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Hereward Carrington

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Hereward Carrington

Hereward Carrington
Born Hereward Hubert Lavington Carrington
(1880-10-17)17 October 1880
St. Helier, Jersey
Died 26 December 1958(1958-12-26) (aged 78)
Occupation Paranormal Researcher
Psychic Investigator
Organization Society for Psychical Research

Hereward Carrington (17 October 1880 – 26 December 1958) was a well-known British investigator of psychic phenomena and author. His subjects included several of the most high-profile cases of apparent psychic ability of his times, and he wrote over 100 books on subjects including the paranormal and psychical research, conjuring and stage magic, and alternative health issues.

Early life

Carrington was born in St Helier, Jersey in 1880. He emigrated to the USA in 1888, although it is a common misconception he emigrated in 1899, and settled in New York City in 1904. Hereward previously lived with his brother Hedley in Minnesoda and appears in the 1900 census there. In New York he first worked as an asst. editor for Street and Smith magazines. Initially a sceptic about psychic abilities, his interest grew from reading books on the subject and at the age of 19 he joined the Society for Psychical Research (SPR).[1]


Carrington became a member of the American Society for Psychical Research in 1907 and worked an assistant to James Hyslop until 1908, during which time he established his reputation as an ASPR investigator. However his connection with the ASPR ceased due to lack of funds.[2]

An important early case Carrington investigated and described was that of the medium Eusapia Palladino in 1908. Carrington and two companions went to Naples to see her on behalf of the English S.P.R. an experience which strengthened his belief in the reality of psychic phenomena.[3] He described her in his 1909 book Eusapia Palladino and Her Phenomena, invited her to the USA and helped arrange a tour for her, he detected her cheating at sittings but also claimed she had genuine supernatural ability.[4] He also made a detailed enquiry into the case of Esther Cox (the Great Amherst Mystery) in 1910. The events surrounding Cox had occurred more than thirty years previously, but Carrington contacted surviving witnesses for statements and published a detailed account of the Amherst phenomena.

Among Carrington's best known subjects was Mina "Margery" Crandon whom he observed in 1924 on behalf of the Scientific American as part of an enquiry into Spiritualism, sitting on a committee alongside Harry Houdini, Malcolm Bird, William McDougall, Walter Franklin Prince and Daniel Frost Comstock. The committee had differing opinions on Crandon, and eventually only Carrington inclined to the belief that her powers were genuine, although subsequent evidence of possible fraud again led him to express doubts about her writing that he maintained a "perfectly open mind" about such phenomena pending the arrival of better evidence one way or the other.[3]

Carrington was an amateur conjuror and was critical towards some paranormal phenomena. Carrington in his book The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism (1907) [1] exposed the tricks of fraudulent mediums such as those used in slate-writing, table-turning, trumpet mediumship, materializations, sealed-letter reading and spirit photography. The book revealed the tricks of mediums such as Henry Slade and William Eglinton. He wrote in the book that after his investigations and studies into the subject of mediumship that 98% of both the physical and mental phenomena were fraudulent. He did however believe that some mediumship phenomena was genuine.[5] He also wrote "I have no particular theory to defend, and no belief to uphold. I am not a convinced spiritualist; at the same time, I am willing to grant that the evidence for survival is remarkably strong."[6]

Science historian Sherrie Lynne Lyons wrote that the glowing or light-emitting hands in séances could easily be explained by the rubbing of oil of phosphorus on the hands.[7] In 1909 an article was published in The New York Times titled Paladino Used Phoshorus. Carrington confessed to having painted Palladino's arm with phosphorescent paint, however he claimed to have used the paint to track the movement of her arm, to detect fraud. There was publicity over the incident and Carrington claimed his comments had been misquoted by newspapers.[8]

Carrington exposed the sleight of hand tricks the Eddy Brothers used in an article in the Popular Science magazine.[9] He wrote an introduction to the book Spiritism and Psychology (1911) by Théodore Flournoy which took a psychological approach to cases of mediumship.[10] Carrington gained his Ph.D. in 1918. In 1921 Carrington founded the American Psychical Institute. It operated for only two years, but he later reconstituted it in 1933 in New York with the assistance of his wife Marie Carrington. Among other researches he made a detailed study of the medium Eileen J. Garrett. Carrington's 1957 book The Case for Psychic Survival is devoted to Garrett.[11]

Carrington kept extensive records of his research and investigations, and corresponded with notable figures of the day including Israel Regardie, Nandor Fodor and Aleister Crowley. A large collection of his writings and correspondence is held by Heidieh Croce the heir to Marie Carrington's Estate. As well as the Princeton University library.[12]

He can be heard as a contestant on 7 October 1953 radio edition of You Bet Your Life.

Eusapia Palladino

Sketch showing the layout of a séance in the 1908 Naples investigation.

