Connecting with the Other Side

Connecting with the Other Side

Most often, we focus on methods and techniques to connect our Earthly plane to the spirit world. We don’t realize that the spirits must work to connect from their side as well.

In the book, The Blue Island, William T. Stead describes his process of reaching Earth from the spirt world. He first brings up the issue of time. On earth we are acutely conscious of the passage of time. The Earth’s orbit around the sun creates years. Its rotation divides those years into days and nights. People have subsequently divided days into hours, minutes and seconds.

He informs the reader that the spirit world has no such passage of time. “We have no dark sky,” he said. “only a light one, and we have, for the sake of the present illustration, an unlimited supply of energy. We do break up our time, but it is not your breaking, therefore we can seldom be accurate in telling when a thing did, or when a thing will, happen.”

William Stead wrote of many buildings being present in the part of the spirit world in which he resided. One of those buildings was used to establish communications with the Earth. He said that it was a well-organized, very business-like place. There were hundreds of people there trying to get messages back home to loved ones. He referred to the messages as “heart calls.”

William said he expected the building to be equipped with different instruments to aid their communications but found none. “It was only the human element,” he wrote. Connection was achieved by thought.

On his first visit to the building, he had a long conversation with a mundane looking man. He was told that they had a system of travelers who worked very closely with the Earth. “They had the power of sensing people who could and would be used for this work at the other end.”

William visited the building frequently, trying to get messages home by more than one means. Sometimes he succeeded; sometimes he did not. “The spirit has much to do himself with the success or failure attained; a great deal depends upon him. Every time I succeeded I helped another.” When he did fail, he was given unlimited help by those working there.

He first successful communication was with a group of people holding a séance. “I had to visualize myself among these people in the flesh. Imagine I was standing there in the flesh, in the center of them, and then imagine myself still there with a strong light thrown upon me….Create a picture.”

The first time, none of his family were present and he made only his face visible to them. Later on, William Stead became adept at communication, and through spirit writing, gave us the information contain in the book, The Blue Island.

Reference: Pardoe Woodman & Estelle Stead. The Blue Island. London 1922.

Sensing Auras

Sensing Auras

Charles Leadbeater, a member of the Theosophical Society, was the first person to popularize the concept of auras. In his book, Man Visible and Invisible, published in 1903, he illustrated the human aura at various stages of spiritual evolution (one drawing at left). In 1910, he incorporated chakras into his book, The Inner Life, by combining old teachings with his own ideas. Leadbeater’s concepts were later adopted by others such as Rudolf Steiner and Edgar Cayce.

Spiritualists define the aura as a type of electromagnetic energy that radiates from all physical objects. Living beings manifest a personal energy field that reflects their own unique spiritual vibration. As a physical body and spirit change, so does the aura. Some people are born with the ability to see or sense auras without training. Others may learn to develop the ability. It is through clairvoyance that a medium attunes to the spiritual vibrations of others.

Clairsentience can be used to sense a person’s aura either in the physical plane or Spirit World. It may be on an emotional level, where one is determining their state of feeling. Are they happy or sad, or sensitive or aloof? Their mental energy can also be determined. This is the way their physical mind works. Are they intelligent or easily confused, or paranoid or trusting? The condition of the physical body can be determined as well. A healthy body will radiate a completely different energy when it is sick. A well-trained medium will be able to detect subtle changes in the physical body that are not typically noticeable.

Since the aura is a type of energy, specific vibrations are sensed as colors by the human mind. One does not have to see the color, or even have working vision, to perceive the vibrations of the aura. Different colors may have different meanings, but there are basic guidelines one can follow:

RED: Passion or anger, energy and self-confidence, materialism.

ORANGE: Pride, the need for excitement, personal power and control.

YELLOW: Bright and cheery, intellectual and creative, sense of humor.

GREEN: Competitive and individualistic, processes ideas and information quickly, natural healers.

BLUE: Loving and nurturing, balanced, inspirational, noble, intuitive.

PURPLE: Wise, self-mastery, highly evolved and intuitive.

Other colors include pink (loving and gentle), white (pure and spiritual), and gray (dark thoughts).

