Charles Bailey

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Bailey, Charles

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Charles Bailey was a bootmaker who became one of the most famous apport mediums of his time. His first public appearance was in 1889. His spirit guide was named Abdul. Bailey traveled around the world and opened himself to all sorts of tests to prove his mediumship. He cooperated with virtually everyone who wanted to investigate his mediumship. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was very impressed with him, to the point where he said he had “no confidence” in a claimed exposure of the medium.

Through his guide Abdul, Bailey apported such items as live fish, crabs and turtles, live birds sitting on eggs in their nests, rare antiques and coins, a stone from beneath the sea still dripping with salt water, a human skull, and ancient clay cylinders with Babylonian inscriptions. Many apports produced by Bailey, for his sponsor Thomas Welton Stanford, are now to be seen at the Leland Stanford University in California.

Although Bailey was suspected of fraud on a number of occasions, he was usually able to explain away any seeming irregularities. Doyle said that “Bailey’s own account is that he was the victim of a religious conspiracy, and in view of his long record of success it is more probable than that he should, in some mysterious way, have smuggled a live bird into a séance room in which he knew that he would be stripped and examined.” Doyle backed up his confidence in the medium in his historical work The History of Spiritualism. In that book he describes a séance with Bailey:

“We then placed Mr. Bailey in the corner of the room, lowered the lights without turning them out, and waited. Almost at once he breathed very heavily, as one in a trance, and soon said something in a foreign tongue … the voice then said that he was a Hindoo [sic] control who was used to bring apports for the medium, and that he would, he hoped, be able to bring one for us. “Here it is,” he said, a moment later, and the medium’s hand was extended with something in it. The light was turned full on and we found it was a very perfect bird’s nest, beautifully constructed of some very fine fibre mixed with moss. It stood about two inches high and had no sign of any flattening which would have come with concealment. The size would be nearly three inches across. In it lay a small egg, white, with tiny brown speckles.”

The guide went on to explain that it came from India and that the bird was the Jungle Sparrow.

Bailey underwent a long series of tests in Milan. Without his knowledge, some of the investigators—nine business men and doctors—secretly spied on him in his bedroom. In the course of seventeen sittings with the medium, they could find no flaw in his performances, even though for some of them he was placed in a sack. The investigation lasted from February to April, 1904.


Awtry-Smith, Marilyn: “They” Paved the Way. New York: Spiritualism & More, nd
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The History of Spiritualism. New York: Doran, 1926
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