Willis, F. L. H.
Instructor in medicine at a New York college, who, as a student,
was forced out of the Divinity School at Harvard University
in 1857, largely because of his developing mediumship. He
came from a respected family in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
and was a good speaker and improvisor of poetry. While studying
at divinity school, he was discovered to be a strong physical
medium, and as a result of charges brought against him by a
Professor Eustis, he was expelled. He was charged with simulating
spiritual phenomena at Harvard, although the authenticity
of the phenomena were attested by the famous author and reformer
Thomas Wentworth Higginson.
Willis was observed producing apports, direct writing, and
direct music. He was levitated on several occasions and possessed
gifts of healing. Once, while in trance and controlled by
the spirit of a Dr. Mason, he performed a difficult operation
on a female patient. He achieved this feat prior to his medical
Willis was known to Epes Sargent, author of The Scientific
Basis of Spiritualism (1880), who included in this book extracts
from a letter written by Willis in May 1879 regarding his materialization
of spirit hands. Willis wrote
It is 23 years ago that these materializations of hands
occurred. . . . On one occasion a gentleman present drew a
knife from his pocket with a long, keen blade, and taking no
one into his counsel, watching his opportunity, pierced with a
violent blow one of the psychic hands. The medium [Willis] uttered
a shriek of pain. The sensation was precisely as if the
knife had passed through his hand. The gentleman sprang to
his feet exultant, thinking he had made a most triumphant exposé
of trickery, and fully expected to find the mediums hand
pierced and bleeding. To his utter chagrin and amazement
there was no trace of a scratch even upon either hand of the
medium; and yet to him the sensation was precisely as if the
knife had passed through muscle and tendon, and the sensation
of pain and soreness remained for hours.
This account of early materialization of spirit hands, long
before the days of Eusapia Palladino and other physical mediums,
is of special interest for its claim that violence to pseudopodic
ectoplasm reacts painfully upon the medium.
Willis described events in his life during a lecture at the Spiritual
Institute in London in 1869, published in The Spiritual
Magazine (1870, p. 193) and in Human Nature (1869, p. 573).
Britten, Emma Hardinge. Modern American Spiritualism. New
York The author, 1870.
Willis, F. L. H.