Ada Besinnet,

 Medium Ada Besinnet

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 Miss Ada Besinnet  Medium

???? - 1936

There are certain Mediums who, without specializing in any particular way, can exhibit a wide range of preternatural manifestations. Of all whom the author has encountered he would give precedence for variety and consistency to Miss Ada Besinnet, of Toledo, in America, and to Evan Powell, formerly of Merthyr Tydfil, in Wales. Both are admirable Mediums and kindly, good people who are worthy of the wonderful gifts which have been entrusted to them. In the case of Miss Besinnet the manifestations include the Direct Voice, two or more often sounding at the same time. One masculine control, named Dan, has a remarkable male baritone voice, and anyone who has heard it can certainly never doubt that it is independent of the lady's organism. A female voice occasionally joins with Dan to make a most tuneful duet. Remarkable whistling, in which there seems to be no pause for the intake of breath, is another feature of this mediumship. So also is the production of very brilliant lights. These appear to be small solid luminous objects, for the author had on one occasion the curious experience of having one upon his moustache. Had a large firefly settled there the effect would have been much the same. The Direct Voices of Miss Besinnet when they take the form of messages as apart from the work of the Controls are not strong and are often hardly audible. The most remarkable, however, of all her powers is the appearance of phantom faces which appear in an illuminated patch in front of the sitter. They would seem to be mere masks, as there is no appearance of depth to them. In most cases they represent dim faces, which occasionally bear a resemblance to that of the Medium when the health of the lady or the power of the Circle is low. When the conditions are good they are utterly dissimilar. Upon two occasions the author has seen faces to which he could absolutely swear, the one being his mother and the other his nephew, Oscar Hornung, a young officer killed in the war. They were as clear-cut and visible as ever in life. On the other hand, there have been evenings when no clear recognition could be obtained, though among the faces were some which could only be described as angelic in their beauty and purity.*

* Various estimates and experiences of this mediumship will be found in the author's "Our American Adventure," pp. 124-132; Admiral Moore's "Glimpses of the Next State," pp. 226, 312; and finally Mr. Hewat McKenzie's report, PSYCHIC SCIENCE, April, 1922.

On a level with Miss Besinnet is Mr. Evan Powell, with the same variety but not always the same type of powers. Powell's luminous phenomena are equally good. His voice production is better. The author has heard the Spirit Voices as loud as those of ordinary human talk, and recalls one occasion when three of them were talking simultaneously, one to Lady Cowan, one to Sir James Marchant, and one to Sir Robert McAlpine. Movements of objects are common in the Powell seances, and on one occasion a stand weighing 60 lb. was suspended for some time over the author's head. Evan Powell always insists upon being very securely tied during his seances, which is done, he claims, for his own protection, since he cannot be responsible for his own movements when he is in a trance. This throws an interesting sidelight upon the possible nature of some exposures. There is a good deal of evidence, not only that the Medium may unconsciously, or under the influence of suggestion from the audience, put himself into a false position, but that evil forces which are either mischievous or are actively opposed to the good work done by Spiritualism, may obsess the entranced body and cause it to do suspicious things so as to discredit the Medium. Some sensible remarks upon this subject, founded upon personal experience, have been made by Professor Haraldur Nielsson, of Iceland, when commenting upon a case where one of the Circle committed a perfectly senseless fraud, and a Spirit afterwards admitted that it was done by its agency and instigation.* On the whole, Evan Powell may be said to have the widest endowment of spiritual gifts of any Medium at present in England. He preaches the doctrines of Spiritualism both in his own person and while under control, and he can in himself exhibit nearly the whole range of phenomena. It is a pity that his business as a coal merchant in Devonshire prevents his constant presence in London.

With small additions source from  PSYCHIC SCIENCE, July, 1925.



In 1922, Conan Doyle, accompanied by his wife and three young children, made a Spiritualist crusade through the United States, lecturing and attending seances. Besinnet urged him to visit.

"I do not mind telling you that I am going to Toledo because Miss Ada Besinnet is there and I hope through her to communicate again with my mother, my son and some other dear ones," he said. "I have great faith in Miss Besinnet's psychic powers and a deep respect for her intellect. She is a cultured woman and a courageous one, who, ever exposed to ridicule and merciless criticism, yet remains true to her belief, based on personal experience, that it is possible to communicate with the dead."

Described as sweet and motherly, Ada's own mother died when she was 7. She was raised by a well-to-do Old West End family, the matron of which believed in and nurtured the girl's psychic powers.

She built a strong following especially among the city's upper crust, charging $1 at first and eventually $20 to attend invitation-only seances, which often lasted three or four hours. Among her guests: President William Howard Taft.

