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Amazing Materializations Reported

Posted on 07 November 2016, 9:43

In her 1893 book, There is No Death, now available on Kindle, Florence Marryat, (below) a popular British author, journalist, editor, and playwright, tells of observing numerous séances with physical mediums, including Florence Cook, best remembered as being a test subject for Sir William Crookes, the renowned British chemist.  Various references suggest that Crookes was simply duped by the teenaged medium, but if Marryat is to be believed there is no doubt that Florence Cook was the real deal.  (Yes, both were named Florence.) 


Beginning in 1873, Marryat observed phenomena with Cook on a number of occasions and became a close friend.  During her first visit with Cook, she states that she was sitting at a dining table with approximately 30 people when the table was levitated, the bottom of the table, with everything upon it, rising to about knee level.

At one sitting, Katie King, the spirit who materialized from the ectoplasm given off by Cook, was asked why she could not appear in the light of more than one gas-burner.  Katie explained that she didn’t understand herself why she couldn’t but told the sitters to add more light and to see what happens.  Marryat recorded:

“She took up her station against the drawing-room wall, with her arms extended as if she were crucified. Then the gas-burners were turned on to their full extent ... The effect upon ‘Katie King’ was marvelous.  She looked like herself for the space of a second only, then she began gradually to melt away.  I can compare the dematerialization of her form to nothing but a wax doll melting before a hot fire.  First, the features became blurred and indistinct; they seemed to run into each other.  The eyes sank in the sockets, the nose disappeared, the frontal bone fell in.  Next the limbs appeared to give way under her, and she sank lower and lower on the carpet like a crumbling edifice.  At last there was nothing but her head left above the ground – then a heap of white drappery only, which disappeared with a whisk, as if a hand had pulled it after her – and we were left staring by the light of three gas-burners at the spot on which ‘Katie King’ had stood.” 

At one sitting, Katie King invited Marryat and the other sitters to cut off a piece of her dress, place it in an envelope, and take it home.  They complied, but all reported that when they got home the envelopes were empty. 

Florence Cook materialization 

Marryat’s introduction to mediumship and Spiritualism came in February 1873, when she and a friend, Annie Thomas, had a sitting with a Mrs. Holmes, an American medium visiting London.  They attended anonymously.  It took some time before anything happened, but as they were growing tired of waiting, they saw something white and indistinct, “like a cloud of tobacco smoke, or a bundle of gossamer,”  Marryat reported:

“The white mass advanced and retreated several times, and finally settled before the aperture and opened in the middle, when a female face was distinctly to be seen above the calico.  What was our amazement was to recognize the features of Mrs. Thomas, Annie’s mother ... I had known Mrs. Thomas well, and recognized her at once, as, of course, did her daughter ... Poor Annie was very much affected, and talked to her mother in the most incoherent manner.  The spirit did not appear able to answer in words, but she bowed her head or shook it, according as she wished to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ I could not help feeling awed at the appearance of the dear old lady….  It was some time before Annie could be persuaded to let her mother go, but the next face that presented itself astonished her quite as much, for she recognized it as that of Captain Gordon, a gentleman whom she had known intimately and for a length of time ...  All I saw was the head of a good-looking, fair, young man, and not feeling any personal interest in his appearance, I occupied the time during which my friend conversed with him about olden days, by minutely examining the working of the muscles of his throat, which undeniably stretched when his head moved….”

While visiting the United States in 1884, Marryat anonymously attended a séance with Mrs. M. A. Williams in New York City.  The medium said that a spirit was there who had come for a lady named “Florence,” who had just come across the sea.  Before Marryat could respond, her deceased daughter, also named Florence, who had died as an infant but was in spirit a young woman, came running across the room and fell into her arms, kissing her constantly. “Mother!” she exclaimed, “I said I would come with you and look after you didn’t I?”  Marryat wrote:

“I looked at her.  She was exactly the same in appearance as when she had come to me in England – the same luxuriant brown hair and features and figure, as I had seen under the different mediumships of Florence Cook, Arthur Colman, Charles Williams and William Eglinton; the same form which in England had been declared to be half a dozen different media dressed up to represent my daughter, stood before me there in New York, thousand of miles across the sea, and by the power of a person who did not even know who I was.  If I had not been convinced before, how could I have helped being convinced then?”

Marryat added that she witnessed 40 other materializations that night, all speaking distinctly and audibly, more so than she had ever witnessed in England. She concluded that the dry atmosphere of the United States was more favorable to the materialization phenomenon than that of England.

