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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Monday, April 1, 2024

Spookiest Years, Part 15: The Year 1878

In previous posts in this intermittently appearing "Spookiest Years" series on this blog (herehereherehereherehereherehere, here, here, here,  herehere and here), I had looked at some very spooky events reported between 1848 and 1877. Let me pick up the thread and discuss some spooky events reported in the year 1878. 

On page 66 of the February 8, 1878 edition of The Spiritualist, we have this description by A. J. Cranstoun of wonders witnessed at a seance:

"The first manifestation was a white, vapoury cloud appearing on the floor in front of Dr. Monck, out of which in a minute or so was developed a female form—a girl clad in white. When we greeted her as Alice (who had often previously manifested herself), she nodded her head in assent, and, at Dr. Monck’s request, clapped her hands.... She remained some minutes, after which she appeared to sink into the floor beside Dr. Monck."

On page 126 of the March 15, 1878 edition of The Spiritualist, we have this very interesting account by a Baroness Von Vay. She refers to automatic writing, a technique in which some person holds a pen to a paper, and waits for some spiritual influence to cause a writing the person holding the pen never seemed to will:

"I was one day writing automatically, under the influence
of my guides, when I suddenly felt my arm impelled by a
strange and unknown power, and the following was written
in large letters :—'I am here, Joseph Schmied.'  As I had
never known any one of that name, and many people called
Schmied die in a day, I suspected that I was being imposed
upon, and asked, 'What Schmied?'  'I, Jacob Schmied,
died to-day, in Vienna, Hernals, of disease of the throat;
help me. The day after to-morrow you will see my death in
the newspaper.'  I awaited with impatience the day mentioned, and on looking over the list of deaths in that day’s
paper I found—'Died, from disease of the throat, in
Vienna, Hernals, Jacob Schmied.' The date of his death
was also the same as that of the day on which I received his

On page 133 of the March 22, 1878 edition of The Spiritualist, we have an account of a very persistent apparition: a first-hand tale of a ghost that kept showing up for more than two years. The account is written by William H. Harrison. He tells of a person getting the report from his sister. Harrison then interviewed the sister to get the account first-hand.  Harrison says he wrote down using shorthand the account below from the claimant, a woman named Mrs. Bentley. 

"By the light of the candle I saw my departed sister standing in
the doorway ; she upraised her two hands to the level of her
head, with the fingers pointing upwards, and said—'Ann !
How’s Harry?’ ....She came in; there was no door for her to pass through in the bedroom of our cottage ; my father, my mother, the minister, our next-door neighbour, and myself, all saw her by the light of the candle in the room. She was just exactly the same as in life; had on the same boots and everything. The minister, who was very white, said to her— ‘ What is your trouble ?’ My sister replied—'I will come as long as I can come.’ The minister, who was fearfully nervous, said—‘ I never saw anything like this in my life before.' My sister then walked out into the next room, and the minister remarked—‘ I could never have believed this if I had not seen it.’ From that time the spirit came to my house regularly every night for rather less than two-years and-a-half, but she never did any more talking....Rather more than two years after my sister’s death, her husband, John Sammons, married again, and took the two children from me to his house. That night he was pulled out of bed by the spirit, and there were great noises in the house. These disturbances were powerful during the whole of the next month ; afterwards they moderated, but lasted for two years—for the time he had the children with him. My sister had been his second wife. The third looked pale and miserable; she told me that there was no peace for him, or the children, or herself."

Harrison states this: 

"Such is the narrative given me on Monday by Mrs. Bentley, without hesitation or prevarication, and as given previously to Mr. Cain. I saw no reason, nor did he, to question its truthfulness, and the publication of the particulars will, no doubt, result in the account being well sifted by residents in the locality."

