I am starting this series on physical and direct voice mediumship with some notes commenced exactly 100 years ago by the psychic researcher W. Usborne Moore, when the direct voice medium Etta Wriedt from Detroit, USA, visited Wimbledon, London in May 1911, at the invitation of W.T. Stead. In April of the following year Stead was drowned when the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage, but as you will read below, a few days later his spirit came to speak with the admiral for half an hour, at another seance with Etta Wriedt in London. [Richard R.]
Identity by the Direct Voice: or
Striking Evidences of the Survival of Death
By Vice-Admiral W. Usborne Moore
Among the manifold phases of spiritism [and spiritualism] which have been exhibited in this country, the most satisfactory and provably genuine is that of the “direct voice.” We have had it with us in a mild way for many years through the mediumship of Mrs. Everitt, Mr. Cecil Husk, Mr. C. E. Williams, and Mr. F. Craddock;
but English people as a whole did not know what was the “direct voice” until Mrs. Etta Wriedt came to Wimbledon as the guest of Mr. W. T. Stead in May, 1911.
The “direct voice” is the highest manifestation which has as yet been vouchsafed to man by the higher powers in the spirit world. Materialisation is very interesting from a scientific point of view. Trance utterances, clairvoyance, clairaudience, and automatic writing give us some valuable testimony, but in these phases no investigator can aver that the communications are wholly free from adulteration by the consciousness of the medium. In the case of the voice, however, there is only a slight trace of the personality of the psychic. It evinces itself occasionally by the mode of expression; the phrasings of the sentences are not always those which the speaker used in life. The actual voices could not be for two reasons: (1) the power to speak is collected from the sitters, and (2) the use of a metal trumpet destroys the individuality of the accents.
Identity is discovered by what the communicator says, the trifles that he talks about, and now and again by peculiar mannerisms. Some dozen people in this country have heard the direct independent voice when no trumpet is used, and when only the sitter can hear what is said. The message is not clairaudient; the speech of the spirit is objective, and issues from some position a few inches from the ear. This, in my opinion, is the crowning phase of spiritistic phenomena yet reached by mortals. To listen to an old friend talking to you for half-an-hour without the medium hearing a word of his or her statements, and of events which you and the spirit only know, maybe occurrences of fifty years ago, and only vaguely remembered by yourself, is an experience very rare and never to be forgotten as long as one, lives. It has been my privilege at least forty times to receive this proof of spirit power.
The Genuineness of Mrs. Wriedt
The first thing I ought to touch upon when describing the séances of Mrs. Wriedt is the proof of her genuineness. In the first place she is never in trance and talks naturally throughout every seance, often giving the names and descriptions of spirit visitors and indicating for whom they come. While talking she is often interrupted by a spirit voice, and the two are speaking simultaneously. Then the voices can be heard in full light as well as in darkness, though, for obvious reasons, the latter condition is best. Two voices have been frequently heard by me and others talking at the same moment about matters unknown
to the psychic and to each other; occasionally three, and at very rare intervals four, one using the trumpet and two or three independently of it. A voice has been heard to sing and another to speak simultaneously, and one gentleman has heard it when the medium was downstairs in the drawing-room, forty feet distant, and the door of the seance room locked. Objects are moved in the room, vases full of water and flowers passed about, chairs turned upside down and lifted over the heads of the sitters, flowers put into the hands of those present. I remember, at one seance, a full vase weighing ten pounds, from a table outside the circle, brushing past me and being placed in silence on a chair within it. Once, in 1913, a trumpet leapt from the floor in a good red light, dented itself on the back of a chair, and flew into the end of the room. In the dark phantasms and spirit lights of different sizes and colours can be seen by people who have no receptive mediumistic gifts, and occasionally faces brilliantly illuminated.
The medium, who is an uncultured person, does not know any language but Yankee; she cannot even speak proper English; yet the spirits have been heard to speak Arabic, Croatian, Serbian, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Hindustani, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, Welsh, Scottish, and Gaelic.
