Even though physical mediumship began in the 19th century, it wasn’t until near the end of the 20th century before any long term experimental type investigation was conducted. The Scole Experiment took place between 1993 and 1998 and was led by four core members, Robin and Sandra Foy and Alan and Diana Bylett who were mediums. The trials took place in the cellar of Foy’s 17th century farmhouse located in the village of Scole in northeast England.

The cellar room was about 15 x 30 feet and painted midnight blue. The four would sit around a circular wooden table which held various crystals. All sessions were conducted in complete darkness and participants wore luminous armbands so all could observe their movements.

According to Robin Foy, “What we wanted to do was to provide physical evidence for other people to witness, which would provide actual proof of life after death that could be studied scientifically. In short we wanted to prove beyond any doubt that life goes on beyond death.”

Although the four were experienced mediums, it took meeting twice a week for a year before any results were observed. In October 1993, they witnessed the first of a series of paranormal phenomena, a coin was ‘apported’ out of thin air and materialized on the table.

After that, they witness a variety of lights darting around the room. Objects levitated and floated. Voices emanated from mid-air. This was followed by two-way communications with a team of spirit people through a cheap tape recorder.

The four were informed by spirit entities that the location of the house was a significant factor in helping build a bridge between the worlds. The ability to create this bridge was assisted by what they referred to as “creative energy.”

Over time there was a remarkable range of physical evidence produced, including photographic and video material, numerous apports, levitating objects, spirit hands interacting with observers and spirit voices communicating directly from a point in space.

One apport was a pristine copy of the Daily Mail dated April 1, 1944 that included an article about medium Helen Duncan’s 18-month prison sentence which was handed down under the Witchcraft Act. The paper was found to be genuine and in such excellent condition it would have had to have been in special protective storage for 50 years.

Scientific observers, including David Fontana, Arthur Ellison and Montague Keen, were invited to monitor sessions as well as a professional magician. The highly respected Society for Psychical Research in London conducted a lengthy investigation and published a positive report.




Physical mediumship was fairly common in the early half of the 20th century, but waned over the last 80 years. Recently, it appears to be making a comeback. Mediums are advertising their abilities to communicate with the spirit world and produce physical manifestations during demonstrations.

Physical Mediums provide an interface of communication between our world and the spirit world. They can manifest energies and energy systems created by spirits. The processes results in physical displays, such as loud raps and noises, materialized objects or apports, materialized spirit bodies, or body parts such as hands, legs and feet. Other physical phenomena that can be produced are physical smells, hot or cold drafts, levitation, transfiguration, spirit lights, and direct voice communication.

True physical mediumship is believed to be very rare because of the bodily toll it takes while allowing spirits to materialize. Substances are taken from the medium’s body to form what is called ectoplasm and photoplasm.  Because the process can be draining or even physically painful, physical manifestations were historically created under the direction of groups or circles of people, rather than a single medium.

Another reason for the rarity of physical mediumship is the fact that the development of the process can be a lengthy and tedious, with no materializations happening in a circle for months or years. It requires an extended commitment on everyone’s part and may focus around one or two people providing the necessary energies or vibrations, while others contribute to those energies.

Because physical mediumship is rare and the potential for fraud is high, Arthur Findlay College has high standards and recommends eight points for evaluating mediums and conducting sessions where physical manifestations are expected. They are summarized here:

  1. No seances or circles should be held in total darkness. Subdued colored lights or natural lighting is preferred. The use of infra-red cameras is suggested.
  2. Mediums are required to be tested by the college before claiming to be a physical medium
  3. Rooms used should be prepared and cleaned to remove ectoplasm, clutter and metal.
  4. It is important for sitters to vocally respond to the medium.
  5. No sitters should be allowed to bring electronic devises into the room.
  6. Entrances to the room should be monitored at all times.
  7. Physical mediumship is not entertainment and should be respected as a means of connecting with the spirit world.
  8. The medium should inform the sitters what to expect before the session.

Physical Mediumship can be an important tool to demonstrating the existence of the spirit world, but can be misused as a means of entertainment and financial gain. Silver Birch, spirit guide to Maurice Barbanell, explained it this way:

“Whether manifestation of the spirit is seen or heard does not matter very much. What is more important is the unfolding of your souls’ power, for, as you sit here week after week, so you are attuning yourselves to higher vibrations and becoming more accessible to the wisdom of your ages, which is always waiting to pour itself down into your world of matter, to obey the law of service. But it must find instruments attuned to its vibrations.

