E. Winchester Stevens.

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Dr. E. Winchester Stevens

Probably the most remarkable case of Spirit Return

and Manifestation ever recorded in history. Fully

Authenticated by a multitude of witnesses.

Over 100,000 copies sold. A girl dead and

buried 12 years conies back, identifies

herself and lives for 3 months and ton

days as the recognized daughter

of her parents.

The Austin Publishing Company

4522 St. Charles Place

Los Angeles, - California




4k:/ A . UJjJI^



Dr. E. Winchester Stevens

Probably the most remarkable case of Spirit Return

and Manifestation ever recorded in history. Fully

Authenticated by a multitude of witnesses.

Over 100,000 copies sold. A girl dead and

buried 12 years comes back, identifies

herself and lives for 3 months and ten

days as the recognized daughter

of her parents.

The Austin Publishing Company

4522 St. Charles Place

Los Angeles, - California

Copyright 1928








After a life devoted wholly to the service of his
feliowkind, Winchester Stevens, the narrator of
these phenomena, passed to the Summerland Decem-
ber 9, 1885, at the age of sixty-three years.

Honest and candid, kindly of heart and pure in
thought, of great beneficence, and of rare skill in his
profession, enriched by years of experience, the good
deeds and the influence of Dr. Stevens are still sens-
ed in the common heart of the world, in lives made

'*The good that men do lives after them."

By J. M. Peebles, M.D., M.A.

Not only is this an age of investigation, research
and original discoveries, but it is an age of skepti-
cism and persistent doubt touching all such realities
as relate to the invisible. The sense perceptions
are far more to the front than the aspirational, up>
looking, spiritual faculties. Sad to say, the masses
live more in the back and selfish side brains than in
the coronal soul-parlors open to spiritual visitants
and angelic impressions.

Had not the inspirational and erudite B. F. Austin,
A.M., D.D., of Rochester, N. Y., been psychically
directed to the preservation of these remarkable
phenomena occurring in the Roff family, Watseka,
III., they would, no doubt, have been relegated to
the hazy dream-land of myth, companion of the
martyred Man of Nazareth, the Swiss William Tell,
the Indian Pocohontas, Joan of Arc and others not-
ed for strange, astounding phenomena. There are
those in our midst who will not only question the
knowledge of their peers, but they will actually in-
vent miracles to get rid of the plain truth — a truth
testified to by the wisdom of the ages: that the
spirits of our dead are alive, and that under given
conditions they can not only bring us living mes-
sages, but as in the case of Mary Roff, they can
temporarily inhabit another body, and dwell for a
time for a special purpose in the earthly home of
her friends, to their almost unbounded joy.

Through the medical treatment of Mr. Roff, it
d^ was my privilege to not only visit Watseka, III., but
to become personally acquainted with the Roff
family — a family not only highly respected, but
moving in what was denominated the "first society."
And further, I was honored by knowing personally


Dr. E. W. Stevens, a most excellent and cultured
gentleman, gifted with strong magnetic power;
which power was intensified by a smypathizing
circle of influencing spirits. As is well known, this
Dr. Stevens was a Spiritualist and a conscientious
and deeply religious man, honored by all who per-
sonally knew^ him.

The remarkable facts related in this book, "The
Watseka Wonder," embodying the psychic relations
between Lurancy and Mary, were so new that many
Spiritualists held it was impossoble for one spirit to
enter into the vacated body of a living mortal and
manifest through it. And there are certain Spirit-
ualistic laggards to this day, who talk of the "im-
possible" upon this and kindred matters.

But can a spirit in the spiritual spheres, under
any conditions, enter into the vacated body of a liv-
ing mortal and manifest through the forty-two
phrenological brain organs, the sinews, muscles and
nerves — was this ever done?

What Is The Spirit?

