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vol. 1, p. 18
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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The Philadelphia Child ― Holmes Storm
...ous, Medium...
...ing I told so to Olcott before would not believe. The Holmes are Frouds.

A Letter from “Honesty”*

Editor Banner of Light:

I am very sorry you hesitate to believe the narrative of Katie King relating to her connections with the Holmes’ mediums. Your doubts arise from a want of knowledge of all the facts. No one, I suppose, questions the purity of your motives; but your hesitancy to denounce that heartless swindle has a tendency to produce a wrong impression in the minds of the readers of the Banner, That the supposed manifestations of materialized spirits, given through Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, were fraudulent, not one Spiritualist or other person here, who has any sense, or whose opinion is to be regarded as of the smallest value, doubts. The reason is, that the people here were familiar with those manifestations given bv the lady, whom the mediums represented to be Katie King, a materialized spirit; and as soon as the cheat was discovered, and they saw the real flesh and blood Katie, there was no trouble in recognizing her as being the same person they had so often seen in the cabinet.

Dr. Henry T. Child, whose character and reputation for truthfulness and moral integrity no one doubts, indorses this fact, and certifes, over this proper signature, that he saw the name of Katie King signed to that narrative, and that the person who signed it “was the same one who appeared at the séances as the materialized spirit of Katie King.”

The narrative contains on its face evidence of its truthfulness; it is a plain, straightforward statement, explanatory of the way these manifestations were produced, and to all honest persons who saw them, perfectly satisfactory.

Any one who will read the statement of Robert Dale Owen, in the Atlantic Monthly for January, and compare with it the narrative of Katie King, will see that they practically agree in all the leading facts, except that Katie tells how the manifestations were produced.

We are all seeking after truth, and why should there be such a difference of opinion between you and a very large majority of your readers on a matter of such vital importance to the cause, the honesty or dishonesty of mediums, when the evidence is so overwhelming that these mediums were impostors.

What has Katie King denounced? Not Spiritualists or Spiritualism, simply fraud, a scheme to make money by dishonest mediums. Will Spiritualism be injured thereby? Of course not, rather it will be largely benefited. It is by continuous ventilation and agitation that the truth is separated from error.

In my judgment, the cause of Spiritualism will be largely advanced by this exposure, for be it remembered that the exposé was made by Spiritualists themselves, which gives it much more weight with the community.

The young giant, Spiritualism, only experienced a growing pain, and by reason of the sensation it produced, the tricks and juggling of impostors were exposed, that is all. The great and beautiful truths of the Harmonial Philosophy will endure forever. No change of time, circumstance, or association will ever mar their brightness. Until the mountains become hoary with antiquity, these truths will continue to shine more and more effulgent.

Katie’s statement, to say the very least, throws a doubt on the genuineness of these manifestations, and that alone ought to be sufficient to cause honest investigators to reject them. Those who are earnestly seeking after truth, cannot afford to waste time doubtful things.


Philadelphia, Jan. 20th, 1875.

* The real name of the writer of the above accompanies the article. - Ed[itor] B[anner] of L[ight] (Leslie)

A Challenge To Messrs. Robert Dale Owen and Dr. Child

We ought to arrive at the truth, and, if possible, the full truth in regard to the so-called exposure of the “fraud,” perpetrated, as they pretend, before the eyes of hundreds in the spirit-cireles of the Holmes media. I, for one, having assisted at one of the seances when Katie King appeared, and having accurately examined the locality and surroundings in Tenth street, have never believed in the alleged “fraud,” or in the pretended exposé. A great many doubtful circumstances, contradictions, improbabilities and suspicions features in the silly “affidavit” of the false Katie King, have lately been pointed out by others, and confirmed the opinion of many, that indeed a “gross fraud” has been committed, though probably not on that side where the attempt to lay it has been made. The truth in this matter ought therefore to be brought out by all means. What simpler way could there be for this purpose than the identification of the alleged principal actress in the fraud by those who have seen her as Katie King? I would therefore suggest the following propositions:

1. Let Messrs. Robert Dale Owen and Dr. Child—whom many regard as the victims of the fraud mostly to be pitied—invite a number of the best men of social standing, and generally known and respected in the community of Philadelphia, to constitute a committee.

