
he essayed to speak, while the materialised form was also
checked in his utterance when the medium began to speak.
C. V. Miller, the San Francisco materialization medium, as
a rule did not pass into trance and took the phantoms that issued
from the cabinet by the hand and introduced them to his
sitters. His amazing séances were duplicated by R. H. Moore,
of San Diego, California. According to N. Meade Layne, in Psychic
Research (June 1931), Moore was a well-known gentleman
past 70 years of age, who did not go into trance and accompanied
the forms that issued from behind a curtain within a few
steps into the circle. The forms were never fully materialized;
as a rule they were invisible below the bust, although the ectoplasmic
drapery sometimes trailed nearly to the floor. Layne
writes, At a recent séance one of the forms, while conversing
with the person at my side, advanced to within about 18 inches
of my face. Dr. Moore then, after telling us what he was about
to do, struck the head of the form lightly with his open hand
to show the degree of materialization. The movement and the
sound were plainly perceived. He then passed his arm through
the form at the solar plexus (Psychic Research, July 1930).
Besides the materialization of spirit entities, many other objects
came forth in the séance room. Such phenomena, which
blend into that of apports, often served to confuse researchers
and distract them from the central issues of spirit contact. However,
in the end, the other objects served to confirm the fraudulent
nature of materializations.
Spirits were often observed enveloped in drapery. This was
always considered one of the greatest puzzles of ghost lore,
though if one considers materialization as basically fraudulent,
the drapery was merely a prop to confuse the issue. The communications
received through mediums did little to elucidate
the subject, though it was taken up in the discussions of the
clothing of spirits in the afterlife. Spirit drapery seems to
have been constructed of a light material such as cheesecloth
and was occasionally coated with a luminous substance such as
phosphorus. However, the discussion of the phenomena as
part of the larger inquiry into spirit existence is of some interest.
Julia, in her communications to W. T. Stead (Letters from
Julia, 1897), notes that the spirit is at the first moment quite
unclothed, as at birth. When the thought of nakedness crosses
the spirits mind, there comes the clothing which you need.
The idea with us is creative. We think and the thing is. I do not
remember putting on any garments. Her observation was confirmed
by Caroline D. Larsen in My Travels in the Spirit World
(1927) From every spirit emanates a strong aura, a pseudophosphoric
light. This aura is completely controlled by the
mind. Out of this substance is moulded the vesture of the
About a conscious projection of his astral body, Sylvan J.
On one occasion I noticed the clothing forming itself out
of the emanation surrounding my astral body, when only a few
feet out of coincidence, and the clothing was exactly like that
covering my physical body. On another occasion I awakened
and found myself moving along at the intermediate speed. A
very dense aura surrounded meso dense, in fact, that I could
scarcely see my own body. It remained so until the phantom
came to a stop, when I was dressed in the typical ghost like
The idea of a power to form spirit clothing seems to have
emerged slowly in materialization séances, where the formation
of spirit drapery came to be viewed as preliminary to the
building up of the body. It served, some speculated, the purpose
of covering up imperfections or vacant spots in the temporary
organism, protected the ectoplasmic substance from the
effects of light, and satisfied the requirements of modesty (very
important in both British and American societies). Once while
Yolande, (who was often seen together with medium Elizabeth
dEsperance outside the cabinet) was talking to a sitter,
the top part of her white drapery fell off and revealed her
form, writes Oxley. I noticed that the form was imperfect, as
the bust was undeveloped and the waist uncontracted which was
a test that the form was not a lay figure.
The drapery observed usually appeared to be white, sometimes
of a dazzling whiteness, but could also be greyish in appearance;
it was often luminous and so material that it was always
the last to disappear when the séance concluded. The
reason apparently was that the substance of the drapery,
though its texture was finer, withdrawn from the mediums
clothes to be molded by the invisible operators, like ectoplasm,
into all kinds of patterns.
The medium Franek Kluski noticed that the curtains and
carpets of his apartment, where his materialization phenomena
were produced, were badly worn in an inexplicable manner.
