The Truth of the Johnson Seance

This Daily Times article from January 17th, 1907 is remarkable. Not just about Ed Johnson–though that is interesting–but because it gives such good insight into how a spiritualist seance ran.

So, the medium was Raymond Harkins, who seemed to be well-known in Chattanooga for having seances. Interestingly, he had help from Bob Pease, a police officer who also appears to have done some mediumship. They had a music box that played to start things off and the two mediums “talk in the mysterious language supposed to be effectual in reaching ears that are not ears.”

Now, normally, then, Harkins’ familiar spirit, Dr. Baker, who had some kind of distinctive voice everyone recognized, would show up and guide the session. But, in this case, Baker doesn’t show up. Instead, after Harkins moans and groans and says he’s feeling the pain he feels when “the spirits ‘draw’ on him,” the spirit trumpet flies around the room and knocks against the light fixtures and the radiator and then against the people sitting around the table.

And then a police officer shows up wanting to talk to Judge Shepherd and then Johnson shows up and says his piece to Judge Shepherd. And just as they’re getting ready to ask him for more details that would confirm it was him and confirm the crime, Baker shows up and drives the “black spirit” away and then he, too, leaves.

And the seance is considered some kind of failure. The headline is “Night Off for Spirits.”