Etta Wriedt's mediumship and Admiral Moore's reports




Events in direct voice and identification of entities

This page reports some of the numerous testimonies on cases of identification of communicating entities obtained through the mediumism of the American Etta Wriedt (1859-1942), a medium able to produce various physical phenomena – the most striking being direct voice – without falling into a trance. Wriedt, who actively participated in the sittings talking with both the sitters and the entities, managed to hold two or even three sittings on the same day, and during her stays in England the sittings were hundreds, with a large number of participants, many of whom released the written testimonies collected by Admiral William Usborne Moore (1849-1918) in his book The Voices. Several sitters claimed to have become convinced of the authentic identity of the entities on the basis of the communication of events, circumstances and persons known only to them, and often not present in their memory, at least on a conscious level. On more than one occasion, facts were also reported that the sitters were not aware of, but whose accuracy could later be verified.     

The medium Henrietta Wriedt

Among the phenomena and communications that offer a significant contribution to the hypothesis of survival, those due to Etta Wriedt's mediumship deserve special attention: they were recorded in hundreds of sittings during two English stays of the medium, the first in 1911 (by invitation of the journalist and editor William T. Stead, who died the following year in the Titanic's shipwreck) and the second between 1912 and 1913, at the request of Admiral Moore, a scholar and investigator of the spiritualistic phenomena. Born in Detroit around 1860 and died in 1942, Henrietta (Etta) Wriedt had a wide resonance as a direct voice medium both at home and in Europe and – in the last decade of her life – also in Canada. Her main peculiarity was to never fall into a trance. As a professional paid medium she asked all the participants for a nominal fee of one dollar for each successful sitting: sometimes sittings were unsuccessful, while in other cases the entities manifested themselves in large numbers. Another feature of Mrs. Wriedt was her willingness to give private sittings, even to a single consultant, as well as collective sittings in which the sitters could be up to twenty. Given her success, sittings were very frequent, and the collective ones often included people – completely unknown to the medium – who did not reveal their name or provided a fictitious one.   

The direct voice and the trumpets

The entities that manifested through Etta Wriedt always communicated in direct voice, sometimes without any help, but more often through the so-called trumpets (a kind of cone-shaped megaphones arranged for the purpose at the beginning of the sitting) that were used by the entities themselves (the sitters in fact never touched them) to channel the voice, putting the narrowest part of the trumpet to the ear of the sitter to whom the message was addressed. Usually all novice communicating entities had to use the trumpets, since their words could be just whispered: as the entities practiced communicating, they acquired greater vigor and security, while their voice became stronger and more audible not only from the recipient of the communication, but from the whole group of sitters. The voices of the controls and of the entities that manifested themselves assiduously during the sittings were clear, vibrant and strong, and never used the trumpets.

Mrs. Wriedt's sittings

Normally Mrs. Wriedt's sittings took place in total darkness, but not always: in several cases direct voices were heard in semi-darkness or even in bright light. However, darkness seemed to help the phenomena, because the voices perceived in daylight and with open shutters were weaker and did not speak for long. In some cases the voices were heard inside a room by the sitters, while Wriedt was busy with her tasks in another room or on the lower floor of the house that hosted her. During the sittings Etta Wriedt remained lively and active, manifesting forms of clairvoyance, communicating the names of the entities who wished to speak and often giving a description of their appearance. When the sitting ended she did not seem tired or fatigued, nor did she present any symptoms of psychic exhaustion which often occur in mediums when they leave the trance. One of Wriedt's controls (an entity calling himself John Sharp, who claimed to have been born in Glasgow in the 18th century, to have lived most of his life in the United States by being a pharmacist and to have died in Indiana) explained this fact saying that he took great care of the medium's health by withdrawing the necessary energy above all from the sitters. Admiral Moore – who had gone to the United States to investigate local mediums – said that, being himself endowed with some mediumistic faculties, after having participated in some sessions with Wriedt in Detroit, he had fallen into a state of nervous breakdown, and could not recover his normal vigor if not six months after his return to England.  

Physical phenomena

During the English sittings there were other physical phenomena besides the direct voice: apparitions of luminous and ethereal forms that twirled in the darkness, sometimes speaking to sitters, movements of flowers taken from their vases and given in the hands of the sitters, contacts of hands or repeated taps with the trumpets on the head or on other parts of the body of the sitters to solicit a prompt answer to what the entities asked. The sitters often received sprinkling of water droplets and felt puffs of fresh air, and heavy objects were moved. If lights were turned on during or at the end of the sitting, in some cases the trumpets were seen, still suspended in the air near the ceiling, returning to the ground not by accelerated gravity, as it should have occurred, but with a uniform motion, as if an invisible hand accompanied them.