The observation was also made at the British College of Psychic
Science that the lining of the underarms of a mediums
jacket used exclusively for séance purposes and apparently subjected
to no rough wear had to be renewed frequently. The wife
of medium John Lewis of Wales, who had to repair the garment,
said that the wear on the jacket was greater than on garments
worn in his work as a coal miner. The color of the garment
was apparently of no consequence because the spirit
drapery remained white, even if the original dress was black.
In a séance with William Eglinton on September 9, 1877, a
Dr. Nichols saw the materialized form Joey make, in the
presence of three other persons, 20 yards of white drapery
which certainly never saw a Manchester loom. The matter of
which it was formed was visibly gathered from the atmosphere
and later melted into invisible air. I have seen at least a hundred
yards so manufactured, he said.
Materialization Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed.
Katherine Bates writes in Seen and Unseen (1907), I stood
close over her [the phantom] holding out my own dress, and
as she rubbed her hands to and fro a sort of white lace or net
came from them, like a foam, and lay upon my gown which I
was holding up towards her. I touched this material and held
it in my hands. It had substance but was light as gossamer, and
quite unlike any stuff I ever saw in a shop.
F. W. Thurstan said that when medium Rosina Thompson
produced physical phenomena, a soft, gauzy, scented white
drapery was flung over my head and seen by the others on my
side of the room. A spirit in séances with Annie Eva Fay supposedly
made yards and yards of spirit drapery by rubbing her
hands together with bare arms. Once she made a seamless robe
and apparently dematerialized it instantaneously. William Harrison,
editor of The Spiritualist, states in an account of a séance
with Florence Cook,
She [Katie King] threw out about a yard of white fabric,
but kept hold of it by the other end, saying Look, this is spirit
drapery. I said Drop it into the passage Katie, and let us see
it melt away; or let us cut a piece off. She replied I cant; but
look here. She then drew back her hand, which was above the
top of the curtain, and as the spirit drapery touched the curtain,
it passed right through, just as if there were no resistance
whatever. I think at first there was friction between the two fabrics
and they rustled against each other, but that when she said
Look here some quality which made the drapery common
matter was withdrawn from it, and at once it passed through
the common matter of the curtain, without experiencing any
Katie King often allowed her sitters to touch her drapery.
Sometimes she cut as many as a dozen pieces from the lower
part of her skirt and made presents of them to different observers.
The holes were immediately sealed. Crookes examined the
skirt inch by inch and found no hole, no marks, or seam of any
These pieces of drapery mostly melted into thin air, however
carefully they were guarded, but sometimes they could be
preserved. If they were, the mediums dress was damaged.
Katie King said in her attempt to cover up the trickery that
nothing material about her could be made to last without taking
away some of the mediums vitality and weakening her.
A specimen of Katies drapery was taken by a Miss Douglas
to Messrs. Howell and Jamess cloth and dry goods store,
London, with the request to match it. They said that they could
not, and that they believed it to be of Chinese manufacture.
At a séance with Elizabeth dEsperance, a sitter removed a
piece of drapery that clothed one of the spirit forms. Later
dEsperance discovered that a large square piece of material
was missing from her skirt, partly cut, partly torn. The stolen
piece of drapery was found to be of the same shape as the missing
part of the skirt, but several times larger, and white, the texture
fine and thin as gossamer. After this experience
dEsperance seemed to understand a similar happening in England.
Ninia, a child spirit control, was asked for a piece of
her abundant clothing. She complied, but unwillingly. After the
séance dEsperance found a hole in her new dress.
Katie Brink, the spirit of the medium Elizabeth J. Compton,
cut a piece of her dress for Richard Cross of Montreal, but
on the condition that he would buy a new dress for the medium,
for a corresponding hole would appear on her skirt. The cut
piece was fine, gossamer-like material. The mediums dress was
black alpaca, and much coarser. The cut piece fit the hole in
the mediums dress.
William Stainton Moses was once given a piece of spirit
drapery sweetened by spirit musk. He sent it to the wife of
his friend Stanhope Speer. The scent on the letter was fresh
and pungent 17 years afterward.