There are many exercises you can try to develop your ability to sense auras. I’ll describe one you can do at home. Position yourself a few feet away from something that is dark in color, like a curtain or piece of furniture. Hold your hands up, palms facing you, fingers slightly apart. Stare at your hands, letting your eyes go unfocused. After a while, you’ll see a subtle glow around your hands. Once you see that, keep working. You will next see energy radiating from the fingertips. It will flow like wisps of smoke connecting the fingers of one hand to the fingers of the other. That is your aura.

 Once you identify your own aura, you can try your ability on others, with their permission of course. It will take time and patience to develop your skills. Keep in mind the colors listed above while practicing. Once a person is adept at sensing the auras of physical persons, the same technique can be used to identify spirit auras. Colors will enable you to describe the spirit in more detail when conducting readings for a client. 

William James: Psychologist & Psychical Researcher

William James: Psychologist & Psychical Researcher

William James was born in 1842 in Albany, NY to Swedenborgian theologian Henry James and Mary Robertson Walsh. William was one of five siblings, including novelist, Henry James. All of William’s ancestors were Protestant farmers, merchants, and/or traders, well educated, and highly involved with the church. William’s grandfather went from being a poor immigrant to one of the richest men in New York. After his death, his family inherited his fortune.  

William trained as a physician and taught anatomy at Harvard but was more interested in psychology. He married Alice Howe Gibbens in 1878 and they had 5 children. During that time, William wrote on many subjects and became well known as a philosopher, historian, and psychologist. He taught one of the first psychology courses in America and established a school of psychology known as pragmatism.

William was interested in two schools of thought: associationism and spiritualism. An associationist believes that each experience leads to another in a chain of events. On the other hand, a spiritualist believes that events are attributed to the soul. William recommended using the parts of each philosophy that made the most sense. He concluded that each person had a soul in a spiritual universe that directed the person to perform certain behaviors in the physical world.

William was a founding member and vice president of the American Society for Psychical Research when it began in 1884.  It is the oldest psychical research organization in the United and maintains offices and a library in New York City.  As the chair for the society, he was one of many scientists who convened to investigate the paranormal. The work made him cynical because they identified many frauds, but that did not keep him from believing in the supernatural. 

In 1885, the year after the death of his young son, William had his first sitting with medium Leonora Piper. He was convinced that Piper knew things she could only have discovered by supernatural means. He sat for multiple sessions in in her darkened parlor, taking notes as she presented information that only a mother might know. After evaluating sixty-nine reports of Piper’s mediumship, he concluded that Piper was using telepathy, not speaking to the spirit world. William was sure that the existence of telepathy would be proven in the future.

William retired from Harvard in 1907 but continued to write and lecture. Afflicted with cardiac pain, he sailed to Europe in 1910 to try experimental treatments, but they were unsuccessful. His heart failed later that year while he was at home in Chocorua, New Hampshire.

Additional Reading:

Croce, Paul Jerome (1995) Science and Religion in the Era of William James vol. 1. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Harnett, Emily (2019) “William James and the Spiritualist’s Phone” Lapham’s Quarterly.

Haynes, Renée (1982) The Society for Psychical Research, 1882-1982: A History. London: Macdonald & Co.

Alfred Tennyson: Poet

Alfred Tennyson: Poet

Alfred Tennyson was born in 1809 in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England to George Clayton Tennyson, an Anglican clergyman, and Elizabeth Fytche. Alfred was part of a large family, the fourth son of twelve, and his father was highly involved in their education. The family seemed plagued with serious health issues, including alcoholism and epilepsy. Despite that, Alfred and the older boys began writing poetry in their teens and published a collection of poems when Alfred was only 17. He left home in 1827 to join his brothers at Trinity College, Cambridge, more to escape from his family than to pursue academic work. 

By the time his volume of Poems was published in 1833, Alfred was an established poet. The same year, Alfred’s good friend, Arthur Henry Hallam, was struck down by a sudden stroke and died. Alfred’s poetry showed a shift away from his childhood Anglican Evangelical upbringing. In In Memoriam A.H.H. (1849), he wrote, “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” In “Locksley Hall Sixty Years After,” Tennyson wrote, “Christian love among the churches look’d the twin of heathen hate.”

