Florence Marryat

British authoress, daughter of Capt. Marryat, acquainted with all the celebrated mediums of the 1870's and 1860's both in Britain and America, witness of Katie King's famous farewell from Florence Cook, recorded remarkable experiences in two books: There is No Death, 1891, and The Spirit World, 1894, both of them very popular, and claimed mediumistic gifts herself, among them the strange power of summoning the spirits of the living.

The Mediumship of Katie Cook

- Florence Marryat -

          IN THE matter of producing physical phenomena the Cooks are a most remarkable family, all three daughters being powerful media, and that without any solicitation on their part. The second one, Katie [Cook], is by no means the least powerful of the three, although she has sat more privately than her sister Florence [Cook], and not had the same scientific tests (I believe) applied to her. The first time I had an opportunity of testing Katie's mediumship was at the private rooms of Signor Rondi, in a circle of nine or ten friends. The apartment was small and sparsely furnished, being an artist's studio. The gas was kept burning, and before the sitting commenced the door was locked and strips of paper pasted over the opening inside. The cabinet was formed of a window curtain nailed across one corner of the room, behind which a chair was placed for the medium, who is a remarkably small and slight girl - much slighter than her sister Florence - with a thin face and delicate features. She was dressed, on, this occasion, in a tight-fitting black gown and Hessian boots that buttoned half-way to her knee, and which, she informed me, she always wore when sitting (just as Miss Showers did), because they had each eighteen buttons, which took a long time to fasten and unfasten. The party sat in a semicircle, close outside the curtain, and the light was lowered, but not extinguished. There was no darkness, and no holding of hands. I mention these facts to show how very simple the preparations were. In a few minutes the curtain was lifted, and a form, clothed in white, who called herself "Lily," was presented to our view. She answered several questions relative to herself and the medium; and perceiving some doubt on the part of some of the sitters, she seated herself on my knee, I being nearest the curtain, and asked me to feel her body, and tell the others how differently she was made from the medium. I had already realized that she was much heavier than Katie Cook, as she felt like a heavy girl of nine or ten stone. I then passed my hand up and down her figure. She had full breasts and plump arms and legs, and could not have been mistaken by the most casual observers for Miss Cook. Whilst she sat on my knee, however, she desired my husband and Signor Rondi to go inside the curtain and feel that the medium was seated in her chair. When they did so, they found Katie was only half entranced. She thrust her feet out to view, and said, "I am not 'Lily'; feel my boots." My husband had, at the same moment, one hand on Miss Cook's knee, and the other stretched out to feel the figure seated on my lap. There remained no doubt in his mind of there being two bodies there at the same time. Presently "Lily" passed her hand over my dress, and remarked how nice and warm it was, and how she wished she had one on too. I asked her, "Are you cold?" and she said, "Wouldn't you be cold if you had nothing but this white thing on?" Half-jestingly, I took my fur cloak, which was on a sofa close by, and put it round her shoulders, and told her to wear it. "Lily" seemed delighted. She exclaimed, "Oh, how warm it is! May I take it away with me?" I said, "Yes, if you will bring it back before I go home. I have nothing else to wear, remember." She promised she would, and left my side. In another moment she called out, "Turn up the gas!" We did so. "Lily" was gone, and so was my large fur cloak! We searched the little room round for it. It had entirely disappeared. There was a locked cupboard in which Signor Rondi kept drawing materials. I insisted on its being opened, although he declared it had not been unlocked for weeks, and we found it full of dust and drawing blocks, but nothing else, so the light was again lowered, and the séance resumed. In a short time the heavy cloak was flung, apparently from the ceiling, evidently from somewhere higher than my head, and fell right over it.

I laid it again on the sofa, and thought no more about it until I returned home. I then found, to my astonishment, and considerably to my annoyance, that the fur of my cloak (which was a new one) was all coming out. My dress was covered with it, and from that day I was never able to wear the cloak again, "Lily" said she had de-materialized it, to take it away. Of the truth of that assertion I had no proof, but I am quite sure that she did not, put it together again when she brought it back. An army of moths encamped in it could not have damaged it more, and I can vouch that until that evening the fur had been as perfect as when I purchased it.

I think my next sitting with Katie Cook was at a séance held in Museum Street, and on the invitation of Mr. Charles Blackburn, who is one of the most earnest friends of Spiritualism, and has expended a large amount of money in its research. The only other guests were my husband, and General and Mrs. Maclean. We sat round a small uncovered table with the gas burning and without a cabinet, Miss Katie Cook had a seat between General Maclean and myself, and we made sure of her proximity to us during the whole séance. In fact, I never let go of her hand, and even when she wished to use her pocket-handkerchief, she had to do it with my hand clinging to her own. Neither did she go into a trance. We spoke to her occasionally during the sitting, and she answered us, though in a very subdued voice, as she complained of being sick and faint. In about twenty minutes, during which the usual manifestations occurred, the materialized form of "Lily" appeared in the middle of the table, and spoke to us and kissed us all in turn. Her face was very small, and she was only formed to the waist, but her flesh was quite firm and warm. Whilst "Lily" occupied the table in the full sight of all the sitters, and I had my hand upon Miss Cook's figure (for I kept passing my hand up and down from her face to her knees, to make sure it was not only a hand I held), some one grasped my chair from behind and shook it, and when I turned my head and spoke, in a moment one arm was round my neck and one round the neck of my husband, who sat next to me, whilst the voice of my daughter "Florence" spoke to us both, and her long hair and her soft white dress swept over our faces and hands. Her hair was so abundant and long, that she shook it out over my lap, that I might feel its length and texture. I asked "Florence" for a piece of her hair and dress, and scissors not being forthcoming, "Lily" materialized more fully, and walked round from the other side of the table and cut off a piece of "Florence's" dress herself with my husband's penknife, but said they could not give me the hair that time. The two spirits remained with us for, perhaps, half an hour or more, whilst General Maclean and I continue to hold Miss Cook a prisoner. The power then failing, they disappeared, but every one present was ready to take his oath that two presences had been with us that never entered at the door. The room was small and unfurnished, the gas was burning, the medium sat for the whole time in our sight. Mrs. Maclean and I were the only other women present, yet two girls bent over and kissed us, spoke to us, and placed their bare arms on our necks at one and the same time. There was again also a marked difference between the medium and the materializations. I have already described her appearance. Both of these spirits had plump faces and figures, my daughter "Florence's" hands especially being large and firm, and her loose hair nearly down to her knees.

