Horatio and William Eddy
AMERICAN FARMER mediums of Chittenden, a small hamlet near Rutland, Vermont. In 1874 the New York Daily Graphic assigned Col. Henry Olcott to investigate the rumours of strange happenings in their house. After ten weeks in the Vermont home Col. Olcott, who had had no psychic experience before, came away with a dislike of his gruff hosts and a remarkable story which he told in 15 articles. These articles were later published in book form under the title
People from the Other World. To it and to Mrs. M. D. Shindler's book,
A Southerner Among the Spirits, Memphis, 1877, we owe most of our knowledge of the Eddy Brothers.
The family tree, according to Col. Olcott, showed psychic powers for generations back. In 1692, in Salem, their grandmother four times removed was sentenced to the pyre as a witch. In Horatio and William the psychic "taint" made its appearance in infancy. A fanatic father tried to suppress it with the utmost cruelty. He employed means of torture to break their trance, poured boiling water over them or placed red hot coal on their heads. When the children grew older the father realised the money-making possibilities in their strange gift and hired them out as mediums.
As an eloquent evidence of the treatment they received at the hands of ignorant investigators Col. Olcott saw grooves of ligatures, scars of hot scaling wax and marks of handcuffs on their limbs. They exhibited every phenomenon of physical mediumship from raps to perfect materialisation. Col. Olcott saw in ten weeks' time about four hundred apparitions of all sizes, sexes and races issue from their cabinet. The chief apparition was a giant Indian named Santum and an Indian woman by the name of Honto.
Olcott had every facility for investigation, measured the height and weight of the apparitions, roamed freely about and became quite satisfied that the explanation of impersonation was insufficient. He found that the production of materialised forms was William Eddy's strong feature. Horatio Eddy usually sat before a cloth screen, not a cabinet, and, contrary to his brother, was always in sight. Musical instruments were played behind the screen and phantom hands showed themselves over the edge. If the same
sťance was held in darkness the phenomena became very powerful. Mad Indian dances shook the floor and the room resounded with yells and whoops. "As an exhibition of pure brute force," he wrote, "this Indian dance is probably unsurpassed in the annals of such manifestation." Nevertheless, Col. Olcott was very careful and hesitative in drawing his final conclusions.
Frank Podmore in Modern Spiritualism characterises Col. Olcott's account as an imaginative history and quotes in confirmation C. C. Massey's account of a fortnight stay with the Eddy Brothers which thus describes the nightly apparition of a deceased relative of someone present:
"A dusky young man would look out and we had to say in turn, all round the circle 'Is it for me?' When the right person was reached three taps would be given and the fortunate possessor of the ghost would gaze doubtfully, upon which the ghost would look grieved, and that generally softened the heart of the observer, and brought about a recognition in the remark 'Lor, so you be.' And that sort of thing went on night after night at the Eddy's."
By Col. Olcott's later adventures in theosophy some colour is lent to the charge of gullibility. Nevertheless, it is impossible to read his evidently sincere account without gaining the conviction that the Eddy Brothers possessed the gift of true and powerful mediumship.
Source (with minor modifications):
An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).