"Spirit-Forms" (from Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism by William Crookes, London 1874)

THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON 1/13/21 AT PARANORMAL ENCYCLOPEDIA.ORG.
 
The materialized 'Katie King' is shown with the entranced medium Florence Cook and Dr. J. M. Gully.

 

 
Chapters in the book are identified as having been "Reprinted from The Quarterly Journal of Science."  As mentioned in a Metaphysical Articles blog post — William Crookes (1832-1919) was a prominent physicist and chemist honored with many prestigious awards.  He had presided for intervals over such organizations as the Royal Society, the Chemical Society, the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and the British Association for the Advancement of Science.  Many photographs of the materialized 'Katie King' were taken by the scientist and the photos that have been preserved may be viewed via a Google Images search.  It has been reported that the original photos taken by Crookes were destroyed after his passing.  The fact that the materialized Katie King resembled medium Florence Cook has been hastily assumed by some people as evidence of fraud when the conditions for such a predicament have been articulated in Spiritualist accounts.  Crookes also noted: "The following letters appeared in the Spiritualistic journals at the dates which they bear."

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SPIRIT-FORMS,


In a letter which I wrote to this journal early in February last, speaking of the phenomena of spirit-forms which have appeared through Miss Cook's mediumship, I said, "Let those who are inclined to judge Miss Cook harshly suspend their judgment until I bring forward positive evidence which I think will be sufficient to settle the question.  Miss Cook is now devoting herself exclusively to a series of private seances with me and one or two friends. . . . Enough has taken place to thoroughly convince me of the perfect truth and honesty of Miss Cook, and to give me every reason to expect that the promises so freely made to me by Katie will be kept."

In that letter I described an incident which, to my mind, went very far towards convincing me that Katie and Miss Cook were two separate material beings.  When Katie was outside the cabinet, standing before me, I heard a moaning noise from Miss Cook in the cabinet.  I am happy to say that I have at last obtained the "absolute proof" to which I referred in the above-quoted letter.

I will, for the present, pass over most of the tests which has given me on the many occasions when Miss Cook has favoured me with stances at this house, and will only describe one or two which I have recently had.  I have for some time past been experimenting with a phosphorus lamp, consisting of a 6-oz. or 8-oz. bottle, containing a little phosphorised oil, and tightly corked.  I have had reason to hope that by the light of this lamp some of the mysterious phenomena of the cabinet might be rendered visible, and Katie has also expressed herself hopefully as to the same result.

On March 12th, during a seance here, after Katie had been walking amongst us and talking for some time, she retreated behind the curtain which separated my laboratory, where the company was sitting, from my library which did temporary duty as a cabinet.  In a minute she came to the curtain and called me to her, saying, "Come into the room and lift my medium's head up, she has slipped down." Katie was then standing before me clothed in her usual white robes and turban head-dress.  I immediately walked into the library up to Miss Cook, Katie stepping aside to allow me to pass.  I found Miss Cook had slipped partially off the sofa, and her head was hanging in a very awkward position.  I lifted her onto the sofa, and in so doing had satisfactory-evidence, in spite of the darkness, that Miss Cook was not attired in the "Katie" costume, but had on her ordinary black velvet dress, and was in a deep trance.   Not more than three seconds elapsed between my seeing the white-robed Katie standing before me and my raising Miss Cook on to the sofa from the position into which she had fallen.

On returning to my post of observation by the curtain, Katie again appeared, and said she thought she should be able to show herself and her medium to me at the same time.  The gas was then turned out, and she asked for my phosphorus lamp.  After exhibiting herself by it for some seconds, she handed it back to me, saying, "Now come in and see my medium."  I closely followed her into the library, and by the light of my lamp saw Miss Cook lying on the sofa just as I had left her.  I looked round for Katie, but she had disappeared.  I called her, but there was no answer.

