Stratford, Connecticut

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Stratford, Connecticut

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In 1850, Stratford, Connecticut, was the scene of poltergeist phenomena. It started on March 10 of that year and continued for eight months, all at the home of Rev. Dr. Eliakim Phelps, a Presbyterian minister named.

As with most poltergeist occurrences, the phenomena seemed to center around a young child. In this case it was an eleven-year-old boy named Harry, one of four children in the house. In one instance, Harry’s bed burst into flames; at another time his school books were destroyed; at another time his clothes were torn to shreds. Rapping was heard. Andrew Jackson Davis visited the house and commented that the raps were produced by electricity discharging from Harry. He said, “Young Harry frequently failed to discriminate during certain moments of mental agitation between the sounds and effects which he himself made and those sounds which were produced by spiritual presence.”

Letters to the New Haven Journal, written by Phelps’s neighbors, reported on the case. Initially various objects in the home were displaced while the family was at church. Then, on the family’s return, objects would start to fly about the house. Many things in the house were broken due to this poltergeist activity. One of the most peculiar occurrences was the appearance of what have been described as “curious, stuffed effigies.” A letter in the New Haven Journal said, “They were all female figures … Some of the figures were kneeling beside the beds, and some bending their faces to the floor in attitudes of deep humility. In the center of the group was a dwarf, most grotesquely arrayed; and above was a figure so suspended as to seem flying through the air.” These effigies sometimes appeared in a room that had been locked and at a time when it was known no one had been there. The letter concluded that the whole assembly “was most beautiful and picturesque, and had a grace and ease and speaking effect that seemed the attributes of a higher creation.”

Another time Rev. Phelps was writing, alone at his desk, when he turned away for a brief moment. When he turned back he found that a sheet of paper that had been blank was now covered with strange writing, with the ink still wet. This came to be the start of spirit correspondences, many of which came in hieroglyphs. The majority of the phenomena has never been explained.


Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
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