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Jonathan Koons was born in Pennsylvania. His wife Abigail Bishop came from New Hampshire and they married in Athens, Ohio in 1836. Koons became a successful farmer in the Mount Nebo area overlooking the town, and the couple had nine children over the next 15 years.   Being self-educated and well versed in politics and current affairs, Koons discovered a newspaper description of the Fox family rappings in 1852. Intrigued, he decided to personally investigate the phenomenon.   He traveled throughout Ohio to attend seances and was told that both he and his children had psychic gifts.  

He soon discovered that Abigail and his eldest son, Naham, were endowed with psychic abilities. They held several seances at the house before they were directed by the spirits to build a “spirit room.” After receiving the specifications, Koons constructed a log cabin that was 12 x 14 ft. It had three shuttered windows, a single door, and a 7-foot-high ceiling.   The room was furnished with benches and a collection of musical instruments that Koons managed to buy or borrow from his neighbors.   The spirits then demanded he add two tables, a rack for the instruments, and wire to suspend small bowls and copper doves.

The Koons family began giving public seances.   Between the rumors and musical concerts emanating from the cabin, neighbors began to stop by to see what was happening. Soon, visitors from other parts of the country arrived as well.   No admission was charged, but those who stayed for the night usually contributed an offering.   Koons was still maintaining his family farm so it is not surprising that he sometimes fell asleep during the seances.

The cabin usually held 20-25 people seated in the dark. The beginning was announced by the banging of the base drum. Koons would sit at a table with his wife and son beside him and play a lively tune on his fiddle.   Other instruments would join in, keeping perfect time, but they did not remain stationary. There were reports of them circling the room and playing above the heads of the attendees.

A spirit named John King would speak through a trumpet.   He claimed to be the leader of the 165 spirits present. They were Ancient Angels, including one called Oress.  Most of the time King and his daughter, Katie, would do most of the talking. Spirit hands, either self-illuminating or illuminated by phosphorus sheets of paper, appeared. Witnesses said the hands felt like real flesh, sometimes hot, other times cold.  Some hands would write out messages at incredible speeds.  

Hundreds of people came to Mount Nebo, claiming that it was a place of spiritual significance. The Koons family continued to operate their spirit room, but by that time, the neighboring Tippie family had opened a spirit room of their own. The Tippie’s copied the musical performances but offered no other signs or messages.

The Koons family took a trip to Cleveland in 1856 to visit Linus Everett, the editor of the newspaper, Spiritual Universe. During one of the seances, Koons daughter was found to be out of her seat, and Everett gave them a scathing review, accusing them of cheating. Despite that, the “Spirit Room” remained open until 1858 when the family moved to Illinois. Koons remained a spiritualist throughout his life but did not continue with his mediumship, dying in 1893.

Additional Reading:

Hatfield, Sharon (2018) Enchanted Ground: The Spirit Room of Jonathan Koons. Swallow Press, Athens, OH.


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