Admiral Moore's research

As I have just said, the testimonies given here are taken from the book The Voices published by British admiral William Usborne Moore in 1913. It is an important text because it not only contains the observations, impressions and opinions of the author, but is a collection of about a hundred reports – dated and signed – sent by people who had attended Wriedt's sittings during her first two English stays. It is precisely the number of testimonies and the concordances of observations reported that give a particular value to this work, of which Moore himself affirmed to be not so much the author as the compiler. The authors of the testimonies almost always limited themselves to report the facts they had witnessed, or to indicate the evidence – in their opinion – of identification of the communicating entities. As we shall see, from this point of view Wriedt's sessions offered an impressive amount of data for the quantity and quality of such identifications.    

Two years earlier, another book by Admiral Moor had been published, Glimpses of the Next State, the subtitle of which, «The education of an agnostic» well represented the complex path that had led the author (already critical of the Christian faith and skeptical towards any form of individual survival after death) to deal with mediumistic phenomena and to start a field research that led him to experiment with the most important mediums of his era, both at home and beyond the ocean. Moore's mental orientation, purely rationalistic in accordance with the late-positivism of the time, had already fully manifested itself in another of his works, The Cosmos and the Creeds (1905), in which the dogmatic fundamentalism that compels priests, both in Christianity and in other religions, to consider as indisputable truth texts whose poetic, historical, moral, mythological or romantic content, however interesting, always proves to be of unequal value and does not stand up to the scrutiny of modern historical validation. In particular, Moore affirmed that Christ, even though he existed as a man, was not God, was not born of a virgin and had not risen from the dead with his human body (a thesis now endorsed by almost all historians). Among the many criticisms received after the publication of this book, the ones that struck him most came from the so-called spiritualists, who accused him of not having adequately investigated the evidence obtained through mediumistic phenomena.    

Moore, recognizing that his field of research had never gone beyond the study of religions, began investigating on modiumistic phenomena, first by examining the existing literature and then directly consulting various mediums. Although he never changed his opinion about the irrational character of religions, harmful to human evolution, Moore became convinced over time – especially as a result of the many manifestations of one of his relatives whom he had been very fond of, which he called Iola, died thirty years before in the prime of her youth and considered by him as a spiritual guide – that his task was to reconsider the problem of survival. At the end of his long and laborious research, Moore came to the conclusion that what we call death is nothing but a mere accident, a door to a new life that involves a higher substantiality, even under the sensorial aspect, compared to what we experience in this world.    

Glimpses of the Next State it is a long and detailed report of Moore's research and sittings with different mediums, including Craddock, Husk, the Bang sisters and Etta Wriedt. It brings us back to an age far far away from our days, in which mediumistic phenomena were undoubtedly frequent, intense and manifold. It is clear that even then were plenty of impostors, fraudulent mediums and those who in various ways worked hard to take advantage of people's misfortunes and gullibility, but from the reading of the most important studies of the time, written by people of noteworthy intelligence and not at all naive with regard to human resources and expedients, we get the impression of a capacity for analysis and judgment that is certainly comparable (and in some cases even superior) to that on which we rely on our days. The critical and observational faculty of the scholars of the time was well developed and exercised with rigor, but almost always without trying to condition the development of those phenomena that constituted the main object of interest in a destructive way. This fact, perhaps, represents the main handicap of some recent or contemporary research, by which researchers strive to avoid any involvement not only emotional, but also operational, with the studied phenomenon. Moore tried to understand what could be the conditions and ways that determined the production of the phenomena, but always in the guarantee of their authenticity, even if, according to other scholars of paranormal phenomena, such as Hereward Carrington (1880-1958), he was inclined to to consider and defend as genuine mediums that on some occasions were exposed as fraudulent.   

Testimonies of Wriedt séances    

Among the numerous testimonies reported in the book The Voices we quote some of the most significant, especially in relation to the possible spiritual origin of communications.    

Chedo Miyatovich, a Serbian diplomat and member of British Royal Historical Society, interested in mediumistic phenomena but not a spiritualist, took part in 1912 in two private sittings with Wriedt together with his friend Dr. Hinkovitch. He recognized in a swaying light, almost carried by a gentle breeze «was not the spirit but the very person of my friend William T. Stead (died shortly before in the Titanic shipwreck), not wrapt in white wrappers, as I have seen spirits at other séances, but in his usual walking costume! We both, I and Mrs. Wriedt, exclaimed loudly from joy. My friend Hinkovitch, who only knew Mr. Stead from photos, said: “Yes, that is Mr. Stead!” Mr. Stead’s spirit nodded to me in a friendly manner and disappeared. Half a minute later he appeared again and stood opposite me (but somewhat higher above the floor), looking at me and bowing to me. And a little later he appeared again, for the third time, seen by us all three still more clearly than before». After the third appearance, the three sitters distinctly heard these words: «Yes, I am Stead – William T. Stead! And, my dear friend Miyatovich, I am so pleased you came here. I myself came here expressly to give you a fresh proof that there is life after death, and that Spiritism is true. I tried to persuade you of that while here, but you always hesitated to accept that truth. Now I come here to bring you proof of what I was telling you – that you should not only believe, but know (pronouncing that word with great emphasis), that there is really a life after death, and that Spiritism is true! Now, good-bye my friend ! Yes, here is Adela Mayell, who wishes to speak to you!».   

