Allan B Campbell, Charles Campbell, Charles Shourds, Campbell brothers,


 Mediums Campbell Brothers     USA

Medium Allan B Campbell 1833-1919

Medium Charles Campbell, born Charles Shourds, died August 23, 1926

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 Campbell Brothers  Mediums 

At the turn of the century when Spiritualism was at its height and much publicised, the Campbell Brothers produced much “physical phenomena” commonly manifested were what was termed as Spirit Paintings. These were portraits and other works of art, done in various media and were produced under a variety of conditions. anyone can go and see them for yourselves in the Lily Dale museum and in the Maplewood hotel. in Lily Dale. USA.

Twenty-thousand visitors a year travel to Lily Dale, the birthplace of American Spiritualism and the oldest and largest community of Spiritualists in the world. They come to this little Victorian village in upstate New York to consult the town's Mediums, who can pull dead relatives from the beyond, predict the future, and provide healing and solace.

Lily Dale is sixty miles south of Buffalo, tucked off the side road of a side road to Interstate 90. It's easy to miss. Little Victorian houses sitting at the edge of a lake. A settlement of a few hundred people clinging to a religion that once had millions of believers and now has only a remnant. American flags flapping from screened porches. Fountains splashing in shady little pocket parks. A lot of the Campbell Brothers art that was done with the help of the Spirit World can be seen in and around the Lily Dale area.

According to my sources at Lily Dale, the Brothers  were a gay couple in a time when differences in sexual orientation were less tolerated. They were Allan B. Campbell (1833-1919) and Charles “Campbell” (born Charles Shourds, birth date unknown, who died August 23, 1926 ). They lived at Lily Dale but travelled widely, reportedly making twenty-two trips to Europe. Their mediumship involved slate writing and spirit typewriting (produced in a portable cabinet), but they are best known for their Spirit Portraits and paintings (“Campbell Brothers” n.d.).

The Campbells’ “Spirit” artists produced pastel and oil portraits.


Pastel portrait by Allan Campbell produced in a Campbell Brothers' seance while under the influence of Spirit Guide Azur. Now hanging in the Maplewood Hotel, Lily Dale, USA.

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The Lily Dale Museum, housed in a one-room 1890 schoolhouse, displays items from the Fox family, including their family bible. In April 1916,  the Fox’s Hydesville cottage was dismantled and relocated to Lily Dale, where it was destroyed by fire in 1955. The peddler’s pack found behind the false partition was rescued from the fire and remains on display in the Lily Dale Museum. The museum also houses an extensive collection of
Spiritualist magazines, newspapers, and pamphlets, as well as precipitated Spirit paintings.

Precipitated Spirit Paintings
Also known as precipitated Spirit Portraits and precipitated spirit art, these portraits of the deceased were produced by Spirits facilitated by  human mediums, but without the use of human hands. In other words, precipitated paintings were created by artists who did not actually
touch the canvas. Spirits did more than just guide the Medium’s hands, however, as with automatic painting. In precipitated Spirit Paintings, Spirits actually produced the images. A precipitated Spirit portrait just manifested.

Precipitated Spirit paintings tended to be large, even life-sized, portraits of someone who was no longer living, although other types do exist. In most, the subject’s eyes gaze out at the viewer. The first recorded demonstration of this phenomenon was by the Bangs sisters in 1894.
Many Spiritualists consider the Bangs sisters and the Campbell brothers to have been the foremost practitioners and masters of this form of mediumship. Although no one is currently creating new precipitated Spirit Portraits--or at least not bringing them to public attention--the surviving examples remain among the most intriguing and mysterious of the paranormal arts, subject to intense study by researchers.

The process of creating a precipitated Spirit Portrait was considered a type of seance. A blank, clean canvas or paper was stretched over a wooden frame by the Medium. A pot of oil paint was usually present, but no paintbrushes were permitted in the room. Since human hands allegedly did not create these paintings, no brushes were necessary. Present in the room was the Medium who facilitated the process, the person requesting the portrait (known as a “sitter”), and possibly other observers. All participants may have rested their hands or fingers on the canvas in the same manner that hands are rested on a Spirit Board.

The sitter mentally focused on the deceased person they wished to contact, whose identity may or may not have been revealed to the Medium. Since Spirits hypothetically created the image, it was not important for the Medium to know the identity or appearance of the subject of the  hoped-for portrait. The precipitated portrait gradually began to appear on the canvas or paper, in a manner similar to the gradual development of a Polaroid picture. It usually took between fifteen minutes to an hour for the image to appear fully.

Needless to say, precipitated Spirit Portraits were extremely controversial. Were the Mediums who created them avaricious hoaxers intent on  exploiting the grieving, or were they sincere Spiritualists who sought only to comfort the living and prove the continuity of life? Can Spirits create portraits? Were paintings created in advance and canvases switched using sleight of hand?

Although many assume that precipitated Spirit Portraits must have been fakes, it wasn’t that easy to fake them. In most of the existing cases,  although not all, no prior photograph of the subject existed. Often, clients desired precipitated Spirit Portraits specifically because they lacked photographs of loved ones and wished to retain an image. Although lights may have been dimmed, rooms in which the paintings were created were never completely dark. All eyes--and sometimes hands--were inevitably on the canvas.

Whether or not these portraits were crafted by Spirits, they are unusual works of art that confound art experts, who have been unable to  determine what Medium was used in their creation. Although a pot of oil paints was usually present during the seance, precipitated Spirit Portraits resemble pastels, or modern airbrush paintings. They closely resemble colour photographs, but the most famous of them were created before colour photography existed. (Commercial color film was not available until 1907) In general, no brush strokes are visible. Spirit Portraits often display a powdery texture described as resembling the powder on butterfly wings. Images sometimes appear to be embedded in the canvas.

Many precipitated Spirit Portraits radiate a magical quality. Sometimes eyes that first appear closed spontaneously open later. Because most famous precipitated Spirit Portraits are hauntingly beautiful, many people are captivated and fascinated by them as works of art, whether or not they accept them as authentic Spirit Paintings. There are precipitated Spirit Paintings in the collection of the Lily Dale Museum, as well as at Camp Chesterfield, Indiana. Because these portraits were created for individuals, many most likely remain in private collections.

The most famous precipitated Spirit Portrait preceded modern Spiritualism by centuries. In the mid 16th century, the image of Mexico’s Lady of Guadalupe miraculously appeared on an agave-fiber tilma, a type of indigenous cloak, belonging to a man named Juan Diego. The Vatican has confirmed the authenticity of this miracle.

Scientific analysis indicates that there was some embellishment of the image on the tilma, but the main portion of the image cannot be explained satisfactorily. No signs of human creation appear to exist. The blue pigment used cannot be identified or reproduced. Furthermore, an agave-fiber tilma should have a life expectancy of approximately a decade before it disintegrates. Yet the cloak with its image survives and is currently on display in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. For more information, see Ron Nagy’s Precipitated Spirit Paintings (Galde Press, 2006), which includes reproductions of many precipitated portraits by the Bangs sisters and Campbell brothers. Nagy also discusses interesting findings regarding images found within the eyes on some paintings.



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