Medium Jonathan Koons USA
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During the heyday of Spiritualism, "home circles" were all the rage among those who were fascinated by the mysterious workings of the spirit world. In these small, close knit groups of family and friends , members would gather around at the dining room table and, curious about tales of wrappings and other phenomena from elsewhere, would try and see if they too could receive communication from the spirits. Quite often they did, they might hear a soft tap, followed by louder ones and soon deafening noises that could be heard all over the house. Questions would be asked, codes devised and soon information would be flowing from the other side. In many cases, especially with socially prominent families, such manifestation would be kept private, in order to save them selves from ridicule.
However, in other cases when social standing was not a concern, spirit contact would be widely publicised and neighbours would be called in for free performances. This sometimes led to members of the home circle becoming professional mediums, as with the Fox sisters. Another family, about whom much less is known, was a well to do farmer in the Millfield Township of Athens County, a wild district of Ohio, his name, Jonathan Koons. Though they did not gain much material profit from their venture, the Koons Spirit Room in Athens County became, for a short time in the 1850's, a Spiritualist destination that attracted hundreds of believers from all over the country.
What was nearly as amazing as the fact that so many people came to Athens County, was the ordeal they had to go through to get there. Although somewhat remote today, it was a virtual wilderness in the 1850's. It was located in a rough and hilly area not far from the Virginia State line, (Now North West Virginia.) To reach it, one had to travel by stagecoach from Columbus, over rutted and often washed out roads. Then to reach the Koons cabin, they still had to walk another two miles along a wooded trail. However, few pilgrims regretted their journey and felt completely rewarded by the manifestations that awaited them.
Jonathan Koons and his wife Abigail had nine children. They were self-educated farmers but well versed in politics and the philosophy of the times. They settled and farmed an ares in Athens County, called Mount Nebo, a hill that towers over the town that is now located nearby. Early in 1852, Jonathan Koons had come across newspaper descriptions of the Fox family wrappings and had at once made a personal investigation of the phenomenon. He attended several seances throughout Ohio and allegedly learned from the spirits that he was "the most powerful medium on earth", and that his children, from the seven month old baby upwards, had psychic gifts. When he returned home, he also discovered that Abigail and his eldest son, Nahum were also endowed with psychic abilities.
After holding a number of seances of his own, the Koons were ordered by the spirits what was dubbed their 'Spirit Room.' They were given the exact specifications on how to build it, the size, the furnishings and the equipment to use. The Koons immediately went to work and following up the spirits instructions, constructed a log cabin that was 12 x 14 ft, had three shuttered windows, a single door and a 7 ft high ceiling. The room was then furnished with benches that would hold about twenty people. The spirits also requested that they equip the Spirit Room with a number of musical instruments: A tenor drum, a base drum, two fiddles, a guitar, an accordion, a trumpet, a tin horn, a tee bell, a triangle and a tambourine. Koons was not a wealthy man and could not afford all of the instruments, (plus he would find it hard to find them in this remote part of Ohio,) but managed to order some and borrow the rest from neighbours. After another seance, the spirits demanded two tables, a rack for the musical instruments, and wire with which to suspend a few small bowls and some images of dove's that were cut from sheets of copper.
After faithfully following all these instructions, The Koons began giving public seances. Koons, Abigail and Nahum appeared as mediums and in the darkened cabin; spirit began giving lengthy communication on various spiritual subjects, as well as concerts on musical instruments. Neighbours from all over he region began descending on the Spirit Room and Mount Nebo, attracted not only by the rumours about what was taking place, but also because the racket made by the spirits could be heard for a mile in any direction.
It was not long before visitors from other parts of the country began to arrive as well. Charles Partridge, a well known New York Publisher, later wrote that he found at least 50 people gathered for the first performance that he attended. Many were from various parts of Ohio, but there were representatives from other states too. The Koons, on the advice of the spirits, gave preference to those coming from far away. There was no admission or other charges to attend these seances, but those who stayed for the night at the Koons home, usually contributed some offering. Throughout this Koons was still working and maintaining his family farm. He was at times so exhausted that he fell asleep during the seances and so there is little reason to believe that the Spirit Room was ever a money making project.
