Mediums

 

George Valiantine


          of Williamsport, New York. He was a small manufacturer when at the age of 43 his mediumship was discovered by accident. At a hotel where he was staying he heard distinct raps on the door. No physical agency could be detected and he was deeply puzzled. A lady acquaintance who was familiar with spiritualism persuaded him, some time after, to hold a sťance with the table. The result was surprising. His deceased brother-in-law, Bert Everett, claimed to be present and rapped out that the spirits for a long time had been trying to attract Valiantine's attention. Things began to develop. Everett instructed Valiantine to make a cabinet. One evening the medium went into trance and Bert Everett appeared in a materialised form. But direct voice communications became the chief feature of the sťances as Valiantine's organism appeared to lend itself with facility to this manifestation. Bert Everett found assistants in other controls: Dr. Barnett who often gave medical prescriptions, Hawk Chief and Kokum, two Red Indians with booming voices and Black Foot, another Indian, the last acquisition, who usually spoke in deep tones from the centre of the floor.

In 1923 The Scientific American of New York offered a prize of $2,500 for the production of genuine physical phenomena. Valiantine was one of the mediums tested. He was designated as Mr. X. Dr. Gardner Murphy of the Columbia University and Mr. Kenneth Andrews of the New York World visited him at Wilkes-Barre for two preliminary sittings. Both of them were successful and they returned impressed. Thereupon Valiantine came to New York. During his first two sťances before the Committee of The Scientific American eight distinct spirits manifested and spoke to the sitters. For the third sťance an electrical control apparatus had been secretly fixed to the medium's chair. It was meant to disclose to observers in another room whether the medium left his chair during the sťance, under the cover of the darkness, to reach after the trumpet. The apparatus did not register the medium's full weight for fifteen seconds on one occasion and from 1-14 seconds on other occasions. For this reason, though the voices admittedly came from high in the air and carried on prolonged conversation, the result, in the report published in the July 1923 issue of The Scientific American, was ruled out as evidence. Over the construction of the report which conveyed the impression that Valiantine was actually caught in fraud a controversy arose between Malcolm Bird and Dennis Bradley who pointed out the weaknesses of the report and its important admissions which, however, were not sufficiently emphasised.

Dennis Bradley stood up, on several occasions, with vigour for Valiantine. He made his acquaintance at Arlena Towers, Ramsey, N.Y., in the home of Joseph de Wyckoff, a wealthy American financier who had been in close association with Valiantine for some years.

In November, 1923, Wyckoff received long scripts from Valiantine which VaIiantine said he had obtained in direct writing in his home. They were signed by Everett and Dr. Barnett and referred to a material project involving an expedition to Guiana. He discovered by chance that Valiantine's handwriting showed striking resemblance to the spirit scripts and took them to a handwriting expert who pronounced them identical. Wyckoff showed the report to Valiantine. He insisted that he did not do the writing. A test sťance was arranged at his own house at Williamsport. Valiantine, on his request, was tied up. The sťance was a failure. Wyckoff thereupon broke his relations with Valiantine. Not long after Wyckoff went to Europe. He met Bradley who convinced him, by showing indirect evidence which he obtained in sittings with Mrs. Leonard as regards the Valiantine communications, that he was unjust. Thereupon Wyckoff cabled to Valiantine from Europe and invited him to come and join him. He arrived in February, 1924, and sat almost daily for five weeks in Bradley's home. In the presence of more than fifty prominent people over one hundred different spirit voices manifested and carried on long conversations in Russian, German, Spanish and even in idiomatic Welsh, Mr. Caradoc Evans, the Welsh novelist, speaking with his father's spirit in Cardiganshire Welsh.

But the seed of suspicion was sown in Wyckoff's heart. He soon levelled a second charge against Valiantine. It grew out of a sitting in the St. Regis Hotel in New York on April 10, 1924. When the sitting was closed by the address of Dr. Barnett the trumpet had fallen sideways between Valiantine's legs, with the small end against the edge of the chair. As the medium was setting it upright Wyckoff struck a match and scolded him for his action. Moreover, as Malcolm Bird pointed out in a letter to Light,

"examination of the trumpet developed the facts that it was quite warm at the point where a human hand would naturally and conveniently grasp it, and that the mouthpiece was damp."

Bradley answered that this is exactly what would happen with independent voice phenomena. In his own sťances in which the luminous trumpet was seen sailing about the room, at the finish the inside was found moist, according to Bradley, for the simple reason that it is necessary for a spirit to materialise the vocal organs and breathe in order to produce its voice.

In the following year Valiantine paid another visit to Britain. In March, 1925, he gave two test sittings before the SPR at Tavistock Square. Five words were spoken at the first, none at the second. They were considered blank. Following this failure Una, Lady Troubridge and Miss Radcliffe Hall of the SPR attended some sittings in Bradley's house. Later they were joined by Dr. Woolley, research officer of the SPR. Eleven distinct and individual voices were heard. Dr. Woolley agreed that he heard them and could not account for them. He was also satisfied that the movement of the luminous trumpet in the air was supernormal. Shortly afterwards E. J. Dingwall, the other research officer of the SPR, obtained, in company with Dr. V. Woolley, voices in the daylight inside Valiantine's trumpet.

