You may have read Reunions by Raymond Moody, about his mirror scrying experiments where he claimed that he and others would see realistic visions of their dead loved ones who, in some cases, were said to walk out of the mirror. This case, from early-20th-century Maine, features a DIY psychomanteum where a common household mirror produced wondrous visions and a local sensation.
On 7 June 1903, Adelia A. Warren, Mrs. Robert Warren, of Bowdoinham, Maine, died, age 48, leaving behind a bereft husband and two sons: 28-year-old Randall S. and 33-year-old Edwin W. Just six months later, it was reported that Mrs. Warren, a Spiritualist, had returned to try to communicate with the family through a mirror.
GHOSTLY FACES IN HER MIRROR
Dead Spiritualist’s Glass Provides Wonders for Bowdoinham.
[Special Dispatch to the Sunday Herald.]
Bowdoinham, Me., Dec. 5, 1903
Many people, both of this town and in other places, are greatly interested in a mysterious mirror hanging in the home of Robert Warren. It is in the room where Mr. Warren’s wife died. Mr. Warren is 73 years old, and until recently has never observed the strange phenomena which have appeared in this mirror. In the centre of the glass, it is said, a man’s head shows distinctly. In the left hand corner, it is declared, a hand is seen, the fingers showing plainly and pointing downward and near the large head has appeared a smaller one, the face looking outward. The eyes seem to follow one about the room. Sometimes the smaller head looks like that of a young girl, it is said, and at other times like an old man, it is said. Beneath the two heads another picture is dimly outlined which portrays an old wood road. Mrs. Warren was a Spiritualist in belief, and through her last illness she thought she saw and heard strange things. She was a painter, and those who believe in Spiritualism think she is causing these shadowy apparitions to come on the old glass. At first Mr. Warren was frightened by these strange visitations, but now he sits contentedly watching to see if they can be messages sent him from the spirit land by his wife. Boston [MA] Herald 6 December 1903: p. 5
FACES OF THE DEAD APPEAR IN STRANGE MIRROR
Bangor, Me., Jan 2 A mysterious picture mirror at Bowdoinham, is exciting much wonder and the house of Robert Warren, where the mirror hangs, is visited by hundreds of curious people daily. A few weeks ago Warren’s wife died, and ever since then faces have appeared in the mirror, generally at dusk and remained in full view for some hours. First came the face of an old man, then that of a young girl followed by indistinct traceries of woodland scenes. None of these were recognized by Warren or the neighbors. But now the face of the dead Mrs. Warren has come into the mirror, distinct and unmistakable, as has also that of Mrs. Warren’s mother. Responsible persons have visited Bowdoinham for the express purpose of viewing the phenomena, and they declare faces and figures do really appear in the mirror, and that there have been no misstatements or exaggeration whatever in the matter. Evening News [San Jose, CA] 2 January 1904: p. 1
Then the phenomenon, as in the Bell Witch and “Gef,” the Talking Mongoose cases, began to develop a voice.
GHOSTLY MIRROR NOW HAS VOICE
Awful Sounds Come Forth from Bowdoinham Glass
[Special Dispatch to the Sunday Herald.]
Bowdoinham, Me., Jan. 30, 1904. The mystery surrounding the Robert Warren mirror deepens and new shadow pictures are constantly appearing on the surface of this weird glass. The massive head, severe in its somber profile, remains unchanged in the centre of the mirror, the slender hand with downward pointing fingers and the mournful eyes of the woman are still visible, but other faces gleam whitely in their company.
“They come and go, come and go all the time,” said Mr. Warren. As he spoke the light flashed brightly on the glass, showing the figure of a young girl in close clinging draperies, whose outstretched arms seemed extended in benediction toward those other shadows beneath her.
“Often,” Mr. Warren said, “broad stairs appear and the forms of little children toiling up the stairs, ever following the fleeting figure of the girl. Some have recognized a face as that of my wife’s mother. My dear wife’s face has only been with me during the last week. One of our children died when he was 8 years old. The child’s face that sometimes appears near my wife looks as the little lad looked.
“Since my mirror has possessed these strange powers, I have received letters from all over the country concerning its wonderful visions, and people have come from everywhere to see the phenomena. My wife’s Indiana relatives heard of the mirror through the newspapers and one lady consulted a noted medium, who said that the pictures were undoubtedly painted by my wife. I am soon to have some family photographs from South Bend, and then I shall compare them with these other shadow pictures.
“Almost three months have passed since these faces first visited me. The letters that appear and disappear so swiftly near the upper part of the glass are striving to spell out a message, I am sure. The old woods roads in the lower corner of the mirror was broadened to a wide thoroughfare that leads to a strange sight. Look closely, and I think you can see the turrets and steeples of a far off city.
“Sometimes at night I hear strange and awful sounds coming from the mirror, and when I look, the faces are all watching me. Then the letters flash and change, and the noises grow louder, louder, until it seems that the message must come. It is almost ready, I know. My dear wife will send it soon. Would that she could call me now.” Boston [MA] Herald 31 January 1904: p. 8
Alas, Mr. Warren had to wait six more years until he and his wife were reunited beyond the grave in May of 1910. He was 73 when he gave the interview above, perhaps of an age where the senses dim; where strange sounds may be heard by the hearing-impaired and flashing lights are a symptom of some types of macular degeneration. The mirror’s visions came in for some ribbing by a neighboring newspaper, which was hotly refuted by Warren’s son Randall, a barber, who lived with his father.