By 1850, Alfred earned the title of poet laureate. He married the poet, Emily Sellwood, a friend since childhood, and they had two sons, Hallam (1852), and Lionel (1854). Alfred had been interested in the occult all his life. He told his children ghost stories and attempted to contact his father by sleeping in his bed shortly after his death. He was interested in Spiritualism as early as 1854 and was looking for assurance of immortality. Emily wrote in her journal that “The Longfellows and A.T. talked much about spiritualism,” but she was against the practice.

Despite his wife’s objections, Alfred became part of the Metaphysical Society in 1869 with James Knowles, Thomas Huxley, Henry Sidgwick, and others. He attended meetings sporadically, listening but not debating. He attended his first séance in 1869 with Dr. James Acworth and his wife (a medium), where they witnessed table tipping. 

Queen Victoria named Alfred the Baron Tennyson in 1884, but that did not protect him from more tragic death. Two years later, his younger son, Lionel, fell ill in India and while sailing home to England died in the Red Sea. After the death of his son, Alfred attended a séance with Laura Trowbridge. The table rapping spelled out letters, but he never received direct contact from his son. Alfred increased his search for the proof of immortality. His poetry of this period is filled with that desperation.

In 1888, Alfred and A.D. Coleridge experimented with table rapping and tipping. In a letter, Tennyson said, “I observed the smile of incredulity playing over your face, but there really is something in spiritualism.” On October 6, 1892, Alfred died at midnight, his finger holding open a volume of Shakespeare and his family surrounding the bed. 

Additional Reading:

Elliott, Philip (1979) “Tennyson and Spiritualism.” Tennyson Research Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 3 (NOVEMBER 1979), pp. 89-100. Tennyson Society

Ratcliffe, Carleen L. M. (2016) The Classical and the Christian: Tennyson’s Grief and Spiritual Shift from “The Lotos-Eaters” to “Ulysses.” Thesis. University of South Carolina

William E. Gladstone: British Politician

William E. Gladstone: British Politician

William Ewart Gladstone was born in Liverpool in 1809, the son of Anne and John Gladstone, a merchant from Scotland who made the family’s fortune in the corn trade. Gladstone was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. His family was highly religious, and he originally wanted to be ordained in the Church of England. Instead, he went into politics. He became a member of the House of Commons in 1832 as part of the Conservative Party. He served as both minister and chancellor. In 1839 he married Catherine Glynne and they had eight children.

Over the years he developed his own political doctrine which became known as Gladstonian liberalism. He was popular with the working class and called “The People’s William.” In 1868, Gladstone became prime minister for the first time. He formed his second ministry in 1880 and a third in 1886. He formed his last government in 1892 at the age of 82. He left Parliament in 1895 and died three years later.

Gladstone was known as a controversial figure. His religious views grew more liberal over time, and he was more tolerant of Nonconformists and Roman Catholics. In the early 1850s, he voted to remove restrictions on Jews and opposed the anti-Catholic Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. He moved from being a strict evangelical to a liberal catholic. It is not surprising that he also dabbled in psychical research and seances.

Gladstone attended his first séance run by medium William Eglinton in 1884. Eglinton used slate writing to answer questions. After the story about the event broke in the news, Gladstone downplayed the seance, but he still attended gatherings and associated with Spiritualists. He may have stayed away from actual seances to avoid the bad press, but that did not keep him from reading on the subject. His library contained books on theosophy, spiritualism, spirit rapping, astrology, palmistry, mesmerism, and more.

Gladstone corresponded with many practicing spiritualists. John Francis Hunt sent him communications from the late President Lincoln. Madame Du Guet sent him “autographs” from the spirit world. He also joined the Society for Psychical Research in 1885 and was founder of the Metaphysical Society which collected and shared knowledge of “mental and moral phenomena.”

Additional Reading

Quinault, Roland & Roger Swift (2017) William Gladstone: New Studies and Perspectives Routledge, London

Windscheffel, R. (2006) “Politics, Religion and Text: W.E. Gladstone and Spiritualism.” Journal of Victorian Culture, 11(1).

