A TEST SEANCE
DURING the latter part of February,
and the month of March, I had a number of séances with President Lincoln
and his wife; but, as there were no other witnesses, and as they did not
inform me of the nature of the communications, I cannot speak as to
their nature, but simply allude to the fact. These séances took place by
appointment. At the close of one, Mrs. Lincoln would make an
appointment, engaging me to
come at a certain hour of the day, which usually would be in the
vicinity of one 0' clock, the
time when Mr. Lincoln usually partook of his luncheon, which generally
occupied about half to three-quarters of an hour. There was another
meeting with Mr. Lincoln which is interesting and of considerable value.
Shortly after my return to Washington, and while visiting Major
Chorpenning one evening, Mr. Somes called. After an exchange of
compliments, he stated that he had been requested to have me attend a séance, and as the same was
of a private character he was not at liberty to say more. We all suspected the truth,
however, and I instantly made ready to accompany him.
After entering the carriage provided
for the occasion, he informed us that our destination was the White
House, explaining that while at the War Department that afternoon he had met Mr. Lincoln
coming from Secretary Stanton's office. Mr. Somes bowed to the President and was
passing onward when Mr. Lincoln stopped him, asking whether Miss Colburn
was still in the city, and if so, whether it were possible to have her
visit the White House that evening. Upon a re- ply in the affirmative to
both questions, Mr. Lincoln remarked, “Please bring her to the White
House at eight or nine o'clock, but consider the matter confidential.”
By the time Mr.
Somes had completed his recital we were at the door of that historic
mansion, and a servant who was evidently on the watch for us, quickly
opened the door and we were hurried upstairs to the executive chamber,
where Mr. Lincoln and two gentlemen were awaiting our coming. Mr.
Lincoln gave an order to the servant, who retired, and a moment later
Mrs. Lincoln entered. I am satisfied from what followed that she was
summoned on my account to place me more at ease than otherwise, under
the circumstances, would have been the case. Mr. Lincoln then quietly
stated that he wished me to give them an opportunity to witness
something of my “rare gift,” as he called it, adding, “you need not be
afraid, as these friends have seen something of this before.”
The two gentlemen
referred to were evidently military officers, as was indicated by the
stripe upon their pantaloons, although their frock coats, buttoned to
the chin, effectually concealed any insignia or mark of rank. One of
these gentlemen was quite tall and heavily built, with auburn hair and
dark eyes, and side whiskers, and of decided military bearing. The other
gentleman was of average height, and I somehow received the impression
that he was lower in rank than his companion. He had light brown hair
and blue eyes, was quick in manner, but deferential towards his friend,
whose confirmation he involuntarily sought or indicated by his look of
half appeal while the conversation went on.
We sat quiet for a
few moments before I became entranced. One hour later I became conscious
of my surroundings, and was standing by a long table, upon \ which was a
large map of the Southern
States. In my hand was a lead pencil, and the tall man, with
Lincoln a Spiritualist?
Mr. Lincoln, was standing beside me,
bending over the map, while the younger man was standing on the other
side of the table, looking curiously and intently at me. Somewhat
embarrassed, I glanced around to note Mrs. Lincoln quietly conversing in
another part of the room. The only remarks I heard were these: “It is
astonishing,” said Mr. Lincoln, “how every line she has drawn conforms
to the plan agreed upon.” “Yes” answered the older soldier, “it is very
astonishing.” Looking up, they both saw that I was awake, and they
instantly stepped back, while Mr. Lincoln took the pencil from my hand
and placed a chair for me.
Then madam and Mr.
Somes at once joined us, Mr. Somes asking, “Well, was everything
satisfactory?” “Perfectly,” responded Mr. Lincoln; “Miss Nettie does not
seem to require eyes to do anything,” smiling pleasantly. The
conversation then turned,
designedly, I felt, to commonplace matters.
Shortly afterwards, when about
leaving, Mr. Lincoln said to us in a low voice, “It is best not to
mention this meeting at present.” Assuring him of silence upon the
question, we were soon again on our way to the majors.
