E. Winchester Stevens.

The Watseka wonder online

. (page 3 of 5)
Online LibraryE. Winchester StevensThe Watseka wonder → online text (page 3 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

our Mary used to know, and nothing w^hatever of what the Vennum
girl knows. She nov/ enters the trance without any rigidity of the
muscles whatever, very gently, and at her own will, describes
heavenly scenes, etc., etc. We think all will be w^ell, and Lurancy
restored to her orthodox friends yet. * * Some of the relatives
are yielding by Mary's calling their attention to things of thirteen
years ago, that transpired betw^een her and them. It wakes them
up. * * It is wonderful. * * It would take a volume to give the
important items that have occurred.

Mrs. Dr. Alter, under date of April 16, 1878, writes
of Mary as follows:

My angel sister says that she is going away from us again soon,
but she says she will be often with us. She says Lurancy is a
beautiful girl; says she sees her nearly every day, and we do know
she is getting better every day. Oh, the lessons that are being
taught us are worth treasures of rare diamonds; they are stamped
upon the mind so firmly that heaven and earth shall pass away be-
fore one jot or one title shall be forgotten. * * * I have learned
so much that is grand and beautiful, I cannot express it; I am
dumb. * * * A few days ago Mary was caressing her father and
mother, and they became a little tired of it, and asked why she
hugged and kissed them. She sorrowfully looked at them, and
said, "Oh, pa and ma! I want to kiss you while I have lips to kiss
you with, and hug you while I have arms to hug you w^ith, for I
am going back to heaven before long, and then I can only be
with you in spirit, and you will not always know when I come,
and I cannot love you as I can now. Oh, how much I love
you aU!"


Mary wrote to Dr. Stevens, in an envelope with Mr.
Roff, under date of May seventh, as follows:

Dear Doctor: — I thought I would write you. I am at Aunt
Carrie's; am going to take dinner with her. * * * Yesterday I
went and spent the day with Mrs. Vennum. She had a dreadful
headache and I rubbed it away. Pa is quite busy in his office
today. Ma is feeling a good deal better. * * * I am feeling quite
well, except my breast hurts me some today. It commenced hurt-
ing me last night. * "^ * I treat ma in the morning and Nervie
at night for hard colds and cold feet. We all went to the Reform
Club last Saturday. Aunt Carrie's essay was splendid, and very
affecting. * * * We all read that letter in the "Religio-Philoso-
phical Journal" from your daughter, and liked it very much.

In the same letter Mr. Roff writes:

I want to give you a little scene; time Monday morning, May
sixth; place, A. B. Roff's office, Watseka; present, A. B. Roff at
table writing; Frank Roff at table at the right of A. B. R.; door
behind A. B., and a little to the left; enters unheard the person of
Lurancy Vennum; places her arm around the neck of A. B. Roff,
kissing him and saying, "Pa, I am going with Mrs. Vennum to
visit today;" A. B. Roff looks around and discovers standing in
the door Mrs. Vennum, Lurancy's mother, looking on the scene.
The girl then bade an affectionate good-by to Frank; A. B. R.
asks: How long will you stay?" She replies, "Till two or three
o'clock." Mrs. Vennum then said to Mr. Roff: "If she does not
get back at that time, don't get alarmed, we will take care of her.
Exit Mrs. V. and the girl. Y'ou don't know how my heart aches
for that poor mother, yet she is much happier than she was last
winter with Lurancy as she was. * * *

On May seventh, the day of writing the last letter,
Mary called Mrs. Roff to a private room, and there in
tears told her that Lurancy Vennum was coming
back. She seemed very sad, and said she could not
tell whether she was coming to stay or not; that if
she thought she was coming to stay, she would want
to see Nervie and Dr. Alter and AUie and bid them
good-by. She sat down, closed her eyes and in a few
moments the change took place, and Lurancy had
control of her own body. Looking w^ildly around
the room she anxiously asked:

**Where am I? I was never here before."

Mrs. Roff replied:


"You are at Mr. Roff*s, brought here by Mary to
cure your body."

She cried and said:

"I want to go home.**

Mrs. Roff asked her if she could stay till her
folks were sent for.

