- Historic Sites
The Medium Had The Message:
Mrs. Piper and the Professors
February 1971 | Volume 22, Issue 2
Mr. Shaw had a document and other business papers that required the signature of a man who had disappeared. Leaving his own city, Shaw set out to track the man down; after difficulties he found him in a cheap boarding house on the New Jersey coast.
The man had become an alcoholic and now lay on a bed suffering delirium tremens. Unaware of his companion or his surroundings, he constantly picked at the sheets, the pillow, and his own body as though trying to remove vermin that crawled over him. For at least two days Shaw waited patiently at the bedside, watching the ceaseless picking, hoping that a lucid moment would come. When the victim recovered slightly, Shawwhipped out his fountain pen and, guiding the weak hand, managed to obtain the needed signature.
His mission accomplished, Shaw began his homeward trip, which required an overnight stop in Washington. He learned, upon arriving in the capital, that Mrs. Piper was giving a public demonstration, and having heard of the remarkable lady, decided to attend. When the call came for members of the audience to send small objects to the stage, Shaw, his curiosity aroused, sent up his fountain pen.
The medium, apparently in a verylight trance, touched the pen, then, moaning, began to pick at herself, her fluttering hands running over her collar, her sleeves, the skirt of her dress, in an uncanny imitation of the delirium tremens victim. Recoiling from the pen, Mrs. Piper announced that she had never been so uncomfortable in her life.
Shaw watched in amazement. There seemed no possible way for the medium to have known the pen’s recent history- he alone knew about the man in the boarding house, yet he had just observed a re-enactment terrible in its exactness. After the demonstration, Shawreturned home to tell his story, adding another bit to the legend of Mrs. Piper.
A young friend of Dr. Hodgson’s, George Pelham, had once attended a sitting with Mrs. Piper. He was presented to the medium under an alias, and the séance was not especially notable. Mrs. Piper never knew she had met him, and she could not have made any great impression on Pelham, for the young man remained a skeptic not just regarding spiritualism but about all religion. He had strong doubts about any existence after earthly life.
Pelham died suddenly in February, 1892, and about a month after his death a friend who assumed the name John Hart attended a séance with Mrs. Piper in Boston. Dr. Phinuit, in control, suddenly said, “There is another George who wants to speak to you.” This spirit announced himself as G. P. and not only identified himself by his right name, but revealed Hart’s true name, which was unknown to the medium. He then mentioned various common acquaintances, and the following dialogue took place:
Hart ( showing a pair of studs )—Who gave them to me?
G.P.—That’s mine. I sent that to you.
G.P.—Before I came here. Mother gave you that.
G.P.—Well, Father then. Father and Mother together. You got those after I passed out. Mother took them. Gave them to Father, and Father gave them to you …
This information, unknown to Hart, proved correct. G.P.’s stepmother had removed the studs from the corpse and asked her husband to present them to Hart. G.P., in this first appearance, made a number of references to James and Mary Howard, mutual friends of Pelham and Hart. At Hart’s urging, the Howards reluctantly agreed to attend a séance, although they were not interested in occult experiments, and the notion of attempting to contact the dead Pelham seemed distasteful to them.
The séance was held on April 11,1892. G.P. made contact almost at once, and this time he did not speak through Phinuit but in his own voice—or at least in a voice so like that of George Pelham that Mrs. Howard recognized the tone at once and was thoroughly frightened.
G.P.—Jim, is that you? Speak to me quick. I am not dead. Don’t think of me dead. I am awfully glad to see you. Can’t you see me? Don’t you hear me? Give my love to my father and tell him I want to see him. … I want you to know I think of you still. …
Howard—What do you do, George, where are you?
G.P. —I am scarcely able to do anything yet; I am just awakened to the reality of life after death. It was like darkness. I could not distinguish anything at first … I was puzzled, confused. Shall have an occupation soon. …
Howard—Were you not surprised to find yourself living?
G.P.—Perfectly so. Greatly surprised. I did not believe in a future life. It was beyond my reasoning powers … Now it is as clear as daylight to me … I want all the fellows to know about me …