Miss Adela Mayell, a dear friend of Miyatovich to whom the diplomat was bound by a deep affection, had died only three weeks before the sitting took place. Miyatovich claimed that Stead had never known Miss Mayell in life, nor had he ever heard his name. The entity Adela then took the floor, turning to her friend Miyatovich with affectionate and sincere expressions, trying to reassure him on certain issues that had recently distressed him, and telling him of her current happiness. At one point, to the amazement of Miyatovich and his friend, a mighty voice began to speak to Hinkovitch in Croatian: it was an old friend of his, a doctor by profession, who had died suddenly of a heart attack. The conversation between Hinkovitch and this entity continued for some time, always in Croatian. Miyatovich, who knew that language well, could follow it word by word, but the most surprised was Etta Wriedt, who heard the Croatian for the first time in her life. During the course of another séance, Miyatovich's mother showed up and spoke with her son in her native language, Serbian. Another sitter, Professor Margarette Selenka (an authoritative German scientist at the time) talked for a long time with her husband and mother in German, and joined in a singing duet with the voice of the entity of one of her dear friends, who asked her to sing with him those songs that they often sang together when he was still alive.    

Admiral Moore told that, during a séance in May 1912, entity William Stead intensively conversed with his daughter Estelle for at least 40 minutes. Moore heard all the details of this conversation, which in his view was the most heartfelt and at the same time the most realistic and convincing imaginable. By the way, Stead gave careful instructions to his daughter about the arrangement of his private papers. In a subsequent sitting, not less than 15 entities appeared, who spoke in succession for over an hour and a half, and on more than one occasion two or three voices were heard speaking at the same time. Stead's The way Stead, who frequently appeared, expressed himself was so characteristic that none of those who had known him in life could doubt that it was not him.        

A plurality of different languages   

The dead relatives of non-English sitters often spoke to their loved ones in their own language, so that were heard by all different conversations in Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Gaelic, Hindi, and Italian. Those who understood some of these languages were able to follow the conversations, but Mrs. Wriedt, as we said, spoke only English with a strong American accent. Moreover, on more than one occasion there were Scottish entities expressing themselves with accent and expressions of the Scottish dialect so characteristic, which represented an undeniable proof of identification precisely for those who were true Scottish.  

Tommy Mahone and Cyril

Mr. Maybank and his wife had lost a son, Harold, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 21, and participated in a séance with Wriedt at the invitation of Moore, under whose command Mr. Maybank had served in the Navy more than two decades earlier. When the entity of their son began to speak, they immediately recognized the voice and the characteristic way of greeting them. Another entity made its appearance by singing and whistling cheerfully and by virtuoso a song in vogue. «Don't you know me, Maybank?» he asked twice, and both times Maybank replied that he couldn't rimember who he was. «What! – he exclaimed – don't you know Tommy Mahone? I was with you on the Rambler (a ship that many years before, under the command of Moore, had made a long cruise in the Pacific)» The entity then referred to several incidents that happened on the ship when on the China station, and Maybank was certain it was the same Tommy Mahone he had known on that ship. At another sitting, Maybank wanted to test her son, asking him: «Harold, do you remember poor old Cyril?» «Of course I do dad; didn’t I tease him? – he answered – ...And didn’t he growl?» And at this point all the sitters laughed because Harold was imitating an angry cat's blow. When the name Cyril had been pronounced, none of the other sitters had realized that it was the house cat. On another occasion the Maybanks were able to see, as well as to hear, their son, who had materialized in an ethereal but clearly recognizable image. Wriedt, who also had clairvoyant abilities, said she saw a young man pointing at an empty sleeve of his jacket, and had a very thick and messy hair. A voice said, «I'm Bernie Sainty!», and gave Maybank a private message for his parents, whom the Maybanks knew well. Bernie had had to undergo the amputation of his right arm for a sarcoma, and he died a year earlier than Harold Maybank. No one else in the circle of the sitters, apart from Maybank, was aware of this fact.    

The barking of dogs

During a private séance where only Moore and Wriedt were present, a friend of Moore showed up, telling him of an accident, which actually had occurred, of which the admiral was completely unaware. Moore was also able to hear the barking of three of his dogs, dead more than twenty years before: the tone and the power of their barking corresponded to the different size and race of the three animals. These private sittings did not take place in total darkness, but in some cases in daylight, and more often in the light of two electric lamps shielded in red. Collective sittings, on the other hand, were normally held in total darkness. On another occasion, an entity asked Moore to bring a message to his widow. Moore wrote the message, but at the time of referring it to the widow, he told it by heart, making a mistake which altered its meaning. In the next sitting, the same entity reappeared and asked Moore to report the message correctly. Moore still wanted to tell the widow's response, but the entity stopped him by saying: «Oh, I already know everything. I was indeed present at your meeting». Back home, Moore consulted his notes, realizing that he had written the message correctly, but had reported it incorrectly.  

