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Banner Of Light And Messages From The Dead

"The Banner of Light," a weekly journal of romance, literature, and

general intelligence, published in Boston, is the principal organ of

spiritualism in this country. Its "general intelligence" is rather

questionable, though there is no doubt about its being a "journal of

romance," strongly tinctured with humbug and imposture. It has a

"Message Department," the proprietors of the paper claiming that "each

message in this department of the "Banner" was spoken by the spirit

whose name it bears, through the instrumentality of Mrs. J. H. Conant,

while in an abnormal condition called the trance."

I give a few specimens of these "messages." Thus, for instance,

discourseth the Ghost of Lolley:

"How do? Don't know me, do you? Know George Lolley? [Yes. How do

you do?] I'm first rate. I'm dead; ain't you afraid of me? You know

I was familiar with those sort of things, so I wasn't frightened to


"Well, won't you say to the folks that I'm all right, and happy?

that I didn't suffer a great deal, had a pretty severe wound, got

over that all right; went out from Petersburg. I was in the battle

before Petersburg; got my discharge from there. Remember me kindly

to Mr. Lord.

"Well, tell 'em as soon as I get the wheels a little greased up and

in running order I'll come back with the good things, as I said I

would, George W. Lolley. Good-bye."

Immediately after a "message" from the spirit of John Morgan, the

guerrilla, came one from Charles Talbot, who began as follows with a

curious apostrophe to his predecessor:

"Hi-yah! old grisly. It's lucky for you I didn't get in ahead of


"I am Charlie Talbot, of Chambersburg, Pa. Was wounded in action,

captured by the Rebels, and 'died on their hands' as they say of

the horse."

It seems a little rude for one "spirit" to term another "Old Grisly;"

but such may be the style of compliment prevailing in the spirit-world.

Here is what Brother Klink said:

"John Klink, of the Twenty-fifth South Carolina. I want to open

communication with Thomas Lefar, Charleston, S. C. I am deucedly

ignorant about this coming back--dead railroad--business. It's new

business to me, as I suppose it will be to some of you when you

travel this way. Say I will do the best I can to communicate with

my friends, if they will give me an opportunity. I desire Mr. Lefar

to send my letter to my family when he receives it--he knows where

they are--and then report to this office.

"Good night, afternoon or morning, I don't know which. I walked out

at Petersburg."

Here is a message from George W. Gage, with some of the questions which

he answered:

"[How do you like your new home?] First rate. I likes--heigho!--I

likes to come here, for they clears all the truck away before you

get round, and fix up so you can talk right off. [Wasn't you a

medium?] No, Sir; I wasn't afraid, though; nor my mother ain't,

either. Oh, I knew about it; I knew before I come to die, about it.

My mother told me about it. I knew I'd be a woman when I come here,

too. [Did you?] Yes, sir; my mother told me, and said I musn't be

afraid. Oh, I don't likes that, but I likes to come.

"I forgot, Sir; my mother's deaf, and always had to holler. That

gentleman says folks ain't deaf here."

The observable points are first that he seems to have excused his

"hollering" by the habits consequent upon his mother's deafness. The

"hollering" consisted of unusually heavy thumping, I suppose. But the

second point is of far greater interest. George intimates that he has

changed his "sect," and become a woman! For this important alteration

his good mother had prepared his mind. This style of thing will not seem

so strange if we consider that some men become old women before they


Here is another case of feminification and restitution combined. Hans

Von Vleet has become a vrow--what you may call a female Dutchman! It has

always been claimed that women are purer and better than men; and

accordingly we see that as soon as Hans became a woman he insisted on

his widow's returning to a Jew two thousand dollars that naughty Hans

had "Christianed" the poor Hebrew out of. But let Hans tell his own


"I was Hans Von Vleet ven I vas here. I vas Von Vleet here; I is

one vrow now. I is one vrow ven I comes back; I vas no vrow ven I

vas here (alluding to the fact that he was temporarily occupying

the form of our medium.) I wish you to know that I first live in

Harlem, State of New York. Ven I vos here, I take something I had

no right to take, something that no belongs to me. I takes

something; I takes two thousand dollars that was no my own; that's

what I come back to say about. I first have some dealings with one

Jew; that's what you call him. He likes to Jew me, and I likes to

Christian him. I belongs to the Dutch Reform Church. (Do you think

you were a good member?) Vell, I vas. I believes in the creed; I

takes the sacrament; I lives up to it outside. I no lives up to it

inside, I suppose. (How do you find yourself now, Hans?) Vell, I

finds myself--vell, I don't know; I not feel very happy. Ven I

comes to the spirit-land, I first meet that Jew's brother, and he

tells me, 'Hans, you mus go back and makes some right with my

brother.' So I comes here.