In 1908, the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) appointed a committee of three to examine Palladino in Naples. The committee comprised Mr. Hereward Carrington, investigator for the American Society for Psychical Research and an amateur conjurer; Mr. W. W. Baggally, also an investigator and amateur conjurer of much experience; and the Hon. Everard Feilding, who had had an extensive training as investigator and "a fairly complete education at the hands of fraudulent mediums."[13] Three adjoining rooms on the fifth floor of the Hotel Victoria were rented. The middle room where Feilding slept was used in the evening for the séances.[14] In the corner of the room was a séance cabinet created by a pair of black curtains to form an enclosed area that contained a small round table with several musical instruments. In front of the curtains was placed a wooden table. During the séances, Palladino would sit at this table with her back to the curtains. The investigators sat on either side of her, holding her hand and placing a foot on her foot.[15] Guest visitors also attended some of the séances; the Feilding report mentions that Professor Bottazzi and Professor Galeotti were present at the fourth séance, and a Mr. Ryan was present at the eighth séance.[15]

Although the investigators caught Palladino cheating, they were convinced Palladino produced genuine supernatural phenomena such as levitations of the table, movement of the curtains, movement of objects from behind the curtain and touches from hands.[15] Regarding the first report by Carrington and Feilding, the American scientist and philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce wrote:

Palladino, ca. 1900

Frank Podmore in his book The Newer Spiritualism (1910) wrote a comprehensive critique of the Feilding report. Podmore said that the report provided insufficient information for crucial moments and the investigators representation of the witness accounts contained contradictions and inconsistencies as to who was holding Palladino's feet and hands.[15] Podmore found accounts among the investigators conflicted as to who they claimed to have observed the incident. Podmore wrote that the report "at almost every point leaves obvious loopholes for trickery."[15] During the séances the long black curtains were often intermixed with Palladino's long black dress. Palladino told Professor Bottazzi the black curtains were "indispensable." Researchers have suspected Palladino used the curtain to conceal her feet.[17]

The psychologist C. E. M. Hansel criticized the Feilding report based on the conditions of the séances being susceptible to trickery. Hansel noted that they were performed in semi-dark conditions, held in the late night or early morning introducing the possibility of fatigue and the "investigators had a strong belief in the supernatural, hence they would be emotionally involved."[18]

In 1910, Everard Feilding returned to Naples, without Hereward Carrington and W. W. Baggally. Instead, he was accompanied by his friend, William S. Marriott, a magician of some distinction who had exposed psychic fraud in Pearson's Magazine.[19] His plan was to repeat the famous earlier 1908 Naple sittings with Palladino. Unlike the 1908 sittings which had baffled the investigators, this time Feilding and Marriott detected her cheating, just as she had done in the US.[20] Her deceptions were obvious. Palladino evaded control and was caught moving objects with her foot, shaking the curtain with her hands, moving the cabinet table with her elbow and touching the séance sitters. Milbourne Christopher wrote regarding the exposure "when one knows how a feat can be done and what to look for, only the most skillful performer can maintain the illusion in the face of such informed scrutiny."[20]

In 1992, Richard Wiseman analyzed the Feilding report of Palladino and argued that she employed a secret accomplice that could enter the room by a fake door panel positioned near the séance cabinet. Wiseman discovered this trick was already mentioned in a book from 1851, he also visited a carpenter and skilled magician who constructed a door within an hour with a false panel. The accomplice was suspected to be her second husband, who insisted on bringing Palladino to the hotel where the séances took place.[21] Paul Kurtz suggested that Carrington could have been Palladino's secret accomplice. Kurtz found it suspicious that he was raised as her manager after the séances in Naples. Carrington was also absent on the night of the last séance.[22] However, Massimo Polidoro and Gian Marco Rinaldi who analyzed the Feilding report came to the conclusion that no secret accomplice was needed as Palladino during the 1908 Naples séances could have produced the phenomena by using her foot.[23]


Edward Clodd described Carrington as an "adept at disclosing spiritualistic chicanery, but, strangely enough, believing in a residuum of genuine phenomena."[24] Carrington was the co-author of Haunted People: Story of the Poltergeist down the Centuries (1951) with Nandor Fodor, the book received positive reviews.[25][26]

According to Arthur Conan Doyle, Carrington was not popular with spiritualists.[27] Joseph McCabe wrote Carrington was a talented conjurer who had exposed the tricks of mediums but was deceived by Eusapia Palladino.[28] The magician Harry Houdini was a friend to Carrington and they had discussed magic and spiritualism on various occasions. Houdini wrote Carrington's book The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism "is certainly the best ever written on the subject" but had doubts about Carrington for supporting the mediumship of Palladino, a medium who had been frequently exposed.[29] According to the psychical researcher Malcolm Bird, during a meeting Houdini and Carrington's differences emerged and they argued "well into the night".[29]

