Florence Cook, Mrs Elgie Corner

 Florence Cook   England.  UK


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Florence Cook Or Mrs Elgie Corner

1856- 19??

From the book There Is No Death written by Florence Marryat

Author of There Is No Death

Florence Marryat


In writing of my own mediumship, or the mediumship of any other person, I wish it particularly to be understood that I do not intend my narrative to be, by any means, an account of all seances held under that control (for were I to include everything that I have seen and heard during my researches into Spiritualism, this volume would swell to unconscionable dimensions), but only of certain events which I believe to be remarkable, and not enjoyed by every one in like measure. Most people have read of the ordinary phenomena that take place at such meetings. My readers, therefore, will find no description here of marvels which-whether true or false-can be accounted for upon natural grounds. Miss Florence Cook, now Mrs. Elgie Comer, is one of the media who have been most talked of and written about. Mr. Alfred Crookes took an immense interest in her, and published a long account of his investigation of Spiritualism under her mediumship. Mr. Henry Dunphy, of the Morning Post, wrote a series of papers for London Society (of which magazine I was then the editor), describing her powers, and the proof she gave of them.

The first time I ever met Florence Cook was in his private house, when my little daughter appeared through her (vide "The Story of my Spirit Child"). On that occasion, as we were sitting at supper after the seances---a party of perhaps thirty people---the whole dinner table, with everything upon it, rose bodily in the air to a level with our knees, and the dishes and glasses swayed about in a perilous manner, without, however, coming to any permanent harm. I was so much astonished at, and interested by, what I saw that evening, that I became most anxious to make the personal acquaintance of Miss Cook. She was the Medium for the celebrated spirit, "Katie King," of whom so much has been believed and disbelieved, and the seances she gave at her parents" house in Hackney for the purpose of seeing this figure alone used to be crowded by the cleverest and most scientific men of the day, Sergeants Cox and Ballantyne, Mr. S. C. Hall, Mr. Alfred Crookes, and many others, being on terms of the greatest intimacy with her. Mr. William Harrison, of the Spiritualist paper, was the one to procure me an introduction to the family and an entrance to the seances, for which I shall always feel grateful to him.

For the benefit of the initiated, let me begin by telling who "Katie King" was supposed to be. Her account of herself was that her name was "Annie Owens Morgan" ; that she was the daughter of Sir Henry Morgan, a famous buccaneer who lived about the time of the Commonwealth, and suffered death upon the high seas, being, in fact, a pirate; that she herself was about twelve years old when Charles the First was beheaded; that she married and had two little children; that she committed more crimes than we should like to hear of, having murdered men with her own hands, but yet died quite young, at about two or three and twenty. To all questions concerning the reason of her reappearance on earth, she returned but one answer, that it was part of the work given her to do to convince the world of the truth of Spiritualism. This was the information I received from her own lips.

She had appeared to the Cooks some years before I saw her, and had become so much one of the family as to walk about the house at all times without alarming the inmates. She often materialized and got into bed with her medium at night, much to Florrie's annoyance; and after Miss Cook's marriage to Captain Comer, he told me himself that he used to feel at first as if he had married two women, and was not quite sure which was his wife of the two. The order of these seances was always the same. Miss Cook retired to a back room, divided from the audience by a thin damask curtain, and presently the form of "Katie King" would appear dressed in white, and walk out amongst the sitters in gaslight, and talk like one of themselves. Florence Cook (as I mentioned before) is a very small, slight brunette, with dark eyes and dark curly hair and a delicate aquiline nose. Sometimes Katie resembled her exactly; at others, she was totally different. Sometimes, too, she measured the same height as her medium; at others, she was much taller. I have a large photograph of Katie taken under limelight. In it she appears as the double of Florrie Cook, yet Florrie was looking on whilst the picture was taken.

I have sat for her several times with Mr. Crookes, and seen the tests applied which are mentioned in his book on the subject. I have seen Florrie's dark curls nailed down to the floor, outside the curtain, in view of the audience, whilst Katie walked about and talked with us. I have seen Florrie placed on the scale of a weighing machine constructed by Mr. Crookes for the purpose, behind the curtain, whilst the balance remained in sight. I have seen under these circumstances that the Medium weighed eight stone in a normal condition, and that as soon as the materialized form was fully developed, the balance ran up to four stone. Moreover, I have seen both Florrie and Katie together on several occasions, so I can have no doubt on the subject that they were two separate creatures. Still, I can quite understand how difficult it must have been for strangers to compare the strong likeness that existed between the Medium and the spirit, without suspecting they were one and the same person.

One evening Katie walked out and perched herself upon my knee. I could feel she was a much plumper and heavier woman than Miss Cook, but she wonderfully resembled her in features, and I told her so. Katie did not seem to consider it a compliment. She shrugged her shoulders, made a grimace, and said, "I know I am; I can't help it, but I was much prettier than that in earth life. You shall see, some day-you shall see." After she had finally retired that evening, she put her head out at the curtain again and said, with the strong lisp she always had, "I want Mrs. Ross-Church." I rose and went to her, when she pulled me inside the curtain, when I found it was so thin that the gas shining through it from the outer room made everything in the inner quite visible. Katie pulled my dress impatiently and said, "Sit down on the ground," which I did. She then seated herself in my lap, saying, "And now, dear, we'll have a good confab like women do on earth." Florence Cook, meanwhile, was lying on a mattress on the ground close to us, wrapped in a deep trance. Katie seemed very anxious I should ascertain beyond doubt that it was Florrie. "Touch her, she said, " take her hand, pull her curls. Do you see that it is Florrie lying there?" When I assured her I was quite satisfied there was no doubt of it, the spirit said, "Then look round this way, and see what I was like in earth life." I turned to the form in my arms, and what was my amazement to see a woman fair as the day, with large grey or blue eyes, a white skin, and a profusion of golden red hair. Katie enjoyed my surprise, and asked me, "Ain't I prettier than Florrie now?"

She then rose and procured a pair of scissors from the table, and cut off a lock of her own hair and a lock of the Medium's, and gave them to me. I have them safe to this day. One is almost black, soft and silky; the other a coarse golden red. After she had made me this present, Katie said, "Go back now, but don't tell the others tonight, or they'll all want to see me."

On another very warm evening she sat on my lap amongst the audience, and I felt perspiration on her arm. This surprised me; and I asked her if, for the time being, she had the veins, nerves, and secretions of a human being; if blood ran through her body, and she had a heart and lungs. Her answer was, "I have everything that Florrie has." On that occasion also she called me after her into the back room, and dropping her white garment, stood perfectly naked before me. "Now," she said, you can see that I am a woman." Which indeed she was, and a most beautifully-made woman too; and I examined her well, whilst Miss Cook lay beside us on the floor. Instead of dismissing me this time, Katie told me to sit down by the Medium, and, having brought me a candle and matches, said I was to strike a light as soon as she gave three knocks, as Florrie would be hysterical on awaking, and need my assistance. She then knelt down and kissed me, and I saw she was still naked. "Where is your dress, Katie?" I asked. "Oh, that's gone," she said; "I've sent it on before me." As she spoke thus, kneeling beside me, she rapped three times on the floor. I struck the match almost simultaneously with the signal; but as it flared up, Katie King was gone like a flash of lightning, and Miss Cook, as she had predicted, awoke with a burst of frightened tears, and had to be soothed into tranquility again.

