How Spirits Materialize

From "The Revelations of a Spirit Medium"--a book out of existence

now, since the plates and all copies were bought up by

"spiritualists" and destroyed. The following is given by courtesy

of Mr. Hereward Carrington:

Reader, have you ever attended a "seance" for "full-form

materialization?" Have you ever thought you had met your dead

relative's spirit at these "seances"?

If you have never had the pleasure of attending a seance of this

"phase" you have missed a rare treat. The writer has assisted at

many a one and will relate to you some of the wonderful phenomena

occurring at them and the means used to produce them. . . . There

are hundreds of "materializing mediums" doing business in this

country, who are swelling a good-sized bank account. Their

business sometimes runs into the hundreds of dollars in a single

week. This "phase" of mediumship is considered by the spiritual-

ists as the highest possible attainable, and if you are a clever

"full-form medium" your financial welfare is assured. . . . Many

and various are the methods employed by the different "mediums" in

producing this phase. It is in Boston, New York, and San Francisco

that it is worked the finest. The full-form seances most often met

with are very simply worked, and easy of performance by the medium.

You are usually given a seat in a circle of chairs about the front

of a "cabinet" made by hanging heavy curtains across the corner of

the room. If you are a stranger or one who looks or acts as though

he would "grab" the "spirits," you are seated at the farthest point

from the cabinet; or, if there are two rows of seats, you will be

given a seat in the back row. . . .

I made my way to the "materializing seance," at which my friends

hoped to materialize. I was admitted to the seance room and found

about twenty persons already assembled. I was seated in the front

row of chairs. The cabinet used was a closet about six feet long

and four feet wide. The ceiling of both the room and the cabinet

was of wood. After a thorough examination had been made of the

cabinet by all those who cared to do so, the sitters were

rearranged to suit the medium. There were present now thirty-five

persons. The seance room was very large. The door had been taken

off the closet that served as a cabinet, and in its stead were hung

heavy curtains. The floor of the room was carpeted with a dark

carpet, as was the cabinet. The light was furnished by a lamp

placed in a box that was fastened to the wall some eight feet from

the floor. This box had a sliding lid in front, controlled by a

cord passing into the cabinet. By this means the "spirits" could

regulate the light to suit themselves, without any movement on the

part of any of those in the seance room being necessary. When

everything was in readiness the medium entered the cabinet, seated

himself and was tied, and so secured to his chair that it was

impossible that he could have any use of himself. He was most

thoroughly secured to his chair, and his chair nailed fast to the

floor by passing leather straps over the rounds in the side and

nailing the ends to the floor. After it was shown to the sitters

that he was utterly helpless, the curtain was drawn. The manager

now placed an ordinary kitchen table in front of the door of the

cabinet, so that it stood away from it about two feet. The table

contained no drawer. On the table was laid writing materials, a

guitar, and small bell. The manager seated himself close to one

side of the cabinet entrance, and started a large Swiss music box.

Before it had finished the first air the lamp was shut entirely

off, making the room inky dark.

An illuminated hand and arm was now seen to come from behind the

curtain, and played an accompaniment to the music box on the

guitar. We could see plainly the movements of the hand, arm, and

fingers, as it manipulated the strings of the instrument. It did

not appear necessary to finger the strings on the keyboard,

although the air was in a key that made it impossible to tune the

guitar so that an accompaniment could be performed WITHOUT

fingering. However, but one hand was visible, and it was picking

the strings. After the tune was finished, the hand left the in-

strument, and moved out into the room to the front of the table,

and from the sound we knew it was writing on the tablet that had

been placed there. The arm was of bluish light and appeared to end

just above the elbow, and to have no connection with the body. It

finished writing and seemed to float into the cabinet near the top.