Mr. Somes informed
me that he heard enough in the opening remarks of the spirit to convince
him that the power controlling knew why I had been summoned. He said I
walked to the table unaided
and requested that a pencil be handed me, after which the President requested Mr. Somes and
Mrs. Lincoln to remain where they were at the end of the room. “In
accordance with this request,” said Mr. Somes, “we paid no attention to
what was being said or done, further than to notice you tracing lines
upon the map, and once one of the gentlemen re-sharpened the pencil for
you.” I never knew the purport of this meeting, nor can I say that Mr.
Somes ever heard more regarding the strange affair. That it was
important may be supposed, for those were not days for the indulgence of
idle curiosity in any direction, nor was Mr. Lincoln a man to waste his
time in giving exhibitions in occult science for the amusement of his
The impressions left upon my mind
could not be otherwise than gratifying, in finding myself the recipient
of such unusual attentions, and, for the occasion, the central figure
ill what appeared to be a mysterious and momentous consultation. Had it
been simply an experiment to test my mediumship, Mr. Somes and Mrs.
Lincoln would have been included in the group that gathered around the
table. I am confident that my I services were appreciated, and that the
spiritual guidance which found utterance through my lips was
confirmatory of the plans which they had already prepared. As in this
instance, so in many others, has this powerful aid been called upon and
used to advantage, to further important national and personal interests,
and accomplish results that simple human knowledge could not achieve.
Mr. Lincoln's fancy for poetry and song inclined towards those melodies
which appealed to his emotional nature, as is illustrated by his keen
appreciation of Mrs. Laurie's Bonnie Doon, and his favourite
poem, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud?
I remember hearing him refer to the
touching poem upon an occasion of peculiar interest, at which time he
recited apart of it applying the verses to the occasion in a very
pleasant and happy manner. This incident is worthy of appearing in
morning in January, 1863, Mrs. Laurie desired me to go to the White
House and inquire after Mrs.
Lincoln's health. Mrs. Laurie had visited Mrs. Lincoln the previous day,
and found her prostrated by one of her severe head- aches. It was about
Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist?
o'clock when I called. Upon sending up
my name and inquiry to Mrs. Lincoln, I was requested to walk upstairs to
her rooms, where I found Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, a gentleman, and two
ladies. I was cordially received by Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, and presented to
the guests, whose names were not mentioned, and when I noticed their
glances, I knew that they had been told I was a medium. After explaining
my errand and being about to withdraw, Mrs. Lincoln asked whether I felt
equal to the task of a séance. Noticing that all were expectant, I
signified my willingness and reseated myself.
After Mrs. Lincoln
had assisted me to remove my wraps, she requested that the friends present do the same. They
declined. Whereupon the gentleman, who was their escort, laughingly remarked, as he
indicated the lady nearest him: “It is useless to urge Anna, Mrs. Lincoln,
for she thinks she looks better in her new bonnet.” To which Anna replied,
“That she believed she did, and felt very proud of it.” Mr. Lincoln, who
was seated, raised his hands with a comical gesture, and quoted apart of
his favourite poem,
Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud?
The gentleman said, “You are familiar
with that poem?” To which the President replied, “Perfectly; it is a
favourite of mine; and, let me ask, what could be finer in expression than
the lines: - “The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and
pleasure, - her triumphs are by; And the memory of those who loved and
praised, Are alike from the minds of the living erased.' “ Continuing to
the line:- “Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.”
At this point I became unconscious, and
awoke a half hour later to find the company betraying much emotion, and
while recovering myself, they talked together in low tones, and in an
animated manner. This was interrupted by Mr. Lincoln rousing himself with
an effort, saying: “I must go, and am afraid I have already stayed too
long.” Shaking hands with his visitors, he turned in his kind way to me,
and, while warmly shaking my hand, said: “I thank you, Miss Nettie, for
obliging us; we have deeply enjoyed our little circle.”
As he left the room, the others
expressed the same sentiment; and as I was preparing to don my bonnet and
shawl, Mrs. Lincoln requested me to wait. She rang the bell for the
servant, who soon after returned with two beautiful bouquets, one of which
she said was for Mrs. Laurie, the other for myself The party then shook
hands with me, rising as they did so. I was treated by them with the same
courtesy as would have been offered any friend or old acquaintance. -
I The reader will note the especial
appropriateness of the poetical sally on the part of Mr. Lincoln.