On another occasion Katie King was asked at the beginning of the seance, by one of the company, to say why she could not appear in the light of more than one gas-burner. The question seemed to irritate her, and she replied, "I have told you all, several times before, that I can't stay under a searching light. I don't know why; but I can't, and if you want to prove the truth of what I say, turn up all the gas and see what will happen to me. Only remember, if you do there will be no seance tonight, because I shan't be able to come back again, and you must take your choice." Upon this assertion it was put to the vote if the trial should be made or not, and all present (Mr. S. C. Hall was one of the party) decided we would prefer to witness the effect of a full glare of gas upon the materialized form than to have the usual sitting, as it would settle the vexed question of the necessity of gloom (if not darkness) for a materializing sťance for ever. We accordingly told Katie of our choice, and she consented to stand the test, though she said afterwards we had put her to much pain.

She took up her station against the drawing-room wall, with her arms extended as if she were crucified. Then the gas-burners were turned on to their full extent in a room about sixteen feet square. The effect upon Katie King was marvelous. She looked like herself for the space of a second only, then she began gradually to melt away. I can compare the dematerialization of her form to nothing but a wax doll melting before a hot fire. First, the features became blurred and indistinct; they seemed to run into each other. The eyes sunk in the sockets, the nose disappeared, the frontal bone fell in. Next the limbs appeared to give way under her, and she sank lower and lower on the carpet like a crumbling edifice. At last there was nothing but her head left above the ground-then a heap of white drapery only, which disappeared with a whisk, as if a hand had pulled it after her- and we were left staring by the light of three gas-burners at the spot on which Katie King had stood.

She was always attired in white drapery, but it varied in quality. Sometimes it looked like long cloth; at others like mull muslin or jaconet; oftenest it was a species of thick cotton net. The sitters were much given to asking Katie for a piece of her dress to keep as a souvenir of their visit, and when they received it, would seal it up carefully in an envelope and convey it home; and were much surprised on examining their treasure to find it had totally disappeared. Katie used to say that nothing material about her could be made to last without taking away some of the medium's vitality, and weakening her in consequence. One evening, when she was cutting off pieces of her dress rather lavishly, I remarked that it would require a great deal of mending. She answered, "I'll show you how we mend dresses in the Spirit World." She then doubled up the front breadth of her garment a dozen times, and cut two or three round holes in it. I am sure when she let it fall again there must have been thirty of forty holes, and Katie said, "Isn't that a nice colander?" She then commenced, whilst we stood close to her, to shake her skirt gently about, and in a minute it was as perfect as before, without a hole to be seen. When we expressed our astonishment, she told me to take the scissors and cut off her hair. She had a profusion of ringlets falling to her waist that night. I obeyed religiously, hacking the hair wherever I could, whilst she kept on saying, "Cut more! cut more! not for yourself, you know, because you can't take it away." So I cut off curl after curl, and as fast as they fell to the ground, the hair grew again upon her head. When I had finished, Katie asked me to examine her hair, to see if I could detect any place where I had used the scissors, and I did so without any effect. Neither was the severed hair to be found. It had vanished out of sight.

Katie was photographed many times, by limelight, by Mr. Alfred Crookes, but her portraits are all too much like her medium to be of any value in establishing her claim to a separate identity. She had always stated she should not appear on this earth after the month of May, 1874; and accordingly, on the 21st, she assembled her friends to say "Good-bye" to them, and I was one of the number. Katie had asked Miss Cook to provide her with a large basket of flowers and ribbons, and she sat on the floor and made up a bouquet for each of her friends to keep in remembrance of her. Mine, which consists of lilies of the valley and pink geranium, looks almost as fresh to-day, nearly seventeen years after, as it did when she gave it to me. It was accompanied by the following words, which Katie wrote on a sheet of paper in my presence:

"From Annie Owen de Morgan (alias 'Katie') to her friend Florence Marryat Ross-Church.
With love. Pensez a Moi. "May 21st 1874."

The farewell scene was as pathetic as if we had been parting with a dear companion by death. Katie herself did not seem to know how to go. She returned again and again to have a last look, especially at Mr. Alfred Crookes, who was as attached to her as she was to him. Her prediction has been fulfilled, and from that day, Florence Cook never saw her again nor heard anything about her.

Her place was shortly filled by another influence, who called herself "Marie" and who danced and sung in a truly professional style, and certainly as Miss Cook never either danced or sung. I should not have mentioned the appearance of this Spirit, whom I only saw once or twice, excepting for the following reason. On one occasion Miss Cook (then Mrs. Comer) was giving a public seance at the rooms of the National British Association of Spiritualists, at which a certain Sir George Sitwell, a very young man, was present, and at which he declared that the medium cheated, and that the Spirit "Marie" was herself, dressed up to deceive the audience. Letters appeared in the newspapers about it, and the whole press came down upon Spiritualists, and declared them all to be either knaves or fools. These notices were published on the morning of a day on which Miss Cook was engaged to give another public seance, at which I was present. She was naturally very much cut up about them. Her reputation was at stake; her honour had been called into question, and being a proud girl, she resented it bitterly. Her present audience was chiefly composed of friends; but, before commencing, she put it to us whether, whilst under such a stigma, she had better not sit at all. We, who had all tested her and believed in her, were unanimous in repudiating the vile charges brought against her, and in begging the seance should proceed. Florrie refused, however, to sit unless some one remained in the cabinet with her, and she chose me for the purpose. I was therefore tied to her securely with a stout rope, and we remained thus fastened together for the whole of the evening. Under which conditions "Marie" appeared and sung and danced outside the cabinet, just as she had done to Sir George Sitwell whilst her Medium remained tied to me. So much for men who decide a matter before they have sifted it to the bottom.

Mrs. Elgie Comer has long since given up mediumship either private or public, and lives deep down in the heart of Wales, where the babble and scandal of the city affect her no longer. But she told me, only last year, that she would not pass through the suffering she had endured on account of Spiritualism again for all the good this world could give her.

Florence Cook in trance had slipped off the chair onto the floor while the Spirit World produced through her the formation of ectoplasm which eventually became the full materialisation of Katie King.

William Crookes in a Florence Cook seance showing the Spirit form of Katie King in front of him.

Katie King Guide of Florence Cook. There are many such photographs of Katie in many publications. There were some doubts as to whether this was Florence Cook herself. No matter, I have placed them on here because there were many scientific testers who testified to the authenticity of the formation of the Spirit Katie King.


Katie King again just on the edge of the outside of the Circle of sitters.



Florence Cook (1856-1904) is best remembered as the Medium who was able to produce the full materialization of her controls, the first of these being Katie King. Following the widespread attention that she attracted, becoming a household name within nineteenth century Spiritualism, she continued her remarkable physical mediumship into the current century. Although she married in 1874, becoming Mrs Corner, it is the name of Florence Cook that has continued to be associated with some of the most remarkable physical mediumship witnessed in this country.

It was after her fourteenth birthday, that the Cook household noticed that Florence began to fall into trance states. One record of how Florence developed her mediumship is that she began experiments with her friend and her family, and it was at this time that her talents became evident. She was advised by spirit communicators of her future skills and directed to the Spiritualist Association at Dalston, in East London, and participated in their activities.
With support and encouragement from the circle that she joined, Florence's mediumship continued to develop; her abilities came to public notice with mention of her mediumship in the
Spiritualist in 1871. She worked with other physical Mediums, and further development occurred with her becoming acquainted with her own control, Katie King, the daughter of John King and his wife (also called Katie). Under Katie's direction, Florence, still a young girl, began to use a cabinet in her mediumistic work; initially, there were materializations, but only in a basic form, and attempts were made to assist the next- world visitors to manifest themselves entirely.