Mary Brodie Marshall: Medium

Mary Brodie Marshall: Medium

Mary Brodie was born in England in 1842. In late 1860s, she secretly married her cousin Emmanuel Marshall. After the marriage, she attended the seances of her mother-in-law, Mrs. Marshall, an eminent London medium. She also acted on stage under the name, Madame Claire. Beginning in 1867 she worked as a direct voice medium for a spirit called John King. She was assisted by her niece and occasionally by her son. Her husband developed his talent as a spirit artist at this time.

Reports of her seances appeared in the press regularly. An early account was published in Outlines of Ten Years’ Investigations into the Phenomena of Modern Spiritualism by Thomas Barkas (1862). Some scoffed at her abilities, but Robert Bell, a dramatist who wrote for the Cornhill magazine, was convinced that the phenomena were genuine spirit manifestations.

Marshall’s popularity attracted the attention of Sir William Crookes and Alfred Russel Wallace.   Crookes was studying the effects of sending an electric current through a gas in a sealed tube. In 1879, he invented the cathode ray tube. Wallace was a naturalist and philosopher who developed many concurrent ideas with Charles Darwin. Both men and their families were introduced to mediumship and Spiritualism through Mary Marshall’s seances.

Francis Wallace Sims in a letter wrote, “I am very pleased John was convinced, & converted, but it will take some time to feel the ground firm under his feet, you know how long it takes to be perfectly sure of one’s own apparent beliefs. — I have never doubted since the first two names written under Mrs. Marshall’s table, our first séance together…”

Marshall produced many manifestations, including table tipping and levitation, raps on tables and other parts of the room, knotting handkerchiefs under the table-leaf, and writing on glass, similar to slate-writing used later by many mediums. Under her stage name, Madame Claire, she produced spiritual manifestations in daylight, including table levitation and other objects, changes in the weight of objects, rapping at the table floor and other parts of a room, and accordion playing.

In February 1876, she traveled to St. Petersburg at the invitation of A.N. Aksakov, a follower of Emanuel Swedenborg and nephew of famous writer and philosopher S.T. Akaskov. She held a séance during their writers’ conference and continued to stay and hold more seances for the rest of the winter. After her visit to Russia, she returned to England to resume her acting career. Unfortunately, her theater burned down in 1881. She returned to mediumship and died three years later at the age of forty-two.


Barkas, Thomas P. (1862) Outlines of Ten Years’ Investigations into the Phenomena of Modern Spiritualism. London.

Vinitsky, Ilya (2009) Ghostly Paradoxes: Modern Spiritualism and Russian Culture in the Age of Realism. University of Toronto Press.

Wallace letter

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Poet and Spiritualist

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Poet and Spiritualist

Elizabeth Barrett Moulton-Barrett was born in 1806, in County Durham, England to Edward Barrett Moulton-Barrett and Mary Graham Clarke. Elizabeth was the oldest of 12 children born to the wealthy family who had owned sugar plantations in Jamaica for generations. Elizabeth was raised with all the finery of high society. In 1809, the family moved to Hope End, a 500-acre estate in Ledbury, Herefordshire. Elizabeth was tutored at home and began writing verses at the age of four. Her father called her the “Poet Laureate” of Hope End.

As a child, Elizabeth was stricken with an illness that caused intense head and spinal pain with loss of mobility. She was treated for a spinal problem, but it continued for the rest of her life. She began taking opiates and was dependent upon them most of her life. In her teens, she read Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women and became a supporter of her ideas.

Elizabeth’s mother died in 1828 and Elizabeth’s aunt, helped to care for the children. In 1831 Elizabeth’s grandmother died and her father’s investment losses forced him to sell Hope End. Between 1833 and 1835, they lived at Belle Vue in Sidmouth. Elizabeth was struck with another illness that could have been tuberculosis.

Between 1841 and 1844, Elizabeth was prolific in poetry, translation, and prose. Her 1844 volume Poems made her one of the most popular writers in the country. Her romantic subject matter attracted the attention of Robert Browning and they met in 1845 and married a year later.