The light was opened and the manager requested those who had tied

the medium to examine his condition and see if the ropes had been

tampered with. The examination was made and it was evident that

the fastenings were undisturbed. The communication was read aloud

to those present, and contained the following:

"We are pleased to meet so many seekers after light and truth here

this evening, and, from the conditions, as we sense them, we will

have a satisfactory and pleasant seance. The way to obtain the

best results is for each person to maintain a passive condition and

take what we have to give. You may rest assured that our best

efforts will be put forth to give you entire satisfaction. The


The writing was exactly on the ruled lines although written in

absolute darkness. The hand and arm, although luminous, did not

give out a particle of light. The arm had been at least five feet

from the cabinet opening and seven feet from the medium. Surely,

it was not he. The message read, the light was again shut down and

the music again started.

Once more a hand appeared, and floating out to the table, again

began writing. Of a sudden the hand disappeared, and, after a few

seconds, I was astonished to feel a hand thrusting a paper into my

top coat pocket. Now appeared two hands and they played an air on

the guitar. Now came three, then four hands were visible, bright

as the day. Two of them began writing again, and, when they had

finished, two more sitters were the recipients of sheets of paper.

Soon the light was opened for an inspection of the cabinet, which

was made, with the conclusion that the medium had not moved. Those

of us receiving communications were afforded an opportunity to read

them. We found them nicely written, as before, and all contained

"tests." . . .

After the light went out again, more hands were seen; the table was

floated about over the heads of the circle, as was the music box,

which weighed at least fifty pounds. Another examination of the

cabinet was made and everything found satisfactory. This time the

light was not put entirely out, but a very dim light was allowed.

The music box was again set playing, and, while yet it was playing

the first tune, a tall figure, robed in creamy white, with gleaming

sparks in her hair, and on her head a sort of crown, issued from

the cabinet. She was recognized by a gentleman present, a

spiritualist, whose spirit guide she was, and who addressed her as

"my queen." She stood a few seconds behind the table and then

stepped out in the open space between the sitters and the table.

The gentleman now arose from his seat and, standing beside her,

holding her hand, conversed in a whisper with her for some seconds.

This was most assuredly a lady, if appearances go for anything.

Her hands were quite small, and were warm and lifelike, as several,

including myself, can testify, having been permitted to shake hands

with her. At last she started to the cabinet, and, as she went,

appeared to grow shorter, until, as she disappeared between the

curtains, she was not much taller than the table. The manager now

explained that the spirit had remained out rather too long and came

near dematerializing before she reached the cabinet. Now came the

spirit of a young man, dressed in a light suit of clothes, who gave

his name and said his mother was present. She was, and had a few

words of conversation with him when he disappeared into the

cabinet. The lady said that it was unmistakably her son; but there

was SOMETHING that was not as he had been, but what it was she was

unable to describe.

The next spirit to present itself was my son Eddie. He came out

from the cabinet calling "Papa, papa." The manager asked "Who is

your papa?" and he replied, "Mr. (Smith)." All this time he stood

between the table and the cabinet, and only his head and shoulders

could be seen. The manager told him to step out where he could be

seen, when he came around to the front of the table.

It was rather dark, but I could swear it was my son. He was just

the right size, with long flaxen hair and a very pale face. He

wore a light-colored waist and darker knee-breeches and stockings,

with a large black bow at his throat, Just as I remember seeing him

last in health.

While Eddie was still standing in front of the table a large man

came out and took him by the hand. Eddie spoke, saying:

"Must I go back, grandpa?" The form turned toward me, saying:

"My son, this is a great pleasure to us, but we must not long

remain, as it is our first attempt at materializing." He turned to

go when the manager said to him:

"If the gentleman is your son you ought to give him your name."

"The name of the child is Eddie, and my own is J. A. Smith,"

replied the form, as they vanished into the cabinet.

The manager suggested that it would be well to examine and see

whether the medium had been out or not. The cabinet was examined

and everything found satisfactory.

Spirit after spirit came from the cabinet, one or two at a time for

an hour; some of them came to friends, and others were "controls"

of the medium. Many of them were recognized by different ones of

the sitters in the room. I, for one, could swear to the identity

of my own son Eddie, while my father was plainly recognizable. . . .

The room was again made dark. Suddenly there appeared on the

floor, in front of the table, a light about as large as a baseball.

