Williams, Charles

Williams, Charles

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Charles Williams was an English materialization medium who often sat with William Stainton Moses. Apparently Moses was in some doubt as to the genuineness of Williams’ phenomena. In 1871, Williams joined forces with Frank Herne and together they presented some notable séances. The two of them began demonstrating at 61 Lamb’s Conduit Street, London, and worked with a spirit guide who claimed to be a deceased buccaneer named John King. (In later years their protégée Florence Cook worked with King’s daughter, Katie King.) Initially the pair produced rappings and table tipping, but when the lights were lowered their repertoire increased to include spirit voices, the touches of spirit hands, spirit lights, flowers and musical instruments floating in the air, and the movement of furniture. Their early séances were sponsored by Agnes Nichol Guppy (the very lady they were later to apport).

Psychical researcher Frank Podmore seemed unimpressed by the performances of Herne and Williams. He stated, “The sittings were nearly always held in the dark, or under illumination so faint as to preclude any possibility of accurate observation; active investigation on the part of any too curious sitters was discouraged by the linking of hands; suspicious sounds were drowned by the noise of the musical box or by the request on the part of the ’spirits’ that all present should join in singing, so as to promote the harmony of the circle … Finally, the phenomena presented under such conditions were as a rule palpably within the capacity of any fairly active and intelligent mortal who had acquired with practice some manual dexterity.” In 1875, Mr. St. George Stock attempted to expose Herne but later, in 1877, wrote to The Spiritualist and apologized for the part he played in the attempted exposure.

In 1878, the Research Committee of the British National Association of Spiritualists constructed a cabinet with an automatic recording apparatus in it. During the séance, a spirit form appeared sometimes ten or twelve feet away from the cabinet. These appearances corresponded with fluctuations in the recording apparatus, with the medium registering a loss of weight as much as 100 pounds. A few months after this, in Amsterdam, Williams and a fellow medium, A. Rita, were exposed. They were caught with yards of white muslin, a false beard, brown silk ribbon, and a bottle of phosphorized oil.

Sources:

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The History of Spiritualism. New York: Doran, 1926
Podmore, Frank: Modern Spiritualism. London: 1902; reprinted as Mediums of the Nineteenth Century. New York: University Books, 1963
Shepard, Leslie A: Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. New York: Avon Books, 1978
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