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.

Margaret De Gaudrion Merrifield Verrall: Medium

Margaret De Gaudrion Merrifield Verrall: Medium

Margaret De Gaudrion Merrifield) was born in 1857, one of two daughters born to Frederic and Maria Merrifield of Brighton, Sussex, UK. Her father was a Barrister of Law and Margaret became one of the early students of Newnham College, where she eventually became a classical lecturer and tutor. According to her obituary, “She was also a good speaker, but she preferred the life of the study to that of the platform and committee room, although her political interests (which were, in general, on the side of the Liberal party) were deep and keen.”

In 1882, Margaret married Arthur Woollgar Verrall. He was educated at Twyford School, Wellington College and Trinity College and elected a fellow of Trinity in 1874. In 1911, he was appointed to fill the new King Edward VII professorship of literature at Cambridge. Margaret’s work as a scholar included the translation of the text of Pausanias with Jane Harrison for “The Mythology and Monuments of Ancient Athens.” She also published her husband’s lectures on Dryden after his death.

Margaret gained more recognition for her psychic research and work as a medium than she did as a scholar. She was a member of a Cambridge group who explored Spiritualism and automatic writing. She also participated in The Cross-Correspondences which became a large collection of linked mediumistic messages beginning in 1901 and continuing for 31 years. The mediums who participated were women who lived in the US, England, and India. The group included Margaret as well has her daughter, Helen, and other members of the Society for Psychical Research.

The communications were fragmentary and contained Greek and Latin phrases as well as other classical illusions. They were supposed to be meaningless when read by themselves but could be deciphered when joined together. Helen married William Henry Salter, who was later President of the Society for Psychical Research. She and Margaret were among mediums involved in the Palm Sunday Case in which messages from Mary Lyttleton, who died in 1875, were transmitted to her lover, Arthur Balfour.[6]

It was impossible to tell if the messages were genuine or the product of chance. Margaret carried out a study using six subjects to create false messages to determine if the false material could be linked to the real messages. The fakes were clearly different from the actual automatic writing, but that couldn’t definitively prove the case of connected messages.

Margaret’s husband died in 1912. She followed four years later after several months of suffering. According to her obituary, “As a member of the Society for Psychical Research, she gave much of her time and thought to the investigation of mental and physical phenomena in some of their many mysterious and as yet comprehended forms.”

Additional Reading:

The obituary appeared on p.181 of the newspaper “The Common Cause of Humanity,” the organ of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, on 14th  July 1916.

Stephen E. Braude (2003) Immortal Remains: The Evidence for Life After Death. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, London