Anges Nichol Guppy,Lizzie Guppy,Lizzie Guppy,Mrs Guppy,

 Medium Anges Nichol Guppy. England. UK.

 Medium Anges Guppy-Volckman

  Medium Mrs Guppy


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 Anges Nichol Guppy. England. UK.

  Born 1838. Died in December, 1917.

Anges Nichol Guppy a powerful Medium, discovered by Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace in his sister's, Mrs. Sim's, house about a year after he started his investigation into Spiritualism in 1865. The young girl, a professional mesmerist, produced movements without contact. The power was the strongest if the two ladies were alone. Remarkable phenomena were observed after the seance in the empty room. The famous naturalist learned that Miss Nichol saw phantoms as a child and, in carefully watching her mediumistic development, encountered strange experiences. Raps and table movements were followed by levitations.
The Medium was a heavily built woman. In the darkness, while holding the sitters' hands, she was several times lifted on top of the table in her chair. Independent music and apport phenomena came next. On hundreds of occasions flowers and fruits, sometimes in vast quantities, were precipitated, on the seance table, from an unknown source. The request of the sitters was often honoured. When a friend of Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace asked for a sunflower one six feet high with a mass of earth around the roots fell upon the table. In Serjeant Cox's house a mass of snow and hothouse flowers were precipitated. It was sufficient to make a mental request. The Princess Marguerite at Naples desired specimens of a prickly cactus. More than twenty dropped on the table and had to be removed with tongs. Stinging nettles and ill-smelling white flowers which had to be burnt, also arrived on other occasions. The Duchess d'Arpino wished for sea sand. It soon splashed down with sea water and live star fishes. The sea was about a hundred yards from the house. Not infrequently live eels and lobsters were brought. Later the apports arrived in light, provided a dark space was available to deposit them.
Catherine Berry, in Experiences in Spiritualism, speaks of many strange happenings. A white cat and a Maltese dog of Mrs. Guppy appeared in a sEance in Mrs. Berry's house where Mrs. Guppy sat. Three ducks prepared for cooking were brought into the Circle in Mrs. Guppy's home. Showers of butterflies descended from the ceiling. On another occasion a shower of feathers fell to the depth of several inches. In a mischievous spirit Mrs. Guppy asked for tar, whereupon Mrs. Berry, looking like a magpie in her black dress, rushed out and became estranged for years from her host.

Miss Nichol married Samuel Guppy in 1867. For some time after they resided on the Continent. More marvels were witnessed on their return. The first Spirit photograph of Hudson was obtained in March, 1872, through Mrs. Guppy's mediumship. In the same year she produced materialisations.
The most marvelous incident in her career was her own transportation from her house at Highbury to 61 Lamb's Conduit Street, a distance of three miles. Frank Herne and Charles Williams, with eight sitters, were holding a seance. On a half-humorous request of Mr. Harrison Mrs. Guppy, half undressed, with her shoes off, was precipitated in a state of deep trance, on the table.

Samuel Guppy was a very rich man. The complete absence of financial motives greatly puzzled Frank Podmore, author of Modern Spiritualism, who considered every Medium a fraud, out for financial gain. He writes:
"But Mrs. Guppy, even during the few months in which, as Miss Nichol, she practised as a professional Mesmerist, can scarcely have found her main incentive in the hope of gain. On the assumption of fraud, the mere cost of the flowers lavished on her sitters must have swallowed up any probable profit from her increased mesmeric clientele. And even such a motive would have ceased with her marriage."
After Samuel Guppy's death his widow married for the third time and was known as Mrs. Guppy-VoIckman afterwards. She died in December, 1917.

Source (with minor modifications): An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).


On the evening of June 3 1871, Mrs Guppy was at home with a friend in Highgate, London. Meanwhile, on Lambs Conduit Street in Holborn, a seance group was communicating with the famed Spirit Katie King. A joker among the group asked Ms King to bring Mrs Guppy, herself a Medium and renowned as much for her ample girth as her ability to produce apports, to the sitting. Three minutes later, there was a loud thump as something heavy dropped onto the seance room table. It was Mrs Guppy, unconscious and dressed only in a nightgown, swiftly followed by some more respectable clothing for her return journey.

Mrs Guppy's trip was the talk of the town, and so was she. Caught throwing apports around several times, she was later accused of plotting to throw vitriol [acid] on to the face of a more popular rival Medium during a seance.

