|My awaiting destination: London's College of Psychic Studies.|
I was visiting to document some fantastic artifacts in the college's holdings which I've long-hoped to photograph. I'm beginning here with a study of the CPS's incredible array of spirit trumpets. Unfortunately, trumpets are notoriously difficult to identify. Absent of boxes or packaging, very few carry any sort of maker's mark, and labels are unheard of. I've spent the last two years researching and cataloging every trumpet, manufacturer, and trumpet medium I can uncover, and even the resulting 65-page, 45,000-word timeline document doesn't really help answer that primary question: who made what? Of course, identifying trumpets with special provenance is even more difficult, but CPS had a few surprises in store for me.
|Mr. Leslie Price in the midst of the William Stainton Moses archives.|
|Photo of most of the CPS's spirit trumpet collection pieces at |
http://www.pinterest.com/psychicstudies/pins/, which also has
some lovely shots of the college!
|The CPS's "almost-Eckel's" trumpet. Some differences in the company's standard-issue trumpet, but also carrying |
some of the classic markers of an Eckel-produced product. Note lovely hand-print artifact in luminous paint.
Lastly, there's the curious addition of some sort of retainer or tension bar riveted where the sections come together, ostensibly to keep the trumpet from coming apart mid-seance. Whether they are original--a feature I've never seen on another trumpet--or a later aftermarket addition, is unknown.
But perhaps my favorite feature of the trumpet is the remnant of luminous paint on the bell. The ribs had a thick coat spread around their circumference, and there was a distinctive handprint--a thumbspot and fingers--wrapping around the bell. Its origins or purpose are completely unknown, but if it was put there by accident, it was never corrected, so it seems intentional. Just a lovely piece, all the way around, but, like so many other trumpets (and the remainder of those in the CPS holdings), impossible to positively ID. Maybe it's an Eckel's--an early or late production (I own at least one variant that's even more different than this one is from a standard issue Eckel's, for example)--but for now we'll give it a tentative Eckel's assignment in a sea of spirit-trumpet ID uncertainty.
|An unidentified spirit trumpet. Professionally and stoutly made, but of unknown manufacture.|
|Though possibly a Two Worlds trumpet, it is most likely this is a Psychic Science Institute specimen, 1940-50s. Note luminous tape remains.|
|Another possible Two Worlds or PSI single-piece trumpet. This one has luminous paint glommed over its wire-rolled bell-end.|
While the CPS stored the box with the trumpets, there had not been an attempt to match it with a trumpet in years. Moreover, no one had really questioned the owner of the box or its place in the collection until I started making inquires, at which point Leslie immediatelybhad a "lightbulb" go off, and realized it was the property of H. Dennis Bradley, a trumpet medium famous in his day for direct voice mediumship, and a student and champion of another famous trumpet medium, George Valiantine. The address even matches Bradley's business in life. Bradley's personal accounts of his own trumpet mediumship are recounted in 1925's The Wisdom of the Gods, and may give some indication of the origins of CPS's trumpet:
"It was towards the end of July, 1924, that I made my first effort to obtain direct and independent spirit voices. When I suggested the experiment to my wife, she was amused, and declared that it would be absolutely impossible. So I refused to make any attempt on that evening. Two evenings later, however, the experiment was made. There were only three sitters: my wife, her mother, and myself. We sat in my study at Dorincourt ; a trumpet—a collapsible aluminium trumpet for amplifying sounds, which Valiantine had left with me on his return to America in March last—was placed on a table in the centre of the room. We got the raps on the table as before, and after twenty minutes or so the trumpet was lifted and each of us was lightly touched. Then a hissing sound was heard, as if someone was endeavouring, under great difficulties, to articulate something."Is Bradley's trumpet in the CPS collections the same trumpet he inherited from Valiantine? There's no way to know for sure, but it's a fun thought to inspire the look for further evidence. Of course, there's also the matter of which trumpet goes where. There's one size and style of trumpet that fits the box like a glove: the two-section Two Worlds trumpets, and there's two-and-a-half of them in the archives. Bradley's trumpet would have been well-used, and I have suggested CPS pair the more battered matching sections with the box for display.
Lovely collection, and a fascinating history on these items. I am incredibly grateful to the CPS for welcoming me and allowing me to document the items, and to Leslie for the incredible tour through their hallowed halls. Stay tuned, true believers, for a breakdown of the host of other artifacts I researched during my short stay in parts 2 and 3!