The naturalness of all that goes on is, perhaps, the feature which is most impressive. I was once talking with an uncle of mine when he stopped suddenly and exclaimed, “Tchut, tchut, what was I going to say, I have dropped it;” then a pause, followed by “Oh, I remember,” and the voice went on as before. On another occasion I heard an old shipmate talking to a naval officer, and using some rather rough language. Suddenly something seemed to occur to him, and he said in a lower voice, “I say, Cap’n any ladies present?” “Several” was the reply, when the spirit cried “Oh, Lord!” and was not heard again That same evening I listened to a voice trying to identify itself to another naval officer. After repeated efforts my friend, recollecting something, said, “Oh, are you So-and-so? “ “Who the *** do you imagine has been talking to you all this time was the unexpected reply. On another evening a spirit had particular difficulty in making a rather dull lady know who he was. After the lady had persistently refused to grasp his identity, the voice appeared to turn wearily round the circle, saying in a despairing tone, “Is there anyone here who can make this creature understand?”
Singing familiar songs, whistling little airs and calling old nicknames are often used to bring to the sitters conviction of identity. The sole purpose of the spirit visitors appears to be to show that they are still alive. It is a passion with this gifted psychic to be the passive means of bringing children to their parents, and many scenes of the most sacred and touching character occur. Though her blank séances are about one in ten, I do not remember one sitting where the blessing of consolation for the loss of children was denied to a sorrowing father or mother.
Some of the Controls
Mrs. Wriedt’s control is the spirit of “Dr. John Sharp,” who was born in Glasgow and taken over to America by his parents in the eighteenth century when he was two months old. He became an apothecary farmer, and eventually died in Evansville, Indiana. “John King” (Sir Henry Morgan of 250 years ago), the control of Mr. Husk, the blind medium, frequently managed Mrs. Wriedt’s séances in England. It was explained that he was better acquainted with English people than “Dr. Sharp,” who, however, was always in the background. He did not control in Scotland. We proved to our satisfaction that he was the same spirit who is so familiar to all those who have sat with Mr. Husk.
“Grayfeather,” a North American Indian medicine chief when in life, the control of J.B. Jonson, the materialisation medium, of Toledo, Ohio, U.S. America, visited me several times at Cambridge House, and often manifested at the circles. He was not heard in Scotland.
A captivating Indian spirit child, called “Blossom,” who lived and died in Florida, often enlivened our circles by her ready wit and repartee. Her quick replies and lively sallies always elicited much laughter which is one of the best conditions for successful séances. Occasionally “Dr. Sharp,” “John King,” “Grayfeather,” and “Blossom” all manifested to the same circle of sitters.
The Admiral Testifies
I have several hundred convincing evidences in my notes, and will now relate a few as examples of what occurred in the presence of this remarkable psychic.
In 1912 Mrs. Wriedt arrived on the evening of May 5th, twenty days after the founding [sinking] of the “Titanic.” After her supper she proposed a seance. Stead manifested, and gave three admirable tests of his identity, two to Miss Harper, and one to me; he also directly instructed us where his daughter was to sit on the following evening. The test he gave to me was unmistakable; he alluded to the conversation we had at Bank Buildings the last time I saw him. This conversation had lasted half-an-hour and ranged over a variety of subjects; but the chief topic was the approaching visit of Mrs. Wriedt to his house. He desired that certain conditions should be observed, and it was to one of these conditions that his spirit referred, with emphasis, on this evening.
