Guppy-Volckman, Agnes Nichol

Guppy-Volckman, Agnes Nichol (d. 1917)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Born in England, Agnes Nichol began exhibiting signs of psychism and mediumship whilst still a small child. She saw apparitions and caused rappings to occur. Her abilities developed as she grew, and by the time she was in her twenties she had become a notable physical medium. She was able to demonstrate levitation, apports, independent music, table tipping and movement, psychokinesis, and more.

She was “discovered” by Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace (the famous naturalist and, with Darwin, co-discoverer of the principles of evolution) in November 1866, about a year after Wallace started his serious investigation of Spiritualism. Wallace encountered Agnes Nichol at the house of his sister, Mrs. Sims. At that sitting the medium—who even at that age was large and stout—was lifted and placed on the séance-room table, while still sitting in her chair. At another sitting with Wallace, the room was filled with anemones, tulips, chrysanthemums, Chinese primroses, and several ferns. Wallace said, “All were absolutely fresh as if just gathered from a conservatory. They were covered with a fine cold dew. Not a petal was crumpled or broken, not the most delicate point or pinnule of the ferns was out of place.”

In 1867, Agnes Nichol married Samuel Guppy, a very rich widower, and they lived in various parts of Europe before returning to England in 1870. When Samuel Guppy died, she remarried and became Agnes Guppy-Volkman. At one notable séance one of the sitters requested of Mrs. Guppy that a sunflower be apported. It arrived over six feet tall and with a huge clump of earth still clinging to it. At another séance, the Duchess d’Arpino asked for some sand from the sea. Instantly sand, sea water, and a star fish were deposited on the séance table! The Princess Marguerite at Naples just thought about a prickly cactus and more than twenty dropped onto the table and had to be removed with tongs. One time dozens of butterflies descended from the ceiling, another time it was a shower of feathers. Live eels, lobsters, stinging nettles, foul-smelling flowers all were apported on various occasions.

Frank Podmore, who assumed that most mediums were frauds hoping to make money, said, “Mrs. Guppy, even during the few months in which, as Miss Nichol, she practiced as a professional Mesmerist, can scarcely have found her main incentive in the hope of gain. On the assumption of fraud, the mere cost of the flowers lavished on her sitters must have swallowed up any probable profit from her increased mesmeric clientele. And even such a motive would have ceased with her marriage.” Later séances were conducted by Mrs. Guppy in full light but the earlier ones were in darkness. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said she “showed powers which in some directions have never been surpassed.”

On one occasion Mrs. Guppy herself became an apport. The two mediums, Charles Williams and Frank Herne, specialized in apport séances. At one of their sittings someone jokingly suggested that they should apport Mrs. Guppy, who lived only a short distance from their séance room in High Holborn, London. This suggestion was greeted with laughter since Mrs. Guppy was a very large woman. But within a matter of minutes, a very large figure suddenly appeared, with a thump, on the top of the table. It was Mrs. Guppy, wearing a dressing gown, holding a pen wet with ink, and looking very startled. (see Apports)


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