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The Reflectograph

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The 1931 newspaper advertisement in the December 4th issue of Light read: “The Reflectograph. Seances held with this instrument for the purpose of spirit communication. The spirit Hand fully materialized may sometimes be seen operating the Key Board in a good red light by all Sitters. Private group seances arranged by applying to the Hon. Secretary, Miss R.F. Ermen, The Beacon Wimbledon.”

The idea of the Reflectograph came from George Jobson. Jobson was born in 1862 in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, England to John and Susan Jobson. John was a carpenter and George attended school until he became a photographer’s assistant at the age of 16. He had his first experiences with Spiritualism in the family circle at home as a child and showed some promise as a medium until he began attending Sunday school. He never married and worked on the road as a commercial traveler.

Jobson’s interest in photography led to other scientific interests, including the telephone and x-rays. He experimented with wireless receivers and astronomical photography. Unfortunately, in November 1924 he had a stroke that left him paralyzed in the lower part of his body and he was bedridden.

It was at that time that he met Basil Keightley Kirkby. Kirkby was born in 1887 in Lincoln, son of William and Sarah Kirkby. He worked as a coachman and later ran a hairdressing business before becoming a milliner. Kirkby was involved with the Spiritual community when he met Jobson in 1925.  Because Jobson was near death, they set a call sign, B.K.K., to use after Jobson’s death. Jobson died shortly afterward, promising to communicate with Kirkby. He did so through the medium Mrs. I.E. Singleton, who gave the code letters Jobson had promised.

Kirkby proceeded to create the Reflectograph with the aid of Mr. A. J. Ashdown, a researcher who tested instruments for the British Government and their War Office. It was composed of a two layered box fitted with white push buttons that corresponded to letters of the alphabet and a blue star to indicate the message had ended. A bell would ring at the end of each word. When a button was pushed, the corresponding letter would light on an attached light box with 30 individual panels.

Louise Eliza Bolt was born in 1895 in Brixton, Devonshire to Simon and Miriam Bolt. Louise married a mine worker and had one child before separating from her husband in the 1920s. She was a materialization medium and became the primary operator of the Reflectograph. Bolt sat in a closet made of fabric with her hands and waist tied to a chair. An ectoplasmic hand would extend to the machine and type out messages.

After a private demonstration at the British College of Psychic Science, the first advertised demonstration was held in June of 1929 at the Spiritualist Church in Skegness. Only two Reflectographs were known to have been built. But other machines would follow, including the Communigraph. But that’s another story.

Additional Reading:

Ashdown, A.J. (Publication date unknown).  The Ashkir-Jobson Trianion. Wimbledon Park, London.

A Means of Spirit Communication – designed from the spirit world.” The Pioneer, Volume 7, No. 6: December 2020.

Kirkby, B.K. “Spirit Inventions from Beyond – A Sequel to A Death Bed Promise.” Reprinted in The Pioneer, Volume 7, No. 6: December 2020

Demarest, Marc. “A Means of Spirit Communication – designed from the Spirit World! Some notes on the Reflectograph.” The Pioneer, Vol 8, No. 1: February 2021

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