During the last three years I have sat some seventy times alone with Mrs. Wriedt. We were in the habit of sitting some distance from one another; by leaning forward in our chairs as far as possible and stretching out our right arms to their fullest extent we were just able to clasp hands. I do not remember that we were ever closer than that. When the sitting began we sat upright in our chairs in an easy posture; a trumpet, mouth downwards, on the floor between us; plenty of flowers in bowls and vases on either side of me. Generally, within five minutes voices could be heard, and conversation would last for periods of between thirty and fifty minutes. On many occasions phantasmal forms, faintly visible, moved about between the psychic and myself, and on some six occasions there were beautiful spirit lights and etherealisations, i.e., heads and forms brightly illumined, but features not plainly visible. When the room appeared to me pitch dark the phenomena were poor; when, to my partially clairvoyant sight, the room was lighter, and psychic clouds could be seen, we always had a good sitting. My guide always appeared as a phantasm, but could not always speak. It was curious to see her move back from me to the psychic or to the flowers to gather strength, and then return. That the forms were not hallucinations of my own was quite clear, for they moved their arms and could be seen crossing and recrossing each other. I soon found that “Iola” had developed a new power. She could appear to me without being seen by the psychic, and talk to me without trumpet and without a single articulate word
being heard by Mrs. Wriedt. I could just catch the words, which appeared to emanate from a distance of six inches from my ear; but Mrs. Wriedt heard nothing at all, or only a slight swishing sound. On the other hand, the psychic often saw lights and spirit forms which I was unable to see. In 1913 the psychic also allowed me to sit with her alone on the evening she arrived. “Iola” spoke first a few words of greeting; then “Dr. Sharp,” who brought with him another spirit, said, “Here is a lady who wishes to see you.” (Aside): “What did you say, madam? ... Oh, this is a maiden lady who says her name is Searle. She says she lived near to you when in life, and thought you were much deceived. Now she has come to see if there is anything in it.” (Aside): “What is it?” “Yes, yes; she also says that her niece is now doing her work, and doing it very well, but she does not wish you to tell her.” (A Miss Searle used to keep a small shop and post office three hundred yards from my house. She passed over in September 1912. Her niece, Miss Holmes, is now keeping the shop. I never spoke to Miss Searle on the subject of spiritism, but she was no doubt aware that I lectured once a year at the temple in the town.)
The private sitting I now describe is remarkable as a singularly good exhibition of the coarser type of physical phenomena. It took place on May 17th, 10.55 to 11.40. I had my two trumpets in the room. One was marked with the letter “I” on all its sections; the other was marked “F”. They weigh thirteen ounces and eleven ounces respectively. Mrs. Wriedt’s trumpet was smaller than either, and weighs not more than eight or nine ounces; but she preferred, as a rule using mine, made by Whiteley. On this occasion the trumpet “I” was telescoped and lying on a top shelf of a bookcase behind Mrs. Wriedt; “F” was standing between us; our chairs were five feet apart. First, “Dr. Sharp” manifested immediately the lights were switched off, and spoke clearly, talking chiefly about the condition of Dr. Peebles (whom he called “Our Pilgrim”), then ill in London. Then there was a long silence, after which “Iola” spoke for five or six minutes, using my trumpet for part of the time. She was followed by “Grayfeather,” who, after a brief conversation, said, “I am going to show you something, Chief. Take Mrs. Wriedt’s hands.” We both leaned forward in our chairs and clasped hands, her right hand in my left and my right hand in her left. There was a small square table one foot to my left, upon which stood a vase full of narcissi and water, weighing about three pounds. The room was pitch dark, as usual. Presently a noise was heard as if a trumpet had fallen to the floor behind Mrs. Wriedt, then again dead silence. In, say, five minutes I heard “Grayfeather’s” voice from near the floor where the “F” trumpet had been standing between our extended arms: “Mrs. Wriedt, light up.” We disengaged our hands, the medium rose from her chair and switched on the lights. This is what we found: the small table standing two feet to my right; the vase of narcissi on the floor almost touching my right foot; Mrs. Wriedt’s trumpet standing on the floor to my left exactly underneath where we had last seen it in the light on the small table; my “F” trumpet telescoped and lying on the shelf of the bookcase near where I had last seen the “I” trumpet; and the “I” trumpet, drawn out ready for use, standing on the floor where “F” ought to be, between our arms. The Indian had betrayed his movements only when he took the “I” trumpet from the bookcase; the three sections were loose inside of one another, and in drawing them out from the shelf he had let two of them fall on the floor. This it would be easy to do for anybody in full light. All his other movements were executed without my hearing the faintest sound. Mrs. Wriedt’s two hands ware firmly clasped in my two hands from the moment “Grayfeather” had directed us “to take hands” to the moment he said, “Mrs.Wriedt, light up.”
