So an Irishman Walks Into a Medium….

The shamrock apports

The shamrock apports from the seance described below.

Since it is Saint Patrick’s Day, I debated about posting another snake story, but settled instead on this tale of a séance-room shamrock apport, which introduces us to Dr. Thomas d’Aute Hooper, a physician with a thriving practice in Birmingham, England, and part-time medium. He was said by the author of the piece below to be a “strong Magnetic healer although he has lost his left leg and can only walk about by means of a crutch.” Hooper was also “very emphatic in refusing the slightest fee for his services in connection with his mediumship.” He worked with the Crewe Circle, producing direct voice manifestations and spirit photographs of the usual dubious variety, including one of a group of what look to be photographs of actresses or professional beauties. “The Ven. Archdeacon Colley [instigator of the photographic session] has not stated whether he recognizes the psychic figures. This is a matter of secondary importance in view of the test conditions and the interesting material in the other five psychographs.” [See Photographing the Invisible: Practical Studies in Spirit Photography, James Coates on Google books for illustrations of the Hooper psychographs.]  In a publication called Spirit Psychometry and Trance Communications by Unseen Agencies through a Welsh Woman and Dr. T. d’Aute Hooper (1914), the medium investigated psychometry.

Hooper had a coterie of spirit guides, including “Segaske,” (Rising Sun), a Native American, “Ajax,” a dead Chicago preacher, a female spirit called “Violetta,” an unnamed Indian fakir who spoke Hindustani, and, as we will see, a comic stage-Irishman, “Pat.” The author of the piece below wrote with probably unconscious ambiguity: “Spirits claiming to be of many different nationalities make use of the trumpet, but generally speaking there is a ‘sameness’ of tone, due possibly to all of them speaking through the same trumpet and obtaining their power from the same source.”

The following is a verbatim account of a very remarkable ‘apport,’ written by Dr. Hooper. He, himself, was in trance; but when he awoke, the ‘shamrock,’ really Dutch clover (trifolium repens, or creeping trefoil), was on the table with its wet earth and wriggling worms. Of course he received the information from the sitters of the circle present; and I am permitted to give their names in full, as all are ready to vouch for the accuracy of the details.

At the usual weekly séance there were present Mrs. Warner, Miss Warner, Miss Grey, Miss Reeve Mr. H. Bailey, Dr. d’Aute Hooper (the medium) and his wife. The séance was opened by singing a hymn and an Invocation under the control of Ajax. After singing another hymn, Ajax asked for a subject upon which to give an address; the subject being given by Miss Reeves, a visitor, Ajax gave his address of about 45 minutes duration. When Ajax departed, the medium was controlled by Violetta, a spirit well-known to the members of the circle; and after a general talk to each of the sitters, taking about twelve minutes, she left control of the medium, when Pat put in an appearance in his well-known jocular manner. He greeted each in their turn, giving a few words of advice, mostly helpful.

When he came to Mrs. Warner, she asked him when he was ‘going to bring the shamrock with the roots as he promised.’ It should be stated that on previous occasions he had brought pieces of shamrock to the sitters at the séances before St. Patrick’s Day. The sitters wanted a piece with the root to grow; which he had promised to bring some time. ‘Oh! Is it shamrock you are after wanting? Why don’t you get some cement, brickends, and clinckers? You can then make heaps of shamrock,’ he replied.

The sitters remonstrated with him for not keeping his promise. ‘Well,’ he said ‘the atmospheric conditions are favourable. I’ll see me friend and see if he’ll help me to get it.’

He left the medium, still in a trance, for a few minutes, when Segaske, the Red Indian Medicine man, controlled and greeted the sitters with: ‘Good Morre, Pale-Face Brave and his squaw (referring to Mr. and Mrs. Bailey), you sing, join hands me bring much big magic.

The sitters joined hands, including those of the medium. Miss Warner held the medium’s right hand and Mrs. Warner the left. We commenced to sing a hymn with a ‘swing’ to it. The medium being still in a trance, a sensation of a cool breeze was felt by all sitters, which gradually increased until quite a cold sweeping wind was felt; and the sitters felt as if they were sitting up to their knees in cold water; while a pulsating throb was felt pressing through all the sitters.

The hymn was finished. Segaske peremptorily said: ‘Sing, sing, and hold hands tight! ‘Singing was commenced again, and the psychic wind was very intense. Mrs. Warner suddenly exclaimed: ‘I felt water sprinkled on me.’ The others said: ‘So did I.’ Segaske exclaimed: ‘Right Done!’ and gave a gruff laugh and departed.

Pat then again took control and said he hoped they would be satisfied with the root he had brought, There were several leaves with four leaflets on them, and he ‘hoped they would not quarrel over the division of the root.’ He wished them ‘Good Night,’ after singing the closing hymn.

The sitters were feverishly awaiting the gas to be lit. When lighted, there was seen to be a fairly large root of shamrock, all wet and glistening, also black mud-like earth with several live worms crawling on the table, and where the clump fell was a dirty patch on the table-cover. (No. 2) is a small portion of the plant, preserved and dried by Mr. Bailey who kindly gave it to me.

