Writing, Slate

Writing, Slate

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Slate writing was very common in the early days of Spiritualism. It is a form of direct spirit writing, as opposed to automatic writing which is done using the medium’s hand. In slate writing, the writing appears without any physical contact with medium or sitters. It is sometimes termed “autography.” The slates used for slate writing were pieces of rectangular slate set into a wooden frame, the same as the regular slates commonly used in schools many years ago. Today, a slate (or a pair of slates bound together) is placed in the center of the séance room and left there until the end of the sitting. A small piece of chalk, or slate pencil, may or may not be placed on the slate, or between the two slates. At the end of the séance, the slate is examined and may be found to have writing chalked onto it by a spirit.

Nandor Fodor described the older method, saying, “The medium and the sitter take their seats at opposite ends of a small table, each grasping a corner of an ordinary school slate, which they thus hold firmly pressed against the underside of the table. A small fragment of slate pencil is first enclosed between slate and table, for the use of the supposed spirit-writer. Should the séance be successful, a scratching sound, as of someone writing on a slate, is heard at the end of a few moments, three loud raps indicate the conclusion of the message, and on the withdrawal of the slate, it is found to be partly covered with writing—either a general message from the spirit world, or an answer to some question previously written down by the sitter.”

One of the best known mediums who specialized in slate writing was the American Henry Slade. He did slate writing and other phenomena for nearly twenty years, impressing William Stainton Moses and skeptic Frank Podmore. Other slate writing mediums included William Eglinton, Rev. Francis Ward Monck, and Mrs. Laura Pruden. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was very favorably impressed by Mrs. Pruden, as were psychical investigators Hereward Carrington and Harry Price, and the American Society for Psychical Research.

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