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The Voices That Converted A Skeptical Lawyer

Posted on 21 September 2010, 21:32

Sometime in 1892, Edward C. Randall, a prominent Buffalo, New York trial lawyer and businessman, was asked by a friend to accompany him on a visit to Emily S. French, a Rochester woman who, Randall (below) was told, had strange powers and received messages from spirits.  “This was an unexplored world to me,” Randall wrote.  “I went, and found there two others, both men of national reputation.  We sat in a dark room for two hours, and heard what purported to be voices, though they were only faint whispers.  We were not at all satisfied, but could not condemn, because we did not understand…We did not then believe that the whispers came from the great beyond, but, mystified, we determined to know what they were.”

edward randall

Over the next 20 years, until Mrs. French’s death in 1912, at age 80, Randall would sit with her more than 700 times. “In my investigations, covering many years, in the room in my own home devoted to such work, thousands of men whom I have known personally have talked with me, using their own tongues.  I have recognized their voices; they have recalled and related countless facts and incidents of their daily life and have proved beyond question their identity.”

Emily French (below) was primarily a direct-voice medium. Not to be confused with trance-voice mediumship, in which the spirit takes over the body of the medium and speaks through her vocal cords and mouth, the direct-voice method involves the spirit borrowing a psychic substance, usually referred to as ectoplasm, from the medium and sometimes from the sitters, to form vocal organs.  They then use this artificial larynx to speak.  The voices are usually soft and require a trumpet or cone for amplification, although the voices sometimes come through loud enough that a trumpet is not required.  The voices usually emanate several feet above the medium.  Skeptics claimed that such mediums were expert ventriloquists, but rigid testing ruled this out with Mrs. French and other credible direct-voice mediums.

emily french

“Each voice has individuality,” Randall explained.  “When new spirits come for the first time and take on the condition of vocalization, there is often a similarity in tone quality, but this soon passes away, as they grow accustomed to using their voices in this way.  The voices of those accustomed to speak never change, and are easily recognized.  There is no similarity of thought or words.”  Randall further mentioned that the strength of the voices varies greatly, much as they do in earth life.

After satisfying himself that Mrs. French was a genuine medium and that he was hearing from “spirit people,” including his mother and father, Randall turned to asking the spirit people questions about the afterlife. “Hundreds, at my invitation, have participated in the work and with me have heard different voices with different tones, different thoughts, different personalities, and at times different foreign languages,” Randall went on.

Randall was told that a spirit engineer must magnetize his room before he and the others present could hear their voices, and that it was easier for those more advanced to reach them (the communicating spirits) than it was for them to communicate with those on the earth plane.

Speaking with Dr. David Hossack, who had been in spirit life more than a century, Randall asked about the existence of a spirit body.  In reply, Hossack said:

“There is an inner, etheric body, composed of minute particles, of such substance that it can, and does, pass into spirit life.  Your outer bodies are too gross and material to effect the change.  The inner body is but the mind, the thought, the soul of the person.  It is in the semblance of the material body, but whether beautiful or ugly, strong or weak, depends upon the inner life of the person to whom belongs that particular spark of the great radiance called life, or God.

“Some there be who build a fair body, and some there be who come into this life with a body so mis-shapen and sickly it takes much effort to effect an upright, clean one.  They all come with bodies naturally, as all things have minds, after one fashion or another; but the conditions of these bodies are very different. Naturally, the mind, being the reality of man, is that which lives on – beautiful or disfigured by good or evil thoughts, as the case may be.  The only comfort is that every one has opportunity to work out the change in himself, and sometimes those changes are very rapid.”

Another spirit communicated that he was very particular about his wearing apparel when in earth life, but he found himself in “rags” when he arrived in the spirit world. Moreover, his body was distorted.  It took him some time, as time goes in his realm, to realize that it was his spirit body and not his physical body, apparently not recognizing that he was “dead.”  He further explained that it took him a long time to develop and restore his spirit body.

As Randall came to understand it, the physical body is simply the “housing” or “garment” worn by the etheric or spirit body, which is so refined, intense, and so high in vibration that physical eyes cannot see it.  When physical death occurs, the etheric body leaves the physical body and inhabits one of the spiritual planes, depending on the type of moral life he or she has led.

Randall asked communicating spirits what took place at the time of death.  His father, who died at age 76, told him that he felt a weakness come upon him as he was in his horse and buggy headed for a village some seven miles distant.  As he arrived at his destination, the weakness increased but he was able to walk in the house and sit down.  Then he saw his deceased wife standing there and smiling.

“Startled, I arose to my feet, and my last earthly sensation was falling – and as I now know, I did pitch forward on my face.  I do not recall striking the floor, or pain in my death change.  When the separation came, I was like one in sleep.