London Mediums Frank Herne and Charles Williams were holding a joint seance with a Circle of visitors, when they heard the voices of the Spirits of John King and his daughter Katie. Katie agreed to bring some thing to the sitters and someone asked her to produce well-known Medium Mrs Guppy. Katie laughed and despite her father's protests, insisted that she would comply.
The sitters were all laughing, when they heard a loud thump on the table, and several of them screamed. One of them lit a lamp and there in the middle of the table sat Mrs Guppy. She seemed to be in a trance and held a pen and an account book in her hand.

When the Medium was gently roused from her trance, she was a little perturbed. The last thing she remembered was sitting at home three miles away. The sitters escorted her home, where an anxious friend awaited. Apparently, the two had been in Mrs Guppy's room together when Mrs Guppy suddenly disappeared, leaving only a slight haze near the ceiling.

Catherine Berry, in Experiences in Spiritualism (1876), writes of many strange happenings. A white cat and a Maltese dog belonging to Guppy appeared in a seance in Berry's house where Guppy sat. Three ducks prepared for cooking were brought into the Circle in Guppy's home. Showers of butterflies descended from the ceiling. On another occasion a shower of feathers fell to the depth of several inches. In a mischievous spirit Guppy asked for tar, whereupon Berry, looking like a magpie in her black dress, rushed out. She became estranged for years from Guppy.

The most incredible incident in Guppy-Volckman's career was her claimed transportation from her house at Highbury, London, to 61 Lamb's Conduit St., a distance of three miles. The most humorous occurred when Frank Herne and Charles Williams, with eight sitters, were holding a séance. On the half-humorous request of a Mr. Harrison to transport Guppy to the room, she was precipitated to the room. Unfortunately, she was half dressed, with her shoes off, and in a state of deep trance.

Samuel Guppy was a very rich man. The complete absence of financial motives in Agnes Guppy's case greatly puzzled Frank Podmore, the skeptical author of Modern Spiritualism (2 vols., 1902), who considered most mediums frauds out for financial gain. Not understanding the equal appeal of power and fame, he ponders, "But Mrs. Guppy, even during the few months in which, as Miss Nichol, she practised as a professional Mesmerist, can scarcely have found her main incentive in the hope of gain. On the assumption of fraud, the mere cost of the flowers lavished on her sitters must have swallowed up any probable profit from her increased mesmeric clientele. And even such a motive would have ceased with her marriage."

After Samuel Guppy's death, his widow married again and was afterward known as Mrs. Guppy-Volckman. She died in December 1917.

Guppy-Volckman, Agnes (1838-1917)


The effect on me and one of my acquaintances was exactly the same as on Mr. Wallace; the phenomena interested us and we tried to find out how far we could reproduce them. A wide-a-wake young boy of 12 years old offered himself as subject. Gently gazing into his eyes, or stroking, sent him without difficulty into the hypnotic condition. But since we were rather less credulous than Mr. Wallace and set to work with rather less fervour, we arrived at quite different results. Apart from muscular rigidity and loss of sensation, which were easy to produce, we found also a state of complete passivity of the will bound up with a peculiar hypersensitivity of sensation. The patient, when aroused from his lethargy by any external stimulus, exhibited very much greater liveliness than in the waking condition. There was no trace of any mysterious relation to the operator; anyone else could just as easily set the sleeper into activity. To set Gall’s cranial organs into action was the least that we achieved; we went much further, we could not only exchange them for one another, or make their seat anywhere in the whole body, but we also fabricated any amount of other organs, organs of singing, whistling, piping, dancing, boxing, sewing, cobbling, tobacco-smoking, etc., and we could make their seat wherever we wanted. Wallace made his patients drunk on water, but we discovered in the great toe an organ of drunkenness which only had to be touched in order to cause the finest drunken comedy to be enacted. But it must be well understood, no organ showed a trace of action until the patient was given to understand what was expected of him; the boy soon perfected himself by practice to such an extent that the merest indication sufficed. The organs produced in this way then retained their validity for later occasions of putting to sleep, as long as they were not altered in the same way. The patient had even a double memory, one for the waking state and a second quite separate one for the hypnotic condition., As regards the passivity of the will and its absolute subjection to the will of a third person, this loses all its miraculous appearance when we bear in mind that the whole condition began with the subjection of the will of the patient to that of the operator, and cannot be restored without it. The most powerful magician of a magnetiser in the world will come to the end of his resources as soon as his patient laughs him in the face.