Mediums explained that part of the power available to them
for the materialization was consumed by the creation of spirit
drapery. They added that, in some instances, for purely economical
reasons, the operators accepted ready-made cloth
brought in for them to wear. John King was supposedly photographed
in such borrowed garments. There were stories that
for similar reasons wearing apparel could be apported.
This speculation made it easy for fraud to flourish. Florence
Cooks mother was said to have once caught Katie King wearing
her daughters dress. Katie confessed that she borrowed it
because the mediums power was weak. She said she would
never do it again because the medium might be compromised.
In other cases, it was claimed, yards of muslin and grenadine
were apported expressly for draping purposes and left in the
séance room. Further, traces of spirit cloth appeared in mediumistic
plastics used to make impressions of spirit faces.
Souvenir Locks of Hair, Materialized Jewels, and
Materialized phantoms often gave locks of hair to sitters for
souvenirs. Katie King did it very often. Once in the cabinet,
she cut off a lock of her own hair and a lock of the mediums
and gave them both to Florence Marryat. One was almost black,
soft and silky, the other a coarse, golden red. On another occasion
she asked Marryat to cut her hair with a pair of scissors as
fast as she could. So I cut off curl after curl, and as fast as they
fell to the ground the hair grew again upon her head, Marryat
Severed hair usually vanished, but not always. Crookes, in
a later communication, spoke of a lock of Katies hair he still
possessed. Similarly a lock that Charles Richet cut from the
head of an Egyptian beauty during the mediumship of Marthe
Béraud remained intact. Richet stated I have kept this lock,
it is very fine, silky and undyed. Microscopical examination
shows it to be real hair; and I am informed that a wig of the
same would cost a thousand francs. Marthes hair is very dark
and she wears her hair rather short.
Materialized phantoms apparently often wore ornaments.
Admiral Usborne Moore, in his séances with the medium J. B.
Jonson of Detroit, found these ornaments yielding to the
touch. In other instances they were solid. Abd-u-lah, the onearmed
spirit of William Eglinton, appeared bedecked with diamonds,
emeralds, and rubies. The materialization of precious
stones is described by a Mrs. Nichols in the Spiritualist (October
For some time he moved his hands as if gathering something
from the atmosphere, just as when he makes muslin.
After some minutes he dropped on the table a massive diamond
ring. He said Now you may all take the ring, and you
may put it on, and hold it while you count twelve. Miss M. took
it and held it under the gaslight. It was a heavy gold ring with
a diamond that appeared much like one worn by a friend of
mine worth £1000. Joey said the value of this was 900 guineas.
Mr. W. examined it as we had done. He now made, as it
seemed, and as he said, from the atmosphere two diamonds,
very clear and beautiful, about the size of half a large pea. He
gave them into our hands on a piece of paper. We examined
them as we had the others. He laid the ring and the diamonds
on the table before him, and there next appeared a wonderful
cluster of rubies, set with a large ruby about half an inch in diameter
in the centre. These we all handled as we had the others.
Last there came a cross, about four inches in length, having
20 magnificent diamonds set in it; this we held in our hands,
and examined as closely as we liked. He told us that the market
value of the gems was £25,000. He remarked I could make
Willie the richest man in the world, but it would not be the best
thing, and might be the worst. He now took the jewels in front
of him and seemed to dissipate them, as one might melt hailstones
in heat until they entirely disappeared.
Stainton Moses was told by Magus, one of his controls,
that he would deliver him a topaz, the material counterpart of
his spiritual jewel, which would enable him to see scenes in the
spheres on looking into it. The jewel was found in his bedroom.
Moses was excited. He believed it to be an apport, taken without
the consent of the owner. He never received any definite
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed. Materialization
information as to its origin. It cannot be traced how long the
stone, which was set in a ring, remained in his possession.
Gems and pearls were frequently brought to Moses circle.
His theory was that they were made by spirits because he could
see them falling before they reached the table, while others
could not see them until they had fallen. Further, an emerald
had flaws in it, and therefore it could not have been cut or have
been an imitation.