While it may not have made money, it certainly attracted attention. Published accounts soon began to appear in journals and spiritualist newspapers, and from these reports, it became quickly obvious that the seances were not for spectators with fragile nerves. The exhibition was often loud and the spirit performances on the instruments were usually ear shattering. All of the reports (whether we choose to believe them or not) agree that in the total darkness of the crowded room, it would have been impossible for the koons themselves to provide the deafening and boisterous entertainment.
The programme usually followed a set routine. After the audience was seated, the lights were turned out and the doors and windows closed. The start of the seance was announced by the banging of the base drum, which one witness compared to the firing of a cannon in the close quarter. Then Koons, who sat at a table with his wife and son beside him, would start to play a lively tune on his fiddle. In moments all of the other instruments would have joined in, keeping perfect time although being played by unseen hands. What is more astounding, the reports all stated, that the instruments did not remain stationary, but would circle the room playing wildly as they danced above the heads of the spectators.
During one seance, Dr G Swan of Cincinnati wrote later of a flying tambourine: "One moment I would feel it on my head or brushing my hair and the next moment, it would be on the other side of the room." The Triangle was also carried about the room and played in the same manner. Another witness, John Gage, of Illinois, reported that the triangle dashed about over the heads of the visitors and was "occasionally thrust almost in my face, so that I was afraid that it would hit me." On one of its flights, the triangle dropped into my wife's lap and then smacked him on the side of the head. Both agreed that it weighed close to 20 pounds.
According to another witness, the floating instruments would play in unison and were so loud that it made the "whole house roar so as to almost deafen us." No one seemed to recognise any of the tunes that the instruments played, but they were melodies of some sort not just noise. Charles Partridge stated, "that the instruments would start together and then stop abruptly, as if by some signal." Songs were sung in what appeared to be "something human voices" and sometimes accompanied the music. John Gage described them as "unearthly." All of the witnesses agreed that the words were not in English.
Throughout all of this though, "the master of ceremonies" was not Jonathan Koons, but rather a spectral voice that came through the tin horn. He called himself John King and he proclaimed that he was the leader of the spirits present, which numbered 165 in all. He was said to be the spirit form of the Welsh buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan who died in 1688. He also claimed to be known under the generic title Adam (Red Clay), antedating the theological Adam by thousands of years. They represented their leaders as the Ancient Angels. One of these ancient angels who instructed the circle was called "Oress." But generally they signed themselves in written communication as 'King' No1, No 2 and No 3, and sometimes servant of scholar of God. Foremost among them was 'King', and his daughter 'Katie' who became popular fixtures of the Koons seances, and later, with the famous "Davenport Brothers" also. (Katie King became most famous when attached to the Medium Florence Cook).
The musical part of the evening was usually followed by the appearance of spirit hands that were either luminous themselves or illuminated by phosphorus sheets of paper that were prepared by the Koons. Visible to a little above the wrists, the hands felt like real flesh and according to witnesses, were sometimes either hot or cold. Dr Swan, who requested that a hand be placed in his own reported that, "It felt precisely like the hands of a subject that I had handled in the dissecting room." Partridge who aslo held out a hand and asked spirits to take hold of it, said that it gavce a distictive grasp when it touched his hand but added that, "It did not feel like the hand of a living person."
