Valiantine, George (ca. 1874– )
Controversial direct voice medium of Williamsport, New
York. He was a small manufacturer when at the age of 43 his
mediumship was discovered by accident. At a hotel where he
was staying he heard distinct raps on the door. No physical
agency could be detected and he was deeply puzzled. A lady acquaintance
who was familiar with Spiritualism later persuaded
him to hold a séance.
The result was surprising. His deceased brother-in-law, Bert
Everett, claimed to be present and rapped out that the spirits
for a long time had been trying to attract Valiantine’s attention.
‘‘Everett’’ then instructed Valiantine to make a cabinet. One
evening, the medium went into trance and ‘‘Bert Everett’’ appeared
in a materialized form. But direct voice communications
became the chief feature of the séances as Valiantine’s organism
appeared to lend itself to this manifestation. ‘‘Bert
Everett’’ found assistants in other controls ‘‘Dr. Barnett,’’ who
often gave medical prescriptions, ‘‘Hawk Chief’’ and ‘‘Kokum,’’
two Native Americans with booming voices and ‘‘Black Foot,’’
another Native American, the last usually speaking in deep
tones from the center of the floor.
In 1923 The Scientific American of New York offered a prize
of $2,500 for the production of genuine physical phenomena.
Valiantine was one of the mediums tested. Gardner Murphy of
Columbia University and Kenneth Andrews of the New York
World visited him at Wilkes-Barre for two preliminary sittings.
Both sittings were successful and they returned with an initial
favorable impression. Thereupon Valiantine came to New
York.
During his first two séances before the committee of The Scientific
American, eight distinct spirits manifested and spoke to
the sitters. For the third séance, an electrical control apparatus
had been secretly fixed to the medium’s chair. It was meant to
disclose to observers in another room whether the medium left
his chair during the séance, under the cover of darkness, to
reach for the trumpet. The apparatus did not register the medium’s
full weight for fifteen seconds on one occasion and from
1–14 seconds on other occasions.
For this reason, although the voices admittedly came from
high in the air and carried on prolonged conversations, the result,
in the report published in the July 1923 issue of The Scientific
American, was ruled out as evidence. Over the construction
of the report, which conveyed the impression that Valiantine
was actually caught in fraud, a controversy arose between psychical
researcher J. Malcolm Bird and British author H. Dennis
Bradley, who pointed out the weaknesses of the report and
its important admissions, which, however, were not sufficiently
emphasized.
On several occasions, Bradley vigorously defended Valiantine.
He met him at Arlena Towers, Ramsey, New York, in the
home of Joseph de Wyckoff, a wealthy American financier who
had been in close association with Valiantine for some years.
In November 1923, Wyckoff received long scripts from Valiantine
which Valiantine said he had obtained through direct
writing in his home. They were signed by ‘‘Everett’’ and ‘‘Dr.
Barnett,’’ and referred to a project involving an expedition to
Guiana. Wyckoff discovered by chance that Valiantine’s handwriting
showed striking resemblance to the spirit scripts and
took them to a handwriting expert who pronounced them
identical. Wyckoff showed the report to Valiantine. He insisted
that he did not do the writings. A test séance was arranged at
his own house at Williamsport. Valiantine, at his request, was
tied up. The séance was a failure. Wyckoff thereupon broke off
his relations with Valiantine.
Not long afterwards, Wyckoff went to Europe. He met Bradley,
who convinced him, by showing indirect evidence that he
obtained in sittings with Gladys Osborne Leonard, that his
evaluation of the Valiantine communications was unjust.
Thereupon Wyckoff cabled to Valiantine from Europe and invited
him to come and join him. Valiantine arrived in February
1617
1924 and gave séances almost daily for five weeks in Bradley’s
home.
In the presence of more than fifty prominent people, over
one hundred different spirit voices manifested and carried on
long conversations in Russian, German, Spanish and even in
idiomatic Welsh. Caradoc Evans, the Welsh novelist, spoke with
his father’s spirit in Cardiganshire Welsh.
But the seeds of suspicion had been sown. Wyckoff soon leveled
a second charge against Valiantine, which grew out of a sitting
in the St. Regis Hotel in New York on April 19, 1924.
When the sitting was closed by the address of ‘‘Dr. Barnett,’’ it
was revealed that the trumpet had fallen sideways between Valiantine’s
legs, with the small end against the edge of the chair.
