Work Header

A Novel Method of Physical Manifestation in a Pair of Subjects

Work Text:


The Journal of the Society for Psychical Research


No. LVII - Vol. IV.                                                                                                                  February, 1889.


S. J. Davey

It is prudent for me to preface this article with the frank admission that several of the subjects covered will seem improper and salacious enough to be below the esteemed nature of the Society, but the details of these encounters are so extraordinary and provide such infallible proof of our mission that I consider their inclusion necessary, both for an honest account and to provide inspiration for other members. As an institution we have always prided ourselves on challenging conventional beliefs to root out the heart of them, and it is to this end that I hope you shall arrive at the same conclusion I did; that this discovery will push the boundaries of what can be achieved within the psychical sciences beyond anything that had been previously conceived.

Some months ago the Society received a letter from a woman who has sought anonymity, for reasons which will become clear. We will hereon refer to her as Mrs. A____. She has been a reader of our Journal for many years now, and claimed that her female companion and herself have successfully practiced physical mediumship for a period of some two years, and that the result is consistently reproducible. As many of you will know I have a pronounced distrust of any claims to physical mediumship, and have published several papers both on my own and with the assistance of Mr. Hodgson and Mrs. Sidgwick to cast doubt upon the practice as a whole. It was with this in mind that I was chosen to attend these manifestations, and I witnessed what I can only describe as a completely authentic encounter with the spirit world. What follows is as complete an account as will stand for publication.

The psychics, the aforementioned Mrs. A_____ and another, one Mrs. B_____, had been widowed within months of one another. Mr. A_____ was an artist and poet, although without much success, and made the unfortunate mistake of confusing a dilution of paris green paint for his customary absinthe. Mr. B_____ was run under a post-carriage horse mere days after arriving from Africa, where the near loss of his life to a wildebeest stampede had prompted his return. After the customary mourning period Mrs. B_____ had entered an advertisement in a local newspaper, applying for a correspondent in a similar state to her own, and after the exchange of multitudinous letters they began to cohabit as a solution to their pecuniary worries and isolation. 

Mrs. A_____, having long been interested in Spiritualism and no longer under the supervision of her skeptic spouse, purchased a subscription to the Society's publications and began researching the subject in earnest. Mrs. B_____ was not a believer in excarnate spirits, however she agreed to help Mrs. A_____ attempt at communication with their late husbands, using inspiration from a variety of techniques mentioned in the pages of the Journal. Mrs. A_____ has confided in me that she had no belief that the attempts would meet with success, but instead was hoping to involve Mrs. B_____ with the hopes of purchasing a spirit trumpet for their joint future use. If this is true, and I have no reason to disbelieve her account, it would imply that no personal investment from either party is necessary for mediumship, and since neither had experienced any spirits before this time it also follows that no training is required.

As they had no trumpet, cabinet, table or any other equipment, the ritual was developed as far as possible in accordance with standard practices, although with some difference in interpretation. It was carried out at night, in a darkened room lit only by a ring of twenty three candles around the participants. The two ladies then disrobed and attired themselves only in select articles of clothing previously belonging to their late husbands; Mrs. B_____ in the gambler, necktie and sock garters of Mr. A_____, and Mrs. A_____ donning the top hat, waistcoat and best boots of Mr. B_____. They lay down within the ring of candles and performed tribadism to excite the energies in the room, which after a short while resulted in the simultaneous manifestation of both deceased within the actors.

That such a practice was successful was therefore a surprise to both of the participants, as it was to the spirits of the departed husbands who found themselves in sudden possession of a body; one that was in the midst of sapphic activity with their wives of late. As such the spirit operators removed themselves from the activity and stood apart to question one another, thinking first of all that they addressed their wives before realising they were in the presence of a stranger, and then to recognise their unfamiliar incarnations. They found that as the carnal energies sapped from their bodies so did the strength of their renewed link to this world, and they quickly vanished, leaving their startled widows to understand what had occurred. Several séances had to be performed before the spirit operators were comfortable enough with the entire affair to not interrupt the proceedings. To this end several attempts were made at singular invocations by utilising onanism to maintain the connection, with interaction from the inactive party. This proved a success, although with only faint contact being made and the manifestation remaining quiet and subdued for extended periods. It did, however, prove suitable for expounding the situation to the operator, as the second medium was still of their own mind rather than in the grips of their trance, and after these conversations the joint sittings proved far more stable.

Given Mrs. A_____'s enthusiasm for the psychical sciences she very quickly began a series of experiments on the limitations of the practice. Although her initial thinking was that at least three articles of the deceased were required to connect to the head, thorax and legs of the medium and spirit, it is only necessary to use one article, and results were recorded even with the application of the deceased's Macassar Oil. The articles of clothing may be disturbed or unbuttoned, however if they are removed during the mediumship the effect is lost instantly and completely. As such there is a concerted effort on the part of the mediums to choose pieces that both enhance their interest and allow accessibility, to the exclusion of jodhpurs and any corsetry for either gender. Similarly necessary is that it is performed at night and in the presence of the twenty three candles, arranged circularly. This number was originally a natural result of the entirety of their spares, but further investigation has shown that the number is precise and will work with no other. Mrs. B_____ has noted that the illumination they provide is also sufficient to induce the desired atmosphere. The location is immaterial, as the deceased have been communed with in both South End and Scarborough. Perhaps the most integral aspect of the ritual is also the most unsuspected by previous attempts at contacting the spirit world - the copulatory efforts which precipitate every materialisation. All three - candles, clothing and coitus - are required. The ladies have confirmed that they, too, believe that it is this specific aspect of the energies is the key, and lament that for all their attempts to replicate the results without either the candles or clothes they have failed utterly, and that they shall continue in the endeavour until they can be entirely satisfied.