These phantom hands also played a part in the last feat of the evening, when a luminous appendage would write messages on pieces of paper. All those who describe theri visit to the spirit room saw the hands write out messages and at incredible speeds. Many of the witnesses watched the hands from a very short distance, but one very fascinated spectator pressed so close to watch that the hand playfully poked his nose with the end of a pencil! Six witnesses from four different states testified that they watched the armless hand write with a pencil. I wrote very slowly, so one witness asked if it would write faster. At this request, the pencil began scrawling so rapidly accross the paper that we could hardly see it go. In five minutes, it had filled the page, which it passed to one of the witnesses, a Mr Pearce of Philadephia who was then given a chance to examine the mysyterious hand. He reported that it was human in all respects, even to the fingernails, but was slightly cooler than his own. Pearce then took another sheet of paper and a spirit pencil and began tracing the outline of the spirit hand onto the paper as far as the wrist but found, "nothing any further than that point." The hand then shook hands with him and immediately vanished.
Reports of these wonders travelled out accross America. Hundreds of people came to Mount Nebo, claiming that it was a place of spiritual significance and a sacred site to the Shawnee Indian. According to some sources, a Physical Society Christened Mount Nebo as, "One of the most haunted spots in the world." Despite the fact that the Koons have long since vanished from the memory of those in Athens County today, the reputation of this being a haunted place has remained behind in tales of ghostly cemetaries and local legend.
As for the Koons, their spirit room continuesd to operate and attract visitors until the end 1858. By this time, they were competing with another spirit room that had been started by the Tippie family, who lived three miles across the valley from the Koons. It was never as popular, but it managed to draw some of the visitors that came searching for the spirits of Mount Nebo. The Tippie's who had ten children, also boasted musical performances by the spirits, but visitors were reportedly dissapointed that no spectral hands appeared. Both families later moved out of the area. The Tippies moved to Colorado and the Koons to Illinois. After this, Jonathan Koons announced that spirit John King had departed and his tinhorn was now silent. Koons contributed letters to the Spiritual Telegraph for a time and then lapsed into silence himself. Eventually, he and his family lapsed from the annals of Spiritualism altogether.
With regards to the spirit room. Could such wonders have really occurred? It is human nature for us to seek an explanation, but in this case, does one exist? It is almost automatic for us to say that the whole thing must have been a hoax, but then how do we explain the independent accounts of strange happenings? Even if avowed spiritualists, who visited the spirit room only to confirm their beliefs, made all of the reports, the general agreement of the seperate accounts seemed to offer evidence pointing towards the fact thatn the Koons were not putting on a fraudulent performance. What could they have had to gain from it? Only notoriety, for it was not money, because they did not charge for their seances. If it was fame they were seeking, then why vanish without a trace after only six years as mediums? And what happened to them after they left Athens County? We do know, that at the hands of their neighbours, the Koons family did not fare well. Their house was attacked by mobs, fire was set to their crops and barnes, and their children were beaten.
The Koons apparently gave up their mediumship performances and moved to Illinois. In an obituary on Nahum Koons, it was discovered that he had died in 1921 at the age of 84 in Franklin County, Illinois. He and his family had accompanied his father and mother to Franklin County, where they lived for about ten years before moving to Perry County, near to DuQuoin. Nahum then moved to Perry County, Missouri until 1880, when he again returned to Illinois and the farm that he and his father had purchased after leaving Ohio. He also lived in Oaklahoma and Arkansas for a time, after the death of his wife in 1899. He remained a spiritualist throughout his life, which was described by those who knew him as "exemplary." He passed away in his sleep on 26th October, leaving no clue as to why he had abandoned what was apparently an amazing career as a medium.
Students of spiritualist history are sure to recognise though that the Koons were groundbreakers as far as manifestations go. Many of the happenings at their seances, were also reported at later seances, under the control of entirely unrelated mediums. The mobile musical instruments were part of the attractions offered by the Davenport brothers and the spectral hands were seen at many seances, including those of DD Home. The hands that materialised during his sitting resembled in every respect the hands that were seen and felt in the Koons Spirit Room. In some cases these manifestations were exposed as being fraudulent, but not in all cases. And for the most part, the ones that were fraudulent, the method used to make the insrument fly and the hands appear were beyond the means and skills of the Koons family.
