Eddy Brothers: Horatio and William

Eddy Brothers: Horatio and William

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The Eddy Brothers supposedly came from a long line of family psychics and mediums. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said, “The mediumship of the Eddy Brothers … has probably never been excelled in the matter of materialization, or, as we may now call them, ectoplasmic forms.” According to Doyle, an observer had described the brothers as “sensitive, distant and curt with strangers, looking more like hard working rough farmers than prophets or priests of a new dispensation, have dark complexions, black hair and eyes, stiff joints, a clumsy carriage, [they] shrink from advances, and make newcomers ill at ease and unwelcome.”

The brothers were born in Chittenden, near Rutland, Vermont. According to Nandor Fodor, “In 1692, in Salem, their grandmother four times removed was sentenced to the pyre as a witch.” This was not true. Firstly no one was “sentenced to the pyre” in Salem, for New England came under the same laws as Old England in that the penalty for witchcraft was hanging, not burning at the stake. But more importantly, there was no one named Eddy charged or found guilty of witchcraft, either in Salem or anywhere in England, Scotland, or Ireland. It is, of course, possible that the report refers to a “grandmother four times removed” on the mother’s side of the family, with a name other than Eddy. Fodor’s notes come from the original published report of Henry Steele Olcott, who, in 1874, investigated the Eddy Brothers for several months, at the instigation of the New York Daily Graphic. Olcott published his report in the newspaper in fifteen installments. These were later published as a book: People From the Other World (Hartford, 1875).

Olcott, who approached his task with a somewhat skeptical mind, stayed with the Eddy family in Vermont. He learned that the two boys had exhibited mediumistic powers from an early age. Their father had initially been fanatical in his response to this, viewing their gifts as “diabolical powers.” When the boys slipped into trance, the father had poured boiling water over them in an attempt to bring them out of it. He had also tipped burning coal on their heads. Doyle records that the boys’ mother, “who was herself strongly psychic, knew how unjustly this ‘religious’ brute was acting.” Eventually, however, the father had come to realize that he could make money from the boys, as mediums. Olcott saw the evidence of the brutality that had been used on the Eddy Brothers, not just from their father but also from unprofessional investigators who used handcuffs that were too tight, hot sealing wax, and similar. Doyle observed, “The rumors of strange doings which occurred in the Eddy homestead had got abroad, and raised an excitement … Folk came from all parts to investigate.”

Although most reports concern the Eddy brothers, apparently there were also sisters in the family with similar abilities. According to Doyle, Olcott mentions, “The hands and arms of the sisters as well as the brothers were grooved with the marks of ligatures and scarred with burning sealing wax, while two of the girls had pieces of flesh pinched out by handcuffs.” Yet little else is mentioned of these siblings.

In ten weeks with the Eddy Brothers, Olcott witnessed approximately 400 materializations. The spirits were of both sexes and varied in age and appearance, height and weight, also in ethnic origin. There were even small children and babes in arms materialized. The main spirit guides were two Native Americans, Santum and Honto. Olcott was able to measure the materialized spirits, weigh them, and work freely with them. While the medium was five feet nine in height, Santum was six feet three and Honto five feet three. Olcott said that William Eddy was the main producer of materializations and that he worked inside a cabinet. His brother Horatio sat outside a simple cloth screen, rather than a full cabinet, and was always within sight. Musical instruments were played behind the screen and phantom hands showed themselves over the edge. Apparently the phenomena were much stronger when the séance was conducted in total darkness. For the majority of the sittings, however, there was “the illumination from a shaded lamp.”

Nandor reports, “Mad Indian dances shook the floor and the room resounded with yells and whoops. Olcott’s words were, ‘As an exhibition of pure brute force, this Indian dance is probably unsurpassed in the annals of such manifestations.’” The colonel also gave a list showing the range of mediumistic abilities, including “rappings, movement of objects, painting in oils and water colors under influence, prophecy, speaking strange tongues, healing, discernment of spirits, levitation, writing of messages, psychometry, clairvoyance, and finally the production of materialized forms.”

Sources:

Burr, George Lincoln: Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases: 1648–1706. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1914
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The History of Spiritualism. New York: Doran, 1926
Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
Hansen, Chadwick: Witchcraft at Salem. New York: George Braziller, 1969