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The Eddy Brothers were Wiliam and Horatio Eddy, best-known in the 1870s, who claimed psychic powers.

It was claimed that their family could be traced back to the Salem witch trials, and that they had a long history of psychic ability. If reports can be believed, these abilities seemed to be concentrated in the brothers, creating two of the most powerful supernatural magnets and spiritual mediums that the world has ever seen.

The brothers were sons of Zephaniah Eddy and his wife Julia Maccombs, natives of Vermont. Growing up on a small farm near Chittenden, Vermont, both brothers are said to have exhibited strong psychic abilities from an early age. When they dropped into trances, all manner of supernatural things would happen around them. Olcott reported that their father constantly tried to "beat them out of" the trances, but to no avail.

He eventually got sick of trying and sold the two boys to a traveling sideshow, where they would remain for the next fourteen years as it toured through the United States, Canada, and Europe. The crowds that came to see them "perform" in these shows made their father's abuse seem almost tame, for one of the sideshow owner's gimmicks was to challenge audience members to try and wake the Eddys from their psychic trances. They were beaten and abused almost daily, and even stoned and shot at on occasion by mobs believing them to be possessed by demons. [1] "When their father finally died [in 1862], William and Horatio returned home to live with their sister, Mary." However, this quote is not quite accurate, as in 1870, William, Horatio, Mary, and other children were all living with their widowed mother Julia in Chittenden.[2]

There, the Eddy family opened a small inn, called the Green Tavern. In addition to lodging travelers, the Green Tavern was also the spot of regularly scheduled séances that the brothers put on for visitors from around the world.

At this point in his life, Henry Steel Olcott, a respected attorney and war veteran, who also sat on the three-man commission looking into the Abraham Lincoln assassination, was doubling as a newspaper reporter for the New York Sun and the Daily Graphic. He became intrigued with the Eddy brothers after reading about them in a spiritual newspaper, the Banner of Light. In 1874 he headed to Vermont to meet with the brothers and decide for himself whether they were charlatans or a validation of that period's Spiritualist movement. It was there, on October 14, that he met Madame Blavatsky.

Olcott spent several weeks with the Eddy brothers, during which time he observed a number of séances that William and Horatio put on for free for the public. A typical séance would have the audience gathered in the "circle" room at the tavern. One of the brothers would enter a special spirit box at the front of the room (essentially just a small room with a chair in it) and lapse into a deep trance, at which point the show would start. Instruments would start playing music on their own, various noises could be heard and strange lights would be seen. Then the spirits would start filing out of the spirit box, sometimes 20 to 30 of them in an evening. These spirits would perform, sing and talk to the audience, sometimes in foreign languages that the illiterate Eddy brothers could have never known. Essentially the brothers were capable of conjuring up a wide array of supernatural activities, including automatic writing, psychic healing, levitation, teleportation, and prophecy.

Blavatsky was later to state, that these conjurations peaked with her presence because she conjured them herself, by her own powers.[3]

Olcott came away from his visit without a whole lot of love for the Eddy brothers, but absolutely convinced that they were not charlatans. He hired numerous engineers, carpenters, and consultants to thoroughly examine the "circle" room and found no evidence of false panels or hidden passages. Even if the Eddy brothers were capable of pulling off such a deception, it would have taken a sizable troupe of players and considerable resources to do it, something well beyond the simple farmers from Vermont who didn't so much as charge people to attend the séances (although they did charge a minimal amount in board for anyone staying at the Green Tavern).

Olcott chronicled his stay in several newspaper articles and People from the Other World, where he described everything he saw and included illustrations and interviews with witnesses and experts.

Notes

  1. ^ This information reported by Olcott seems exaggerated. Census reports, albeit only every ten years, show the two brothers living in Chittenden their entire lives.
  2. ^ United States Census, 1870
  3. ^ Cranston, quoting Olcott from Old Diary Leaves.

Julia Ann MacCoombs

References

This article is originally based on material copied with permission from The Virtual Vermonter.
  • People from the Other World, Henry Steel Olcott. American Publishing Company, 1875. Reprint by Charles E Tuttle Company 1972.
  • Priestess of the Occult by Gertrude Marvin Williams, Alfred A Knopf, 1946.
  • HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky by Sylvia Cranston, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1993.
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