EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSLocal History: The Medium And The Magician, Part Two
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Doug Harlow
Web Producer: Doug Harlow
Reported: Oct. 31, 2013 1:42 PM EDT
Updated: Oct. 31, 2013 4:03 PM EDT
Bradrick , Lawrence County , Ohio
Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of "The Medium and the Magician," by Eyewitness News Meteorologist Doug Harlow. In the first story, published Wednesday, he introduced you to Elizabeth Blake, a professed spiritualist medium born in Proctorville, Ohio. The story focused on her alleged special powers and the beginning of an investigation by David Abbott to prove or disprove her abilities. Click on this link to see the first story: here
After deciding to investigate the case, Abbott wrote to Blake. He received a reply from her doctor, Dr. Luther V. Guthrie, who also was the superintendent to the West Virginia Asylum, now known as the Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital. Guthrie informed Abbott of some of his own experiences with Blake and believed she possessed paranormal abilities. He also wrote that she was, at that time, visiting the mountains, but would let Abbott know when she returned. While waiting to hear back, Abbott, concerned that his identity might be leaked, decided to bring someone whose identity was unknown. He decided on inviting his cousin, George Clawson, who had recently lost his daughter. In addition, Professor James Hyslop, secretary of the American Society for Psychical Research in Boston, learned of Blake and decided to meet Abbott in Huntington when she returned. On July 23, 1906, Blake and Clawson arrived by train in Huntington and checked into the Florentine Hotel at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street.
A bit of background should be offered here. There are certain methods that fraudulent mediums can use to offer information to their clients. For brevity's sake, this can be broken down to what is known as “cold-reading” and “hot-reading.” A cold read consists of educated generalizations about a person. For instance, a woman wearing black with a wedding ring could be grieving the loss of her husband, so guesses might center on that aspect. Some of the guesses will be wrong, but there may be a tendency for the client to only remember the correct points, and a skilled cold reader can turn an incorrect guess into something more accurate without the client realizing it. A “hot-read” is simply information about the specific client that has been discovered in advance. Today , with the Internet and a great deal of personal information in cyberspace, this can be especially easy to do. One hundred years ago, it would usually rely on listening on local gossip, or even keeping tabs on conversations on prospective clients in waiting rooms. Sometimes a person in league with the medium would pretend to be a client and speak with other clients about their families and gather information that would then be delivered to the medium. Mediums also would sometimes work together, gathering information on a client (usually wealthy ones) and then swapping that information with a rival medium in turn for another client’s information.
Abbott had visited many mediums and was known in the spiritualist community, hence his concern that some of his personal information could, in theory, be shared with Blake. As a result, he decided to keep Clawson’s identity secret, and he was introduced to both Guthrie and the Blakes as “Mr. Wilson”.
Upon their arrival in Huntington, Abbott and Clawson took a rowboat ferry across the Ohio to Blake’s home. She was in poor health, and initially her husband refused for her to see the two, but after some persuasion he relented. Blake took one hold of the trumpet while Abbott and Clawson took turns listening at the other. Whispers began to be heard. Initially, it was difficult for them to decipher what was being said. Eventually, a voice came through to Clawson stating:
Voice: “I am your brother”
The latter two pet names were what Clawson’s daughter had called her parents when alive.
While these voices were sounding, Abbott was watching Blake closely. Her lips were closed, and he was certain the voices were coming from the trumpet and not from her mouth, although he believed he detected a twitching in the muscles of her throat at one time.
The two left and met Hyslop at the train station. The three then returned later in the afternoon for another sitting.
In this sitting, a voice claiming to be Abbott’s grandmother, who had died 13 years before, spoke. His grandmother’s last name had been Daily. His mother’s maiden name was “Sarah Frances Daily,” but was always known as “Fannie.” His oldest sister’s name was “Ada,” and his grandmother would refer to her as “Adie” and Abbott himself as “Davie.” Abbott’s dialogue as related in his “History of a Strange Case” is summarized:
“Well Grandma, what do you wish to say?”
Abbott made sure that the name was repeated so he was certain as to what was being said and did not repeat it himself aloud to offer any hints in case there was some sort of guessing being applied.
Another voice then spoke that claimed to be the Uncle of both Abbott and Clawson. While the voices so far had not sounded like the people they claimed to have been in life, this one did remind him strongly of his uncle’s actual voice. He said nothing, but later, after the sitting, Clawson independently noted that he thought it had sounded like their uncle.
After the sitting Clawson, upset he hadn’t received much communication from his daughter, stated his real name while on the ferry ride back to the hotel. Guthrie and the ferry boat operator were present when this occurred and it should be kept in mind for evaluating future dialogue.
The next day, Abbott’s grandmother spoke again, this time to Clawson. The voice was loud enough that even though Clawson had the trumpet to his ear, Abbott could hear it several feet away. Clawson attempted to get the voice to provide the other name of Abbott’s mother, which was Fannie.
Clawson: “What is the name of Dave’s mother?”
According to Abbott, his grandmother’s last words to him had been, “ Davie, be good and pray, and meet me in heaven.”
Clawson himself had not heard yet from his own daughter, but that was soon to change.
To be continued . . .
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