Friday, October 30, 2009

Looking Into the Eyes of Old Tom At Last!

Last Halloween I participated in a Carnival called "Fact or Fiction?" (Carnival of Genealogy -58th Edition / October 12, 2008) with an article called, "The Eyes of Old Tom" . In my article I wrote about George Thomas Jaynes, "Old Tom", my great-grandfather, and all the things attributed to him. I have so many interviews about him from people that knew him well, that I could not just dismiss the stories. There were 4 things that were in each, independant interview:
1. He could make tables walk.
2. He (and others in the room with him) could hear knocking.
3. People wanted him to do these things.
and of the course the biggie:
4. He was making a table walk and it was struck by lightning in the middle of the room on a clear day which made him give up whatever he was doing.
And then there also was the pity my grandmother felt for him being 'driven practically crazy' by the unwelcome knocking for the rest of his life.

Another interesting thing is the fact that he was not listed as having a job in any record until the 1910 census where he is listed as a fireman at the mill. Interviews also had him not working at a job, but providing for his family.

So, what do you do when you want to find out if such a thing like table walking and knocking have a name and what purpose either could serve? Well, you google it, of course! And, no surprise to me, these things do have names: table tipping and rapping. What was a surprise to me was that they both are attributed to mediumship. You know, seances and spirits. I probably shouldn't have been surprised considering my enduring and avid curiosity about such things all my life, but I was. Now it seems it was obvious and I should have seen it all along. But I didn't. I won't say whether I am just a brick shy of a load or just consider that an ancestor of mine is expected to be kind of boring, but I did give some thought to both.

Let's start with some history on the subject.

The entire era of spiritualism and mediumship seems to start with the Fox sisters, Leah, Maggie and Katie about 1848 in New York. The claimed to 'talk' to spirits in their home as children through tapping, so many taps for yes and so many for no, as they asked questions of the spirits. Later in life Maggie confessed to it all being fake after becoming very religious. She later said she had lied about claiming it was fake, but by then they were all suspect. There were many frauds that have been documented from the early days, and the label could probably be applied to most of them if truth be told. But, there were a number of notable mediums that came out of the era of 1860 to the 1930's and even to the present day. One of my favorites, which I had studied many years ago, was Edgar Cayce aka The Sleeping Prophet. I simply had not put together Cayce's trance/dream work with my Old Toms' "table-walking" and "knocking". There are many forms of mediumship which I did not know about.

Attempts to communicate with the dead has been documented back to very early history. One that comes to mind easily is the story of the Witch of Endor, who raised the spirit of the dead Samuel so that Saul could question him about a battle. (I Samuel 28:8-25 Old Testament). Communicating with spirits is an old practice.

Arthur Conana Doyle, Harry Houdini and even Abraham Lincoln were all believers. Lincoln, remember, had his 'dreams', and everyone knows how Harry Houdini spent so many hours with medium after medium trying to contact his mother. (Not to mention the hours and years he spent in the after-life trying to contact his living wife through a medium. Some stories say he did, some say he didn't.) Hmmmmmm.

In the very late 1800's and early 1900's, the 'home seance' was all the rage. I should image many were little more than dramatic theater, kind of like renting a movie on the weekend. This was the birth of the 'professional medium'. Everyone was interested in psychic phenomena. Money was to be made. Here in Indiana there was the creation of Camp Chesterfield in 1886, just outside Indy. It was one of the most popular and well known Spiritualist camps in the country, with visitors coming from as far away as California. It is still home to the Indiana Association of Spiritualists. Yep, big business!

What I had been told over and over in interviews about old Tom was his 'walking a table', which was actually called table tipping. It was a way for the participants through the medium, to talk to the spirits. Everyone would sit around the table, each resting their hands on the top. Then, depending on the strength of the medium (or his 'special effects') the table would vibrate, move and tip from leg to leg in response to questions. It would probably look as though it was "walking".

Allan Kardac in "The Medium's Book" wrote:
"The qualities of mediums are various. The medianimic power is sometimes very strong, producing strongly marked effects; a single individual who is really a powerful medium often producing more effect, alone, than twenty others united. If such a one lays his hands on the table for an instant, it immediately begins to move, rising up, turning over, spinning round with great velocity, or performing a variety of irregular and often violent motions."

Another thing that was said over and over in the interviews was the 'knocking'. It was said it "just about drove old Tom crazy all the rest of his life". That is called "rapping", and it is the way a spirit tries to communicate with a person. It is not something 'conjoured' by a medium, but in one source I read, it was often the sign of a 'real' medium.

I spent many hours pouring over articles and books on the subject (a tiny few are listed below). When I was done I realized there was no way, short of a seance, that I could prove any of it. But there is a feeling, deep inside, that tells me I have almost solved this mystery. I am as sure as I can be that George Thomas "Old Tom" Jaynes was a professional spiritual medium. The only thing I haven't answered is the lightning incident. Only he can tell me about that one.

All I have to leave for those that come after me are the stories and a few historical facts. But I know.......

Then again, perhaps I could interview him.

I could use some help around the table. Join me, anyone?

George Thomas "Old Tom" Jaynes
October 15, 1869 - March 15, 1954


The Mediums' Book by Allan Kardec
translated by Anna Blackwell 1876
Quote from Page 59 Physical Manifestations. - Table-Turning

The Birth Of Spiritualism – The Story Of The Fox Sisters

Table Tipping
Popular Past Time of the Home Spirit Circles

The Seance
Communicating with the Spirits

Medium - from Wikipedia

Camp Chesterfield, Indiana

Edgar Cayce's A.R.E.
Association for Research and Enlightenment
215 67th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23451


Earline Hines Bradt said...

I can't join you in person but I'll be with you in spirit, lol.

Sheri said...

Twigs! I remember this post from last year. Great follow-up article!

Sheri Fenley

GrannyPam said...

Very interesting! I was surprised to see that Old Tom died in my lifetime (although I was very young (smile). I must have thought of such things as older history.

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