As the medium was setting it upright, Wyckoff struck a match
and scolded him for his action. Moreover, as Malcolm Bird
pointed out in a letter to Light, ‘‘examination of the trumpet
developed the facts that it was quite warm at the point where
a human hand would naturally and conveniently grasp it, and
that the mouthpiece was damp.’’
Bradley answered that this is exactly what would happen
with independent voice phenomena. In his own séances, in
which a luminous trumpet was seen sailing about the room, at
the finish the inside was found moist, according to Bradley, for
the simple reason that it is necessary for a spirit to materialize
the vocal organs and breathe in order to produce its voice.
The following year, Valiantine paid another visit to England.
In March 1925, he gave two test sittings before the Society
for Psychical Research at Tavistock Square. Five words
were spoken at the first, none at the second. They were considered
blank.
Following this failure, Una, Lady Troubridge and Miss Radcliffe
Hall of the society attended some sittings in Bradley’s
house. Later they were joined by Dr. V. J. Woolley, research officer
of the society. Eleven distinct and individual voices were
heard. Woolley agreed that he heard them and could not account
for them. He was also satisfied that the movement of the
luminous trumpet in the air was supernormal. Shortly afterward
E. J. Dingwall, in company with Dr. Woolley, the other
research officer of the society, obtained voices in daylight inside
Valiantine’s trumpet.
In his reports published in the Journal of the SPR (vol. 26,
pp. 70–71; vol. 27, p. 170) and the Proceedings (vol. 36, pp.
52–53), Woolley wrote of these experiences and stated
‘‘Both of us heard raps which seemed similar to those she
[Lady Troubridge] has described, but as I wish only to deal in
this account with evidential utterances I do not propose to consider
them in further detail. Both of us also heard whispering
sounds, apparently in the trumpet, at times when we were convinced
that Mr. Valiantine’s lips were entirely closed, and I was
able also to distinguish the words ‘Father Woolley,’ but nothing
further.’’
The Coming of Confucius
But the most important phase of Valiantine’s mediumship
was yet to come. Strange languages were heard in séances in
New York, and it was decided to test their nature by inviting a
scholar. Dr. Neville Whymant, an authority on Chinese history,
philosophy, and ancient literature, who happened to be in
New York, was requested by Judge and Mrs. Cannon to come
to a séance. He was slightly amused, but accepted. To quote
from his notes
‘‘Suddenly, out of the darkness was heard a weird, crackling,
broken little sound, which at once carried my mind straight
back to China. It was the sound of a flute, rather poorly played,
such as can be heard in the streets of the Celestial Land but nowhere
else. Then followed in a low, but very audible voice the
words ‘K’ung-fu T’Zu.’ Few persons, except Chinese, could pronounce
the name correctly as the sounds cannot be represented
in English letters. The idea that it might be Confucius himself
never occurred to me. I had imagined that it might be somebody
desirous of discussing the life and philosophy of the great
Chinese teacher.’’
When, however, correct personal information was given,
Whymant decided to test the matter. He said ‘‘There is among
your writings a passage written wrongly; should it not read
thus’’ At this point, Whymant began to quote as far as he knew,
that is to say, to about the end of the first line. At once the words
were taken out of his mouth, and the whole passage was recited
in Chinese, exactly as it is recorded in the standard works of
reference. After a pause of about fifteen seconds, the passage
was again repeated, this time with certain alterations which
gave it a new meaning. ‘‘Thus read,’’ said the voice, ‘‘does not
its meaning become plain’’ Previous to the voice of ‘‘Confucius,’’
Whymant heard a Sicilian chant and conversed with one
of the controls, ‘‘Cristo d’Angelo,’’ in Italian.
At the next séance at which Whymant was present, after having
been absent through illness, ‘‘Confucius’’ again manifested
and, omitting all ceremonious expressions, referred to Whymant’s
indisposition, saying ‘‘the weed of sickness was growing
beside thy door.’’ This metaphor was used in ancient Chinese
literature but it is no longer current in the language. Nor was
the dialect in which ‘‘Confucius’’ spoke any longer used in the
Chinese Empire.
There are only about twelve Chinese sounds of which it can
be definitely said that it was known how the Chinese of Confucius’
time would have pronounced them. The voice which
claimed to be that of Confucius used these archaic sounds correctly.
Moreover, there were at that time only about six Chinese
scholars in the world whose knowledge would have been equal
to the one displayed by the direct voice. None of them was in
America at the time.