On resuming my place, Katie soon reappeared, and told me that she had been standing close to Miss Cook all the time.  She then asked if she might try an experiment herself, and taking the phosphorus lamp from me she passed behind the curtain, asking me not to look in for the present.  In a few minutes she handed the lamp back to me, saying she could not succeed, as she had used up all the power, I but would try again another time.  My eldest son, a lad of fourteen, who was sitting opposite me, in such a position that he could see behind the curtain, tells me he distinctly saw the phosphorus lamp apparently floating about in space over Miss Cook, illuminating her as she lay motionless on the sofa, but he could not see anyone holding the lamp.

I pass on to a seance held last night at Hackney.  Katie never appeared to greater perfection, and for nearly two hours she walked about the room, conversing familiarly with those present.  On several occasions she took my arm when walking, and the impression conveyed to my mind that it was a living woman by my side, instead of a visitor from the other world, was so strong that the temptation to repeat a recent celebrated experiment became almost irresistible.  Feeling, however, that if I had not a spirit, I had at all events a lady close to me, I asked her permission to clasp her in my arms, so as to be able to verify the interesting observations which a bold experimentalist has recently somewhat verbosely recorded.  Permission was graciously given, and I accordingly did — well, as any gentleman would do under the circumstances.  Mr. Volckman will be pleased to know that I can corroborate his statement that the "ghost" (not " struggling," however,) was as material a being as Miss Cook herself.  But the sequel shows how wrong it is for an experimentalist, however accurate his observations may be, to venture to draw an important conclusion from an insufficient amount of evidence.

Katie now said she thought she should be able this time to show herself and Miss Cook together.  I was to turn the gas out and then come with my phosphorus lamp into the room now used as a cabinet.  This I did, having previously asked a friend who was skilful at shorthand to take down any statement I might make when in the cabinet, knowing the importance attaching to first impressions, and not wishing to leave more to memory than necessary.  His notes are now before me.

I went cautiously into the room, it being dark, and felt about for Miss Cook.  I found her crouching on the floor.  Kneeling down, I let air enter the lamp, and by its light I saw the young lady dressed in black velvet, as she had been in the early part of the evening, and to all appearance perfectly senseless; she did not move when I took her hand and held the light quite close to her face, but continued quietly breathing.  Raising the lamp, I looked around and saw Katie standing close behind Miss Cook.  She was robed in flowing white drapery as we had seen her previously during the seance.  Holding one of Miss Cook's hands in mine, and still kneeling, I passed the lamp up and down so as to illuminate Katie's whole figure and satisfy myself thoroughly that I was really looking at the veritable Katie whom I had clasped in my arms a few minutes before, and not at the phantasm of a disordered brain.  She did not speak, but moved her head and smiled in recognition. Three separate times did I carefully examine Miss Cook crouching before me, to be sure that the hand I held was that of a living woman, and three separate times did I turn the lamp to Katie and examine her with steadfast scrutiny until I had no doubt whatever of her objective reality.  At last Miss Cook moved slightly, and Katie instantly motioned me to go away.  I went to another part of the cabinet and then ceased to see Katie, but did not leave the room till Miss Cook woke up, and two of the visitors came in with a light.

Before concluding this article I wish to give some of the points of difference which I have observed between Miss Cook and Katie.  Katie's height varies; in my house I have seen her six inches taller than Miss Cook.   Last night, with bare feet and not "tip-toeing," she was four and a half inches taller than Miss Cook.  Katie's neck was bare last night; the skin was perfectly smooth both to touch and sight, whilst on Miss Cook's neck is a large blister, which under similar circumstances is distinctly visible and rough to the touch.  Katie's ears are unpierced, whilst Miss Cook habitually wears earrings. Katie's complexion is very fair, while that of Miss Cook is very dark.  Katie's fingers are much longer than Miss Cook's, and her face is also larger.  In manners and ways of expression there are also many decided differences.

Miss Cook's health is not good enough to allow of her giving more of these test shames for the next few weeks, and we have, therefore, strongly advised her to take an entire rest before recommencing the experimental campaign which I have sketched out for her, and the results of which I hope to be able to record at some future day.

20 Mornington Road, N.W.,
March 30th, 1874.

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