If nothing else, an evening with Besinnet was excellent entertainment. Guests sat around an oak table in her home as the room darkened. Besinnet bound her hand to that of the person next to her. Lights flickered like fireflies, phonograph records played, whistling was heard, and there was singing in several vocal ranges. "Spirits" piped up, including an Indian chief named Black Cloud, a child, a Spanish dancer, and a soldier.

A trumpet was handed around and put next to the ear, connecting the guest to a departed loved one. People sometimes saw faces, and when the room's lights finally came up, there was often a penciled message from the afterlife.

At his two-hour lecture on The Proof of Immorality in Toledo's Coliseum Theater, Conan Doyle drew a capacity crowd of 3,000. He told the audience about his session with Besinnet: "I received a written message, in a scribble that might have been anyone's but that was signed by the name my mother always used in signing her letters to me. What could that American girl have known of that pet name?"

Conan Doyle, who wrote many letters to Besinnet and William Roche, a Toledo News-Bee political writer who married the psychic in 1931, said Besinnet "should be guarded and looked after very carefully, for she is very valuable."

In 1923, he was back in the United States and met her again.

"We were greatly favoured that evening in the seance, for we had the whole gamut of the Medium's powers, the powerful voices, the wonderful musical performances, the brilliant lights, the fitful materializations, the written messages, the continuation of the songs when a bandage was over the lady's lips, and finally the whole table was lifted bodily into the air. It was a very impressive exhibition."

He paid her expenses to hold a seance in New York City's Biltmore Hotel, whose owner, John Bowman, was a believer.

On hearing about Besinnet, Harry Houdini, magician and escape artist, came to try and debunk Mediums. Houdini wrote to Besinnet four times in 1925, throwing down a $10,000 challenge if, which he stipulate after three seances, he could not figure how she staged the sessions. Conan Doyle advised her to ignore him and she did. Houdini towards the end of his life became to believe in Spiritualism.

Sherlock's creator died in 1930 at the age of 71. His family expected him to quickly contact them from beyond, but, Ravin said, it's not clear that he ever did.

With small additions source from



Ada Besinnet the American Physical Medium who produced psychic lights, direct voices known for singing and whistling, and materializations. Ada was married to William Wallace Roche and lived for many years in Toledo, Ohio.
After a formal investigation during 1909-10 in 70 test sittings, James H. Hyslop wrote in Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research (vol. 5, 1911) that the Medium produced phenomena herself, but while in a hysterical state of secondary personality and without the slightest degree of moral responsibility in her own person for the fraud. After six months of study, the British College for Psychic Science in London reached the opposite conclusion in 1921. According to J. Hewat McKenzie 's report in Psychic Science (April 1922), those actions of the Medium which Hyslop attributed to hysteria could be fully accounted for as due to the action of controlling Spirits.
Dr. Hereward Carrington concluded in The Story of Psychic Science (1930), "My own sittings with this Medium left me entirely unconvinced of their genuineness." Nevertheless, he admitted that he observed very curious lights at a seance in 1922. On request, the lights hovered for a few moments over exposed photographic plates, and the plates, when developed, showed unusual markings that he failed to obtain by artificial means.
Besinnet had two principal controls, both Indians: "Pansy," a little girl, and "Black Cloud." As a rule Besinnet sat in the dark, unbound; then during the seance, as a feat of her stock performance, her hands and feet were often tied to her chair by invisible hands. The sitters usually did not join hands, but placed them on the table. Her materializations were incomplete. The faces seen had a corpse-like appearance and often resembled her own face. It is said that she disappeared several times from the seance room altogether and was found transported in a deep coma in another room. In Glimpses of the Next State (1911), Osborne Moore described several seances with the Medium. He found the phenomena supernormal and entirely convincing. Besinnet died in 1936.

Source with slight additions from



A section of


 (The education of an agnostic)

by Vice Admiral W. USBORNE MOORE

A New Psychic in Toledo, Ohio In Toledo, Ohio, there is a psychic, a young lady at the time of my visit nineteen years of age, in whose presence remarkable manifestations occur. Her name is Miss Ada Besinnet, and she is the adopted daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Murray Moore, then living at 2617 Glenwood Avenue. So far she had only sat in private for her friends, and was in no sense a professional medium.

Investigators may be roughly divided into two classes : first, those who believe a psychic to be guilty of conscious or unconscious fraud, until they prove her to be innocent ; second, those who believe her to be innocent, until they detect her in fraud. Supposing other things to be equal--- observation, acuteness, and so forth---it is the latter class that will arrive earlier at the truth ; for their mental attitude greatly assists the phenomena. When I reflect how ignorant the wisest are, how limited are our senses ; how, to begin with, we do not know the significance of more than one eighth of the sun’s rays, I cannot understand the point of view of the former class. Miss Besinnet is just one of those psychics who will bring the two classes into fierce conflict. It is to be hoped that through her mediumship many outstanding problems will be solved.