This is the most complete instance of telekinesis in the dark which I ever remember having witnessed.
The drawing out and placing of one aluminium trumpet and the collapsing of another without sound, is a marvellous feat; and the movement of the table, the vase, and the small trumpet is a hardly less striking phenomenon. This will be enough of my private sittings. I pass on to the evidence of others.
An Australian Lady Testifies
A lady born in Sydney, N.S.W., who spent all her girlhood there, and who now resides in Devonshire, sends me the following: -
“I sat many times with Mrs. Wriedt, both in private and in general circles, and I will tell you of one or two interesting episodes. One day, in 1911, my sister and I had a private sitting at Cambridge House, and an entity announced himself through the trumpet as ‘George.’ We know several Georges who have passed over. My sister said, ‘Are you George Lloyd?’ Answer: ‘No.’ Question: ‘What is your other name?’ The spirit seemed to find great difficulty in replying to this positive question, so I said, ‘Where did you know us?’ Answer: ‘At Rose Bay. My name is George Smith. Your father brought me here.’ I was much puzzled, and the name given conveyed nothing to me; but my sister said, ‘Did you live at
Rose Bay?’ Answer: ‘Yes, near your old home.’ (Our old home was at Rose Bay, one of the numerous little bays in Port Jackson; it is three miles from the city of Sydney, New South Wales.) Then the voice addressed me: ‘Where is your sling stone? You were a small little girl. You used to have a sling stone.’
Question: ‘Do you mean a catapult? ‘ Answer: ‘Yes, you were a little mischief.’ (I used to have a catapult when I was a small child; it is possible that I was a great nuisance to the neighbourhood.) Then, turning to my sister, he said, ‘I should not have known you; what have you done to yourself? You were always the sedate one.’ (This allusion is quite correct.) When the voice no longer spoke, my sister said, ‘Well, I am the only one who would remember him; you were too young. George Smith did live near us at Rose Bay. He was a contractor.’ (This was forty-six years ago.)
“The incident I am now about to describe occurred this year (1912). I went with my sister and had a private sitting with Mrs. Wriedt, again in the dark. One of my objects was to obtain a test from an ancestor of ours who had manifested on previous occasions, calling himself by his abbreviated Christian name.
