The Mediumship of George Spriggs
George Spriggs (1850-1912) is rightly designated as a
'powerful English materialisation medium' by Fodor.1 The first
records made of his mediumship began in the 1870s, being witnessed at 'the
Circle of Light' in Cardiff.
George worked as a non-professional medium at the circle, this having been
formed by Rees Lewis in 1875. The circle enjoyed spectacular results and may
have possibly been linked to the arduous routine adopted by its members; this
included a vegetarian diet, abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, and fasting on
the day of the seance: a special room was also set aside for the seances.
Possibly more relevant was that the circle was, according to Lewis, 'physically,
intellectually and morally good';2 the members saw their activity
more as a sacred service than an attempt to simply commune with 'the other
Until George joined the circle, there had been limited to table- turning;
however, when he participated, dramatic phenomena began. The first indications
of his mediumship were the occurrences of automatic writing and clairvoyance;
these were followed by the appearance of a luminous cloud in the seance room
that signalled greater things would soon follow. And indeed they did, with full
materializations joining the circle and speaking to the sitters; on occasions,
as many as twelve materialized persons would appear during one seance: in this
time, George was also visible. Furthermore, seances could be conducted when,
'the light at times streamed in, permeating every corner of the room, and
falling on the form of the spirit'.3
Most people acquainted with this type of phenomena and communication are aware
that a negative, or even a disbelieving nature reduces the degree of quality.
While this in itself attracts criticism, the reality of the situation has been
noted time and time again. Robertson noted that the Cardiff circle were
disinterested in any scientific testing because: 'They had the evidence of their
eyes, their ears, and their hands. The faces of those they had known, the voices
they knew of old, were sufficient for them'.4
This does not mean everything has to be accepted at face value with blind faith:
this attitude is, and has always been quite alien to authentic Spiritualism; but
the fact remains that a positive stance does assist in quality communication,
and having received this, it may then be evaluated accordingly. In the upshot,
it can be seen that the right attitude secures the best results, and the Cardiff
Circle was a very apt example of this.
It has often been observed that in most cases, materializations are confined to
appearing within a certain distance of the medium. However, George's mediumship
differed in this respect as those who materialized could function at some
distance from him, e.g. walking about the property and even into the garden.
Robertson recorded how the next-world visitors, 'would come out of the
sitting-room into the hall and show themselves in good light. They would ascend
a short flight of stairs, open the doors of the rooms, and enter them'.5
In one case, Lewis was accompanied by a materialization, holding his arm, as he
walked downstairs, a distance of about fifty feet. In the midst of such
activities, a direct voice could also sometimes be heard. One of the more
amusing aspects of George's mediumship was that in the case of spirits going out
into the garden, this upset the religious neighbours who saw and heard them, and
threatened to call the police. An interesting feature of the materializations
facilitated by George was that a form would change into another person without
having to dematerialize, and the second visitor was spared having to go through
the process of appearing from a basic form. The argument that the materialized
forms were simply George undergoing transfiguration was shown to be incorrect as
he could be seen when the figures joined the circle and then dematerialized in
front of the sitters. A record was kept, detailing those who attended and what
had occurred, and Lewis wrote about the events that were witnessed, e.g. in
Light in 1886.
In 1880, George travelled to Melbourne, Australia; before he left, he asked
Lewis to demonstrate his own survival after he died, and if possible, in a
lighted environment. On arriving in Australia, George continued to produce the
same type of phenomena that had been witnessed in Cardiff. An editor who
attended fifty of George's seances testified that he recognized associates who
had died. After many months of not hearing from Lewis, George was outside his
home one afternoon in the bright Australian sunshine and felt his clothing being
pulled; on turning around he recognized his friend, Rees Lewis: Lewis had died a
week earlier. He had kept his promise.
Another instance that demonstrated George's remarkable mediumship was the case
of three teenagers who had drowned while sailing. Hugh Junor Browne, the father
of two of them, went to George seeking information after they had not returned
home. George, not knowing anything about the circumstances, went into trance and
told Browne there had been trouble at sea, and described the movements of the
boat and advised that it had foundered.
During seances on the following two days, George was controlled by all three
boys who confirmed what had been said earlier. Three weeks later, the remains of
one of Browne's sons were recovered from the sea; amongst them was the boy's
watch and this had stopped at the very time that George had said the ship had
foundered. Fortunately, Browne was a Spiritualist, and the boys were acquainted
with its teachings and testified to how their knowledge had assisted them in
their transition. In fact, 'the lads made their materialised appearance once or
twice a week, and the father and others recognized them distinctly, and were
cheered by the messages they gave'.6
Meads, a prominent worker and speaker for Spiritualism in its early days, once
attended a meeting arranged in honour of the American medium, Mrs Wallace, and
was seated next to George during the events. While one of the speeches was being
made, Meads became aware of 'faint rappings' on the platform. On commenting upon
this to George, he calmly replied that he had not only heard them, but seen the
next- world visitor responsible. Meads added that on meeting George, he had
'formed a very favourable impression of his sincerity and honesty'.8
George's abilities for materialization had faded by 1886, although he continued
with his work of healing. Many testified to their recovery through his
intervention. Meads also made mention of George's abilities in this respect
saying that he doubted, 'if any medium had surpassed him in diagnosing disease'.
Furthermore, 'he asked no questions, but carefully avoided the subject of
health';9 in fact, George was quite ignorant of health matters, but
having passed into a trance state, he would locate the area causing concern and
prescribe a suitable cure.
After several visits to England, George returned in 1900 and resided in London;
he was then involved in establishing the Psycho Therapeutic Society in 1901 that
sought to heal, by psychic treatments, through a 'society where those who needed
it could get free treatment'. Here, he continued to give his services, making no
charge, for those who required them. Writing before George died in 1912,
Robertson said that having met him, he had 'a generous, happy, cheerful,
healthful nature', and 'if there are souls needing help, his powers are ever at
1N. Fodor, Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science (London: Arthurs Press,
2Ct., W. L. Curnow, The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism
(Manchester: Two Worlds Publishing, 1925), p.95.
3J. Robertson, Spiritualism (London: Fowler and Co, 1908), p.342.
4Robertson, Ibid., p.341.
5Robertson, Op. Cit., p.343.
6Robertson, Op. Cit., p.349.
7International Psychic Gazette, November 1916, p.38.
8E. C. Meads, The White Lotus (London: Unicorn Press), p.3.
9Meads, Ibid., p.17.
10Robertson, Op. Cit., p.351.