When only fifteen years of age, Florence lost her employment as a teacher due to poltergeist-type phenomena that occurred when she was present at the school, and consequently, she was able to fully devote herself to her development.
In this period, when physical mediumship was not so rare as the present time, there was a definite pressure on novice mediums to develop. Two other young physical mediums, e.g. Kate Cook (Florence's sister) and Mary Showers, were coming to prominence and attracting attention; Florence therefore continued to develop her mediumship to facilitate full materializations. This occurred in 1873 when the materialization of Katie King joined the Circle: a momentous event indeed, as, 'she represented for confirmed Spiritualists the final empirical evidence for the reality of Spirit life and the existence of an unseen world'.
(1) Florence had agreed that a reporter from the Daily Telegraph be present during her seances; on the first occasion, he saw faces, and the following year he witnessed the materialization of Katie King and took photographs of her. In view of the the precautions taken, i.e., Florence bound with seals, 'he was baffled'.(2) The reports by the journalist appeared in the Daily Telegraph of 10 October 1872 and 12 August 1873.

The success of Florence's abilities led to various prominent persons attending her seances and the inevitable patronage. In 1872, she had begun to receive financial support from the businessman and Spiritualist, Charles Blackburn, that ensured she would be able to develop her mediumship. Podmore remarked on how she 'took no money from her seances', and through Blackburn, she was 'free to give her services when required'.(3)
In December 1873, Volckmann (who later married the medium, Mrs Guppy, who was extremely jealous of Florence's success), was present at a seance and attempted to seize Katie King. Two other sitters took hold of him (in the course of which, he lost part of his beard) and prevented any serious damage occurring. Dunphy, a barrister and writer, witnessed the event and said that Katie partly dematerialized during the escapade. On examining Florence, she was still secure with tape and a seal, as at the beginning of the seance.
As reported in the
Daily Telegraph, 13 January 1880, Sitwell, one of the sitters at a seance at the BNAS, seized the materialization and found Florence to be missing from the cabinet, and declared her to be a fraud. It was admitted by one of the sitters who had the responsibility of securing Florence that it had been deliberately arranged that the Medium could free herself. Supporters of Florence argued this was a case of unconscious fraud, as claimed with Eusapia Palladino in following years, while in a trance-state; there was also of course a state of confusion after Sitwell's action. However the incident is interpreted, it is interesting to note that in his book, Lights and Shadows of Spiritualism (1877), D. D. Home, who was highly critical of other Mediums and described fraudulent behaviour in the book, referred to the materializations produced by Florence as providing 'undeniable certainty of the phenomenon'.

Florence encouraged a happy and lively atmosphere at her seances, believing that it assisted the phenomena. Undoubtedly, Katie King promoted this as she 'was known for her fun-loving attitude and a certain amount of roguishness was accepted with good grace'.(4) After Crookes became involved in Florence's mediumship in 1872, he wrote in the Spiritualist (April 1874) of a recent seance, and related how, 'Katie never appeared to greater perfection, and for nearly two hours she walked about the room, conversing familiarly with those present'. Unfortunately, Katie's forwardness and Crookes's fondness for her created problems that has soured his involvement ever since: Crookes's response to Katie 'caused offence amongst some spiritualist observers who were apparently unimpressed by Crookes' standard of morality and scientific impartiality'.(5)
There were accusations about Crookes allowing fraud to be committed by Florence due to the relationship with her, but Beloff, while recognizing the difficulties that are present, offers a number of decisive reasons for rejecting the accusations made.

Something needs to be said about Crookes's involvement with Florence's mediumship as the accusations made against him may be viewed as invalidating at least some of Florence's mediumship. Firstly, Crookes brought about much of the criticism that was directed towards him, e.g. he unwisely quoted from Don Juan to describe Katie's 'perfect beauty'.
Additionally, he was less than consistent in his attitude: he was initially prompted to enquire into Spiritualism after the death of his brother in 1867. By 1870, he apparently accepted that the dead could communicate, and his biography stated that at this point, he was a 'convinced spiritualist',
(7) and certain events support this view. However, he chose not to openly display this belief, and offered a clinical view of the subject, referring to some aspects of Spiritualism as 'worthless' that should be categorized as 'the limbo of magic and necromancy'; he further argued that it was 'a subject which, perhaps, more than any other lends itself to trickery and deception'.(8) By 1874, he wrote that he had been unable to obtain proof that the dead were able to communicate, and believed that spirit communications might originate from non-human agencies rather than the dead,(9) a view that surely arose from his interest in the Theosophical Society, of which he was a member for over thirty years.

When he spoke at the SPR on 2 November 1895, he stated that all the mediums that he had seen, 'with hardly any exception [the exception being D. D. Home]...resorted to trickery'. Later, with age, and certainly after 1916, with the death of his wife, he not only returned to his earlier stance, but went further, e.g. accepting spirit photography of his wife that was felt by others to have been produced by fraud. While persons are of course fully entitled to be sceptical or develop their thinking, Crookes's change of opinion that went more than full circle, and was primarily effected through his own personal circumstances, hardly inspires much confidence in his conclusions. This is apart from the fact that he 'left no records of his seances...that would satisfy a skeptic's thirst for precise data', and he was 'accustomed...to have [his] word believed without witnesses' and took exception to persons challenging his record of events.(10) In sum, his contribution to the mediumship of Florence Cook is problematic, and it is unfortunate that it was he rather than another researcher who investigated her.
Fortunately, despite the customary image presented, the mediumship of Florence Cook was certainly not dependent upon the testimony of Crookes, and her talent, as Spiritualism itself, is more than capable of standing on its feet without having to gain endorsement from elsewhere. The accusations made concerning Crookes is not a major concern as Florence's mediumship was witnessed by many others who made the quality of this more than evident.

An example of the many testimonies given concerning Florence Cook's mediumship is that of Aksakoff, a Russian aristocrat; he reported how, when attending a seance, the Medium was bound 'with twined tape and sealed knots', and her hands were brought behind her back and these were also bound. Then, a lengthy piece of tape was fixed to her that was brought outside from where she was sitting: this would indicate any movement by her. After a short period, and light from a lamp being present, they saw 'a human figure standing upright... it was completely clad in white...That was Katie...All the time the sitting lasted Katie chattered away with the sitters'. Katie asked whether there were any questions and Aksakoff asked to see Florence; Katie invited him to where Florence sat and on not being able to see her adequately was told by Katie to use the lamp. He did so and there was Florence, 'in a deep trance... sitting on a chair, with both her hands bound fast behind her back'.(11)

Such occasions were important as the common challenge was that Katie King and Florence Cook were in fact the same person, as they were very similar in appearance. Apart from Crookes seeing both women at the same time during a seance on 29 March 1874, Katie was taller than Florence, her ears were not pierced as Florence's, her face was larger, her hair was of a different colour, together with other physical differences. In addition to these disparities, Florence wore black during seances, but Katie was always clad in white apparel. Furthermore, at one seance, Florence was suffering from a blister on her neck, but when Katie materialized, no blister was present on her. There was also the occasion when Katie had dye placed on her hands, but none was found on Florence.
In addition to the photographs taken of Katie by the
Daily Telegraph reporter, Crookes took forty-four himself. When Florence Marryat detailed her experiences, she related how, through the complexities of materialization, that Katie sometimes resembled Florence, while at other times 'she was totally different' She added that she possessed a photograph of Katie taken while Florence looked on. She had also seen Florence's 'dark curls nailed down to the floor, outside the curtain, in view of the audience, whilst "Katie" walked about and talked with us'.(12)