At a sitting with Eva Hatch in Boston, Marryat, also attending under a pseudonym, was astonished when the medium asked if anyone named “Bluebell” was present in the room.  That was the pet name given to her by her brother-in-law, Edward “Ted” Church, who had died some 10 years earlier.  However, Marryat was then greeted by her daughter, Florence. Marryat asked her why she referred to her as “Bluebell.” The story continued:

“She did not answer me, except by shaking her head, placing her finger on her lips, and pointing downward to the carpet.  I did not know what to make of it.  I had never known her unable to articulate before. ‘What is the matter, dear?’ I said; ‘can’t you speak to me to-night?’ Still she shook her head, and tapped my arm with her hand, to attract my attention to the fact she was pointing vigorously downwards.  I looked down, too, when to my astonishment I saw rise through the carpet what looked to me like the bald head of a baby or an old man, and a little figure, not more than three feet in height, with Edward Church’s features, but no hair on its head, came gradually into view, and looked up in my face with a pitiful, deprecating expression, as if he were afraid I would strike him.  The face, however, was so unmistakably Ted’s, though the figure was so ludicrously insignificant, that I could not fail to recognize him.  ‘Why, Ted!’ I exclaimed, ‘have you come back to see me at last?’ and held out my hand. The little figure seized it, tried to convey it to his lips, burst into tears, and sank down through the carpet much more rapidly than he had come up.” 

Daughter Florence explained that Uncle Ted was so overcome at seeing her that he couldn’t materialize better. Two nights later, Marryat returned for another sitting with Mrs. Hatch.  This time, Florence and Ted both came, Ted at full height and with a full head of hair, parted just as he used to wear it when alive in the flesh.  However, Ted was unable to speak, Florence explaining that he was too weak to do so.

There is only a small sampling of the mind-boggling phenomena set forth by Florence Marryat in this book.  While the skeptic may have no alternative but to claim that the book is a work of fiction, like most of Marryat’s other 60-plus books, such a theory seems extremely far-fetched.  There is too much earnestness and sincerity in her writing and too many other living people (when the book was published) mentioned in the book who could have refuted her words to believe that this was anything but a factual account of her experiences. “Every word I have written is the honest and unbiased truth,” she ends the book.  I find it difficult to believe that a woman of her reputation would have had a motive to make it all up or even embellish it to any great extent.  This book as well as a second book on the same subject – The Spirit World, released in 1894 – were published well after she had established herself as a renowned writer. 

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.

Next blog post:  November 21




I intend to get to spirit photography soon.  Thanks for reminding me.

Michael Tymn, Mon 21 Nov, 19:18

Thank you for your research Michael. Is there any chance in future blog posts you can cover the spirit photographer William Hope, William Eglinton or Francis Ward Monck? The skeptics claim all these mediums were frauds but they only look at the negative evidence. Thank you.

Waller Joel, Sat 19 Nov, 22:43


Let me add the following while suggesting that what was said and observed of Palladino is much the same as what was said and observed with
Florence Cook.

As reported in the November 1909 Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, a series of 40 sittings were conducted with Eusapia Palladino by Dr. Julian Ochorowicz, a psychologist, in Warsaw, Poland, during 1893-1894. In all, 23 experimenters participated. In the end, 10, including Ochorowicz, were convinced of the supernormal character of the phenomena, while seven were uncertain but accepted that they could not have been due to ordinary mechanical agency. Thus, 17 of the 23 did not believe what they had witnessed was trickery. Two were inclined, with certain reservations, to deny the supernormal character of the manifestations, and three concluded it had to be fraud of some kind, even though they couldn’t prove it. One refused to express any opinion. And so it was with nearly every study of Palladino - some convinced she was a genuine medium, some convinced she was a fraud, and some not knowing what to believe.

“I write with full consciousness of being in the right,” offered Professor Enrico Morselli, an Italian neurologist and director of the Clinic of Nervous and Mental Disease at the University of Genoa, “that the phenomena of physical mediumship attributed to Eusapia are in the great majority of cases real, authentic, genuine; that in the now innumerable series of her `spiritistic’ manifestations there may be an admixture of some spurious phenomena, sometimes also naive and puerile attempts at deception on her part, and illusions or errors of appreciation on the part of the sitters; but on the whole the phenomena produced by Eusapia have for a calm scientist, an impartial observer, a competent student of psychology, an objective existence and positive consistency equal to those attained by categories of facts judged by ordinary reasoning, and verified and accepted in accordance with the rules of the experimental method.”

Michael Tymn, Tue 15 Nov, 06:00


If you do a little more searching at debunking web sites, you can read that Florence Cook smuggled her sister into the home of Sir William Crookes on countless occasions to play the part of Katie King.  You can also read that Crookes had a romantic relationship with her and that is the reason he never exposed her as a fraud. 

I don’t think you can find a record of any physical medium who escaped charges of fraud by someone.  I recall reading about Volksman and Stillwell, but I am not up to searching for that information now.  So many of the “exposures” were by people who were biased against the person in the first place and wanted to find fraud or they simply didn’t understand what was going on.

As the more experienced researchers came to realize, when the medium was in the trance state, the spirit controlling her body sometimes did things to effect some phenomenon, not realizing that what he or she was doing appeared as fraud.  Eusapia Palladino is probably the best example of this. 

As George Pellew pointed out with Leonora Piper, he didn’t know if his communication was coming through via automatic writing or through her voice. Previously a trance-voice medium, she became a writing medium under Pellew’s control. 
Pellew was surprised to find out from Richard Hodgson, the chief investigator of Mrs. Piper, that his words were coming through in writing. 