While we with our frivolous scepticism thus found that the basis of magnetico- phrenological charlatanry lay in a series of phenomena which for the most part differ only in degree from those of the waking state and require no mystical interpretation, Mr. Wallace’s “ardour” led him into a series of self-deceptions, in virtue of which he confirmed Gall’s map of the skull in all its details and noted a mysterious relation between operator and patient. Everywhere in Mr. Wallace’s account, the sincerity of which reaches the degree of naivete, it becomes apparent that he was much less concerned in investigating the factual background of charlatanry than in reproducing all the phenomena at all costs. Only this frame of mind is needed for the man who was originally a scientist to be quickly converted into an “adept” by means of simple and facile self-deception. Mr. Wallace ended up with faith in magnetico-phrenological miracles and so already stood with one foot in the world of spirits.

He drew the other foot after him in 1865. On returning from his twelve years of travel in the tropical zone, experiments in table-turning introduced him to the society of various “Mediums.” How rapid his progress was, and how complete his mastery of the subject, is testified to by the above-mentioned booklet. He expects us to take for good coin not only all the alleged miracles of Home, the brothers Davenport, and other “Mediums” who all more or less exhibit themselves for money and who have for the most part been frequently exposed as impostors, but also a whole series of allegedly authentic spirit histories from early times. The Pythonesses of the Greek oracle, the witches of the Middle Ages, were all “Mediums,” and Iamblichus in his De divinatione already described quite accurately “the most astonishing phenomena of modern Spiritualism."

Just one example to show how lightly Mr. Wallace deals with the scientific corroboration and authentication of these miracles. It is certainly a strong assumption that we should believe that the aforesaid spirits should allow themselves to be photographed, and we have surely the right to demand that such spirit photographs should be authenticated in the most indubitable manner before we accept them as genuine. Now Mr. Wallace recounts on p.187 that in March, 1872, a leading medium, Mrs. Guppy, nee Nicholls, had herself photographed together with her husband and small boy at Mr. Hudson’s in Notting Hill London, and on two different photographs a tall female figure, finely draped in white gauze robes, with somewhat Eastern features, was to be seen behind her in a pose as if giving a benediction. “Here, then, one of two things are absolutely certain. Either there was a living intelligent, but invisible being present, or Mr. and Mrs. Guppy, the photographer, and some fourth person planned a wicked imposture and have maintained it ever since. Knowing Mr. and Mrs. Guppy so well as I do, I feel an absolute conviction that they are as incapable of an imposture of this kind as any earnest inquirer after truth in the department of natural science."

Consequently, either deception or spirit photography. Quite so. And, if deception, either the spirit was already on the photographic plates, or four persons must have been concerned, or three if we leave out as weak-minded or duped old Mr. Guppy who died in January, 1875, at the age of 84 (it only needed that he should be sent behind the Spanish screen of the background). That a photographer could obtain a “model” for the spirit without difficulty does not need to be argued. But the photographer Hudson, shortly afterwards, was publicly prosecuted for habitual falsification of Spirit Photographs, so Mr. Wallace remarks in mitigation: “One thing is clear, if an imposture has occurred, it was at once detected by spiritualists themselves.” Hence there is not much reliance to be placed on the photographer. Remains Mrs. Guppy, and for her there is only the “absolute conviction” of our friend Wallace and nothing more. Nothing more? Not at all. The absolute trustworthiness of Mrs. Guppy is evidenced by her assertion that one evening, early in June, 1871, she was carried through the air in a state of unconsciousness from her house in Highbury Hill Park to 69, Lamb’s Conduit Street - three English miles as the crow flies – and deposited in the said house of No. 69 on the table in the midst of a spiritualistic seance. The doors of the room were closed, and although Mrs. Guppy was one of the stoutest women in London, which is certainly saying a good deal, nevertheless her sudden incursion did not leave behind the slightest hole either in the doors or in the ceiling. (Reported in the London .Echo, June 8, 1871.) And if anyone still does not believe in the genuineness of Spirit Photography, there’s no helping him.

