Monck, Rev. Francis Ward

Monck, Rev. Francis Ward

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Rev. Francis Ward Monck gave up his career as a minister of the Baptist Chapel at Earls Barton, England, in order to become a professional medium and had a checkered career in Spiritualism. He was lauded by well known figures in psychical research but also was exposed as fraudulent and spent three months in prison. He recovered from the experience and went on to give many séances witnessed by prominent people. He also performed many healings, becoming known as “Dr.” Monck, although he had no medical credentials. This caused some protests from those in the medical profession.

Monck claimed to have had psychic experiences as a child, which increased in intensity as he grew. He started his Spiritualist career in 1873, announcing himself to be a medium. Two years later he toured Britain to demonstrate his powers. He healed the sick in Ireland, and in London convinced William Stainton Moses, Hensleigh Wedgewood (Darwin’s brother-in-law), and Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace of his gifts. He gave materialization séances in broad daylight and also produced many slate writings, drawing a great deal of attention to himself. Monck rarely used a cabinet in his séances, instead standing in full view. Sometimes he would go into trance but not always.

On November 3, 1876, in the town of Huddersfield, a stage magician named Lodge suddenly stopped the séance by demanding that Monck be searched. Monck apparently panicked, ran from the room and locked himself in another room, from which he escaped by way of the window. A pair of stuffed gloves was found in his room. Sir William Barrett wrote of “a piece of white muslin on a wire frame with a thread attached being used by the medium to simulate a partially materialized spirit.” Monck was taken to trial. Wallace spoke up on his behalf, describing a materialization he had witnessed that he said “could not be produced by any trick.” However, the court found Monck guilty and sentenced him to three months imprisonment.

Almost a year later, on September 25, 1877, Monck gave a séance at which his two spirit guides, Samuel and Mahedi, produced materializations witnessed by Archdeacon Colley, who had been abroad at the time of Monck’s trial and subsequent imprisonment. Colley published an account of the sitting, stating that he had been less than a yard away from the medium throughout the proceedings and had initially seen various faces form about Monck’s body and then had witnessed “a full formed figure, in a nebulous condition at first, but growing more solid as it issued from the medium, left Dr. Monck and stood a separate individuality, two or three feet off, bound to him by a slender attachment as of gossamer, which at my request Samuel, the control, severed with the medium’s left hand, and there stood embodied a spirit form of unutterable loveliness, robed in attire spirit-spun—a meshy web-work from no mortal loom, of a fleeciness inimitable, and of transfiguration whiteness truly glistening.” The archdeacon was so sure of his facts that he offered a prize of 1,000 pounds to the great stage magician J. N. Maskelyne if he could reproduce the same effects. Maskelyne tried, but according to the archdeacon, fell far short of the Monck exhibition. Maskelyne sued for the money but lost the case in court, thereby also losing much prestige.

In 1905, Archdeacon Colley published detailed accounts of his many examinations of Monck, stating, “I publish these things for the first time, having meditated over them in silence for twenty-eight years, giving my word as a clergyman for things which imperil my ecclesiastical position and my future advancement.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said of Monck, “Of all mediums none is more difficult to appraise, for on the one hand many of his results are beyond all dispute, while in a few there seems to be an absolute certainty of dishonesty.” The latter part of his life Monck concentrated on healing, spending much time in New York.

Sources:

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The History of Spiritualism. New York: Doran, 1926
Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933