On page 147 of the March 29, 1878 edition of The Spiritualist, we have an account of a woman who on her deathbed referred to her deceased son, saying, "There's Tommy," just before dying. It is another account of the common phenomenon called deathbed visions. On the next page we read of sea captain who sailed  past a distant just barely visible island believed to be uninhabited. The sea captain was reportedly "seized by an unaccountable desire to steer toward it." 16 very hungry stranded sailors were found on the island. We seem to have a case of 16 lives saved by telepathy. 

On page 159 of the April 5, 1878 edition of The Spiritualist, we have an account of a man who seemed to have died:

"Apparently Mr. Schrack died at twenty minutes to seven o’clock on Sunday morning. His limbs became cold and rigid, his lips coloured purple, and around his mouth was the blue mark, generally supposed to betoken death. A hand mirror was placed over his mouth, but its shining surface was not dimmed. His friends and neighbours who stood around pronounced him dead, and grieved for him. A few hours afterward the body was completely stripped, that it might be prepared for the undertaker’s hands."

But to the surprise of all, it was found that the man was not really dead. After awaking from his very close brush with death, the man tells that after observing his body seeming to fail in many ways, he observed this:

"I found myself in another land. The vision I looked upon was the most beautiful that man ever saw. It would be impossible for me to give a description that would do it justice.... I saw a great temple and a great throne. I saw my little boy who was drowned two years ago, and my other dead child. I saw my dead wife. But I could not touch them. I saw people whom I had almost forgotten, I saw my old gray-haired grandfather, who died when I was but two years old. There were many whom I looked for but I did not see them. Then the vision began receding, and I can never describe the
terrible disappointment I felt when I found myself again in bed."

We have an account of a near-death experience, one with several characteristics of near-death experiences reported in recent decades.  See my link here for about eight other such accounts dating from before 1975 (keep pressing Older Posts at the bottom right to see them all). 

On page 198 of the April 26, 1878 edition of The Spiritualist, we read an account like many others I have cited, an account of someone in Burma seeing an apparition of someone he did not know was dead, only to later learn the person died about the same time:

"I had an old schoolfellow, who was afterwards a college
friend, with whom I had lived in the closest intimacy. Years,
however, passed away without our seeing each other. One
morning I had just got out of bod, and was dressing myself,
when suddenly my old friend entered the room. I greeted
him warmly ; told him to call for a cup of tea in the verandah,
and promised to be with him immediately. I dressed myself
in haste, and went out into the verandah, but found no one
there. I could not believe my eyes. I called to the sentry,
who was posted at the front of the house, but he had seen no
strange gentleman .... A fortnight afterwards news arrived
that he had died, six hundred miles off, about the very time
I saw him at Maulmain."

On page 254 of the May 31, 1878 edition of The Spiritualist, we have another account of the same type:

"Miss Anna Maria Porter, the author, relates that during her residence at Esher, in Surrey, England, an old gentleman was in the habit of visiting her house of evenings, reading the newspaper and drinking a cup of tea. One evening she saw him enter as usual, and seat himself at the table, but without speaking. She. addressed some remark to him, but he made no reply. After a few seconds, she saw him rise and leave the room without uttering a word. Astonished and alarmed at this conduct, she immediately sent a servant to his house to make inquiries. The reply was brought back that the old gentleman had died suddenly about an hour before."

On page 296 of the June 21, 1878 edition of The Spiritualist, we read of an astonishing clairvoyant:

"Mrs. Andrus, while heavily blindfolded, and when entranced (or controlled, as she claims, by a spirit), will read anything, answers readily any questions, discourses on any subject better than when not under control, and replies to questions that none of her listeners or questioners could possibly answer were they put to them. When under this spirit control she describes the spirit friends of the person she is talking to, tells how long they have been in spirit-life, when and where they died, what disease they died of, and describes their complexion, hair, eyes, and so on, as perfectly as could their most intimate earthly friend....A pad of linen of twelve thicknesses, together with two pieces of harness leather, were placed over each eye, reaching from above the eyebrows down to the opening of the nose, then a heavy linen bandage covering the pads bound them tight to the flesh. In a few minutes she was entranced, and a strange voice, speaking through the medium, called for any one to ask questions, and to produce anything they wanted read. Letter after letter, paper after paper was produced, and everything most accurately read, to the wonder and satisfaction of everybody.... Watches were then produced ; she then instantly described the watches and told the time. Old photographs were produced, pictures of individuals present, but taken in their youth many years ago; instantly she would say whose they were and when they were taken. All expressed themselves satisfied, and all questions were answered till no one would ask any more."

