ARTICLES

Florence Marryat

British authoress, daughter of Capt. Marryat, acquainted with all the celebrated mediums of the 1870's and 1860's both in Britain and America, witness of Katie King's famous farewell from Florence Cook, recorded remarkable experiences in two books: There is No Death, 1891, and The Spirit World, 1894, both of them very popular, and claimed mediumistic gifts herself, among them the strange power of summoning the spirits of the living.

The Mediumship of Miss Showers

- Florence Marryat -

          SOME TIME before I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Showers, I heard, through friends living in the west of England, of the mysterious and marvellous powers possessed by a young lady of their acquaintance, who was followed by voices in the air, which held conversations with her, and the owners of which were said to have made themselves visible. I listened with curiosity, the more so, as my informants utterly disbelieved in Spiritualism, and thought the phenomena were due to trickery. At the same time I conceived a great desire to see the girl of sixteen, who, for no gain or apparent object of her own, was so clever as to mystify everyone around her; and when she and her mother came to London, I was amongst the first to beg for an introduction, and I shall never forget the experiences I had with her. She was the first private medium through whom my personal friends returned to converge with me; and no one but a Spiritualist can appreciate the blessing of spiritual communications through a source that is above the breath of suspicion. I have already written at length about Miss Showers in "The story of John Powles." She was a child, compared to myself, whose life had hardly commenced when mine was virtually over, and neither she, nor any member of her family, had ever had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with even the names of my former friends. Yet (as I have related) John Powles made Miss Showers his especial mouthpiece, and my daughter "Florence" (then a little child) also appeared through her, though at long intervals, and rather timidly. Her own controls, however, or cabinet spirits (as they call them in America) - i.e., such spirits as are always about the medium, and help the strangers to appear - " Peter," "Florence," "Lenore," and "Sally," were very familiar with me, and afforded me such facilities of testing their medium as do not often fall to the lot of inquirers. Indeed, at one time, they always requested that I should be present at their séance, so that I considered myself to be highly favored. And I may mention here that Miss Showers and I were so much en rapport that her manifestations were always much stronger in my presence. We could not sit next each other at an ordinary tea or supper table, when we had no thought of, or desire to hold a séance, without manifestations occurring in the full light. A hand, that did not belong to either of us, would make itself apparent under the table-cloth between us - a hand with power to grasp ours - or our feet would be squeezed or kicked beneath the table, or fingers would suddenly appear, and whisk the food off our plates. Some of their jests were inconvenient. I have had the whole contents of a tumbler, which I was raising to my lips, emptied over my dress. It was generally known that our powers were sympathetic, and at last "Peter" gave me leave, or, rather, ordered me to sit in the cabinet with "Rosie," whilst the manifestations went on outside. He used to say he didn't care for me any more than if I had been "a spirit myself." One evening "Peter" called me into the cabinet (which was simply a large box cupboard at one end of the dining room) before the séance began, and told me to sit down at the medium's feet and “be a good girl and keep quiet." Miss Showers was in a low chair, and I sat with my arms resting on her lap. She did not become entranced, and we talked the whole time together. Presently, without any warning, two figures stood beside us. I could not have said where they came from. I neither saw them rise from the floor nor descend from the ceiling. There was no beginning to their appearance. In a moment they were simply there - "Peter" and "Florence" (not my child, but Miss Showers' control of the same names).

"Peter" sent "Florence" out to the audience, where we heard her speaking to them and their remarks upon her (there being only a thin curtain hung before the entrance of the cabinet), but he stayed with us himself. We could not see him distinctly in the dim light, but we could distinctly, hear and feel him. He changed our ornaments and ribbons, and pulled the hair-pins out of our hair, and made comments on what was going on outside. After a while "Florence" returned to get more power, and both spirits spoke to and touched us at the same time. During the whole of this séance my arms rested on Miss Showers? And she was awake and talking to me about the spirits.

