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Mary Showers Medium
British Physical Medium.
Daughter of General C. L. Showers of the Bombay Army.
As a child she conversed with invisible people, sat for the first time in the Circle of her family in the spring of 1872, produced raps and movement without contact, obtained poltergeist manifestations in daylight, performed direct writing, and saw Spirit Forms among which "John King" and "Peter" rose to prominence.
In 1874, Showers and her mother came from Teignmouth to London to give seances to representative Spiritualists. The test conditions in these early seances were taken charge of by the Spirits. At the beginning of the seance, coils of rope or tape would be placed in the cabinet. At a signal, the curtain of the cabinet was drawn aside and the Medium was discovered tightly bound.
The usual materialized Spirit Form was a girl, "Florence," who was eight inches taller than the Medium, could vary her height, and was often seen by Florence Marryat together with the Medium. Marryat describes these experiences in her book There is No Death (1891).
Marryat found herself so much in rapport with Showers that she wrote: "We could not sit next each other at an ordinary tea or supper table when we had no thought of, or desire to hold a seance, without manifestations occurring in the full light. A hand that did not belong to either of us would make itself apparent under the table-cloth between us; a hand with power to grasp ours; or our feet would be squeezed or kicked beneath the table, or fingers would suddenly appear and whisk the food off our plates."
An attempt at exposure of Showers was made on April 2, 1874, at the house of Edward William Cox. When "Florence" appeared between the curtains of the cabinet, Cox's daughter Mrs. Edwards opened the curtains wider. The Spirit resisted; in the struggle the headdress fell off and revealed Showers. Cox, however, seemed satisfied that the Medium was entranced and had unconsciously impersonated the Spirit.
Although Cox may have believed that the Medium was entranced, the episode cast strong doubts upon the genuineness of Showers’ phenomena. Cox himself reinforced such doubts in a letter dated March 8, 1876, to the Medium D. D. Home (printed in full in Home's Light and Shadows of Spiritualism, London, 1877): "I am satisfied that a large amount of fraud has been and still is practiced. Some of it is, doubtless, deliberately planned and executed. But some is, I think, done while the Medium is in a state of somnambulism, and therefore unconscious. As all familiar with phenomena of somnambulism are aware, the patient acts to perfection any part suggested to his mind, but wholly without self-perception at the time, or memory afterwards. But such an explanation serves only to acquit the Medium of deliberate Imposture; it does not affect the fact that the apparent manifestation is not genuine.
"The great field for fraud has been offered by the production and presentation of alleged Spirit Forms. All the conditions imposed are as if carefully designed to favour fraud if contemplated, and even to tempt to imposture. The curtain is guarded at either end by some friend. The light is so dim that the features cannot be distinctly seen. A white veil thrown over the body from head to foot is put on and off in a moment, and gives the necessary aspect of spirituality. A white band round head and chin at once conceals the hair, and disguises the face. A considerable interval precedes the appearance; just such as would be necessary for the preparations. A like interval succeeds the retirement of the form before the cabinet is permitted to be opened for inspection. This just enables the ordinary dress to be restored. While the preparation is going on behind the curtain the company are always vehemently exhorted to sing. This would conveniently conceal any sounds of motion in the act of preparation. The spectators are made to promise not to peep behind the curtain, and not grasp the form. They are solemnly told that if they were to seize the Spirit they would kill the Medium. This is an obvious contrivance to deter the onlookers from doing anything that might cause detection. It is not true. Several Spirits have been grasped, and no Medium has died of it; although in each case the supposed Spirit was found to be the Medium. That the detected Medium was somewhat disturbed in health after such a public detection and exposure is not at all surprising. Every one of the five Mediums who have been actually seized in the act of personating a Spirit is now alive and well. There need be no fear for the consequences in putting them to the proof.
"But I have learned how the trick is done. I have seen the description of it given by a Medium to another Medium who desired instruction. The letter was in her own handwriting, and the whole style of it showed it to be genuine.
"She informs her friend that she comes to the seance prepared with a dress that is easily taken off with a little practice. She says it may be done in two or three minutes. She wears two shifts (probably for warmth). She brings a muslin veil of thin material (she gives its name, which I forget). It is carried in her drawers! It can be compressed into a small space, although when spread it covers the whole person. A pocket handkerchief pinned around the head keeps back the hair. She states that she takes off all her clothes except the two shifts, and is covered by the veil. The gown is spread carefully upon the sofa over the pillows. In this array she comes out. She makes very merry with the Spiritualists whom she thus gulls, and her language about them is anything but complimentary.