On page 42 of the July 26, 1878 edition of The Spiritualist, we have a claim that a permanent plaster cast was made of the foot of a "materialized spirit," using paraffin wax. We see the visuals below  showing the cast.

plaster mold of a spirit foot

On the next page we are told this:

"The two materialised forms who produced the hand and foot moulds are well-known, and are as recognisable as any of our mortal friends, for we have seen them at different houses on many different occasions, and have seen them singly and together. Once they formed from a white vapoury cloud into substantial and materialised figures, with drapery as real to the touch as that worn by mortal ladies, and they gradually dematerialised before our very eyes."

See my post here for a discussion of a 1922 book which claimed similar results. On page 173 of the October 11, 1878 edition of The Spiritualist, we have this account of a dying woman:

"She kept repeating that she could not die before  she had seen George—a son who had given her great anxiety,  and who was then on a distant voyage. Day after day passed away, and still the same oft repeated cry, the same uncontrollable longing, the same intense yearning of the mother’s heart to look once more on the beloved face. At length the wished-for quiet came; she sank into a profound and trance-like sleep, which lasted during a whole night and portions of the preceding and succeeding days. Her friends, who had regarded this slumber but as the ' beginning of the end,' were astonished on the afternoon of the second day by her awaking in a frame of mind, the calmness and resignation of which strangely contrasted with her previous discontent and restlessness. She at once informed them , that she had seen her son, and added, ' To convince you that I have seen him, you will find, on his return, that he has lost the first finger of the left hand.'  The mother soon after passed quietly and happily away. The son in due time returned from his long voyage, and on visiting his mother’s friends they remarked that he kept his left hand concealed in his waistcoat, and at length discovered that he had lost a finger. On inquiring the cause of the accident, he told them that during a violent storm he was on deck engaged in chopping wood for some purpose connected with the safety of the vessel, when he suddenly beheld his mother ascending the side of the ship. So great was his surprise and terror that the instrument, descending with great violence, severed  the first finger of his left hand, precisely as his dying  mother had described."

On page 189 of the October 18, 1878 edition of The Spiritualist, we read an account by Berks T. Hutchinson in which he claims seeing over the course of years fifteen types of paranormal wonders in the presence of the medium W. Eglinton, including spirit hands and phantom forms and faces. Below is item 9 on his list:

" Levitation and floating of Mr. Eglinton and another gentleman, a private medium, over our heads and up to the ceiling, who at our request, have hammered the wooden roof with their hands. They have floated horizontally and perpendicularly, both in the normal and trance condition."

On page 246 of the November 22, 1878 edition of The Spiritualist, the same Berks T. Hutchinson states this:

"Mr. Eglinton has been levitated in the light, in the presence of seven witnesses. He was in a state of trance on this occasion, and floated up perpendicularly to my ceiling, coming down again, and re-rising. This was done four or five times. He then rose into the air, assumed a horizontal position, and floated to within nine inches of the gas, which was burning, though not at the full. When he came up the two palms of his hands were put up to his face, as if screening him from the action of the light. We all saw him quite distinctly, and noticed that he was in the mesmeric or trance state. This is, he says, the first time that to his knowledge he has been seen to float in the light, and I consider the fact a great triumph over sceptics."

On page 289 and the following pages of the December 20, 1878 edition of The Spiritualist, we are told the astonishing story of Mollie Fancher, which is one of the best-documented cases of powerful clairvoyance.  I will not summarize the pages, because I have already summarized the case in my post here

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