2. Let the accusers of the Holmeses produce, before this committee, the person — White, Black, or what her name may be—who, as they say. has played the part of K[atie] K[ing] in the seances in the Ninth street as well as in the Tenth-street house.

3. Let this person be confronted with a number of the most intelligent and reliable persons who saw her as K[atie] K[ing], in the same costume and under the same circumstances as when she played her rôle; and let those witnesses then and there declare, upon their honor, or under their oath, whether they recognize in the produced perpetrator of the fraud the identical person whom they saw in the seances, and took for Katie King.

4. Let this committee also compare the several photographs taken as the likeness of the spirit K[atie] K[ing], with the produced living one, under the assistance of the photographer employed for that purpose; or better, let him take another photograph of the living Katie King strictly under the same conditions as the former likenesses were taken.

5. Let Messrs. Owen and Child at the same time produce the original discoverer of the fraud —thus far a mythical “gentleman,” who is still hiding his name in a suspicious manner, but must certainly be known to those who followed his suit; and let him repeat his statement before the committee.

I am sure that some of those who saw K[atie] K[ing] at the Holmes' rooms, and believed in the genuineness of her apparition—as Gen. Lippitt, in Cambridge, Mass., and Mr. Roberts, in Burlington, N. J.—would, in the interest of Spiritualism and truth, take the trouble to appear before the committee, and would, regardless of everything else, testify to the identity or non-identity of Mrs. White with the Katie King they saw. I, for my part, would be willing to do this at any time, and pledge myself to the conscientious expression of my opinion. If the full truth should not be reached in this way, we would certainly come very near it — what most of all seems to lie in the interest of Messrs. Owen and Child—whilst the cause of Spiritualism, even in the phase of materialization, cannot be hurt by a single fraud committed under its name, even if this should be fully proved.

Dr. G. Bloede. Brooklyn, N.Y., Jan. 5th, 1875. Of course, dear doctor.

An Earnest Word to Robert Dale Owen

Hon. R. D. Owen—Dear Sir : With profound respect for yourself, and gratitude for your services to humanity, I beg leave to suggest, in behalf of many of your friends, that we are looking impatiently for a more creditable denouement to the Katie King fiasco at Philadelphia. As it stands, you have virtually condemned all the manifestations at the Holmes’ séances as frauds. Such is the impression your letter to the Tribune will make upon ninety-nine hundredths of your readers. If such a condemnation is injurious to the reputation of spiritual phenomena with the public, it is vastly more damaging to your character and credibility as a writer and reporter of marvellous phenomena. It looks too much like a literary suicide.

In the Atlantic Monthly you affirm that the Katie King spirit appeared and disappeared, dissolving into air five times in full view, and that a detached hand wrote upon paper, supporting itself in the air, a letter signed in the unquestionable handwriting of Fred. W. Robertson, and then dissolved. If hands appear and write, and dissolve—if Katie King dissolves in full view, her body having evaporated while her feet were still visible, no more perfect evidence of materialization could be required, and if you cast a doubt upon such facts attested by yourself, you simply discredit your own testimony.

It is plain to every spectator that if you have stated the truth, there was a perfect materialization and dissolution, and whatever fraud may have been practiced afterwards, could not affect the value of what you saw, and should not have produced such a panic in your mind as to lead you to denounce everything without further investigation. You stand now in the contradictory attitude of testifying to facts which must have had a Spiritual origin, and then casting a broad slur upon your own evidence, which is painful to your friends. We wish, therefore, to ask explicitly, do you desire to retract or modify any statement you have made as to what you saw, and do you suppose there is any art known to mortals by which a detached hand can be produced, capable of writing a letter, or by which a human form can be made to appear to fade out of existence while we are looking at it? Unless you answer such questions explicitly and satisfactorily, the public must necessarily withdraw tlneir confidence from you as an author, and your friends will regret your faux pas, though they will never lose confidence in your sincerity, benevolence and integrity.


The London Katie King

A correspondent sends us the following paragraph from the San Francisco Bulletin, Jan. 4th, 1875, and asks if there is any truth in it:

The Original Katie King Caught. — Almost simultaneously with the exposure of the Katie King of the Holmeses at Philadelphia comes the downfall of the Katie King at London (the original Katie), whose pranks befooled Wallace and Crookes, the scientists. The medium in London was a Miss Florence Cook. A few days ago a hardhearted unbeliever—Hipp by name—caught and held Miss Cook by the hand in the course of a manifestation which, it was represented, was going on through spiritual agencies alone, and the spell was broken.