One evening, at a sitting at Mr. Luxmore's house in Hyde Park Square, the spirit "Florence" had been walking amongst the audience in the lighted front drawing-room for a considerable time - even sitting at the piano and accompanying herself whilst she sung us a song in what she called "the planetary language." She greatly resembled her medium on that occasion, and several persons present remarked that she did so. I suppose the inferred doubt annoyed her, for before she finally left us she asked for a light, and a small oil lamp was brought to her which she placed in my hand, telling me to follow her and look at her medium, which I accordingly did. "Florence" led the way into the back drawing-room, where I found Miss Showers reposing in an arm-chair. The first sight of her terrified me. For the purpose of making any change in her dress as difficult as possible, she wore a high, tight-fitting black velvet frock, fastened at the back, and high Hessian boots, with innumerable buttons. But she now appeared to be shrunk to half her usual size, and the dress hung loosely on her figure. Her arms had disappeared, but putting my hands up the dress sleeves, I found them diminished to the size of those of a little child-the fingers reaching only to where the elbows had been. The same miracle had happened to her feet, which only occupied half her boots. She looked in fact like the mummy of a girl of four or six years old. The spirit told me to feel her face. The forehead was dry, rough, and burning hot, but from the chin water was dropping freely on to the bosom of her dress. "Florence" said to me, "I wanted you to see her, because I know you are brave enough to tell people what you have seen."

There was a marked difference in the personality of the two influences "Florence" and "Lenore," although both at times resembled Miss Showers, and sometimes more than others. "Florence" was taller than her medium, and a very beautiful, Woman. "Lenore" was much shorter and smaller, and not so pretty, but more vivacious and pert. By the invitation of Mrs. Macdougal Gregory, I attended several seances with Miss Showers at her residence in Green Street, when these spirits appeared. "Lenore" was fond of saying that she wouldn't or couldn't come out unless I held her hand, or put my arm round her waist. To tell the truth, I didn't care for the distinction, for this influence was very peculiar in some things, and to me she always appeared 11 uncanny," and to leave an unpleasant feeling behind her. She was seldom completely formed, and would hold up a foot which felt like wet clay, and had no toes to. it, or not the 'proper quantity. On occasions, too, there was a charnel-house smell about her, as if she had been buried a few weeks and dug up again, an odor which I have never smelt from any materialized spirit before or after. One evening at Mrs. Gregory's, when "Lenore" had insisted upon walking round the circle supported by my arm, I nearly fainted from the smell. It resembled nothing but that of a putrid corpse, and when she returned to the cabinet, I was compelled to leave the room and retch from the nausea it had caused me. It was on this occasion that the sitters called "Lenore" so many times back into the circle, that all the power was gone, and she was in danger of melting away before their eyes. Still they entreated her to remain with them a little longer. At last she grew impatient, and complained to me of their unreasonableness. She was then raised from the floor - actually floating just outside the curtain - and she asked me to put my hands up her skirts and convince myself that she was half-dematerialized. I did as she told me, and felt that she had no legs, although she had been walking round the room a few minutes before. I could feel nothing but the trunk of a body, which was completely lifted off the ground. Her voice, too, had grown faint and her face indistinct, and in another moment she had totally disappeared.

One evening at Mrs. Gregory's, after the séance was concluded, "Florence" looked round the curtain and called to me to come inside of it. I did so and found myself in total darkness. I said, "What's the good of my coming here? I can't see anything." "Florence" took me by one hand, and answered, "I will lead you! Don't be afraid." Then some one else grasped my other hand, and "Peter's" voice said, "We've got you safe. We want you to feel the medium." The two figures led me between them to the sofa on which Miss Showers was lying. They passed my hand all over her head and body. I felt, as before, her hands and feet shrunk to half their size, but her heart appeared to have become proportionately increased. When my hand was placed upon it, it was as leaping up and down violently, and felt like a rabbit or some other live animal bounding in her bosom. Her brain was burning as before, but her extremities were icy cold. There was no doubt at all of the abnormal condition into which the medium had been thrown, in order to produce these strong physical manifestations which were borrowed, for the time being, from her life, and could never (so they informed me) put the whole of what they borrowed back again. This seems to account for the invariable deterioration of health and strength that follows physical manifestations in both sexes. These were the grounds alone on which they explained to me the fact that, on several occasions, when the materialized spirit has been violently seized and held apart from the medium, it has been found to have become, or been changed into the medium, and always with injury to the latter-as in the case of Florence Cook being seized by Mr. VoIckman and Sir George Sitwell. Mr. VoIckman concluded because when he seized the spirit "Katie King," he found he was holding Florence Cook, that the latter must have impersonated the former; yet I shall tell you in its proper place how I have sat in the same room with "Katie King," whilst Miss Cook lay in a trance between us. The medium nearly lost her life on the ' occasion alluded to, from the sudden disturbance of 'the mysterious link that bound her to the spirit. I have had it from the lips of the Countess of Caithness, who was one of the sitters, and stayed with Miss Cook till she was better, that she was in convulsions the whole night after, and that it was some time before they believed she would recover. If a medium could simulate a materialized spirit, it is hardly likely that she would (or could) simulate convulsions with a medical man standing by her bedside. "You see," said Miss Showers' "Florence," whilst pointing out to me the decreased size of her medium under trance, "that 'Rosie' is half her usual size and weight. I have borrowed the other half from her, which, combined with contributions from the sitters, goes to make up the body in which I show myself to you. If you seize and hold me tight, you are holding her, i.e., half of her, and you increase the action of the vital half to such a degree that, if the two halves did not reunite, you would kill her. You see that I can detach certain particles from her organism for my own use, and when I dematerialize, I restore these particles to her, and she becomes once more her normal size. You only hurry the reunion by violently detaining me, so as to injure her, But you might drive her mad, or kill her in the attempt, because the particles of brain, or body, might become injured by such a violent collision. If you believe I can take them from her (as you see I do) in order to render my invisible body visible to you, why can't you believe I can make them fly together again on the approach of danger. And granted the one power, I see no difficulty in acknowledging the other."

