Review ~ Revelations of a Spirit Medium

Revelations of a Spirit Medium by Elijah Farrington, Harry Price (Editor), Eric J. Dingwall (Editor)

Cover

1922. Facsimile edition with notes, bibliography, glossary and index.

No mere knowledge of magical secrets will ever guarantee the reader from being deceived by fraudulent mediums. Actual acquaintance with practical methods and long experience of the conduct of seances is necessary before he will be able to distinguish the genuine from the fraudulent, and when he finds himself able to discern faintly the line which divides the two he will be in a position to understand more fully the enormous difficulties which confront the investigators of psychical phenomena. It is hoped that the reappearance of this mediumistic classic will whet the reader’s appetite and make him eager for still further information. (via Goodreads)

Originally published in 1891, Revelations of a Spirit Medium is an expose of seance techniques of that era by a former medium. It was first published anonymously, but by 1922 was attributed to Elijah Farrington.

Farrington writes candidly about his experiences as a medium; especially his slide into the profession and some of the more unbelievable frauds perpetrated by some of his fellow “mediums.” His tone is very caustic, sometimes off-puttingly so. While he ends the book with “the writer does not wish to be understood as maintaining that there is nothing in the Spiritual philosophy,” he points out repeatedly that he never encountered a medium that wasn’t in the profession only for the money. He has venomous derision for the “top-heavy investigators” who create overly complex explanations, mediums who do the job poorly (he is of the opinion that all female mediums are in this category), and sitter who fall for poorly wrought seances and tests.

From a research point of view, this is a pretty notable work. While David Abbott’s books and articles go into a lot of detail, Farrington writes as someone who was reliant on the techniques. Since he’s not worried about being technical, he writes in the slang of the time and the jargon of the profession. The story of how he came to be a medium was particularly interesting to me since it hasn’t been an aspect I’ve given thought to beyond vague explanations. I’m also impressed with the well-connected web of information archived by mediums. There is a level of effort and preparation behind these turn-of-the-20th-century seances that is admirable. Sadly, the book isn’t very well organized. Farrington meanders from one type of seance to another and back again. It’s going to be difficult to find again in the PDF the details I might want to reread.

The 1922 edition of the work also includes a glossary and a bibliography of related works (including Abbott’s) that would take me a good long while to go through, even if I could track them down.

Genre: Non-fiction
Why did I choose to read this book? Research
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes
Format: PDF of scanned book
Procurement: Open Library

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5 thoughts on “Review ~ Revelations of a Spirit Medium

  1. Pingback: Back to School Reading Challenge and Wednesday Book Club | Joy's Book Blog

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