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How An Evangelical Discovered Mediumship was Not Demonic - Charles Mundell

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How An Evangelical Discovered Mediumship was Not Demonic


As an ordained Baptist minister, Charles Mundell believed that mediumship was the work of the devil.  However, he gradually became more liberal in his thinking, especially after reading Sir Oliver Lodge’s 1916 book, Raymond or Life and Death, in which Lodge, a renowned British physicist, reported on communicating with his son Raymond, who had been killed on the World War I battlefield, through several mediums. 
On August 7, 1921,  Joe Mundell, (below) Charles’s 21-year-old younger brother, was killed in a deer-hunting accident in northern California.  There was speculation that Joe was distraught and had shot himself and there was also suspicion that he had been shot by other hunters and left to die. Family members were particularly upset at the report that Joe had taken his own life.  Charles and his wife, Margaret, left Oklahoma to be with the parents in Oakland, California, where they lived.  Joe had also lived there, working for the railroad at the West Oakland train yard.


Some five weeks after Joe’s death, Charles, his wife, and his mother, Verna, were discussing Joe, life after death, Lodge’s book, and other aspects of psychical research when they decided to try some experiments in table tipping. They opened with a prayer and then sat for about a half hour with no results. They were about to give up when Verna recalled reading books where sitters remained quiet for hours waiting for manifestations. They continued to sit and wait, and about 15 minutes later, the little table in front of them began “quivering and vibrating like something alive.”  Then, it lifted off the floor several inches.  Charles asked if a spirit was present and to signal “yes” by three tilts of the table and “no” by one tilt.  The table tilted three times.  Charles then told the invisible entity that he would slowly recite the alphabet and asked that a tilt of the table be given at the proper letter. After the tilting table spelled out H-A-R, Charles asked if it was Harriet, Verna’s mother. Three tilts followed for “yes.”  After a few familiarization questions, Verna asked if Joe was with her.  Three tilts of the table followed.  Charles then asked if Joe could communicate.  The table tilted only once, indicating “no.”  Margaret wondered out loud if perhaps Joe had not been over long enough to develop sufficient strength.  The table then tilted three times. Other deceased family members were discussed, including two of Verna’s children who had died in infancy.  They were informed that both were with Grandma Painter (Harriet). 

On September 19, Charles had a sitting with Emma Nanning, a Spiritualist medium.  He did not give his name. No sooner had he entered when Mrs. Nanning said she saw the spirit of man enter the room with Charles. She then asked if he had a brother who had recently passed into the spirit world.  Before Charles could answer, she told him that the spirit said he is his brother Joe, just recently passed out and that he was showing her an accident.  “Tell mama I didn’t do; it was an accident,” the medium passed on Joe’s words. Nanning went on to say that she was seeing Joe sitting down on a log with a gun in an area of mountains or hills.  She added that Joe was attempting to make his way to a nearby cabin.  Charles was unaware of any cabin in the area but later verified that such a cabin existed, thus concluding that this was evidence the medium was not reading his mind.

Several days later, Verna and Margaret Mundell had a sitting with Nanning.  Having read enough of debunking theories, they did not give their names or any indication that they were related to Charles.  Nanning told Verna that her mother was standing in back of her. “She says, ‘I have brought Joe to you!’”  She then got the name Harriet for Verna’s mother.  Joe then came through and told his mother that he went quickly and that she should not grieve.  “You are wiping out my spiritual life by your tears,” he told her.  Joe then explained the accident, which had still been a mystery.  He said that he was in the process of rolling a cigarette when the gun fell and fired. He added that Grandma Painter was the first to greet him on the other side.

Joe related that the over-anxious atmosphere and his mother’s crying made it difficult for him to communicate.  He said that when she had more faith, he would come to her in his own strength (apparently without a medium).

The following week, Charles, his father, Sam, and Margaret attended a public sitting with Nanning and two other mediums.  Sam’s mother, Elizabeth, had died in Los Angeles a few weeks before, not long after Joe’s death.  Nanning came to Sam and told him that “Elizabeth comes to you.  She says, ‘I’m your mother.  Everything here is so much different that I expected.  I wasn’t looking for this.  It is all so strange.  You must help me, my son.  I can’t understand it all – yet!  I am groping for light’.”  Charles interpreted that to mean that his paternal grandmother (Grandma Mundell) was confused because, as a member of an orthodox church, she had expected golden streets, pearly gates, and jasper walls.  Upon finding the spirit world no more than a continuation of this world, except pitched in a higher plane and of a more ethereal nature, she was having a difficult time getting her bearings.

