When he was alive in the flesh, George Pellew, an author, poet, and journalist, told Dr. Richard Hodgson, who was studying the mediumship of Leonora Piper, that he could not conceive of an afterlife but that if he died before Hodgson and found himself “still existing” he would attempt to let Hodgson know.
Hodgson (below) had been studying Mrs. Piper since 1887. He would arrange for various people to anonymously sit with her, and then would observe and record the sessions. The usual procedure was for Mrs. Piper to go into a trance state and her body to be taken over by a spirit calling himself Dr. Phinuit, who, unlike Mrs. Piper, spoke in a gruff voice and with a French accent. As it came to be understood by Hodgson and other researchers, very few spirits are capable of communicating directly and thus Phinuit would act as a medium on the Other Side, relaying messages from them to the sitters.
Initially a skeptic, even a debunker, Hodgson had completely ruled out fraud on the part of Mrs. Piper but still questioned whether the voices coming through the young Boston medium in her trance state were voices of the dead or some secondary personality buried in her subconscious. But since many of the sitters seemed to be receiving very evidential information from deceased loved ones and friends, the question remained as to how the secondary personality, if that is what it was, got the information.
Hodgson, Professor William James, and other researchers were reluctant to accept the spirit hypothesis. No evidence could be found that a Dr. Phinuit ever existed and they theorized that he was a secondary personality which was somehow able to telepathically tap into the mind of the sitter. When information came through that was unknown to the sitter but later verified as correct, they further theorized that it was possible for Mrs. Piper’s secondary personality to read the mind of anybody in the world or to tap into some kind of cosmic reservoir in the ethers and extract information, then feed it back to the sitters. As far fetched as that seemed, any explanation was preferable to spirits, as science, in the wake of Darwinism, was busy demonstrating that things spiritual were just so much superstition and folly. The mere suggestion of spirits of the dead was cause for smirks, scoffs, and sneers among educated people.
Hodgson’s confidence in his views was “shaken” after the accidental death of Pellew (below) on February 18, 1892, the result of falling down a flight of stairs. At the time, Pellew, a Harvard graduate, was employed as an editorial writer for the New York Sun.
On March 22, a little over a month after Pellew’s death, Hodgson brought Pellew’s friend John Hart for a sitting with Mrs. Piper. Early in the sitting, Dr. Phinuit (speaking through Mrs. Piper’s body) announced that “George” was there. Phinuit then gave Pellew’s full name and the names of several close friends. To give assurance that it was actually himself communicating through Phinuit, Pellew told Hart that the pair of studs he was wearing were once his and were given to Hart by his (Pellew’s) parents, which Hart confirmed as true. Pellew then mentioned some mutual friends, Jim and Mary Howard, and asked Hart if he could get them to attend a sitting. He also brought up a discussion he had had with Katharine, the Howard’s 15-year-old daughter, about God, space, and eternity. As neither Hart nor Hodgson, who was also in attendance and taking notes, was aware of any such discussion with Katharine, this information, later confirmed by Katharine, fell outside the scope of simple telepathy.
Hodgson recorded that many personal references were made by Pellew, including one to a book he had not yet finished before his death, and that Hart was impressed, mentioning that various words of greetings and speech mannerisms were very characteristic of Pellew, even though the messages were relayed through Phinuit. For privacy reasons, Hodgson called him George “Pelham” in the research records, or otherwise referred to him simply as “G.P.”
Some three weeks later, Jim and Mary Howard had a sitting with Mrs. Piper. They were somewhat reluctant to participate in such “occult activity,” but Hart’s account of what took place at his sitting made them curious. Hodgson did not tell Mrs. Piper their names or give her any clue as to their connection with G.P. Yet, G.P. communicated. However, rather than Phinuit speaking through Mrs. Piper and relaying messages from G.P., G.P. took over Mrs. Piper’s body and spoke directly to his friends:
G.P.: “Jim, is that you? Speak to me quick. I am not dead. Don’t think me dead. I’m awfully glad to see you. Can’t you see me? Don’t you hear me? Give my love to my father and tell him I want to see him. I am happy here, and more so since I can communicate with you. I pity those people who can’t speak…”
Jim Howard: “What do you do George, where you are?”
