Monday, April 10, 2017

The Watseka Possession By James Martin Peebles 1906

The Watseka Possession By James Martin Peebles 1906

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 When delivering some lectures upon foreign travels, in Watseka, I was a guest of this family, noted for respectability, culture and moral integrity; and so, I received the full particulars from the original source. The families concerned were the Roffs and the Vennums. Lurancy Vennum’s health was not good. She complained of a queer feeling in her head—of a pressure on the brain, and one day placing her left hand on her breast she fell to the floor in what was supposed to be a cataleptic fit. Her limbs became rigid, as they often are in the early trances when influenced by the lower, earth-bound intelligences. The next day the rigid state returned, but her mind seemed clear after it. While in this trance she declared that she saw a number of spirits, describing them and calling some of them by name, and adding, “Oh, they are so beautiful!”

A few months later she again became ill with painful paroxysms, muttering strange words (common in obsessions), then passing after a time into a quiet, peaceful, unconscious trance. She would claim while in this supernormal condition to be in Heaven, and looking earthward could see her body. Not understanding these trances, the allopathic physicians of the city, and most of the relatives believed her to be insane and preparations were being made to put her into the lunatic asylum. At this crisis, Mr. Roff, a neighbor, believing that this class of spasms and kindred so-called diseases were of a dynamic or spiritual origin, begged of them not to take their daughter to an asylum, but to send her to Dr. E. W. Stevens, a magnetic physician (hypnotist) gifted with great psychic powers. Reaching the Vennum residence he found ’Rancy, as they called her, obsessionally entranced, sitting by the stove, her elbows on her knees, hands under her chin, eyes wild and staring, and silent. Soon she spoke, warning the Doctor not to approach, and called the Vennums bad names. . . . As the friends arose to depart, she was caught by this untoward occult influence and thrown violently upon the floor. Dr. Stevens stepped to her side, took one of her hands, as a psychic exorcist would naturally do, and removed the obsessional control—and Lurancy was herself again, with all the grace and sweetness of her real nature. She expressed deep regret that such evil influences approached her unwanted, uninvited. At times she saw them clairvoyantly.

Preparing the way for a higher class of influences, the Doctor asked her (now in her normal state) if she would not like purer and more exalted spirits to control her. “Truly I should,” was her reply. “Look about,” said Dr. Stevens, “among these many spirits present above and around us, and select someone who will prevent the low, cruel and insane ones from returning to trouble you or the family.”

Still clairvoyant, she said: “There are a great number here, the most of them I have never known.” Remaining silent for a few moments she continued, “There are many who want to come, yet the angels specify only one that they want to come.” Upon being asked who it was she replied, “Mary Roff.”

“That is our daughter,” exclaimed Mr. Roff; “she has been in Heaven twelve years.” He assured ’Rancy that Mary was good, intelligent and when in the body was afflicted much as she was. After considering and counseling with the guardian spirits, it was arranged that Mary should enter into and control her body and go to Mr. Roff’s home to stay. Mary was delighted with the arrangement. Entering her former home in Rancy’s body she was perfectly familiar with everything in the house, recognizing persons that she knew, calling up hundreds of incidents that transpired when in her own body, even the contents of the dresser; but she did not recognize any of the Vennum family. It was a remarkable phenomenon. Think of it! The spirit that constituted the very life and soul of Lurancy Vennum transferred to spirit land and Mary Roff entering, possessing and literally living for fourteen weeks in this body deserted by Lurancy.

Upon asking the incarnated Mary, “Where is Lurancy?” she would reply, “Gone out somewhere;” or “gone to heaven taking lessons . . . and I am here taking lessons and living more closely for a time with my dear ones.”

If inquired of where her own physical body was, she would answer: “It is in the ground. I don ’t want to look at it, nor think of it—that was not I.”

She seemed very happy when not thinking or being reminded that she would have in due time to leave the immediate social intimacy with her family friends and return to the higher life.

When Mrs. Alter, her sister, whom she dearly loved, would ask her when, or where she was going, casting her eyes upward for a moment as though listening, she would respond: “The angels tell me I am going to heaven, but I don’t know just when.” . . . And then she added: “When I got into this body I felt much as I did when here twelve years ago.”

Dr. Stevens writes (pages 20-21 “Watseka Wonder”): “Lurancy’s body seemed as natural to Mary as though she had been born with it, and yet she could not do with it just as she would like to. She did not seem to realize at first but that this was her own original physical body, until the angels explained it to her, and she had also received information from her parents, sister, brother and friends. So natural did it seem to her after knowing all the facts, that she could hardly feel that it was not her original body born nearly thirty years ago.”

Mary Roff literally lived in Miss Vennum’s body for fourteen weeks; and when she returned to the heavenly life she left Lurancy’s body in an excellent condition. This was a case all through of wise spirit agency, and the material facts can be substantiated by disinterested witnesses whose veracity was never questioned and whose evidence would settle any case in a court of law.

Listen to an episode of Lore about this story at

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