Paul Kurtz has written that Carrington attended unofficial sessions with Palladino and reported on several occasions she "transferred her telekinetic powers" to him to move objects without physical contact. Kurtz wrote Carrington's testimony was uncorroborated by other witnesses and that Carrington was either a naïve believer or a "fraudulent hoaxer".[4]

Published work

The Mysteries of Myra (1916)

Carrington published more than 100 books and pamphlets; the following is a selection of some of his major works (in date order):

  • The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism (Boston : H. B. Turner & co., 1907)
  • The Coming Science (Boston : Small, Maynard, 1908)
  • Vitality, Fasting, and Nutrition (New York, Rebman company, 1908)
  • Eusapia Palladino and her Phenomena (New York : B.W. Dodge & Co., 1909)
  • Spiritism and Psychology (with Théodore Flournoy) (1911)
  • Death, its Causes and Phenomena (1911)
  • Death Deferred (1912)
  • Hindu Magic (Kansas City, Mo.: The Sphinx, 1913)
  • Personal experiences in spiritualism (including the official account and record of the American Palladino séances) (London, T. W. Laurie, ltd, 1913).
  • The Problems of Psychical Research (New York, Dodd, Mead, 1914)
  • True Ghost Stories (New York: J. S. Ogilvie Pub. Co., 1915)
  • Zenobia; (a dream of ancient Egypt). A psychic drama in seven scenes (1916).
  • Personal Experiences in Spiritualism (1918)
  • Psychical Phenomena and the War (New York : Dodd, Mead, 1918)
  • Modern Psychical Phenomena (London, Paul, 1919)
  • Higher Psychical Development (New York : Dodd, Mead, 1920)
  • Your Psychic Powers, and How to Develop Them (1920)
  • Death: the Causes and Phenomena, with Special Reference to Immortality (1921)
  • Life: Its Origin and Nature (1923)
  • Spiritualism (with James Joseph Walsh) (1925)
  • The Projection of the Astral Body (with Sylvan Muldoon) (1929)
  • The Story of Psychic Science] (1930)
  • Woman's Love Life (1930)
  • Loaves and Fishes: A Study of the Miracles, of the Resurrection, and of the Future Life in the Light of Modern Psychic Knowledge (1935)
  • Fasting For Health and Long Life (1953)
  • Hints on Fasting Well
  • Houdini and Conan Doyle (with Bernard M. L. Ernst) (1932)
  • A Primer in Psychical Research (1933)
  • The Hygienic Way Of Life (1956)
  • The Case for Psychic Survival (1957)
  • The Fruitarian Diet, Kila, Mont.: Kessinger Pub., 1963, 2005
  • Save Your Life By Fasting (1969)
  • The History of Natural Hygiene
  • The Natural Food Of Man Whitefish, Mont.: Kessinger Pub

Carrington's novel The Mysteries of Myra was made into a 15-episode silent movie series in 1916.

Newspaper articles

  • New Zealand Tablet. (1909). Fraudulent Mediums. 11 November.
  • St. Peterburg Times. (1931). Psychic Study to Grip World, Writer Avers. 1 February.
  • The Oxnard Daily Courier. (1933). Spirit Detector. 25 July.
  • The New York Times. (1908). Ingenious Frauds at Lily Dale Seances. 8 March.
  • The New York Times. (1909). Detecting the Tricks of the Mediums. 24 October.
  • The New York Times. (1914). Spiritualism: A Record of Experiences in Psychical Research. 25 January.
  • The Philadelphia Record. (1907). In the Land of Spooks With the Spirit Fakers. 22 September.
  • The Sunday Tribune. (1928). Dr. Hereward Carrington, psychic investigator, at his desk. 8 January.