G.P.: “I am scarcely able to do anything yet; I am just awakened to the reality of life after death. It was like darkness. I could not distinguish anything at first. Darkest hours just before dawn, you know that, Jim. I was puzzled, confused. Shall have an occupation soon. Now I can see you, my friends. I can hear you speak. Your voice, Jim, I can distinguish with your accent and articulation, but it sounds like a big bass drum. Mine would sound to you like the faintest whisper.”
Jim Howard: “Our conversation, then, is something like telephoning?”
Jim Howard: “By long distance telephone?”
Jim Howard: “Were you not surprised to find yourself living?”
G.P.: “Greatly surprised. I did not believe in a future life. It was beyond my reasoning powers. Now it is as clear to me as daylight. We have an astral fac-simile of the material body…”
The conversation continued. G.P. mentioned that he had seen and talked with Martha Rogers, the deceased daughter of a mutual friend. He said that she was still adjusting to her new environment. He also asked how Orenberg and Berwick, two other mutual friends, were doing, adding that Orenberg liked him but never understood him. “We fellows who are eccentric are always misunderstood in life,” he said. “I used to have fits of depression. I have none now. I am happy now. I want my father to know about this. We used to talk about spiritual things, but he will be hard to convince. My mother will be easier…”
At a later sitting, the Howards brought their daughter, Katharine. G. P. came through and asked Katharine about her violin lessons, commenting (apparently jesting) that her playing was “horrible.” Not realizing the humor in it, Mary Howard spoke up to defend her daughter’s music, but G.P. then explained that he mentioned it because that is what he used to do when in the flesh. It was intended as verification of his identity.
Jim and Mary Howard returned again on December 19, 1892. Mary Howard handed G.P. a letter from his father and asked him if he could read it. G.P. said it did not sound like his father would talk to him when he was in the body, but that his father does believe that he still exists and is no longer in pain. Mary Howard confirmed for Hodgson that this was the key message in the letter, which apparently was still in the envelope. G.P. continued:
“That brings me nearer to my father; now give him my tenderest love and tell him that I am very near him, and see him almost every day, if I could go by days, but I can’t judge of that, because I have no idea of time; that is one thing I have lost, Hodgson…You of all others are the one that I want to be absolutely certain of my identity…Hodgson, I mean, and Jim, I want you both to feel I am no secondary personality of the medium’s…Now, about my theory of spirit life independent of the material substance. I live, think, see, hear, know, and feel just as clearly as when I was in the material life, but it is not so easy to explain it to you as you would naturally suppose, especially when the thoughts have to be expressed through substance materially…Nevertheless, I am bound to do just all I can for you to prove to you that I do absolutely exist, independent of the material body which I inhabited…”
Jim Howard returned alone for a sitting three days later and asked G.P. to tell him something that only the two of them knew. In fact, G.P. told Howard something so private and personal that Howard did not want it made part of the record, but he told Hodgson that he was perfectly satisfied with the information. G.P. continued:
“Jim, I am dull in this sphere about some things, but you will forgive me, won’t you?…but like as when in the body sometimes we can’t always recall everything in a moment, can we, Jim, dear old fellow?…God bless you, Jim, and many thanks. You often gave me courage when I used to get depressed. You know how you especially used to fire at me sometimes, but I understood it all, did I not, old fellow?…and I used to get tremendously down at the heel sometimes, but I am all right now, and, Jim, you can never know how much I love you and how I delight in coming back and telling you all this…When I found I actually lived again, I jumped for joy, and my first thought was to find you and Mary. And thank the Infinite here I am, old fellow, living and well…”
Over the period of time during which G.P. communicated, Hodgson brought 150 sitters, 30 of whom were known to G.P. when he was alive. In each case, G.P. greeted them by name. The non-recognition of the other 120 was contrary to the telepathic and cosmic soul theories. That is, if G.P., or Mrs. Piper’s secondary personality, had been reading minds or searching in some cosmic computer, he (she) would have known the names of all of them.
The emergence of G.P. moved Hodgson and other researchers to a belief that spirits of the dead were in fact communicating. In effect, there was too much individuality, too much purpose and persistence, expressed by G.P. to attribute it to telepathy of a limited or expanded nature. It was one thing for a medium to tap into another mind or cosmic reservoir for information, quite another for that other mind or reservoir to dialogue with the fullness of a personality rather than just fragmentary bits of information.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores.
Also See Atlantis Rising Number 100 Page 39, Michael Tymn