To this we add the following from the New York Graphic of Dec. 22d, 1874 :

The "Katie King" who appeared at the séances of Miss Florence Cook, in London, is still claimed as a true spirit by ardent Spiritualists. Nevertheless, a Mr. William Hipp writes to the London "Echo" that he has detected Miss Cook in a very impudent trick. The spirits were to have sprinkled the believers with water, a tumbler of which was placed on the table, and the lights turned down. Mr. Hipp, who was a wicked unbeliever, slyly grasped the tumbler, and in a few moments clutched the spirit-hand that was dipped in it. A light was then struck, and it was found that he was holding Miss Cook by the hand. As that person was thus shown to be capable of trickery, there ought to be a decay of faith in her "Katie King" on the part of the English Spiritualists.

The above are versions of an old story revamped. The following communication, which appeared in the London Spiritualist, Jan. 16th, 1874, will give some notion of the measure of truth which it contains:

Sir—In a recent number of the '"Echo," I observe a letter signed by William Hipp, which is evidently intended as an effort, on the part of that person, to throw discredit upon Miss F. E. Cook, one of the truest and best of media; and as I was one of those present at the séance referred to, which took place about two years ago, and remember the incidents of the same, must, in justice to Miss Cook, ask you to insert my protest against the accuracy of the state-mencs made by Mr. Hipp. That Mr. Hipp did grasp Miss Cook’s hand is undoubtedly correct, but the inference of Mr. Hipp that it was in the act of sprinkling him, is as undoubtedly false. After the water had been placed upon the table, and the light excluded, the message “leave it alone was spelt out; and each member of the circle, excepting Mr. Hipp. denied having moved their hands. Mr. Hipp, on being pressed, continued to evade the question. Shortly after Florrie demanded a light to be struck, and Mr. Hipp was discovered standing up and reaching across the table, grasping the hand of the medium. Mr. Hipp, without any explanation, thrust Miss Cook’s baud back, and hastily withdrew from the house in the most rude manner. The séance was continued, and it appeared that the medium had instinctively made an effort to recover a flower which she stated was suddenly removed from her dress, when her hand was grasped by Mr. Hipp. Statements afterwards made in writing by Mr. Hipp, in connection with his conduct, most certainly justify no very high opinion of his accuracy; and that he should thus attempt to revive what must be a very disagreeable epoch in his life, as well as repeat his previous ungenerous conduct, is much to be deprecated by all lovers of truth. That Miss Cook’s mediumship has been sufficiently tested, is patent to all, so more remarks are not necessary from me, who am proud to know her not only as one of our truest and honorable of media, but also as a warm-hearted friend.

Yours faithfully,

Thomas Blyton.

12 High street, Bow, London, E., Jan. 12th, 1874.

To make assurance doubly sure, on seeing the paragraph in the New York Graphic, we at once wrote for information to a gentleman of high scientific authority, resident in London, and here is his reply, under date of Jan. 9th, 1873: ‘‘The occurrence referred to by Mr. W. Hipp tool place three or four years ago, when Miss Cook was quite a child, and when the phenomena, were only just beginning to attract attention outside her own family. Almost any one was then invited to attend their séances, as Miss Cook and her parents knew nothing of Spiritualism, and were quite ignorant of conditions. At the séance at which Hipp was present there was no holding of hands, and the company were all seated round the table, laughing and talking. Hipp had made himself very disagreeable for some time by throwing his hands about, trying to grasp things as they moved, and playing practical jokes. Miss Cook had a flower in the bosom of her dress, and all at once she felt a man’s hand moving about as if to grasp the <... >

Editor's notes

  1. A Letter from “Honesty” by Leslie, Banner of Light, The, Jan. 30, 1875, p. 2. Signed by Honesty
  2. A Challenge To Messrs. Robert Dale Owen and Dr. Child by Bloede, G., Banner of Light, The, Boston, Saturday, Jan. 30, 1875, p. 2
  3. An Earnest Word to Robert Dale Owen by Candor, Banner of Light, The, Boston, Saturday, January 30, 1875, p. 2
  4. The London Katie King by Blyton, Thomas, Banner of Light, The, Boston, Saturday, January 30, 1875, p. 4