"This explains the whole business. The question so often asked before was; where the robe could be carried? It could not be contained in the bosom or in a sleeve. Nobody seems to have thought of the drawers.
"But it will be asked how we can explain the fact that some persons have been permitted to go behind the curtain when the form was before it, and have asserted that they saw or felt the Medium. I am sorry to say the confession to which I have referred states without reserve that these persons knew that it was a trick, and lent themselves to it. I am, of course, reluctant to adopt such a formidable conclusion, although the so-called 'confession' was a confidential communication from one Medium to another Medium who had asked to be instructed how the trick was done. I prefer to adopt the more charitable conclusion that they were imposed upon, and that it is easy to find how this was likely to be. The same suspicious precautions against detection were always adopted. The favoured visitor was an assured friend; one who, if detecting trickery, would shrink from proclaiming the cheat. But one was permitted to enter. A light was not allowed. There was nothing but the 'darkness visible' of the lowered gas rays struggling through the curtain. I have noted that no one of them ever was permitted to see the face of the medium. It was always 'wrapped in a shawl.' The hands felt a dress, and imagination did the rest. The revealer of the secret above referred to says that, when she took off her gown to put on the white veil, she spread it upon the sofa or chair with pillows or something under it, and this is what they felt and took for her body! "The lesson to be learned from all this is, that no phenomena should be accepted as genuine that are not produced under strict test conditions. Investigators should be satisfied with no evidence short of the very best that the circumstances will permit."
Cox's reference to the means by which "Spirit Forms" were produced fraudulently in a "communication from one Medium to another Medium who had asked to be instructed how the trick was done" is thought by Trevor H. Hall (in his book The Spiritualists, London, 1962) to refer to Florence Cook and Mary Showers, who were known to each other and indeed collaborated with each other in a joint performance of fully materialized "Spirit Forms" at the house of Sir William Crookes. It is particularly significant that at the final seance with the phantom "Katie King" on May 21, 1874, Crookes himself noted that the face of the Medium Florence Cook was covered with a red shawl, ostensibly to protect her from the effects of light, and that this established the separate identity of phantom and Medium, seen together.
Although some sitters at the Crookes seances with Florence Cook noted marked similarities between the Medium and the phantom "Katie King," Crookes himself was at pains to establish specific differences. If the phenomena of Florence Cook was fraudulent, it is likely that her friend Showers was an accomplice at seances when the differences between Medium and "Spirit Form" were apparent.
Both Trevor H. Hall and E. J. Dingwall are satisfied that the circumstantial evidence strongly indicates that Cook's phenomena were fraudulent and that Showers was an accomplice. Their conclusion that such fraud was known to Crookes and that he connived at it, using the séances as a cover for an affair with Cook, is much more speculative, although it is undeniable that Crookes was tremendously impressed and captivated by the beauty of the materialized phantom "Katie King."
The story of the connections between Showers, Cook, and the investigations of Crookes and Cox is a complex one. The best sources are the writings of Hall and Dingwall.
Dingwall, E. J. The Critic's Dilemma. Dewsbury, England: The Author, 1966.
Hall, Trevor H. Florence Cook and William Crookes: A Footnote to an Enquiry. London: Tomorrow Publications, 1963.
New Light on Old Ghosts. London: G. Duckworth, 1965.
The Spiritualists. New York: Heliz Press, 1963. Reprinted as The Medium and the Scientist. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1984.
Marryat, Florence. There is No Death. 1891. Reprint, New York: Causeway Books, 1973.
Thouless, R. H. "Crookes and Cook." Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 42 (1963).
From There is NO Death by Florence Marryat.