The second eminent adept among English natural scientists is Mr. William Crookes, the discoverer of the chemical element thallium and of the radiometer (in Germany also called “Lichtmühle” [light-mill] ). Mr. Crookes began to investigate spiritualistic manifestations about 1871, and employed for this purpose a number of physical and mechanical appliances, spring balances, electric batteries, etc. Whether he brought to his task the main apparatus required, a sceptically critical mind, or whether he remained to the end in a fit state for working, we shall see. At any rate, within a not very long period, Mr. Crookes was just as completely captivated as Mr. Wallace. “For some years,” he relates, “a young lady, Miss Florence Cook, has exhibited remarkable mediumship, which latterly culminated in the production of an entire female form purporting to be of spiritual origin, and which appeared barefooted and in white flowing robes while she lay entranced in dark clothing and securely bound in a cabinet or adjoining room.” This Spirit, which called itself Katie, and which looked remarkably like Miss Cook, was one evening suddenly seized round the waist by Mr. Volckmann - the present husband of Mrs. Guppy -- and held fast in order to see whether it was not indeed Miss Cook in another edition. The Spirit proved to be a quite sturdy damsel, it defended itself vigorously, the onlookers intervened, the gas was turned out, and when, after some scuffling, peace was reestablished and the room re-lit, the Spirit had vanished and Miss Cook lay bound and unconscious in her corner. Nevertheless, Mr. Volckmann is said to maintain up to the present day that he had seized hold of Miss Cook and nobody else. In order to establish this scientifically, Mr. Varley, a well-known electrician, on the occasion of a new experiment, arranged for the current from a battery to flow through the Medium, Miss Cook, in such a way that she could not play the part of the Spirit without interrupting the current. Nevertheless, the Spirit made its appearance. It was, therefore, indeed a being different from Miss Cook. To establish this further was the task of Mr. Crookes. His first step was to win the confidence of the spiritualistic lady. This confidence, so he says himself in the Spiritualist, June 5, 1874, “increased gradually to such an extent that she refused to give a seance unless I made the arrangements. She said that she always wanted me to be near her and in the neighbourhood of the cabinet; I found that - when this confidence had been established and she was sure that I would not break any promise made to her – the phenomena increased considerably in strength and there was freely forthcoming evidence that would have been unobtainable in any other way. She frequently consulted me in regard to the persons present at the seances and the places to be given them, for she had recently become very nervous as a result of certain ill-advised suggestions that, besides other more scientific methods of investigation, force also should be applied.”

The Spirit Lady rewarded this confidence, which was as kind as it was scientific, in the highest measure. She even made her appearance - which can no longer surprise us - in Mr. Crookes’ house, played with his children and told them “anecdotes from her adventures in India,” treated Mr. Crookes to an account of “some of the bitter experiences of her past life,” allowed him to take her by the arm so that he could convince himself of her evident materiality, allowed him to take her pulse and count the number of her respirations per minute, and finally allowed herself to be photographed next to Mr. Crookes. “This figure,” says Mr. Wallace, “after she had been seen, touched, photographed, and conversed with, vanished absolutely out of a small room from which there was no other exit than an adjoining room filled with spectators” - which was not such a great feat, provided that the spectators were polite enough to show as much faith in Mr. Crookes, in whose house this happened, as Mr. Crookes did in the Spirit.

Unfortunately these “fully authenticated phenomena” are not immediately credible even for spiritualists. We saw above how the very spiritualistic Mr. Volckmann permitted himself to make a very material grab. And now a clergyman, a member of the committee of the “British National Association of Spiritualists,” has also been present at a seance with Miss Cook, and he established the fact without difficulty that the room through the door of which the Spirit came and disappeared communicated with the outer world by a second door. The behaviour of Mr. Crookes, who was also present, gave “the final death blow to my belief that there might be something in the manifestations.” (Mystic London, by the Rev. C. Maurice Davies, London, Tinsley Brothers). And, over and above that, it came to light in America how “Katies” were “materialised.” A married couple named Holmes held seances in Philadelphia in which likewise a “Katie” appeared and received bountiful presents from the believers. However, one sceptic refused to rest until he got on the track of the said Katie, who, anyway, had already gone on strike once because of lack of pay; he discovered her in a boarding-house as a young lady of unquestionable flesh and bone, and in possession of all the presents that had been given to the Spirit.

Meanwhile the Continent also had its scientific spiritseers. A scientific association at St. Petersburg – I do not know exactly whether the University or even the Academy itself - charged the Councillor of State, Aksakov, and the chemist, Butlerov, to examine the basis of the spiritualistic phenomena, but it dbes not seem that very much came of this. On the other hand - if the noisy announcements of the Spiritualists are to be believed - Germany has now also put forward its man in the person of Professor Zollner in Leipzig.