The couple came to know a large group of writers and artists. Elizabeth’s interest in Spiritualism grew. While in Florence in 1847, she first heard about Spiritual phenomena. She became friends with the sculptor, Hiram Powers who had a common interest in Swedenborg and Spiritualism. By 1852, while in Paris, she discussed spirit rapping with Lady Elgin.  She crossed to England where she participated in table tipping experiments with her husband, Frederick Tennyson and Robert Lytton. She also met with Mrs. Newton Crosland, a notable Spiritualist.

Elizabeth was a believer in Spiritualism and it influenced much of her later poetry. Robert Browning was not easily convinced. They traveled back and forth between England and Italy. In 1855, they attended the Ealing séance, conducted by D.D. Home. It included spirit hands, rappings, table tilting and levitation, bell ringing, and direct voice. Browning thought it was all faked. Elizabeth believed most was real. It became a point of contention between them for the rest of their marriage.

In 1861, a few months before her death, Elizabeth wrote, “I don’t know how people can keep up their prejudices against spiritualism with tears in their eyes, – how that are not, at least, thrown on the ‘wish that might be true’, and the investigation of the phenomena, by that abrupt shutting in their faces of the door of death, which shuts them out from the sight of their beloved.” The couple spent the winter of 1860–61 in Rome where Elizabeth’s health deteriorated. She died on 29 June 1861 in her husband’s arms. 

Additional Reading:

Hill, Christina B. T. (1977) A Study of Spiritualism in the Life and Work of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Doctoral Thesis, University of Birmingham.

Lewis, Linda M. (2005) Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A poet’s Quest for Ultimate Reality. Bethany College, Lindsborg, KS, USA.

Mermin, Dorothy (1989) Elizabeth Barrett Browning: The Origins of a New Poetry, University of Chicago Press

The Child in Heaven

The Child in Heaven

Hudson Tuttle was born in 1836 in Berlin Heights, Ohio, a member of an ardently religious family. He became dissatisfied with traditional religion when it didn’t save him from beatings by his father. This led to an interest in other spiritual teachings. Spirit knockings popularized by the Fox Sisters were in the news at the time. Tuttle decided to attend a seance hosted by a Congregational minister. He soon found he was able to enter a trance-like state and produce automatic writing as well as knocking.

Hudson and his wife, Emma Rood of Braceville, Ohio  were both prolific writers, lecturers and educators. Hudson’s master work, Arcana of Nature, was published in 1909. It attempted to explain the origins of the cosmos and man by introducing astronomical, anthropological and philosophic concepts. Other works included Scenes in the Spirit World (1855), later published in England under the title Life in Two Spheres, Career of Religious Ideas (1878), Religion of Man and Ethics of Science (1890) and Mediumship and its Laws (1890).

Hudson Tuttle also wrote “The Growth of a Child in Heaven,” published in the Religio-Philosophical Journal, March 8, 1884:2. In the article a spirit answers questions about a child’s passing. Below is the publication in its entirety.

The Growth of a Child in Heaven

Our little one who vanished from our mortal sight, has she lost by the change, O Seer?

Nay, she has gained.  Earth-life has its advantages, but they are not to be compared to angel being.  Look, weeping mother, into the vista of fifty years of your darling’s life were she to remain on earth.  See the events which would crowd those years, such as befall other mortals: the partings, the sickness, pains, disappointments, loss of children and of friends, cares and burdens, beyond the strength to bear.  She has escaped to a land where these cannot enter.  They may be useful for discipline, but better the soft hand of exalting love.

Are you sure, quite sure?  A soft light came into the eyes of the Seer as he said dreamily: Listen!  I will tell you what I have seen.  When your child closed its mortal eyes, its spirit-vision fell on the smiling face of your aunt, the dear girl who was called when the rose was budding on her cheeks and her heart was brimming with the wealth of love.  As the little one found your arms ready to receive it when it awoke to life, so now it found in the arms of its aunt the same protection.  Resting on her bosom, it sank to sleep, weary from the pain and struggle of the last sickness.

