Judge John Worth Edmonds


judge-john-worth-edmonds-1John W. Edmonds was one of the most influential early American Spiritualists. After a great public career, as a member of both branches of the New York State Legislature and, for some time, President of the Senate and Judge of the Supreme Court of New York, he resigned the latter position on account of the outcry raised against his Spiritualistic beliefs and, especially, his support of the Fox sisters.

His interest in the Rochester knockings was aroused in early 1851, and the first account of his experiences was published on August 1, 1853, in the New York Courier, in an article “To the Public.” In this article, in order to meet the constant attacks against him by the Press, he confessed his complete conversion to Spiritualism and related his experiences. This bold step aroused a tremendous sensation, and a furious controversy arose.

In a letter published in the New York Herald, on August 6, 1853, he wrote:

“I went into the investigation originally thinking it a deception, and intending to make public my exposure of it. Having from my researches come to a different conclusion, I feel that the obligation to make known the result is just as strong. Therefore, it is, mainly, that I give the result to the world. I say mainly because there is another consideration which influences me, and that is, the desire to extend to others a knowledge which I am conscious cannot but make them happier and better.”

His investigations into mediumship were logical, hard, and indicative of a man of the law. He was shrewd and, consistently, his conclusions were the same: spirit out of body can and does communicate with spirit in body.

judge-john-worth-edmonds-2As time passed on, Judge Edmonds developed mediumship himself. Between the years 1853 and 1854, within a small circle formed with a few close friends, he received many spirit messages and communications. The chief communicators were alleged to be Swedenborg and Bacon.

The communications were referenced, compiled, and published in two volumes on Spiritualism. This venture was achieved jointly with Dr. George T. Dexter, seen at the left.

These volumes achieved tremendous success, with several editions being printed. They represent some of the most fascinating and informative literature ever published on Spiritualism; a must for all students of the subject.

In addition to his own mediumistic encounters, Judge Edmonds’ daughter, Laura, became a trance medium. She developed incredible musical powers and the gift of tongues. Although she could speak only English and a smattering of French, while entranced by Spirit she spoke nine different languages with great fluency: Spanish; French; Greek; Italian; Portuguese; Latin; Hungarian; and Indian dialects were identified. These phenomena and many others were all very meticulously recorded by Judge Edmonds.

The account of his experiences with raps, as given in the New York Tribune, March 1859, is especially significant and informative:

“And finally, after weeks of such trials, as if to dispel all idea in my mind as to its being done by others, or by machinery, the rappings came to me alone, when I was in bed, when no mortal but myself was in the room. I first heard them on the floor, as I lay reading.

“I said ‘It’s a mouse.’ They instantly changed their location from one part of the room of another, with a rapidity that no mouse could equal. ‘Still, it might be more than one mouse.’ And then they came upon my person — distinct, clear, unequivocal.

“I explained it to myself by calling it a twitching of the nerves, which at times I had experienced, and so I tried to see if it was so. It was on my thigh that they came. I sat up in bed, threw off all clothing from the limb, leaving it entirely bare. I had my left hand flat on the spot – the raps would be then on my hand and cease on my leg. I laid my hand edgewise on the limb and the force, whatever it was, would pass across my hand and reach the leg, making itself as perceptible on each finger as on the leg. I held my hand two or three inches from my thigh and found that they instantly stopped and resumed their work as soon as I withdrew my hand. But, I said to myself, this is some local affection which the magnetism of my hand can reach. Immediately they ran riot all over my limbs, touching me with a distinctness and rapidity that was marvelous, running up and down both limbs from the thighs to the end of the toes.”

Judge Edmonds never wavered in his beliefs nor in his advocacy of Spiritualism. He was a true champion for the cause, and he suffered dearly for it. Despite his amazing legal and political career and his even more amazing intellect, the Press and, therefore, the public, condemned him for his support of Spiritualism and for his support of the Fox sisters and the Rochester rappings.

Nonetheless, he continued in his work, even at the expense of stepping down from the New York Supreme Court.

judge-john-worth-edmonds-3In the year 1873, in recognition of his years of service to Spirit and to the cause of Spiritualism, the Spiritualists of England presented Judge Edmonds with a testimonial and a Testimonial Certificate. Two such certificates were made: one for Judge Edmonds, himself; the other was given to the benefactor of the First Spiritual Temple Trust, Marcellus Ayer, by those same British Spiritualists. This second certificate, seem to the left, remains part of our historical artifacts

This Testimonial begins as follows: “To Judge Edmonds: We, on behalf of your many admirers in England, desire to testify to you our high appreciation of the distinguished services you have rendered to the cause of Spiritualism.”

It continues with beautiful words of recognition and appreciation and signed, at the bottom, by 26 prominent British Spiritualists. It was presented to Judge Edmonds in London, in November 1873.

Judge Edmonds wrote the following: Letters and Tracts on Spiritualism; Spiritualism, Volume I (1853); Spiritualism, Volume II (1855); and Uncertainty of Spiritual Intercourse (1856).


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