She said:


She was then asked if she felt any pain in her
breast. (This was during the period that Mery was
suffering pain in the left breast; continually hold-
ing her hand, pressing it.) She replied:

"No, but Mary did.**

In about five minutes the change was again made,
and Mary came overjoyed to find herself permitt-
ed to return, and called, as she often had, for the
singing of her previous girlhood*s favorite song,
'*We are Coming, Sister Mary.**

The child seemed possessed of all the natural
affection for the family that a daughter and sister
of fine feelings and cultured tastes might be sup-
posed to possess after an absence of tw^elve years and
she often took occasion to demonstrate that affec-
tion by endearing names and kindly words. When
walking with Mrs. Alder her sister Nervie as she
called her, she would say, **Nervie, my only sister
put your arm around me.** Or, **Come, Nervie,
put your arm around me and we will take a little
walk in the garden or the grove, for I cannot be
with you much longer and I want to be with you
every minute I can.** When Mrs. Alter would ask
her v/hen or w^here she w^as going, she w^ould say,
"The angels tell me I am going to heaven, but I
don*t know just when. Oh, how I wish you could
live here at home with us as you used to when I
was here before.** She thought a great deal of Dr.
Alter, the husband of her sister, but could hardly
seem to realize that Nervie was married and had


had a family for eleven years. She said when she
got into this body she felt much as she did when
here tw^elve years ago. This body seemed as nat-
ural to her as though she had been bom w^ith it,
yet she could not do with it as she would like to.
She did not seem to realize at first, but that this was
her ow^n original, physical body, until the angels
explained it to her, and she had received infor-
mation and instructions from her parents, sister,
brother and friends about it. So natural did it
seem to her, after know^ing all the facts, that she
could hardly feel it w^as not her original body bom
nearly thirty years ago.

In conversation w^ith the w^riter about her for-
mer life, she spoke of cutting her arm as hereinbe-
fore stated, and asked if he ever saw where she did
it. On receiving a negative answer, she proceed-
ed to slip up her sleeve as if to exhibit the scar, but
suddenly arrested the movement, as if by a sudden
thought, and quickly said, "Oh, this is not the arm;
that one is in the ground," and proceeded to tell
/^ where it was buried, and how she saw it done and

who stood around, how they felt, etc., but she did
not feel bad. I heard her tell Mr. Roff and the
friends present, how she wrote to him a message
some years ago through the hand of a medium,
giving name, time and place. Also of rapping and
spelling out a message by another medium, giving
time, name, place etc., etc., which the parents ad-
mitted to be true. I heard her relate a story of her go-
ing into the country with the men, some tw^enty odd
years ago, after a load of hay, naming incidents
that occurred on the road, which two of the gentle-
men distinctly remembered.

In one of those beautiful trances w^hich rendered
her entirely oblivious to all physical surroundings,
appearing in a state of happy ecstasy, and, so far
as manners and movements are concerned, perfect-


ly normal and graceful, with visions and senses
fully open, she went to heaven as she called it, in
company w^ith another young lady in like condition,
whose name must be reserved until the wonderful
history she is making, shall be made public by the
consent of all. They saw and conversed about the
beautiful scenes before them, pointing out individ-
uals, giving names, relationship, histories, facts,
etc., describing places and things. Mary pointed
out and described some with titles of royalty, such
as Mary, Queen of Scots, Henry IV., King of France,
and others of equal note, showing a rich biograph-
ical and historical reading or experience and ac-
quaintance in spirit-life. Then bow^ing low^, and
kneeling with hands folded, and heads together,
as if in the most devout and solemn devotion re-
mained in listening silence for some time, then ris-
ing, the unnamed girl said:

"He came to bless, didn't he, Mary? a bright
beautiful angel."

After talking of the different classes they were
observing, and the "lovely children" attracting so
much of their attention, Mary seemed to take in her
arms a very little, tender infant and said: "This
is sister Nervie's baby; how^ sw^eet and beautiful it
is. Don't you think it is a sweet little angel?"
The other, in softest accent said, "Yes, but it seems
to me they are all too pure to be touched by such
as w^e," and after some time the babe w^as carefully
handed back to the care of the angels. Mrs. Alter,
who was present, had recently lost by death, a beau-
iful babe and had scarcely recovered from her con-
finement. The whole scene w^as one of uncommon
interest, very affecting and impressive beyond de-