CHAPTER XII - THE MEDIUMSHIP OF MISS SHOWERS
Some time before I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Showers, I heard, through friends living in the west of England, of the mysterious and marvellous powers possessed by a young lady of their acquaintance, who was followed by voices in the air, which held conversations with her, and the owners of which were said to have made themselves visible. I listened with curiosity, the more so, as my informants utterly disbelieved in Spiritualism, and thought the phenomena were due to trickery. At the same time I conceived a great desire to see the girl of sixteen, who, for no gain or apparent object of her own, was so clever as to mystify everyone around her; and when she and her mother came to London, I was amongst the first to beg for an introduction, and I shall never forget the experiences I had with her. She was the first private medium through whom my personal friends returned to converse with me; and no one but a Spiritualist can appreciate the blessing of spiritual communications through a source that is above the breath of suspicion. I have already written at length about Miss Showers in The Story of John Powles. She was a child, compared to myself, whose life had hardly commenced when mine was virtually over, and neither she, nor any member of her family, had ever had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with even the names of my former friends. Yet (as I have related) John Powles made Miss Showers his especial mouthpiece, and my daughter, Florence (then a little child) also appeared through her, though at long intervals, and rather timidly. Her own controls, however, or cabinet spirits (as they call them in America); i.e., such Spirits as are always about the Medium, and help the strangers to appear; Peter, Florence, Lenore, and Sally, were very familiar with me, and afforded me such facilities of testing their medium as do not often fall to the lot of inquirers. Indeed, at one time, they always requested that I should be present at their seances, so that I considered myself to be highly favoured. And I may mention here that Miss Showers and I were so much en rapport that her manifestations were always much stronger in my presence. We could not sit next each other at an ordinary tea or supper table, when we had no thought of, or desire to hold a seance, without manifestations occurring in the full light. A hand, that did not belong to either of us, would make itself apparent under the table; cloth between us; a hand with power to grasp ours; or feet would be squeezed or kicked beneath the table, or fingers would suddenly appear, and whisk the food off our plates. Some of their jests were inconvenient. I have had the whole contents of a tumbler, which I was raising to my lips, emptied over my dress. It was generally known that our powers were sympathetic, and at last Peter gave me leave, or, rather, ordered me to sit in the cabinet with Rosie, whilst the manifestations went on outside. He used to say he didn't care for me any more than if I had been a spirit myself.' One evening Peter called me into the cabinet (which was simply a large box cupboard at one end of the dining room) before the seance began, and told me to sit down at the Medium's feet and be a good girl and keep quiet. Miss Showers was in a low chair, and I sat with my arms resting on her lap. She did not become entranced, and we talked the whole time together. Presently, without any warning, two figures stood beside us. I could not have said where they came from. I neither saw them rise from the floor nor descend from the ceiling. There was no beginning to their appearance. In a moment they were simply there; "Peter" and Florence (not my child, but Miss Showers' control of the same name).
Peter sent Florence out to the audience, where we heard her speaking to them and their remarks upon her (there being only a thin curtain hung before the entrance of the cabinet), but he stayed with us himself .We could not see him distinctly in the dim light, but we could distinctly hear and feel him. He changed our ornaments and ribbons, and pulled the hair-pins our of our hair, and made comments on what was going on outside.After a while Florence returned to get more power, and both Spirits spoke to and touched us at the same time. During the whole of this seance my arms rested on Miss Showers' lap, and she was awake and talking to me about the Spirits.
One evening, at a sitting at Mr. Luxmore's house in Hyde Park, the Spirit Florence had been walking amongst the audience in the lighted front drawing-room for a considerable time-even sitting at the piano and accompanying herself whilst she sung as a song in what she called the planetary language. She greatly resembled her medium on that occasion, and several persons present remarked that she did so. I suppose the inferred doubt annoyed her, for before she finally left us she asked for a light, and a small oil lamp was brought to her which she placed in my hand, telling me to follow her and look at her Medium, which I accordingly did. Florence led the way back into the back drawing-room, where I found Miss Showers reposing in an arm-chair. The first sight of her terrified me. For the purpose of making any change in her dress as difficult as possible, she wore a high, tight-fitting black velvet frock, fastened at the back, and high Hessian boots, with innumerable buttons. But she now appeared to be shrunk to half her usual size, and the dress hung loosely on her figure. Her arms had disappeared, but putting my hands up the dress sleeves, I found them diminished to the size of those of a little child; the fingers reaching only to where the elbows had been. The same miracle had happened to her feet, which only occupied half her boots. She looked in fact like the mummy of a girl of four or six years old. The Spirit told me to feel her face. The forehead was dry, rough, and burning hot, but from the chin water was dropping freely on to the bosom of her dress. Florence said to me, I wanted you to see her, because I know you are brave enough to tell people what you have seen.