Poets and prophets are ever in advance of the
priests. This was true in Hebraic times, and it is
true today. That old prophet who compiled the
Book of Proverbs exclaimed in an inspirational
moment: **The spirit of man is the candle of the
Lord." And it is the office-work of the candle, or
lamp, to light the room and its furniture. So the
conscious spirit, symbolized by the candle-lights,
manifests through the forty-two brain organs,
through fleshly body of muscles, sinews, nerves.
Remember that the body is a bit of transitory ma-
chinery, conceived and built up by the conscious
intelligent spirit; but this spirit-builder in the
process of construction did not so build and fixedly
mortise itself into the body that it could escape
only through death. This would be a living, suicid-


al burial. No; this conscious spirit is not necessari-
ly wedged and fixed in a few feet of mortality. It
can in dreams and visions temporarily leave the
body, visiting different parts of this planet. Mars
and the stars that glitter and shimmer above us.
And so, Lurancy Vennum having through wise iL

guides left her body, Mary, of the Roff family,
actually left the spiritual world and, descending,
dwelt for a time in the body of Lurancy, taking it
to her former home and enjoying the sweets of
love, and friendship, and family relations. She
virtually lived several months in two worlds, in the
earth and in the spirit land; vibrating between, en-
joying both, and receiving lessons in the meantime
from the angels that delight to do the Father's will.

There was no "double consciousness'' in this case.
There is in no case. The consciousness is a unit.
Such phrases as "duplex consciousness," "seven-
fold personalities," and the "super-conscious sub-
liminal," while explaining nothing, confuse and
darken speech.

Once I asked a very exalted spirit intelligence
these questions:

Can you, while entrancing this medium, see the real spirit?
No, I can not. I only sense and see the spiritual body.

When entrancing a mortal in the body, do you cause the
owner of the body to vacate it?

Not necessarily; entrancement is little more than mesmeric

Can you really see — can you describe the unfleshed, unclothed
spirit of this body?

I cannot. The most that I can say through this instrument,
is that it seems to be a distinct entity, looking like a fiery diamond
— a brilliant point of dazzling brightness shining through a very
ethereal white fluid, connected in some way, sympathetically and
vibratorially, with the body that it owns.*

*See this matter more fully explained on page 45 of "The
Pathway of the Human Spirit" (Peebles) :- Au»tiu^ Pul>H» lw»g..Co., ^
L69 A-ngeles, Calif oroia.


How little the wisest of us know of the mighty
power of the spirit! In fact, all power is spirit power,
invisible and ever-persisting; and the witnessing of
this unseen pow^er — these mighty phenomenal forces
as w^ere manifest for months in the Roff family —
demonstrates the certainty of a future life, carrying
with it the memories and the purer, unselfish loves
of this life.

These remarkable and unquestionably authen-
ticated phenomena transpiring in the families of the
Vennums and RofFs, w^ere not supernatural: but
natural to that higher plane of spiritual conscious-
ness. Blessed be Spiritualism! Its star of progress
is in the ascendant. Its sun w^ill never set. And
as relating to the great hereafter, it will be said,
sooner or later, by all sane persons: "Gone — gone
in appearance only to join

The choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence."

Spiritualism, with its living Father-Mother in
Heaven; its beautiful brotherhood of man; its
present and perpetual ministry of spirits; its pater-
nal chastisements for w^rong-doing ; its open heart
tow^ards all reforms; its sweet charity for human
misfortunes; its encouraging, inspiring words to the
sick; its comforting voice to the sad-hearted mourn-
er, and its musical w^hisperings of love and precious
messages from those who have crossed the crystal
river, putting on immortality — summering in the
eternal verdure and bloom of the elysian fields of the
blest, where souls never lapse nor suns ever set —
is of God. I repeat, this Spiritualism is of God. It
has come to stay, and it will stay and stand forever.
Battle Creek, Mich.


In no one line of human activity today is the prog-
ress of humanity more marked than in the increas-
ed interest of the people in matters pertaining to
our mental and spiritual powers, and their unfold-
ment. This is a most hopeful sign of the times,
and betokens the fact that, while outwardly we are
much given over to materialism, that in our newer
and real life we are mounting upward towards
"nobler things.'*

A thousand signs of the times indicate the sig-
nificant fact that, despite the mad rush for money
and power of our commercial and political life, a
great spiritual hunger has come upon the soul of
humanity, and one that no amount of material food
can ever satiate. We have the authority of the
great Nazarene teacher for saying that spiritual
hunger is a blessing, and that il^ must and will find
ample satisfaction.