For the discovery of facts unknow^n to others,
Mary seemed remarkably developed. One after-
noon, she, with much concern and great anxiety,


declared that her brother Frank must be carefully
watched the coming night, for he would be taken
very sick, and would die if not properly cared for.
At the time of this announcement he was in his
usual heatlh, and engaged w^ith the Roff Bros.*
band of music up town. The same evening. Dr.
Stevens had been in to see the family, and on leav-
ing was to go directly to Mrs. Hawks, far off in the
Old Town, and the family so understood it. But
at about nine and a half o'clock the same evening,
Dr. Stevens returned unannounced to Mr. Marsh's,
Mr. Roff's next neighbor, for the night. At two
o'clock in the morning Frank w^as attacked w^ith
something like a spasm and congestive chill, which
almost distroyed his consciousness. Mary at once
saw^ the situation as predicted, and said, "Send to
Mrs. Marsh's for Dr. Stevens." *'No, Dr. Stevens
is at Old Town," said the family. **No," said Mary,
*'he is at Mr. Marsh's; go quick for him, pa." Mr.
Roff called, and the doctor, as Mary said, was at Mr.
Marsh's. On his arrival at the sick bed, Mary had
entire control of the case. She had made Mrs. Roff
sit down; had provided hot water and cloths and
other necessaries, and was doing all that could be
done for Frank. The doctor seconded her efforts
and allowed her to continue. She saved her brother,
but never made a move after the doctor's arrival,
w^ithout his co-operation or advice.

Mary often spoke of seeing the children of Dr.
Stevens in heaven, w^ho were about her age and of
longer residence there than herself. She said she
was with them much, and went to his home with him.
She correctly described his home, the rooms and
furniture, gave the names and ages of his children,
and as evidence of her truthfulness, told of a re-
markable experience of Mrs. E. M. Wood, one of
the doctor's married daughter, which, on account
of its peculiar features, and the faith of some of the

ni\x/>0'^0>^ •


relatives was not intended for the public, yet was a
beautiful evidence of angel guardianship. She stat-
ed the story minutely, saying that was where and
when she got Mrs. Wood's name, for she was pres-
ent with others she named.

The doctor's daughter Emma Angelia, who had
been in spirit-life since March 10, 1849, sought
through Mary to take the body she was controlling
and go home with her father to Wisconsin, to visit
the family for a week, and Mary was disposed to let
her do it; she asked Mr. and Mrs Roff if she should
let Emma Stevens have the body for a week to go
with her father to see and be with her mother,
sisters and brother, so they could realize it was
Emma? But no one thought it advisable.

To show the ease with which Mary controls, or
goes in and out, as it is said, and the perfect me-
dium the body of Lurancy is, a single instance will
suffice. On the twenty-first day of April, in the par-
lors of Mrs. Roff, in the presence of Mr. and Mrs.
Roff, their hired woman Charlotte, Dr. Steel and
wife, Mrs. Twing of Oregon, Mrs. Alter, Mr. and

Mrs. M , and the writer, manifestations of a very

peculiar and happy character occurred. Mary be-
ing the last one to join the company in the parlor,
took the only vacant seat, next to a gentleman
friend. Dr. Steel became influenced by a brother
of one of the persons present, and made a very strik-
ing address, with a good deal of energy and pathos.
On his becoming disentranced and entering into the
general conversation, Mary voluntarily disembodied
her controlling pow^er, and leaving the girl's form
like a corpse, with the head resting against the
shoulder of her friend, immediately took control of
Dr. Steel, and in every possible way required prov-
ed it to be herself; she then through that manly
form, turned in a jovial w^ay and laughed at the
position of the seemingly untenanted body and its


limp condition, with a pleasant jest at the friend
who supported it. She soon, how^ever, returned to
her ow^n proper control and seemed to enjoy the trick
she had played, in the control of the gentleman.

In a few^ moments she appeared peculiar, and call-
ing the hired woman to follow her, they left the
room. Soon she returned clad in an old-fashioned
way, with gown, cap, cape and spectacles, etc., lean-
ing on the arm of Charlotte as if bowed down with
many years. Not one trace of the girl could be seen
save in the youthful skin of the face. Taking a seat
in the old arm chair, she began to talk as an old
lady of olden times might be supposed to do, rep-
resenting herself as the grand-mother of Charlotte,
giving her name, inquiring after all the relatives, old
and young, asking by name for those belonging to
families the girl could have know^n nothing about.
Said she died of cancer near the right eye and tem-
ple; called for tepid water and soft cloth, which
being furnished, proceeded in the most natural man-
ner to bathe and dress the cancer. She called for
food and ate it, apparently without teeth, smoked
after it, as she used to do, because her food always
hurt her if she did not. She asked for knitting
work. It being furnished, she found fault because
the knitter did not know how to knit. Raveling out
and taking up again she knit, at the same time
telling Charlotte how to knit without looking at it.
She next asked for mending and other things to do,
looked at the fabric of the ladies* dresses, asking
the prices, etc., etc. She looked out at the window,
remarked how pleasant a place it was, and so con-
tinued for a full hour, never for a moment show^ing
any sign of deception, but a veritable, honest, ex-
perienced domestic old lady. Numerous other per-
sonalities might be related, but this is sufficient.

