Charles Williams,

 Medium Charles Williams


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 Charles Williams Medium

British materialization Medium, claiming the Spirit Control John King, who worked from 1871 on in partnership with fellow Medium Frank Herne. They gave public seances at 61 Lamb's Conduit St., in west central London. The first was held under the patronage of the Medium Agnes Guppy-Volckman. [Mrs Guppy] The famous transportation of Guppy-Volckman occurred at one of these seances.

Williams often sat with W. Stainton Moses, but the results were always very meager. Moses was in doubt about the authenticity of Williams mediumship and asked his controls for information. They were reluctant to give it. Catherine Berry's book Experiences in Spiritualism (1876) and A. Smedley's Some Reminiscences (1900) contained enthusiastic accounts, but fraud was often suspected and, in at least one case, glaringly proved.

In Paris, at a seance on May 14, 1874, an attempt was made to seize "John King." He eluded capture and left a piece of drapery behind, the further history of which is not known. The Medium was found in his seat. The search of his person revealed nothing suspicious.

In 1878, the research committee of the British National Association of Spiritualists constructed a cabinet with an automatic recording apparatus. An observer sat in another cabinet with a lighted lamp. In one sitting with Williams, a Spirit Form appeared, sometimes ten or twelve feet from the cabinet. These appearances corresponded with fluctuations recorded by the self-registering apparatus. The maximum loss of weight amounted to 100 pounds. There was no weight in the cabinet that could have been fixed on the weighing platform. Frank Podmore suggested that the Medium need only have fastened the suspended cabinet to the floor by a gimlet or a piece of string, but that seemed insufficient to explain fully the extreme variations in weight.

However, a few months after this experiment, in a Spiritualist Circle in Amsterdam, Williams and his fellow Medium A. Rita were exposed. Charlie, a Materialized Spirit, was seized and found to be Rita. Many handkerchiefs, a bottle of phosphorized oil, several yards of very dirty white muslin, a false black beard with brown silk ribbon, and other paraphernalia were found on the persons of the two Mediums. Please remember that the Mediums were in the main searched and insisted on it BUT the sitters were not.

The exposure did not stop a subsequent visit to Russia, where Professor Boutlerof and Alexander Aksakof (a strong believer in Spiritualist phenomena) had what they considered convincing experiences. In a note to Boutlerof's account of the visit in Psychische Studien, Aksakof added: I can testify to having received the confirmation of the appearance of John King from Mr. Crookes in his own house, Mrs. Crookes' hand being on William's shoulder while he was in trance behind the curtain; also that in the house of Mrs. MacDougall Gregory, the curtain behind which Williams was placed was in a niche almost hermetically sealed; and that John King appeared above the table, round which the company were assembled in front of the curtain.

with slight additions from


Samual Guppy (left) & the Medium Charles Williams and a spirit, c. 1892,

Carte-de-visite in album page,

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

Photography Fund: Farrell Family Foundation Donation

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