Marryat, Florence (1833-1899): Eminent Victorian witness to the mediumship of Florence Cook
Florence Marryat is described as a novelist, playwright, Spiritualist, singer and actress with more than 90 books to her credit. The book most remembered by Spiritualists was titled “There is No Death,” in which she tells of her eyewitness experiences with great mediums.
Marryat was one of the witnesses to the mediumship of Florence Cook at the home of William Crookes, the distinguished British scientist who was later knighted for his contributions to science. Skeptics claimed that Crookes had been duped by the young medium and was masquerading as Katie King. This was supposedly made possible by the materialization cabinet, which skeptics saw as nothing more than a dressing room. Crookes testified that he saw Florence Cook and Katie King at the same time, even photographed them together, but the skeptics were adamant that Crookes had been tricked.
Marryat wrote that Katie King closely resembled Florence Cook at times and at other times appeared much different and of a different height. But she also saw Florence and Katie together on several occasions, mentioning one sitting in which Katie King sat on her lap as Florence Cook was lying on a nearby mattress in a deep trance. Marryat mentioned to Katie that she very much resembled Florrie in features, to which Katie shrugged and commented that she was much prettier in earth life.
Even though Katie had warned them that light could harm both her and the medium, the sitters asked her at one sitting if they could turn up the gas light to better observe. Katie consented but later said that it had caused much pain. “She took up her station against the drawing-room wall, with her arms extended as if she were crucified,” Marryat wrote. “Then the gas-burners were turned on to their full extent in a room about sixteen feet square. The effect upon ‘Katie King’ was marvelous. She looked like herself for the space of a second only, then she began gradually to melt away. I can compare the dematerialization of her form to nothing but a wax doll melting before a hot fire. First, the features became blurred and indistinct; they seemed to run into each other. The eyes sunk in the sockets, the nose disappeared, the frontal bone fell in. Next the limbs appeared to give way under her, and she sank lower and lower on the carpet like a crumbling edifice. At last there was nothing but her head left above the ground – then a heap of white drapery only, which disappeared with a whisk, as if a hand had pulled it after her – and we were left staring by the light of three gas burners at the spot on which ‘Katie King’ had stood.”
Katie told Marryat that nothing material about her could be made to last without taking away some of the medium’s vitality and weakening her. At one sitting, Marryat observed Katie cutting off pieces of her dress and commented that it would take a great deal of mending to repair. Katie then told her that she would show her how they mend dresses in the spirit world. “She then doubled up the front breadth of her garment a dozen times,” Marryat related, “and cut two or three round holes in it. I am sure when she let it fall again there must have been thirty or forty holes, and ‘Katie’ said, ‘Isn’t that a nice cullender?’ She then commenced, whilst we stood close to her, to shake her skirt gently about, and in a minute it was as perfect as before, without a hole to be seen.” Katie then asked Marryat to take the scissors and cut off her hair. “I obeyed religiously, hacking the hair wherever I could, whist she kept on saying, ‘Cut more! Cut more! Not for yourself, you know, because you can’t take it away.’ So I cut off curl after curl, and as fast as they fell to the ground, the hair grew again upon her head.” When she had finished cutting, there was no severed hair to be found and Katie’s hair was as it was before Marryat started shearing.
Marryat asked Katie if blood ran through her body and if she had a heart and lungs. Katie responded that she had everything that Florrie (Cook) had. On that same evening, Marryat observed Katie naked before her as Florrie Cook lay beside her on the floor. When Marryat asked where her dress was, Katie said she had sent it on before her. At another sitting Marryat and other sitters were given pieces of Katie’s dress, but when they got home they had all disappeared.