“The next I recall was awaking in the same room, with the leader of your spirit group holding my hand, helping me up.  I had heard his wonderful voice many times when I was privileged to come into your work, but it took me some little time to realize what happened to me.  I saw my body on the floor.  This startled me, for the body I then had was to my sight and touch identical with the one lying so quiet.  I saw people hurrying, and heard the anxious talk, not yet comprehending my separation from the physical body.”

Randall was told that in the afterlife everything in the physical world is a poor imitation of what is found in the spirit world, that all things exist first in the spirit world before they can be produced in the physical world.  One spirit explained it:

“We have often told you, and tell you now, that your earth and all things of your earth have their exact counterparts in the spirit world, just as real, just as tangible, just as substantial, to the inhabitants of this world, as material things and forms are to the inhabitants in mortal form upon your earth.”

One spirit likened the difference between his plane and the earth plane as much like the difference between living on land and living in the sea, pointing out that people on land could move with greater freedom than life that exists in the oceans because the material conditions become higher in vibration as we ascend the scales of motion, or, to look at it from the other end, there is more resistance the lower we descend Numerous other spirits referred to the planes or spheres in the afterlife and said that there were seven of them. One had this to say:

“I know what we all know – that there are seven spheres.  I have just reached the third.  Sometimes a spirit can speak from his sphere to the next higher, as you do while in the body, but only in the same way.  I mean that there is no mingling together.  When a spirit goes from one sphere to another, it is quite unlike dissolution in earth life.  He is warned that the change is near and has time to put his mind into a higher plane of thought so that he will be prepared to meet the new life.  He says farewell to all his friends.  They join in a general thanksgiving and celebration, all congratulating and helping him on his way by some strong uplifting thoughts.  When the time comes, he is put quietly to sleep, with the thought dominant in his mind that he is to make the change.  When he awakes, he is in his new home in the next higher sphere.”

The communicating spirit went on to say that each new change is more difficult to explain than the preceding one, but, as she understood it, each one is essentially a higher life in which one better prepares him- or herself for advancement.  She (the spirit) added that she had not been to the fourth sphere and only knows of higher spheres based on what teachers from those spheres have told her.

“In the lower sphere, one sees such suffering among those still earth-bound.  They, too, are busy working out past faults and they are often heavy-hearted.  Generally speaking, the first sphere is the one where restitution must be made, and where the final wrenching away from earth conditions takes place.  The second is one of instruction, a period of study, during which the spirit gains knowledge of self and natural laws.  The third is one of teaching those in the lower spheres, as I have said.  The fourth sphere is one of trial and temptation.  The fifth is truth, where error and falsehood are unknown.  In the sixth, all is harmony.  In the seventh, the spirits reach the plane of exaltations and become one with the great spirit that rules the universe.”

But she was quick to add that she had been informed that in becoming one with the great spirit in the seventh sphere that we do not lose our individuality or personality. However, it was all well beyond her comprehension or appreciation and therefore she could add no more.

Randall wrote that he heard from many earthbound spirits, those in lowest plane or sphere, or the one nearest the earth plane.  He came to understand that this sphere has various stages.  “There are some in total darkness, others in something of a twilight zone between the spiritual and physical worlds.  Some are in a condition of slumber, some in a deep sleep.  The majority knows that they have left the body, but there are still many who are not conscious of the fact that they are “dead.”  While missionary spirits from higher spheres attempt to enlighten spirits in the dark world, these lower spirits are no more open to truth and enlightenment than they were while in the flesh.

During one sitting, Randall heard from an old business acquaintance who had died at the age of 70 some five years earlier.  While considered a good citizen, the man, referred to as Mr. W— by Randall, had the reputation of being a “pennypincher.”  Both Mrs. French and a visiting clairvoyant could see the man and described his appearance, which fit Randall’s recollection of him. More evidential, however, was the man’s voice, which Randall clearly recognized.  Mr. W— told Randall that he was trapped in a wall of money and that it shuts out the light.

Another spirit friend explained to Randall that each sphere is divided into six circles or societies in which congenial people live together based upon the law of attractions.  While the members of the circles generally think alike, there are differences, much like there are in different societies on the earth plane. Each society has teachers from higher spheres who impart knowledge, which is in turn transmitted to those on lower spheres.

Still another spirit told Randall that they do not get their light from the sun, but rather it is radiated from the atoms.  He explained that their light is very different from sun light and that sun light is grosser than theirs.  Their light is soft, radiant and much more brilliant.

Many other spirit messages were recorded by Randall’s stenographer, including:

At dissolution, each sense is quickened, and all that fills space is visible to the spiritual senses and tangible to spiritual touch and brain.  Space must then take form, substance and reality – a world of thought, boundless and endless.”

“Dissolution is a step in evolution, and involves no mental change, adding nothing, subtracting nothing, but simply increasing the opportunities for other observation and learning.”

“The light we have is obtained from the action of our minds on the atmosphere.  We think light, and there is light.  That is why people who come over in evil conditions are in the dark; their minds are not competent to produce light enough for them to see.”

“There is greater intensity of light as we go up through the spheres, which comes from the blending of the more spiritual minds.”

