Levitation is a phenomenon in which objects, living things or even people are lifted into the air without physical support. It has been reported to occur during shamanism, trances, mystical rapture, and possession. Levitation can last from a few minutes to hours and usually requires a great deal of concentration or being in a trance state.

Levitations by saints was reported as far back as the 13th century. Catherine of Siena levitated during states ecstasy.  St. Teresa of Alvia, Spain rose about a foot and a half from the ground for extended periods of time. Ignatius Loyola was reported to have risen several feet from the ground while glowing.

In more modern times, Spiritualists also practiced levitation. Daniel Douglas Home was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1833. He began exhibiting abilities as a teenager, but it wasn’t until 1868 that his most famous physical mediumship took place at the home of Lord Adare. Home reportedly went into a trance and floated out one third floor window and back in through another. Several people witnessed the event including Lord Adare, his cousin Captain Charles Wynne and the Master of Lindsay.

Sir William Crookes tested Home under lighted conditions and in his own house to make sure Home had no chance to rig invisible hoisting wires in the room.  Along with biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, several witnessed the levitation of a table and a floating hand playing an accordion. Crookes reported that more experimentation was necessary before it could be determined whether mediums were somehow defying the laws of gravity.

Fannie Conant was another physical medium who was known for levitation. She was born in 1831 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She was sickly as a child and at one point, near death, the doctor gave up all hope of her recovering. Much to the doctor’s surprise, Fannie gave him a spirit message of what was necessary to cure her, and she was healed. Fannie grew up to become a famous healer and did automatic writing with both hands at the same time. 

In 1852, Fannie joined the Spiritualist religion. She published the many messages she received with the help of writer, Allan Putnam, in 1872 under the title, Flashes of Light From the Spirit World.
Fannie held circles and served as a message medium for several years. In 1873, while living in Boston, John Day reported that she asked her spirit guide to help levitate the table. The spirit agreed, as long as Fannie sat on top of the table. Witnesses tried to hold the table down, put it rose almost to the ceiling, close enough that Fannie left her signature there.

Mrs. Belle Miller was the daughter of Cranston Laurie, of Washington D.C. He father was appointed to work in the Post Office Department during Andrew Jackson’s term and remained there through the Lincoln administration. In the 1850s, the Laurie family became Spiritualists.  The entire family began to exhibit various abilities, including automatic drawing and painting. 

Nettie Colburn Maynard, Mrs. Lincoln’s trusted medium described Mrs. Miller’s ability to levitate pianos.  She said that Mrs. Miller was one of the most powerful physical mediums that she knew.  While Miller played the piano, it would rise while keeping perfect time, rising and falling with the music.  Nettie had seen as many as five men seated on the piano as it rose, including Mr. Lincoln. 

Additional Reading

Crookes, William (1874) Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism. Cambridge University Press. 2012 edition.

Hardinge, Emma (1870) Modern American Spiritualism. Reprint 2017, Forgotten Books, London.

Maynard, Nettie Colburn (2018) Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist?: Or, Curious Revelation From the Life of a Trance Medium (Classic Reprint) Forgotten Books, London.

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