Hull, Moses

Hull, Moses (1835–1907)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Moses Hull was born January 16, 1835, near Norton, Ohio. He was a second-born twin, his brother Aaron being born ten minutes before he was. According to his mother, Aaron lived only “two years, two months, two weeks, and two days.” Moses was the seventh child of a seventh son. His father was James Hull; his mother Mary Brundage. The Hulls had sixteen children.

Hull was very sickly as a child, suffering a wide variety of diseases including two attacks of typhoid-pneumonia. When he was four years old the family moved to the Native American Reservation in the wilds of Wabash County. There were no schools there so Hull was educated, as he later put it, “at the hoe handle.” His entire formal education consisted of less than eighteen months schooling. Before leaving school at fourteen, he “got religion,” as he put it, and joined a “mongrel” church made up mainly of Methodists.

Hull had a thirst for knowledge. He became an Adventist and attended regular prayer meetings. From the circuit preacher, Rev. John Todd, he received a paper allowing him to “improve his talent” as en exhorter. He said in The Greatest Debate (1904), “I became an Adventist during a bitter fight between everybody else and the Adventists. I immediately felt the ‘call’ to go and preach, which I did. I was ordained before I was eighteen years old.” He worked six days per week and preached on Sundays and occasional weekday evenings, becoming known as “the boy preacher.”

Feeling the need for education, Hull studied English, Latin, and even Greek Grammars. This planted the seed for what was to come in Hull’s future. He said, “Measuring myself by my lost opportunities, or, rather by the opportunities I never had, has made me a crank on the subject of education. I hope to leave behind me, as a monument, a school where honest young men and women, whether they have money or not, can go and get such an education as I shall never have until I shall have graduated from some of the colleges on the other side of life.”

He continued studying everywhere he could, asking help from anyone who would give it. He never in his life took a vacation; never took off a single day. He developed a flair for discussion and the Adventists pushed him to participate in any and all that came along. He became their champion speaker. Unfortunately, Hull became so adept at picking to pieces the arguments of others that he picked to pieces the arguments of the Adventists as well. He said, “I began to see the weakness of their arguments, and gradually to overthrow even my own arguments, which had at one time seemed to me invulnerable.” Finally, in a discussion with a Methodist preacher, Rev. Joseph Jones, in June, 1862, he began to hear voices clairaudiently which questioned the points he was trying to make. The voices stated points that Hull could neither answer nor forget. Later, when alone, he responded to the voices with, “Get behind me, Satan; I will not tolerate you.” Back came the reply, “You pray for light, and when it comes, you call it Satan and ask it to go to the rear … You are a coward; when a thought comes to you for your good, you order it to the rear.” His preaching brethren assured Hull that he was indeed pursued by the devil. He asked them some of the questions that the voices had put to him, and they were unable to answer them. They preached to him and prayed for him.

Hull was scheduled to debate with Professor William F. Jamieson, an Adventist preacher and Secretary of the National Liberal Party of Cincinnati, Ohio; the debate to be held in Paw Paw, Michigan, in October 1862. The debate was on Spiritualism. Hull eagerly looked forward to it, feeling that in some way it would resolve his inner conflicts. He found Jamieson to be a worthy opponent and, in fact, the two became fast friends, the friendship lasting more than forty years. The two debated six sessions and turned out to be the factor that brought Hull to Spiritualism. He said, “When I returned home from that debate with the word that both the phenomena and philosophy of Spiritualism looked more like the truth to me than ever before, my good Adventist brethren cried and prayed over me; they pleaded hard for me to remain with them.” Hull did, in fact, stay several more months but finally said, “I could stand it no longer; I must have my freedom; I turned my back upon every prospect in life and proclaimed myself a Spiritualist. Though starvation seemed to stare me, my wife, and my four little daughters in the face, I was a free and happy man.”

From then on Hull would speak whenever and wherever he could, invariably with no remuneration. He gradually lost money till he “was stripped of all except wife and babies.” Yet he gradually became very popular as a lecturer and debater. Then came the episode with Victoria C. Woodhill, the Spiritualist medium who ran for President of the United States and who inspired Susan B. Anthony. Woodhill was jailed and Hull, a good friend of hers, took it upon himself to, as he put it, “draw the enemy’s fire.” This he did so well that he spent the next several years fighting his own battles but relieving the problems of Victoria Woodhill.

Moses Hull wrote a number of books including The Encyclopedia of Biblical Spiritualism, Joan the Medium, and The Spiritual Birth or Death and Its Tomorrow. He pressed for education in Spiritualist teachers, saying, “Every one who aspires to be a teacher in Spiritualism, before he appears before the public, should have character, education and devotion to the cause sufficient to enable him to build up societies and keep them alive.” Hull felt so strongly that he founded a small school at Maple Dell Park in Mantua, Ohio. Soon Rev. A. J. Weaver, a lifelong educator, joined him and they moved the school to Lily Dale, New York. Hull’s second wife, Mattie, formed the nucleus of the teachers with Mrs. Alfarata Jahnke and Rev. Weaver. By 1901, Morris Pratt of Whitewater, Wisconsin, became interested enough to give them a fine college building and the Morris Pratt College was opened with Moses Hull as its President. Hull also became pastor of the first Spiritual Church of Buffalo, and president of the New York State Association of Spiritualists. He died on January 14, 1907, at age seventy-one.


Awtry-Smith, Marilyn: “They” Paved the Way. New York: Spiritualism & More, nd
Hull, Rev. Moses and Prof. W. F. Jamieson: The Greatest Debate Within a Half Century Upon Modern Spiritualism. Chicago: Progressive Thinker, 1904
Victoria Woodhull Biography:
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