The Mediumship of Elizabeth Blake
Direct Voice in the Light
The account as published in the Omaha World-Herald of recent date is true with the exception of a few newspaper alterations that do not affect the substance of it. The man who wrote it (David Abbott) is an expert investigator and well acquainted with me. His statement of facts is conservative and careful. I witnessed many of them, and you can rely on the article as representing the facts correctly. – PROFESSOR JAMES H. HYSLOP
The editor speaks of this same David Abbott as a magician who has a wide reputation in psychic circles, and as one who has made a life study of the tricks of the professional medium.
[N.B. Two expert conjurers, David P. Abbott of the ASPR and E. A. Parsons, investigated Blake in 1906 and became convinced of the identity of the spirit communicators. Blake used a 2-foot long double trumpet; putting the small end to her ear and the larger one at that of the sitter, it appeared as if the voices came from her ear. If she covered the small end with her palm, the result was the same. The voices grew from whispers to such loudness that occasionally they were heard at a distance of 100 feet.]
The endorsement by David P. Abbott is of particular importance, since he created a wonderful trick in which voices appeared to come from a teapot when the spout was held to an ear; the teapot also answered questions. With his expert experience of such illusions, Abbott would have been expected to discover any similar tricks by Spiritualist mediums.
Mr. Abbott describes the medium as the wife of a humble farmer, a woman who has been the devoted mother of fifteen children, and has never been twenty miles from her home more than once or twice in her life. She lives in an obscure little village called Bradrick, Ohio — a spot very far removed from the beaten track; the only mode of access is by a little ferry across from Huntington, W. Va.
Elizabeth Blake was born at Proctorville, Ohio in 1847, and at the age of 2 years, she moved with her family to Cabel County, West Virginia, where she remained until the year 1879, when she married Zachary Blake. They lived in Bradrick.
Elizabeth took her transition to the higher life at Coryville, passing from pneumonia in the early winter of 1920 aged 73 years.
Elizabeth truly was an outstanding direct voice medium. A humble, unassuming lady, she dedicated 60 years of her life to spirit. An estimated 200,000 people attended her direct voice séances.
Mr. Abbott writes:
I determined to make an investigation on such lines as would entirely remove the possibility of any kind of trickery being employed. I will say, for such readers as may not know, that I am a performer of the tricks used by the hundreds of spirit mediums that travel over the land.
I am thoroughly familiar with the various ‘systems’ by which they gain the information that they give their subjects, and I determined to entirely remove the possibility of anything of that kind being used in this case. I was known to no one in that part of the country with the exception of Mr. ‘X.’ who merely knew my name and residence.
He knew nothing of any of my relatives, nor of the towns where they resided. I was entirely satisfied that this gentleman was of too high a character to attempt to learn anything of my private history and reveal it to this woman. Besides I found that gathering information about persons at a distance of a thousand miles is a very up-hill business. Nevertheless, to make assurance doubly sure I determined to take a gentleman with me, entirely unknown to any one in that region and to take him under an assumed name.
The gentleman I selected was Mr. George W. Clawson of Kansas City, Mo., who, like myself, is a member of the American Society for Psychical Research. I did not reveal to him where he was to go (with the exception that it was within one hundred miles of Cincinnati) until two days before starting.
I then merely wrote him that we would go to Huntington, but gave no names. I did not tell him the lady’s name or town until we arrived in Huntington and had started for her village. Just before leaving Omaha I wired Professor Hyslop in New York when we were to meet in Huntington. I went by way of Kansas City where Mr. Clawson was. I asked him to choose a name to travel under, and he did so—the name was C. E. Wilson.
Mr. Clawson registered at the Florentine Hotel under the name of C. E. Wilson, and I introduced him to Mr. X. under that name. It was the first time that I had met Mr. X. and as he had only known me since April I was certain that even he was in the dark as to my history. I had carefully instructed Mr. Clawson in the method of asking questions so as to reveal no information between lines.
As he was an attorney he proved an apt pupil and I was soon certain I need have no fears on that score. I was present at all of the sittings and heard every word, so that any information the voices gave I knew must be obtained by some means outside of the ordinary channels.