In March 1874, Varley, a Fellow of the Royal Society, conducted a test where platinum wires were fastened to Florence with a low electric current running through her body and making her part of an electrical circuit. Varley demonstrated how even a movement of her hands would register on the galvanometer through which the current passed. After Florence fell into trance, Katie materialized (with no wires attached), moved around the seance room and spoke to the sitters. Varley testified that 'the current was not interrupted an instant during the whole seance', and when Florence became conscious, he found the wires 'were exactly as I had left them them'.(13)

It is claimed that Katie has materialized in other locations since the time of Florence's mediumship, e.g. Philadelphia, Winnipeg and Rome. In the case of the latter (in July 1974), a series of remarkable photographs were taken of the event that lasted a full thirty minutes. In this, Katie greeted the twenty- three sitters present, and after embracing the Medium, dematerialized leaving gladioli and rose petals behind. Interestingly, when Katie made her last appearance with Florence Cook as the medium, she left a flower with each sitter.
After Katie King departed in 1874, Leila became Florence's control; in 1875, Mrs Crookes wrote to Florence saying that 'most of the seances have necessarily been held here, but Leila has also appeared at three other houses...on several occasions we have all seen you and Leila at the same time'. Mrs Crookes also referred to physical differences between Leila and Florence in this letter.
(14) Other materializations occurred through Florence's mediumship: in an undated letter to Blackburn, Florence told him how 'A full form appeared in less than 5 minutes...The spirit was neither Katie nor Leila.'(15)

After the period of Leila as control and a period of inactivity by Florence, a French girl calling herself Marie took on this role; she remained Florence's control for much of the period until shortly before Florence's death. A photograph was taken of her at a seance in about 1902, and appeared in Psychic Science (January 1927); one of the sitters made the important observation that those present 'saw the form of the tall slim young woman that appears in the picture; Mrs Corner [Florence Cook] being short, rather stout, and of darker complexion'.
As Medhurst and Goldney note: '"Marie" and other "spirit forms", would emerge, sometimes singly and sometimes together. Most of the reports stress that "Marie", normally bare-footed, was a number of inches taller than Florence, this being stated by several authors to have ascertained by direct measurement'. Although the writers refer to the difficulty in determining the accuracy of such reports, they agree there are a number that 'give a fair amount of detail'.

Florence's ability as a medium was still very much present in her later life as can be seen by events in 1900 when the sitters declared: 'We, the undersigned, testify...we saw Mrs Corner and her control, "Marie", at the same time'. Before this seance, Florence dressed in the garments provided and 'was not left a moment alone. She was most securely bound to her chair, which was fastened to an iron ring in the floor and each hand was tied to an arm of the chair...everything was found intact afterwards'.(17)
In addition to materializations, Florence's mediumship also facilitated direct writing. This was reported to have occurred on tables some considerable distance from her, and written communications from persons who had been known to the sitters were provided.

Through Florence's mediumship, communicators other than the control could speak to the sitters. Although there was a dearth of sitters from the SPR (Society for Psychical Research), on an occasion in May 1903 when one was present, Miss Dallas, 'a respected figure in the Society', she recorded that a figure in white emerged after Florence, dressed in black, had been secured to her chair. This was followed by a noise from the cabinet, the unrefined voice of a man who spoke affectionately about Florence, saying that she had helped him grasp the reality of the next life.
Until only months before her death in South London in 1904, Florence was continuing to demonstrate her mediumship. The final words may be those of the communicator referred to above. Miss Dallas also detailed how after he had spoken of the assistance received from Florence, he reminded the sitters of the reality that he had now discovered through her patient help: he did this in one succinct statement: 'You are never dead'.

(1)A. Owen, The Darkened Room (London: Virago, 1989), p.48.
(2)B. Inglis, Natural and Supernatural (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1977), p.267.
(3)F. Podmore, Modern Spiritualism (London: Methuen, 1902), p.97.
(4)Owen, Op. Cit., p.228.
(5)Owen, Op. Cit., pp.229,230.
(6)J. Beloff, Parapsychology: A Concise History (London: Athlone Press, 1993), pp.53-55.
(7)F. d'Albe, Life of Crookes, (London: Fisher, Unwin, 1923), pp.181,190,215.
(8)W. Crookes, 'Spiritualism Viewed by the Light of Modern Science', Quarterly Journal of Science, July 1870.
(9)The letter was reproduced in Light, May 12, 1900.
(10)J. Oppenheim, The Other World (Cambridge: CUP, 1985), p.342. Gauld also refers to an instance where Crookes's account 'is so sketchy that one can hardly form any proper opinion as to what was going on' (A. Gauld, The Founders of Psychical Research (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968), p.81). Salter also remarks on Crookes's lack of care saying that in the early stages, Crookes showed 'a complete disregard of commonsense precautions against fraud' Zoar (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1961), p.65). An example of Crookes's carelessness is demonstrated by the contradictory content of a report concerning a seance on 25 November 1871 in his Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism (London: Burns, 1874), and later in PSPR, XV (1889), pp.121-124.
(11)Cit., G. Zorab, 'Foreign Comments on Florence Cook's Mediumship', PSPR, 54 (1964), pp.174,175.
(12)F. Marryat, There is No Death (London: Psychic Book Club, 1917, p.143.
(13)Spiritualist, 20 March 1874.
(14)Cit., R. G. Medhurst and K. M. Goldney, 'William Crookes and the Physical Phenomena of Mediumship', PSPR, 54 (1964), p.69.
(15)Cit., Medhurst and Goldney, Ibid., p.71.
(16)Medhurst and Goldney, Op. Cit., pp.82,83.
(17)Cit., Medhurst and Goldney, Op. Cit., pp.84-85.
(18)Light, 14 October 1916.


From the book "The Proof Palpable of Immortality"   Epes Sargent

The Development of Florence Cook and Katie King

From these abstruse though not irrelevant considerations, the course of our narrative leads us back to Miss Cook. She had begun to exhibit medial powers as early as 1870. In a letter to Mr. Harrison, dated May, 1872, she writes: "I am sixteen years of age. From my childhood I could see spirits and hear voices, and was addicted to sitting by myself talking to what I declared to be living people. As no one else could see or hear anything, my parents tried to make me believe it was all imagination, but I would not alter my  belief, so was looked upon as a very eccentric child. In the spring of 1870 I was invited to the house of a school-friend, whose name I am not at liberty to mention. She asked me if I had ever heard of Spirit rapping, adding that her father, mother and self had sat at a table, and got movements, and that if I liked, they would try that evening."

