In this, we have never failed to produce remarkable movements, which have ranged from tables swaying back and forth and in circular motion, to tables levitating off the floor. Here, the Spirit operators create an ectoplasmic voice box, through which they can speak physically and audibly to all present. This is often done using a small conical device, known as a trumpet. The trumpet acts very much like the cabinet, in that the energies are focussed inside the trumpet. The trumpet is often levitated around the room, with the Spirit people speaking through it.
A very interesting phenomenon witnessed during direct voice is the shifting in the strength of the voice, as the energy level and harmony change. When the voice first begins, it is often very garbled and difficult to distinguish. As the energy is built up, the voice becomes more powerful and more easily understood. Toward the end of the session, when the energies begin to diminish, so, too, do the quality and clarity of the voice. In fact, this gradual peaking and diminishing of phenomena is quite common in all forms of physical manifestations.
Here, Spirit causes something to materialize in the sitting room, apparently from nowhere. The apported object sometimes does and sometimes does not remain. Often, the materialized object is dematerialized back to where it came from. Stones, gems, animals, ancient relics, and even people have been known to be apported into seance rooms.
This is a common form of activity observed in circles for physical mediumship. The Spirit people cause sharp raps to be heard, often from within the table they are sitting around. A code can be established through the raps, thus creating a means of conveying specific messages to the sitters.
This is another common occurrence in physical circles. Flashes or balls of light appear, often on or near the vicinity of the medium himself or herself. In materialization, the Spirit people use ectoplasm to create an image or molding of themselves. The degree and strength of the materialized form varies quite a bit.
A full-form, head-to-toe materialization of a spirit is, perhaps, the most amazing phenomenon witnessed in mediumship.
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There are countless recorded cases where spirits have materialized fully, with full dress and facial features. Some have been as clear and solid as an earthly body. Spirit has even been known to go to the extent of creating fingerprints on their materialized hands. Materialized spirits have been known to walk among the sitters; talk to the sitters via direct voice; touch, hug, and kiss the sitters; allow the sitters to touch them; materialize in front of the sitters; pass through walls; and dematerialize before the sitters.
A most interesting phenomenon seen during materialization is the physical link between the materialized form and the medium. After a spirit materializes and walks away from the medium, there can be seen a cord of ectoplasm linking the spirit form with the medium. This ectoplasmic cord can be likened to the umbilical cord of a fetus.
Through it, the spirit operator receives a supply of etheric energy-matter from the medium. The spirit may dematerialize by withdrawing the ectoplasm back into the medium's body via this cord. A specific form of materialization, whereby the spirit operator uses the ectoplasm to mold his or her face over the face of the medium, is known as transfiguration.
These are a few of the more common means by which Spirit uses the energies of the physical medium for the production of phenomena. Again, there seems to be no limit to what Spirit can do through physical mediumship, provided the proper conditions prevail. During the last century, up until around the 's, physical mediumship was very common, and the strength and range of phenomena were amazing.
Today, it is quite rare. There are two basic reasons for this:. They needed objective evidence of Spirit's presence; thus, the preponderance of physical manifestations. As people began accepting the reality of mediumship and, then, yearning more for teaching and philosophy, the occurrence of physical mediumship began to lessen, while mental mediumship began to predominate.
In other words, the needs of Humanity dictated how Spirit would respond to those needs -- always the case with Spirit. Today, people are just not geared to putting this amount of time and effort -- sometimes totally selflessly -- into the development of any form of mediumship. In earlier years, sitting in circle was, often, what people did to socialize.
Kiss My Ectoplasm
Most of the great pioneer mediums began by sitting in a home circle. Today, this is simply not the case. Thus, today, the occurrence, as well as the nature, of physical mediumship is nothing like it was a century ago. However, we have noticed during the last decade that there seems to be a resurgence of interest in physical mediumship and, consequently, a resurgence in the development of physical mediums. Where this will lead, only time will tell. Spirit is Spirit is Spirit. As we stated: Mind over matter; that is what physical mediumship is all about.
If this is so, and if we are all Spirit, can those of us in the body create such manifestations? Traditionalists in Spiritualism will answer with an empahtic and resounding, "NO. Only Spirit out of body can create such manifestations. In the 's, this very question was put to the test by the Toronto Society for Psychical Research, in conjunction with the New Horizons Research Foundation. Very briefly, the story goes like this: a group of people decided to meet regularly, just as they would if sitting for mediumistic development, with one major difference: they decided to create a fictitious character, whom they later called "Philip.
More and more details were being woven into the life story of Philip. Finally, the group decided to put their experiment to the test.
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They wanted to see if phenomena -- attributed to "Philip" as the operator -- would occur. They got more than they bargained for. Remember, they were sitting to experiment with psychokinesis, not mediumship. The most noted subject of research in PK is Uri Geller. Not only did the Philip group get PK phenomena, they got levitation and direct communication, through raps, from Philip. But, they did NOT achieve any actual manifestation of Philip. The picture to the right is a drawing of Philip, as created by the group. The debate is this: Were the phenomena a result of mass hallucination?
This ability also earned her acclaim as a gifted medium and secured her financial independence. Palladino would fare better with other conjurors, however. Hereward Carrington, who was himself an amateur conjurer, took Howard Thurston, the renowned stage magician, to see Palladino perform. Eva C. Schrenck-Notzing appears on the left. Image courtesy of Hathi Trust. Between and , Richet observed and photographed a series of visitations from Bien Boa. The materialization is not as spectral as one would imagine. The figure is draped in a white sheet and is inexplicably helmeted.
