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Spiritual Scribblings:
A brief history of spirit-guided writing and art
by Liz Campbell

Psychics and mediums over the last 150 years have moved well beyond the simple rappings and table shiftings to serious communication with the dead. Indeed, a number of so-called mediums have produced both art and writings, courtesy of their channels. I suppose one must applaud their honesty” in not taking credit for the work of others, they nonetheless have almost uniformly benefited monetarily from the generous dictation of their spiritual guides. The following is a compilation of just a few of these. Note that the spiritual guides appear unwilling to warn their hosts of impending danger. Thus several have met untimely ends.

1871: Emma Hardinge Britten (1823-99) received The Principles of Spiritualism from Robert Owen (1771 - 1858) after he passed to spirit (died). If you’re going to write a how-to book, it’s probably best to get it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

1975: David Duguid (1832-1907) This Glasgow medium was most famous for oil painting of landscapes, produced in total darkness and at an amazing speed, supposedly independently of his hands. Not content with painting, his spirit guide was also moved to writing, and through Duguid dictated a remarkable book, Hafed, Prince of Persia.

1889: Mrs. A. W. Verrall (1859-1918) It’s always useful to ally oneself with the famous. After the death of F. W. H. Myers (1834-1901) whose celebrated book Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death  is acknowledged as a classic by believers, Verrall produced hundreds of scripts in automatic writing which often contained matter of supernormal interest. In 1906 she published an analysis of her scripts.

1892: William T. Stead (1849-1912) discovered that he had the gifts of spirit-controlled handwriting. He was a well-known editor, and a nationally famous figure for his great fight against the White Slave Traffic and the prostitution of children. Unfortunately, his spirit guide missed the boat when it neglected to tell him not to board the Titanic in1912.

1903: Mrs. Holland (a pseudonym) had written automatic poetry since 1893 and on a few occasions obtained messages from a deceased friend. In 1903 she read Myers’ Human Personality and in September of the same year she began automatic writing systematically. The entities who came through in her scripts claimed to be Edmund  Gurney and F. W. H. Myers himself (he was a very busy spirit).

1911: The Bangs Sisters, Misses Elizabeth S and May E Bangs, of Chicago, Illinois claimed gifts of above board, independent writing in broad daylight (mostly on slates), and independent drawing and painting; all forms of fully developed clairvoyance, materializations, and direct voices, but their most wondrous and spectacular phenomena advertised on their business card: Life-sized spirit portraits a specialty. Their trickery was exposed and their technique reproduced by others, but they continue to be cited as remarkable mediums. It’s interesting that spiritual painting has all but disappeared—probably because such primitive tricks would not fool modern audiences.

1913: Pearl Curran was the medium through whom the books of Patience Worth were produced. Initially she spelled out the letters on a ouija board. Later she spoke the letters aloud as they tumbled into her mind. Patience Worth said she had lived in Dorsetshire, England in either 1649 or 1694. She spoke in archaic fashion, using words like “thee” and “thou”. Mrs. Curran apparently travelled and read little, and her education was limited, but her literary output under the influence of Patience Worth was prodigious—a total of about 400,000 words over 20 years, including personal messages, nearly 5,000 poems, a play, many short works and several novels that were published to critical acclaim. No one seems to have questioned how it was that Patience, who lived in a much more restrictive time, was so very well travelled and educated.

1920: Rev. G. Vale Owen (1869-1931) a Church of England clergyman developed spirit controlled writing. A whole series of articles produced in this manner was published in the Weekly Despatch in 1920 and made a profound impression. In consequence, he was persecuted by his Ecclesiastical superiors and resigned from the Church, which may not have been a bad thing. He managed a much more substantial living writing and conducting lecture tours of Britain and America. His Life Beyond the Veil (five volumes) has become a Spiritualist classic.

1923: Geraldine Cummins began to receive theological communications alleged to emanate from Phillip the Evangelist, Cleophas and F. W. H. Myers (told you he was a busy little bee). She never studied theology or kindred subjects and ordinarily her writing was apparently very slow. In her automatic writing the speed was remarkable. On March 16, 1926, she managed to speed up to 1,750 words in one hour and five minutes. Apparently Phillip, Cleophas and the ubiquitous Myers were all fast talkers.

1947-2001: Coral Polge was one of Britain’s best known psychic artists. Through the use of her mediumship, she created “portraits” of people in spirit. She also wrote a book, Living Spirits. But an appearance on David Frost’s television show, when she drew spiritual pictures of two people related to audience members, didn’t produce much enthusiastic response from the relatives.


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