I saw them often, as they came to the old home, for they were drawn by the powerful magnetism of love.  As you sat weeping, your aunt would bring your child and place it on your lap.  Then it would look wonderingly up in your face and put its little hand against your cheek or in your hair.  It did not know what had occurred.  It knew not that it had left its mortal body.  When you did not notice its caress, it became grieved, and then its guardian would take it in her arms and in a manner I cannot explain, substitute herself in your place, and the darling was again happy and content.  It was exquisitely dressed in gauze pale blue, and delicate in pattern, like that its guardian wore.

From time to time I observed her growth and advancement in knowledge.  Both were more rapid than if she had remained.  On her first birthday her guardian came with her late in the evening, and both were exceedingly happy.  She was crowed with lovely flowers and bore a bouquet in her hand.  Her guardian explained that she had taken her to a group of children whom she had under her care, and they had made her their queen and crowned her because of the event.  They had all enjoyed the day and many more were in store.  Harsh words, the stinging reproach, the jeer of selfishness, the biting winds of envy and jealousy to her would forever be unknown.

When three years had passed, I saw her as a child of five.  She knew the relations of life and death, and that her guardian and mother were distinct.  It was a singularly beautiful sight to see her float into the room where her mother sat, and throw her arms around her neck.  She was not grieved because she met no response, for she expected none.  Her heart was overflowing with tenderness, she had become exquisitely beautiful with an indescribable softness, transparency and purity, which no artist’s pencil could represent, the embodiment of spiritual qualities.  It was a joy to gaze on her perfection.  Trained in the angel school with such companionship when a score of years had passed, you cannot in fancy idealize her position or attainments.

Will you know her when you meet on that shore?

Aye, she will be first to welcome you, as you were first to welcome her.

Treasure the little shoes, but do not now think of the darling as a child.  Those feet now tread the zones which span the spheres, and the babe, full-grown, is peer to the tall and shining ones who dwell in light.

You weep!  O, that I might open your spiritual eyes, that you might see all this.  Then would your sorrow be changed to joy.  The dreadful wound, the memory of which makes you shudder and cry in anguish, would be healed.

Dickens’ Spiritual Message

Dickens’ Spiritual Message

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens made its debut in 1843. It was the most successful book of the holiday season.  Eight plays were produced within a few months of the book’s publication. By 1908, one of the earliest films was produced, and dozens of adaptations have been filmed since then. It is not surprising that the story has maintained its popularity for over 150 years. It is a straightforward narrative filled with symbolic meaning and spiritual lessons.

Ebenezer Scrooge, with his “Bah Humbug!” attitude, is a man of greed, selfishness, and a lack of consideration for his fellow man. One night he is visited by three spirit guides. The Ghost of Christmas Past comes to him as a representative of the truth and reveals that Scrooge’s past Christmases were filled with loneliness. The Ghost of Christmas Present represents all the joy and generosity of Christmas, evident by the mound of food and the torch which bestows blessings upon poor. The Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come takes Scrooge to his grave. His gravestone is symbolic of his heartless and miserly ways. The grave is neglected because Scrooge didn’t foster good relationships when he has alive.

In the first section of the book, Scrooge’s deceased partner, Jacob Marley, appears to him in chains. Marley tells Scrooge that he made the chain around his neck by being selfish and greedy throughout his life. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard,” he said. Dickens uses the chains as a warning to Scrooge and the reader that one cannot escape the consequences of such behavior.

It is no coincidence that Personal Responsibility is one of the Laws governing Spiritualism. We have been given enormous potential to improve our own lives and the lives of others. We are free to make decisions throughout our lives as we see fit. What each of us makes of our life is our own Personal Responsibility, and no one can replace or override that right. At the same time, no other person or influence can right our errors. We must do that ourselves.

When Dickens wrote the book, Scrooge symbolized Victorian aristocracy who viewed the poor as a scourge upon the earth. The story was about the plight of poor and the dangers of social neglect. By creating the Cratchit family, he reminded his readers to be inclusive as a society and to care for those who need help. It is apparent that poverty still exists in the 21st Century, and like Scrooge, we can choose to help those in need or not.