There was a marked difference in the personality of the two influences Florence and Lenore, although both at times resembled Miss Showers, and sometimes more than others. Florence was taller than her medium, and a very beautiful woman. Lenore was much shorter and smaller, and not so pretty, but more vivacious and pert. By the invitation of Mrs. Macdougal Gregory, I attended several seances with Miss Showers at her residence in Green Street, when these spirits appeared. Lenore was fond of saying that she wouldn't or couldn't come out unless I held her hand, or put my arm round her waist. To tell the truth, I didn't care for the distinction, for this influence was very peculiar in some things, and to me she always appeared uncanny, and to leave an unpleasant feeling behind her. She was seldom completely formed, and would hold up a foot which felt like wet clay, and had no toes to it, or not the proper quantity. On occasions, too, there was a charnel-house smell about her, as if she had been buried a few weeks and dug up again, an odour which I have never smelt from any materialized Spirit before or after. One evening at Mrs. Gregory's, when Lenore had insisted upon walking round the Circle supported by my arm, I nearly fainted from the smell. It resembled nothing but that of a putrid corpse, and when she returned to the cabinet, I was compelled to leave the room and retch from the nausea it had caused me. It was on this occasion that the sitters called Lenore so many times back into the Circle, that all the power was gone, and she was in danger of melting away before their eyes. Still they entreated her to remain with them a little longer. At last she grew impatient, and complained to me of their unreasonableness. She was then raised from the floor; actually floating just outside the curtain; and she asked me to put my hands up her skirts and convince myself that she was half- dematerialized. I did as she told me, and felt that she had no legs, although she had been walking round the room a few minutes before. I could feel nothing but the trunk of a body, which was completely lifted off the ground. Her voice, too, had grown faint, and her face indistinct, and in another moment she had totally disappeared.
One evening at Mrs. Gregory's, after the seance was concluded, Florence looked round the curtain and called to me to come inside it. I did so and found myself in total darkness. I said, What's the good of my coming here? I can't see anything. Florence took me by one hand, and answered, I will lead you! Don't be afraid. Then someone else grasped my other hand, and Peter's voice said, We've got you safe. We want you to feel the Medium. The two figures led me between them to the sofa on which Miss Showers was lying. They passed my hand all over her head and body. I felt, as before, her hands and feet shrunk to half their usual size, but her heart appeared to have become proportionately increased. When my hand was placed upon it, it was leaping up and down violently, and felt like a rabbit or some other live animal bounding in her bosom. Her brain was burning as before, but her extremities were icy cold. There was no doubt at all of the abnormal condition into which the Medium had been thrown, in order to produce these strong physical manifestations which were borrowed, for the time being, from her life, and could never (so they informed me) put the whole of what they borrowed back again. This seems to account for the invariable deterioration of health and strength that follows physical manifestations in both sexes. These were the grounds alone on which they explained to me the fact that, on several occasions, when the materialized spirit has been violently seized and held apart from the Medium, it has been found to have become, or been changed into the Medium, and always with injury to the latter-as in the case of Florence Cook being seized by Mr. Volckman and Sir George Sitwell. Mr. Volckman concluded because when he seized the Spirit Katie King, he found he was holding Florence Cook, that the latter must have impersonated the former; yet I shall tell you in its proper place how I have sat in the same room with Katie King, whilst Miss Cook lay in a trance between us. The Medium nearly lost her life on the occasion alluded to, from the sudden disturbance of the mysterious link that bound her to the Spirit. I have had it from the lips of the Countess of Caithness, who was one of the sitters, and stayed with Miss Cook till she was better, that she was in convulsions the whole night after, and that it was some time before they believed she would recover. If a Medium could simulate a materialized Spirit, it is hardly likely that she would (or could) simulate convulsions with a medical man standing by her bedside. You see, said Miss Showers' Florence, whilst pointing out to me the decreased size of her Medium under trance, that 'Rosie is half her usual size and weight. I have borrowed the other half from her, which, combined with contributions from the sitters, goes to make up the body in which I show myself to you. If you seize and hold me tight, you are holding her, i.e., half of her, and you increase the action of the vital half to such a degree that, if the two halves did not reunite, you would kill her. You see that I can detach certain particles from her organism for my own use, and when I dematerialize, I restore these particles to her, and she becomes once more her normal size. You only hurry the reunion by violently detaining me, so as to injure her. But you might drive her mad, or kill her in the attempt, because the particles of brain, or body, might become injured by such a violent collision. If you believe I can take them from her (as you see I do) in order to render my invisible body visible to you, why can't you believe I can make them fly together again on the approach of danger. And granted the one power, I see no difficulty in acknowledging the other.