"I vants my vrow, what I left in Harlem, to takes that two tousand

dollars and gives it back to that Jew's vrow. That's what I came

for to-day, Sir. (Has your vrow got it?) Vell, my vrow has got it

in a tin box. Ven I first go, I takes the money, I gives it to my

vrow, and she takes care of it. Now I vants my vrow to give that

two tousand dollars to that Jew's vrow.

"(How do you spell your name?) The vrow knows how to spell. (Hans

Von Vleet.) There's a something you cross in it. The vrow spells

the rest. Ah, that's wrong; you makes a blunder. Its V. not F.

That's like all vrows. (Do all vrows make blunders?) Vell, I don't

know; all do sometimes, I suppose. (Didn't you like vrows here?)

Oh, vell, I likes 'em sometimes. I likes mine own vrow. I not likes

to be a vrow myself. (Don't the clothes fit?) Ah, vell, I suppose

they fits, but I not likes to wear what not becomes me."

It is scarcely necessary to make comments on such horrible nonsense as

this. I may recur to the subject in future, should it appear expedient.

At present I must drop the subject of female men.

At the head of the "Message Department" is a standing advertisement,

which reads as follows:

"Our free circles are held at No. 158 Washington street, Room No. 4

(up stairs,) on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The

circle-room will be open for visitors at two o'clock; services

commence at precisely three o'clock, after which time no one will

be admitted. Donations solicited."

On the days and at the hour mentioned in the above advertisement, quite

an audience assembles to hear the messages Mrs. C. may have to deliver.

If a stranger present should request a message from one of his

spirit-friends, he would be told that a large number of spirits were

seeking to communicate through that "instrument," and each must await

his turn! Having read obituary notices in the files of old newspapers,

and the published list of those recently killed in battle, the medium

has data for any number of "messages." She talks in the style that she

imagines the person whom she attempts to personate would use, being one

of the doctrines of spiritualism that a person's character and feelings

are not changed by death. To make the humbug more complete, she narrates

imaginary incidents, asserting them to have occurred in the

earth-experience of the spirit who purports to have possession of her at

the same time she is speaking. Mediums in various parts of the country

furnish her with the names of and facts relative to different deceased

people of their acquaintance, and those names and facts are used by her

in supplying the "Message Department" of the "Banner of Light."

If the assumed "mediumship" of this woman was not an imposture, some of

the many people who have visited her for the purpose of getting

communications from their spirit-friends would have been gratified. In

most of the "messages" published in the Banner, the spirits purporting

to give them, express a great desire to have their mortal friends

receive them; but those mortals who seek to obtain through Mrs. Conant

satisfactory messages from their spirit-friends, are not gratified--the

medium not being posted. The mediums are as much opposed to "new tests"

as a non-committal politician.

Time and again have leading spiritualists, in various parts of the

country, indorsed as "spiritual manifestations," what was subsequently

proved to be an imposture.

Several years ago, a man by the name of Paine created a great sensation

in Worcester, Mass., by causing a table to move "without contact," he

claiming that it was done by spirits through his "mediumship." He

subsequently came to New York, and exhibited the "manifestation" at the

house of a spiritualist--where he boarded--in the upper part of the

city. A great many spiritualists and not a few "skeptics" went to see

his performance. Paine was a very soft-spoken, "good sort of a fellow,"

and appeared to be quite sincere in his claims to "mediumship." He

received no fee from those who witnessed his exhibition; and that fact,

in connection with others, tended to disarm people of suspicion. His

seances were held in the evening, and each visitor was received by him

at the door, and immediately conducted to a seat next the wall of the


The visitors all in and seated, Mr. Paine took a seat with the rest in

the "circle." In the middle of the room a small table had previously

been placed, and the gas had been turned partly off, leaving just enough

light to make objects look ghostly.

In order to get "harmonized," singing was indulged in for a short time

by members of the "circle." Soon a number of raps would be heard in the

direction of the table, and one side of that piece of furniture would be

seen to rise about an inch from the floor. Some very naturally wanted to

rush to the table and investigate the matter more closely, but Paine

forbade that--the necessary "conditions" must be observed, he said, or

there would be no further manifestation of spirit-power. As there was no

one nearer to the table than six or eight feet, the fact of its moving,

very naturally astonished the skeptics present. Several "seeing mediums"

who attended Mr. Paine's seances, were able to see the spirits--so they

declared--who moved the table. One was described as a "big Injun," who

cut various capers, and appeared to be much delighted with the turn of

affairs. Believers were wonderfully well-pleased to know that at last a

medium was "developed" through whom the inhabitants of another world

could manifest their presence to mortals in such a way that no one could

gainsay the fact. The "invisibles" freely responded, by raps on the

table, to various questions asked by those in the "circle." They thumped

time to lively tunes, and seemed to have a decidedly good time of it in

their particular way. When the seance was concluded, Mr. Paine freely

permitted an examination of his table.