THAT MYSTERIOUS MIRROR
Mr. Warren of Bowdoinham Resents Theory Advanced by an Esteemed Contemporary.
Bowdoinham, Me., Feb. 19.
To Editors of Lewiston Journal:
In reply to the Brunswick Record, I wish to say that the Bowdoinham mirror is as much of a mystery at the present day as it has ever been. In reading the Lewiston Journal of last Saturday night I see in State Chat, that the Brunswick Record rises to remark that the mysterious mirror at Bowdoinham is not the least bit mysterious.
That Mr. Warren “thinks” he sees outlines of familiar faces, but that the editor of the Record thinks he doesn’t and this is the editor’s conclusion, that the mirror has been affected by light or heat so that the quicksilver on the back has disintegrated, causing a dimness or fogging, such as is common in old mirrors. The Brunswick editor claims that the large head looks no more like a man’s head, than it does like a bean-pot, and that by exercising a vivid imagination, it would be possible to study out faces or anything else. “No doubt Mr. Warren is sincere in his belief,” the Brunswick editor remarks.
Now I, the son of Mr. Robert Warren, claim that everything my father can see in the mirror, I can see, also, a great deal more than is seen by him. The large head seen in the mirror is a perfect head, and the old lady’s face is as perfect as any artist could paint. The last face that came, appeared about three weeks ago, and is a perfect likeness of my mother. There are many people who have seen this face and remarked on its strong resemblance to my mother. Now I would like to have anyone tell me if he thinks light, heat, cold or quicksilver, has anything to do with that. I do not think so. I see by the Record, “that in Bowdoinham it is common talk that the mirror owes its cloudy effect to a lamp which stood for years on a stand directly under it.”
I beg to differ from the Record. There was never any lamp placed directly under the mirror, and there is nothing seen in this mirror that was ever caused by any lamp. This is my belief. If there are persons responsible for this “common talk” concerning the mirror, then I do not believe they have ever seen it, for the faces are certainly there, if one will only look. There are some people who will not view the mirror, as they declare it would be contrary to their doctrine for them to do so.
It is hard to make people see things that they do not believe, but if one would just sit down and look at the mirror, and try to see and be honest about it, he could not fail to see some wonderful things. Many people have been startled by the strange visions, who came with the idea that is was all newspaper talk, and that they would not be able to see anything. They went away, wondering what could be the cause of the faces seen in the mirror.
We have had the mirror 13 years and it is not very old. I have one at my store that is twice as old, and as good now as it ever was. As to faces coming and going in my father’s mirror, there is no truth whatever in that statement. Everything that comes in this mirror comes to stay. One can go to it at any time and see the same things each time. Since the first of November there has been something new coming in the mirror, and almost everything has come on Sunday. I would like very much to have the editor of the Record come up again some evening, and I will try and show him that what he thought was a bean-pot, is in reality, a perfect head. I want to say right here that what I have said is not imagination, but a fact. What I have stated is in the mirror, and anyone who wishes can see for himself.
Very truly yours,
Randall S. Warren
Lewiston Saturday Journal 20 February 1904: p. 5
There are some parallels with The Spectral Well of Virginia, the lightning daguerreotypes and the “faces in the window” cases I’ve written about before, where faces and other images appear mysteriously in water and in window glass. (See The Face in the Window and The Ghost Wore Black for more stories of those mysteries.)
But there is also a subset of these “mystery faces” that only involves mirrors. I wrote about a prophetic mirror in a Chillicothe, Ohio home in Haunted Ohio III. In 1918 it showed everyone who looked into it something different and caused such a fuss that the police asked the family to stop admitting the curious. I’ve written in other volumes of the Haunted Ohio series of mirror-visions of the Christian icythys symbol, the powder-scarred face of a Lake Erie ship’s captain, a skeletal hand, a broken-cheeked face, and a crouching blonde girl. I’ve collected dozens more stories of mirrors that suddenly bloom with the faces of the dead. In spite of the sheer volume, I suppose the correct thing to do is to note that the human brain is infinitely ingenious, recognizing faces in clouds and the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast.
Still, many witnesses identified one of the faces as that of Mrs. Warren. Was this just “newspaper talk?” Were they suggestible to hope and a trick of the light, or to subtle prompting? It is perhaps significant that Mrs. Warren’s features did not materialize from the start, but, like the voices/noises, seemed to develop gradually. The detail about the children toiling up the stairs and the face of the “little lad” who had died are poignant reminders of child mortality as well as Mr. Warren’s own losses.
Whatever happened to the mirror? I have not found any further accounts of the miraculous images after the son’s letter. One wonders if a duster swept away the faces and the turrets of that far-off city–the longed-for New Jerusalem of a weary widower. Or if, suddenly one day, the dear faces vanished–leaving only his own reflection.
Any later accounts of the miraculous mirror? Or the original, skeptical articles from the Brunswick Record or the Lewiston Journal. Send your reflections to Chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com
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 hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.