In 1927, when Valiantine paid a third visit to England further
tests of importance took place. Countess Ahlefeldt-Laurvig
brought an ancient Chinese shell to a sitting in the apartment
of Lord Charles Hope. At the top of the shell, circular folds
ended in a small hollow mouthpiece. In China the shell was
used as a horn and blown on occasion. The sitters tried it but
could produce no sound whatsoever. Yet at one period during
the sitting, from high up in the room, the shell horn was blown,
and the peculiar notes were rendered in the correct Chinese
fashion.
But the most important Chinese test tried was in making a
phonograph record of the voice of ‘‘Confucius.’’ The attempt
was successful. The voice of ‘‘Confucius,’’ (who died in 479
B.C.E.) was recorded in 1927 in London. It has curious flute-like
tones, which rise and fall, and sometimes break into a peculiar
sing-song tone. Whymant could only interpret a few sentences
because the voice was faint and became blurred in the recording.
But he recognized a number of the peculiar intonations.
He could gather the meaning of the recorded speech by the
tonal values. The voice was identical with the one he heard in
America.
From H. Dennis Bradley’s summary of this strange occurrence
it is interesting to quote
‘‘I have heard the K’ung-fu T’ze voice speaking on two or
three occasions in archaic Chinese. I have also heard the same
voice with its peculiar intonation, speaking to me personally in
English. The voice has spoken slowly, but with quite beautiful
cadences. It possessed an extraordinary dignity.’’
New Controversies
In his books Towards the Stars (1942) and The Wisdom of the
Gods (1925), Bradley published many important accounts of sittings
with Valiantine. On several occasions he heard Valiantine
speak simultaneously with the voices. He listened to the voices
of the controls of Valiantine in séances with other mediums and
heard ‘‘Feda,’’ the control of Gladys Osborne Leonard, and
‘‘Cristo d’Angelo,’’ who later associated himself with the Marquis
Centurione Scotto, speak through Valiantine.
Including the 1927 period, Bradley conducted over a hundred
experiments of which he deemed 95 percent successful.
Valiantine, George Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
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This high percentage of success was undoubtedly partly due to
the powerful direct voice mediumship which Bradley and his
wife themselves developed after the first sittings with Valiantine
in New York. But the physical manifestation was only part of
the evidence. Bradley observed of Valiantine in his book . . .
And After (1931),
‘‘He is a man of instinctive good manners but it is essential
to state that he is semi-illiterate. He possesses no scholastic education
whatever, beyond the ordinary simplicities; he is illversed
in general conversation and ideas. I mention these facts
because many of the communications which have been made
in the direct voice under his mediumship have been brilliant
in their expressions and culture.’’
On April 26, 1929, Valiantine arrived for the fourth time in
England from America. He spent one day with Bradley and
then left with the Bradleys for Berlin. The sittings were held in
a Ms. von Dirksen’s house. Bradley considered them comparatively
poor in result. Some members of the Berlin Occult Society,
for which the séances had been arranged, subsequently
claimed imposture and supported their assertions by referring
to Bradley’s and Valiantine’s refusal to permit strict control.
These charges were published five months afterward by Dr.
Kroner in the Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie. Kroner attended
only three of the sittings. Two lady sitters made direct allegations
of fraudulent movements on Valiantine’s part. However,
no definite proof of having caught Valiantine in fraud was
brought forward.
In May 1929, Valiantine gave a series of séances at the house
of the Marquis Centurione Scotto in Genoa. One of the sittings,
held in the presence of psychical researcher Ernesto Bozzano,
was rigorously controlled. Valiantine was fastened to his chair
and an adhesive bandage secured over his mouth. The knots
were sealed, the doors were locked.
The results were excellent. The enthusiasm, however, was
soon marred by a charge made by Rossi and Scotto. Rossi
claimed to have distinctly felt Valiantine in one of their sittings
lean forward and speak into the trumpet. He also said that Castellani
caught hold of Mrs. Bradley’s hand which was touching
the back of his (Castellani’s) head. Both of them were furiously
indignant and left immediately. Castellani later withdrew his
allegation against Mrs. Bradley and Rossi also became wavering.
(These allegations charged the Bradleys with being Valiantine’s
accomplices. Evidence that such was the case would be
forthcoming.)
