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 Willis FLH - Physical Medium

F. L. H Willis – Physical Medium

An Instructor in medicine at a New York college, who, as a student, was forced out of the Divinity School at Harvard University in 1857, largely because of his developing mediumship. He came from a respected family in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was a good speaker and improvisor of poetry. While studying at divinity school, he was discovered to be a strong physical medium, and as a result of charges brought against him by a Professor Eustis, he was expelled. He was charged with simulating spiritual phenomena at Harvard, although the authenticity of the phenomena was attested by the famous author and reformer Thomas Wentworth Higginson.


Willis was observed producing apports, direct writing, and direct music. He was levitated on several occasions and possessed gifts of healing. Once, while in trance and controlled by the spirit of a "Dr. Mason," he performed a difficult operation on a female patient. He achieved this feat prior to his medical studies.


Willis was known to Epes Sargent, author of The Scientific Basis of Spiritualism (1880), who included in this book extracts from a letter written by Willis in May 1879 regarding his materialisation of spirit hands. Willis wrote: "It is 23 years ago that these materializations of hands occurred…. On one occasion a gentleman present drew a knife from his pocket with a long, keen blade, and taking no one into his counsel, watching his opportunity, pierced with a violent blow one of the psychic hands. The medium [Willis] uttered a shriek of pain. The sensation was precisely as if the knife had passed through his hand. The gentleman sprang to his feet exultant, thinking he had made a most triumphant exposé of trickery, and fully expected to find the medium's hand pierced and bleeding.

To his utter chagrin and amazement there was no trace of a scratch even upon either hand of the medium; and yet to him the sensation was precisely as if the knife had passed through muscle and tendon, and the sensation of pain and soreness remained for hours."


This account of early materialization of spirit hands, long before the days of Eusapia Palladino and other physical mediums, is of special interest for its claim that violence to pseudo-podic ectoplasm reacts painfully upon the medium.

Willis described events in his life during a lecture at the Spiritual Institute in London in 1869, published in The Spiritual Magazine (1870, p. 193) and in Human Nature (1869, p. 573).



Britten, Emma Hardinge. Modern American Spiritualism. New York: The author, 1870.


Gale Encyclopaedia of Occultism and Parapsychology



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