Williams, Charles
British materialization medium, claiming the spirit control
‘‘John King,’’ who worked from 1871 on in partnership with
fellow medium Frank Herne. They gave public séances at 61
Lamb’s Conduit St., in west central London. The first was held
under the patronage of the medium Agnes Guppy-Volckman.
The famous transportation of Guppy-Volckman occurred at
one of these séances.
Williams often sat with W. Stainton Moses, but the results
were always very meager. Moses was in doubt about the authenticity
of Williams’ mediumship and asked his controls for information.
They were reluctant to give it. Catherine Berry’s book
Experiences in Spiritualism (1876) and A. Smedley’s Some Reminiscences
(1900) contained enthusiastic accounts, but fraud was
often suspected and, in at least one case, glaringly proved.
In Paris, at a séance on May 14, 1874, an attempt was made
to seize ‘‘John King.’’ He eluded capture and left a piece of
drapery behind, the further history of which is not known. The
medium was found in his seat. The search of his person revealed
nothing suspicious.
In 1878, the research committee of the British National Association
of Spiritualists constructed a cabinet with an automatic
recording apparatus. An observer sat in another cabinet
with a lighted lamp. In one sitting with Williams, a spirit form
appeared, sometimes ten or twelve feet from the cabinet. These
appearances corresponded with fluctuations recorded by the
self-registering apparatus. The maximum loss of weight
amounted to 100 pounds. There was no weight in the cabinet
that could have been fixed on the weighing platform. Frank
Podmore suggested that the medium need only have fastened
the suspended cabinet to the floor by a gimlet or a piece of
string, but that seemed insufficient to explain fully the extreme
variations in weight.
However, a few months after this experiment, in a Spiritualist
circle in Amsterdam, Williams and his fellow medium A.
Rita were exposed. ‘‘Charlie,’’ a materialized spirit, was seized
and found to be Rita. Many handkerchiefs, a bottle of phosphorized
oil, several yards of very dirty white muslin, a false black
beard with brown silk ribbon, and other paraphernalia were
found on the persons of the two mediums.
The exposure did not stop a subsequent visit to Russia,
where Professor Boutlerof and Alexander Aksakof (a strong
believer in Spiritualist phenomena) had what they considered
convincing experiences. In a note to Boutlerof’s account of the
visit in Psychische Studien, Aksakof added
‘‘I can testify to having received the confirmation of the appearance
of John King from Mr. Crookes in his own house,
Mrs. Crookes’ hand being on William’s shoulder while he was
asleep behind the curtain; also that in the house of Mrs. MacDougall
Gregory, the curtain behind which Williams was placed
was in a niche almost hermetically sealed; and that John King
appeared above the table, round which the company were assembled
in front of the curtain.’’