“Our life is merely the condition of mind which each one has.  We create images in thought, and have the reality before us, just as tangible as your houses and buildings are to you.  You do not have any conception of the great power and force there is, or may be, in thought.  It dominates all conditions and makes us what we are.  One who realizes this may control his destiny.”

“Make yourself attened to the most harmonious vibrations, so that your impulses will be good, and then obey them.  They are apt to be the suggestions of a fellow soul working out his salvation.”

“Life would e but a futile think, and all effort useless, if the future did not stretch before us, endless and unlimited in its possibilities.”

“The tendency of all life, wheresoever found or howsoever clothed, is to perfect, improve, increase and extend its sphere of usefulness.  This is evolution.  It is a fact, a law and not a theory, and its possibilities are as boundless as the imagination.”

“Power is born of desire; no man can earnestly desire to live upon a high plane and yet be compelled to live upon a low plane, since we live in that state of development that we create for ourselves.” (R2, 195)

“There are sounds that our ears have never heard; there is light that our physical eyes can never see; there is an invisible world filled with people that few have ever imagined.”

Photos courtesy of N. Riley Heagerty.  See his website and information on how to order his book about the mediumship of Emily French at

Edward Randall’s book, Frontiers of the Afterlife, is available from White Crow Books.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.





See my comments at the second half of the article on reincarnation under the “Features” section of this blog, “The Reincarnation of a WWII Fighter Pilot.”  My personal belief is that reincarnation exists, but it doesn’t exist in the way most people think it does.  That is why there is so much confusion in the spirit messages.  In effect, I think it is pretty much beyond human comprehension.  Thanks for your comment.

Michael Tymn, Sat 2 Oct, 04:50

Hellp Jon, thanks for your answer!,

I think that reincarnation was a dificult topic on those times, for example: It is said the Allan Kardec tended to be very dogmatic about the issue of reincarnation. Furthermore, it is said that his categorical views on reincarnation caused him to disparage the practice of physical mediumship, which, for some reason, tended not to promote this doctrine of the Spirit. Finally, it is said that a rift came about between him and the famous medium, D. D. Home, because Mr. Home denounced the doctrine of reincarnation…also The story of Allan Kardec first investigations into spirit manifestations is somewhat obscure. Le Livre des Esprits (The Spirits’ Book), which expounds a new theory of human life and destiny, was published in 1856. According to an article by Alexander Aksakof in The Spiritualist in 1875, the book was based on trance communications received through Celina Bequet, a professional somnambulist. For family reasons she took the name Celina Japhet and, controlled by the spirits of her grandfather, M. Hahnemann, and Franz Mesmer, gave out medical advice under this name. In her automatic scripts the spirits communicated the doctrine of reincarnation.




juan, Tue 28 Sep, 05:47


In Randall’s book “Frontiers of the Afterlife” he states the following; I hope it helps.

“Those souls that progress through each step are slowly, but surely, becoming a part of that great force which is life; life itself is light, and ultimately individuality will be lost in the immensity of that great, harmonious life force and will become, in turn, a tiny part of the new conception in the earth form again. I do not mean that this is reincarnation. An atom only is needed to create life in the lower earth forms, and that is taken from the immense whole. This is the law of the universe. There seem no words to tell you, or to make you understand clearly, the plan and purpose of creation; one must accept it and try to realize that one’s own life, seemingly so important to one’s self, is in reality such a little thing in the immensity of the universe, and yet just as essential to the whole as one petal of a fl ower is to the perfect rose. It is a part of the perfect whole, and necessary.

Jon, Sat 25 Sep, 03:18

Great Blog, thanks for all the information you share!

I have a question: I had read some books of Mr. Edward C. Randall, like “The Dead Have Never Died in 1917”, but I don’t remember read anything about the “reincarnation” topic,  Maybe it was not the time for the spirits speak of these issues, but do not remember anything about reincarnation in his books;

I would like to know Mr. Tymn, if you know anything about this topic in the books of Mr. Randall;

Thanks in advance;


(Sorry my English smile

juan, Sat 25 Sep, 00:44

Another fascinating post. Mike. 

“While missionary spirits from higher spheres attempt to enlighten spirits in the dark world, these lower spirits are no more open to truth and enlightenment than they were while in the flesh.”

Alex Tsakiris, Wed 22 Sep, 01:22

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The Orpheus Motif in North America: The Comanche tradition – To give the reader a general idea of the form taken by the Orpheus tradition in North America, I reproduce the version of the Comanche Indians, here published for the first time. It was communicated to me orally by the late Dr Ralph Linton, who noted it down in the course of his field-studies among the Comanche (1933). Particular interest attaches to the Comanche narrative, for it is the first recorded Orpheus tradition from the more easterly Shoshonean groups. No account is given of it in Wallace and Hoebel’s Comanche monograph, which is otherwise a valuable source for the religion and folklore of this tribe. Read here
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