Mr. Abbott then proceeds to give a long account of several sittings that he and his friend Mr. Clawson and later Dr. Hyslop had with this woman. He says, ‘We found the woman sitting by her window in a willow rocker with her crutches by her side.’ She hesitated at first to give Mr. Abbott and his friend sittings because of her feeble condition, having just recovered from a six weeks’ illness. The first three sittings were held in Mrs. Blake’s home and the last one was given across the river at the office of Mr. X. where we had taken Mrs. Blake to have a photograph taken. He says that in the sittings Mrs. Blake used a trumpet, one end of which he himself or Mr. Clawson would put to his ear, and the other end Mrs. Blake would hold sometimes in her hand, or sometimes to her own ear. These sittings were in the light. Sometimes the voices were so loud that they could be heard frequently at the distance of one hundred feet. The information received was most marvelous. We received in all nineteen correct names, while we received none that were wrong. There was evidence that satisfied Mr. Abbott and his friend Mr. Clawson that the intelligences talking did not receive the information through fraudulent means. Mr. Clawson’s correct name was given; Mr. David Abbott’s name was given, by what claimed to be spirit friends.
The following indicates the kind of conversation carried on:
I took the trumpet, but as the words sounded weak, I surrendered it to Mr. Clawson. Instantly the voice began loud and strong, so that I could easily distinguish the words where I sat.
Mr. Clawson said, ‘Who is this?’
The voice replied, ‘Grandma Daily.’
Mr. Clawson then said, ‘How do you do, grandma? I used to know you, didn’t I?’
The voice replied, ‘How do you do, George? I want to talk to Davie.’
I spoke from the outside of the trumpet and said, ‘I can hear you, grandma.’
I then said to Mr. Clawson, ‘Keep your position. I can hear from the outside.’ . . . After the voice of my grandmother gave a daughter’s name, it continued with these words: ‘Davie, I want you to be good and pray, and meet me over here. With the exception of the words, ‘over here,’ in place of the word ‘heaven,’ these were the identical words which my grandmother spoke to me the last time I ever heard her voice.
Mr. Clawson now continued, ‘Grandma, tell me the name of Davie’s mother.’
The voice replied ‘Sarah.’
He said, ‘Yes, but she has another name. What is it?’
The voice said, ‘How do you do?’
Mr. Clawson said, ‘ That is not what I mean.’
The voice then said, ‘Abbott.’
‘This is all right,’ continued Mr. Clawson, ‘but I call her by another name when I speak of her. What is it?’
The voice then plainly said, ‘Aunt Fannie.’ This was correct.
At this instant the loud voice of a man broke into the conversation. It was low in pitch, was a vocal tone, and had a weird effect.
The voice said, ‘How do you do?’
Mr. Clawson said, ‘How do you do, sir; who are you?’
The voice replied, ‘Grandpa Abbott,’ then repeated hurriedly a name that sounded like ‘David Abbott,’ and then the voice expired with a sound as of some choking or strangling and went off dimly and vanished. My grandfather’s name was ‘David Abbott.’
After this Mrs. Blake asked to rest a few moments and turned in her chair so as to use the other ear. While resting I decided to offer a suggestion to Mrs. Blake indirectly and to note the result. Turning to Mr. Clawson, I said, ‘It is strange that those we desire to talk to so strongly do not come. Now your daughter, whom you would rather talk to than anyone, seems to identify herself, but it seems strange to me that she did not give her name correctly.’ I did this intending to convey to Mrs. Blake the idea that the name which on the first evening was understood to be ‘Edna’ was not correct.
When Mr. Clawson next took the trumpet the voice of a girl spoke and said, ‘Daddie, I am here.’
He said, ‘Who are you?’
The voice replied, ‘Georgia,’ which was correct.
Mr. Clawson then said, ‘Georgia, is this you?’
‘Yes, daddie,’ she replied, ‘ don’t you think I know my own name? ‘
He then said, ‘I thought you did, Georgia, and could not understand why you would not tell me. Where do we live, Georgia?’
The voice replied, ‘In Kansas City,’ which was correct.
The voice then continued, ‘Daddie, I am so glad to talk to you, and so glad you came here to see me. I wish you could see my beautiful home. We have flowers and music every day.’
Mr. Clawson then said, ‘Georgia, tell me the name of the young man you were engaged to.’
The name pronounced was indistinct, so he asked the voice to spell it. The letters A-R-C were spelled out and then pronounced ‘Ark,’ which was correct. The gentleman’s first name was ‘Archimedes,’ and he was called ‘Ark.’ After this the voice spelled the complete name.