As part of my investigation into the facts of this case I have been able to hold interviews with these spirit operators, and while there would be little information on their lives which their wives would not be cognizant of, their demeanours and voices were substantially altered during this time. All conversations were by necessity held during copulation between the women; when single interviews were requested away from the respective widow I was allowed to take the part of the séance to boost the energies within the circle, however I was always kept separate and gratified myself across from the medium. 

It is an unusual case in that it seems to involve characteristics of several different forms of mediumship: there is the ectoplasm materialisation and vocal projection expected from physical mediums, the clairsentience and claircognizance of mental mediumship and the assumed control of the trance mediumship practices, in partnership with limited clairaudience. The manifestation is a gradual process; the posture of the sitter changes and a faint greenish-white, gelatinous material begins to seep from their pores following a manner that has been described from numerous mediums in the past. This viscous secretion then forms itself into the features of a face, recognisable from photographs of the departed, settling over the woman's own physiognomy and distorting it similar to how a poorly developed photograph blurs and shifts. This manifestation occurs throughout the body of the medium, and Mrs. A_____ has remarked that while her husband was far taller than the petite Mrs. B his form seems to reshape itself to fit over her smaller frame. If the sitting is powerful enough they can additionally manifest the sideburns, mustachio and shorter styled hair of the other, as well as any other protrusions beyond the natural shape of the sitter. During moments of particular ardour it is in fact possible to produce a spectral phallus of this same glutinous material, projecting directly from the nethers of the women, and through which both the spirit and medium are capable of sensation. No penetration is possible with this appendage due to its semi-solid and somewhat adherent nature; all attempts at such have been called off due to the sloughing of gel becoming problematic, although never painful. I collected several samples of this substance which have so far resisted all attempts at classification by both myself and several esteemed chemists. 

The mediums do not directly interact with their possessors and are only able to ascertain their emotions rather than their thoughts, although if they focus their efforts they can regain control: to maintain conversation with their past spouses, or to demonstrate certain techniques of which the gentlemen were ignorant during both their lives and afterlives. All sensation is shared between the host and spirit, and since the stimulation of the ladies' persons is required for the exercise it is beneficial to have the encounter as pleasurable for all four as can be attained. The ladies report they have occasionally exchanged clothing to converse with their operators, and while the manifestation is lessened it is still visibly in effect. This raises the inevitable question of whether affection between the medium and operator has any part to play in the effectiveness of the séance, but since both the mediums and spirit operators have all resolutely denied my pleas to don the apparel and attempt a communication in their place I cannot be certain. 

From interviews both with the widows and the spirits it seems relations have improved through the practice. Both the women have stated to me that they are pleased to have their husbands around, as they had become somewhat fond of them, while the departed have said that they are grateful to have finally learned how to make them happy in bed, and to see their widows coming alive with their new companion in a way they hadn't before. There has been mild complaint from the ladies that they often have a fitful rest if they fall asleep within the circle, and they suspect that their husbands are keeping their bodies up beyond when they should. Mr. B_____ has confirmed this to me; it is simple to get caught up in the momentum of the act, and since they can talk freely to the opposite operator they have naturally grown close. While mostly this manifests in better carnal relations - and thus stronger spiritual vibrations - it is possible for them to maintain their ephemeral phalluses while their host bodies are unconscious, the resultant energies enough to continue their conversation deep into the night. Mr. B_____ claims that he has overcome his initial ideas of Mr. A_____ as an insufferable bore and indeed they are now quite attached to one another. The implications of this for the field are self-evident, as the increase in care after a death is irrefutable proof that the spirit remains plastic and open to self improvement even in the afterlife, exactly as Spiritualism has always asserted.

Neither of the spirit operators have any memories of any Heaven or what happens between their moments on the physical plane; to the entirety of their knowledge they both died their tragic, sudden deaths and then awoke in the midst of a passionate encounter with their wives. While they are both still becoming used to the prospect of controlling a woman's body and feeling as she does they are becoming more apt, just as they are gradually accepting the presence of another couple in their union. Mrs. B_____, a woman of some considerable Protestant faith, has explained it to them that while they were faithful unto death they are all now released, and the reason has been accepted by all parties. All four have expressed that the experience has left them all in a greater state of peace than they had previous, although both of the ladies are in a state of some relief that the mediumship has remained within their rituals and not spilled out into their everyday lives. They also report that at times their late husbands forget to breathe or blink, to the considerable consternation of the medium. The implications of both this amnesia and the loss of subconscious motor functions shall be discussed in a future letter.

This case is groundbreaking in its continued resilience to scrutiny and the high chance of success given the relatively little personal peril. It is of even greater importance to the Society due to the recent high-profile forgeries which we have investigated and found wanting, including those which several of our members regrettably aligned themselves with. The method provides the means for replicable and reliable contact with the spirit world, and I hold that it is also open to improvement: as the materialisation was weaker as a solo endeavour and the mediums in this case only acted as a pair there is potential that with an increased number of participants in an excited state the results could be improved further still.

No mediumship training is required to be successful other than a bereavement, and so I volunteer myself as a widower of some years and request the membership to consider the donation of their time to replicate and perfect the method so that it can be fully explored. Any experiments would naturally appear in a future number of the Journal, and I look forward to the response from our readership.