Information on remote events

Charles Tweedale, who attended several sittings, reported that he had received communications of a more private nature concerning events that had taken place in his family over 40 years earlier, and not even his wife was aware of, and others relating to his wife's private affairs, occurred 17 years earlier, accompanied by authentic names and details, of which he himself knew nothing. All this information was given by the entities with an ease that left astonished. In one case a detail was reported – related to the grave of an entity – of which Tweedale was unaware and which he considered not true, but which was later confirmed as correct by the caretaker who had taken care of the grave at the cemetery. Tweedale also said that he had introduced under a false name a friend who wanted to test the medium, since he had already unmasked the tricks of various fraudulent mediums: his true identity was unknown to everyone present, except for Tweedale. Immediately after the beginning of the séance, the entities provided stringent and conclusive information about the person of his friend, who admitted that it was the first certain evidence obtained in twenty years of investigations. None of the information concerning the friend and revealed by the entities was previously known to Tweedale.    

Sir William Barrett's testimony

Another remarkable testimony is that of Sir William Barrett, a well-known scholar and eminent member of the SPR. Here is how Barrett describes his participation in one of the sittings and the environmental conditions in which the phenomena occurred.  «During (Mrs. Wriedt's) visit to London this year I had the opportunity of some séances with her. Two of these were private sittings at midday with Miss Ramsden. In one of these private sittings, when no one was present but Miss Ramsden, myself, and Mrs. Wriedt, we sat for the first part in good light. I had previously, when alone, carefully examined every part of the room, and assured myself that no one was concealed and no suspicious apparatus was present; the only door opened on to a landing with a window, through which the sunlight was streaming. Any person attempting to enter the room through the door would therefore have been detected at once, when the room was darkened. When, after my examination of the room, Mrs. Wriedt and Miss Ramsden entered, the door was locked, and one of the electric lights over our head was left on to illuminate the room. We sat on chairs adjoining each other; I sat next to Mrs. Wriedt and held her hand. Miss Ramsden sat on my left. We asked Mrs. Wriedt to let us try in the light first, and at her suggestion Miss R. held the small end of a large aluminium trumpet to her ear; the larger end I supported with my left hand. My body therefore came between the trumpet and the medium. I had previously looked into the trumpet, which was perfectly bare and smooth. Presently Miss Ramsden said she heard a voice speaking to her, and entered into conversation with the voice. I only heard a faint whispering sound, but no articulate words. To avoid the possibility of Mrs. Wriedt being the source of the whispering, I engaged her in talk, and while she was speaking Miss Ramsden still heard the faint voice in the trumpet, but begged us to stop speaking, as it prevented her hearing distinctly what the voice said. Miss Ramsden assured me afterwards there could be no doubt whatever that the voice in the trumpet was independent of Mrs. Wriedt, and I can testify that I watched the medium and saw nothing suspicious in the movement of her lips. She did not move from her place, and no accomplice or concealed arrangement could possibly have produced the voice».       

«When the voice ceased speaking, the trumpet was placed with its broad end on the floor standing upright near Miss Ramsden. The electric light was now switched off, and the room became absolutely dark. A very loud man’s voice almost immediately called out: “God bless you: God bless you.” Mrs. Wriedt said it was the soidisant John King. I begged her to place her right hand on mine, which held her left hand. She did so, and I distinctly felt the two hands, my left hand being free. During every séance with her Mrs. Wriedt remained perfectly normal, talking with me or others present, and not in the least excited. On this occasion, in a few moments I felt something rather cold gently stroking my face. And, as at a previous sitting when a rose was placed in my hand, the act was performed without any fumbling about. This was very curious, as the room was so dark that nothing whatever could be seen. But under these conditions of complete darkness it is impossible to arrive at any conclusive evidence concerning the supernormal character of the various physical phenomena that occurred. All I can assert is that it seemed to me impossible for Mrs. Wriedt to have produced them by trickery. A large elastic band and a card, on which were sealed the ends of a loop of string, which objects I had brought and placed by my side away from Mrs. Wriedt, were taken up and thrown over my head, and I heard the snapping of the elastic band, which was found broken and at some distance behind me when the light was turned on. At another sitting I observed a luminous appearance resembling a man’s head and beard in front of and a little above me. I put up my free hand and moved it to and fro, but felt nothing, though, as far as I could judge in the dark, my hand passed through the place where the luminosity appeared. My head was gently rapped with the small end of the trumpet, and flowers from a vase on a distant table were thrown in my lap».                  