“And, as your souls unfold and you rise higher and higher in the scale of vibrations, so you come into closer touch with higher and greater spiritual forces, that are not seen or heard but which belong to the eternal realities of the spirit. That is the reality of your lives. So much of your time is spent in chasing the shadows, in trying to capture the illusion, in trying to secure the ephemeral. In silence, in harmony and in love, your souls unfold all the time. Though it may be slow, it is sure and certain.”

HELEN KELLER: Swedenborg Follower


Helen Keller was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama in 1880. For her first year and a half, she was like any other child. However, at nineteen months, she became ill with “brain fever,” which may have been scarlet fever or meningitis. Helen survived the serious illness, but was left blind and deaf. She described her early years as filled with nothing except “the instinct to eat and drink and sleep.” Her days were “a blank without past, present, or future, without hope or anticipation, without interest or joy.”

She described her contact with Anne Mansfield Sullivan as a transition from “nothingness to human life.” Anne arrived at their Alabama home in March of 1887 and became Helen’s personal tutor. Helen described her realization that the sign Anne was creating on her palm represented water as her first revelation. “It was as if I had come back to life after being dead!”

Helen eventually attended the Perkins School in Boston. It was there that she was introduced to John Hitz, whom she befriended until his death sixteen years later. John brought the spiritual writings of an Eighteenth Century Swedish scientist and seer, Emanuel Swedenborg, to Helen’s attention when he gave her a copy of the book, Heaven and Hell.

Even though Helen’s father was a deacon in the Presbyterian church and her mother an Episcopalian, Helen was baptized but received no special religious training. She described Swedenborg’s book as a second revelation.

“My heart gave a joyous bound,” she said. “Here was a faith that emphasized what I felt so keenly—the separateness between soul and body, between the realm I could picture as a whole, and the chaos of fragmentary things and irrational contingencies that my limited senses met at every turn.”  She credited Swedenborg with giving her a faith that turned her darkness into light. “I believe in the immortality of the soul because I have within me immortal longings. I believe that the state we enter after death is wrought of our own motives, thoughts, and deeds.”

Helen devoted her life to service, not only helping those confronted with blindness or deafness, but working to end ignorance, racism and poverty. She supported the right of workers to strike and women to vote, and was the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Harvard.

She saw this new type of belief, not as a matter of doctrine, but as a loving way to understand the world. In 1928, she addressed the national meeting of Swedenborgians in Washington, DC. Her vision of Christianity was universal and all-encompassing. She saw that Swedenborgian ideals fostered true freedom and placed humanity above party, country and race. She said, “I believe that life is given us so that we may grow in love, and I believe that God is in me as the sun is in the color and fragrance of a flower-the Light in my darkness, the Voice in my silence.”

Reference: Light in My Darkness, Helen Keller, 1927.


Mary Scannell was born in Massachusetts in 1867. Her mother died when she was only three years old and she was raised by an aunt. It was 12 years after her mother’s death that Mary had her first spirit vision. That was followed by a seance during which a Native American girl named Bright Eyes spoke through Mary. Bright Eyes requested that Mary remain in the house and train as a medium for three months.

Mary was reluctant to train as a medium, declaring that she and her aunt should move from their home, but she eventually gave in to the spirit’s demand. Bright Eyes would speak through Mary for the next 34 years.

Mary spent her first 6 years holding private seances and tests as a medium. While married to her first husband, George Pepper, she worked with Abram H. Dailey to improve her grammar while under the spirit’s influence. After that time, she conducted public demonstrations in New England, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and at conventions of the National Spiritualists’ Association. She traveled extensively, including trips to Europe and Russia where she conducted “envelope readings.”

After divorcing George Pepper, Mary married Edward Ward Vanderbilt in 1907, despite the objections of his family who insisted Mary as an unscrupulous fraud. Edward apparently adored her and encouraged her to work as a medium.

Mary was president of Lake Pleasant Camp in Massachusetts for five years. A 1916 Banner of Life publication stated that people came “in carts, in wagons, in anything, the Lord only knows how they all get there” to listen to Mary. It was common to have over 5000 people attend her demonstrations at Camp Etna, a Spiritualists’ camp west of Bangor, Maine.