On September 27, there was another table sitting at the Mundell home.  This time, Margaret Mundell’s father, Herman Brunke, came through.  As he spoke limited English, Margaret put questions to him in German and answers were received accordingly.

Seeking even more communication, Charles, Margaret, and Verna took the ferry over to San Francisco the following day for a sitting at a public Spiritualist meeting with Mrs. Marie F.S. Wallace, whom they had never met or seen.  About 20 other people were present.  After giving what appeared to Charles to be accurate and satisfactory messages to others in the room, Mrs. Wallace came to Margaret and told her that her father had a message of love.  To be sure she knew it was him, he asked her if she recalled the time he slapped her over the head with a newspaper.  Margaret replied that she remembered the incident very well.  Wallace also mentioned that he was showing her that he was killed in a fall from a high building after his foot struck something sharp, like a spike.  While Margaret was aware that her father had fallen from a Chicago skyscraper, she was unaware of the spike or cause of the fall.

Wallace then came to Verna, telling her she heard a spirit calling, “Mama.”  She went on to relate the message:  “I just sat down to rest.  I was tired. I was leaning on a gun…It all happened so quickly, like a flash.”  Wallace then got the name, Joe.  “Joe says, ‘I still live.’ He says something about black.  ‘Don’t like for mama to wear black.’ ‘Please don’t grieve for me.  I am all right.  When you grieve it makes it harder for me to get close to you – it makes aura so dense.’  He says, ‘Willie is here, too – and Annie!’ (the Mundell children who died in infancy) . Joe says, ‘I made Charlie come home.’ Joe also says, ‘If Charlie hadn’t come home, mama would have been here, too, by this time’.”  Charles interpreted the latter comment to mean that Joe had impressed him to leave Oklahoma City and return to Oakland.  He recalled the desire to return as “irresistible.”

On October 2, Charles, Margaret, Sam, and Verna again attended a public meeting with Emma Nanning in Oakland. Nanning came to Margaret and told her “Vater” (German for “father”) was present.  He then gave his name as Herman.  Charles took this as very evidential, especially since his wife looked more Spanish than German.

Two days later, the family again took the ferry to San Francisco for a private sitting with Mrs. Wallace.  Wallace came to Sam Mundell and said she saw him as an official or leader of an organization having to do with railroads.  In fact, he was general chairman of the railroad workers union.  Wallace told him that he had fathered five children.  Sam told her there were only four, forgetting that a fifth child died a few days after birth.  Charles saw this as particularly evidential in ruling out telepathy. Joe again came through, offering more evidential information and ending with the comment:  “Papa, I can go where I please, and I don’t have to wait for trains like you do.”

On October 12, Charles, Margaret, and Verna had another table sitting at the Mundell home.  They waited 20-25 minutes before the table tilted twice, indicating sprit presence.  The alphabet was recited and the name H-a-r-r-i-e-t was spelled, again Verna’s mother. Charles asked his grandmother how the table tilting phenomenon works.  “It isn’t any known law of earth,” Harriet slowly spelled out. “It is spirit magnetism. I don’t understand it, but I can use it.  Just like electricity is used on earth.  Raymond Lodge is experimenting on it in his father’s laboratory.  I am tired.”

Joe then communicated through the table.  He was asked what it was like where he was and what he was doing.  He replied that it was warm and bright with no fog or flees. He was going to school and learning what he didn’t have a chance to learn when he was a kid.  He was then asked for more details on his accident.  He explained that the gun was leaning against his leg as he rolled a cigarette.  As he reached for a match, he knocked the rifle over.  The next thing he knew he awoke in his grandmother’s arms with Willie and Annie holding his hands. He felt no pain.  He was now with many friends and loved ones.

On November 16, Charles had a sitting with another medium, Mr. F. K. Brown of Oakland.  Again, Joe communicated, stressing that his death was neither suicide nor murder, “just an accident.”  Charles continued to verify that it was actually Joe communicating.  One very veridical piece of information mentioned by Joe was the fact that Charles was wearing his old watch. When Joe mentioned that he (Joe) was still using the watch, Charles became confused and requested clarification.  Joe explained that Charles only had the shell of the watch, but that he had the real watch.  He further mentioned that he was using some of his old clothes, pointing out that the material might be in an old trunk in their mother’s house but the “life of them” is with him on his side of the veil.

In all, Charles consulted five mediums.  None of the mediums knew him or had his name on the first visit, seemingly ruling out fraud.  Several messages were unknown to the sitters and therefore suggested telepathy was not a factor. It was more than enough to convince Charles that his brother Joe and other family members were still “alive.” 

(Reference: Our Joe by Charels S. Mundell, The Austin Publishing Co., Los Angeles, CA, 1922)

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

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