«Much more impressive were the voices; sometimes very loud, apparently through the trumpet, at other times faint and directed close to my face or that of my companion. These voices were heard often simultaneously when Mrs. Wriedt was speaking, and while I held her hand, as I did at every sitting. There is little doubt that I should have felt the movement had she attempted to get up and seize the trumpet which was not near her, or place her mouth near Miss Ramsden or Mrs. Anker, who on one occasion sat next to me and heard the voice speaking in Norwegian, as she informed me. On one occasion the voice, like that of a man, gave me the Christian name and surname of an old Irish friend of mine, wholly unlikely to be known to Mrs. Wriedt. It was a name not common in Ireland, though a public man of that name, who died some
years ago, was a well known Orangeman; but my deceased friend was a Roman Catholic and on my expressing my surprise that he should appear – though I did not allude to his religious belief – the voice said:
“You know what the priests say, Once a Catholic always a Catholic; but that is not so here.” Then another voice, like that of an old lady, spoke close to me and said: “How are things in Dublin?” I replied: “Who are you?” and the voice answered, “Lady Helena Newenham,” emphasising the three syllables of the surname – an unusual one. I did not know any such person, but subsequently found that an Irish lady of that name, much interested in psychical research, had died a year before and was well known to some friends of mine in the South of Ireland, to whom I wrote for information».        

«I will only trespass on your space by relating another incident that occurred to a personal friend, the secretary of the Irish section of the SPR, a gentleman of legal knowledge who occupies a high position in Dublin. He came to Mrs. Wriedt’s sitting unexpectedly with Admiral Moore, and was unknown to any present except the Admiral. The voice gave him the name a very unusual one, of an Irish friend of his who had lately lost his wife, and said she was the deceased wife, and told my friend
correctly the exact address of a place in London where she had been staying, and where my friend had called on her, though at this time he had quite forgotten the address. He saw the luminous figure of a lady in front of him, though he could not distinguish the face. I went to Mrs. Wriedt’s séances in a somewhat sceptical spirit, but I came to the conclusion that she is a genuine and remarkable medium, and was given abundant proof to others besides myself that the voices and the contents of the messages given are wholly beyond the range of trickery or collusion»

Other cases of identification

A lady – who wished to remain anonymous, but claimed to have gone to a private sitting with Wriedt well determined to test her – when a voice appeared, that the medium said to belong to Mary, thought it was her aunt's dead many years before. "Sei per caso mia zia?" the lady asked. The answer came to her with great emphasis through the trumpet: «No! no! no! I am your grandmother», and in the meantime the lady was repeatedly touched on her head and knees. The report went on: «I was most astonished, as I had quite forgotten all about my grandmother, and then remembered her name was Mary. “Yes,” came the voice, “I am your grandmother Mary. I am here dear granddaughter.” I at once thought I would test her, so said: “How many sons had you?” She replied: “Five.” I was not sure of this; but she stuck to it, and when I got home I found she was correct. They were a large family – nine daughters and five sons – but at the moment I could not count them up, and thought there were fewer daughters and more sons! She then told me two of her children died young, which was correct. I then asked: “Do you ever see my father?” She replied: “Yes; he is with me now, and P.” (P. was an uncle who died many years ago). My father then spoke, giving me his name, which at first I could not make out. He talked at great length over private family affairs, which to me were most convincing, and reminded me of events and conversations which had taken place years ago between him and another member of our family in my presence. These events and conversations I had never, to my knowledge, had in my mind for years, and they then all came back to me».    

Another sitter, Dennis Taylor, inventor and builder of scientific instruments, reported that he was strongly impressed by Wriedt's mediumship. «On June 15 we heard ten or twelve distinct, and in some cases highly characteristic, voices, ranging from the feeblest whisper up to the boisterous voice of John King (the same voice that I had previously heard at a séance with Husk) and the distinctly womanly contralto voice of Julia. While one entity was conversing with me through the trumpet just in front of me, Mrs. Wriedt kept interpolating remarks to encourage me, and her voice unmistakably came from my left front, ten feet away, near the door, where she had seated herself before switching the light out. This also occurred in the case of an, at first, feeble voice manifesting to Mrs. Taylor, whose identity we made out fairly well. In some cases we heard the medium’s voice and the voice of the communicating spirit within a fraction of a second of one another, and widely separated in locality, and also noticed how much more distinctly the voices emerged after some sort of recognition had been achieved. This would, of course, suggest fraud to a sceptic who has not studied the evidential experiences that have been forthcoming through Mrs. Wriedt’s mediumship. It may not be remiss to remind such a sceptic that, if he is accosted in the street by some former acquaintance whom he had almost entirely forgotten, he will feel more or less tongue-tied, or at any rate, his conversation will be halting, and, perhaps, incoherent, until recognition has taken place and established a rapport between them».