Flower materializations were more frequent. There was a remarkable
instance in dEsperances mediumship. On June 28,
1890, at a séance in St. Petersburg, in the presence of Alexander
Aksakof and one Professor Boutlerof, a golden lily, seven
feet high, appeared in the séance room. It was kept for a week
and was photographed six times. After the week it dissolved
A record of the Livermore séances with Kate Fox on February
22, 1862, notes
Appearance of flowers. Cloudy. Atmosphere damp. Conditions
unfavourable. At the expiration of half an hour a bright
light rose to the surface of the table, of the usual cylindrical
form, covered with gossamer. Held directly over this was a
sprig of roses about six inches in length, containing two halfblown
white roses, and a bud with leaves. The flowers, leaves
and stem were perfect. They were placed at my nose and
smelled as though freshly gathered; but the perfume in this instance
was weak and delicate. We took them in our fingers and
I carefully examined the stem and flowers. The request was
made as before to be very careful. I noticed an adhesive, viscous
feeling which was explained as being the result of a damp,
impure atmosphere. These flowers were held near and over the
light, which seemed to feed and give them substance in the
same manner as the hand. By raps we were told to Notice and
see them dissolve. The sprig was placed over the light, the
flowers dropped, and in less than one minute, melted as
though made of wax, their substance seeming to spread as they
disappeared. By raps See them come again. A faint light immediately
shot across the cylinder, grew into a stem; and in
about the same time required for its dissolution, the stem, and
the roses had grown into created perfection. This was several
times repeated, and was truly wonderful.
F. W. Thurstan observed in sittings with Rosina Thompson
(Light, March 15, 1901) that when a pineapple was to be materialized
the smell and notion of it was in her head all day. He
believed that ideas of forms, actions, and words that would
manifest at a séance were placed in the mediums mind days beforehand.
One place where animals have made a noticeable impact
upon the world of paranormal research has been in claims of
their manifestation in the séances of materialization mediums.
There are abundant accounts of such apparitions, the strangest
reports being attributed to three Polish mediums Franek
Kluski, Jan Guzyk and one Burgik.
It was claimed that Guzyk materialized dogs and other animals,
and Kluski, a large bird of prey, small beasts, a lion, and
an apeman. The year 1919 abounded with apparent animal
materializations in the Kluski séances. An account in Psychic Science
(April 1926) reads in part
The bird was photographed, and before the exposure a
whirring, like the stretching of a huge birds wings, could be
heard, accompanied by slight blasts of wind, as if a large fan
were being used. . . . Hirkill (an Afghan) materialised. . . . Accompanying
him always was a rapacious beast, the size of a very
big dog, of a tawny colour, with slender neck, mouth full of
large teeth, eyes which glowed in the darkness like a cats, and
which reminded the company of a maneless lion. It was occasionally
wild in its behaviour, especially if persons were afraid
of it, and neither the human nor the animal apparition was
much welcomed by the sitters. . . . The lion, as we may call him,
liked to lick the sitters with a moist and prickly tongue, and
gave forth the odour of a great feline, and even after the séance
the sitters, and especially the medium, were impregnated with
this acrid scent as if they had made a long stay in a menagerie
among wild beasts.
According to one Professor Pawlowskis account in the Journal
of the American Society for Psychical Research (September
1925), the bird was a hawk or a buzzard. It flew round, beating
his wings against the walls and ceiling, and when he finally settled
on the shoulder of the medium he was photographed with
a magnesium flash, as the camera was accidently focussed on
the medium before, and was ready.
An anthropoidal ape showed itself first in July 1919. Gustav
Geley reports in his book Clairvoyance and Materialisation
This being which we have termed Pithecanthropus has
shown itself several times at our séances. One of us, at the séance
of November 20, 1920, felt its large shaggy head press
hard on his right shoulder and against his cheek. The head was
covered with thick, coarse hair. A smell came from it like that
of a deer or a wet dog. When one of the sitters put out his hand
the pithecanthrope seized it and licked it slowly three times. Its
tongue was large and soft. At other times we all felt our legs
touched by what seemed to be frolicsome dogs.