In his report in SPR Proceedings, Vol. XXVI, Woolley writes of these experiences:

"Both of us heard raps which seemed similar to those she (Lady Troubridge) has described, but as I wish only to deal in this account with evidential utterances I do not propose to consider them in further detail. Both of us also heard whispering sounds, apparently in the trumpet, at times when we are convinced that Mr. Valiantine's lips were entirely closed, and I was able also to distinguish the words 'Father Woolley,' but nothing further."

The Coming of Confucius

But the most important phase of Valiantine's mediumship was yet to come. Strange languages were heard in sťances in New York and it was decided to test their nature by inviting a scholar. Dr. Neville Whymant, an authority on Chinese history, philosophy and ancient literature, who happened to be in New York, was requested by Judge and Mrs. Cannon to come. He was slightly amused, but accepted. To quote from his notes:

"Suddenly, out of the darkness was heard a weird, crackling, broken little sound, which at once carried my mind straight back to China. It was the sound of a flute, rather poorly played, such as can be heard in the streets of the Celestial Land but nowhere else. Then followed in a low, but very audible voice the words 'Kung-fu-T'ze.' Few persons, except Chinese, could pronounce the name correctly as the sounds cannot be represented in English letters. The idea that it might be Confucius himself never occurred to me. I had imagined that it might be somebody desirous of discussing the life and philosophy of the great Chinese teacher."

When, however, correct personal information was given Dr. Whymant decided to test the matter to the full. He said:

"There is among your writings a passage written wrongly; should it not read thus?"

At this point I began to quote as far as I knew, that is to say, to about the end of the first line. At once the words were taken out of my mouth, and the whole passage was recited in Chinese, exactly as it is recorded in the standard works of reference. After a pause of about fifteen seconds the passage was again repeated, this time with certain alterations which gave it a new meaning.

"Thus read," said the voice, "does not its meaning become plain?"

Previous to the voice of Confucius Dr. Whymant heard a Sicilian chant and conversed with one of the controls, Cristo d'Angelo, in Italian.

At the next sťance at which Dr. Whymant was present, after having been absent through illness, Confucius appeared again and, omitting all ceremonious expressions, referred to his indisposition, saying

"the weed of sickness was growing beside thy door."

This metaphor was used in ancient Chinese literature but it is no longer current in the language. Nor is the dialect in which Confucius spoke any longer used in the Chinese Empire. There are only about twelve Chinese sounds of which it can be definitely said that we know how the Chinese of Confucius' time would have pronounced them. The voice which claimed to be that of Confucius used these archaic sounds correctly. Moreover, there are only about six Chinese scholars in the world whose knowledge would have been equal to the one displayed by the direct voice. None of them was in America at the time.

In 1927, when Valiantine paid a third visit to Britain further tests of importance have taken place. Countess Ahlefeldt-Laurvig brought an ancient Chinese shell to a sitting in the apartment of Lord Charles Hope. At the top of the shell circular folds ended in a small hollow mouthpiece. In China the shell is used as a horn and is blown on occasions as a "call." The sitters tried it but could produce no sound whatever. Yet at one period during the sitting, from high up in the room, the shell horn was blown, and the peculiar notes were rendered in the correct Chinese fashion.

But the most important Chinese test was tried in making a gramophone record of the voice of Confucius. The attempt was successful. The voice of Confucius who died in 479 B.C. was recorded in 1927 in London. It has curious flute-like tones, which rise and fall, and sometimes break into a peculiar sing-song tone. Dr. Whymant could only interpret a few sentences because the voice was faint and became blurred in the recording. But he recognised a number of the peculiar intonations. He could gather the meaning of the recorded speech by the tonal values. The voice was identical with the one he heard in America.

From Dennis Bradley's summary of this strange occurrence it is interesting to quote:

"I have heard the K'ung-fu-T'ze voice speaking on two or three occasions in archaic Chinese. I have also heard the same voice with its peculiar intonation, speaking to me personally in English. The voice has spoken slowly, but with quite beautiful cadences. It possessed an extraordinary dignity."

New Storms

In Towards the Stars and The Wisdom of the Gods, Dennis Bradley publishes many important accounts of sittings with Valiantine. On several occasions he heard him speak simultaneously with the voices. He listened to the voices of the controls of Valiantine in sťances with other mediums and heard Feda, the control of Mrs. Leonard, and Cristo-d'Angelo, who later associated himself with the Marquis Centurione Scotto, speak through Valiantine. Including the 1927 period he conducted over a hundred experiments of which 95% were successful. The high percentage of success was undoubtedly partly due to the powerful direct voice mediumship which Bradley and his wife developed as their own after the first sittings with Valiantine in New York. But the physical manifestation was only part of the evidence.

"He is a man of instinctive good manners," writes Bradley of Valiantine in - And After, "but it is essential to state that he is semi-illiterate. He possesses no scholastic education whatever, beyond the ordinary simplicities; he is ill-versed in general conversation and ideas. I mention these facts because many of the communications which have been made in the direct voice under his mediumship have been brilliant in their expressions and culture."

