Agnes Guppy (also known as Mrs. Samuel Guppy) (1838–1917) was the first Medium to perform full-form Materializations in Great Britain, Agnes Guppy was the queen of spiritualist circles from the mid-1860s to the early 1870s.
She was born Agnes or Ann Nichol (also spelled Nicholl) in 1838 in London. She was orphaned before her first birthday and raised by her grandfather, Mr. Nichol, a sculptor. She began having visions of spirits at age nine and could not shake them, no matter how her grandfather laughed, cajoled, or prescribed cold baths and rigorous exercise. By the time she came of age, Agnes, now called Elizabeth or Lizzie, had become a photographer and painter, aligning herself with Mr. and Mrs. Sims. Mrs. Sims, referred to both as sister and sister-in-law of the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, encouraged Lizzie’s mediumistic talents and introduced Wallace to her.
On December 14, 1866, Lizzie first apported fresh flowers at a Séance attended by Wallace. He enthusiastically supported her gifts, which included Levitation as well as teleportation. Lizzie also trained as a mesmeric healer. In December 1867, Lizzie married the wealthy but elderly spiritualist Samuel Guppy. For the next two years, the Guppys lived abroad, continuing to hold Séances and dazzle Continental sitters with Guppy’s spectacular apports.
They returned in the summer of 1870 to England with a son and resumed their spiritualist endeavors. Guppy sponsored Frank Herne and Charles Williams, even participating in a so-called “apport post” among Herne and Williams, herself, James Burn, Catherine Berry and Mrs. MacDougall Gregory. Items “mailed” from house to house included a white cat and a Maltese dog. Guppy’s most amazing apport was herself.
In June 1871, she allegedly was teleported to a Séance at the Herne-Williams home in High Holborn, London, dressed in only her robe and holding her pen and household account book. One of the sitters, W. H. Harrison, had jokingly asked the spirit controls John King and Katie King if they could bring Guppy, by now a very large woman, and they obliged. Guppy materialized the first full-form human in 1872 via a completely light-tight CABINET which supposedly allowed the medium to gather psychic power and display the materialization.
One observer also found Guppy’s voluminous skirts to be the source for materialized forms. Not long thereafter, Herne and Williams materialized the ever-popular John King, with Guppy’s approval. But full-form materializations of Katie King by Florence Cook did not have the jealous Guppy’s endorsement. Florence’s youthful, petite beauty, contrasted with Guppy’s enormous figure, attracted many of Guppy’s former sitters.
In January 1873, Guppy conspired to have vitriol acid thrown in Florence’s “doll face” to permanently disfigure her, but as her hoped-for accomplices, mediums Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Holmes, refused to cooperate, she instead exposed them as frauds the next month. Her spiteful actions effectively ended her career as London’s reigning medium. Guppy got her revenge on Florence Cook, however.
In December 1873, William Volckman grabbed the materialized Katie King during a Séance, believing the spirit to be Florence in costume. He was condemned by spiritualists for risking Florence’s life while her “essence” was merged into Katie’s, but the public’s faith in Florence Cook was shaken. Perhaps in gratitude, Guppy married Volckman after Mr. Guppy died, and she called herself Mrs. Guppy- Volckman until her death in 1917.
- Famous Mediums
- Brandon, Ruth. The Spiritualists. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 1983.
- Fodor, Nandor. An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science. Secaucus, N.J.: The Citadel Press, 1966. First published 1933.
- —. Mind Over Space. New York: The Citadel Press, 1962.