One day Mrs. Showers invited me to assist at a seance to be given expressly for friends living at a distance. When I reached the house, however, I found the friends were unable to be present, and the meeting was adjourned. Mrs. Showers apologized for the alteration of plan, but I was glad of it. I had often sat with Rosie in company with others, and I wanted to sit with her quite alone, or rather to sit with her in a room quite alone, and see what would spontaneously occur without any solicitation on our parts. We accordingly annexed the drawing room for our sole use-locked the door, extinguished the lights, and sat down on a sofa side by side, with our arms round each other. The manifestations that followed were not all nice ones. They formed an experience to be passed through once, but not willingly repeated, and I should not relate them here, excepting that they afford so strong a proof that they were produced by a power outside and entirely distinct from our own-a power, which having once called into action, we had no means of repressing. We had sat in the dark for some minutes, without hearing or seeing anything, when I thoughtlessly called out, Now, Peter, do your worst, and extending my arms, singing, Come! for my arms are empty. In a moment a large, heavy figure fell with such force into my outstretched arms as to bruise my shoulder-it seemed like a form made of wood or iron, rather than flesh and blood-and the rough treatment that ensued for both of us is almost beyond description. It seemed as if the room were filled with materialized creatures, who were determined to let us know they were not to be trifled with. Our faces and bands were slapped, our hair pulled down, and our clothes nearly torn off our backs. My silk skirt being separate from the bodice was torn off at the waistband, and the trimming ripped from it, and Miss Showers' muslin dress was also much damaged. We were both thoroughly frightened, but no expostulations or entreaties had any effect with our tormentors. At the same time we heard the sound as of a multitude of large birds or bats swooping about the room. The fluttering of wings was incessant, and we could hear them scrooping up and down the walls. In the midst of the confusion, Rosie was whisked out of my arms (for fright had made us cling tighter than ever together) and planted on the top of a table at some distance from me, at which she was so frightened, she began to cry, and I called out, Powles, where are you? Can't you stop them? My appeal was heard. Peter's voice exclaimed., Hullo! here's Powles coming! and all the noise ceased. We heard the advent of my friend, and in another moment he was smoothing down the ruffled hair and arranging the disordered dresses and telling me to light the gas and not be frightened. As soon as I could I obeyed his directions and found Rosie sitting doubled up in the centre of the table, but the rest of the room and furniture in its usual condition. Peter and his noisy crowd had vanished-so had Powles, and there was nothing but our torn skirts and untidy appearance to prove that we had not been having an unholy dream. Peter is not a wicked spirit; far from it but he is a very earthly and frivolous one. But when we consider that nine-tenths of the Spirits freed from the flesh are both earthly and frivolous (if not worse), I know not what right we have to expect to receive back angels in their stead.
At one time when my sister Blanche (who was very sceptical as to the possibility of the occurrences I related having taken place before me) was staying in my house at Bayswater, I asked Miss Showers if she would give us a seance in my own home, to which she kindly assented. This was an unusual concession on her part, because, in consequence of several accidents and scandals that had occurred from media being forcibly detained (as I have just alluded to), her mother was naturally averse to her sitting anywhere but in their own circle. However, on my promising to invite no strangers, Mrs. Showers herself brought her daughter to my house. We had made no preparation for the seance except by opening part of the folding doors between the dining-room and study, and hanging a curtain over the aperture. But I had carefully locked the door of the study, so that there should be no egress from it excepting through the dining-room, and had placed against the locked door a heavy writing-table laden with books and ornaments to make assurance doubly sure. We sat first in the drawing-room above, where there was a piano. The fights were extinguished, and Miss Showers sat down to the instrument and played the accompaniment to a very simple melody, Under the willow she's sleeping. Four voices, sometimes alone and sometimes all together, accompanied her own. One was a baritone, supposed to proceed from Peter, the second, a soprano, from Lenore. The third was a rumbling bass, from an influence who called himself The Vicar of Croydon, and sung in a fat, unctuous and conceited voice; and the fourth was a cracked and quavering treble, from another Spirit called The Abbess. These were the voices, Mrs. Showers told me, that first followed her daughter about the house in Devonshire, and gained her such an unenviable notoriety there. The four voices were perfectly distinct from one another, and sometimes blended most ludicrously and tripped each other up in a way which made the song a medley; upon which each one would declare it was the fault of the other. The Vicar of Croydon always required a great deal of solicitation before he could be induced to exhibit his powers, but having once commenced, it was difficult to make him leave off again, whereas The Abbess was always complaining that they would not allow her to sing the solos. An infant's voice also sung some baby songs in a sweet childish treble, but she was also very shy and seldom was heard, in comparison with the rest. All ventriloquism! I hear some reader cry. If so, Miss Showers ought to have made a fortune in exhibiting her talent in public. I have heard the best ventriloquists in the world, but I never heard one who could produce four voices at the same time.
