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Unraveling the Mysterious Spiritualism of the Eddy Brothers

Eddy Brothers Ghostly Manifestation

The Eddy's were famous Vermont mediums of the 1800s spiritualism craze

Apparitions, Seances and Psychic Powers?

The Eddy Brothers, William and Horatio, were controversial mediums known for holding séances and channeling spirits at their family’s Green Tavern inn located in Chittenden, Vermont in the 1870s. The brothers claimed to have psychic abilities and spiritual powers from a young age, which led them to become traveling spiritualists. At their inn, the brothers held free séances where they produced alleged ectoplasm materializations and levitations. Their séances attracted attention and debate – were the Eddy Brothers truly communicating with the dead or were they frauds using sleight of hand? The Eddy Brothers became famous figures during the height of the Spiritualism movement in America.

Brothers with a connection to the spirit world

The Eddy Brothers, William and Horatio, grew up on a small farm outside Rutland, Vermont in the first half of the 19th century. From a young age, the brothers claimed to exhibit paranormal powers and spiritual manifestations.

Early Psychic Experiences

As infants, the Eddy brothers would allegedly disappear from their cradles only to reappear elsewhere in the house. As they grew older, the brothers would go into trances and summoned spirits would appear around them. In school, objects would supposedly levitate and be thrown across the room by psychic forces. Due to these disturbing incidents, the Eddy brothers were banned from attending school. Their father believed these behaviors were the work of the devil and resorted to cruel and extreme measures to rid them of their powers by starving the boys, beating them and pouring boiling water on them. But these torturous treatments had no effect on their abilities. Unable to stop the paranormal occurrences, their father instead decided to profit off of their powers.

A Career as Traveling Mediums

At a young age, the Eddy brothers were hired out to a traveling show as mediums. For 14 years, they journeyed across America and Europe. Their performances brought them fame but also danger. Skeptics tried to disrupt their séances and awaken them from trances through violent means such as punching, stoning. beatings and even shooting. Some people accused them of being frauds or instruments of the devil. But the Eddy brothers continued their spirit channeling performances.

In 1874, reports spread of two Vermont farmers who could supposedly summon spirits of the dead. Brothers William and Horatio Eddy offered séances at their home in Chittenden where visitors witnessed remarkable manifestations. The mediums produced rapping sounds, levitating instruments, glowing forms, and ghostly figures that spoke messages from beyond the veil.

As Spiritualism rose nationwide, the Eddys drew eager believers and skeptics. Their most prominent supporter was journalist Henry Steel Olcott, whose glowing accounts proclaimed the genuineness of the phenomena. The events seemed to confirm what many Americans desired – evidence that loved ones lived on after death.

However, magicians like Chung Ling Soo exposed the Eddys as frauds despite their skills. Tiny peepholes and hidden passages allowed the brothers to sneak objects into the séance room. Clever tricks of the eye, amplified by visitors' expectations, completed the illusions that enthralled paying guests.

The Eddys weathered these revelations, continuing their trade in cities across America. They thrilled audiences by delivering comfort through artifice. For the miserable and bereaved, the veneer of hope proved enough, regardless of debunkers’ cries.

The Eddy Brothers Return to Vermont

After their father died, the brothers returned to their family farm outside Rutland, Vermont in 1870. They converted the property into an inn called the Green Tavern where travelers could stay. It was here that the Eddy Brothers began holding regular séances and spiritualist gatherings for visitors that would gain them notoriety.

Touring the United States to Communicate With Apparitions

The Eddy brothers traveled extensively within the United States during the 1850s and 1860s. They performed in major cities bringing their séances to crowds of eager spectators and die-hard skeptics. Visitors from around the world were intrigued, shocked and amazed with their abilities to enter a trance and communicate with spirits of the dead.

New York City1855Concert Hall
Rochester1858Smith Opera House
Philadelphia1862Chestnut Street Theater
Boston1864Howard Athenaeum

Their early career allowed the Eddy brothers to build a reputation as mediums within the growing American Spiritualism movement.

European Tours Attracting Visitors From Around the World

The Eddy brothers also toured Europe during the 1860s:

  • England
    • London
    • Manchester
    • Liverpool
  • France
    • Paris
  • Germany
    • Berlin
    • Munich

The Eddy brothers’ visits coincided with rising interest in Spiritualism across Europe. Their foreign tours attracted occult followers as well as skeptics. Spiritualists like author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed the Eddys were genuine. Stage magicians tried to expose them as frauds using tricks like sleight of hand. Despite any skepticism or attempts to discredit them, the European tours cemented the Eddys’ fame and notoriety worldwide as spiritual channelers demonstrating psychic gifts.