In the Sunday Spiritual Conferences, then held in Clinton Hall, leading

spiritualists gave an account of the "manifestations of the spirits"

through Mr. Paine, and, as believers, congratulated themselves upon the

existence of such "indubitable facts." The spiritualist in whose house

this exhibition of table-moving "without contact" took place, was well

known as a man of strict honesty; and it was reasonably presumed that no

mechanical contrivance could be used without his cognizance, in thus

moving a piece of his furniture--for the table belonged to him--and that

he would countenance a deception was out of the question.

There were in the city three gentlemen who had, for some time, been

known as spiritualists; but they were, at the period of Paine's debut as

a medium in New York, very skeptical with regard to "physical

manifestations." They had, a short time before, detected the Davenports

and other professed mediums in the practice of imposture; and they

determined not to accept, as true, Paine's pretence to mediumship, till

after a thorough investigation of his "manifestations," they should fail

to find a material cause for them. After attending several of his

seances, these gentlemen concluded that Paine moved the table by means

of a mechanical contrivance fixed under the floor. One of this trio of

investigators was a mechanic, and he had conceived a way--and it seemed

to him the only way--in which the "manifestation" could be produced

under the circumstances that apparently attended it. Paine was a

mechanic, and these parties were aware of that fact. They made an

appointment with him for a private seance. The evening fixed upon,

having arrived, they met with him at his room. The table was raised and

raps were made upon it, as had been done on previous occasions. One of

the three investigators stepped to the door of the room, locked it, put

the key in his pocket, took off his coat, and told Mr. Paine that he was

determined to search his (Paine's) person, and that if he did not find

about him a small short iron rod, by means of which, through a hole in

the floor, a lever underneath was worked in moving the table, he (the

speaker) would beg his (Mr. Paine's) pardon, and be forever after a firm

believer in the power of disembodied spirits to move ponderable bodies.

This impressive little speech had a decided and instant effect upon the

"medium." "Gentlemen," said the latter, "I might as well own up. Please

to be quietly seated, and I will tell you all about it." And he did tell

them all about it; subsequently repeating his confession before quite a

number of disgusted and cheaply sold spiritualists at the "New York

Spiritual Lyceum." The theory formed by one of the three investigators

referred to, as to Paine's method of moving the table, was singularly


Whilst the family with whom Paine boarded was away, one day, in

attendance at a funeral, he took up several of the floor boards of the

back parlor, and on the under side of them affixed a lever, with a

cross-piece at one end of it; and, in the ends of the cross-piece, bits

of wire were inserted, the wire being just as far apart as the legs of

the table to be moved. Small holes were made in the floor-boards for the

wire to come through to reach the table-legs. The other end of the lever

came within an inch or two of the wall. When all the arrangements were

completed, and the table being properly placed in order to move it, Mr.

Paine had only to insert one end of a short iron rod in a hole in the

heel of his boot, put the other end of the rod through a hole in the

floor, just under the edge of the carpet near the wall, and then press

the rod down upon the end of the lever.

The movements necessary in fixing the iron rod to its place were

executed while he was picking up his handkerchief, that he had purposely


The middle of the lever was attached to the floor, and the end with the

cross-piece, being the heavier, brought the other end close up against

the floor, the wires in the cross-piece having their points just within

the bottom of the holes in the floor. The room was carpeted, and there

were little marks on the carpet, known only to Paine, that enabled him

to know just where to place the table. Pressing down the end of the

lever nearest the wall, an inch would bring the wires in the cross-piece

on the other end of the lever against the legs of the table, and

slightly raise the latter. One of the wires would strike the table-leg a

very little before the other did, and that enabled the "medium" to very

nicely rap time to the tunes that were sung or played. Of course, no

holes that any one could observe would be made in the carpet by the

passage of the wires through it.

For appearance' sake, Paine, before his detection, visited, by

invitation, the houses of several different spiritualists, for the

purpose of holding seances; but he never got a table to move "without

contact" in any other than the place where he had properly prepared the


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