Edmonds, John Worth

Edmonds, John Worth (1816–1874)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

John Worth Edmonds was born in Hudson, New York, in 1816. It has been said of him that “he is the man who has done the most to make the movement of Spiritualism the vital force and power it has become.” He was certainly the most influential early American Spiritualist.

When he was eighteen, Edmonds started studying for a legal career. In 1835, at the age of nineteen, he entered the practice of law in the office of former United States President Martin Van Buren. He went on to become a member of both branches of the State Legislature of New York, president of the Senate, and Judge of the Supreme Court of New York.

His attention was first drawn to Spiritualism in January, 1851. He was going through a period of depression at the time, reading a great deal on the subject of death and dying. He felt somewhat after many years of listening to preachers give their versions of what came after death, saying, “I did not know what to believe. I could not, if I would, believe what I did not understand, and was anxiously seeking to know, if, after death, we should again meet with those whom we had loved here, and under what circumstances.” A great outcry developed against his Spiritualist beliefs when they became known, to the point that he eventually had to resign his position as Judge of the Supreme Court of New York.

In a letter to the New York Herald, published on August 6, 1853, Edmonds said, “I went into the investigation [of Spiritualism] originally thinking it a deception, and intending to make public my exposure of it. Having from my researches come to a different conclusion, I feel that the obligation to make known the result is just as strong.” He witnessed both mental and physical mediumship and kept careful record of all he encountered. These records included 1,600 pages. He eventually developed mediumship himself and, between 1853 and 1854, with a small circle of friends, received many spirit communications. Among the spirits communicating were Emanuel Swedenborg and Roger Bacon. Edmonds published their messages in Spiritualism.

In addition to his own mediumistic encounters, Edmonds’ daughter Laura became a trance medium. She developed incredible musical powers and the gift of tongues (glossolalia). Although normally she could speak only English and a smattering of French, while entranced by Spirit she spoke a large number of different languages with great fluency: Spanish, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Latin, Hungarian. Indian dialects were also identified. These phenomena, and many others, were all very meticulously recorded by Edmonds.

John Edmonds never wavered in his beliefs nor in his advocacy of Spiritualism. He was a true champion for the cause, and he suffered dearly for it. Despite his amazing legal and political career and his even more amazing intellect, the press, and therefore the public, condemned him for his support of Spiritualism and, especially, for his support of the Fox sisters and the Rochester rappings.


Awtry-Smith, Marilyn: “They” Paved the Way. New York: Spiritualism & More, nd
Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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