Miss Cook, though at first somewhat "horrified" at the idea, got her mother's consent and sat with her friends. She soon found that the raps followed her. A message was given to her from what purported to be the spirit of her aunt; and then, she being left by herself at the table, it rose four feet. Miss Cook continues:

"I went home astonished. Mamma and I went a few days after. We had some excellent tests of Spirit identity given us; still we did not believe in Spirits.* At last it was spelt out that if we would sit in the dark I should be carried round the room. I laughed, not thinking it would be done, and put out the light. The room was not perfectly dark, a light came in from the window. Soon I felt my chair taken from me. I was lifted up until I touched the ceiling. All in the room could see me. I felt too startled at my novel position to scream, and was carried over the heads of the sitters, and put gently on to a table at the other end of the room. Alamna asked if we could get manifestations at our own home. The table answered, 'Yes,' and that I was a Medium. The next evening we sat at home; a table and two chairs were smashed, and a great deal of mischief done. We said we could never sit again, but we were not left in peace. Books and other articles were thrown at me, chairs walked about in the light, the table tilted violently at meal-times, and great noises were sometimes made at night. At last we sat again; the table behaved better, and a communication was given to the effect that we were to go to 74, Navarino-road, and that there was an association of Spiritualists there. Out of curiosity mamma and I went, and found we had been told quite correctly. Mr. Thomas Blyton came to a sťance at our house; he invited me to a seance at Mr. Wilkes's library, in Dailston-lane. There l met Mr. Harrison. He came to see the manifestations at my home. By this time we were convinced of the truth of spirit communion. About this time I was first entranced; a Spirit spoke through me, telling papa that if I sat with Messrs. Herne and Williams l should get the direct voice. I had several sittings with them, and finally succeeded in getting the direct voice, direct writing, and spirit touches. The presiding spirit of my circles is Katie, John King's daughter."

* Here is a touch of Nature. similar to that which Shakespeare makes manifest in the character of Hamlet. Just after he has seen and conversed with the spirit of' his father, Hamlet talks of "that journey from which no traveler ever returns.'' Just after Miss Cook has told us that she used to see Spirits and hear voices,'' she says, "still we did not believe in Spirits." Perhaps, however, all that she here meant was that she did not believe they were active in this particular instance.

Of the subsequent developments, the sittings with Mr. Herne, and the final appearance of Katie in full form, I have already given an account.

Mr. Henry M. Dunphy relates that on one occasion, at a seance, Katie called for pencil and paper, saying she wanted to write a note. He produced a gold pencil-case with a double movement, one for producing the lead, and the other a pen. When handed to Katie, she unscrewed the little cap at the top, so as to scatter the leads on the carpet; she laughed, screwed on the top again, and then wrote the following message on a sheet of note-paper and threw it out: "I am much pleased that you have all come tonight at my invitation. -- Annie Morgan."

On another occasion Mr. Dunphy inquired whether Katie would put on a heavy gold ring which he took off his finger and offered to her. This she immediately took out of his hand and placed on her own wedding finger, saying naively, "We are now engaged." On his subsequently reaching with his hand to receive the ring, Katie allowed him to touch hers, and afterwards told him to touch her lips, which he did with his hands, and she imprinted on them a kiss.

At another sitting, a passing remark having been made about lawyers, Katie asked whether her hearers knew what the Irish usher said when he was ordered to clear the court. "No," was the reply. "Well, then," said she, "he shouted, 'Now, then, all you blackguards who are not lawyers, leave the court.'

"Trivial and unspiritual as some of these acts and expressions may seem, I quote them as having a bearing on the question of the intellectual calibre of these materialized Spirits. Miss Emily Kislingbury, who has given considerable study to Miss Cook's mediumship, in a description of a seance at which she was present, Feb. 22d, 1873, remarks: "When Katie herself came and showed a fair-complexioned, large, massive face, and mouth set with brilliantly white teeth, I failed to see in it any resemblance to her Medium; and my mother, who saw Katie for the first time, expressed her surprise that a comparison should ever have been made between them. I have, however, under more strict test conditions, seen in the Spirit face a very striking resemblance to Miss Cook.. "

A slow tune was played with great expression inside the cabinet.... Katie asked me, to my astonishment, to sing the song beginning 'Du bist die Ruh', der Friede mild,' and she would follow me. 'But,' said I, 'Katie, you cannot sing the German words.'' 'Oh, can't I?' she said. 'My Medium can't, but I am not so stupid; you try me.' I sang the song through, and the same clear, bell-like voice again followed mine, pronouncing the German perfectly.

"In the spring of 1873 a series of sittings was held for the purpose of getting a photographic likeness of Katie. The photographing was done by Mr. Harrison whose close and intelligent study of this remarkable case of materialization seems to have aided largely in the right development of Miss Cook's extraordinary powers. On the 7th of May a successful sitting was had, and no less than four photographs were taken. It is from one of the best of these that the engraving, which forms the frontispiece of this volume, was copied.

"In the photograph itself," says Mr. Harrison, "the features are more detailed and beautiful, and there is an expression of dignity and ethereality in the face which is not fully represented in the engraving, which, however, has been executed as nearly as possible with scientific accuracy, by an artist of great professional skill."

In a statement signed by Amelia Corner, Caroline Corner, J. C. Luxmoore, G. R. Tapp, and V. H. Harrison, we have a clear and interesting account, which I here slightly abridge, of the process of getting a photograph of Katie by the magnesium light:

"The cabinet doors were placed open, and shawls hung across. The seance commenced at six P. M., and lasted about two hours, with an interval of half an hour. The Medium was entranced almost directly when she was placed in the cabinet, and in a few minutes Katie stepped out into the room. The sitters, in addition to the undersigned, were Mrs. Cook and her two children, whose delight at Katie's familiarity with them was most amusing.

"Katie was dressed in pure white, except that her robe was cut low with short sleeves, allowing her beautiful neck and arms to be seen. Her head dress was occasionally pulled back so as to allow her hair, which was brown, to be visible. Her eyes were large and bright, of a dark blue or gray color. Her countenance was animated and lifelike, her cheeks and lips ruddy and clear. "

Our expressions of pleasure at seeing her thus before us seemed to encourage her to redouble her efforts to give a good sťance. By the light of a candle and a small lamp, during the intervals of photography, she stood or moved about, and chatted to us all, keeping up a lively conversation, in which she criticized the sitters, and the literary photographer and his arrangements very freely. By degrees she walked away from the cabinet, and came boldly out into the room.

"Katie usually leaned on the shoulder of Mr. Luxmoore, and stood up to be focussed several times, on one occasion holding the lamp to illuminate her face. Once she looked at the sitters through Mr. Luxmoore's eye-glass. She patted his head, and pulled his hair, and allowed him and Mrs. Corner to pass their hands over her dress, in order that they might satisfy themselves that she wore only one robe.

"As one of the plates was taken out of the room for development, she ran a few feet out of the cabinet after Mr. Harrison, saying she wished to see it; and on his return it was shown to her, he standing close to her and touching her at the time, While he was absent she walked up to the camera and inspected that 'queer machine,' as she called it.

"Just before one of the plates was taken, as Katie was reposing herself outside the cabinet, a long, sturdy, masculine right arm, bare to the shoulder, and moving its fingers, was thrust out of the opening at the top of the cabinet. Katie turned round and upbraided the intruder, saying that it was a shame for another Spirit to interpose while she stood for her likeness, and she bade him 'get out.'

"Toward the close of the seance Katie said that her power was going, and that she was 'really melting away this time.' The power being weak, the admission of light into the cabinet seemed gradually to destroy the lower part of her figure, and she sank down until her neck touched the floor, the rest of her body having apparently vanished, her last words being that we must sing, and sit still for a few minutes, 'for it was a sad thing to have no legs to stand upon.' This was done, and Katie soon came out again, entire as at first, and one more photograph was successfully taken. Katie then shook hands with Mr. Luxmoore, went inside her cabinet, and rapped for us to take the medium out.

"The seance had been given under strict test conditions. The only stipulation Katie made throughout was, that the sitters would not stare fixedly at her whilst she stood for her photograph.

