At approximately one o’clock on a cold, rainy, and blustery New England day, 6 March 1889, Mr. Robertson James ambled up the front stone steps to the grand oak door located at 5 Boylston Place on Beacon Hill near the Massachusetts State House. On the other side lay the offices of the American Society for Psychical Research, where his brother William James, the psychologist and philosopher, and Richard Hodgson, the organization’s secretary, awaited him. Robertson had come directly to inform them that the James brothers’ aunt—Mrs. Catherine Walsh—had just passed away. Although “Aunt Kate’s” death certificate stated that she had died at “about 12 o’clock midnight,” her nephew had just been notified that she had passed away about 2:00 or 2:30 A.M. earlier that morning. Robertson, however, had not arrived from the coroner’s office, the hospital, the police station, or her bedside. Nor had he spoken with any physicians, nurses, aids, or relatives. Rather, he had just returned from a séance with Mrs. Leonora Piper, the trance medium whose primary control “Dr. Phinuit,” purporting to be in contact with Aunt Kate’s spirit in the “other world,” had announced the news. According to a statement signed by all three men, “Mrs. Walsh has been ill for some time and had been expected during the last few days to die at any hour. This is written before any despatch has been received informing [us] of the death.” Mrs. Alice Gibbens James, William’s wife and a Spiritualist enthusiast, also had participated in the séance. When she inquired about Aunt Kate, Mrs. Piper replied that “she is poorly” and suddenly threw her head back and blurted out, “Aunt Kate has come.” Mrs. Piper informed Mrs. James that when she returned home that evening she would find a “letter or telegram … saying she was gone.” When the Jameses did return home, William wrote, “I found a telegram as ...
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