Nipped in the Bud
“Before we left my sister’s house for Wimbledon, and unknown to her, I had written on a piece of paper the name of the ship in which our relative was lost, and the question, ‘What does this convey to you?’ I put the piece of paper in my handbag, and did not mention it either to my sister or to Mrs. Wriedt. When the lights were switched off, and the room in total darkness, I opened my bag softly, took the paper out noiselessly, and held it in my hand. A friend of ours came and talked to my sister; he suddenly said to me, ‘Put that on the table.’ (I was sitting near the large oval table where the flowers were.) I answered, ‘No, it is not for you.’ He repeated, ‘Put it on the table,’ which I did. When the spirit finished speaking, my ancestor made himself known in his usual way by giving his abbreviated first name. Then he said, ‘I am going to answer this question in a peculiar way, it is the name of a ship; she was destroyed, and I went to the bottom.’ We heard the crumpling of paper and the flowers being touched. At the end of the seance, when the lights were switched on, we found on the floor the paper my question was written upon wrapped round the stalk of a spray of rosebuds from which a bud had been broken off. “My ancestor passed over one hundred and twenty-six years ago, at the early age of twenty-two. He was a naval officer; his ship was wrecked on the English coast. So I think we may say his life was nipped in the bud, as he tried to convey by showing us the mutilated roses. “One afternoon, on my way to a seance at Cambridge house, I was walking up Bond Street rather in a hurry. To my annoyance a man kept walking alongside of me, trying to attract my attention. After a time he left my side, and I was able to walk on without molestation. I had no time, before I went into the seance room, to speak of it, even if I had thought of it or wished to do so. During the sitting my mother came to my sister and myself, and said, ‘My dear, what a horrid thing for that man to do this afternoon, to try and speak to you!’ I said, ‘Why, mother, were you there?’ She answered, ‘Yes, dear.’ “At every seance which my sister and I attended together, different spirits talked to us imultaneously, one generally with the trumpet and one without. “
(Signed) E.R. Richards”
Mrs. Jacob, Mrs. Richards’ sister, writes:-
“I beg to corroborate my sister’s account. I am six years, older than my sister, and certify to the fact that a contractor named George Smith did live a short distance from my father’s house at Rose Bay, Sydney. He must have known us by sight when we played about as children, and probably spoke to us now and then. My sister had a small catapult.”
“I agree with my sister that we cannot give details of the various conversations that we enjoyed with our deceased relatives and friends through the mediumship of Mrs. Wriedt, but I have pleasure in sending you what I consider a rather good proof of the nature of her extraordinary gift.”
“One day in August last (1912) I called upon her at her hotel in London, and was shown up into her bedroom. She had just returned from shopping, and was packing, as she was leaving for Norway the next day. It was broad daylight, and there was considerable noise, not only from the traffic in the street outside, but from the opening of parcels and cutting up and folding of paper. I asked Mrs. Wriedt if I might hold the trumpet to my ear and try if I could get a message. She replied, ‘Do, but I am sorry I must finish packing, and cannot help being noisy.’ She then continued what she was doing, and constantly walked about the room bringing things to fill her trunks. I sat down on one chair, resting the big end of the trumpet on the back of another, and put the small end into my ear. Only Mrs. Wriedt and I were in the room. Very soon I heard a voice greet me. It was my father. He spoke well and strong, and I had a conversation of several minutes with him. Presently I heard another voice as if speaking to him; two voices in the trumpet simultaneously, the second very low.
“I asked, ‘Who is speaking to you?’ Answer: ‘Your sister.’ Question: ‘Is she talking to you?’ Answer:‘Yes.’ Question: ‘What is she saying?’ My father then spoke for my sister, and gave me her message.
We three then talked about old days in Australia in quite a natural way. When my father left another relative came, and had a long talk with me.
“I should tell you that my father died in Sydney in 1891, and my sister in 1909. At Cambridge House have had a voice speaking to me without the trumpet, the latter only being used towards the end of a sitting.
Holding the Trumpet
“When I held the trumpet to my own ear, as I did in Mrs. Wriedt’s bedroom, I found it difficult to keep it steady, and tiring to maintain it in place. It made me wonder at the case with which the spirit people use it in the dark séances , and at the great patience which they exercise.
“I noticed that when Mrs. Wriedt was near me the spirit voice was stronger than when she was at the end of the room; so I tried to guide the trumpet towards her as she walked about. At one time ‘John King’ interposed, and gave me a message for her. I said to her, ‘You had better hold it yourself; he wants you.’ She stopped packing and took the trumpet. I could hear her questions and answers to him but not what he said to her. She told me that she could not make out what the voices were saying to me, only what I said to them.