"Before commencing, Mrs. and Miss Corner took the Medium to her bedroom, and, having taken off her clothes and thoroughly searched them, dressed her without a gown, but simply with a cloak of dark gray waterproof cloth over her underclothing, and at once led her to the seance room, where her wrists were tied tightly together with tape. the knots were examined by the sitters respectively, and sealed with a signet ring. She was then seated in the cabinet, which had been previously examined. The tape was passed through a brass bracket in the floor, brought under the shawl, and tied securely to a chair outside the cabinet, so that the slightest movement on the part of the Medium would have been at once detected.

"During the interval of half an hour, Mrs. Corner took charge of the Medium, whilst she was out of the cabinet, and did not lose sight of her for one minute. The tying and sealing were repeated before the second part of the seance, and on each occasion of the Medium leaving the cabinet, the knots and seals and tape were duly examined by all the sitters, and were found intact. the medium was tied and sealed by Mr. Luxmoore, whose signet ring was used." In a separate communication Mr. Luxmoore writes:

 "I carefully examined every part of the cabinet while Miss Cook was being searched by Mrs. and Miss Corner. Nothing could possibly have been concealed there without my discovering it. I should also mention, that soon after one of the photographs had been taken, Katie pulled back the curtain, or rather rug, which hangs in front, and requested us to look at her, when she appeared to have lost all her body. She had a most curious appearance; she seemed to be resting on nothing but her neck, her head being close to the floor. Her white robe was under her."

Phenomena like these, as Dr. Wm. Hitchman aptly remarks, present a question "not to be settled at all by leading articles, but by positive experimental testimony." In this case such testimony has been given in abundance.

Previous to Prof. Crookes's taking the case in hand, Dr. Gully, Mr. Blackburn, Mr. Luxmoore, Mr. W. H. Harrison, and many other competent investigators had, at numerous seances, satisfied themselves fully that Katie and Miss Cook were distinct personalities.

"All who attended these seances," says Dr. Gully, "are aware with what anxious care arrangements were always made by which the smallest movements by the Medium within were rendered detectable by the sitters outside, by means of tapes attached to the Medium's body, and extended along the floor, and held by some one present; and, on one or two occasions, by the extension of the Medium's own dark hair, not to mention the precise tying and sealing of the wrists... These tests have abundantly satisfied me that the form which appears is not Miss Cook, but has a totally separate existence."

Notwithstanding these well-founded convictions there was a natural wish among Spiritualists that assurance should be made doubly sure, and in this wish no one joined more readily than Dr. Gully.

To determine the question whether Miss Cook was lying at rest inside the cabinet while Katie in her flowing robes was outside, Mr. C. F. Varley, F. R. S., the electrician of the Atlantic Cable, noted for his skill in testing broken cables, conceived the idea of passing a weak electrical current through the body of the Medium all the time the manifestations were going on. He did this by means of a galvanic battery and cable-testing apparatus, which was so delicate that any movement whatever, on the part of Miss Cook, would be instantly indicated, while it would be impossible for her to dress and play the part of the Spirit without breaking the circuit and being instantly detected.

Yet under these conditions the Spirit-form did appear as usual, exhibited its arms, spoke, wrote, and touched several persons; and this happened, be it remembered, not in the Medium's own house, but in that of Mr. Luxmoore, at the West end of London. For nearly an hour the circuit was never broken, and at the conclusion Miss Cook was found in a trance. Thus it was clearly proved that Miss Cook was not only in the cabinet, but perfectly quiescent, while Katie was visible and moving about outside.

Similar tests were soon repeated by Mr. Crookes in his own house with equally satisfactory results. Early in March he reported: "As far as the experiments go, they prove conclusively that Miss Cook is inside while Katie is outside the cabinet," and he further testified to Miss Cook's perfect honesty, truthfulness, and willingness to submit to the severest tests that he could approve of.

But the crowning proof was yet to come. On the 12th of March, 1874, during a seance at his own house, Katie came to the curtain, and called him to her, saying, "Come into the room and lift my Medium's head up; she has slipped down." Katie was then standing before him, clothed in her usual white robes and turban head-dress. He walked into the library up to Miss Cook, Katie stepping aside to allow him to pass. He found that Miss Cook had slipped partially off the sofa, and that her head was hanging in a very awkward position. He lifted her on to the sofa, and in so doing had satisfactory evidence, in spite of the darkness, that Miss Cook was not attired in the Katie costume, but had on her ordinary black velvet dress, and was in a deep trance.

On the 29th of March, at a seance at Hackney, Katie told Mr. Crookes that she thought she should be able to show herself and Miss Cook together. Turning the gas out, he entered the room used as a cabinet, bearing a phosphorus lamp. This consisted of a six or eight ounce bottle, containing a little phosphorized oil, and tightly corked.

It being dark, he felt about for Miss Cook. He found her crouching on the floor. Kneeling down, he let air enter the lamp, and by its light saw the young lady, dressed in black velvet, as she had been in the early part of the evening, and to all appearance senseless. She did not move when he took her hand and held the light close to her face, but continued quietly breathing. The remainder of the narrative I give in Mr. Crookes's own words:

"Raising the lamp, I looked around and saw Katie standing close behind Miss Cook. She was robed in flowing white drapery, as we had seen her previously during the seance. Holding one of Miss Cook's hands in mine, and still kneeling, I passed the lamp up and down, so as to illuminate Katie's whole figure, and satisfy myself thoroughly that I was really looking at the veritable Katie, whom I had clasped in my arms a few moments before, and not at the phantasm of a disordered brain. "She did not speak, but moved her head, and smiled in recognition. Three separate times did I carefully examine Miss Cook, crouching before me, to be sure that the hand I held was that of a living woman, and three separate times did I turn the lamp to Katie, and examine her with steadfast scrutiny, until I had no doubt whatever of her objective reality."

Of the points of difference between the two, Mr. Crookes says:

"Katie's height varies; in my house I have seen her six inches taller than Miss Cook. Last night, with bare feet and not tip-toeing, she was four and a half inches taller than Miss Cook. Katie's neck was bare last night; the skin was perfectly smooth, both to touch and sight, whilst on Miss Cook's neck is a large blister, which under similar circumstances is distinctly visible, and rough to the touch. Katie's ears are unpierced, whilst Miss Cook habitually wears ear-rings. Katie's complexion is very fair, while that of Miss Cook is very dark. Katie's fingers are much longer than bliss Cook's, and her face is also larger. In manners and ways of expression there are also many decided differences."

The exceeding whiteness of the drapery with which Katie came clothed was always noticeable; reminding the Scriptural reader of that passage in Mark: "His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can white them." The dress would vary in shape nearly every evening.

The fabric felt material enough. It did not melt away and disappear like the spirit fabrics felt by Mr. Livermore and Dr. Gray in the presence of Kate Fox. Miss Douglas took a specimen of the cloth to Messrs. Howell and James's, London, and asked them to match it; they said that they could not, and that they believed it to be of Chinese manufacture.

Whence came this white drapery? As we proceed in our narrative, it will be seen that Mr. Crookes satisfied himself thoroughly that it could not have been brought into his house and used by the Medium.

