I’ve spent just a wee bit too much time in the dentist’s office this year, although to be honest, any amount is too much. Would that I could have availed myself of the wonders of Occult Dentistry!
The Spiritualist press often wrote of magnetic cures for all sorts of disorders, including tooth ailments and the water cure and hypnotism journals were full of instructions for mesmerizing patients who required dental work. But sometimes the spirits took matters into their own psychic forceps, with painful results. In this episode, we find Dr. Henry Slade, under the influence of his spirit guide “Owasso,” having a tooth extracted.
OCCULT DENTISTRY: A CURIOUS OPERATION.
The following is extracted from a letter from Mrs. Louisa Andrews, of Springfield, Mass., U.S.A., dated May 2&th, 1877, to Mr. Stainton Moses:—
‘In a letter written to me by my sister while she was visiting Slade about three years ago, she says: “I must tell you something wonderful that took place just now. I had been all the morning with Slade, and he had been grumbling because of his tooth aching ever since he got up. About half an hour ago he sat close to the stove (I being at the desk, writing) and said to me, ‘I have got sharp pains through that tooth again.’ I turned round to look at him, and he presently added, dreamily, ‘I feel Owasso.’ In a second afterwards, he clasped the arms of his chair with both hands and jumping up, with a scream, cried ‘O Lord!’ and, leaning forward, spat out the tooth and a mouthful of blood. I asked to see the place where it had been, and found it looking just as if the tooth had been pulled out by a dentist, only the gum was not cut as by a lancet. It was bleeding pretty freely, and, he said, felt like a big hole to his tongue. He felt the instrument clasped upon the tooth, and also the pull, which gave him a sort of shock, but no actual pain. Simmons, who sat near him, said he heard distinctly the grit (!) of the tooth as it was extracted. His mouth was closed when it was drawn.” Simmons told my sister that this was the second time Owasso had pulled a tooth for Slade.’—(From the unpublished correspondence of Mr. Stainton Moses.)
Light 3 May 1902: p. 209
This letter inspired a communication from Mr Thomas Martin, who seemed to want to “one-up” Slade in the spiritual dentistry department:
When I read the ‘extract’ from a letter dated May, 1877, on the above subject, from Mrs. Andrews, Mass., U.S.A., to Mr. Stainton Moses, in your issue of May 3rd, I thought that it might be of interest to record (for the first time through the Press) a similar incident which happened to Miss Kate Wood, one of the celebrated médiums developed at Newcastle-on-Tyne years ago, and the heroine of a book by Mr. Smedley, of Belper. This remarkable book was recently published, and is entitled, ‘Some Reminiscences—Miss Wood’s Mediumship in Derbyshire’ (and may be had at the office of ‘Light’). The incident of the ‘dental operation,’ which I am about to record, took place in the old Oddfellows’ Hall, Weir’s- court, Newgate-street, Newcastle-on-Tyne, on the afternoon of July 15th, 1873 (four years previous to the operation on Dr. Slade). I had some business to attend to on that date at the North-Eastern Rail way sidings at Gateshead; after which I thought I would call at the house of a lady friend named Fairlamb. It was the first time of my visit there. Mrs. Fairlamb, being a kindly-disposed Spiritualist, asked me to stay to tea, and we three, Mrs. Fairlamb, her young daughter (now Mrs. Mellon, who also was developed at Newcastle-on-Tyne at the same time as Miss Wood, and is at present well-known to the world at large as a successful materialising medium), and myself, made our way after tea over the high level bridge to Newcastle (Mrs. Fairlamb intending going to her brother’s). When in Newgate-street, and nearing Weir’s court, she asked me if there was anything going on at the Hall, and I said that I knew of nothing particular, but we could go and see. We both proceeded to the Hall, but Miss Fairlamb went on to her uncle’s (Mr. Miller), a gentleman held in high esteem by the Newcastle Society, being one of its founders, and who bore the expense of furnishing the Hall for us, &c. He passed on many years ago, but not before he had full proof of the continuance of life after death by the appearance of his dear wife in full form, who was seen by all the company and recognised. She had passed away a few years previously.
When we got to the Hall we found, to our surprise, Miss Wood there, sitting on the window-sill on the top of the old stairs, and in great agony. As soon as she saw us her little guide ‘Pocka’ began her lamentations about her ‘meedee’—how she had been bad with the ‘ tootak ’ all day and all the night previous, and how she had been trying various remedies (?) such as ‘um, bandy, visky,’ also dancing and tumbling, but to no purpose, for the pain would not go ‘avay!’
We were ordered to take her ‘meedee’ to the table which stood in the middle of the Hall, and there we found two young foreign gentlemen, who told us of Miss Wood’s trouble, and how she had been pacing the floor in her distraction, &c.
We sat down on the bench close to the table facing it, as directed by ‘Pocka’—Mrs. Fairlamb sitting on the right of Miss Wood and I on the left, while the two young men sat opposite. Then she told us that she was going for a ‘doctor’, and in a second or two a strong male voice told us (through the medium) to take hold of her hands firmly, and he would extract the tooth. This was no sooner said than done; she gave a jump and a slight scream and the tooth was thrown out on the table before our eyes. The hemorrhage was copious from the gum.