Col. Norbert Ocholowicz, in his book on Kluski, quotes an
article by Mrs. Hewat McKenzie
This ape was of such great strength that it could easily
move a heavy bookcase filled with books through the room,
carry a sofa over the heads of the sitters, or lift the heaviest persons
with their chairs into the air to the height of a tall person.
Though the apes behaviour sometimes caused fear, and indicated
a low level of intelligence, it was never malignant. Indeed
it often expressed goodwill, gentleness and readiness to
obey. . . . After a long stay a strong animal smell was noticed.
It was seen for the last time at the séance of December 26, 1922,
in the same form as in 1919 and making the same sounds of
smacking and scratching.
McKenzie also writes of a small animal reminding the sitters
of the weasel so often sensed at Guzyks séances It used to
run quickly over the table on to the sitters shoulders, stopping
every moment and smelling their hands and faces with a small,
cold nose; sometimes, as if frightened, it jumped from the table
and rambled through the whole room, turning over small objects,
and shuffling papers lying on the table and writing desk.
It appeared at six or seven séances, and was last seen in June,
Charles Richet writes of Burgik in Thirty Years of Psychical Research
(1923) In the last séance that I had with him the phenomena
were very marked. I held his left hand and M. de Gielski
his right. He was quite motionless, and none of the
experimenters moved at all. My trouser leg was strongly pulled
and a strange, ill-defined form that seemed to have paws like
those of a dog or small monkey climbed on my knee. I could
feel its weight very light and something like the muzzle of an
animal () touched my cheek. It was moist and made a grunting
noise like a thirsty dog.
Col. E. R. Johnson reported in Light (November 11, 1922)
of a séance with Etta Wriedt,
It was quite common to meet ones departed dogs. I had
one of these, a very small terrier, placed on my knees. It remained
there for about a minute, and both its weight and form
were all recognised. It was not taken away but seemed gradually
to evaporate or melt. Two others, a large retriever and a medium-sized
terrier, came very often, and all three barked with
their direct voices in tones suitable to their sizes and breeds.
Other sitters saw, heard and were touched by them. Those
three had died in India some 30 years previously.
The flight of birds was often heard in séances with D. D.
Home and later with the Marquis Scotto Centurione. A tame
flying squirrel was materialized by Honto, an Indian woman
control, in the séances of the Eddy brothers.
Materialization Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed.
Two triangular areas of light, with curved angles like butterfly
wings, audibly flitting and flapping, were noticed in the February
24, 1924, séance of Margery (Mina Crandon). The flying
creature, said to be Susie, a tame bat of the control
Walter, performed strange antics. The wings would hover
over roses on the table, pick one up, approach a sitter and hit
him over the head with it. Susie pulled the hair of the sitters,
pecked at their faces, and flapped her wings in their eyes. Another
large, beetlelike area of light that scrambled about the
table with a great deal of flapping was called by Walter his
Nincompoop. Peculiar motions were also performed by a patch
of light said to be a tame bear, over a curtain pole. Clicking and
whizzing it toboganed down the pole and climbed back again.
Nothing definite could be established about these curious animated
patches of light.
Materialisation of both beasts and birds sometimes appeared,
writes Gambier Bolton in his book Ghosts in Solid Form
(1914), during our experiments, the largest and most startling
being that of a seal which appeared on one occasion when
Field-Marshal Lord Wolseley was present. We suddenly heard
a remarkable voice calling out some absurd remarks in loud
tones, finishing off with a shrill whistle. Why, that must be our
old parrot, said the lady of the house. He lived in this room
for many years, and would constantly repeat those very words.
A small wild animal from India which had been dead for
three years or more, and had never been seen or heard of by
the Sensitive, and was known to only one sitter, suddenly ran
out from the spot where the Sensitive was sitting, breathing
heavily and in a state of deep trance, the little creature uttering
exactly the same cry which it had always used as a sign of pleasure
during its Earth life. It has shown itself altogether on about
ten different occasions, staying in the room for more than two
minutes at a time, and then disappearing as suddenly as it had
arrived upon the scene.
But on this occasion the lady who had owned it during its
life called it to her by its pet name, and then it proceeded to
climb slowly up on her lap. Resting there quietly for about half
a minute it then attempted to return, but in doing so caught
one of its legs in the lace with which the ladys skirt was covered.