I had the good fortune to sit with her twice ; the first time by the kind invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Yaryan in their house, in company with seven of their relatives and friends ; the second time in her own home, when the only other sitter was Mrs Murray Moore. On both occasions the atmospheric conditions were fairly good.

(65) First sitting, January 5,1909---8:10 to 11:50pm. We sat in the dark round an oblong oak table that weighs from one hundred and fifty to one hundred and sixty pounds. Directly the light was put out the psychic went into trance. The phenomena consisted of singing and whistling in accompaniment to a graphophone ; playing of tambourine, triangle, and bells in accompaniment to a graphophone; voices through trumpet, touchings of hands and heads of sitters, violent movements of the table, lashing the Medium, and Spirit lights.

I sat on the medium’s right, and my left hand was either lashed to hers or resting upon it the whole evening. Placed upon the table, before the seance began, were a long, soft piece of rope, a tambourine, a tube or trumpet, a bell and triangle. The manifestations lagged at first, and it took us the best part of an hour to find out that the control ("Dan") was dissatisfied with the arrangements. Finally, we discovered, through Mrs. Moore, that he wanted the graphophone brought close up to the table, which would effectively separate her from the psychic. This was done ; other small changes among the Circle took place, and the real business of the evening commenced about 9 o’clock.


Songs were given through the graphophone, and voices from above joined in the singing ; then whistling of the most striking character. It appeared to come from a distance of some feet above the table, and, though I was on the alert, it did not once occur to me that the sounds issued from the mouth of my neighbour, or near it. Her hand was motionless, and occasionally her head fell upon the table, and remained there for many minutes. The whistler never stopped to take breath, but went on for long periods without a pause, pouring forth the most melodious notes with a power which, I am of opinion, no mortal can possess. Between times a tambourine was played, and the bell and triangle accompanied the music. By and by I found my left wrist being lashed to the right wrist of the psychic ; a few minutes elapsed, and we were told by Mrs. Moore (who is impressed what action to take) that the red lamp behind me might be lit. On this being done, we found Miss, Ada lashed to the back and sides of her chair, her left wrist lashed to her waist, a handkerchief bound tightly over her mouth, and her right wrist bound to my left. On the light being extinguished, singing and whistling recommenced accompanying the graphophone. After each song the psychic was impelled to raise my left hand and place it on the bandage over her mouth ; then on to the hand lashed to her waist, apparently to prove that she could not have participated in any phase of the previous manifestation. About three-quarters of an hour elapsed when I felt that the lashing round my wrist was being untied ; I estimate that the psychic and I were freed in about ten minutes. Red light was again allowed for the members of the Circle to inspect, and assure themselves that the rope had been removed. When the light was extinguished, songs, with their spirit accompaniment, recommenced, also the tambourine. I seized the latter with my disengaged right hand, and held on to it with all the strength I could muster ; it was wrenched away with a sudden twist. I then took my left hand off the psychic’s right, and tried to hold on to the tambourine with both hands, but without success. In both cases my antagonist pulled from my left and upwards. It was then, and is now, my conviction that the fragile girl sitting next to me at an oblong table could not exert the force of a strong man from such a direction.

There were also, during the latter part of this seance, some violent movements of the table sideways and upwards. One end, four feet from the psychic, twice rose several inches from the floor. The heads and hands of the sitters at different parts of the table were touched, and voices whispered through the tube. A firm, masculine hand was placed on my left hand several times during the evening, pressing it down on the right hand of the psychic. For some considerable time little lights issued from the body of Miss Besinnet and, in a lesser degree, from me, dying away between six inches and a foot from where they originated ; the psychic’s head was also partially illuminated. At 11:50 the seance was brought to a close by the general desire of the Circle ; if we had waited for the controls to close it, my impression is they would have gone on for another hour or more. The young lady came out of trance, naturally, in about five minutes, and appeared none the worse for the strain to which her organism had been subjected during the evening.