Katie had announced, on several occasions, that her materializations through Miss Cook would cease the 21st of May, 1874. At one of her farewell seances, my friend, Mr. Coleman, whom I had some years before introduced to certain phenomena in Boston, was present. He took from his pocket a photograph; Katie received it from his hands, and exclaimed, "This is Dr. Gully and my likeness. What do you want me to do with it?" "Write," said Mr. Coleman, "your name, and any message you have to give me, on the back of it, that I may keep it in remembrance of this evening." Borrowing his pencil she wrote: "Annie Morgan, usually known as Katie King. To her dear friend, Mr. Ben. May 9th, 1874." When it was read aloud some one said, "That is too familiar," and she was reminded that there were others of the same name known to her; upon which she asked for the card to be returned, and wrote: "Mr. Ben is B. Coleman, Esq."

"During the evening," writes Mr. Coleman, "she frequently went behind the curtain to look after her Medium, and once whilst she was there, Mr. Crookes raised the curtain, and he and I, and four others who sat by me, saw, at one and the same time, the figure of Katie, clad in her white dress, bending over the sleeping form of the Medium, whose dress was blue, with a red shawl over her head." This exhibition was then repeated, and Mr. Coleman was fully satisfied that he saw both the living form of Miss Cook, and the materialized Spirit Form of Katie.

The following remarkable incident, which Mr. W. H. Harrison and Mrs. Ross-Church (Florence Marryat) both confirmed in subsequent narratives, indicates the thaumaturgic power that was at work:

"Taking up her skirt in a double fold, Mr. Crookes having lent her his scissors, Katie cut two pieces out of the front part, leaving the holes visible, one about an inch and the other two or three inches in circumference, and then, as if by magic, but without the conjurer's double boxes, or any attempt at concealment, she held that portion of the dress in her closed hand for a minute or two, and showed that the holes had disappeared, and that the dress was again entire. The pieces, a portion of which I have, are apparently strong ordinary white calico." Of the repetition of this marvel at a subsequent seance, Mr. W. H. Harrison writes: "After she had thus cut several great holes in her dress, as she sat between Mr. Crookes and Mr. Tapp, she was asked if she could mend it, as she had done on other occasions; she then held up the dilapidated portion in a good light, gave it one flap, and it was instantly as perfect as at first. Those near the door of the cabinet examined and handled it immediately, with her permission, and testified there was no hole, seam or joint of any kind, where a moment before had been large holes, several inches in diameter.

"Mrs. Ross-Church (Florence Marryat), a daughter of my old acquaintance, Captain Marryat, author of "Peter Simple," &c, was a witness of the same incident, and mentions it in an account of her experiences, which I shall soon quote.

The following is Mr. W. H. Harrison's account of the farewell seance, May 21st, 1874, in London, at which Katie appeared. There were present Mr. Crookes, Mrs. Corner, Mrs. Ross-Church, Mr. W. H. Harrison, Mr. G. R. Tapp, Mr. and Mrs. Cook and family, and the servant Mary:

Mr. Crookes, 7:25 P. M., conducted Miss Cook into the dark room used as a cabinet, where she laid herself down upon the floor, with her head resting on a pillow; at 7:28 Katie first spoke, and at 7:30 came outside the curtain in full form. She was dressed in pure white, with low neck and short sleeves. She had long hair, of a light auburn or golden color, which hung in ringlets down her back, and each side of her head, reaching nearly to her waist. She wore a long white veil, but this was only drawn over her face once or twice during the sťance.

 "The Medium was dressed in a high gown of light blue merino. During nearly the whole of the seance, while Katie was before us, the curtain was drawn back and all could clearly see the sleeping Medium, who did not stir from her original position, but lay quite still, her face being covered with a red shawl to keep light from it. There was a good light during the entire seance.

"Katie talked about her approaching departure, and accepted a bouquet which Mr. Tapp brought her, also some bunches of lilies from Mr. Crookes.

"All the sitters in the circle clustered closely round her. Katie asked Mr. Tapp to take the bouquet to pieces, and lay the flowers out before her on the floor; she then sat down, Eastern fashion, and asked all to draw around her, which was done, most of those present sitting on the floor at her feet. She then divided the flowers into bunches for each, tying them up with blue ribbon. She also wrote parting notes to some of her friends, signed 'Annie Owen Morgan,' which she stated was her real name when in earth-life. She wrote a note for her Medium, and selected a fine rosebud for her as a parting gift.

"Katie then took a pair of scissors and cut off a quantity of her hair, giving everybody present a liberal portion. She then took the arm of Mr. Crookes and walked all round the room, slaking hands with each. She again sat down and distributed some of her hair; and also cut off and presented several pieces of her robe and veil..

"She then appeared tired, and said reluctantly that she must go, as the power was failing, and bade farewell in the most affectionate way. The sitters all wished her God speed, and thanked her for the wonderful manifestations she had given. Looking once more earnestly at her friends she let the curtain fall and she was seen no more. She was heard to wake up the Medium, who tearfully entreated her to stay a little longer, but Katie said, 'My dear, I can't. My work is done. God bless you,' and we heard the sound of her parting kiss. The Medium then came out among us, looking much exhausted and deeply troubled."

Katie said that she should never be able to speak or show her face again; that she had had a weary and sad three years 'life working off her sins' in producing these physical manifestations, and that she was about to rise higher in Spirit-life. At long intervals she might be able to communicate with her Medium by writing, but at any time her Medium might be enabled to see her clairvoyantly by being mesmerized."

Mrs. Ross-Church (Florence Marryat), who had been present at three of Katie's last seances, on the 9th, 13th and 21st of May, 1874, in a letter to the London Spiritualist, wrote as follows:

"I will not recapitulate what so many have told of the appearance of the Spirit 'Katie King,' nor of the means taken to prevent any imposition on the part of her Medium. This has all been repeated again and again, and as often disbelieved. But I fined Serjeant Cox, in his late letter on the subject of Miss Showers's mediumship, saying that could such an end be attained as a simultaneous sight of the apparition outside the curtain and the Medium within, 'the most wonderful fact the world has ever witnessed would be established beyond controversy.' Perhaps Serjeant Cox would consider a sight of both Medium and Spirit in the same room and at the same time as convincing a proof of stern truth. I have seen that sight.

"On the evening of the 9th of May, Katie King led me, at my own request, into the room with her beyond the curtain, which was not so dark but that I could distinguish surrounding objects, and then made me kneel down by Miss Cook's prostrate form, and feel her hands and face and head of curls, whilst she (the Spirit) held (my other hand in hers, and leaned against my shoulder, with one arm around my neck.

"I have not the slightest doubt that upon that occasion there were present with me two living, breathing intelligences, perfectly distinct from each other, so far at least as their bodies were concerned. If my senses deceived me; if I was misled by imagination or mesmeric influence into believing that I touched and felt two bodies, instead of one; if 'Katie King,' who grasped, and embraced, and spoke to me, is a projection of thought only--a will-power -- an instance of unknown force--then it will be no longer possible to know 'Who's who, in 1874,' and we shall hesitate to turn up the gas incautiously, lest half our friends should be but projections of thought, and melt away beneath its glare.

"Whatever Katie King was on the evening of the 9th of May, she was not Miss Cook. To that fact I am ready to take my most solemn oath. She repeated the same experiment with me on the 13th, and on that occasion we had the benefit of mutual sight also, as the whole company were invited to crowd around the door whilst the curtain was withdrawn and the gas turned up to the full, in order that we might see the Medium, in her blue dress and scarlet shawl, lying in a trance on the floor, whilst the white-robed spirit stood beside her.