When inquired of as to form materialization she
said it was a truth, though she had never tried it


because she did not know how, but should learn
how w^hen she found an opportunity.

During her stay at Mr. RofF's her physical con-
dition continually improved, being under the care
and treatment of her supposed parents and the ad-
vice and help of her physician. She w^as ever obe-
dient to the government and rules of the family, like
a careful and wise child, always keeping in the com-
pany of some of the family, unless to go in to the
nearest neighbors across the street. She was often
invited and went with Mrs. Roff to visit the first fam-
ilies of the city, who soon became satisfied that the
girl w^as not crazy, but a fine, w^ell-mannered child.

The manner in w^hich she acted for a considerable
time after coming into Mr. Roff's family was very
strange to many. Sitting dow^n to the tea-table on
one occasion, Mrs. Roff said :

"Now, Mary, what shall I help you to?"

She answered:

**Oh, nothing, I thank you, ma. Fll go to heaven
for my tea." *

Suiting the action to the word off she went into
a quiet trance or to heaven as she termed it and so
remained till the family had eaten when she return-
ed to her normal state. Being again asked she said
she had been to tea and the question was put:

'*Mary, what do you eat, and how do you eat it?"

Her answer w^as:
**0 ma, if I could tell, you could not understand it."

And thus for some time she only ate in that way,
except a very little occasionally, to pacify the anx-
ious family. As her system became in better con-
dition, she ate more freely, and for many weeks to-
w^ards the last she ate, drank and slept as a healthy
person should.

As the time drew near for the restoration of Lu-
rancy to her parents and home, Mary would some-
times seem to recede into the memory and manner of


Lurancy for a little time, yet not enough to lose her
identity or permit the manifestation of Lurancy*s
mind, but enough to show she was impressing her
presence upon her own body.

On being asked, "Where is Lurancy?" she would
say, '*Gone out some where," or, *'She is in heaven
taking lessons, and I am here taking lessons too."

On Sunday, May nineteenth, about half-past four
o'clock p. m., Mr. Roff and Mary were sitting in the
parlor, Henry Vennum, Lurancy's brother, being in
the sitting room, another room and hall between.
Mary left control, and Lurancy took full possession
of her own body. Henry was called in and she caught
him around his neck, kissed and wept over him,
causing all present to weep. At this juncture Mr.
Roff was called and asked Lurancy if she could stay
till Henry could go and bring her mother (she had
expressed a desire to go and see her father and
mother.) She said, "No," but if Henry would go
and bring her, she would come again and talk with
her. She immediately left and Mary came again.
When Mary was asked where she had been, she re-
plied, *'l have seen Dr. Stevens and he looks as good
as ever again."

Mrs. Vennum was brought w^ithin an hour, and
on her arrival, Lurancy came into full control, when
one of the most affecting scenes ever witnessed took
place. Mother and daughter embraced and kissed
each other, and wept until all present shed tears of
sympathy ; it seemed the very gate of heaven.

On the morning of May twenty-first, Mr. Roff
w^rites as f ollow^s :

Mary is to leave the body of Rancy today, about eleven o'clock,
so she says. She is bidding neighbors and friends good-by. Ran-
cy to return home all right today. Mary came from her room
upstairs where she was sleeping with Lottie, at ten o'clock last
night, lay down by us, hugged and kissed us, and cried because
she must bid us good-by, telling us to give all her pictures, mar-
bles and cards, and twenty-five cents Mrs. Vennum had given her,
to Rancy, and had us promise to visit Rancy often. She tells me


to write to Dr. Stevens as follows: "Tell him I am going to
heaven, and Rancy is coming home well." She says she will
see your dear children in spirit-life; says she saw you Sunday last.
* * * She said last night, weeping, "Oh, pa, I am going to
heaven tomorrow at eleven o'clock, and Rancy is coming back
cured, and going home all right." She talked most lovingly about
the separation to take place, and most beautiful was her talk
about heaven and home.