It struggled violently, and at last got itself free, but not until it
had torn the lace for nearly three inches. At the conclusion of
the experiment a medical man reported that there were five
green-coloured hairs hanging in the torn lace, which had evidently
become detached from the little animals legs during its
struggles. The lady at once identified the colour and the texture
of the hairs, and this was confirmed by the other sitter
himself a naturalistwho had frequently seen and handled the
animal during its Earth life. The five hairs were carefully collected,
placed in tissue paper, and then shut up in a light-tight
and damp-proof box. After a few days they commenced to
dwindle in size, and finally disappeared entirely.
The story of a materialized seal is told in detail in Light
(April 22, 1900), on the basis of Gambier Boltons account before
the London Spiritualist Alliance. The story goes as follows
Being well known as a zoologist, Bolton received a note from
an auctioneer asking if he would come to see a large seal that
had been sent from abroad. The poor thing is suffering; come
round and see what you can do, wrote the seals temporary
owner, and being deeply interested in the welfare of animals of
all kinds, Bolton at once obeyed. The poor creature had been
harpooned, and was languishing in a large basket. He saw at
once that it could not live, but wishing to do what he could to
prolong its life, he dispatched it to the Zoological Gardens.
Later in the day he called to see how it was faring, and found
that it had been put into the seal tank. When Bolton visited the
tank the seal rose from the water and gave him a long look,
which, as he humorously suggested, seemed to indicate that the
animal recognized him and was grateful for its treatment.
The seal died that night, and ten days later Bolton was at a
séance at which Frederick Craddock was the medium. A number
of people of social and scientific repute were present. Suddenly
someone called out from the cabinet Take this great
brute away, it is suffocating me. It was the seal! It came slowly
from the cabinet, flopping and dragging itself as do seals,
which (unlike sea-lions) cannot walk. It stayed close to Bolton
for some moments and then returned to the cabinet and disappeared.
There is no doubt in my mind, said Bolton, that it
was the identical seal.
Asking about the modus vivendi of animal materializations,
Bolton obtained the following answer from the spirit controls
Their actions are altogether independent of us. Whilst we
are busily engaged in conducting our experiments with human
entities who wish to materialise in your midst, the animals get
into the room in some way which we do not understand, and
which we cannot prevent; obtain, from somewhere, sufficient
matter with which to build up temporary bodies; coming just
when they choose; roaming about the room just as they please;
and disappearing just when it suits them, and not before; and
we have no power to prevent this so long as the affection existing
between them and their late owners is so strong as it was in
the instances which have come under our notice.
In contradiction to this information, Ocholowicz made it a
point that at the Kluski séances the animal apparitions were
seen to be in the charge of human apparitions. The only animal
that seemed to be able to act independently of a keeper was the
pithecanthropus, he said. Generally the animal and human
apparitions were not active at the same time. When the animal
was fully materialized and active, the keeper was passive and
kept in the background, and vice versa. The testimony of clairvoyants
also suggested that when animal apparitions were seen
the necessary link was furnished by a friend of the sitter.
Materializations and Apports
In experiments with medium Thomas Lynn at the British
College of Psychic Science, objects were photographed while
supposedly in the process of materialization. They showed
flecks and masses of a luminous material, possessing stringlike
roots. These light masses floated over a harp lying upon the
table and were visible to all present. A fingerlike projection extended
from a mass of this luminosity, and extended toward
the harp as if to play it. As the photo plates were developed, a
bone ring was seen to hang from the mediums nose, and an
object similar to the top of an infants nursing bottle appeared
to dangle from his lips by a cord. The mediums features also
seemed somewhat altered. At a second sitting, a two-pronged
fishhook and a small ring materialized. The photo plates of this
materialization showed that some round object proceeded
from the region of the mediums solar plexus. It had often appeared
in the photographs; from it a root or string seemed to
extend to the object materializing. In this case the root was
Similar observations of what seem in retrospect simple conjuring
were reported by Karl Blacher of Riga University, with
the apport medium BX. (Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie, June
1933). In trance and under control, nails, screws, or pieces of
iron would be visibly drawn out of his chest, armpits, or arms,
as could be clearly observed by means of luminous screens. On
one occasion wire more than a yard long was drawn from the
mans bared chest; at another time Blacher himself caught hold
of an end that was protruding from the same spot and drew out
a long, leather strap. At another sitting the medium produced
a heavy slab of metal from his chest and from his left arm a
piece of wrought steel weighing more than three pounds.