The case of the Spirit Room , like so many other aspects of Spiritualism, remains unsolved.
As Published on: www.the-voicebox.com
Nandor Fodor - Encyclopeadia of Psychic Science
A well-to-do American farmer in Millfield Township, Athens County (a remote district of Ohio), and an early American Spiritualist medium. Koons became interested in Spiritualism in 1852 and was told at a seance that he was "the most powerful medium on Earth" and that all of his eight children---even the seven-month-old baby--had psychic gifts. Acting on spirit instructions, he built a "Spirit room," a single-room log house, 16 feet by 12, for use by the Spirits and equipped it with all kinds of musical instruments. This log house soon became famous and people flocked from great distances to see a variety of curious phenomena. The eldest boy, Nahum, a youth of 18, sat at the "Spirit table," the audience on benches beyond.
When the lights were put out a fearful din ensued that was sometimes heard a mile away. Surprising feats of strength were also manifested, yet no one present was struck or injured by the flying objects or target-shooting pistol bullets. The sitters were touched by materialized hands that, in the light of phosphorized paper, were seen carrying objects. Spirit faces were also seen. Through a trumpet that sailed about in the air, voices called out the names of the guests even if they concealed their identities; deceased relatives and friends spoke to them and gave proof of survival.
The circle was attended by a host of ministering spirits said to number 165. They claimed to belong to a race of men known under the generic title "Adam" (red clay), antedating the theological Adam by thousands of years. They represented their leaders as the most ancient angels. One of these ancient angels, who instructed the Circle, was called "Oress." Generally they signed themselves in the written communications as "King" No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3, and sometimes "Servant and Scholar of God." Foremost among them was the "John King" who claimed to have been Henry Morgan, the pirate.
Two or three miles from the Koons' farm was another lonely farmhouse, belonging to John Tippie, where another "Spirit room" was laid out on the same plan. The manifestations in the Tippie family were identical to those in the Koon log house. Each had a "spirit machine" that consisted of a complex arrangement of zinc and copper for the alleged purpose of collecting and focusing the magnetic aura used in the demonstrations. The Tippies had ten children, all mediums.
J. Everett of Athens County, Ohio, who investigated the Koons' phenomena, published the messages of the Spirits under the title Communications from Angels (1853) and also printed a number of affidavits testifying to the occurrences in the spirit house, with a chart of the spheres drawn by Nahum Koons in trance.
Charles Partridge writes of his visit in the American Spiritual Telegraph of 1855: "The spirit rooms will hold … 20 to 30 persons each. After the Circle is formed and the lights extinguished, a tremendous blow is struck by the drum-stick, when immediately the bass and tenor drums are beaten with preternatural power, like calling the roll on a muster field, making a thousand echoes. The rapid and tremendous blows on these drums are really frightful to many persons; it is continued for five minutes or more and when ended, 'King' usually takes up the trumpet, salutes us with 'Good evening, friends' and asks what particular manifestations are desired. After the introductory piece on the instruments, the spirits sang to us. They first requested us to remain perfectly silent; then we heard human voices singing, apparently in the distance, so as to be scarcely distinguishable; the sounds gradually increased, each part relatively, until it appeared as if a full choir of voices were singing in our room most exquisitely. I think I never heard such perfect harmony. Spirit hands and arms were formed in our presence several times, and by aid of a solution of phosphorous, prepared at their request by Mr. Koons, they were seen as distinctly as in a light room."
The Koons family did not fare well at the hands of their neighbours. Their house was attacked by mobs, fire was set to their crops and barns, and their children were beaten. Finally they left the countryside and began missionary wanderings, which lasted for many years. Their mediumship was given free to the public, and they did a great service to the cause of early American Spiritualism.
The phenomenally noisy "Spirit room" of the Koons bears a striking resemblance to some shaman performances, where the medicine man enters an enclosed area and manifests noisy Spirit communications.
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