As Bradley pointed out there was a truly bizarre aspect in the
situation
‘‘The Marquis Centurione Scotto, Mr. Rossi and Madame
Rossi, unknown before to me or to Valiantine, visit me in England
in 1927. The Marquis, to his astonishment, speaks to his
[dead] son in Italian. The Marquis and Mrs. Rossi then develop
voice mediumship entirely from, and because of, their meeting
and initiation with Valiantine. Valiantine then, in 1929, visits
them in Italy and is accused of being a fraud. The poet is right
when he declares ‘It is a mad world.’’’
In 1931, Valiantine was again invited to England. This visit
ended on a tragic note. Bradley asked him to devote six evenings
to experiments for psychic imprints (molds). Striking
previous successes were recorded in the book The Wisdom of the
Gods. Since then, famous people whom Bradley knew had died
and their original left and right hand imprints were in the possession
of palmistry authority Noel Jaquin. Scientifically, therefore,
the experiments held potential promise. The claimed
spirits of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Dewar, and Sir Henry
Segrave all apparently complied with Bradley’s eager request,
but the plastic substance used in the séances, unknown to Valiantine,
was chemically prepared. A stain was found on Valiantine’s
elbow and expert examination disclosed that the spirit
thumbprint of ‘‘Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’’ was exactly similar to
the print of Valiantine’s big toe on his right foot, a spirit
thumbprint of ‘‘Lord Dewar’’ to that of Valiantine’s left big toe,
a spirit fingerprint of ‘‘Sir Henry Segrave’’ to the print of Valiantine’s
middle finger and another spirit impression to that of
Valiantine’s elbow.
Ex-Chief Detective Inspector Bell, the head of the fingerprint
department at New Scotland Yard, declared that in a
court of law the resemblance would be sufficient to hang a man
charged with murder. According to Bradley, when Valiantine
was confronted with this evidence, he broke down completely
and sobbed. He would not, however, admit fraud. His only answer
to questions was ‘‘I cannot understand it.’’
Bradley believed that the rapid accumulation of money and
fame as a professional medium did not have a beneficial effect
upon Valiantine’s character. He found that he had progressively
changed, becoming a conceited and arrogant man. Yet ‘‘his
reason for attempting these imprint frauds will remain incomprehensible.
He received no money from me, and for him to
imagine that in the presence of imprint experts he could commit
palpable fraud and escape detection was a sign of sheer lunacy.’’
Besides Valiantine, his controls were also compromised, as
on the night, just near the end of the sitting, when ‘‘Bert Everett’’
spoke in his usual shrill tones, announcing that an imprint
had been made which was excellent. Mr. X., with whom Valiantine
stayed during the visit, obtained the fingerprint of ‘‘Walter
Stinson,’’ control of the American medium Mina Crandon
(known as ‘‘Margery’’). This print was identified by Noel Jacquin
as identical to that of the middle finger of Valiantine’s left
hand.
After the exposure, Valiantine gave twelve séances to Dr.
Vivian. The report stated that while two voices were speaking,
Valiantine was simultaneously heard to draw the attention of
the sitters to the two voices. Surgeon Admiral Nimmo had two
sittings in daylight. The voice that he heard to come distinctly
from within the trumpet gave intelligent and evidential communication.
In the presence of a second doctor, the voices were
heard again, speaking distinctly and intelligently. During the
phenomena, the doctors kept Valiantine’s face under acute observation
but they did not discover any movement whatever on
it.
The experiences of Whymant with the voice of ‘‘Confucius’’
came before the Society for Psychical Research in 1927. Whymant
delivered a lecture, played the phonograph record of the
voice, and submitted his account of twelve séances. No action
was taken. Thereupon the records were the subject of a book
by Whymant, published in 1931 under the title Psychic Adventures
in New York. In Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research
(vol. 40, pt. 125), the report of Lord Charles Hope on
his sittings in 1927 concluded ‘‘I was disappointed at the lack
of evidence for survival which the voices had given me. I was
left uncertain whether Valiantine was a genuine medium or
not.’’ (For other cases of imprints and molds, see plastics.)
Sources
Bradley, H. Dennis. . . . And After. London T. Werner Laurie,
1931.
———. Towards the Stars. London T. Werner Laurie, 1924.
———. The Wisdom of the Gods. London T. Werner Laurie,
1925.
Whymant, Neville. Psychic Adventures in New York. London
Morley & Mitchell, 1931.