In a day when there was serious speculation over the reality
of apports and materialization, the problem of explaining the
various phenomena was becoming more and more complex.
Consider the case of Lajos Pap, the Budapest apport medium
(Light, July 14, 1933). Before his first apport of a frog, for two
days he reported that he heard continual croaking. It seemed
to him to come from his stomach, and he kept asking people
if they heard it. He claimed he heard the chirping of apported
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed. Materialization
grasshoppers long before their arrival; and, before the apport
of a large packet of needles, he said he felt pricking sensations
over the back of his hand. Pap was discovered in fraud by researcher
Modern Views of Materialization
All of the accounts of the marvels of materialization belong
to the past; such astonishing phenomena are seldom reported
in modern times. There is widespread acceptance of the fraudulence
of materializations and related phenomena. The more
blatant cases of fraud punctuate any discussions. One of the
most impudent was that of Charles Eldred, who always took his
highly magnetized armchair to séances. In 1906 the chair
was examined and it was found that the back was really a box
with a concealed lock and key. Inside was found a collapsible
dummy, yards of cheesecloth for ectoplasm, reaching rods,
wigs, false beards, a music box (for spirit music), and even
scent (for spirit perfumes).
Almost all of the materialization mediums who produced results
to the point of having their marvels recorded were later
caught in fraud.
By World War II the only question remaining for a few who
were still interested was whether mediums who had been
caught impersonating spirits might also at times have produced
genuine materialization phenomena. While it would be
untenable to suppose that spirits influenced mediums to purchase
wigs, masks, cheesecloth and other properties used
fraudulently at séances, it is arguable that genuine mediums
might have sometimes cheated to fulfill the expectation of sitters
for consistently remarkable phenomena.
A notable example often held up as illustrative of this possibility
was the famous Italian medium Eusapia Palladino, who
seemed to have produced materialization phenomena under
fairly strict conditions with a variety of more-or-less skilled observers,
but was also known to take shortcuts and cheat if the
opportunity arose. Another controversial medium was Helen
Duncan, convicted in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1933 for fraudulent
mediumship in which an undervest was used as a materialized
spirit. A few reputable observers believed she also produced
genuine phenomena, although psychical researchers
like Harry Price insisted that his photographs of ectoplasm
clearly showed cheesecloth, rubber gloves, and pictures of
heads clipped from magazine covers. Price did not discover
how the mediums hid these objects but theorized that the
cheesecloth was swallowed and regurgitated, other props perhaps
being manipulated by accomplices.
However, the days of materialization mediums are clearly
over. No modern medium has come forward with comparable
phenomena to be tested in the more rigorous atmosphere of
present times. Until they do, materialization must be consigned
to the dustbin of rejected phenomena. No evidence of fraud
was ever discovered on the part of one medium, D. D. Home,
whose séances produced some of the most extraordinary phenomena,
but his career now stands as an anomaly.
In his book The Spiritualists The Story of Florence Cook and William
Crookes (1962), Trevor H. Hall seeks to show that not only
was the mediumship of Florence Cook fraudulent, but that William
Crookes became her accomplice because he was infatuated
with her. Crookess psychical research occurred at the beginning
of his career, before the unquestioned scientific accomplishments
for which he was justly honored. Hall is a noted critic
(even debunker) of psychical phenomena, and his book is
well documented. The evidence is somewhat speculative and
anecdotal, but does demonstrate how Crookes could have been
hoodwinked by Cook. Some of Halls colleagues, including K.
M. Goldney and R. G. Medhurst, have attempted to salvage
Crookess reputation in light of Halls charges.
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