After the musical portion of the seance was over, we descended to the dining-room, where the gas was burning, and the medium passed through it to the secured study, where a mattress was laid upon the floor for her accommodation. Florence was the first to appear, tall and beautiful in appearance, and with upraised eyes like a nun. She measured her height against the wall with me, and we found she was the taller of the two by a couple of inches-my height being five feet six, and the medium's five feet, and the Spirit's five feet eight, an abnormal height for a woman. Lenore came next, very short indeed, looking like a child of four or six, but she grew before our eyes, until her head was on a level with mine. She begged us all to observe that she had not got on Rosie's petticoat body. She said she had borrowed it on one occasion, and Mrs. Showers had recognized it, and slipped upstairs in the middle of the seance and found it missing from her daughter's chest of drawers, and that she had been so angry in consequence (fearing Rosie's honour might be impeached) that she said if Lenore did not promise never to to do so again, she should not be allowed to assist at the seances at all. So Miss Lenore,' in rather a pert and defiant mood, begged Mrs. Showers to see that what she wore was her own property, and not that of the medium. She was succeeded on that occasion by a strange being, totally different from the other two, who called herself Sally, and said she had been a cook. She was one of those extraordinary influences for whose return to earth one can hardly account; quick, and clever, and amusing as she could be, but with an unrefined wit and manner, and to all appearance, more earthly-minded than ourselves. But do we not often ask the same question with respect to those still existent here below? What were they born for? What good do they do? Why were they ever permitted to come? God, without whose permission nothing happens, alone can answer it.
We had often to tease Peter to materialize and show himself, but he invariably refused, or postponed the work to another occasion. His excuse was that the Medium being so small, he could not obtain sufficient power from her to make himself appear as a big man, and he didn't like to come looking like a girl in a billycock hat. I came once to Mrs. Showers, he said, and she declared I was Rosie dressed up, and so I have resolved never to show myself again. At the close of that seance, however, Peter asked me to go into the study and see him wake the Medium. When I entered it and made my way up to the mattress, I found Miss Showers extended on it in a deep sleep, whilst Peter, materialized, sat at her feet. He made me sit down next to him and take his hand and feel his features with my own hand. Then he proceeded to rouse Rosie by shaking her and calling her by name, holding me by one hand as he did so. As Miss Showers yawned and woke up from her trance, the hand slipped from mine, and Peter evaporated. When she sat up I said to her gently, I am here! Peter brought me in and was sitting on the mattress by my side till just this moment. Ha, ha! laughed his voice close to my ear, and I'm here still, my dears, though you can't see me.
Who can account for such things? I have witnessed them over and over again, yet I am unable, even to this day, to do more than believe and wonder.
In another seance when Florence Marryat was conducted into the cabinet by the materialized Spirit produced by Mary Showers, she was told: "You see that Rosie is half her usual size and weight. I have borrowed the other half from her, which, combined with contributions from the sitters, goes to make up the body in which I show myself to you. If you increase the action of the vital half to such a degree, that, if the two halves did not reunite, you would kill her. You see that I can detach certain particles from her organism for my own use, and when I dematerialise, I restore these particles to her, and she becomes once more her normal size. You only hurry the reunion by violently detaining me, so as to injure her."
There is NO Death by Florence Marryat
CHAPTER VII - THE STORY OF JOHN POWLES
ON the 4th of April, 1860 there died in India a young officer in the 12th Regiment M.N.I., of the name of John Powles. He was an intimate friend of my first husband for several years before his death; indeed, on several occasions he shared our house and lived with us on the terms of a brother.
John Powles, however, though a careless and irreligious man, liked to discuss the Unseen. We talked continually on the subject, even when he was apparently in perfect health, and he often ended our conversation by assuring me that should he die first (and he always prophesied truly that he should not reach the age of thirty) he would (were such a thing possible) come back to me. I used to laugh at the absurdity of the idea' and remind him how many friends had made the same promise to each other and never fulfilled it. For though I firmly believed that such things had been, I could not realize that they would ever happen to me, or that I should survive the shock if they did. John Powles' death at the last was very sudden, although the disease he died of was of long standing. He had been under the doctor's hands for a few days when he took an unexpected turn for the worse, and my husband and myself, with other friends, were summoned to his bedside to say good-bye to him. When I entered the room he said to me, So you see it has come at last. Don't forget what I said to you about it. They were his last intelligible words to me, though for several hours he grasped my dress with his hand to prevent my leaving him, and became violent and unmanageable if I attempted to quit his side. During this time, in the intervals of his delirium, he kept on entreating me to sing a certain old ballad, which had always been a great favourite with him, entitled Thou art gone from my gaze. I am sure if I sung that song once during that miserable day, I must have sung it a dozen times. At last our poor friend fell into convulsions which recurred with little intermission until his death, which took place on the same evening.