I had the pleasure of holding another séance with Katie Cook in the same rooms, when a new manifestation occurred. She is (as I have said) a very small woman, with very short arms. I am, on the contrary, a very large woman, with very long arms, yet the arm of the hand I held was elongated to such an extent that it reached the sitters on the other side of the table, where it would have been impossible for mine to follow it. I should think the limb must have been stretched to thrice its natural length, and that in the sight of everybody. I sat again with Katie Cook in her own house, where, if trickery is employed, she had every opportunity of tricking us, but the manifestations were much the same, and certainly not more marvellous than those she had exhibited in the houses of strangers. "Lily" and "Florence" both appeared at the same time, under circumstances that admitted of no possibility of fraud. My husband and I were accompanied on that occasion by our friends, Captain and Mrs. Kendal, and the order of sitting round the table was as follows: Myself, Katie, Captain K., Florence Cook, my husband, Mrs. Cook, Mrs. Kendal. Each member of the family, it will be observed, was held between two detectives, and their hands were not once set free. I must say also that the séance was a free one, courteously accorded us on the invitation of Mrs. Cook; and, if deception had been, intended, we and our friends might just as well have been left to sit with Katie alone, whilst the other members of the family superintended the manifestation of the "ghosts" outside. Miss Florence Cook, indeed (Mrs. Corner), objected at first to sitting with us, on the score that her mediumship usually neutralized that of her sister, but her mother insisted on her joining the circle, lest any suspicion should be excited by her absence. The Cooks, indeed, are, all of them, rather averse to sitting than not, and cordially agree in disliking the powers that have been thrust upon them against their own will.

These influences take possession of them, unfitting them for more practical work, and they must live. This is, I believe, the sole reason that they have never tried to make money by the exercise of their mediumship. But I, for one, fully believe them when they tell me that they consider the fact of their being media as the greatest misfortune that has ever happened to them. On the occasion of this last séance, cherries and rosebuds were showered in profusion on the table during the evening. These may easily be believed to have been secreted in the room before the commencement of the sitting, and produced at the proper opportunity, although the hands of everybody interested in their production were fast held by strangers. But it is less easy to believe that a lady of limited income, like Mrs. Cook, should go to such an expense for an unpaid séance, for the purpose of making converts of people who were strangers to her. Mediumship pays very badly as it is. I am afraid it would pay still worse if the poor media had to purchase the means for producing the phenomena, especially when, in a town like London, they run (as in this instance) to hothouse fruit and flowers.

One more example of Katie Cook's powers and I have done. We were assembled one evening by the invitation of Mr. Charles Blackburn at his house, Elgin Crescent. We sat in a small breakfast room on the basement floor, so small, indeed, for the size of the party, that as we encircled a large round table, the sitters' backs touched the wall on either side, thus entirely preventing any one crossing the room whilst we were established there. The only piece of furniture of any consequence in the room, beside the chairs and table, was a trichord cabinet piano, belonging to Mrs. Cook (who was keeping house at the time for Mr. Blackburn), and which she much valued.

Katie Cook sat amongst us as usual. In the middle of the séance her control "Lily," who was materialized, called out, "Keep hands fast. Don't let go, whatever you do!" And at the same, time, without seeing anything (for we were sitting in complete darkness), we became conscious that something large and heavy was passing or being carried over our heads. One of the ladies of the party became nervous, and dropped her neighbor's hand with a cry of alarm, and, at the same moment, a weighty body fell with a fearful crash on the other side of the room. "Lily" exclaimed, "Some one has let go hands," and Mrs. Cook called out; "Oh! it's my piano." Lights were struck, when we found the cabinet piano had actually been carried from its original position right over our heads to the opposite side of the room, where it had fallen on the floor and been seriously damaged. The two carved legs were broken off, and the sounding board smashed in. Any one who had heard poor Mrs. Cook's lamentations over the ruin of her favorite instrument, and the expense it would entail to get it restored, would have felt little doubt as to whether she had been a willing victim to this unwelcome proof of her daughter's physical mediumship.


"There is no Death" by Florence Marryat (London: William Rider & Son, 1917).

Related articles

My Spirit Child by Florence Marryat
Biography of Katie Cook

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