The clump was examined by all sitters and quite a number of four-bladed leaves were discovered. The root was divided; all those present except Mr. Bailey, planted theirs. The several portions of the plant were reported as doing well, until the blizzard in March (1916), when they perished.

It should be noted that the day had been keen and cold; frost at night; and upon such nights physical phenomena are more successfully produced. The soil that adhered to the plant was, when wet, almost coal-black. The soil around Birmingham being of a sand or clay nature.

Mrs. d’Aute Hooper asked Pat where he got the Shamrock from? He replied ‘Connemara.’

The séance was held in darkness, except from the light of the fire, which enabled every movement of the sitters to be seen.

The Proofs of Spirit Forces, Rev. Prof. George Henslow, M.A. 1920

Just as most mediums had a Native American control or spirit guide, Irish guides were also hugely popular. They were the “comic relief” of the séance room with their stage-Irishman accents and their clowning. The passage that follows gives a typical specimen.

Daniel O’Brien.

46. It frequently occurs that the circle become a little lethargic, or too intently fix their minds on the phenomena; and it seems these controls have procured the presence of this witty Irish spirit to relieve the intense thought of the circle, break up the monotony, and place the circle in a less positive condition.

(a) This Irishman, too, makes an incontrovertible, self-evident, astounding test of the claims of genuine materialization set up here, to any person of common sense who is permitted to witness and hear his performance.

(b) In this instance this Irish spirit rushed out of the cabinet, seized the trumpet, held it up to his mouth as a bugler would, and in loud and almost deafening tones of voice of genuine Irish brogue, spoke through the trumpet, engaging with the different members of the circle in mirthfulness, laughter, joking, and repartee, certainly the equivalent of the most expert clown or ringmaster; and finally turned to Mr. Pratt, with whom, it seems, he was acquainted some fifty-five years ago, thus:

Spirit: “Say, Mr. Pratt, this is a great thrick ye’ve got here, a very great thrick, and shure it is, surr. This is the happiest toime uv me loife.

(c) “Say, Mr. Secretary, what be yese doin’? Why don’t ye take down moi spache, Oi do’ know?”

Secretary: “Mr. O’Brien, I am not enough Irish to get your talk on paper as fast as you reel it off.”

(d) Spirit: “Yis, yis. Oi ’m a great unwinder of the Irish brogue, but, ye see, though Oi unwind iver so fast, Oi niver git it thwisted. It cooms to yese all unwound without thwists or knots. It sames thet yese moight report some uv it onnyway.” (And just here the ladies of the circle could restrain their laughter no longer, and turned their laughter loose at full volume. The more they laughed, the louder and faster the Irishman talked.).

(e) Spirit: “Oh, yis, dear ladie [aside: “Oi used to say ‘swate ladies’ ”], Oi was always in high glee among the ladies, joking and jisting and they would laugh so heartily at me, it seemed sometimes jist loike they would enjoy being hooped up a little, jist; and that’s the rasin the ladies had sich a loikin’ to me: Oi had the cooper’s thrade to perfection.” And the form fell to pieces, vanished, and the trumpet fell to the floor with a great noise, and all else had vanished except the merriment of the circle at this exquisite Irish episode.  

The stereotypical Pat or Mike of snappy dialect stories and stage burlesques was the model for these raucous spirit-guides.

And Daniel O’Brien seized the trumpet and through it, as usual, in very loud and almost deafening tones. saluted the circle, both in general and individually; and while the Irish spirit was standing before the circle at repartee with different members of the circle, he said something that gave the trance control Sam an opportunity to twit the Irishman, in broken German-English, the Irishman outside the cabinet and the Dutchman on the inside, engaged at rivalry in repartee, vying in witticisms which grow in rapidity and earnestness, Irish and German, until both blaze away at once at each other, and simultaneously, each trying to talk the other down, and the whole circle hilarious with merriment at the oddity of the affair. Finally the Irishman, as though he would have a personal tussle with Sam. dropped the trumpet and hastily went into the cabinet, and Sam called out: “Say, Mr. Secretary, if my medium schange his voice so rapidly, but how he spoke Irish and German both at once? Hugh? Vail, I go now. Good-nocht.” 

Beyond the Vail: This Publication is a Sequel to “Rending the Vail,” Jabez Hunt Nixon, 1901

I confess a certain grudging admiration for the mediums who judged their audiences so cannily. One can only listen to high-minded sentiments chirped about the Summerland for so long. This séance, a kind of Spiritualist variety show, provided the thrill of spirit communication followed by the comic patter of the stage Irishman, with the additional frisson of live worms. All that was lacking was a chorus of “Danny Boy.” It must have been a wonderful evening.

Any other Irish spirit guides or shamrock apports? Come ye back when summer’s in the meadow and tell Chriswoodyard8 AT

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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