No better indicator of public opinion and of the
trend of thought and desire of the people can be
found, than the public press; and this indicates a
rapidly increasing interest in all matters of psychic
research and questions regarding man's present
and future unfoldment. The leading dailies of the
great cities are now vying with one another in at-
tempts to supply the ever-increasing demand for
authentic facts and incidents bearing on the inter-
communion of the two worlds. The great mass of
attested incidents collected by the Society for
Psychical Research has — as all must see — a direct
relation to the Problem of Immortality. The great
magazines — a few years since rigidly closed to all
occult matters — are now finding it to their interest
to supply their readers with the latest and best in
psychic research. And the end is not yet.


No more flitting time could have been chosen,
therefore, for bringing out a new and enlarged edi-
tion of the "Watseka Wonder," a story of actual,
yet most wonderful happenings in Watseka, Illinois,
U. S. A., over fifty years ago, which is attested
by such a multiude of credible w^itnesses — some of
them living today — that to doubt the story is to im-
peach all human testimony.

The facts have been inquired into by many lead-
ing psychologists and psychic researchers, includ-
ing the late Dr. Richard Hodgson, with but one re-
sult: a ready acknowledgment of the authentic
character of the story. If the story be true, earth
and heaven are not far separated; mortals and
spirits do communicate, and the principal conten-
tions of the Spiritual Philosophy are indisputably

We send forth the new edition with an Introduc-
tion by the venerable Dr. James M. Peebles of
Battle Creek, Mich., who knew the chief characters
of the story, and Reminiscences of the three months'
visit of Mary Roff, in spirit, to the home of her peo-
ple in the borrowed body of Lurancy Vennum, by
Mrs. H. H. Alter, of Watseka, 111., her sister, with
the hope that it may interest and instruct humanity
and help to solve the problem: "If a man die shall
he live again?"

The Publishers.



Facta are tlie basiB of philosophy}
Philosophy the harmony of facts
Seen In their rigrht relations. — T. L. Harris.

* * * The springringr up of Spiritualism and Theosophy on
BToands burned over by the fires of the orthodox hell, and right
in the teeth of the east 'winds that blow from the cheerless seas of
doubt, testify to the hungrer of men for some assurance that the
loved and departed are not also lost. Rev. M. J. Savage, in a ser-
mon on '^Immortality and Modern Thought," delivered at the Sara-
toga Convention of Unitarians, September, 1886.

• • • There may be in what is called Spiritualism, and the
mind cure, and many other new developments, the germs of a
something higher; and we should be -willing for the ne-w theory
to take its place, and under the great laws of life, to wrork out its
destiny; and not, Pharaoh-like, seek to "kill the young child." It
may be that in the first appearances of many of these new ideas,
that they are crude, and that those who receive them and advocate
them do not themselves understand all their real meaning... * * *
Let us rejoice that the continuity of life seems to some to be a
demonstrated fact; and that to others there seems to be possible
a higher law of mental healing; and that in one w^ay and another,
and by all w^ays the truth is coming to our world, and our world
is coming to the truth. * • • — H. W. Thomas, D. D., in. "Religio-
Philosophical Journal," (for (December 25, 1886).

Rationally studied and interpreted, unmixed with delusions
self-grenerated or imposed by others. Spiritualism is the one safe- £,J^^

iraard against all superstitions. It shows that the unseen world r"'^
is as much w^ithin the sphere of universal nature as our owrn; it
is the solvent of all mysteries that have perplexed philosophers. —
Epes Sargent, in "Scientific Basis of Spiritualism."

Watseka, Illinois, has been swept by a tidal wave
of excitement, on account of the presumed insanity
of one Lurancy Vennum, a young girl belonging
to an unpretentious family in the suburbs of the
city. Her insanity, as it was thought to be, dates
from July 11, A. D. 1877; and the remarkable
phenomena continued until her perfect restoration
through the aid of friendly Spiritualists and spirits,
on May 21, 1878.

Thus, for ten months and ten days, did these
phenomena continue to excite and agitate the peo-

The follow^ing is a true narrative, and as full as
the facts collected from the parents and relatives
of the parties named herein and observations made
by the writer, will warrant.


Thomas J. Vennum was bom May 7, 1832, in
Washington Co., Penn. ; Lurinda J. Smith (his
wife), was born October 14, 1837, in St. Joseph
Co., Ind. They were married in Fayette Co., low^a,
December 2, 1855.

Mary Lurancy Vennum, daughter of the above
named Thomas and Lurinda J. Vennum, was bom
April 16, 1864, in Midford township seven miles
south of Watseka.