Mr. Clawson then said, ‘Georgia, where is Ark?’
The reply could not be understood. Mr. Clawson then asked, ‘Is he in Denver?’
A loud ‘No! No!’ almost vocal was heard, and then the words, ‘He is in New York.’
I was informed afterward that this was correct.
The voice then said, ‘Daddie, I want to tell you something. Ark is going to marry another girl.’
Mr. Clawson said, ‘You say he is going to be married?’
The voice said, ‘Yes, Daddie, but it’s all right. I do not care now. Besides, he does not love her as he did me.’
I will mention the fact that since our return from West Virginia, Mr. Clawson has received a letter from the gentleman in question, announcing his approaching marriage.
Mr. Clawson then asked the voice what grandmothers were there, and she replied that Grandmother Daily and Grandmother Abbott were with her.
He then said, ‘Are these all?’
The voice said, ‘Do you mean my own grandmother, my mother’s mother?’
Mr. Clawson replied, ‘Yes.’
The voice then said, ‘Grandma Marcus is here.’
This was correct. Mrs. Marquis had died shortly before this, and her grandchildren always pronounced her name as if it were spelled ‘Marcus.’
The reader will please to remember that Mr. Clawson’s name had so far been given to no one in that section of the country. That, as no one knew he was to be there, he could not have been looked up, and as he did not himself know where he was going, trickery could absolutely play no part in the names given him. I was present at all sittings, and there was no chance of any error. Yet these names came just as readily for him, and as correctly as they did for me whose name had previously been known to one resident of Huntington.
At this point the loud voice of a man spoke up and said, ‘I am here. I want to talk to Davie.’
I took the trumpet and the voice said, ‘Davie, do you know me?’
I said, ‘No, who are you?’
The voice replied, ‘Grandpa Daily.’
The voice then said, ‘Tell your mother I talked to you, and tell your father, too.’
Mr. Clawson took the trumpet quickly from me, and said, ‘Hello, Grandpa, I used to know you, didn’t I?’
The voice replied, ‘Of course you did.’
Mr. Clawson (whose name had so far never been given), said, ‘Tell me who I am?’
The voice replied out loud, distinct, and very quickly, ‘ I know you well ; you are George Clawson.’
Mr. Abbott had many more experiences of this kind. He winds up his description with the following comment:
Those who would give a theory that will explain these phenomena must advance one that will explain the facts. The theory that it is trickery may apply to some of the facts given to me, since one person in that country knew that a person of my name lived in Omaha, but it is very improbable that trickery was resorted to. This theory does not explain Mr. Clawson’s case.
People living a thousand miles from me could not know that I intended to take an unknown person with me; then they could not go and look up his name and history minutely. That it is guess-work on the part of the medium, or chance, is simply a silly statement. How many readers could have guessed that George’s second name was Clawson, how many could have guessed and given correctly nineteen names while giving none that were wrong? The information given by the voices was always correct.
Do I believe in what is known as Spiritualism and is exploited by the hundreds of spirit-mediums over the country? Emphatically no! I am too familiar with the methods of trickery with which they produce their illusions, for that I produce most of their feats for purposes of amusement myself.
Do I believe in Mrs. Blake? That is another question. The information which her voices furnished is entirely beyond the possibilities of any system of trickery. There can be no question as to this. That she possesses some power not possessed by ordinary mortals must be conceded.
Is it really spirits, or is it merely some freak power of the mind? Each must judge for himself. The lady solemnly assures me that it is the voices of our dead. I said, ‘Mrs. Blake, do you really believe it to be the dead talking?’ She replied, ‘I do not believe, I know. Belief is one thing, but knowledge is another.’
What is my opinion? It does not matter. It is not my place to express an opinion; it is only my place to relate the facts with sacred accuracy. Each reader must form his own opinion of the meaning of the facts. I most solemnly assure the reader that I have given them accurately. There is no need of explanation in this case, for the truth is sufficient without any additions or exaggerations.
It seems like a fairy story, yet it is a true story, I myself have seen these wonders.
I only know that far away, hundreds of miles over the hills on the banks of the Ohio River, there sits an elderly and frail woman in a chair, and kings could well afford to trade their power for hers.
Recommended reading: “The Psychic Riddle” by Dr Isaac K. Funk