Reactions from Skeptics

Many skeptics reacted violently to the Eddy brothers during their early career. Some punched or beat them to disrupt their trances. Others stoned them, shot at them, or burnt them. Skeptics accused them of being fakes or agents of the devil. This persistent opposition was dangerous but did not deter the Eddy brothers from conducting séances for paying audiences. Their early career made them targets but also built their fame.

Impact on Spiritualism

The Eddy family helped spread Spiritualist beliefs by performing across America and Europe, attracting curious people from around the world. They inspired supporters but also staunch skepticism of claimed psychic powers. They gained fame and notoriety that followed them back to Vermont later in life. The Eddy brothers’ early touring career allowed them to make a huge impact during Spiritualism’s heyday in the mid-1800s both at home and abroad.

Séances at Green Tavern in Vermont

After returning to Vermont, the Eddy Brothers converted their family farmhouse outside Rutland into an inn called the Green Tavern in 1870. It was here they began holding séances and spiritual manifestations for visitors. The Green Tavern offered room and board to travelers. Perhaps the most beneficial use of all was that the Green Tavern gave the Eddy brothers a permanent venue to host spiritual events, seances, a place to communicate with the dead and bring forth apparitions from the spirit world.

Like many mediums of the era, the Eddys channeled people's longings into cathartic rituals that seemed to defeat mortality. Yet they also exploited vulnerability, profiting from those seeking supernatural confirmations.

Attractions at the Eddy Brother's Green Tavern Inn

The Eddys’ séances were the primary draw. But the inn also capitalized on the Vermont landscape. The Eddys offered various attractions to guests at Green Tavern:

  • Séances – Main draw held in evenings
  • Room and board – $8 per week
  • Paranormal occurrences – Strange happenings reported around inn
  • Nearby local Vermont sites to see and explore around the Inn

Setup of the Séances

The typical setup for an Eddy brothers’ séance at Green Tavern:

  • Held in the “circle room”
  • Chairs arranged in circle for audience
  • “Spirit cabinet” at front of room
    • Small curtained off area
    • Table inside with instruments
  • Medium would sit inside cabinet
  • Lights turned down low

A typical séance would involve the following:

  • William or Horatio would enter the spirit cabinet
  • They would go into a trance
  • Strange sounds would be heard
  • Levitations seen above cabinet
  • Ectoplasm oozing out
  • Spirit hands reach out
  • Musical instruments play
  • Messages from beyond

Skeptics believed the brothers used sleight of hand tricks inside the cabinet to produce paranormal illusions. News of the strange sights and occurrences drew visitors. Séances were free but guests had to pay for lodging. The spectacles offered definitely added to the Vermont inn’s mystique and fame. Debates raged on whether the manifestantions and spiritualism was real or trickery. The Eddy brothers’ séances at Green Tavern drew both believers and skeptics, only adding to their growing fame.

Their brand of theater reflected a cultural moment when science and faith collided. As industry disrupted old certainties, the Eddys fused pragmatism with sentimentality. They offered temporary relief from modernity’s harsh truths through fantasies staged in candlelit darkness.

Investigations and Controversy

The séances and spiritual manifestations produced by the Eddy brothers attracted both believers and skeptics. Some declared them genuine mediums, while others called them out as frauds.

Early Investigations

In 1874, writer Henry Steel Olcott traveled to the Green Tavern to investigate the Eddy brothers. Olcott studied the séances and paranormal activities over a ten-week period. He examined the séance room for trick panels or passages and found none, He witnessed levitations, rappings, apparitions, slate writing and was convinced the Eddy brothers had true psychic powers. Olcott’s endorsement lent validity to the Eddy brothers in the eyes of many Spiritualists.

Others remained unconvinced. Neurologist George M. Beard dismissed the phenomena as illusions. He claimed he could replicate everything with simple tricks and stated séances were fraudulent

So began the great debate around the Eddy brothers – genuine powers or elaborate hoaxes?

Prominent Eddy Brothers Skeptics

Many skeptics worked to debunk the Eddy brothers:

  • Harry Houdini – Famous magician offered $10,000 reward if Eddys could produce phenomena while he controlled conditions.
  • Hereward Carrington – Psychical researcher wrote paper revealing techniques used:
    • Cheesecloth for ectoplasm
    • Fake rubber limbs
    • Wires for levitations
  • Chung Ling Soo – Magician publicly exposed methods during a séance including sleight of hand.

These revelations demonstrated how the Eddy brothers likely staged their spiritual manifestations.