“On September 6th, the night before Mrs. Wriedt left for America, I stayed with her at the Grosvenor Hotel, as she was leaving very early the next morning for Southampton by train. She had been ill and run down with a severe cold, and I was so sorry that she was going away alone, and in bad health, that I decided to see her away. She had been very busy packing and arranging all that day for her early departure next morning by the boat train, and went to bed tired, and fell asleep quickly. We shared the same bed (a large double bed). I could not sleep for hours, it seemed to me; and, after laying quietly for some time, I suddenly felt impressed to raise my head and look to where she was sleeping, still and quiet. What I saw made me sit right up. Over her sleeping form, her head being on the pillow partly turned away from me, was another Mrs. Wriedt, just her head and shoulders, looking full face at me over her own sleeping body, over her chest. A white, soft, gauzy scarf was loosely over the head, showing the hair, which seemed much brighter and lighter in colour, the eyes intensely blue and bright, complexion clear. The eyes met mine; the face had such a sweet smile, and the expression seemed wistful. As I looked, wondering at her, the thought came into my mind: ‘You do look quite beautiful; you are not as beautiful as this in life.’ It was some moments before the vision faded. She was sleeping in the body peacefully through this phenomena.
“(Signed) M. Jacob.”
An Endorsement by Sir Wm. F. Barrett
Sir William F. Barrett, well known as one of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research, writes as follows:-
“When, after examination of the room, Mrs. Wriedt and Miss Ramsden entered, the door was locked, and one of the electric lights over our head was left on to illuminate the room. We sat on chairs adjoining each other; I sat next to Mrs. Wriedt, and held her hand. Miss Ramsden sat on my left. We asked Mrs. Wriedt to let us try in the light first, and at her suggestion Miss R. held the small end of a large aluminium trumpet to her car; the larger end I supported with my left hand. My body, therefore, came between the trumpet and the medium. I had previously looked into the trumpet, which was perfectly bare and smooth. Presently Miss Ramsden said she heard a voice speaking to her, and entered into conversation with the voice. I only heard a faint whispering sound, but no articulate words. To avoid the possibility of Mrs. Wriedt being the source of the whispering, I engaged her in talk, and while she was speaking Miss Ramsden still heard the faint voice in the trumpet, but begged us to stop speaking, as it prevented her hearing distinctly what the voice said. Miss Ramsden assured me afterwards there could be no doubt whatever that the voice in the trumpet was independent of Mrs. Wriedt, and I can testify that I watched the medium and saw nothing suspicious in the movement of her lips. She did not move from her place, and no accomplice or concealed arrangement could possibly have produced the voice. “As I did not hear what the voice said, I have asked Miss Ramsden to add a few lines.”
(Note By Miss R. - ”The speaker claimed to be the bearer of a message from one of my relations who has died; he told me that, contrary to my expectations, I should receive a visit from a person who was named. This was fulfilled on the following Monday. Here I must add that if this is explained by thought transference, we must suppose it possible for Mrs. Wriedt to receive telepathic communications from people of whose existence she knows nothing; in this case the person was in a foreign, country. While holding the trumpet I could feel the vibration of the little voice inside. H.R.”)
“When the voice ceased speaking, the trumpet was placed with its broad end on the floor, standing upright, near Miss Ramsden. The electric light was now switched off, and the room became absolutely dark. A very loud man’s voice almost immediately called out: ‘God bless you, God bless you.’ Mrs. Wriedt said it was the soi disant ‘John King.’ I begged her to place her right hand on mine, which held her left hand. She did so, and I distinctly felt the two hands, my left hand being free. “During every seance with her, Mrs. Wriedt remained perfectly normal, talking with me or others present, and not in the least excited. On this occasion, in a few moments, I felt something rather cold gently stroking my face, and as at a previous sitting when a rose was placed in my hand, the act was performed without any fumbling about. This was very curious, as the room was so dark that nothing whatever could be seen. I went to Mrs. Wriedt’s séances in a somewhat sceptical spirit, but I came to the conclusion that she is a genuine and remarkable medium, and has given abundant proof to others besides myself that the voices and the contents of the messages given are wholly beyond the range of trickery or collusion.”
[To be continued]
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