Spirit Intervention
Spiritualist annals contain a number of accounts of the intervention
of spirits to find lost wills, other papers, or objects of
importance, or to track down murderers. Boccaccio, in his Life
of Dante, related that the spectral form of Dante appeared in a
dream to his son Jacopo Alighiere, and on the son’s inquiry
whether he had finished his great poem, the thirteenth canto
of which they were unable to find, the spirit took him by the
hand and led him to the house and into the room where Dante
had been accustomed to sleep and pointed out a blind window
covered by matting. On waking, Alighiere found the missing
canto, which had not been seen before, in this place.
The philosopher Kant, in his revelations on Emanuel Swedenborg,
narrated the story of a Madame Marteville, a widow
who was asked to pay a debt of her deceased husband. She remembered
that the debt was paid but could not find the receipt.
During a visit to Swedenborg, Marteville asked the seer
if he had known her husband. Swedenborg answered in the
negative. Eight days afterward, the spirit of the dead man appeared
to the widow in a dream and showed her where she
would find a casket of finest workmanship with the receipt and
a magnificent pin, which was also lost, inside. She immediately
got out of bed, ran to the place indicated, and found the casket
and contents.
In the morning, she was hardly awake when Swedenborg was
announced. Without having knowledge of her dream Swedenborg
told her that during the night he conversed with many
spirits, among them her deceased husband who, however, cut
short the conversation by saying that he must visit his wife in
order to reveal to her the whereabouts of a paper of the highest
importance and of a diamond breast pin she thought lost. Swedenborg
called to find out whether the spirit had kept his
The Master of Lindsay, on being questioned before the
committee of the London Dialectical Society on July 6, 1869,
as to whether he ever obtained any information that could not
have been known to the medium or to any present, told the following
‘‘A friend of mine was very anxious to find a will of his
grandmother, who had been dead 40 years, but could not even
find the certificate of her death. I went with him to the Marshall’s,
and we had a séance; we sat at a table, and soon the raps
came; my friend then asked his questions mentally; he went over
the alphabet himself, or sometimes I did so, not knowing the
question. We were told the will had been drawn by a man
named William Walker, who lived in Whitechapel; the name of
the street, and the number of the house were given. We went
to Whitechapel, found the man, and subsequently, through his
aid, obtained a copy of the draft; he was quite unknown to us,
and had not always lived in the locality, for he had once seen
better days. The medium could not possibly have known anything
about the matter, and even if she had, her knowledge
would have been of no avail, as all the questions were mental
Robert Macnish, in his book The Philosophy of Sleep (1830),
narrates the court case of R. of Bowland. This man was summoned
to pay a sum that his father had already paid. When he
was about to pay again, the spirit of his father appeared to him
in a dream and informed him that the respective papers were
in the hands of M. of Inveresk, near Edinburgh. If he had no
recollection of it, he should be reminded of the difference of
opinion that he had with the deceased about a Portuguese coin.
The reminder was most helpful. With the help of it the old attorney
remembered and found the papers.
Gabriel Delanne, in his book Le Spiritisme devant la Science
(1885), tells the story of a spirit communication given to a descendant
of Johann Sebastian Bach by the spirit of an Italian
musician named Baldasarini who lived at the court of Henry III
of France. The communication led to the discovery of a small
strip of paper inside a spinet of 1664 with four lines of verse
in the handwriting of Henry III. The authenticity of the writing
was proved by comparing the strip with manuscripts in the Imperial
The ‘‘Widow’s Mite’’ incident was described by Isaac K. Funk
in his book of this title, published in 1904. In February 1903,
he heard of a Brooklyn family where every Wednesday evening
sittings took place in the presence of a few invited guests. On
his third visit, when he was getting reconciled to the notion that
the mediumship was a remarkably good case of secondary personality,
the control ‘‘George’’ asked ‘‘Has anyone here got
anything that belonged to Mr. Beecher’’
There was no reply. On his emphatic repetition of the question,
Funk replied ‘‘I have in my pocket a letter from the Rev.
Dr. Hillis, Mr. Beecher’s successor. Is that what you mean’’
The answer was ‘‘No, I am told by a spirit present, John
Rakestraw[,] that Mr. Beecher, who is not present, is concerned
about an ancient coin, the Widow’s Mite. This coin is out of
place, and should be returned, and he looks to you, doctor, to
return it.’’
Funk was greatly surprised and asked ‘‘What do you mean
by saying that he looks to me to return it I have no coin of Mrs.
Beecher’s.’’ The control then explained that he knew nothing
about it, except that he was told that the coin was out of place
and had been for a number of years and that Beecher had said
that Funk could find and return it. The control also added that
he was impressed that the coin was in a large iron safe in a
drawer under a lot of papers.
Funk then remembered that when he was making the Standard
Dictionary, he had borrowed a valuable ancient coin,
known as the Widow’s Mite, from a close friend of Beecher’s.
This friend had just died several days before. Funk asked if the
coin had been returned. The answer came that it had not.
After Funk instituted a search, the coin was found in his office
in a little drawer in his large iron safe under a stack of papers.
In later inquiries through the control Funk was told that
Beecher was not concerned about the return of the coin. His
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Spirit Intervention
purpose was to give Funk a test to prove communication between
the two worlds.
James H. Hyslop, in his report on the direct voice mediumship
of Elisabeth Blake of Ohio (Proceedings of the American Society
for Psychical Research, vol. 7, p. 581), quotes the following
case given by L. V. Guthrie, superintendent of the West Virginia
Asylum at Huntington, Blake’s medical adviser
‘‘An acquaintance of mine, of prominent family in this end
of the State, whose grandfather had been found at the foot of
a high bridge with his skull smashed and life extinct, called on
Mrs. Blake a few years ago and was not thinking of her grandfather
at the time. She was very much surprised to have the spirit
of her grandfather tell her that he had not fallen off the bridge
while intoxicated, as had been presumed at the time, but that
he had been murdered by two men who met him in a buggy and
had proceeded to sandbag him, relieve him of his valuables,
and throw him over the bridge. The spirit then proceeded to
describe minutely the appearance of the two men who had
murdered him, and gave such other information that had led
to the arrest and conviction of one or both of these individuals.’’