Working with the sculptor and psychical researcher, Juliette Bisson, the respectable widow of playwright Alexandre Bisson, Schrenck-Notzing photographed and examined ectoplasmic materializations, the variety of which had not yet been encountered. These materializations occurred in a room that appeared to be a cross between a late Victorian medical clinic and a provisional photo lab see figure 1.
Because of the sensitive nature of ectoplasmic material, only red light was used in each sitting. Although the photographs reveal nothing, Schrenck-Notzing is encouraged by his contact with the ectoplasm. She asks Bisson to remove the stitching between her leotard and dress, a sort of hybrid garment specifically designed to prevent fraud, then invites Schrenck-Notzing to examine her. As the doctor notes at the beginning of the entry, a gynecological examination had already been performed. She indulgently defers to Schrenck-Notzing because of his official capacity as a doctor and a scientist.
But to a certain degree, the request to be examined also serves as a sort of seduction and clever misdirection. Such voyeurism is heightened for the researchers compiling the data. Bisson sends the following account of materialization in a letter to Schrenck-Notzing:. On my expressing a wish, the medium parted her thighs and I saw that material assumed a curious shape, resembling an orchid, decreased slowly, and entered the vagina.
During the whole process I held her hands. Before my eyes, and with the curtain open a large spherical mass, about 8 inches in diameter, emerged from the vagina and quickly placed itself on her left thigh while she crossed her legs. I distinctly recognized in the mass a still unfinished face, whose eyes looked at me.
A Year for Ectoplasm | Room Magazine
In her individual sittings with Eva, Bisson often led the naked medium into a sort of trance. Whether it was the absence of the restricting leotard or the erotic energy between the two women, these sittings often produced the most notable results. What also comes through in her accounts of these manifestations is the intimacy that Bisson shares with the medium. In another letter to Schrenck-Notzing, only months after the previous one, Bisson writes the following:.
Yesterday I hypnotized Eva as usual, and she unexpectedly began to produce phenomena. As soon as they began, Eva allowed me to undress her completely. I then saw a thick thread emerge from the vagina. It changed its place, left the genitals, and disappeared in the navel depression. Eva then stood up, and again a mass of material appeared at the genitals, spread out, and hung suspended between her legs. A strip of it rose, took a direction towards me, receded and disappeared. All this happened while Eva stood up. There are many layers of seduction at work here. On April 1, , and in the absence of Schrenck-Notzing, Eva produced an ectoplasmic finger.
The effect is curious. However, for some critics, the conspiracy between the women was the result of a romantic relationship. Bisson was beyond reproach for early 20th century and recent critics alike. Her class position absolves her of any willing involvement in the machinations of a young medium. While such critics expect fraud from the young medium, they do not expect it from the older, wealthier Bisson. Bisson, it would seem, was duped into loving Eva and afterward willingly duped the scientists who studied the medium.
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Our work is serious and real, and the gift of Mlle. Rather, such manifestations are shrewd acts of defiance and self-preservation that ultimately exposed the inadequacy of positivist science as well as the assumptions of psychical research. Their mediumistic performances not only gave Palladino and Eva C. Like the stage magicians, mediums employed misdirection and confederates in manifesting their phenomena.
The crucial difference between the phenomena produced by magicians like Houdini and those of the mediums was that the latter capitalized on validating the widespread interest in otherworldly communications, communications for which women were believed to be particularly well-suited. Beyond providing mediums with lucrative careers, such manifestations also secured them celebrity status comparable to that of their illusionist counterparts.
The craze for ectoplasm seemed destined to die out. Instead, the production of the material continued and garnered the steady attention of the press. Bird includes this information in order to silence critics, like Conan Doyle, who saw the cash reward as a motivating force in the production of psychic phenomenon. Walter Franklin Prince. The interest generated by these stories led a few enterprising journalists to uncover the identity of the medium who appeared to be nothing less than a phenomenon.
Mina married a local grocer and eventually divorced him in , four years after the birth of a son. She remarried Dr. Le Roi Goddard Crandon soon after and relocated to Boston. In his biography of Crandon, Thomas R. Instantly, all attention riveted on the wooden table before them. It slid laterally, very slightly, but perceptibly. The voice that issued rather mysteriously from the entranced medium was loquacious, playful, and fond of rough language. Bird notes that the spirit made contact with the sitters through the use of what Walter and his friends ingenuously referred to as ectoplasm.
Such descriptions illustrate the ironically physical intimacy that characterized otherworldly communications. The medium had to ring the bell in a contraption that was placed on a table in front of her. When the room was again lit, the sitters discovered that the lid of the cabinet was open. Mina claimed that it was Walter who broke the lid; Houdini thought otherwise. The account of what happened next is still up for debate. When Houdini asked what had been left in the cabinet, the voice replied that there was a ruler beneath a pillow on the floor of the cabinet and accused Houdini of planting it.
Houdini leveled his suspicion at the Crandons. This sitting seemed to have a catastrophic effect on the investigation. But this conclusion is troublingly inadequate if not patently wrong. In Walter, Mina had constructed a relatively complex character who spoke to the hopes and fears of those who encountered him. Beyond that, however, this entity, supernatural or otherwise, allowed her to challenge her male investigators in a manner not available to a woman of her position and endowed her with a type of authority that would otherwise have been usurped by her much older husband.
Dingwall headed an investigative team that included Dr. McDougall, a member of the previous investigation, and Dr. Ellwood Worcester. What is most striking about this particular investigation, however, is the appearance of a crudely constructed ectoplasmic hand.