Despite the skeptics, the Eddy brothers did have their defenders:

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The creator of Sherlock Holmes believed the Eddys were genuine.
  • Eva Carrière – A medium who claimed to produce her own ectoplasm in partnership with the brothers.
  • Alfred Russel Wallace – Naturalist who argued against accusations of fraud.
The History of Spiritualism
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Doyle, Arthur Conan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 195 Pages – 01/01/2022 (Publication Date) – Open Road Media (Publisher)

But many casual believers were shaken by the skeptical exposures.

Enduring Mystique and Infamy

Despite exposés, the secrets behind some of the supernatural feats remained unproven. The Eddy Brothers reputation as either sham artists or psychics lingered. Their spiritualism claims ultimately represented a divide between Spiritualist believers and skeptics. They remained controversial figures long after their deaths even until today. The mysteries and debates surrounding the Eddy brothers endured for decades and will probably never be solved definitively. Their legacy was cemented as icons of the Spiritualism craze, either as hoaxers or legitimate mediums capable of producing inexplicable phenomena.

Possible Explanations of the Supernatural Events

While many were convinced the Eddy brothers possessed real psychic and spiritual powers, skeptics argued that they used deception and stage magic tricks to fake their claimed supernatural abilities. Here are some of the possible explanations.

Sleight of Hand

Skeptics revealed how the brothers likely utilized sleight of hand techniques:

  • Trap doors – Secret hinged panels allowed entering/exiting the cabinet.
  • Wires – Invisible strings caused levitations and floating instruments.
  • Luminous paint – Made ghostly hands or faces appear to float.
  • Muscle reading – Feeling subtle cues from sitters.
  • Audience plants – Accomplices pretended to be spirits.

By artfully manipulating objects and confederates, many feats could be staged.

Trick Equipment

Special equipment aided their illusions:

  • Cheesecloth – Used to simulate ectoplasm and spirit faces.
  • Wigs – Creepy wigs or masks worn to impersonate the dead.
  • Prosthetics – Rubber or wood hands and limbs extended from cabinet.
  • Magnets – Controlled levitating objects.

These simple materials enabled sophisticated tricks.

Lingering Mysteries

  • Sudden cold breezes and odd scents reported could not be easily explained.
  • Some sitters were apparently levitated partly off the ground.
  • A few séance phenomena remained unsolved mysteries.

Skeptics could not account for everything, leaving some paranormal possibilities open. But most agreed clever tricks were the main method used by the Eddy brothers.

The Eddy Brothers Impact on Spiritualism

Exposures of alleged supernatural manifestations, etc. fueled increased skepticism about mediums. But defenders claimed the paranormal still produced some feats. It clearly showed the divide between die-hard believers and skeptics. The Eddy brothers fueled debates over whether spiritual powers or clever illusions were behind séance phenomena. Their legacy was cemented as the most famous performing mediums of their era. The Eddy brothers had a significant impact during the height of the Spiritualist movement in America. Their fame and notoriety left a lasting legacy long after their deaths.

Spreading Spiritualism

  • Helped popularize Spiritualist beliefs through touring and séances
  • Inspired many new converts and practitioners
  • Provided “evidence” to supporters of life after death
  • Fueled craze and demand for spiritual phenomena

It is no doubt that the Eddy's contributed greatly to Spiritualism’s growth in the late 1800s.

Cultural Significance

The Eddy Brothers symbolized tension between science and the supernatural. They helped personify the battle between skeptics and believers. They also epitomized the Spiritualist obsession of the Victorian era. It is clear that they inspired references and characters in literature and media and their controversy left a cultural imprint on America.

Making Chittenden, Vermont Famous

For a period of time the Eddy Brothers put normally quiet Chittenden, Vermont on the map. Many associated the town with séances and Spiritualism which drew visitors from around the world for decades. The Local museum and walking tour preserve the Eddy Brother's legacy and the Eddy brothers gave their home region lasting fame.

Eddy Brothers Home Photo courtesy of Chad Abramovich
Photo courtesy of Chad Abramovich

Influencing Other Mediums

The Eddy Brothers Inspired and emboldened many other mediums including: Mina Crandon, Helena Blavatsky and Henry Slade. They set template for performance style and techniques and paved way for popularity of camp medium shows. They shaped practices of future generations of channelers and spiritualists.

Unresolved Mysteries

Debate continues on whether the feats that the Eddy Brothers performed were genuine or not. Full methods behind some feats are still unknown and haven't been debunked. The participation of unseen forces can’t be entirely ruled out. A residue of doubt persists keeping their legacy ambiguous. The famous yet infamous Eddy brothers left an indelible mark on the Spiritualist movement and America’s fascination with the paranormal.