On April 26, 1929, Valiantine arrived for the fourth time in Britain from America. He spent one day with Dennis Bradley and then left in his and his wife's company for Berlin. The sittings were held in Frau von Dirksen's house. Bradley considered them comparatively poor in result. Some members of the Berlin Occult Society, for which the sťances had been arranged, subsequently claimed imposture and supported their assertions by referring to Bradley's and Valiantine's refusal for strict control. The charges were published five months afterwards by Dr. Kroner in the Zeitschrift fur Parapsychologie in the winter of 1929. Dr. Kroner attended but three of his sittings. Two lady sitters made direct allegations of fraudulent movements on Valiantine's part. However, no definite proof of having caught him in fraud was brought forward.

In May, 1929, Valiantine gave a series of sťances at the house of the Marquis Centurione Scotto in Genoa. One of the sittings, held in the presence of Ernesto Bozzano, was entirely controlled. Valiantine was fastened to his chair and adhesive bandage was placed over his mouth. The knots were scaled, the doors were locked. The results were excellent. The enthusiasm, however, was soon marred by a charge of M. Rossi and the Marquis Centurione Scotto. Rossi claimed to have distinctly felt him in one of their sittings lean forward and speak into the trumpet. He also said that Mr. Castellani caught hold of Mrs. Bradley's hand which was touching the back of his (Castellani's) head. Both of them were furiously indignant and left immediately. Castellani later withdrew his allegation against Mrs. Bradley and Rossi also became wavering. As Dennis Bradley points out there is a truly Gilbertian aspect in the situation.

"The Marquis Centurione Scotto, Mr. Rossi and Madame Rossi, unknown before to me or to Valiantine, visit me in England in 1927. The Marquis, to his astonishment, speaks to his son in Italian. The Marquis and Mrs. Rossi then develop voice mediumship entirely from, and because of, their meeting and initiation with Valiantine. Valiantine then, in 1929, visits them in Italy and is accused of being a fraud. The poet is right when he declares, 'It is a mad world.'"

In 1931 Valiantine was again invited to Britain. This visit ended in a tragic note. Dennis Bradley asked him to devote six evenings to experiments for psychic imprints. Striking previous successes were recorded in The Wisdom of the Gods. But in the mean time famous people whom Bradley knew had died and their original left and right hand imprint was in the possession of Mr. Noel Jaquin. Scientifically, therefore the experiments held out promise. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Dewar and Sir Henry Segrave, all in the spirit, apparently complied with Bradley's eager request, but the plastic substance, unknown to Valiantine was chemically prepared, a stain was found on his elbow and expert examination disclosed that the spirit thumb print of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was exactly similar to the print of his big toe on his right foot, a spirit thumb print of Lord Dewar to that of his left big toe, a spirit finger print of Sir Henry Segrave to the print of his middle finger and another spirit impression to that of his elbow. Ex-Chief Detective Inspector Bell, the head of the fingerprint department at New Scotland Yard, declared that in a court-of-law the resemblance would be sufficient to hang a man charged with murder. According to Bradley, Valiantine broke down completely and sobbed. He would not, however, admit fraud. His only answer to questions was:

"I cannot understand it."

Bradley believes that the rapid accumulation of money did not have a beneficial effect upon Valiantine's character. He found him a changed, conceited and arrogant man. Yet

"his reason for attempting these imprint frauds will remain incomprehensible. He received no money from me, and for him to imagine that in the presence of imprint experts he could commit palpable fraud and escape detection was a sign of sheer lunacy."

Besides Valiantine his controls were also compromised as on the fatal night, just near the end of the sitting, Bert Everett spoke in his usual shrill tones, announced the presence of Segrave and also that an imprint had been made which was excellent. Mr. X., with whom Valiantine stayed during the visit, obtained the fingerprint of Walter Stinson, Margery's control. This print was identified by Noel Jaquin with that of the middle finger of Valiantine's left hand.

After the exposure Valiantine gave twelve sťances to Dr. Vivian. The report states that while two voices were speaking Valiantine was simultaneously heard to draw the attention of the sitters to the two voices. Surgeon Amiral Nimmo had two sittings in daylight. The voice which he heard to come distinctly from within the trumpet gave intelligent and evidential communication. In the presence of a second doctor the voices were heard again speaking distinctly and intelligently. The doctors kept Valiantine's face, during the phenomena, under acute observation but they did not discover any movement whatever on it.

The experiences of Dr. Whymant with the voice of Confucius came before the SPR in 1927. Dr. Whymant delivered a lecture, played the gramophone record of the voice and submitted his account of twelve sťances. No action was taken. Thereupon the records were drawn up in book form by Dr. Whymant and they were published in 1931 under the title: Psychic Adventures in New York. But Vol. XL, Part CXXV of the Proceedings prints the report of Lord Charles Hope on his sittings in 1927 which concludes:

"I was disappointed at the lack of evidence for survival which the voices had given me. I was left uncertain whether Valiantine was a genuine medium or not."

Source (with minor modifications): An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).

 

 

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