  1. ^ Peter H. Aykroyd, Angela Narth. (2009). A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters. Rodale Books. p. 70. ISBN 978-1605298757
  2. ^ Arthur Berger. (1988). Lives and Letters in American Parapsychology: A Biographical History, 1850-1987. McFarland & Company. pp. 51-55 ISBN 978-0899503455
  3. ^ a b Spence, Lewis (2010). Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology (3rd ed.). Kessinger. pp. 149–150.  
  4. ^ a b Paul Kurtz. (1985). Spiritualists, Mediums and Psychics: Some Evidence of Fraud. In Paul Kurtz (ed.). A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology. Prometheus Books. pp. 177-223. ISBN 978-0879753009
  5. ^ Fremont Rider. (1909). Are the Dead Alive?. New York: B.W. Dodge and Company. p. 16. "There may be much fraud in modern spiritualism, in fact, I am disposed to believe that fully 98 per cent, of the phenomena, both mental and physical, are fraudulently produced, but a careful study of the evidence, contemporary and historic, has convinced me that there must have been some genuine phenomena at the commencement of this movement, in order that the first mediums may have copied them by fraudulent means, and that a certain percentage of the phenomena occurring to-day is genuine."
  6. ^ Hereward Carrington. (1992 reprint edition). Originally published in 1930. Story of Psychic Science. Kessinger Publishing. p. 5. ISBN 978-1564592590
  7. ^ Sherrie Lynne Lyons. Species, Serpents, Spirits, and Skulls: Science at the Margins in the Victorian Age. State University of New York Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-1438427980
  8. ^ The New York Times. Paladino Used Phosphorus. November 19, 1909.
  9. ^ Hereward Carrington. (1919). Out of Spiritualism of their many "manifestations". Popular Science. p. 35
  10. ^ Spiritism and Psychology by Theodore Flournoy, Hereward Carrington. (1912). The North American Review, Volume. 195, No. 674. pp. 133-135.
  11. ^ Rosemary Guiley. (1994). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. Guinness World Records Limited. p. 58. ISBN 978-0851127484
  12. ^ "Hereward Carrington Papers, 1899-1973". Princeton University Library. Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  13. ^ Massimo Polidoro. (2003). Secrets of the Psychics: Investigating Paranormal Claims. Prometheus Books. pp. 62-96. ISBN 978-1591020868
  14. ^ Alfred Douglas. (1982). Extra-Sensory Powers: A Century of Psychical Research. Overlook Press. p. 98
  15. ^ a b c d e Frank Podmore. (1910). The Newer Spiritualism. Henry Holt and Company. pp. 114-44
  16. ^ Justus Buchler. (2000). The Philosophy of Peirce: Selected Writings, Volume 2. Indiana University Press. pp. 166-167. ISBN 978-0253211903
  17. ^ Gordon Stein. (1996). The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. p. 490. ISBN 978-1573920216
  18. ^ C. E. M. Hansel. (1980). ESP and Parapsychology: A Critical Re-Evaluation. Prometheus Books. p. 61. ISBN 978-0879751197
  19. ^ Massimo Polidoro. (2001). Final Séance: The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle. Prometheus Books. p. 91. ISBN 978-1573928960 "William S. Marriott was a London professional magician who performed under the name of "Dr. Wilmar" and who, for some time, interested himself in Spiritualism. In 1910 he had been asked by the SPR to take part in a series of sittings with the Italian medium Eusapia Palladino, and had concluded that all he had seen could be attributed to fakery. That same year he published four articles for Pearson's magazine in which he detailed and duplicated in photographs various tricks of self-claimed psychics and mediums."
  20. ^ a b Milbourne Christopher. (1971). ESP, Seers & Psychics. Crowell. p. 201. ISBN 978-0690268157
    • Everard Feilding, William Marriott. (1910). Report on Further Series of Sittings with Eusapia Palladino at Naples. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 15: 20-32.
  21. ^ Richard Wiseman. (1997). Chapter 3 The Feilding Report: A Reconsideration. In Deception and Self-Deception: Investigating Psychics. Prometheus Press. ISBN 1-57392-121-1
  22. ^ Paul Kurtz. (1985). Spiritualists, Mediums and Psychics: Some Evidence of Fraud. In Paul Kurtz (ed.). A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology. Prometheus Books. pp. 177-223. ISBN 978-0879753009
  23. ^ Massimo Polidoro. (2003). Secrets of the Psychics: Investigating Paranormal Claims. Prometheus Books. pp. 65-95. ISBN 978-1591020868
  24. ^ Edward Clodd. (1917). The Question: A Brief History and Examination of Modern Spiritualism. Grant Richards, London. p. 104
  25. ^ August Derleth. (1952). Haunted People: Story of the Poltergeist down the Centuries. Western Folklore. Volume. 11, No. 4. pp. 296-297.
  26. ^ Irwin A. Berg. (1953). Haunted People by Hereward Carrington, Nandor Fodor. The Journal of American Folklore. Volume 66, No. 259. pp. 91-92.
  27. ^ Massimo Polidoro. (2001). Final Séance: The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle. Prometheus Books. p. 143. ISBN 978-1573928960
  28. ^ Joseph McCabe. (1920). Is Spiritualism Based On Fraud? The Evidence Given By Sir A. C. Doyle and Others Drastically Examined. London Watts & Co. p. 122
  29. ^ a b Massimo Polidoro. (2001). Final Séance: The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle. Prometheus Books. pp. 107-108. ISBN 978-1573928960

Further reading

  • Hereward Carrington. (1988). Letters to Hereward Carrington from Famous Psychical Researchers. Society of Metaphysicians. ISBN 978-1852287986
  • Massimo Polidoro. (2001). Final Séance: The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1573928960

External links

  • at IMDBThe Mysteries of Myra
  • Works by Hereward Carrington at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Hereward Carrington in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
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