Mary continued to demonstrate her skills as a medium for 17 years at Camp Etna, and acted as its president the last 10 years of her life. After the 1918 summer season, Mary returned home and became ill. During her last address at the 71st anniversary of Modern Spiritualism, she declared her devotion to Spiritualism, urging all to be true to the cause. Her last words in public were, “I have found Spiritualism a good thing to live by, and I have come pretty close to finding it a good thing to die by.”

Her final bout with her illness passed quickly and she died April 27, 1919 in Boston. In accordance with her request, her ashes were interred at Camp Etna.

Reference: Mary. S. Vanderbilt: A Twentieth Century Seer, M.E. Cadwallader, Chicago, IL, 1921.




The Bangs Sisters, Elizabeth (Lizzie) and May, were born in the early 1860s. Their father was a tinsmith and mother, Meroe, a medium. By the 1870s, the sisters were conducting seances in the Chicago area. Messages from the dead appeared on slates, musical instruments were played by spirits and furniture moved.

Despite being arrested for “doing business without a license” in 1881, the sisters became prominent Chicago mediums by 1888. That led to a dramatic arrest in April of that year when two plainclothes detectives attended one of their seances. They claimed to have found a satchel filled with muslin shrouds, whiskers, wigs, and a variety of make-up. They became the “notorious” Bangs Sisters. In the 1890s, a Chicago grand jury tried to indict them, but failed on technicalities. That led to the passage of an Illinois bill that prohibited anyone “from impersonating the spirits of the dead, commonly known as spirit-medium seances, on penalty of fine and imprisonment.”

The Bangs Sisters began their careers with slate writing. Blank paper was placed between two slates and the slates were bound together with twine or rubber bands. An ink bottle was located nearby. Messages would appear on the paper while it was bound between the slates.

The first precipitated painting was demonstrated by the sisters in 1894. Spirit Portraits became extremely controversial. Some declared them to be hoaxes, but in most cases the sisters had no prior photograph of the spirit subject to work from. Although oil paints were usually present during the seance, the portraits resemble pastels or modern airbrush paintings. They often have a powdery appearance and sometimes appear to be embedded in the canvas. The portraits also changed over time, for example, eyes first appeared closed and spontaneously opened later.

The Bangs Sisters had residences in Lily Dale, NY and Camp Chesterfield, IN as well as their Chicago home. In a 1908 Chesterfield demonstration, a blank canvas was set on the stage before a large audience. Waves of mist traveled over the canvas. “Soon the outline bust form of a person began to appear in the center of the canvas, features becoming more distinct along with the hair and face and, slowly, the entire form of a young girl was clearly distinguishable for all to see.”

The eyes changed from closed to open, and when it was complete, a man in the audience, Mr. Alford, recognized the portrait as that of his deceased daughter, Audrey. When the painting of Audrey was originally precipitated, there was a locket around her neck and flowers. When the portrait was donated to Camp Chesterfield, both had dematerialized. (Before and after photos)

The Bangs Sisters created hundreds of portraits during their demonstrations. Some are on display at both Lily Dale and Camp Chesterfield today.

For more information: Portraits from Beyond: The Mediumship of the Bang Sisters, N. Riley Heagerty, White Crow Books, 2016


Precipitated Spirit Paintings or Portraits were produced by spiritualist mediums in the early 20th century. Unlike other forms of spiritual communication, such as spirit writing where spirits guide the medium’s hand, during spirit painting the medium doesn’t touch the canvas while the painting materializes.

Spirit Portraits were produced during an event similar to a seance. A blank canvas or paper was stretched over a wooden frame. Oil paints were usually present, but not paintbrushes. Usually, the medium and the person requesting the portrait were present in the room, but other observers could take part. Some, or all, of the participants were asked to touch the canvas with their hands or fingers during the process.

The one wishing to contact the deceased person would concentrate on the task, and was not required to tell the medium who they wished to contact. The Spirit Portrait gradually appeared on the canvas or paper, taking anywhere between fifteen minutes to an hour to fully take form.