"On the 21st, however, the occasion of Katie's last appearance amongst us, she was good enough to give me what I consider a still more infallible proof (if one could be needed) of the distinction of her identity from that of her medium. When she summoned me in my turn to say a few words to her behind the curtain, I again saw and touched the warm, breathing body of Florence Cook lying on the floor, and then stood upright by the side of Katie, who desired me to place my hands inside the loose single garment which she wore, and feel her nude body. I did so, thoroughly.

"I felt her heart beating rapidly beneath my hand; and passed my fingers through her long hair to satisfy myself that it grew from her head, and can testify that if she be 'of psychic force,' psychic force is very like a woman.

"Katie was very busy that evening. To each of her friends assembled to say good-by, she gave a bouquet of flowers tied up with ribbon, a piece of her dress and veil, and a lock of her hair, and a note which she wrote with her pencil before us. Mine was as follows: 'From Annie Owen de Morgan (alias Katie King) to her friend, Florence Marryat Ross-Church, with love. Penseza noi. May21st, 1874.' I must not forget to relate what appeared to me to be one of the most convincing proofs of Katie's more than natural power, namely, that when she had cut, before our eyes, twelve or fifteen different pieces of cloth from the front of her white tunic, as souvenirs for her friends, there was not a hole to be seen in it, examine it which way you would. It was the same with her veil, and I have seen her do the same thing several times.

"I think if in the face of all this testimony that has been brought before them, the faithless and unbelieving still credit Miss Cook with the superhuman agility required to leap from the Spirit's dress into her own like a flash of lightning, they will hardly suppose her capable of re-weaving the material of her clothing in the same space of time. If they can believe that, they will not find the spiritualistic doctrine so hard a nut to crack afterwards. But I did not take, up my pen to argue this point, but simply to relate what occurred to myself.'

During the week before Katie took her departure, she gave seances at Mr. Crookes's house almost nightly, to enable him to photograph her by artificial light. In a letter dated July 21st, 1874, and enclosing two photographs, he writes me:

"You may be interested in seeing one of my photographs of Katie, as she stood holding my arm; also one in which she is standing by herself." In the former of these the person of Katie, nearly to her ankles, dressed in her white robe, is taken; in the other, not quite so much of the figure is seen. In both photographs, the drapery is gracefully disposed; the countenance is placid, and the features finely formed though it might not require much imagination to discover in their general expression a spectral look; the figure has all the distinctness of a veritable human being, there being nothing shadowy in the outlines.

Taken in his own laboratory, and under conditions the most satisfactory and unquestionable, these and some forty other photographs which he took, some inferior, some indifferent, and some excellent, confirmed all the previous tests which Mr. Crookes had got of the genuineness of the phenomenon. Frequently, at his own house, he would follow Katie into the cabinet, and would sometimes see her and her Medium together, though generally he would find nobody but the entranced Medium lying on the floor, Katie and her white robes having instantaneously disappeared.

During a period of six months Miss Cook was a frequent visitor at Mr. Crookes's house, remaining there sometimes a week at a time. She would bring nothing but a little handbag, not locked. During the day she would be constantly in the presence of Mrs. or Mr. Crookes, or some other member of his family; and, not sleeping by herself, there was no conceivable opportunity for any fraudulent preparation.

"It was a common thing," says Mr. Crookes, "for the seven or eight of us in the laboratory to see Miss Cook and Katie at the same time under the full blaze of the electric light. We did not on these occasions actually see the face of the Medium, because of the shawl (which had been thrown over to prevent the light from falling on the face ), but we saw her hands and feet, we saw her move uneasily under the influence of the intense light, and we heard her moan occasionally. I have one photograph of the two together, but Katie is seated in front of Miss Cook's head."

On one occasion Mr. Crookes was photographed with Katie, she having her bare foot on a particular part of the floor; their relative height was ascertained. Mr. Crookes was then photographed with Miss Cook under precisely similar conditions, and while the two photographs of himself coincide exactly in stature, etc., Miss Cook's figure is found to be half a head shorter than Katie's, and looks small in comparison.

"Photography," adds Mr. Crookes, "is as inadequate to depict the perfect beauty of Katie's face, as words are powerless to describe her charms of manner. Photography may, indeed, give a map of her countenance; but how can it reproduce the brilliant purity of her complexion, or the ever varying expression of her most mobile features, now overshadowed with sadness when relating some of the bitter experiences of her past life, now smiling with all the innocence of happy girlhood when she had collected my children around her, and was amusing them by recounting anecdotes of her adventures in India."

The following particulars given by Mr. Crookes, as to the differences between Katie and the medium, will be found of interest:

"Having seen so much of Katie lately, when she has been illuminated by the electric light, I am enabled to add to the points of difference between her and her Medium which I mentioned in a former article. I have the most absolute certainty that Miss Cook and Katie are two separate, individuals as far as their bodies are concerned. Several little marks on Miss Cook's face are absent on Katie's. Miss Cook's hair is so dark a brown as almost to appear black; a lock of Katie's which is now before me, which she allowed me to cut from her luxuriant tresses, having first traced it up to the scalp and satisfied myself that it actually grew there, is a rich golden auburn.

"On one evening I timed Katie's pulse. It beat steadily at 75, while Miss Cook's pulse, a little time after, was going at its usual rate of 90. On applying my ear to Katie's chest I could hear a heart beating rhythmically inside, and pulsating even more steadily than did Miss Cook's heart when she allowed me to try a similar experiment after the seance. Tested in the same way, Katie's lungs were found to be sounder than her Medium's, for at the time I tried my experiment Miss Cook was under medical treatment for a severe cough."

Of the final parting of Miss Cook and Katie, Mr. Crookes says:

"Having concluded her directions, Katie invited me into the cabinet with her, and allowed me to remain there to the end. After closing the curtain she conversed with me for some time, and then walked across the room to where Miss Cook was lying senseless on the floor. Stooping over her, Katie touched her and said, 'Wake up, Florrie, wake up! I must leave you now.' Miss Cook then woke and tearfully entreated Katie to stay a little time longer.' My dear, I can't; my work is done. God bless you!' replied Katie, and then continued speaking to Miss Cook. For several minutes the two were conversing with each other, till at last Miss Cook's tears prevented her speaking. Following Katie's instructions, I then came forward to support Miss Cook, who was falling on to the floor, sobbing hysterically. I looked around, but the white-robed Katie had gone. As soon as Miss Cook was sufficiently calmed a light was procured and I led her out of the cabinet."

Thus ended this extraordinary series of seances, verifying the stupendous fact of the power of Spirits to manifest themselves in a temporarily materialized human form. To Miss Cook's honesty and good faith Mr. Crookes bears witness in the strongest terms. Every test he proposed she readily submitted to; she was open and straightforward in speech, and never did he see in her conduct anything approaching the slightest symptom of a wish to deceive.

"To imagine," he says, "that a school-girl of fifteen should be able to conceive and then successfully carry out for three years so gigantic an imposture as this, and in that time should submit to any tests which might be imposed upon her, should bear the strictest scrutiny, should be willing to be searched at any time, either before or after a seance, and should meet with even better success in my own house than at that of her parents, knowing that she visited me with the express object of submitting to strict scientific tests--to imagine, I say, the' Katie King' of the last three years to be the result of imposture--does more violence to one's reason and common sense than to believe her to be what she herself affirms."

When to these considerations is added the fact that the phenomena through Miss Cook have been recently paralleled and even surpassed by numerous similar well-attested phenomena, not only in England, but in America, what escape is there from the conclusion that they are wholly inexplicable under any theory of imposture or delusion?


More in the book Mysterious Psychic Forces by Camille Flammarion click blue underlined writing to go there


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