The filing cabinets of the past are full of Spiritualist curiosities. In the 1880s, a Spiritualist journal called Facts published testimonials and anecdotes from working mediums as well as Spiritualist believers under its mandate “to prove the Intellectual Part of Man to be Immortal.” Among the 450 pages are verbatim transcriptions of séance revelations, not far removed from today’s stage mediums’ cold readings, a lady psychometrist’s analysis of a roomful of ladies’ handkerchiefs, slate writings from Dr. Silas J. Chesebrough and Dr. Henry Slade, and a witness’s account of Scottish spirit painter David Dugind. One of the most curious tales comes from a man who believed that he helped to deliver a baby girl during his out-of-body experience. The narrator is Benjamin Knight, a Justice of the Peace for Waterbury, Vermont.
B. F. KNIGHT,
Waterbury Centre, Vt.
One night, while lying in my bed, the spirit of a man came to my room, and accosted me thus: “Benjamin, you are wanted down on Onion River [now the Winooski] immediately; come with me.” My spirit at once arose, leaving my body lying on the bed, which I could distinctly see; nothing material seemed to environ me then; even the walls of the house were no barriers, but I passed through them as easily as though they were misty vapor, and I was suddenly endowed with such new and wondrous powers of locomotion as, with the rapidity of lightning, to be transported to my destination.
I found myself with my spirit guide in the house of a friend, whose wife was lying on a bed in the agonies of childbirth.
They had sent for a physician, but he could not come to them for some hours, and although there were several women in the house, still there was none who was competent to take entire charge of a woman in so perilous a situation.
My spirit guide immediately seemed to be absorbed in my spirit, and I then took control of one of the women who were present, and we three together, each acting upon and through the other, successfully delivered the mother, and thus saved the lives of mother and child. While being controlled, the woman exclaimed: “It does seem as though we were helped by some invisible power,” and to her it was invisible, but to me the whole transaction was as natural as any act of my life.
We then released the woman from our control. My spirit friend again stood by me, and returned with me to my home and body, which I had left lying on the bed.
I said to him: “Why did you come for me to help you?” as I knew nothing about obstetrics. He answered: “I went to her home and saw her situation, but could not alone control the woman to do as I wished, so I had to control a spirit in the natural body first, and make it my medium for controlling her.” He then disappeared. My body was still on the bed; I was curious to know how it felt, and wondered if it had grown cold in my absence, I proceeded to the bed, touched it on one of the temples, when, lo! I was again in possession of my own body as natural as ever.
I remember that there seemed to be a magnetic cord attaching my spirit and body together all the time.
When I arose in the morning I told my sister of the strange experience of the night before. She laughed at me, and said: “It is nothing but a dream.” I told her she might call it a dream, or whatever she chose, but if she would remember the description of the incidents I had related, she would sometime find the truth of them verified.
A few hours later, I met Artemus Newhall, the father of the young mother. I said to him: “Artemus, you ‘ve got a new heir down on the river, haven’t you?” He answered: “I don’t know about that; we expect one, and my wife has been down there several days, but I have not heard.” Then I said: “You have a grand-daughter “; and I described the child, and said: “When you see them, you will know I have told the truth.”
The day following he harnessed his team, and drove down to his daughter’s home. He found my statement to be true in every particular, the description of the child, its sex, and the exclamation of the woman, who was acting physician, when she said she believed she was helped by some unseen power.
On his return home with his wife, I happened to meet them, and she, after greeting me, commenced to tell the story. I said: “You stop and let me tell you; I will also tell you what color its eyes will be when it is old enough for you to see them.” She was astonished, and asked me how I knew. I told her I saw it before she did, and was one of the officiating physicians; also telling her who the spirit was that helped me. He was a former physician and friend of the family, who had passed to spirit life some years before. This circumstance may seem strange, but it is as true as any incident of my life; and my friends, Artemus Newhall and wife, of Waterbury Centre, Vt., will vouch for the truthfulness of the incidents connected with this strange experience. Facts, Volume 1, 1882, p 214
Just as an added Relentlessly Informative note, Artemus Newhall died in 1885, under the “singular circumstance” below.
It was a singular circumstance in the sudden death of Artemus Newhall of Stowe last week while pitching hay from a mow, that at that very time he had a story partly told about an acquaintance of his dropping dead while at that same kind of labor. Springfield [MA] Republican 31 January 1885: p. 7
The magnetic cord is standard issue for an OOBE, but, unusually, there is a spirit guide “entering” the narrator who then “enters” one of women attendants to successfully deliver the infant. (Mr. Knight is remarkably discreet about the actual intervention performed.) Spiritualist mediums do report being taken over by entities, but usually only one at a time, and it is uncommon in the context of an OOBE. And it is even more unusual to hear the spirit guide’s explanation: that he couldn’t control the living woman as he wished so he wisked Mr. Knight’s soul away to help. It’s all very peculiar and one wonders if there is some logical explanation. For example Knight might have overheard someone speaking of the difficult labor the day before and then dreamed that he was a participant. He says that the beleaguered mother was his friend’s wife so perhaps he knew more details than he says or remembered?
If contractions are five minutes apart, send your thoughts on Spiritualist OOBE to Chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com.
For a previous post on a Shaker girl’s terrifying out-of-body experience, see here.
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.