The oldest recorded Spirit Portrait occurred in the mid-16th century, decades before the beginning of Spiritualism. The image of Mexico’s Lady of Guadalupe miraculously appeared on the cloak of a man named Juan Diego. The Vatican conducted research on the image and concluded that no signs of human creation appeared to exist. The blue pigment used to create the image could not be identified or reproduced. The agave-fiber cloak which should have decayed in a few years still exists and is on display today at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Some Precipitated Spirit Paintings of the 20th century can be found on display in the Maplewood Hotel in Lily Dale, New York. Located sixty miles south of Buffalo, Lily Dale is the oldest and largest community of Spiritualists in the world. Their collection includes portraits by the Campbell Brothers and Bangs Sisters.


The Campbell Brothers were not brothers. Many believe they were a gay couple who had to hide their sexual orientation at a time when it would have been condemned. Allan B. Campbell and Charles Campbell (born Charles Shourds) lived at Lily Dale, but traveled widely. Their mediumship included slate writing and spirit typewriting as well as Spirit Portraits produced in pastel and oil.

One of the Campbell Brothers most impressive Spirit Portraits is of Azur, Allan’s spirit guide. In 1898, they conducted a session in a room that contained enough light for those present to witness the phenomena. To ensure there was no trickery, invited guests were encouraged to place personal markings on the back of the 40” x 60” canvas. During the process, Allan became entranced and Azur spoke through him. The guests witnessed the gradual development of the painting on the canvas. It was completed in 90 minutes. Witnesses also noticed that the star behind Azur’s appeared right before their eyes.

Allen died and 1919 and Charles in 1926, leaving behind several notable spirit paintings.


August 20th, 7:00 pm Lisa Smartt

Lisa Smartt, MA, is the author of Words at the Threshold. A linguist, educator and poet,  she founded the Final Words Project, an ongoing study devoted to collecting and interpreting the mysterious language at the end of lives. She cofacilitates workshops about language and consciousness with Raymond Moody at universities, hospices, and conferences and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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First and foremost, Spiritual Healing is used to compliment traditional medicine. It is not considered an alternative. If a person has medical issues and is under a treatment regimen, they should continue seeing their physician. Spiritual Healing works in concert with general medical practices.

Spiritual healing is more comprehensive than medical treatment. While tradition medicine treats only on the physical body, Spiritual Healing is more Holistic. It can work on all levels of the self, thus treating the entire person.

An individual receiving Spiritual Healing doesn’t need to have faith in the healing process.  It can work on individuals that don’t understand faith, like babies, young children and even animals. The more open and accepting the patient is to the process, the more successful the healing will be. Like with traditional medicine, the patient’s attitude can also affect the outcome. The more positive a person is, the better the chance of recovery.

There are three types of Spiritual Healing. The first is Contact Healing. Contact Healing involves the Medium Healer placing their hands directly on the patient’s body. This is always with permission, and may involve just a light touch on the shoulders. Each Medium Healer has their own way of working. A trained Medium will be aware of where they may and may not place their hands, respecting sensitive areas.  The Medium Healer will work under a Code of Conduct issued by their organization to which they must adhere.

The second and third healing types occur without touch. In Distant Healing, the healer and patient may be in the same room. Healing is sent by the power of thought. In Absent Healing, the patient is not physically present. Healing thoughts are sent to them.

The duration of the healing session varies depending upon the Medium Healer and the patient. It usually lasts between ten and twenty minutes. During the session, the patient is asked to relax and quiet their mind, and may close their eyes to assist the process. As healing proceeds, the person may feel a little warmer or cooler, or there may be no change at all. Despite the initial response to the healing process, it may take time and several sessions for healing effects to be noticeable.


Hidden away in northwestern New York state is a quiet hamlet named Lily Dale. The idyllic community, composed of Victorian homes and uniquely decorated cottages, overlooks the east side of Cassadaga Lake. At first glance, it would appear to be a vacationer’s paradise, but the entrance sign, “City of Light,” reveals its true origins. Lily Dale is the largest community of Spiritualists in the country.

The seeds of Lily Dale were planted in 1844, when William Johnson invited a mesmerist named Dr. Moran from Vermont to come to Laona, NY to lecture. After the visit, Johnson and his group began to experiment with Dr. Moran’s techniques. Group member, Jeremiah Carter, became entranced. Through him, a Dr. Hedges spoke to those present. He gave messages from the spirit world and practiced laying on of hands. After spiritual communication was established in Hydesville, NY by the Fox sisters, the Laona group was encouraged to continue.  They formed the First Spiritualist Society of Laona in 1855.