One day Mrs. Showers invited me to assist at a séance to be given expressly for friends living at a distance. When I reached the house, however, I found the friends were unable to be present, and the meeting was adjourned. Mrs. Showers apologized for the alteration of plan, but I was glad of it. I had often sat with "Rosie" in company with others, and I wanted to sit with her quite alone, or rather to fit with her in a room quite alone, and see what would spontaneously occur, without any solicitation on our parts. We accordingly annexed the drawing-room for our sole use, locked the door, extinguished the lights, and sat down on a sofa side by side, with our arms round each other. The manifestations that followed were not all nice ones. They formed an experience to be passed through once, but not willingly repeated, and I should not relate them here, excepting that they afford so strong a proof that they were produced by a power outside and entirely distinct from our own - a power, which having once called into action, we had no means of repressing. We had sat in the dark for some minutes, without hearing or seeing anything, when I thoughtlessly called out, "Now, Peter, do your worst," and extending my arms, singing, "Come! for my arms are empty." In a moment a large, heavy figure fell with such force into my out stretched arms as to bruise my shoulder - it seemed like a form made of wood or iron, rather than flesh and blood - and the rough treatment that ensued for both of us is almost beyond description. It seemed as if the room were filled with materialized creatures, who were determined to let us know they were not to be trifled with. Our faces and hands were slapped, our hair pulled down, and our clothes nearly torn off our backs. My silk skirt being separate from the bodice was torn off at the waistband, and the trimming ripped from it, and Miss Showers' muslin dress was also much damaged. We were both thoroughly frightened, but no expostulations or entreaties had any effect with our tormentors. At the same time we heard the sound as of a multitude of large birds or bats swooping about the room." The fluttering of wings was incessant, and we could hear them "scrooping" up and down the walls. In the midst of the confusion, "Rosie" was whisked out of my arms (for fright had made us cling tighter than ever together) and planted on the top of a table at some distance from me, at which she was so frightened she began to cry, and I called out, "Powles, where are you? Can't you stop them?" My appeal was heard. Peter's voice exclaimed, "Hullo! here's Powles coming!" and all the noise ceased. We heard the advent of my friend, and in another moment he was smoothing down the ruffled hair and arranging the disordered dresses and telling me to light the gas and not be frightened. As soon as I could I obeyed his directions and found Rosie sitting doubled up in the centre of the table, but the rest of the room and, furniture in its usual condition. "Peter" and his noisy crowd had vanished - so had "Powles," and there was nothing but our torn skirts and untidy appearance to prove that we had not been having an unholy dream. "Peter" is not a wicked spirit - far from it - but he is a very earthly and frivolous one. But when we consider that nine-tenths of the spirits freed from the flesh are both earthly and frivolous (if not worse), I know not what right we have to expect to receive back angels in their stead.