His death and the manner of it caused me a great shock. He had been a true friend to my husband and myself for years, and we both mourned his loss very sincerely. That, and other troubles combined, had a serious effect upon my health, and the doctors advised my immediate return to England. When an officer dies in India, it is the custom to sell all his minor effects by auction. Before this took place, my husband asked me if there was anything belonging to John Powles that I should like to keep in remembrance of him. The choice I made was a curious one. He had possessed a dark green silk necktie, which was a favourite of his, and when it became soiled I offered to turn it for him, when it looked as good as new. Whereupon he had worn it so long that it was twice as dirty as before, so I turned it for him the second time, much to the amusement of the regiment. When I was asked to choose a keepsake of him, I said, Give me the green tie, and I brought it to England with me.
The voyage home was a terrible affair. I was suffering mentally and physically, to such a degree that I can-not think of the time without a shudder. John Powles' death, of course, added to my distress, and during the many months that occupied a voyage by long sea, I hoped and expected that his spirit would appear to me. With the very strong belief in the possibility of the return to earth of the departed or rather, I should say, with my strong belief in my belief-I lay awake night after night, thinking to see my lost friend, who had so often promised to come back to me. I even cried aloud to him to appear and tell me where he was, or what he was doing, but I never heard or saw a single thing. There was silence on every side of me. Ten days only after I landed in England I was delivered of a daughter, and when I had somewhat recovered my health and spirits-when I had lost the physical weakness and nervous excitability, to which most medical men would have attributed any mysterious sights or sounds I might have experienced before-then I commenced to know and to feel that John Powles was with me again. I did not see him, but I felt his presence. I used to lie awake at night, trembling under the consciousness that he was sitting at my bedside, and I had no means of penetrating the silence between us. Often I entreated him to speak, but when a low, hissing sound came close to my ear, I would scream with terror and rush from my room. All my desire to see or communicate with my lost friend had deserted me. The very idea was a terror. I was horror-struck to think he had returned, and I would neither sleep alone nor remain alone. I was advised to try a livelier place than Winchester (where I then resided), and a house was taken for me at Sydenham. But there, the sense of the presence of John Powles was as keen as before, and so, at intervals, I continued to feel it for the space of several years-until, indeed, I became an inquirer into Spiritualism as a science.
I have related in the chapter that contains an account of my first seance, that the only face I recognized as belonging to me was that of my friend John Powles, and how excited I became on seeing it. It was that recognition that brought back all my old longing and curiosity to communicate with the inhabitants of the Unseen World. As soon as I commenced investigations in my home circle, John Powles was the very first Spirit who spoke to me through the table, and from that time until the present I have never ceased to hold communion with him. He is very shy, however (as he was whilst with us) of conversing before strangers, and seldom intimates his presence except I am alone. At such times, however, he will talk by the hour of all such topics as interested him during his earth life.
Soon after it became generally known that I was attending seances, I was introduced to Miss Showers, the daughter of General Showers of 'the Bombay Army. This young lady, besides being little more than a child-I think she was about sixteen when we met-was not a professional Medium. The seances to which her friends were invited to witness the extraordinary manifestations that took place in her presence were strictly private. They offered therefore an enormous advantage to investigators, as the occurrences were all above suspicion, whilst Miss Showers was good enough to allow herself to be tested in every possible way. I shall have occasion to refer more particularly to Miss Showers' mediumship further on-at present, therefore, I will confine myself to those occasions which afforded proofs of John Powles' presence.
Mrs. and Miss Showers were living in apartments when I visited them, and there was no means nor opportunity of deceiving their friends, even had they had any object in doing so. I must add also, that they knew nothing of my Indian life nor experiences, which were things of the past long before I met them. At the first sitting Miss Showers gave me for is spirit faces, she merely sat on a chair behind the window curtains, which were pinned together half-way up, so as to leave a V-shaped opening at the top. The voice of Peter (Miss Showers' principal control) kept talking to us and the medium from behind the curtains all the time, and making remarks on the faces as they appeared at the opening. Presently he said to me, Mrs. Ross-Church, here's a fellow says his name is Powles, and he wants to speak to you, only he doesn't like to show himself because he's not a bit like what he used to be.' Tell him not to mind that, I answered, I shall know him under any circumstances. Well! if he was anything like that, he was a beauty, It exclaimed Peter; and presently a face appeared which I could not, by any stretch of imagination, decide to resemble in the slightest degree my old friend. It was hard, stiff and un-lifelike. After it had disappeared, Peter said, Powles says if you'll come and sit with Rosie (Miss Showers) often, he'll look quite like himself by-and-by, and of course I was only too anxious to accept the invitation.