For years, as is well known, Herr Zollner has been hard at work on the “fourth dimension” of space, and has discovered that many things that are impossible in a space of three dimensions, are a simple matter of course in a space of four dimensions. Thus, in the latter kind of space, a closed metal sphere can be turned inside out like a glove, without making a hole in it; similarly a knot can be tied in an endless string or one which has both ends fastened, and two separate closed rings can be interlinked without opening either of them, and many more such feats. According to the recent triumphant reports from the Spirit World, it is said now that Professor Zollner has addressed himself to one or more mediums in order with their aid to determine more details of the locality of the fourth dimension. The success is said to have been surprising. After the session the arm of the chair, on which he rested his arm while his hand never left the table, was found to have become interlocked with his arm, a string that had both ends sealed to the table was found tied into four knots, and so on. In short, all the miracles of the fourth dimension are said to have been performed by the Spirits with the utmost ease. It must be borne in mind: relata refero, I do not vouch for the correctness of the spirit bulletin, and if it should contain any inaccuracy, Herr Zollner ought to be thankful that I am giving him the opportunity to make a correction. If, however, it reproduces the experiences of Herr Zollner without falsification, then it obviously signifies a new era both in the science of Spiritualism and that of mathematics. The spirits prove the existence of the fourth dimension, just as the fourth dimension vouches for the existence of Spirits. And this once established, an entirely new, immeasurable field is opened to science. All previous mathematics and natural science will be only a preparatory school for the mathematics of the fourth and still higher dimensions, and for the mechanics, physics, chemistry, and physiology of the Spirits dwelling in these higher dimensions. Has not Mr. Crookes scientifically determined how much weight is lost by tables and other articles of furniture on their passage into the fourth dimension - as we may now well be permitted to call it - and does not Mr. Wallace declare it proven that fire there does no harm to the human body? And now we have even the physiology of the spirit bodies! They breathe, they have a pulse, therefore lungs, heart, and a circulatory apparatus, and in consequence are at least as admirably equipped as our own in regard to the other bodily organs. For breathing requires carbohydrates which undergo combustion in the lungs, and these carbohydrates can only be supplied from without; hence, stomach, intestines, and their accessories - and if we have once established so much, the rest follows without difficulty. The existence of such organs, however, implies the possibility of their falling a prey to disease, hence it may still come to pass that Herr Virchow will have to compile a cellular pathology of the Spirit World. And since most of these Spirits are very handsome young ladies, who are not to be distinguished in any respect whatsoever from terrestrial damsels, other than by their supra-mundane beauty, it could not be very long before they come into contact with “men who feel the passion of love"; and since, as established by Mr. Crookes from the beat of the pulse, “the female heart is not absent,” natural selection also has opened before it the prospect of a fourth dimension, one in which it has no longer any need to fear of being confused with wicked social-democracy.


From the book "There Is No Death" Florence Marryat


The mediumship of this lady is so well known, and has been so universally attested, that nothing I can write of could possibly add to her fame; and as I made her acquaintance but a short time before she relinquished sitting for manifestations, I have had but little experience of her powers, but such as I enjoyed were very remarkable. I have alluded to them in the story of The Green Lady, whose apparition was due solely to Mrs. Guppy Volckman's presence, and on that occasion she gave us another wonderful proof of her mediumship. A sheet was procured and held up at either end by Mr. Charles Williams and herself It was held in the light, in the centre of the room, forming a white wall of about five feet high, i.e., as high as their arms could conveniently reach. Both the hands of Mrs. Volckman and Mr. Williams were placed outside the sheet , so that no trickery might be suspected through their being concealed. In a short time the head of a woman ap peared above the sheet, followed by that of a man, and various pairs of hands, both large and small which bobbed up and down, and seized the hands of the spectators, whilst the faces went close to the media, as if with the intention of kissing them. This frightened Mrs. Volckman, so that she frequently screamed and dropped her end of the sheet, which, had there been any deception, must inevitably have exposed it. It seemed to make no difference to the spirits, however, who reappeared directly they had the opportunity, and made her at last so nervous that she threw the sheet down and refused to hold it any more. The faces were life-size, and could move their eyes and lips; the hands were some as large as a man's, and covered with hair, and others like those of a woman or child. They had all the capability of working the fingers and


grasping objects presented to them; whilst the four hands belonging to the media were kept in sight of the audience and could not have worked machinery even if they could have concealed it.