In 1873, Jeremiah Carter was encouraged by spirits to hold a camp meeting at the nearby farm of Willard Alden (located just outside the gates of the present Lily Dale). The group met there for summer picnics and camp meetings until Alden’s passing in 1879. It was then that the group purchased 20 acres of the land on an adjoining property.

Men and women worked to clear the area and make forest trails. They had financial problems but were not deterred. A Lyceum formed in 1881, and a permanent auditorium that would seat 1200 was built in 1883. The camp went through several name changes until 1906 when it was named The Lily Dale Assembly because of the abundance of lilies on the lake.

Marion Skidmore, daughter of William Johnson, was one of the main founders of Lily Dale. She was an ardent advocate for women’s suffrage, a liberal thinker, and friend of Susan B. Anthony. Her collection of books formed the foundation for the Marion Skidmore Library in Lily Dale, the world’s largest collection of Spiritualist and psychic books.

Today, Lily Dale is a community of over 160 private residences, two hotels, guest houses, bookstores, two eateries and a café. Between the last weekend in June and Labor Day, for a small admission fee, visitors can attend many events. They include medium demonstrations, religious services, workshops, thought exchange meetings and healing services. There are also areas for camping, picnicking, swimming and hiking.

Additional seminars are offered on mediumships, spiritualist studies and related topics. Well-known guests have included Deepak Chopra, Dr. Wayne Dyer, and John Edward.

For more information on Lily Dale’s History:


Coral Polge was born in London in 1924. At the time of her birth, the midwife exclaimed, “This child has been here before.” Maybe that is why she became a renowned psychic artist.

Most mediums and clairvoyants communicate with the spirit world through thought messages that are auditory, visual or even olfactory. Coral took that communication one step further by translating the images she saw onto paper. A trained commercial artist, she combined her artistic talent and psychic gifts into a technique that enhanced the experience of reaching the spirit world.

Unlike many mediums, Coral was not psychic as a child, though she did have a few out-of-body experiences. She enjoyed walking with her favorite uncle through the graveyard where she admired the stones and drew sketches of them. It was that same uncle who first sent her a message from the other side when she joined a spiritualist church at the age of 23.

Coral began her journey as a psychic artist by drawing medium guides. It wasn’t until after she met Frank Leah that she realized she should be drawing pictures of loved ones who had passed.  The perfect likeness of a loved one would convince a skeptic that life goes on, and that death is a new beginning. As she produced more evidential portraits of friends and relatives, she began to verify her work with photographs.

“Seek the truth,” Coral’s spiritual guides told her in her early days. She was always open to improving her technique.

Maurice Barbanell, editor of Psychic News, helped her by advising she demand a higher percentage of relatives come forward. She had never thought about demanding from the spirit people, but it worked. Artist, Samuel Martin, offered her advice to improve her artistry. He even returned after his passing to give her words of wisdom.

“I never had any doubts, once I started on the spiritual path, as to where I was going,” she said. “I have never become disenchanted with my beliefs, only occasionally with the people involved. More than anything, spiritualism has given me a complete inner peace, to know a purpose manifests in everything.”

In her book, Living Images, Coral relates the stories of some of the drawings that she created over the years. One is about the grandmother of Wendy Hart. While drawing the picture of a Victorian woman with hair pulled back from her face, Coral kept getting the word, sunshine. When Mrs. Hart found a photograph of her grandmother to compare to the drawing, she found that written on the back were the words  “From your Sunshine.” See photos below.
Coral said that many of her communicators didn’t explain the messages she was passing on. “We are purely telephone lines, nothing more,” she said.  “As long as there is somebody’s picture waiting to be drawn, I will continue to be used as a channel for such communication between this world and the next. This was the path mapped out for me. It is a path I tread with love, and a great sense of privilege that I was chosen to do so.”

Coral was often helped by spirits from the other side. Her most frequent helper was French pastel portrait artist, Maurice de la Tour. Coral received the Spiritualist of the Year award in 1978 and died in 2001.

Reference: Living Images, Coral Polge with Kay Hunter, The Aquarian Press, Harper Collins London. 1991.