It moved about in a circle of perhaps a foot in diameter and grew

larger. It soon lost the shape of a ball and appeared to be a

luminous cloud. Seemingly we could see into and through it. In

the course of thirty seconds it had become as large as a six-year-

old child; still there was no definite shape, only a fleecy

cloudlike mass, turning, twisting, and rolling. At the end of

perhaps a minute it was the size and shape of an adult person. The

face could not be seen, but light, luminous spots were visible as

though the hair and ears were decorated with gems. The shape spoke

and requested light. As the light was turned on the luminousness

disappeared, and we beheld a beautiful young lady clothed in a

dazzling white costume. Her arms and shoulders were bare, and

about her neck there was a necklace of what appeared to be very

brilliant diamonds. Her feet were encased in white slippers, with

straps across the instep. In her ears and hair glistened and

shimmered beautiful diamonds. Her face and arms were as alabaster,

and altogether she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever

beheld. She was recognized by a lady and gentleman present as

their daughter. They had met her here before. They were from the

East, and were wealthy. The spirit requested that they come to

her, which they did, and were each kissed and embraced by it. They

held a moment's conversation with her and resumed their seats, when

the lamp was slowly turned down. As the light became dim the

spirit became luminous. The face and arms disappeared and the body

became as a cloud again, turning and twisting and growing smaller

until it was nothing but a small light spot on the carpet, which of

a sudden disappeared entirely.

Immediately after this manifestation an examination of the medium

and cabinet was made, and it was certain the medium had not been

away from his chair. The light was again turned out and the music

box started, when TWO bright spots appeared on the carpet, one at

either end of the table. These went through the same process of

development until, when the light was turned on, there was another

beautiful female spirit at one end of the table, and a child of

perhaps eight years of age at the other. The child was recognized

by a lady present as her daughter, while the adult spirit was

recognized and rapturously greeted by a gentleman who sat near me

on my left, as his "darling angel guardian." They had quite a long

conversation, in which they made use of very endearing language,

each to the other. I supposed it was the gentleman's wife. . . .

The spirits did not disappear as the first one had, but, when the

light had been turned off, the luminous shape revolved a few times,

and on two occasions assumed the garb and shape of men, and when

the light was turned on again, there stood the men with beards and

men's forms. After some eight or ten of these materializations and

dematerializations, before our eyes, the last couple completely


The light was again turned down and a luminous shape came from the

cabinet, followed by others, until seven of them stood on the

floor. The light was turned up until we could see the seven

spirits. Five were females and two males. They were of different

sizes. The curtain at the door of the cabinet was pulled aside and

we could see the medium sitting in the chair in which he was bound.

The forms now filed into the cabinet again, while the music box

played. After they had disappeared the light was turned up, an

investigation made of the cabinet, and the seance was over.

There, reader, is a truthful description of what can be witnessed

at the seances of mediums who are artists. None of your bungling,

amateur work here. The work of such a medium is always

satisfactory for the reason that if a man feels SURE that the

medium is a fraud, he has been so well entertained that he does not

regret the money paid for the opportunity to witness it. This is

the class of medium also who frequently succeed in getting large

sums of money from wealthy persons they have converted to


Did the writer not give you the true explanation of the manner in

which these things were produced, you would probably say it was

conceived by a very fertile imagination. If you believed that he

saw these things you would perhaps offer the preacher's

explanation, by saying, "it is the work of the devil"; or that of

the scientist, by asserting that "it is the mesmerist's power over

your mind"; or "the operator has discovered an odd force in

nature"; or go off on a long dissertation on hypnotism and fourth

dimension of space problems. However, it is not the work of the

devil, neither are there any but NATURAL laws necessary to its


The seance described actually occurred and was described in writing

by Mr. Smith in the language used, although it was not printed, and

the writer was one of those who assisted in its production. He

will now proceed to explain this particular seance. . . .

