Exhibits in the Haunted
Museum are based on the work of Troy Taylor from his
book, Ghosts by Gaslight!
Click on the Cover for More About the Book!
Since the early days of Spiritualism, automatic
writing has been accepted as a way for trance mediums, and sometimes
ordinary people, to receive communications from the spirit world. Man
has always longed to communicate with the spirits and thanks to the
founding of the Spiritualist movement, he now had a method of doing
so. The original communications, like those of the
Fox Sisters in Hydesville, were little
more than knocks and raps that spelled out long and elaborate methods.
Most became frustrated by such slow methods of communication and began
looking for something faster -- and much more direct. Not long after,
the art of "automatic writing" was born.
Automatic writing is essentially writing that is done in an altered
state of consciousness that is attributed to spirits of the dead. It is
believed by some that the spirits literally manipulate the writing utensil
in the hands of the medium to communicate, as the writer is often unaware
of what is being written and often even scrawls out text in handwriting
that is markedly different than his own. Others believe that perhaps the
spirits may also communicate by forming messages in the mind of the
medium, which reproduce on the page. Most likely though, the medium is
writing unconsciously and messages are formed from material in the
subconscious mind or from a secondary personality that is gifted with
extrasensory perception. One of America's most famous mediums,
Leonora Piper, thought that perhaps her uncanny
abilities came from such a personality, which manifested in automatic
writing later in her career.
Judge John Edmonds
Through automatic writing, mediums have claimed to produce messages from
famous persons in history, deceased authors and even classical music
composers. In the 1850's, John Worth Edmonds, a judge on the New York
Supreme Court, became interested in Spiritualism after the death of his
wife. After a sťance with the Fox Sisters, he became intrigued with the
movement and publicly acknowledged his support of it, despite the
potential damage to his legal career. He became most interested in spirit
communications and began encouraging a medium friend, Dr. George T.
Baxter, to try and contact famous and literary figures who had passed
over. In no time, Edmonds and his small circle of Spiritualists were
receiving discourses from Francis Bacon and Emanuel Swedenborg, or as the
Swedish seer insisted on spelling his name when communicating with the
judge -- "Sweedonborg".
The material produced by these sessions sounded
nothing like the earthly work done by either man and were described as
being pompous, artificial, slightly condescending in tone and often
sounded as though the entire personality of the author had been
eliminated. As William James stated: "One curious thing about trance
utterances is their generic similarity in different individuals ... It
seems exactly as if one author composed more than half of the trance
utterances, no matter by whom they are uttered."
Despite the fact that the judge's communications were on the
questionable side, his work inspired others to communicate with other
famous deceased persons, from Benjamin Franklin to even Christ himself.
Literary spirits dictated new works, books, novels and thousands of lines
of poetry. Pens were common tools but some mediums used slates and even
typewriters to keep up with the fast flow of material. Perhaps the most
famous example of spirit dictation was the case of Pearl Curran, a St.
Louis housewife who managed to get into contact with an entity named
Patience Worth. The two collaborated for years and turned out entire
novels and thousands of poems, all filled with material that the
uneducated Curran could have known nothing about.
Click Here to Read More about Pearl Curran & Patience Worth
Some documented incidents of automatic writing
include other aspects of the supernatural. In the early 1900's, famed
society belle Marguerite Du Pont Lee began claiming that she was
taking eerie spirit photographs at the direction of messages that she
received through automatic writing. Lee, the daughter of the Delaware
Du Pont's, was of impeccable lineage, spotless reputation and apparent
good sensibilities. After her friend, Episcopal minister Kemper
Bocock died in 1904, Lee began having episodes of automatic writing
that she credited as coming from Bocock. The writings told her to take
up photography and she did, usually placing a portrait of herself or
Bocock in a chair and taking pictures of it. Some of the resulting
photos showed inexplicable blobs of light and spectral faces, some
blurry and others distinct. Some of them looked like the dead
One of the photos that
Keeler took of Lee that shows the very unusual-looking Rev. Bocock
About that same time, Lee started having her
photograph taken by William M. Keeler, an alleged spirit photography
expert. With Keeler's assistance, Bocock's appearances increased
dramatically and soon there were photos of him dancing, preaching and
more. Concerned, Lee contacted James H, Hyslop, a philosopher and
psychical investigator in 1919. He stated that he did not believe that
there was any fraud involved with Lee's photos, but with Keeler he
could not be certain. Hyslop passed away in 1920 and Walter F. Prince
began looking into the case. By this time, the Keeler photographs
numbered over 4,000 and Prince had little doubt that devious methods
were at work.
Although deferential to Lee, Prince clearly
regarded Keeler as a fraud and noted that in all of the Bocock
photographs, the minister's head appeared facing about one-third off
center, right or left, or almost in profile, right or left. The two
poses were amazingly like the only two existing photographs of Bocock
while he was alive. Prince also observed that the static Bocock head
was often at odds with the alarmingly movable Bocock body -- which
appeared variously as fat, thin, tall, short, long-necked or
no-necked. The photos, Prince believed, were obviously faked.
Unfortunately though, because of the obvious
trickery involved with Keeler's photos, we will never know what became
of the photos taken by Lee -- which may have portrayed real phenomena!
Other forms of automatic writing go beyond mere
messages and include drawing and painting and even music that is
allegedly inspired by the dead. In some cases, mediums or individuals
with little or no artistic training will suddenly feel compelled to
paint or draw in distinctive, professional styles. They fell guided by
a spirit, as if another hand is guiding their own. In some cases, the
paintings are recognizable in the style of a famous artist.
In England, medium Rosemary Brown became renowned
for musical compositions that she claimed were dictated to her by
famous composers. Her mediumistic abilities manifested in childhood
and at age 7, in 1924, she received communications from late composer
Franz Liszt who told her than when she grew up, he would return and
bring her music. In 1952, Rosemary married Charles Phillip Brown, a
freelance journalist with chronic health problems. He died young and
left Rosemary to care for their two children in 1961. A few years
later, in 1964, she suffered several broken ribs in an accident and
was forced to convalesce at home. To pass the time, she sat down at
the piano, even though she had not played in more than 12 years, and
suddenly became aware of the spirit of Franz Liszt beside her, guiding
her hands over the piano keys.
When he returned again, Liszt introduced Brown to a
number of famous composers who wished to dictate to her, including
Bach, Brahms, Chopin, DeBussy, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Schubert and
others. Word of her mediumship led to public performances and she had
given more than 400 of them by the late 1980's. Some critics say that
she does exhibit the styles of the various dead masters while others
contend that she is merely drawing on subliminal knowledge to mimic
their styles. Who knows?
© Copyright 2003-
2008 by Troy Taylor. All Rights
Return to the Haunted Museum