Minnie Meserve Soule (1867–1936) was an important mental Medium who worked closely with the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) and the Boston Society for Psychic Research.
In the earlier reports she is called by the pseudonym Mrs. Chenoweth. Mrs. Soule, as she was known later, was born Minnie Meserve in Boston on November 12, 1867. Her mother died when she was four. Her father remarried, and she lived with him and her stepmother until she was 16, when she went to New Hampshire to stay with her mother’s family. There she completed her education and began teaching. Later she moved to Somerville, Massachusetts, where she taught until she met Charles L. Soule, whom she married in 1897.
In childhood, before she left her first home in Boston, Soule began to have precognitive DREAMS, some of them five years or more in advance of events. However, it was only after her marriage that her Mediumship began to develop. At first she heard names clairaudiently and received descriptions of people she had never known, some subsequently verified. Then she began to do Automatic Writing, sometimes receiving messages from unknown people who had died long before.
One message, written in a very fine and old-fashioned style, was signed in her mother’s name. She showed it to her father, who then brought her a letter her mother had written to him while she was alive. The handwriting was so similar that it was hard to tell it from that appearing in the automatic script. The Soules had a child, but she died at the age of eight months. This was during the heyday of Spiritualism, and one evening in the company of friends they experimented with Table-Tilting.
Soule found herself saying words and making statements for which she did not feel consciously responsible. This upset her so much that she began crying, sure that she was mentally ill. She refused to have anything more to do with Table-Tilting, and the party broke up. The next day her husband took her to talk with Spiritualist friends, who assured her that her experience was not abnormal.
They began working with Soule, finding her to be a gifted and versatile medium. Soule came to be controlled by several American Indian guides. One, “White Cloud,” prescribed herbal remedies for illnesses and was so popular that Soule had to keep a stock of herbs in order to fill his prescriptions. Another, “Sunbeam,” claimed to have been a 16-year-old Choctaw at the time of her death. She gave spoken messages, sometimes using purportedly Choctaw words.
A Massachusetts college professor once wrote these down phonetically, using the English equivalents, and on his vacation the following summer, went to a Choctaw reservation to verify them. He found all the phrases to be accurate. Unfortunately, no record of this test appears to have survived. For this first part of her mediumship, Soule was fully conscious of the communications made through her. She became so weary of this, however, that she asked her guides for help, and they obliged by blacking her out while they spoke.
From that point on, her mediumship was characterized by full trance, although when she was controlled by Sunbeam, it seemed deceptively light. Nevertheless, tests showed she had total amnesia for events that went on while she was in trance. In 1907, Soule began to work with James Hyslop, who in that year took over the helm of the ASPR. Perhaps it was her training as a teacher that made her receptive to the work, but her service to psychical researchers places her in the company of mediums Leonora Piper, Gladys Osborne Leonard and Eileen J. Garrett.
She was in their league also in the quality of her communications, which came both through automatic writing and speech. One of Soule’s first efforts with Hyslop concerned the Thompson -Gifford Case. Frederick L. Thompson, an artist, found himself obsessed with themes from the work of another artist, R. Swain Gifford, who was deceased. In sittings that Hyslop arranged for Thompson to have with Soule, Gifford said that he was pleased to be able to carry on his work through Thompson.
The case was central to Hyslop’s study of spirit obsession, a key concept in his theoretical contribution to psychical research. In 1914, Soule helped Hyslop in his attempt to treat the multiple personality of Doris Fischer, previously reported by Walter Franklin Prince. Hyslop believed that such cases were actually ones of Possession by spirits, and Soule’s communicators supported this interpretation of the case. Among the communicators was one claiming to be Doris’s mother, whose messages proved to be very evidential, furnishing the basis for a separate report.
After Hyslop’s death in 1920, Soule produced reportedly evidential communications from him, but these have never been published. (They have been preserved, however, in the ASPR archives.) Prince, who succeeded Hyslop at the ASPR, began to work with Soule, and when he left the ASPR to head up the Boston Society in 1925, Soule went with him. During this period she had sittings with JOHN F. THOMAS, who was trying to contact his recently deceased wife.
Thomas judged his sittings with Soule so successful that he initiated a long-term study of mediumship for which he received a Ph.D. from Duke in 1933. Soule died on April 28, 1936. Hyslop’s work with her was published primarily in the Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research (SPR)between 1907 and 1920. Other reports are to be found in books by Lydia Allison and John F. Thomas.
- Allison, Lydia W. Leonard and Soule Experiments in Psychical Research. Boston: Boston Society for Psychic Research, 1929.
- Thomas, John F. Case Studies Bearing Upon Survival. Boston: Boston Society for Psychic Research, 1929.
- ———. Beyond Normal Cognition. Boston: Boston Society for Psychic Research, 1937.
- Tubby, Gertrude O. “Mrs. Chenoweth (In Memorium).” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (SPR)35 (1941): 31–39.
The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits– Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – September 1, 2007