«Evidentially, Mr. South’s experiences were the best we heard as proofs of identity, especially as he has assured me since that nobody in the circle could have possibly known anything about his three relatives who manifested in such an unmistakable manner. The voices, especially that of William South, were full of character and individuality. I was much impressed by the apparent fall of one of the trumpets from the ceiling when Mrs. Wriedt turned on the electric switch by the door. It fell end on and perpendicularly, about nine or ten feet away from the medium. Anyone acquainted with the trajectories of falling bodies that have been thrown will know that if the trumpet had been thrown into the middle of the room by Mrs. Wriedt at the instant before switching on the light, then, even supposing the most favourable trajectory, it would have fallen obliquely, at an angle of forty-five degrees or more with the perpendicular. But it fell perpendicularly and telescoped itself (being made of three sections not soldered together) in doing so, and subsided just where it fell. My line of vision was at right angles to the line joining the medium and the trumpet, and therefore best for seeing how it fell. On this occasion we heard two voices talking at once close by us, and Mrs. Wriedt’s voice interjecting remarks perfectly naturally, and practically simultaneously, from her position near the door ten feet or more away. I also heard a voice (John King’s, I think it was), joining in singing the Doxology in the middle of the circle, suddenly transferred to a position near the wall behind me. We had several little incidents proving that the entities manifesting could see perfectly well what we were doing in pitch darkness».     

A mining engineer who attended several sittings said that, given his profession, his hearing was particularly trained to locate sounds and movements in perfect darkness. A careful investigation of the room in which the séances were held revealed nothing to him of suspicion. Shortly after the beginning of a séance, in the most complete darkness, he felt something that had a fragrant scent gently touching his forehead: it was fresh, and as wet with dew. He raised his hand to touch it, and could feel the stem of a rose between his fingers: he noticed that the flower showed no tendency to fall downwards, although – as far as he was investigating by feeling with his hands – there was nothing to support it. Suddenly a very vivid oval of light appeared, and the engineer distinctly recognized the face of William Stead, whom he had known when he lived in the north of England. Turning to him and calling him by name, Stead greeted him and told he was happy to see him again.

Another entity that manifested itself was the engineer's brother, who gave him detailed information about the tragic circumstances of his death, occurred in a foreign country during a riot. The engineer reported in his testimony that for obvious reasons (having been given the names of still living people) he could not publish what his brother had told him, but the communication clarified a lot the mysterious circumstances of his brother's death, which up to that moment had represented a true enigma. The engineer then asked what he was touching at that moment (always in complete darkness), and the entity replied: «It is the ring I gave you». This correct answer was for the engineer a further confirmation of the genuineness of the communication. During a subsequent private sitting, his brother appeared again and gave the engineer an accurate description of the house and room in which he died, giving him precise clues about the circumstances of his death, which the engineer was able to verify later during a journey to that far country.        

Blossom, the spirit of an Indian girl who often showed up in the Wriedt séances, generally making cheerfully fun of the sitters, joking with them or solving the riddles that were proposed to her, correctly told the number of gold coins that the engineer had in his pocket, without him having previously counted them. During one séance the sitters saw in the middle of the room two crosses of very bright light and another light in the shape of a full moon. On another occasion, the engineer's brother talked for a long time to him about certain affairs, giving details of which the perfect correctness was later verified. Another sitter reported, as a convincing proof of the identity of a communicating spirit, the following dialogue: «A voice called clearly several times most eagerly, “Maude, Maude!” The name given by the spirit was indistinct but it sounded like Carrie. “Are you Aunt Carrie?” my wife (whose name is Maude) asked. Answer: “Yes.” A long conversation ensued between them (just as if her aunt were in the flesh), during which the spirit referred to two prints she gad given us, now hanging in one of the bedrooms (correct), and to a necklace given to my eldest girl (who was present), now worn as a chain; the spirit said it was a weak chain (correct). She inquired, “Who had her brooch with the red stone in it?” (not understood); reminded us how she used to dance the children, when very young, on her foot, singing “Diddledy, diddledy” (correct)».    

James Robertson, from Glasgow, sent Moore a detailed account of the séances that took place during Wriedt's stay in Scotland. During one of these his son-in-law, who had accidentally been killed in Italy a few years earlier, spoke about the past and current condition of his wife and children with extreme clarity, naming them without any hesitation, and showing that he had a perfect knowledge of facts and circumstances. His mother's entity also showed up: «The voice of my mother was the voice I was familiar with, the same broad Doric speech, as if she had never gone from us. The Scotch idioms were never departed from for a moment; if we did not see her in the habit in which she lived, we, at least, felt she was unchanged in manner; the girls present were still children to her, and her memory of the earth life and its people quite keen. She spoke to me as if we had but parted yesterday, called me Jeems as she had always done while in the body, and as she had often done since when influencing other mediums to speak to me. Here, it was speaking direct as it were without using another’s voice. Mrs. Wriedt could not by any possibility have given a replica of the Scotch tones I heard, for while my mother was conversing with my daughters the medium was talking in her usual Yankee tones».

