An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural
Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies
Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z
Showers, Mary Rosina (circa 1890-?) Born in India, the teenage daughter of a military family, Mary Showers was a spirit medium who worked with Florence Cook. She was famous for her “full-form” spirit materializations, done under very unsatisfactory (for the skeptic, but ideal for her) conditions. When placed under adequate controls, Showers failed to produce and was, in fact, exposed as a cheater.
Both mediums, Showers and Cook, were known for producing spirit forms that were indistinguishable from real people. In fact, sitters often remarked that their ghosts not only looked, felt, walked, smelled, and behaved exactly like the mediums themselves, but were identical to them in every possible way, except for costume. The message inherent in that observation seems to have escaped the believers.
In March 1874, Cook and Showers gave a demonstration, a séance, for Sir William Crookes at his home. This was attended by several witnesses, among them Sergeant E. W. Cox. Such a séance always took place in a dimly lit room, a curtained-off section at one end in which the medium, usually dressed in black, either sat in a chair or reclined on a couch, supposedly in a trance. The ghost, garbed in white, would either peek through the curtain or actually emerge and walk about among the spectators.
Following this séance, Sergeant Cox felt called upon to clearly state his observations. In The Spiritualist (a prominent journal of the day) of May 15 of that year, he reported of the supposed ghost forms:
They were solid flesh and blood and bone. They breathed, and perspired, and ate. . . . Not merely did they resemble their respective mediums, they were facsimiles of them——alike in face, hair, complexion, teeth, eyes, hands, and movements of the body. . . . No person would have doubted for a moment that the two girls who had been placed behind the curtain were now standing [in person] before the curtain playing very prettily the character of ghost. . . . There was nothing to avoid this conclusion but the bare assertion of the forms in white that they were not what they appeared to be, but two other beings in the likeness of Miss Cook and Miss Showers; and that the real ladies were at this moment asleep on the sofa behind the curtain. But of this their assertion no proof whatever was given or offered or permitted. The fact might have been established in a moment beyond all doubt by the simple process of opening the curtain and exhibiting the two ladies then and there upon the sofa, wearing their black gowns. But this only certain evidence was not proffered, nor, indeed, was it allowed us——the conditions exacted from us being that we should do nothing by which, if it were a trick, we should have been enabled to discover it.
Cox's report effectively put an end to belief in the validity of the séances offered by these two charlatans. In a further report, he described an 1894 séance during which he and a spectator had actually pulled aside the curtain and all present discovered Miss Showers wearing a headdress, poking her head through the curtain. The chair in which she was supposed to be sitting, in a trance, was empty. Following this debacle, Cox made the incredible statement that he believed that on this occasion, Showers had been “entranced” and had donned the headdress unconsciously.
It is not recorded whether Sergeant Cox was awarded the Supreme Gullibility Medal for 1894.
Click here to order a copy of the original hardcover edition of this Encyclopedia.
Copyright (C) 1995-2007 James Randi.
Created and maintained with the dictionary compilation software TshwaneLex.