Other Local Mediums

The Eddy brothers were not the only practicing mediums and Spiritualists in Vermont during the 19th century. Others plied their psychic talents in nearby towns. Particularly, Woodstock, Vermont.

Spiritualism in Woodstock

  • Spiritualism thrived in Woodstock in 1850s
  • Home to many practicing mediums
  • Public debates held on supernatural claims
  • Skepticism increased after hoaxes exposed

A regional hotbed contemporaneous with the Eddys.

Marenda Briggs Randall

  • From Woodstock, 33 miles from Chittenden
  • Became medium after daughter died
  • Held séances and channeled spirits
  • Operated during same era as Eddys
  • Uncanny messages upset clients

Marenda brought spiritual channeling to Woodstock contemporaries.

George Grow

  • Neighbor of Eddys from West Woodstock
  • Simple farmer claimed medium powers
  • Spirits rapped answers to questions
  • Tried to profit from abilities
  • Dismissed as fraud by locals

George held dubious spiritual circles locally.

Austin Simmons

  • District clerk and contemporary of George Grow
  • Led joint séances before split over jealousy
  • Spirits denounced George and barred return
  • Lost job and suffered backlash
  • Still a devout Spiritualist after

Austin also practiced mediumship until forced to stop.

Charles Cobb

  • Skeptic who observed West Woodstock mediums
  • Attended George Grow’s circles to expose fraud
  • Witnessed one unexplainable feat, but remained unconvinced

Charles represents many skeptical Vermonters.

The Impact on the Eddys’ Reputation

The interest in spiritualism showed the Eddys family was not an isolated case in Vermont. It placed them in context of regional spiritual fervor. It fed into fans and critics from local population and lent credence or fueled skepticism of powers. Nearby psychics shaped views on the Eddy phenomena. The Eddy brothers epitomized, but were not alone in, Vermont’s Spiritualist fervor in the late 1800s.

By the late 1870s, skepticism toward the Eddy brothers grew leading to the decline of their careers as spirit mediums. Their popularity waned and faded over time.

Growing Skepticism

Investigations exposed likely tricks used in séances. Prominent skeptics like Harry Houdini denounced them as frauds. Spiritualist supporters struggled to defend Eddys and the general public became increasingly dubious of alleged spirit manifestations and  supernatural powers. Explanations for their feats shifted opinions against them

Competition from New Mediums and Changing Times

A public hungry for something new and sensational turned their attention to other mediums who emerged with fresh appeal, such as Helena Blavatsky, Mina Crandon and others. The Eddys’ séances seemed stale and dubious as years passed by and interest shifted to more novel spiritualists. The rise of scientific skepticism and secularism took precedence as spiritualism increasingly was seen as outdated. It's popularity peaked in 1850s-1870s heyday and the culture was moving on by the late 1800s. The Eddys were relics of a fading fad.

The Eddy's Life After Mediumship

Both brothers led quiet lives in final years. William became a farmer in Vermont. Horatio moved to New York City until death in 1922. Without spiritualism, they faded into obscurity. The skepticism and shifting tastes of the late 1800s forced the decline of the once famous Eddy brothers. But their dramatic legacy would not be forgotten.

The Eddy Brothers left an indelible mark on the history of the Spiritualism movement and supernatural lore. Their dramatic séances in Chittenden, Vermont made them famous and controversial figures. Were William and Horatio genuine mediums able to channel spirits and manifest paranormal phenomena? Or just clever frauds using illusionist tricks and sleight of hand? Over 140 years later, the debate still rages. For believers, some of their uncanny feats defy natural explanation. For skeptics, they represent the gullibility of those seduced by magic tricks.

But none can deny the impact of the Eddys on 19th century culture and perceptions of the supernatural.

The Eddy's Legacy

Though largely forgotten today, the Eddy brothers exemplified Spiritualism's spread as a popular pseudo-religion. Their mélange of tricks and whispers gave solace while uniting skepticism with belief's deep need. For those who witnessed their séances first-hand, the real magic was subjective – crafted from personal longings projected onto evocative illusions.

They epitomized the divide between science and spiritualism. The Eddy's helped symbolized the battle between skeptics and believers. They contributed to the peak popularity of Spiritualism and inspired future generations of mediums. It's no doubt that they helped give Vermont a reputation for the paranormal, that continues even to this day.

The mystique surrounding William and Horatio endures. Were they channels for spirits or masters of deception? We may never know the secrets behind all of their eerie séance manifestations. But the Eddy Brothers remain icons of a strange era obsessed with communing with the dead.

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