Mr. Galloway, a merchant from Glasgow, also had a long conversation in the most frank Scottish accent with his two sons drowned in the Atlantic, who proved to have an astonishing knowledge of their father's business and events of his daily life. The Scots who attended Wriedt's sittings agreed that a skilled imitator could simulate a few phrases from the Scottish dialect, but would not be able to deceive a native who had learned the Lowlands Scottish as his/her mother tongue. Once Dr. Sharp, one of Wriedt's controls claiming to have been born in Glasgow, sang with a perfect accent an ancient Scottish song he said he had learned on his mother's lap. Another time a child entity appeared who turned to his father, saying: «Dad, now you don't sing anymore like you used to do. Don't you think we could still sing one of those songs we often sang together?» The father agreed, and one of the most extraordinary song duets ever heard took place: the girl's voice was limpid and perfectly musical, and the interpretation of the song Annie Laurie was of singular beauty.  

Mr. Munro immediately recognized an uncle by his particular way of laughing, and his father, in addition to other details, told him exactly the topic of a discussion that had taken place between Munro and his mother at breakfast, adding some facts that Munro was not aware of, but that he could verify once he was back home. Munro added that he, being a skeptical by nature, had submitted the entity to numerous proofs and tests of various kinds before recognizing it as his father's spirit.   

During the 1913 tour of séances, Wriedt was again consulted by the mining engineer, who reported that he had still met his brother. «My brother Jim greeted me, and we fell into a conversation such as two brothers would who had been devoted to one another when both on this plane together. He immediately spoke of business matters which were causing me anxiety at the time, and showed himself conversant with many of the details. Two gentlemen with whom I was closely associated in business were ill – one confined to his bed, and the other away travelling for the recovery of his health. After being satisfied that he had possessed himself of all the facts without my assistance, I ventured to ask my brother if he could give me an idea of what the future would bring forth concerning my two sick friends, when he said: “Wait a few minutes, and I will take Dr. Sharp, and he will see them and then tell you.” In the interval a sister who had passed out as a child nearly forty years ago came and spoke to me, giving her name very clearly. She correctly told me the cause of her death, and also voluntarily reminded me of some little occurrences in our child life, and went away with the parting advice “that I was not to break my neck, as that machine thing I had went far too quickly.” (I am guilty of driving at speed on the long straight roads of the north.) Jim and Dr. Sharp now returned; the latter described the cause of the ill health of my two friends in detail. The one in bed, he said, was hopeless, as he had a malignant disease which would prove fatal in a few weeks; the other suffered from nothing more or less than excessive cigar smoking (I knew he smoked heavily), and would be all right now for at least two years. I may say here that the first case ended fatally on the last day of June, and the second gentleman is now in his normal health».   

A lady living in London reported the following. «I certainly was not expecting to hear the next voice which greeted my daughter with whistling snatches of popular songs and many characteristic remarks. It was that of an old soldier whom she had visited for some years in the infirmary. He had passed away a few months before, and no one at the sitting had even heard of his existence. The way in which he broke off a song and began whistling, his familiar jocular style, and his reference to what had occurred, were most convincing. He spoke of the last letter he had received, and of fruit I had sent him, and when I asked, “Can you tell us what you were when young?” instead of, as I expected, replying, “A soldier,” he began to sing, “The curtain rolled up and the band began to play.” I could not understand this, but I have since learnt that, as a young man, he was a sceneshifter in a theatre. When he was in the infirmary his great pleasure was a small gramophone, and some of the records were the same ones he whistled and sang».     

One evening among the sitters there was a lady, professional opera singer, who after much insistence on the part of the other sitters (since entities did not show up) consented to sing. Hardly had she began the Jewel Song from Faust, when a strong tenor voice came from the trumpet and joined her in a wonderful duet. The singer then told it was her husband's voice, and that no one but herself knew that this was the air that they always sang together when he was alive. Later she sang again, accompanied first by the same tenor voice, and then by a cello. She also conversed with her father and mother, both in Italian and French. The tenor's voice was unmistakably of male timbre, and resounded through the room.

On another occasion, the same London lady, during a private sitting, asked to have the light left on. Mrs. Wriedt readily consented. She sat opposite to the lady, and told her to take the trumpet and hold it to her ear. As soon as the lady did so her husband's voice spoke through it in a low but perfectly distinct tone, which was quite audible to Mrs. Wriedt, who sat three or four feet away, and showed her interest by appropriate exclamations. The trumpet was held with the large end resting on the back of a small chair and pointing away from both the medium and the sitter. The communications, which were of a personal and private nature, were absolutely convincing to the lady. After a few minutes Mrs. Wriedt suggested turning down the light, as the voice would then be more powerful, which was certainly the case. The voice first spoke of their children, and mentioned that a son living in Brazil had not been well, and found the climate trying, and gave some details about his work, but went on: «It interests me much more to talk about yourself; there is so much I want to say that I cannot say in public». (The lady had complained about her husband's reluctance to speak during a previous public séance, in which she also expressed doubts about the identity of the communicating entity).