It will be remembered that the room and cabinet were carpeted with

a dark carpet, and that the ceilings were of wood. The ceilings

were decorated by being put on in panels. The ceiling of the

cabinet would not have been like that of the room had the closet

been a part of the architect's plans of the house. It was not, but

was made by the medium. He simply built a lath and plaster

partition from the corner of a wide chimney to the wall, thus

inclosing a space of six by four feet. The panel in the ceiling of

the closet was twenty inches square. This panel was "doctored" and

could be displaced, leaving an aperture large enough for the

"spooks" to get through with perfect ease. A light ladder which

reached within three feet of the floor of the cabinet was hooked

fast above and furnished the means of getting down and up again.

There were eight persons connected with the seance described by Mr.

Smith, seven upstairs and the medium in the cabinet. Of course it

was not necessary that the medium get out of his fastenings, and

the facts are that he did NOT. The table was placed across the

cabinet door, not to lay the instruments on, but to be very much in

the way should anyone make a rush and "grab" for the materialized

forms. In case this occurred, the "spooks" above would close the

light, making the room perfectly dark, and the manager would do his

utmost to turn the table on end, or side, with the legs out in the

room. Before the "grabber" could get the lay of things and get

past it, the spooks would have gone through the trap, closed it,

pulled up the ladder, and the "grabber" would have found the medium

writhing and groaning and bleeding from the mouth. The bleeding

was for effect, and was caused by sucking very hard on his teeth or


The table also served a convenient purpose in the materialization

and dematerialization through the floor. You now know where the

spooks came from, in this particular house, and how they got in and

out. Now let us see how they managed the materializations, and the

properties used to produce them. The trap and ladder were

practically noiseless in their operations, but the music box made

assurance doubly sure that the least sound from the cabinet should

not he heard in the seance room.

When the box began its first air the trapdoor was opened and down

the ladder came a young man clad in a suit of black tights. He was

entirely covered with black with the exception of his right arm,

which was bare to a point a little more than halfway from the elbow

to his shoulder. The bare arm glowed with a luminous bluish light.

This condition of things was brought about by powdering his arm

with pulverized luminous paint. If you are not told the method of

transforming the sticky paint to powder, you will not be able to do

it, and will conclude the writer was romancing in this case. The

most essential thing to you will be to know where you can procure

this paint. The writer has been unable to procure it anywhere,

except of Devoe & Co., of New York City. It is put up in a package

resembling six-ounce jelly glasses, and you will get six of them

for five dollars. In order to reduce it to powder, thin the

contents of one of the glasses with one pint of turpentine. When

it is thoroughly cut and incorporated into the turpentine, soak

strips of muslin in it and hang them out to dry. When thoroughly

dry you can shake the powder from the cloth. In order to powder

one of your arms, gather one of the cloths in your hands, and use

it as a powder puff on your arm. You will not be able to get all

the paint out, but the pieces will make luminous crowns, slippers,

stars, and luminous decorations for your robes. You will be under

the necessity of perfuming your robes each time they are used, for

the odor of the turpentine will always remain to a greater or less

degree. To illuminate a robe or costume (the mediums always say

"robe") you proceed the same as in the powdering process, except

that to the pint of paint you will add a wineglass full of Demar

varnish, which will prevent its falling or being shaken off as

powder. You are not to make the robe of muslin, but of white

netting. Every lady will know what netting is. It is the

lightest, thinnest material the writer ever saw sold in a dry goods

store. Ten yards of it can be put into the vest pocket. Do not

scrimp the material, but get as much of it into your robe as


When he of the luminous arm steps from the cabinet into the dark

room no part of him is visible save the arm. He picks the strings

of the instrument with the illuminated hand and fingers the

keyboard with the other. He makes a sound of writing on the tablet

and tears off a leaf which he conceals, and, drawing a long black

stocking over the luminous arm, places in the pocket of the sitter

a communication that has been written upstairs in a good light.

This accounts for the even, beautiful writing, supposed to have

been done in the dark. He covers the luminous arm so that anyone

so inclined could not locate it in order to "grab" when he is near

enough. By mounting the table, that luminous hand and arm can be

made to show as though it was floating about near the ceiling.

When four hands were visible there were two spooks at work with

both arms illuminated. . . . You can readily understand the forces

that floated the music box and table above the heads of the

sitters, and an explanation is useless.