I may say that we heard the invisible instruments rattle freely as they seemed to be taken out of the invisible case by the invisible operator, and also when applied to the tooth. I had the tooth for years, but have lost it; it had a part of the gum attached to it, and was stained by the applications of various drugs used in the endeavour to relieve the pain. I was told by a gentleman named Haydock that the gum was lanced on the following night at a seance held in the same Hall, the wound having bled very freely, and was witnessed by those present. My informant, and dear and faithful Mrs. Fairlamb, passed to the higher life several years ago, but some who heard of this case are still to the fore, such as Mr. Kersey, Mr. Blake, Mr. Rankin, and a few others.
One thing I should like to record in connection with this case. I refer to the care and anxiety of the medium’s guides for their character and standing. Little ‘Pocka’ was very anxious to know if her ‘meedee ‘ had broken her temperance, and especially her ‘dood templar,’ pledge, by applying those dangerous drugs to her gums and teeth. ‘Oh! “Mitty Mattin,”’ she asked very plaintively, ‘vill my “meedee” be dood templar now or not? Me so sorry! Vat you say?’ Well, not being a Good Templar myself, though a staunch teetotaler, but not a bigot, what could I say but that I could see no wrong done under the circumstances! This assurance comforted her very much. It may be said that some of the remarks made in this communication are irrelevant, but the reason of their recital is to show the unexpected, spontaneous, and unprepared conditions of this occurrence.
44, Brandling-place, South Jesmond,
Light 17 May 1902: pp. 231-2
I wondered what ethnicity “Little Pocka” was supposed to represent, with her nauseating baby-talk: German or Dutch? Or possibly Indian (as in sub-continental)? A further search revealed that she was a Native American guide and was quite the popular séance-room pet, telling jokes, dancing, sitting on sitters’ laps, and allowing bits of her gown to be cut off as souvenirs. Her anxious queries about the “spirit” remedies—”um, bandy, visky”—which the medium tried for the pain and that Good Templar temperance pledge come off as just a bit disingenuous. Did the witnesses in both the Slade and the Wood cases just imagine the “grit” of the tooth and the “rattle” of the instruments or was someone producing sound effects just to add to the verisimilitude of the thing? And, well—Mr. Martin kept the tooth with “part of the gum attached”? Did he think the Tooth Fairy was going to slip him a few shillings if he put it under his pillow?
It is interesting that both Slade and Miss Wood bled and seemed to feel pain during the tooth extractions. The advocates of hypnotic anesthesia and mesmerism claimed to remove teeth without no discomfort or bleeding. Way to go, Owosso and Pocka! But in this next case, the spirit guide was most considerate of his medium:
From the Spiritual Offering, May 19,1883.
Under this caption we find the following editorial notice in the daily Bee, of Council Bluffs, la., of a dental operation performed 8th inst., an indication of what spirits may be able to do for us when we have learned enough to profit by the lesson already received. Spirits come to aid us materially as well as spiritually. The next move of the “regulars” probably will be for a law that shall prohibit any dentist from operating for the relief of an entranced patient. It would be no more absurd than the laws to prevent magnetic healers affording relief to their fellow-beings otherwise afflicted.
“A day or two ago a well-known lady in this city, who is a medium, stepped into a dentist’s office for the purpose of having two molars pulled out. In previous tooth-ache pulling experiences she had suffered so severely, and in one case had her jawbone broken, that she naturally dreaded the operation. She insisted on having chloroform administered, and the doctor prepared accordingly. Just as he was about to administer it, she went into a trance state, and her controlling spirit, an Indian chief, spoke through her to the doctor, telling him not to use the chloroform, as he, the spirit, would hold her in control, so that she would not move a muscle or feel a twinge of pain. The doctor went ahead and pulled three teeth, and the patient then came to herself, and expressed surprise that the operation was all over, as she had felt no pain, or, in fact, any other sensation. There are a number who express willingness to testify to the outward phenomena as related, and here it proves an interesting incident for those scientifically inclined to give theories about. The lady herself claims that this Indian is a chief who lived about a hundred years ago, and that he frequently controls her. About a week ago, while talking with another spiritualist about having her teeth extracted, the latter asked her why she did not have the Indian control her and save herself the pain, but she replied that the Indian had expressed unwillingness to do so, as in such a case he would feel the pain himself, and he did not care to suffer so. For some reason the Indian must have changed his mind, and unexpectedly put in his appearance just when he was the most needed. If spiritualism can be used for avoiding pain in surgical and especially dental operations, it is a much cheaper and less dangerous method than chloroform or other anesthetics. The Indian certainly is doing a mission of mercy.”
Facts, Volumes 2-3: 1883 p. 147-8
While I often have interesting discussions with my dentist about local ghosts, somehow Little Pocka never shows up in time to forestall the damn novocaine needle. I’m not sure what he would do if an old Indian chief told him to hold off on the chloroform. There might be trouble with the state licensing board.
There are modern Christian claims of dental miracles: miraculous gold fillings replacing amalgam or, in one case, a woman receiving seven golden crowns during a healing service. Talk about casting down your golden crowns… There was also Dr. Willard Fuller, dental healer, featured in the book Can God Fill Teeth? I will not ask the obvious question about why Oral Roberts did not specialize in dental miracles.
Other instances of occult dentistry? Spit! 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.