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Susanna Harris: Direct Voice Medium

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Susanna Harris: Direct Voice Medium


Susanna Kuhn Harris was born in 1854 in New Philadelphia, Ohio, one of eight children born to Henry and Elizabeth Kuhn. Henry was a farmer and teacher in the eastern Ohio town. Susanna lived at home until 1886 when she married photographer, John B. Harris. They had three children, and by 1910, she was listed in the census as having no occupation.

Susanna’s interest in Spiritualism early in her life is undocumented, but by 1910 she began traveling out of the United States to practice as a medium and lecture. In 1916, when she applied for a visa to travel to Great Britain, she was living in Washington, D.C. as an ordained minister and her husband was living in Columbus, Ohio where he still owned his own photography shop.

According to Arthur Conan Doyle, Susanna was a well-known voice medium. In 1914 she was tested by the Vereeniging voor Psychisch Onderzoek in the Hague. She was observed by Henry De Fremery and held her seances in complete darkness, using trumpets to amplify the spirit voices. She had two spirit guides, a young girl named Harmony with a girlish voice and a man who spoke in a deep bass. Conan Doyle thought Harmony might be a fairy spirit, but others believed she was Stella, Susanna’s daughter who died under tragic circumstances.

About 1915, she was observed by W.J. Crawford. He sat beside her and held her left hand and controlled both of her knee movements to make sure she wasn’t moving the trumpets during her seances. He concluded that although she had spasmodic jerks of her knees while Harmony was speaking, she didn’t move the trumpets. He noted that her breathing stayed constant, even when spirits were speaking, indicating that she was not creating the voices with her own vocal cords.  He was “…convinced that Mrs. Harris [was] a medium of great and wonderful power.”

Susanna traveled to Norway in 1920 where she was tested numerous times by their Psychic Research Committee. Although she had no success at the time, Conan Doyle attributed her failure to the researchers’ negative opinions of the process. He later sat with her four times in Melbourne. Each time they had about 12 guests, and Conan Doyle was convinced of her authenticity.

It’s unclear how long Susanna practiced as a medium. Her first husband died in 1921 and she married Joseph Kay in 1923. When she wrote to Estelle Stead she reminisced fondly about her contacts in Great Britain. “I am getting old now and do not expect ever to cross over the water again,” she said. She passed on to the spirit world in 1932 and is buried in Hartville, Ohio.

Additional Reading:

“Rev Susanna Harris- American voice-medium.” In The Pioneer, Volume 8, No. 5, October 2021

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