Direct Writing

Direct Writing

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

While automatic writing is produced by spirit using the arm and hand of the medium, direct writing (also known as independent writing) is produced purely by spirit. Direct writing can appear anywhere, on any substance. It has often appeared at the sites of poltergeist activity, written on walls, floor, or ceiling. An early form of direct writing was slate writing, in which two clean slates would be bound together and placed in the séance circle. When the slates were opened later, they were found to be covered with writing. A slightly more modern form is when paper and pencil are placed in a sealed box in the séance circle. On opening the box at the end of the séance, the paper is found to be covered with writing … and this writing is often in the hand of the deceased who was contacted at the sitting. Many times the sound of chalk on slate, or pen on paper, can be heard during the séance, coming from the slates or box.

The noted Spiritualist Baron L. de Guldenstubbé (1820–1873) was a Scandinavian nobleman who was the first to introduce table tipping to France. He would leave writing materials on the pedestals of statues, in niches in churches and public galleries, and even in tombs. He obtained writings that purportedly came from such people as Plato, Cicero, Juvenal, Spencer, and Mary Stewart. They were written in English, French, Latin, German, or Greek. He acquired more than 2,000 specimens in twenty different languages, collected between 1856 and 1872.

Henry Slade was a medium noted for the slate writings produced at his séances. Nandor Fodor said, “The hands of Henry Slade were sometimes feverishly hot and emitted, during the writing, which was nearly always in his own hand, crackling and detonating sounds. These detonations occasionally amounted to veritable explosions and pulverized the slate.”

Most of the direct writings obtained by Mrs. Thomas Everitt (1825–1915) were quotations from various sometimes inaccessible books, bearing on the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Investigating Mrs. Everitt, Sir William Crookes noted that there were never any indentations made on the paper by the writing, no matter the thickness of the paper. Her husband wrote, “The paper and pencil are whisked up into the air, a rapid tick-tick-ticking is heard lasting barely a few seconds, then paper and pencil fall to the table and a call is made to turn on the lights. The writing is finished! The speed production varies from 100 to 150 words a second.” (Light, July 7, 1894)

Sir William Crookes attended a séance with Kate Fox-Jencken (one of the original Fox Sisters) and described the appearance of a phantom hand. He reported, “A luminous hand came down from the upper part of the room, and after hovering near me for a few seconds, took the pencil from my hand, rapidly wrote on a sheet of paper, threw the pencil down, and then rose up over our heads, gradually fading into darkness.” Fodor noted that Robert Dale Owen, in a sitting with Henry Slade on February 9, 1874, that took place in low gas light, saw “a white, female, marble-like hand, which was detached and shaded off at the wrist, creep up to his knees, write on the note sheet placed there on the slate, then slip back with the pencil under the table.” Fodor comments, “One is reminded of that most dramatic account in Daniel 5:5: ‘In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.’”

When Henry Slade’s slate writing came into question, Sir William Barrett (1845–1926), one of the distinguished early psychic researchers, declared that he took a clean slate, placed a crumb of a slate pencil below, and held it firmly down with his elbow and only allowed the tips of Slade’s fingers to touch the slates. Barrett said, “While closely watching both of Slade’s hands which did not move perceptibly, I was much astonished to hear scratching going on apparently on the under side of the table, and when the slate was lifted up I found the side facing the table covered with writing.”


Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The History of Spiritualism. New York: Doran, 1926
Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
Spence, Lewis: An Encyclopedia of the Occult. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1920