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Dr. Funk Sees the Spirit of Beecher

edited by Joseph Lewis French

(New York Herald, April 4)

  While he will not admit that he is a believer in spiritualism, the Rev. Dr. Isaac Funk, head of the publishing house of Funk & Wagnalls, is so impressed with manifestations he has received from the spirit of Henry Ward Beecher that he has laid the entire matter before the Boston Society for Psychical Research, and is anxiously awaiting a solution or explanation of what appears to him, after twenty-five years' study of the subject, the most remarkable test of the merit of the claims of spiritualists that has ever come within his observation.

  Although he has resorted to every means within his power to discover any fraud that may have been practiced upon him, he has been unable to explain away not only messages to him from the great minister, but the actual appearance to him of Mr. Beecher in the flesh.

  Dr. Funk and Mr. Beecher were intimate friends, and it would be difficult to practice deception as to Mr. Beecher's appearance. When the apparition appeared to Dr. Funk at a seance a short time ago Dr. Funk was less than three feet distant from it, and had plenty of opportunity to detect a fraud if it was being perpetrated, he believes.

  "Every feature stood out distinctly," Dr. Funk said yesterday, in describing his experience, "even to the hair and eyes, the color of the skin and the expression of the mouth. The room was darkened and I could just make out the outlines of the body, but it was still light enough to make the face plainly visible. I had a short conversation with the embodied spirit, and then it appeared to sink to the floor and fade away."



  Dr. Funk vas especially anxious to have an opportunity to see and talk with Mr. Beecher, in the hope that light would be thrown on the mystery which surrounds a previous manifestation. Through the spirit of one "Jack" Rakestraw, who says he used to lead the choir in one of Mr. Beecher's churches, but frankly admits that he cannot remember exactly where the church was located--even spirits have a way of forgetting things, spiritualists declare--Dr. Funk was informed that Mr. Beecher was troubled because the publisher had failed to return a coin, known as the "widow's mite," which he had borrowed some years ago, from the late Professor Charles E. West, a well known numismatist, to make a cut to illustrate a dictionary. Dr. Funk supposed the coin had been returned a long time ago but upon looking the matter up found it in a drawer of a safe, among some old papers, exactly as Mr. Rakestraw maintained.

  When Mr. Beecher appeared to him in person, so far as he could determine, Dr. Funk asked him several direct questions, to which the replies, he admits, were somewhat sublime. Although Dr. Funk has found the long-lost coin--which, by the way, is said to be worth $2,500--he is not certain to whom it should be returned, now that Professor West is dead and his collection of coins sold. Should "widow's mite" go to Professor West's heirs or to the purchaser of the collection? is a question which has as yet remained unanswered.

  "That is a matter I am leaving to be determined by the Society for Psychical Research and Mrs. Piper, who ought to be able to learn from the spirit world what disposition Professor West wishes to have made of the coin," said Dr. Funk. It is at any rate a matter that does not appear to concern the spirit of Mr. Beecher.



  "When what seemed to be Mr. Beecher's embodied spirit appeared to me," Dr. Funk said, "I asked that very question. He smiled and replied that it was not a matter that concerned him especially, and that the whole thing was in the nature of a test, to prove to me that there actually are sprits, and that it is possible to have communication with them when all the conditions are favorable. He remarked that he was glad the old coin had been found, but seemed consider the disposition of it a matter of minor importance. He told me he was glad I was taking interest in the subject, as he believed it would result in good for the world, and then, excusing himself on the ground that he had an engagement which it was necessary for him to keep, the apparition disappeared."

  Dr. Funk borrowed the coin from Professor West's collection, as a lighter colored one he already had was of doubtful authenticity. Both coins were sent to the government expert in Philadelphia and the lighter one was declared to the genuine one. By the spirits it is now declared, however, that a mistake was made and that the darker one belonging to Professor West has the greater value.

  "I found both the light and the dark one in the drawer," said Dr. Funk, "and remembered distinctly that it was the darker of the two which I had borrowed from Professor West. I went to the next séance, and when Rakestraw's spirit arrived I asked him to find out which one was to be returned. After a brief interval his voice came to me.

  "'Return the dark one, of course,' he said. 'That is the genuine coin and is the one you borrowed from Dr. Beecher's friend.'

  "While I do not wish to be classed as a believer in spiritualism, I certainly am open to conviction after what has come under my personal observation," Dr. Funk concluded. "I am confident that no fraud was practiced on me at the séance at which I was told about the old coin. The medium is an elderly woman living in Brooklyn, who never appears in public, and the only persons present were members of her family and known to me. But none of them knew any more about the coin being in my safe than I did."

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