Ford, Arthur Augustus

Ford, Arthur Augustus (1897–1971)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Arthur Augustus Ford was born on January 8, 1897, in Titusville, Florida. At that time it was a tiny town with a population of about three hundred. He had three siblings. His father, a steamboat captain, was an Episcopalian who seldom attended church; his mother was an ardent southern Baptist. As a child, Arthur Ford was increasingly skeptical of church teachings—especially on Heaven and Hell—his independent thinking fired by meetings and discussions with a number of Unitarians. At age sixteen he was excommunicated from the Baptist church. Despite this, he decided he wanted to become a minister and studied for that at Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky. Ford’s chosen affiliation was with the Disciples of Christ, but his studies were interrupted by World War I. In 1917, he was stationed at Camp Grant in Sheridan, Illinois.

In 1918, a great flu epidemic raged across the country and struck the Camp Grant area especially hard. Every night soldiers died of influenza. One night Ford dreamed that he had been handed a sheet of paper on which were written the names of those who were to die that night. The names were written in large, clear letters. The following morning the daily camp bulletin list of dead matched Ford’s dream list. This continued for several days to the point where his buddies shunned him as a harbinger of death. He quickly learned to keep his knowledge to himself.

After the war, Ford returned to his studies and was able to review these dreams with a friendly professor, Dr. Elmer Snoddy. Snoddy told Ford of many current studies in America and England, by such people as Henry Sidgwick, Sir Oliver Lodge, Dr. William James, and Frederick Myers. The professor assured Ford that he was a rare and gifted medium. He encouraged Ford to develop his gifts and use them to help others. This helped Ford adjust and he actively sought out people whom he felt might be able to help him. He went to New York in 1921 and spoke with Gertrude Tubby, the secretary of the American Society for Psychical Research. She arranged for him to meet with Dr. Franklin Pierce and with other more practiced mediums.

In 1922, at twenty-five years of age, Ford became an ordained minister and was appointed to a church in Barbourville, Kentucky. That year he also married Sallie Stewart. Shortly after, Dr. Paul Pearson persuaded Ford to give a series of lectures in New England in 1924. This was the start of his career as a platform medium. The lectures were a great success and Ford traveled on the lecture circuit. Sallie did not go with him; they became estranged and divorced.

In 1924, Ford’s spirit guide Fletcher made himself known. Ford was advised by swami Paramahansa Yogananda, who had great influence on him. Gradually Ford increased his public readings and was soon traveling the globe. During a visit to England, Ford impressed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with his abilities.

Ford, Arthur Augustus

Ford is perhaps best known for his breaking of the “Houdini code.” When Harry Houdini (Ehrich Weiss) died he left a message with his wife Beatrice. Houdini spent many years unmasking fraudulent mediums and told Beatrice that only a true medium would be able to give her his message. Many tried but it wasn’t until Arthur Ford who succeeded. Ford gave Beatrice the message “Rosabelle, believe,” which was done in the long, complicated code which the two Houdinis had used in a vaudeville act they had done many years before. This made Ford world famous.

In 1930, Ford was involved in an auto accident which killed his sister and a friend. Ford was hospitalized with slim chance of recovery. The attending physician gave injudicious amounts of morphine to him, so much so that when he finally recovered from the accident, many months later, he found he was addicted. Going “cold turkey,” Ford managed to break the habit only to become addicted to alcohol instead. In 1938, Ford married his second wife, Valerie McKeown, an English widow. They settled in Hollywood, California.

With alcoholism, Ford began to miss lecture appointments and even his guide, Fletcher, disappeared. His health deteriorated and finally Valerie divorced him. In 1949, Ford had a breakdown, but was finally able to recover through Alcoholics Anonymous. Despite this he never fully gave up drinking. In 1950, Fletcher returned and Ford was able to resume his mediumship. Ford founded several organizations, among them Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship which he started in 1956. In 1967, he held a televised séance with Bishop James A. Pike, whose twenty-year-old son had committed suicide the previous year. Ford provided what seemed to be evidence of contact with the son.

During the last twenty years of his life, Ford suffered several heart attacks. Each time, until the last, it seemed that there was someone on hand—or inexplicably drawn to the scene—who was able to summon the necessary help. Ford died on January 4, 1971.


Buckland, Raymond: Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communications. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 2004
Shepard, Leslie A: Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. New York: Avon Books, 1978
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