The first time I was introduced to Mrs. Volckman (then Mrs. Guppy) was at a seance at her own house in Victoria Road, where she had assembled a large party of guests, including several names well known in art and literature. We sat in a well-lighted drawing-room, and the party was so large that the circle round the table was three deep. Mrs. Mary Hardy, the American medium (since dead), was present. and the honours of the manifestations may be therefore, I conclude, divided between the two ladies. The table, a common deal one, made for such occasions, with a round hole of about twenty inches in diameter in the middle of it, was covered with a cloth that hung down, and was nailed to the ground, leaving only the aperture free. (I must premise that this cloth had been nailed down by a committee of the gentlemen visitors, in order that there might be no suspicion of a confederate hidden underneath it.) We then sat round the table, but without placing our hands on it. In a short time hands began to appear through the open space in the table, all sorts of hands, from the woman's taper fingers and the baby's dimpled fist, to the hands of old and young men, wrinkled or muscular. Some of the hands had rings on the fingers, by which the sitters recognized them, some stretched themselves out to be grasped; and some appeared in pairs, clasped together or separate. One hand took a glove from a sitter and put it on the other, showing the muscular force it possessed by the way in which it pressed down each finger and then buttoned the glove. Another pair of hands talked through the dumb alphabet to us, and a third played on a musical instrument. I was leaning forward, before I had witnessed the above, peering inquisitively clown the hole, and saying, I wonder if they would have strength to take any


thing down with them, when a large hand suddenly appeared and very nearly took me down, by seizing my nose as if it never meant to let go again. At all events, it took me a peg or two down, for I remember it brought tears into my eyes with the force it exhibited. After the hands had ceased to appear, the table was moved away, and we sat in a circle in the light. Mrs. Guppy did not wish to take a part in the seance, except as a spectator, so she retired to the back drawing-room with the Baroness Adelma Vay and other visitors, and left Mrs. Hardy with the circle in the front. Suddenly, however, she was levitated and carried in the sight of us all into the midst of our circle. As she felt herself rising in the air, she called out, Don't let go hands for Heaven's sake. We were standing in a ring, and I had hold of the hand of Prince Albert of Solms. As Mrs. Guppy came sailing over our heads, her feet caught his neck and mine, and in our anxiety to do as she had told us, we gripped tight hold of each other, and were thrown forward on our knees by the force with which she was carried past us into the centre. This was a pretty strong proof to us, whatever it may be to others, that our senses did not deceive us when we thought we saw Mrs. Guppy over our heads in the air. The influence that levitated her, moreover, placed her on a chair with such a bump that it broke the two front legs off As soon as Mrs. Guppy had rejoined us, the order was given to put out the light and to wish for something. We unanimously asked for flowers, it being the middle of December, and a hard frost. Simultaneously we smelt the smell of fresh earth, and were told to light the gas again, when the following extraordinary sight met our view. In the middle of the sitters, still holding hands, was piled up on the carpet an immense quantity of mould, which had been torn up apparently with the roots that accompanied it. There were laurestinus, and laurels, and holly, and several others, just as they had been pulled out of the earth and thrown down in the midst of us.


Mrs. Guppy looked anything but pleased at the state of her carpet, and begged the spirits would bring something cleaner next time, then told us to extinguish the lights again, and each was to wish mentally for something for himself I wished for a yellow butterfly, knowing it was December; as I thought of it, a little cardboard box was put into my hand. Prince Albert whispered to me, Have you got anything Yes, I said; but not what I asked for. I expect they have given me a piece of jewellery." When the gas was I opened the box, and there lay two yellow butterflies; dead of course, but none  the less extraordinary for that. I wore at that seance a tight-fitting, high white muslin dress, a tight petticoat body. The dress had no pocket, and I carried my handkerchief, a fine cambric one, in my hand. Whan the seance was over, I found this handkerchief had disappeared, at which I was vexed, as it had been embroidered for me by my sister Emily, then dead. I inquired of every if they had seen it, even making them turn out their pockets in case they had taken it in mistake for their own, it was not to be found, and I returned home, as I thought, without it. What was my surprise on removing my dress and coat bodice to find the handkerchief, neatly folded into a square of about four inches, between my stays and the garment beneath them; placed, moreover, over the smallest part of waist, where no fingers could have penetrated even had dress been loose. My woman readers may be able better than men to appreciate the difficulty of such a maneuver by mortal means; indeed it would have been quite impossible for myself or anybody else to place the handkerchief in such a position without removing the stays. And it was folded so neatly also, and placed so smoothly, that there was no crumple in the cambric.



Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for Mrs Guppy

Guppy [formerly Nicholl; other married name Guppy-Volckman], (Agnes) Elisabeth (1838-1917), medium, was born Agnes Elisabeth White at 1 Gloucester Crescent, Regent's Park, London, the daughter of Charles Taylor White. Her parents died when she was eleven months old and she was raised by her maternal grandfather, the London sculptor William Ginsell Nicholl (1796-1871), who taught her sculpting and photography. She took her grandfather's name, and was known from an early age as Elisabeth Nicholl (or Nichol). From the age of nine she had visions of spirit figures, which persisted despite exercise and the water cure. In the early 1860s her photographic skills attracted Fanny Sims, an amateur photographer and sister of the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. Sims convinced her of her spiritual powers, and in December 1866 Miss Nicholl held her first seances in the Wallace household. Her powers caused tables to rap messages and nearby objects to levitate. Later that month she first produced the apports for which she became celebrated: fresh flowers materialized out of the darkness and fell onto participants' laps. During this period she became a professional mesmeric healer, which enabled her to finance private evening seances. Her mediumship was strengthened through collaboration with mediums such as Mrs Makdougall Gregory, Georgiana Houghton (d. 1887), and Catherine Berry (1813-1891): her apports now included fruit and small animals, she began producing spirit drawings, and during one séance with Wallace she levitated herself onto a table.

On 10 December 1867 Miss Nicholl married Samuel Guppy (1790?-1875), a rich and elderly spiritualist and amateur photographer. The newly wedded couple subsequently toured Europe and enthralled nobility and literati with seance apports. Elisabeth's first child, Thomas, was born in Naples during September 1869. On returning to England in July 1870 the couple lived in Highbury, where Mrs Guppy gave private seances and taught mediums such as Frank Herne and Charles Williams. Her most celebrated achievement occurred on 3 June 1871, when she was allegedly transported 3 miles from Highbury to a joint Herne-Williams seance in Holborn. A seance participant had jokingly asked the invisible spirits to bring her there-considered an impossible feat, as she was an enormous woman. Minutes later an entranced Mrs Guppy appeared above the seance table, unaware of her new surroundings.

In January 1872 Mrs Guppy became the first British medium documented to materialize spirit hands and faces. In the following March the London photographer Frederick Hudson used her mediumship to produce some of the first British spirit photographs.


Sources for  ‘Mrs. Guppy's Mediumship’, The Spiritualist (15 Sept 1870)

F. Podmore, Modern spiritualism, 2 (1902)

 A. R. Wallace, My life: a record of events and opinions, 2 vols. (1905), vol. 2 · C. Berry, Experiences in spiritualism (1876)

 G. Houghton, Evenings at home in spiritual séance (1881)

 G. Houghton, Chronicles of the photographs of spiritual beings (1882)

 R. Pearsall, The table-rappers (1972)

 R. G. Medhurst and K. M. Goldney, ‘William Crookes and the physical phenomena of mediumship’, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 54 (1963–6), 25–157

 A. Wallace, ‘The transit of Mrs. Guppy’, Light, 38 (1918), 259

 R. J. Strutt, Life of John William Strutt, third Baron Rayleigh (1924)

 E. Sidgwick, ‘Results of a personal investigation into the physical phenomena of spiritualism’, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 4 (1886–7), 45–74

 Memento, ‘The mediumship of Madame Guppy Volckman’, Light, 17 (1897), 255–6

Archives BL, Alfred Russel Wallace MSS

Likenesses photograph, 1860–1869?, Mary Evans Picture Library, London · photograph, 1870?, repro. in R. Stemman, Spirits and spirit worlds (1975), 41 · F. A. Hudson, group photograph, 1872, repro. in Houghton, Chronicles, pl. 4 [see illus.]

Wealth at death £13,098 4s. 5d.: probate, 2 May 1918, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

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All rights reserved: see legal notice Oxford University Press

Richard Noakes, ‘Guppy , (Agnes) Elisabeth (1838–1917)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 9 Feb 2014]


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