Another Law of Spiritualism is the Compensation and Retribution Hereafter for all the Good and Evil Deeds done on Earth. This law operates now, on earth, as well as in the spirit world. As we make life choices, the outcome of those choices affects our soul’s growth. When we leave this earthly life there will be no divine judgement. We will have the opportunity to reassess, take stock and decide what might have been done differently.

In Dickens’ story, Scrooge is given the opportunity to reassess his life before passing from the earthly plane. He sees how self-serving and insensitive he had been. He is converted into charitable, caring, and socially conscious member of society through the intercession of the Christmas spirits. Warmth, generosity, and overall goodwill, overcome his bitter apathy. Empathy enables him to sympathize with and understand those less fortunate than himself, like Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit.

During the Christmas season, we too can reassess our lives. That could mean helping the poor, or maybe just shoveling the neighbor’s sidewalk. Maybe you have a loved one who is isolated and alone for the holidays. Maybe you have a special gift you can share with others, or just offer someone your company. This is the season, not to wait for Christmas Spirits, but to become one yourself.

Frances Whipple Green: Writer

Frances Whipple Green: Writer

Frances H. Whipple was born in 1805 in Smithfield, Rhode Island, daughter of George Whipple. Although she descended from two of the state’s first families, her father fell into poverty in 1817, and she was forced her to support herself. She gained some recognition for her poems that appeared in local papers, and in 1829 published and edited the “The Original,” contributing ten of its fifteen articles. The periodical ceased after two issues but gave her the editing experience she would use later.

Over the next decade she was involved with reform writing, including topics about temperance, labor, suffrage, abolition, and spiritualism. One of her most noteworthy writings about combating injustice was   Memoirs of Elleanor Eldridge,  published in 1838.

In 1842, during Rhode Island’s Dorr Rebellion, Frances supported Dorr’s efforts to achieve reform of the state’s voting laws. After this uprising was suppressed, she fled to Connecticut with her new husband, an artist named Charles Green. Their marriage that lasted until 1847. She divorced him, claiming that he had abandoned her, but she also alleged he was guilty of violent behavior.

After the divorce, she had little to fall back on. She wasn’t making enough money to support herself with her writing. It was at this time that she met Reverend Samuel Brittan. During a serious illness, he sank into a coma and saw a spirit standing at the foot of his bed. He was so impressed with the experience that he became the leading spokesperson for Spiritualism in the 1850s.

Green moved to New York City and became so close to the Brittan’s that she was considered family and helped Mrs. Brittan with childcare. This became the most productive years of her life working as a writer and editor. She became the largest contributor to Reverend Brittan’s journal, Univercoelum and Spiritual Philosopher, which started in 1847.

After Univercoelum, Brittan partnered with Charles Partridge and published Shekinah (divine presence) Green was a “highly valued contributor” from 1852-1854. She wrote for the Spiritual Telegraph from 1852-1860. She also worked with Apollos Munn and Rev. R.P. Ambler on a series of Spiritualist publications.

Green wrote articles on seer Emanuel Swedenborg and wrote for a series of publications. In 1853, she co-edited the Journal of Progress, a Paper for the People. It was a weekly publication by the Harmonial Association. Green met with Spiritualist Paschal Beverly Randolph and they maintained a cordial relationship until he passed. She said he contacted her after his death.

All her work with Spiritualism did not hinder her crusade against slavery. Whipple’s longest antislavery work was a novel called Shahmah in Pursuit of Freedom, or the Branded Hand. She also co-edited the Young People’s Journal which contained many of her poems. She wrote several other works including a botany textbook and the biography of a clairvoyant healer, Semantha Mettler.

In 1861, Green moved to San Francisco. She assumed the role of a medium, speaking and writing antislavery messages that she said were dictated to her from the spirit world. She married her second husband, William McDougall, a gold miner, California assemblyman and brother of the state’s second governor. She died in 1878 in Oakland, California, and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

Additional Reading:

Sarah C. O’Dowd (2004) A Rhode Island Original: Frances Harriet Whipple Green McDougall University Press of New England.