Was Abraham Lincoln a Apiritualist? by Nettie Colburn Maynard 1917



In the year 1855 we resided with my parents in the city of Hartford, Conn. One day, during the summer of that year, my father related at the dinner table certain strange phenomena that he had witnessed at the warerooms of the firm of Elton and Deming, furniture dealers of that city, and stated that a young man, hardly thirty years of age, of slight build, possessed a wonderful gift whereby he could move the heaviest pieces of furniture about the building, by simply laying his fingers upon them and requesting them to follow him; that he had done this repeatedly during the forenoon; and that a heavy secretaire, to move which required the strength of four or five men, would move across the floor with perfect ease if he but placed his fingertips thereon, requesting it to follow him.

He said the young man could do this at any time and place, and he wished to arrange with him to pass an evening at our house, that my mother and the family might witness these curious phenomena. Two evenings later he came and proceeded to demonstrate his ability, making no explanation whatever of the strange power he seemed to possess. We were all soon seated about the dining table, following hi directions by placing our hands flatly upon the surface.

In a few moments the table began rocking to and fro, and the united force of all present was unable to prevent its motions. Instructing my father what to say, he began questioning the table as if it possessed intelligence; the motion ceased and a loud, distinct rap was heard whose source we sought in vain; but to all questions it responded quickly and with a decided intelligence that denoted that it understood all that was spoken.

At last the young man spoke and said the raps were so clear and distinct, and the power apparently so great, that there must be others present possessing this gift (as he termed it); and upon asking the question of this unseen intelligence of this fact a quick response in the affirmative was given. On further inquiry it stated that I possessed the gift in a marked degree; it also declared that my mother and eldest brother possessed the same gift, but not to the same extent. Many strange things were rapped out in response to questions, and the intelligence claimed to be my grandfather, and many names were spelled of deceased friends and relatives of whom the young man could have had no possible knowledge.

This curious manifestation ended by his requesting the power to display its force by turning the table bottom upwards; which was done, it being carefully raised clear from the support and laid flat upon the floor with the legs upwards without any hand thereon save his own. The name of this young man was Thomas Cook. I have never met him, or heard of him since that time. The matter afforded material for conversation for a few days and was forgotten.

A year later a young acquaintance came into our house and excitedly asked me if I knew anything about spirit-rapping. In surprise, I said ‘No’, when she related the astonishing fact that some friends were visiting at her house, and their little fifteen months’ old baby was what they called a ‘spirit medium’. When the little thing was seated at a table, in its high chair, curious manifestations would occur, such as dishes


Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist?

moving without visible contact, the table rising and falling, and loud raps being heard in different parts of the room.

She further stated that every morning since their arrival they would find that during the night furniture of the house had been displaced, pictures removed from the walls, and many other peculiar occurrences took place for which no one could account, save that this invisible agency had been at work while all in the house had been sleeping. She concluded her strange story by saying, ‘And the spirits say I am a medium’. As she uttered the words, I recollected the curious séance of the year before, when the same statement had been made about myself; and instantly I said, ;Oh, yes. I know all about it, for I witnessed something of this myself, and they told me also that I am a medium.’

We were both mere children, and comprehended nothing of the magnitude of the subject of which we were speaking, but with the egotism of inexperience and the love of novelty peculiar to the young, were anxious to know more concerning this power we were said to possess. My friend Eunice instantly proposed that we sit down and see if we could make a hall lamp-stand move. Retiring to my own room, we sat down by a stand, placed our hands upon it, as I remembered we had done on the only occasion in which I had witnessed the manifestations of this strange phenomenon, and sat patiently waiting for something to happen. During this time, my mother entered the room and we told her what we w ere doing; she stood by us and listened, but no sound or movement rewarded our patience. At the end of half an hour, wearied with sitting in silence, we abandoned the effort.

The next day she came to see me, full of excited interest, repeating marvels of the day before, and saying that spirits had directed that we should sit again. This we did, and for another half an hour sat patiently silent and listening, placing our hands upon the stand, but nothing rewarded our efforts. This was repeated day after day for a week, as every day Eunice would return, directed to do so, as she affirmed, by the spirits, as they manifested themselves through the infant, the little child at her house. Being but children ourselves, we became weary of these repeated failures, and on the last occasion I asserted, ‘If nothing comes this time, I will not sit again and they need not ask me to.’

We had scarcely seated ourselves and placed our hands upon the table, when three loud raps sounded beneath our fingers. We sprung up in affright, upsetting the chairs in our excitement, and rushed from the room. My mother, hearing the confusion, met us, and we explained; she thereupon persuaded us to go back and try again, she going with us. At this moment my father entered the house, and feeling encouraged by his presence, we sat down, when the raps came readily, responding to any and all questions, stating distinctly that I was the medium for this particular form of manifestation, and desiring that I sit at regular intervals, as they desired to use me to make revelations to the world to demonstrate the truth of immortality. (1)

From this time forward, on all occasions when it seemed proper and right so to do, this power would manifest itself, and I could readily obtain responses to questions. The development of this curious gift naturally drew attention and brought many visitors to our house.

For nearly a year after this curious development, I was engaged almost every evening, either at my own home or at the homes of those who sought me out, exercising this


Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist?

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new gift; people came from near and far to have me sit at the table for them, as they claimed to receive surprising revelations from deceased relatives of whom I could have no possible previous knowledge.

Just at this time the exciting campaign between James Buchanan and John C. Fremont was at its height. My father was a staunch Fermont man, and, as a matter of course, what interest I could have in such a matter would manifest in sympathy with his ideas, although I was too young and inexperienced to understand clearly either side of the questions at issue.

The day before the election excitement and feeling ran high. A number of guests were at dinner, and my father was affirming his confidence in the election of his candidate, when my hand was seized by a power I could not control and was violently shaken. I was frightened, and knew not what to do, trying to hold my right hand still with my left. My father watched me for an instant; then quickly taking his pencil from his pocket, he placed a piece of paper hastily before me and the pencil in my right hand. Instantly the name ‘Buchanan’ was scrawled upon the paper; as it was written, loud raps came upon the table.

With a startled look, he questioned; ‘Do you mean us to understand that Buchanan will be elected tomorrow?’ The response came quickly in the affirmative, distinct and loud. The result of the morrow’s election verified the prediction. This was the first time my hand was ever used for mechanical writing; but from that day forward, by sitting quietly with pencil in my hand resting upon the paper, it would be mechanically moved; and many pages were thus written without any volition on my part. I could converse while this writing was going on, evidencing that I had no control whatever over it. This phase of my gift, continued at various times and occasions, excited much interest, and our quiet home was constantly besieged by eager inquirers, who wished to witness these peculiar manifestations.

(1) My father tested the matter in a systematic manner, having me stand away from the stand, after first examining it upon all sides, and then repeating the question in many forms for an hour or more. When he became fully convinced and satisfied that the answers were from an intelligent unseen power, who could give him messages from his dead friends, and the names and dates which I did not know, he seemed completely overcome, and, bowing his head upon his hands, wept like a child. We were all alarmed at this, and mother placed her hand upon his head, saying, ‘Father, what is the matter?’ For a moment he could not reply, but, mastering his emotions, said feelingly; ‘You do not realise what this is to me; for years you know that I doubted the immortality of man, for |I could not accept the common teachings, as they were not based on evident proofs that satisfied my mind; but if this is true, and from the evidences before my eyes I cannot doubt that it is, ‘then we are immortal beings, and life has some object beyond the mere object of living’; and this child has brought me more than all the wealth of the world can give.

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