Isaac Rehn and James Cutting Encounter Imponderable Forces

Isaac Rehn, letter.  From Robert Hare, M. D.  Experimental Investigation of the Spirit Manifestations, Demonstrating the Existence of Spirits and Their Communion with Mortals. Doctrine of the Spirit World Respecting Heaven, Hell, Morality, and God. Also, the Influence of Scripture on the Morals of Christians. New York:  Partridge and Brittan, 1855: 289-292.


Philadelphia, August 1, 1855.

Professor Robert Hare:

Dear Sir:

In obedience to your invitation, I will proceed to make a brief statement of the more prominent facts supporting the hypothesis, that the spirits of those who once dwelt with us do still hold intercourse with mortals.

During the early part of the year 1850, some friends of mine, in whom I had full confidence, stated to me the result of several intercommunions had with these mysterious agents, by which I was led to a determination to test the matter for myself; and, accordingly, on the fifth day of July, in company with a friend, I visited New York, that being the only accessible point known to us at which to gain the object of our visit.  The Fox family, consisting of Mrs. Fox, Mrs. [Leah Ann Fox] Fish, (afterward Mrs. Brown,) Catharine and Margaret Fox were then at Barnum’s Hotel, giving to the public opportunities to test the reality or imposture of the so-called spiritual phenomena.  We called at the rooms of the family, and obtained a sitting during the afternoon of the same day.  A dozen or more persons were present at the sitting, the result of which was the conviction that the sounds were not a deception on the part of the mediums, but the result of some occult force and intelligence, independent of the ladies themselves.

Without entering into any detail of the incidents of the visit above referred to, or speculations upon the general subject under consideration, I propose to cite incidents in my own experience, which go to establish the truth of spiritual intercourse.

Shortly after the commencement of the sounds in the first circle instituted in this city, and of which I was, from the first, a member, demonstrations in the form of movements of tables, chairs, and other articles commenced.  Many times they were very violent, but in most instances it was necessary that the hands of the company, and especially those of the mediums, should be upon the table.  During the session of a circle, however, held in the afternoon—and of course in daylight—these movements became unusually violent.  Two card-tables, around which the company sat, having been drawn to the centre of the floor, were thrown backward and forward with great force.  After moving thus for some minutes, one of the tables started toward some two or three of the company, and pressed heavily against them, causing them to recede until they had reached the wall; the table would then retreat to the centre of the floor, and, as it were, charge some two or three more, whom in like manner it would press back.  Thus it continued retreating and attacking, until the entire company were seated around at the sides of the room.

Having thus cleared the floor in the central part of the room, the table rose deliberately at the side next to myself, and so continued until it had turned some distance beyond the point of equilibrium, with the evident design of performing a revolution.

These and other manifestations were at the time so wonderful and strange to that part of the company present which had never before met in a circle, as to cause great terror.  One lady became so much alarmed that she screamed aloud, which interfering with the requisite conditions for success, the table fell heavily upon the floor, breaking off the top.

During the rising of the table on the side toward myself, I reached my hand and pressed upon it, with the view of seeing what force was employed in raising it.  Upon removing my hand, it would spring up as if it were suspended from the ceiling by an elastic cord.

At the time this phenomenon was occurring, a friend of mine, Mr. J. A. Cutting, of Boston, Massachusetts, being seated by my side, found himself moved, as though some one had drawn the chair on which he was sitting.  He then placed his feet upon the front round of the chair, so as to entirely insulate himself from the floor, and while in this position he was raised from the floor, chair and all.  This gentleman was quite large and stout, weighting, I should think, not less than one hundred and seventy pounds.

I would here state particularly and emphatically, that at the time of these most violent movements of the table, no hands were upon them, nor was there any physical contact with the objects moved.

At the same session, a tumbler and pitcher being upon a washstand in a corner of the room, some five feet distant from any person present, suddenly a crash was heard in the direction in which these articles were situated.  Upon examination, the tumbler was found to be broken into several hundred pieces, and what is still more strange, the pieces were not scattered around, but occupied a spot which did not exceed eight or ten inches in diameter!  It seemed as if the tumbler had collapsed; even the bottom, thick as it was, was broken into many pieces.  These facts occurred at the house of Mr. George D. Henck, dentist, in Arch street, who, with the other persons present on that occasion, will at any time corroborate these statements.

On another occasion, at the house of Mr. J. Thompson, of this city, during a sitting, I requested, among other things, that the spirits would move the table without physical contact.  Mrs. Thompson, Mrs. [Abigail Frances Zelley] R[ehn], and myself, the only persons in the room, drew back from the table, and it was then moved some six or eight inches.  In addition to this, it moved from various points, and objects were retained on the table, when under ordinary circumstances, from the inclination of the table, they must have fallen off.

At a sitting at my own residence, some two years since, some very strange phenomena occurred.  At the close of the session, a young man, of slender frame and constitution, (Mr. H[enry] C. Gordon,) had his hand thrown violently upon the centre of a large dining-table, weighting not less than eighty or ninety pounds.  Some of the company were requested to raise Mr. Gordon’s hand from the table.  This, after much effort, was accomplished, and, strange to relate, the table accompanied the hand until it was entire isolated from the floor.  This was a result which I would have doubted, had it not come under my own personal observation.

About the same time, a company of persons, whose names, as far as I can recollect, I shall mention, were seated around two tables, joined together, in order to furnish room sufficient to seat the party.  The house in which I then lived had two parlours, with folding doors.  The two tables referred to occupied the entire length of the front parlour, leaving barely room enough for the chairs at the front end of the room; the other end of the table extended quite to the folding doors, leaving, of course, no passage on either end.  It so happened that I was seated at that end of the table projecting into the doorway.  The medium, Mr. Gordon, was seated about midway of the tables, on the left, the other seats being occupied by the rest of the company.

After a variety of manifestations had occurred, the medium was raised from his seat by an invisible power, and, after some apparent resistance on his part, was carried through the doorway between the parlours, directly over my head, and his head being bumped along the ceiling, he passed to the farther end of the back room, in which there was no one beside himself.

Although all the individuals present had not equally good opportunity of ascertaining the facts in this case, the room having been somewhat darkened, still his transit over the end of the table at which I was seated, and the utter impossibility of the medium passing out in other way than over our heads, his continued conversation while thus suspended, and his position, as indicated by the sound, with other facts in the case, leave no reasonable doubt of the performance of the feat.

There were present on the occasion alluded to, the following persons, viz.:  Aaron Comfort, George D. Henck, Rebecca Thomas, Naomi Thomas, Marianne Thomas, Esther Henck, Mrs. Rehn, J. S. Mintzer, M. D., and many others.

I. Rehn


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