A certain Mr. Osman reported on the appearance of one of his friends, Damon, who after thanking him for visiting his widow on the previous Sunday, asked him to tell her that now he was fine and happy, but deeply sorry for the problems that he had left her to deal with – and that were still causing her much anxiety – due to some mistakes in a legal document that he had compiled in life. Damon said that it had been his negligence, and that he would do all he could to help her: he hoped that his wife would believe that the communicating entity was truly her deceased husband. Osman knew nothing about the whole thing, but after talking to his friend's widow, he had the confirmation that what the entity had said about the document was perfectly true and relevant, and that the document in question was a deed poll, not properly completed, for which the widow had had many problems.     

Mrs. Hamilton wrote to Moore that her father, after talking about various topics, answering her question (she had asked him if he still played the flute, an instrument in which he excelled when on Earth) began to play some bars. Another sitter said to have always brought with him one or two electric hand-lamps, so that he could shed light at will at any moment, which he did frequently. He declared that he was convinced, in this way, that Mrs. Wriedt did not intervene in any of the phenomena that were produced, if not through her innate psychic powers. As for the voices, he had been able to hear them on several occasions, and under such conditions as to exclude any possible fraud or deception by Mrs. Wriedt or any other person.         Miss Clarissa Miles testified that she had received convincing messages about people and incidents of her private life, certainly not known by the medium or any of the other sitters: in her opinion, these massages undoubtedly proved that the communicating intelligences were just what they said they were. She declared that she could not accept the authenticity of any spiritual statement, unless it was accompanied by proofs and identification tests that did not leave the slightest doubt in her mind about the personality of the entities.     

Doubts about reincarnation

Many other examples of identification are given in the pages of Moore's book, in addition to those shown here. It seems interesting to me to end this page by mentioning some statements of the spirits about the conditions of otherwordly existence and the relationship between the spiritual state and the human condition, statements which, as it often happens in the spiritic literature, do not agree with those coming from entities connected with other mediums. For example, at the request of a sitter who claimed to believe that he had already existed before his current life, a voice answered: «If this is the case, I have never seen or met anyone in this dimension who knows anything about it. I've never met a single soul who told me something about re-incarnation». And on another occasion: «Theosophy is not true in every sense, and there is no re-incarnation».

Survival of animals

As for the survival of the animals, many pet dogs appeared barking during the sittings and were often recognized by their masters. Sometimes Wriedt saw and described to the sitters some animals running around the room, so that the masters could recognize them. On one occasion she described a fox terrier that the sitters heard yelping, and Dr. Sharp (one of the medium's controls) told Mr. Berry, a chemical researcher present at the séance, that it was one of the animals he had killed during his experiments in the fulfillment of his duties, which Berry confirmed. On another occasion a voice said: «There is nothing that one owned on Earth that can not have here. Various pets are kept by us, the men having horses, others dogs, birds, lambs, and other animals». Another entity, talking to a military chaplain, said: «There are no such beings as angels or other non-human inhabitants known to us. There are no churches, bishops, or priests. We have a universal kind of religion, not founded by one man, but by the community in general. Religion with us is one great universal one of love and beauty». And then: «There are seven spheres, the highest being number seven. The idea that the lower spheres are uncomfortable is all nonsense. On arrival at the forth sphere you will be welcomed by a crowd of friends. The whole journey will take about five minutes. When I passed over I had the choice of going to higher spheres or of remaining among earth conditions. I chose the latter, as I wished to stop among familiar scenery. I stayed there till I was quite tired out, and then elected to join my father, who was on the sixth sphere».      

Ridiculous statements

As it often happens when examining the statements obtained by communicating entities in mediumistic séances, even in Wriedt's case some statements seem inspired by wisdom and reason, while others surprise us for their manifest and imaginative naivety, which can be attributed to persistent forms of human psychism in the otherwordly dimension, or – more likely – to the manifestation of psychic tunings present in the mind of the medium or of some of the sitters. Here are some examples: «Mars (the planet) is inhabited by a short, dark people, resembling the people here. They have no houses, only huts». «We can sleep if we like. Time is the same as with you, also the summer and winter, but we do not feel the cold». «Later on a catastrophe will happen to the world. The date is not known, but it will depend upon the planetary influence of Mars and Venus». «Children from the age of three to six are assigned to the sixth sphere. In the fifth sphere the children are from seven to nine». «Chinese, Indian, and other foreign people have separate communities, and there is very little intercourse between them».


Hodgson's research
Medium Etta Wriedt
Victor G. Duncan
Materialized ghosts
Robert G. Bolton
Experiments & spirits
Harry Price's case
Samuel G. Soal
Gordon Davis case
The alien spirit
The end of an era?
A  new interest
A  medium's life story