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What the Spirits told the Professor

One of the distinguished scientists of yesteryear featured in my book, The Articulate Dead, is Dr. Robert Hare, a professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania during the 19th Century. Like most of the other scholars and scientists investigating mediumship, Hare started out as a disbeliever and expected to debunk mediumship.

robert hare

After receiving very evidential messages from his deceased parents and sister, Hare became a convert “I did not yield the ground undisputed, and was vanquished only by facts and reasons which, when understood or admitted, must produce in others the conviction which they created in me,” he explained.  “If I was the victim of an intellectual epidemic, my mental constitution did not yield at once to the miasma.  It took some three months to include me among its victims.”

The son of an English emigrant, Hare invented the oxy-hydrogen blow-pipe, a forerunner of the modern welding torch, before he was 20 years old.  He was the first person to fuse lime, magnesia, iridium and platinum.  In 1816, he invented the calorimotor, a type of battery from which heat is produced.  This led to his invention of the deflagrator, which was employed in volatilizing and fusing carbon.  In 1818, Hare was called to the chair of chemistry and natural philosophy at William and Mary and that same year was appointed as professor of Chemistry in the department of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, where he would remain until his retirement in 1847.

After his first few sittings with mediums, in which the communication came primarily by table tilting or raps, Hare, inventor that he was, immediately went to work contriving an apparatus which would facilitate and expedite communication, as the process he had observed was very slow. He devised a machine, called a spiritoscope, with a circular disc, the letters of the alphabet around the circumference of the disc, and with weights, pulleys, and cords attaching it to the tilting table.  The medium would sit behind the table in order to supply the “psychic force” through which the spirits caused the table to tilt, but the medium could not see the wheel and had no idea what was being spelled out.

Put to the test, the contraption worked and the first spirit to communicate was Hare’s deceased father, Robert Sr. When Hare continued to doubt, the message came through, “Oh, my son, listen to reason!” At a second sitting, his father again communicated, saying that his mother and sister were also there but not his brother.  Personal information was given to Hare, information which Hare was certain the medium could not have researched.

While reasonably certain that his spiritoscope prevented any kind of trickery by the mediums with whom he was sitting, Hare continued in his investigation with caution, asking the communicating spirits for information that would prove their identities. In his third sitting, when the message was spelled out that his sister was there, Hare asked her for the name of their father’s early business partner.  She responded correctly with the name “Warren.”  He then asked her for the name of their English grandfather’s partner, who had died in London more than 70 years earlier.  She again responded with the correct name. “The medium and all present were strangers to my family, and I had never heard either name mentioned, except by my father,” Hare recorded.  “Even my younger brother did not remember that of my father’s partner.”

With another medium, Hare asked his father for the name of an English cousin who had married an admiral. The father spelled out the name. Hare also asked his father for the maiden name of an English brother’s wife.  The Spiritoscope spelled out “Clargess,” which was correct. 

It was explained to him by his father that the spirits direct currents of vitalized electricity on the particular muscles of the medium which they desire to control. It is not necessary that the medium be a person of good moral character or have a balanced mind, but an advanced spirit would not be able to control the organs or mind of a medium unless in affinity with the medium.  When spirits wish to impress the mind, the spirits can dispose and arrange the magnetic currents of the brain so as to form or fashion them into ideas of their own.  They can instantly determine the sphere of a spirit, in or out of the body, by the particular brilliancy and character of the light in which he or she is enveloped, as well as by the peculiar sensation which his or her presence creates.

At a sitting with a Mrs. Hayden, Hare received a message from a spirit identifying himself as C. H. Hare.  “Not recollecting any one of our relations of that name precisely, I inquired if he were one of them,” Hare wrote.  “The reply was affirmative. “Are you a son of my cousin Charles Hare, of St. Johns, New Brunswick?” Hare asked. “Yes,” was then spelled out.  “This spirit then gave me the profession of my grandfather, also that of his father, and the fact of the former having been blown into the water at Toulon, and of the latter having made a miraculous escape from Verdun, where he had been confined until his knowledge of French enabled him to escape by personating in disguise an officer of the customs.”

Hare was unaware of the young man’s death, but the brother of the communicating spirit visited Hare in Philadelphia some time later and informed him that his brother, Charles Henry, had been killed at sea in a shipwreck. Here was a message clearly outside the telepathy hypothesis, which held that the medium was reading the mind of the sitter.

In that same sitting with Mrs. Hayden, the words “pulsatque versatque” and “Quadrupedante” were spelled out by Hare’s father.  Hare immediately recognized the words as being from Virgil and recalled his father explaining the English meaning of the Latin words to him some 55 years earlier.

“As soon as convinced that the phenomena were due to the shades of the dead, I looked with eagerness for some consistent information of their abodes, modes of existence, of the theological doctrines entertained by them, and the actual diversities of their situation consequent to various degrees of moral and intellectual merit,” Hare stated. 
His father explained that the spirit goes to a sphere for which it is morally and intellectually adapted based upon a sort of “moral specific gravity.” 

The first sphere above the terrestrial one, i.e., the second sphere, is the abode of “degraded” spirits, meaning not only evil spirits but “misdirected” ones as well.  He pointed out that there are millions of such spirits in the second sphere, what religions call Hell, Hades, or Purgatory, who are groping and unable to free themselves from the fetters of earthly conditions.  This sphere is said to be the abode of as many spirits as all the five spheres above it.  Nevertheless, contrary to the teachings of many religions, the spirits on this sphere are not permanently confined there as “onward and upward” is the motto of the spirit world.  Sooner or later, spirits from higher levels are able to reach them and help them see the light. 

Because of the barriers spirits must overcome in communicating with the material world, the senior Hare warned his son to discern the messages and not take everything literally.  He was further informed that there are no visible boundaries between spheres, but spirits have a peculiar sense which makes them understand when they are passing from one sphere to another.

Each sphere, the senior Hare said, is divided into six circles, or societies, in which congenial spirits are united and subsist together according to the law of affinity.  While these spirits generally agree in moral and intellectual matters, there are individual differences and some disagreements.

Spirits united by ties of consanguinity and marriage may or may not be linked together in the spheres and in the same society. It depends on the affinity between them, including the level of advancement. However, a spirit in a higher sphere can pass to a lower one to visit with loved ones.  But a spirit can never ascend to the higher spheres until fully prepared for such a transition. 

After Professor Hare gave a talk to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in which he spoke of his interest in spirit communication, some members of the organization called for his expulsion from the organization. However, this apparently resulted in Hare becoming even more entrenched in his belief and he went to his grave certain that there was something beyond death. “No evidence of any important truth in science” he offered, “can be shown to be more unexceptionable than that which I have received of this glorious fact that heaven is really ‘at hand,’ and that our relatives, friends, and acquaintances who are worthy of happiness while describing themselves as ineffably happy, are still progressing to higher felicity; and while hovering aloft in our midst, are taking interest in our welfare with an augmented zeal or affection, so that, by these means, they may be a solace to us, in despite of death.”

To read more about what Professor Hare was told about the afterlife, you might consider my book, “The Articulate Dead,” which can be purchased at or at

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