The family moved to Iowa, July 12, 1864, and
returned to the vicinity eight miles from Watseka,
in October, 1865. In August, 1866, they removed
to Milford, twelve miles south of Watseka, and re-
manied there till March 1, 1870; then moved out
two and one half miles from Milford until April 1,
1871, when they moved into Watseka, locating
about forty rods from the residence of A. B. Roff,
the spirit daughter of whom, according to all the
facts and representations every way tested, is the
principal character in this remarkable narrative.
The family remained at this place during the sum-
mer. The only acquaintance ever had been be-
tw^een the two families during the season, was
simply one brief call of Mrs. Roff, for a few minutes,
on Mrs. Vennum, which call was never returned;
and a formal speaking acquaintance betw^een the
two gentlemen. Since 1871, the Vennum family
had lived entirely away from the vicinity of Mr.
Roff*s, and never nearer than now, on extreme op-
posite limits of the city.

"Rancy," as she was familiarly called, had never
been sick, save a light run of measles in 1873. A
few days before the following incidents took place,
she said to her family: "There w^ere persons in my
room last night, and they called *Rancy! Rancy!!'
and I felt their breath on my face." The very next
night she arose from her bed, saying that she could
not sleep, that every time she tried to sleep persons


came and called "Rancy ! Rancy ! ! ** to her. Her
mother went to bed with her, after which she rest-
ed and slept the rest of the night.

On the eleventh day of July, 1877, Lurancy had )^
been sewing carpet a part of the afternoon, when
at about six o'clock she laid by her work, as her
mother said: **Lurancy, you had better commence
getting supper." The girl replied: **Ma, I feel bad;
I feel so queer," and placing her hand on her left
breast, she immediately went into what seemed
like a fit, falling heavily on the floor, lying ap-
parently dead, every muscle becoming suddenly
rigid. Thus she lay five hours. On returning to con-
sciousness she had said she felt "very strange and
queer." The remainder of the night she rested
well. The next day the rigid state returned, and
passing beyond the rigidity, her mind took cogni-
zance of two states of being at the same time. Ly-
ing as if dead, she spoke freely, telling the family
what persons and spirits she could see, describing
them and calling some of them by name. Among
those mentioned w^ere her sister and brother, for
she exclaimed, Oh, motherl can't you see little
Laura and Bertie? They are so beautiful!" etc.,
etc. Bertie died when Lurancy was but three years

She had many of these trances, describing heav-
en and the spirits, or the angels as she called them.
Sometime in September she became free from them
and seemed to the family to be quite w^ell again.

On the twenty-seventh day of November, 1877,
she was attacked with a most violent pain in her
stomach, some five or six times a day; for tw^o weeks
she had the most excruciating pains. In these pain-
ful paroxysms, she would double herself back until
her head and feet actually touched. At the end of
two weeks, or about the eleventh of December, in
these distressed attacks, she became unconscious


and passed into a queer trance, and, as at former
times, would describe heaven and spirits, often call-
ing them angels. "^

From this time on until the first of February,
1878, she would have these trances and sometimes
a seemingly real obsession, from three to eight and
sometimes as many as twelve times a day, lasting
from one to eight hours, occasionally passing into
that state of ecstasy , when as Lurancy, she claim-
ed to be in heaven.

During the time recorded, up to about the middle
of January, 1878, she had been under the care of
Dr. L. N. Pitwood in the summer and Dr. Jewett
during the winter. These M. D.*s are both eminent
allopathic practitioners, and residents of Watseka.
Mrs. Allison, Mrs. Jolly and other relatives and
friends believed her insane. The Rev. B. M. Baker,
the Methodist minister in charge at Watseka wrote
to the insane asylum to ascertain if the girl could
be received there. It seemed to be the general
feeling among all the friends save the parents and
a few who were only sympathetic observers and
thinkers, that the girl should go to the asylum.