When the first female spirit appeared it was, in reality, a young

woman, dressed in a gorgeous white costume without paint, hence the

light was turned up instead of down, in order that she be visible.

Rhinestones and Sumatra gems being cheap, she was plentifully

supplied with "diamonds," although many of those who are the queens

or spirit guides or "controls" of wealthy spiritualistic fanatics

wear real diamonds, the gift of their wealthy charge, or "king" as

they usually call him.

When she started for the cabinet she used her hands to keep her

robe from under her feet, and as she went stooped lower and lower,

until, as she disappeared in the cabinet, she went on her hands and

knees. This is what caused the appearance of "dematerialization."

When Mr. Smith's son, Eddie, came from the cabinet, he was

represented by a boy of about eight years of age, the son of one of

the female "spooks" upstairs. He receives two dollars a night for

his services, the same as the larger spooks. He was powdered until

he was very white, a blond wig put over his own hair, and dressed

as most boys are at the age Mr. Smith's son died. Mr. Smith

recognized him by his size, his light complexion, and flaxen hair,

and the fact that he called him "papa" and gave his correct name.

His father was "made up" from the description given by the medium,

and acknowledged by Mr. Smith as correct. Of course he knew his

own name, for it was given him by the slate-writer. . . .

We now come to a part of the phenomena that all spiritualists who

have witnessed it will swear by. What is referred to is the

materializing and dematerializing of the spirit from the floor and

before your eyes. In this you see first a small light, which grows

larger and larger, until there stands before you a fully formed

female or male spirit, as was described in Mr. Smith's experience.

In order to accomplish what he witnessed, the same spook who had

before been recognized by a gentleman as "his queen," prepared

herself in the following way: Divesting herself of all clothing she

donned simply a long chemise that reached her shoe tops. She drew

on a pair of white stockings, and over them a pair of white

slippers. Into her hair and ears she put rhinestone diamonds, and

around her neck a necklace of the same beautiful but valueless

stones. On each ear lobe and around her neck were put small spots

of the luminous powder to represent the diamonds while it was dark.

Her face was powdered and her eyebrows and eyelashes darkened,

while a dark line was drawn under each eye. She now took a black

mask that covered her head, and her "robe" in her hands, and went

down to the cabinet. Arriving there, she put the black mask over

her head, to prevent the luminous diamonds being seen until the

proper time. She carried her robe in a black bag. Crawling from

between the curtains and under the table, she exposed on the floor

a small part of her robe. This she shook and moved about, allowing

it to escape from the bag until it was all out. She was now from

under the table and on her knees, and it was time the head show on

the form, so, getting close to the robe, she threw off and under

the table the black mask. The shape was now the size of an adult;

she adjusted the robe to her person, and rapped for light. As a

matter of course, when any light was made the luminousness of the

robe was drowned, and she appeared in simply a white costume. The

necklace and eardrops could now be seen, but when the light was

such as to reveal them, the luminous spots had disappeared, leaving

the spectator to think the ones he now saw were the ones he had

seen in the dark. The process of dematerialization will now be

apparent, and a description will only tire the reader. One small

spook was all that was required, as he could be made to represent

boy or girl as was desired, by clothing him in the garments of

either sex.

At the close of the seance, the full force of "spooks" came into

the room. After disappearing, they shinned up the ladder, drew it

after them, closed the panel and the trap in the floor above it,

replaced the carpet and pushed over the place a heavy bedstead from

which they took the castors. They now carried the ladder

downstairs and concealed it in the coal house as they went through

it on their way home. They will get their pay next day.

Should ever so close an examination of the cabinet be made, you

would not find anything wrong. This particular medium has taken

investigators into the cellar beneath the cabinet, and the room

above it, scores of times, yet nothing was discovered.

You are not always to search for the trap in the ceiling, nor yet

in the floor. A trap is not possible in the ceiling except a

closet is used as "cabinet," and the ceiling is of wood. Where

this condition of things does not exist, you must search elsewhere.