As I was setting out another evening to sit with Miss Showers, the thought suddenly occurred to me to put the green necktie in my pocket. My two daughters accompanied me on that occasion, but I said nothing to them about the necktie. As soon as we had commenced, however, Peter called out, Now, Mrs. Ross-Church, hand over that necktie. Powles is coming. What necktie? I asked, and he answered, Why, Powles' necktie, of course, that you've got in your pocket. He wants you to put it round his neck. The assembled party looked at me inquisitively as I produced the tie. The face of John Powles appeared, very different from the time before, as he had his own features and complextion, but his hair and beard (which were auburn during life) appeared phosphoric, as though made of living fire. I mounted on a chair and tied the necktie round his throat, and asked him if he would kiss me. He shook his head. Peter called out, Give him your hand. I did so, and as he kissed it, his moustaches burned me. I cannot account for it. I can only relate the fact. After which he disappeared with the necktie, which I have never seen since, though we searched the little room for it thoroughly.
When Mr. William Fletcher gave his first lecture in England, in the Steinway Hall, my husband, Colonel Lean, and I, went to hear him. We had never seen Mr. Fletcher before, nor any of his family, nor did he know we were amongst the audience. Our first view of him was when he stepped upon the platform, and we were seated quite in the body of the hall, which was full. It was Mr. Fletcher's custom, after his lecture was concluded, to describe such visions as were presented to him, and he only asked in return that if the people and places were recognized, those who recognized them would be brave enough to say so, for the sake of the audience and himself I can understand that strangers who went there and heard nothing that concerned themselves would be very apt to imagine it was all humbug, and that those who claimed a knowledge of the visions were simply confederates of Mr. Fletcher. But there is nothing more true than that circumstances alter cases. I entered Steinway Hall as a perfect stranger, and as a press-writer, quite prepared to expose trickery if I detected it. And this is what I heard. After Mr. Fletcher had described several persons and scenes unknown to me, he took out a handkerchief and began to wipe his face, as though he were very warm.
I am no longer in England now, he said. The scene has quite changed, and I am taken over the sea thousands of miles away, and I am in a chamber with all the doors and windows open. Oh! how hot it is! I think I am somewhere in the tropics. O! I see why I have been brought here! It is to see a young man die! This is a death chamber. He is lying on a bed. He looks very pale, and he is very near death, but he has only been ill a short time. His hair is a kind of golden chestnut colour and he has no eyes. He is an Englishman, and I can see the letter 'P' above his head. He has not been happy on earth and he is quite content to die. He pushes all the influences that are round his bed away from him. Now I see a lady come and sit down beside him. He holds her hand, and appears to ask her to do something, and I hear a strain of sweet music. It is a song he has heard in happier times, and on the breath of it his Spirit passes away. It is to this lady he seems to come now. She is sitting on my left about half-way down the hall. A little girl, with her hands full of blue flowers, points her out to me. The little girl holds up the flowers, and I see they are woven into a resemblance of the letter F. She tells me that is the initial letter of her mother's name and her own. And I see this message written.
"To my dearest friend, for such you ever were to me from the beginning. I have been with you through all your time of trial and sorrow, and I am rejoiced to see that a happier era is beginning for you. I am always near you. The darkness is fast rolling away, and happiness will succeed it. Pray for me, and I shall be near you in your prayers. I pray God to bless you and to bless me, and to bring us together again in the Summerland"
And I see the spirit pointing with his hand far away, as though to intimate that the happiness he speaks of is only the beginning of some that will extend to a long distance of time. I see this scene more plainly than any I have ever seen before. These words were written down at the time they were spoken. Colonel Lean and I were sitting in the very spot indicated by Mr. Fletcher, and the little girl with the blue flowers was my Spirit Child, Florence, whose history I shall give in the next chapter. But my communications with John Powles, though very extraordinary, were not satisfactory to me. I am the Thomas, surnamed Didymus, of the spiritualistic, world, who wants to see and touch and handle before I can altogether believe. I wanted to meet John Powles and talk with him face to face, and it seemed such an impossibility for him to materialize in the light that, after his two failures with Miss Showers, he refused to try. I was always worrying him to tell me if we should meet in the body before I left this world, and his answer was always, Yes! but not just yet! I had no idea then that I should have to cross the Atlantic before I saw my dear old friend again.
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