Mrs. Alter writes:

When the day came, and the angels told Mary that Lurancy
was coming to take full possession of her body, it seemed to make
her feel very sad. She went to the residences of Mr. L. C. Marsh
and Mr. M. Hoober, to say good-by, telling them the angels had
said the body was cured, and Lurancy w^as coming to go home
and live with her parents again, all well; yet she says, "I feel sad
at parting with you all, for you have treated me so kindly; you
have helped me by your sympathy to cure this body, and Rancy
can come and inhabit it."

This shows that the angels can help the children
of earth. Mr. M, Hoober being a pious Christian
gentleman, and loving Mary for her sweet influence
in his family, came into the room and asked if she
would like to sing with him and his good wife. She

"Yes, I am so sad, but when I go to heaven all
tears shall be w^iped aw^ay, and I w^ill be happy.**

After singing they all knelt down, and Mr.
Hoober made a very affecting prayer, saying, *4f it
can be that an angel is in our midst, and about to
leave us and go and join her ow^n in spirit-life, w^ill
God in his goodness allow^ her to bear a message of
love to my angel father and loved ones w^ho may,
for all w^e can see, be hovering around our household
at this moment.** He hoped we would all be better
and w^iser, and when Lurancy should come back to
her normal condition, w^ould be better for the strange
and new^ lessons she has learned.

Mary has sent word to her sister Nervie to come
to her father*s to stay an hour w^ith her, to say good-
by, and w^hen Rancy should come back at eleven
o'clock, to take her to Mr. Rof f *8 office, and he would

■ 7 '7


go to Mr. Vennum's with her. Mary said: **I will
come in spirit as close to you as I can, and comfort
you in sorrow, and you will feel me near you some-

When eleven o'clock came she seemed loth to go
or let Rancy go back. Mrs. Altar stai^ted to go
home and Mary started with her. When in the yard,
Mrs. A. said: "Mary, you have always done as you
said you would, but as I don't understand these
things, w^ill you please let Lurancy come back just
now, and then you can come again if you want to?"
Mary said: '*Yes, I will," and she kissed mother and
sister good-by.

A voice said, *'Why, Mrs. Alter, where are we go-
ing?" Then in a breath, "Oh, yes, I know, Mary
told me!"

On the way they met Mrs. Marsh and Mrs. Hoober,
who were the nearest neighbors and Mary's favorite
friends; Lurancy did not seem to know them, but re-
marked, **Mary thinks so much of these neighbors."
Then turning to Mrs. Alter, with whom Lurancy had
been but slightly acquainted two years ago, she said,
^*Mrs Alter, Mary can come and talk to you nearly
all the way home, if you want her to, and then I will
come back." She spoke, and appeared like one
slightly acquainted. Mrs. Alter said: "I have trusted
you in the past, and of course I would love to talk
with my sister."

The change was again made, and Mary said, **I
do love to be w^ith you so much."

She talked lovingly, and gave good advice about
many things and family matters. The final change
now^ took place at the time predicted, and Lurancy
stated she felt something as though she had been
asleep, yet she knew she had not. On reaching Mr.
Roff's office, she addressed him as Mr. Roff, and
asked if he would take her home, which he did.

May twenty- second, Mr. Roff writes me as follows :



Thank God and the good angels, the dead is alive and the lost
is found. I mailed you a letter yesterday at half-past ten o'clock
A. M., stating that Mery told us she would go away, and Rancy
return at eleven o'clock the twenty-first of May. Now I write
you that at half-past eleven o'clock A. M., Minerva called at my
office with Rancy Vennum, and wanted me to take her home,
which I did. She called me Mr. Roff, and talked with me as a
young girl would, not being acquainted. 1 asked her how things
appeared to her — if they seemed natural. She said it seemed like
a dream to her. She met her parents and brother in a very af-
fectionate manner, hugging and kissing each one in tears of glad-
ness. She clasped her arms around her father's neck a long time,
fairly smothering him w^ith kisses. I saw^ her father just now
(eleven o'clock). He says she has been perfectly natural, and
seems entirely well. You see my faith in w^riting you yesterday
morning instead of w^aiting till she came.

The Watseka "Republican" says:

The meeting with her parents at the home was very affecting,
and now^ she seems to be a healthy, happy little girl, going about
noting things she saw before she was stricken, and recognizes
changes that have since taken place. This is a remarkable case,
and the fact that we cannot understand such things, does not do
away with the existence of these unaccountable manifestations.

The Danville (111.) "Times," in speaking of this case,

1 3 5

Online LibraryE. Winchester StevensThe Watseka wonder → online text (page 3 of 5)