The floor is a very likely place when it cannot be made in the

ceiling. If you do not find it there, examine the base or

mopboard. If it is in the mopboard you will find, upon

examination, that there is a joint in it near the corner of the

cabinet, but you will find it solidly nailed with about four nails

each side of the joint. This appearance of extraordinary solidity

will be absolute proof that it is NOT solid.

The nails are not what they appear, but are only pieces about one

half inch in length, and do not even go through the board. The

piece is fastened on the other side with a couple of bolts that

hold it very firmly in place. There is a corresponding opening in

the mopboard in the next room, although no attempt is made to so

carefully conceal it, as no one is ever admitted to it. Through

this trap the "spooks" enter the cabinet by crawling and wiggling.

It is not a very desirable trap, for the mopboard is scarcely ever

wide enough to permit of a trap that the spook could get through in

a hurry; besides, they must assume their costumes after they get

into the cabinet or tear them to pieces. You can see how this

would make it very inconvenient.

If the room is wainscoted the spook will have all the sea room

necessary in his trap, for it will extend from just below the

molding on the top of the wainscoting to the floor behind the strip

of quarter-round. . . .

It is next to an impossibility to detect these traps by examining

in the cabinet. They were constructed to avoid discovery, and no

pains spared to make them so absolutely perfect that not one chance

in a million is taken. The proper place to seek for traps is in

the adjoining room, upstairs, or in the cellar. One is foolish to

undertake to find a trap by thumping the walls or floor; for, if

you happen to thump one, the medium who is smart enough to make use

of a trap is also sharp enough to make provision for its being

thumped, and your sounding method goes for naught.[1] Bear in mind

that when you are examining the cabinet, you are seeking at the

very place that is prepared most effectually to withstand your

investigations. . . . Do not forget the MANAGER in your search.

He or she is never searched, or never has been up to date, which

has been the cause of many a failure to find the "properties" of

the medium when the seance was given in a room and cabinet

furnished by a stranger and skeptic. Do not be deceived into a

belief that all of the sitters are strangers to the medium. There

may be from one to five persons present who pay their money the

same as yourself, and who may appear to be the most skeptical of

anyone in the room. They will generally be the recipients of some

very elegant "tests," and weep copiously great grief-laden tears

when they recognize the beloved features of some relative.

[1] It must be remembered that it is occasionally possible for the

medium to do away with traps altogether, either by having a con-

federate in the audience who produces all the phenomena--the medium

sitting bound meanwhile--or by some such simple device as the

following: Suppose the seance room is closed at one end by a pair

of folding-doors; these doors are locked, the key kept by a member

of the audience, while the keyhole is sealed, and strips of gummed

paper are also stretched across the crack between the doors,

sealing them firmly together. Confederates enter the room, in this

case, by merely pushing BOTH doors to one side, they being so

constructed that this is possible. A small space is now left

around the end of ONE door, through which the medium's confederate


They are the most careful of investigators, and, when the medium's

trap is located in the door-jamb, will pound the walls, and insist

on the carpet being taken up, when they will get upon their hands

and knees and make a most searching examination of the floor. They

are the closest and most critical of investigators, but they are

very careful to examine everywhere EXCEPT WHERE THE DEFECT IS

LOCATED. Because one or two men seem to be making such a critical

investigation, do not allow that fact to prevent you making one on

your own responsibility. Wait until they have finished and then

examine not only where they did, but more particularly where they

did NOT. Their examination is only for the purpose of misleading

others. Their "tests" are received in a way to cause those about

them to think they admit them very unwillingly, or because they

were so undeniable that they could do nothing else.

A great many will probably deny that confederates are ever

employed. They are not, by mediums who are not smooth enough to

produce that which appears so wonderful as to make a good business

for them. The writer would advise those mediums who give such rank

seances to employ a few floor workers (they are easily obtained),

and see what a difference it would make in the amount of business

they will do. Get good ones, those who know human nature, and know

when they have said all that is necessary. Most of them are

inclined to say too much, thus causing the ordinary man to suspect

that they are confederates.