At one time when my sister Blanche (who was very sceptical as to the possibility of the occurrences I related having taken place before me) was staying in my house at Bayswater, I asked Miss Showers if she would give us a séance in my own home, to which she kindly assented. This was an unusual concession on her part, because, in consequence of several accidents and scandals that had occurred from media being forcibly detained (as I have just alluded to), her mother was naturally averse to her sitting anywhere but in their own circle. However, on my promising to invite no strangers, Mrs. Showers herself brought her daughter to my house. We had made no preparation for the séance except by opening part of the folding doors between the dining-room and study, and hanging a curtain over the aperture. But I had carefully locked the door of the study, so that there should be no egress from it excepting through the dining-room, and had placed against the locked door a heavy writing-table laden with books and ornaments to make "assurance doubly sure." We sat first in the drawing-room above, where there was a piano. The lights were extinguished, and Miss Showers sat down to the instrument and played the accompaniment to a very simple melody, "Under the willow she's sleeping." Four voices, sometimes alone and sometimes all together, accompanied her own. One was a baritone, supposed to proceed from "Peter," the second, a soprano, from "Lenore." The third was a rumbling bass, from an influence who called himself "The Vicar of Croydon," and sung in a fat, unctuous, and conceited voice; and the fourth was a cracked and quavering treble, from another spirit called "The Abbess." These were the voices, Mrs. Showers told me, that first followed her daughter about the house in Devonshire, and gained her such an unenviable notoriety there. The four voices were perfectly distinct from one another, and sometimes blended most ludicrously and tripped each other up in a way which made the song a medley-upon which each one would declare it as the fault of the other. "The Vicar of Croydon" always required a great deal of solicitation before he could be induced to exhibit his powers, but having once commenced, it was difficult to make him: leave off again, whereas "The Abbess" was always complaining that they would not allow her to sing the solos. An infant's voice also sung some baby songs in a sweet childish treble, but she was also very shy and seldom was heard, in comparison with the rest. "All ventriloquism!" I hear some reader cry. If so, Miss Showers ought to have made a fortune in exhibiting her talent in public. I have heard the best ventriloquists in the world, but I never heard one who could produce four voices at the same time.

After the musical portion of the séance was over, we descended to the dining-room, where the gas was burning, and the medium passed through it to the secured study, where a mattress was laid upon the floor for her accommodation. "Florence" was the first to appear, tall and beautiful in appearance, and with upraised eyes like a nun. She measured her height against the wall with me, and we found she was the taller of the two by a couple of inches, my height being five feet six, the medium's five feet, and the spirit's five feet eight, an abnormal height for a woman. "Lenore" came next, very short indeed, looking like a child of four or six, but she grew before our eyes, until her head was on a level with mine. She begged us all to observe that she had not got on "Rosie's" petticoat body. She said she had borrowed it on one occasion, and Mrs. Showers had recognized it, and slipped upstairs in the middle of the séance and found it missing from her daughter's chest of drawers, and that she had been so angry in consequence (fearing Rosie's honor might be impeached) that she said if "Lenore" did not promise never to do so again, she should not be allowed to assist at the seances at all. So Miss "Lenore," in rather a pert and defiant mood, begged Mrs. Showers to see that what she wore was her own property, and riot that of the medium. She was succeeded on that occasion by a strange being, totally different from the other two, who called herself "Sally," and said she had been a cook. She was one of those extraordinary influences for whose return to earth one can hardly account; quick, and clever, and amusing as she could be, but with an unrefined wit and manner, and to all appearance, more earthly-minded than ourselves. But do we not often ask the same question with respect to those still existent here below? What were they born for? What good do they do? Why were they ever permitted to come? God, without whose permission nothing happens, alone can answer it.

We had often to tease "Peter" to materialize and show himself, but he invariably refused, or postponed the work to another occasion. His excuse was that the medium being so small, he could not obtain sufficient power from her to make himself appear as a big man, and he didn't like to come, " looking like a girl in a billycock hat." "I came once to Mrs. Showers," he said, “and she declared I was 'Rosie' dressed up, and so I have resolved never to show myself again." At the close of that séance, however, "Peter" asked me to go into the study and see him wake the medium. When I entered it and made my way up to the mattress, I found Miss Showers extended on it in a deep sleep, whilst "Peter," materialized, sat at her feet. He made me sit down next to him and take his hand and feel his features with my own hand. Then he proceeded to rouse "Rosie" by shaking her and calling her by name, holding me by one hand, as he did so. As Miss Showers yawned and woke up from her trance, the hand slipped from mine, and "Peter" evaporated. When she sat up I said to her gently, "I am here! Peter brought me in and was sitting on the mattress by my side till just this moment." "Ha, ha!" laughed his voice close to my car, "and I'm here still, my dears, though you can't see me."

Who can account for such things? I have witnessed them over and over again, yet I am unable, even to this day, to do more than believe and wonder.

Source: 

"There is no Death" by Florence Marryat (London: William Rider & Son, 1917).

More articles by Florence Marryat

The Mediumship of Katie Cook
My Spirit Child
Biography of Katie Cook

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