(66) The second occasion I had the good fortune to sit with Miss Besinnet was, by invitation, at Mrs. Murray Moore’s house on January 29, 1909, from 8:30 to 2:20pm. The persons in the room were Mrs Moore, Miss Besinnet, and myself. In the middle of the room there was a round oak table, weighing quite a hundredweight, and a graphophone in one corner. The usual formalities were gone through of examining windows and doors and pasting paper over the latter. On this paper I signed my name, and noticed that Professor Hyslop’s signature was on a similar strip just above ; he had been sitting a few days before. The instant I put the lights out the table moved swiftly towards the graphophone, a distance of five or six feet, and it opened in the middle (where a leaf would go) one foot. We moved our chairs along with it. The graphophone was between Mrs. Moore and the psychic. I sat on Miss Ada’s right with my left hand on her right. This time there was no delay in the proceedings. The graphophone was started and Spirit voices accompanied the songs as before ; the whistling began almost immediately, and to one song there was a tambourine accompaniment. As before the magnificent whistling was repeated several times, and on this evening, at one time, there were two Spirits whistling at the same moment. The


quality of the Spirit-singing was superior to that on the previous occasion. One song alone was repeated with the Spirit accompaniment five times for my edification.

There were some little clouds about the room, of the consistency of cigar smoke, but no etherialisations. Tongues of Spirit-light issued from the body of the psychic ; they were about one-third of an inch broad at one end, and tapered away for a length of about one and a-half inches, to nothing. I was touched on the head and hand several times.

Writing in fire was attempted, but it was not so successful as usual. This curious phase is one I had never heard of before. Names are traced in the air in front of the sitter in letters of bright light; the effect is not permanent, and the beginning of a letter disappears before the end is completed. It is a phenomenon which has to be followed with very strict attention.

After we had been sitting two hours the violent physical phenomena commenced. The table was twice lifted completely off the floor and swayed backwards and forwards in the air three or four inches above the carpet. Finally, Mrs. Moore was brought by a hand three-quarters of the distance round the table, and stood with her left hand in my right hand while the table was opened and shut twice, discs were changed in the graphophone, and the instrument started and stopped by some unknown agency.

Just as the psychic was coming out of trance, Sankey’s refrain, "It is well with my soul," was being sung for the second or third time that evening. This brought in an unhappy, sobbing Spirit, and the machine had to be stopped by Mrs. Moore, as she said these mournful spirits affected her charge injuriously.

I have enjoyed opportunities of discussing with Professor Hyslop the phenomena that occur while Miss. Besinnet is in trance ; he had sat with her, and I am glad to say we agreed on two points:

(a) That he and Mrs. Murray Moore are beyond suspicion as to the honesty of the proceedings ; (b) that this young lady will be the means of solving some interesting problems and throwing new light on happenings which some investigators have hitherto considered are due to conscious fraud. Here, however, we part company. It is no doubt true that the muscles of the psychic’s throat have been found to act in unison with the mysterious singing and whistling ; it has also been shown (by a flash-light photograph that was once taken with Mrs. Moore’s permission) that her disengaged hand has been detected holding a tambourine in the air ; but the Professor assumes from this (he has said it on the platform and to me) that, while in trance, she does the singing and whistling, and that she is the prime cause of every phenomenon, either with or without the aid of extraneous intelligence’s. To this I give a positive denial. The sympathetic action of the muscles of a Medium when physical phenomena are in progress is a known fact. It was affirmed by Italian Scientists not long ago in the case of Eusapia ; but I assert that Miss Besinnet, with her own physical organs, could not execute the singing or whistling without her neighbour knowing it ; could not drag a heavy table five feet ; could not levitate that table, or open and shut it, without mundane assistance ; could not talk to her neighbour through a tube without his knowing she was doing it ; could not cause lights to issue from her neighbour, nor could she wrest a tambourine out of his hands.

It is no secret that, up to this time, Professor Hyslop has not seen nor heard any reliable evidence that leads him to believe there is any such phenomenon as "materialisation." With such an equipment, how can he give an opinion on physical phenomena?

I consider that what I heard when sitting with Miss Ada was due to extraneous intelligence’s. That such were present and active I have abundant evidence for myself. During this interesting sitting of January 29 I received a message from my guide which referred, with startling appropriateness, to a subject that has been in my mind for two days. It was conveyed in a remarkably delicate and tactful manner through the instrumentality of Mrs. Murray Moore, who is a sensitive ; but I make bold to say that that lady does not know what is the significance attached to it. A fortnight later I was sitting with Mrs. Georgia at Rochester, N. Y., when the same spirit unexpectedly manifested through her automatic mirror script, and referred in a neat and unmistakable manner to this seance at Toledo in such a way as to exclude from consideration the overworked theory of "Mind-reading." The two ladies at Toledo and Mrs. Georgia know nothing of one another. It is unfortunate that the best evidence for Spiritualism is of so private a character that it cannot be published for fear of wounding the susceptibilities of living people. When I have


said all that it is possible to say I shall not have given my most cogent reasons for the belief that is in me.

In Miss Ada Besinnet we have a Medium of the highest promise. I hope her friends will not allow her to sit with anyone who has not educated himself up to the point of conviction on the subject of telekinesis and materialisation ; for, if they do, I am afraid she will be misunderstood.


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