I give more weight to the people who observed a medium on numerous occasions than to those who sat with her one time and didn’t really understand the complex dynamics of trance control.

I believe that is one of the reasons we no longer hear of such mediumship.  The spirit world realized that good mediums were being defamed because the controlling spirit didn’t really understand how his actions were manifesting in this realm, as well as the fact that many people claimed fraud because they couldn’t accept the reality of such mediumship.

As Florence Marryat indicated, she observed Katie King under some light and she saw her daughter and spoke with her when she materialized.  Do you think Marryat was so stupid as to not realize Florence Cook was acting the part of her daughter? 

I might add that most of Sir William Crookes’s observations of Cook were in his own home.  He noted that she brought a small bag with her and always inspected the bag to make sure that nothing was being smuggled into his house. But then the rumors of Crookes’ romantic interest in her began. 
What to believe?  I believe Crookes, who was totally disgusted by all the allegations and gave up his research because of all the idiots who made such speculations and accusations. 

If Marryat’s daughter had materialized only with Florence Cook, that would be one thing, but she materialized with four or five different mediums. 
Doesn’t that give some credibility to Cook?

Michael Tymn, Mon 14 Nov, 10:11

Florence Cook was caught in fraud by William Volckman at a seance in 1873. She was captured dressing up as the spirit materialization. What do you think about this exposure?

It appears Volckman was a spiritualist himself and the husband of Agnes Guppy-Volckman, another famous British spiritualist medium. If you do not accept this exposure as genuine do you think there was some kind of rivalry going on between these mediums?

Florence was also caught dressed up as a materialization (in cloth clothing) by Sir George Sitwell at a seance with the British National Association of Spiritualists in 1880. I find it unlikely that Florence Cook was a genuine medium because of these exposures.

Shimon, Sat 12 Nov, 22:43

I think that there were many excellent examples of alternate realities that have been documented in the past.  Not only do they go back 100 years but some of them extend back several hundreds of years if not a couple thousand years or more.  The Christian Bible, for example is filled with reports of paranormal activity.  I can’t say that such reports were all ignored, obviously, because evidence still exists of those reports. The writings of Alfred Russel Wallace, Robert Dale Owen, Frederic Myers, Richard Hodgson, James, Hyslop,  Eleanor Sidgwick, Walter Franklin Prince and others written during the middle to late 1800s and early 1900s provide credible documentation of paranormal activity.  This period of time was a period when more people were open to considering paranormal phenomena as having some validity.  Today, such reports are often ruled out as hallucinations or fabrications without an honest evaluation of them.

Some of those older paranormal occurrences were absolutely mind-boggling and have no believable explanation using materialistic explanations.  For example, consider the precipitated portraits of the Bangs sisters, the historical novels, poems, plays, aphorisms and language of Pearl Curran, the numerous novels and other writings of Chico Xavier, the long multiple year study of Leonora Piper by the Society of Psychical Research, the unbelievable antics of Daniel Dunglas Home and the more recent scientific studies of reincarnation cases reported by Ian Stevenson.  These and perhaps a few others are not explainable by materialistic paradigms.
Paranormal activities are still being reported today in large numbers, for example the near death experiences of perhaps 1,000s of people; reports of people who have had organ transplants, electronic voice transmission reports,  reincarnation report of James Leininger and others.  The mental mediums Christopher Stillar , George Anderson,  John Edward are just three examples of modern mediums who provide credible contacts with other realities.  There are many more modern reports and modern mediums many of whom are not widely known.

I personally prefer the older writings as the writers seem to be more interested in clearly documenting their experiences and research not to mention the beautiful academic use of language which is sometimes sorely lacking in today’s best-selling books about psychic activities.  It may be that modern writers are more interested in selling books with splashy dust jackets and recycling their books several times under new titles or new editions to generate as much money as they can.  I don’t think that was the ‘modus operandi’ of the writers of the 1800s. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 10 Nov, 15:48


I believe the research of 100 years ago was much better than anything we have today and was ignored then and still ignored now.  The primary purpose of this blog is to make the old research better known. We should not have to keep reinventing the wheel, which is what you are suggesting. Do you suggest that we continue to do research offering a positive correlation between lung cancer and smoking?

I know that the skeptic will ask why we don’t have such mediumship and research today.  I think I have discussed that in a previous blog, but I intend to further discuss it again soon.

Thanks for writing.

Michael Tymn, Wed 9 Nov, 10:04

a very interesting story,but why oh why do you continue to use stories a hundred and twenty years old.
what is wanted is something current that we can check it out.

david hall, Wed 9 Nov, 01:46

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Fallen Soldier Convinces His Famous Father of Life After Death – On September 14, 1915, Second Lieutenant Raymond Lodge, the youngest of six sons of Sir Oliver Lodge, a distinguished British physicist and pioneer in electricity and radio, as well as the former president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, was killed in WWI action in Flanders. Read here
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