There were in the City of Watseka at this time,
persons who had more humanity than bigotry; per-
sons who believe, in the language of a Spiritualist
lecturer, that ^^disease has a dynamic or spiritual
origin;" persons claiming to understand something
of the occult forces and phenomena of mind, and
the diseases incident to a false conception of, and
opposition to, its potencies; persons who believe
God being "no respecter of persons" and **without
variableness or shadow of turning," that power
exists today, as in the days of the Nazarene,
to cast out devils. Among this class w^ere Asa B.
Roff and his wife, who, with others, became
thoroughly aroused to the importance of arresting
the movement, to take a lovely child from the


bosom of an affectionate family, to imprison her
among maniacs, to be ruled and cared for by ignor-
ant and bigoted strangers, who know less of cata-
lepsy than a blind materialist does of immortal-
ity. These good people ventured in the most gentle
and Christian spirit, to counsel with the parents
and advise other treatment, different from any that
had been administered.

These earnest, self-sacrificing souls, imbued with *^
the conviction that uncultivated spirits had some- r

thing to do with the case, plead with the many
friends of the child to withold her from the asylum
until it could be better shown whether the girl was
really insane or her unfortunate condition might
be attributable to foreign minds.

Mr. Roff after much persuation, obtained the
consent of the girl's father, to visit her and bring
with him Dr. E. W. Stevens, of Janesville, Wis., to
investigate the case. Dr. Stevens, who, for several
months, at frequent intervals, had been in the city
and a silent listener to the scoffs and scandals
thrown out towards the Spiritualists on account of
their opinions regarding the case, and the universal
foment of mind in the city over it, was formally in-
vited by Mr. Vennum, through Mr. Roff to visit the

On the afternoon of January 31 1878, the two
gentlemen repaired to Mr. Vennum's residence, a
little out of the city. Dr. Stevens, an entire strang-
er to the family, was introduced by Mr. Roff at
four o'clock p. m. ; no other persons present but the
family. The girl sat near the stove, in a common
chair, her elbows on her knees, her hands under her
chin, feet curled up on the chair, eyes staring, look-
ing every way like an **old hag." She sat for a
time in silence, until Dr. Stevens moved his chair,
when she savagely warned him not to come nearer.
She appeared sullen and crabbed, calling her fath-


er *'01d Black Dick," and her mother "Old Granny."
She refused to be touched, even to shake hands,
and was reticent and sullen with all save the doc-
tor, with whom she entered freely into conversa-
tion, giving her reasons for doing so; she said he
was a Spiritual doctor and would understand her.

When he asked her name she quickly replied:

**Katrina Hogan."

"How old?"

^*Sixty-three years."

'^Where from?"


**How long ago?"

*Three days."

"How did you come?"

'Through the air."

*'How long w^ill you stay?"

"Three weeks."

After this system of conversation had proceeded
for some time, she modified her manner very much,
appearing to be a little penitent and confidential,
and said she would be honest and tell the doctor
her real name. She w^as not a w^oman; and her
real name was Willie. On being asked what was
her father's name, she replied, '*Peter Canning,"
and her ow^n name was Willie Canning, a young
man; ran away from home, got into difficulty,
changed his name several times and finally lost his
life and was now here because he ''wanted to be,"
etc. She w^earied \yith answering questions and
giving details. Then she turned upon the doctor
with a perfect shower of questions, such as, ''What
is your name? Where do you live? Are you
married? How many children? How many boys?
How many girls? What is your occupation?
What kind of a doctor? What did you come to
Watseka for? Have you ever been at the South
Pole? North Pole? Europe? Australia? Egypt?


Ceylon? Benares? Sandwich Islands?'' and by a
long series of questions evinced a knowledge of
geography. She next inquired after the doctor's
habits and morals by questions like the following:
**Do you lie? get drunk? steal? swear? use tobacco?
tea? coffee? Do you go to church? pray?" etc.,
etc. She then asked to have the same questions put
to Mr. Roff. She declined to ask them direct, her-
self, but through the doctor. They must also be
repeated through him to Mr. Vennum; making the
w^hile, some very unpleasant retorts.

When at about half -past five o'clock, p. m., the
visitors arose to depart, she also arose, flung up
her hands and fell upon the floor, straight, stiff and
rigid, as sensitives fall with the "power" in Meth-
odist revival meetings; and believing it to be of
the same nature, the doctor took occasion to prove
it, as he has done on those smitten with the "power,"
by controlling body and mind and restoring them
to a normal and rational state, despite the **power."

The visitors being again seated, he took her
hands as they were held straight upward, like iron
bars, and by magnetic action soon had the body un-
der perfect control and through the laws of Spirit-

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Online LibraryE. Winchester StevensThe Watseka wonder → online text (page 1 of 5)