Mina "Margery" Crandon
(1888–1941) was the wife of a wealthy Boston
surgeon and socialite, Dr. Le Roi Goddard Crandon. She became well known as a medium
who claimed that she channeled her dead brother, Walter Stinson.
Mina grew up on a farm in Canada
but moved to Boston as a young woman. While working as a secretary of a local church in Boston, she met and married Earl Rand, a grocer. They had one son. She later met Dr. Crandon when she entered a Dorchester, Massachusetts
, hospital for an unspecified operation, possibly appendicitis
. Dr. Crandon was her surgeon. She and Dr. Crandon crossed paths again later that year when Dr. Crandon served as a lieutenant commander and head of surgical staff in a New England Naval hospital during the First World War
and Mina served as a civilian volunteer ambulance driver who transported casualties to the hospital. Mina sued for divorce from Earl P. Rand on January 1918 and became Dr. Crandon's 3rd wife a few months later. She moved to Dr. Crandon's house at 10 Lime Street, with her son. Dr. Crandon later adopted her son and changed his name to John Crandon.
Mina first began experimenting with seances
as a hobby, possibly to distract her older husband from a morbid obsession with mortality. On July 23, 1924 her name was submitted as a candidate for a prize offered by Scientific American
magazine to any medium who could demonstrate telekinetic
ability under scientific controls. With a doctor as husband, Mina was well prepared for the challenge, and her charm and lack of interest in personal monetary reward made her seem honest to the public eye. Her seance circles included members of the middle class as well as luminary members of the Boston upper class and Ivy League elite. Famous supporters such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
gave her significant credibility. She became so popular that her prayers were read by the US Army. The Scientific American prize committee consisted of William McDougall, professor of psychology at Harvard; Harry Houdini
, the famous professional magician and escape artist; Walter Franklin Prince, American psychical researcher; Dr. Daniel Frost Comstock
, who introduced technicolor to film; and Hereward Carrington, amateur magician, author, and manager for the Italian medium Eusapia Palladino
There was much disagreement among the committee, and, in the end, only Carrington voted in favor of Mina. Carrington is now thought to have been romantically involved with Mina. However, Committee Secretary Malcom Bird leaked to the press that the Committee was leaning toward a positive vote. Incensed, Committee Member Harry Houdini returned from abroad to submit his dissenting vote. His pursuit to discredit Mina became a part of his stage act, and he reproduced her effects to audiences as well as published a pamphlet that described how she achieved some of her more basic effects.
A later review by Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine lent further insight into Mina's performances. Dr. Rhine was able to observe some of Mina's trickery in the dark when she used luminous objects. He refused to test her further, and postulated that she may have been subject to a personality disorder. However, Mina continued to conduct seances and improve upon the production of effects. An English teacher, Grant Code, became a frequent visitor to the Crandon home and was enthralled by Mina's later astonishing performances. Ultimately, he too was able to duplicate them. Code's exchange of letters with psychic investigator Walter Franklin Prince regarding Margery are currently held in the archives of the ASPR.
An elaborate investigation was held by a committee of Harvard scholars. Finally, the Harvard committee also pronounced Mina as being fraudulent. On 30 June 1925 one of the Harvard investigators saw Mina draw three objects from her lap. One object was shaped like a glove or flat hand, one resembled a baby's hand, and third was not described.
The Society for Psychical Research wanted further investigation. A committee of three Professors: Knight Dunlap, Henry C. McComas and Robert Williams Wood were sent to Boston. Mina had a luminous star attached to her forehead, identifying the location of her face in the dark. After a few minutes a narrow dark rod appeared over a luminous checkerboard which had been placed on the table opposite Mina. It moved from side to side and picked up an object. As it passed in front of Wood he lightly touched it with the tip of his finger and followed it back to a point very near Mina's mouth. Wood thought it probable she was holding the rod by her teeth. He took hold of the tip and very quietly pinched it. It felt like a knitting needle covered with one or two layers of soft leather. Though the committee had been warned that touching the ectoplasm could result in the illness or death of the medium, neither Mina nor the "ectoplasm" rod gave any evidence of Wood's actions. At the end of the sitting Wood dictated his actions to the stenographer. Upon hearing this Mina gave a shriek and fainted. She was carried out of the room and the committee was asked to depart. Wood was never invited again.
Mina's amazing production of the second teleplasmic hand that appeared in photographs has never been fully explained. Yet it was touched and recognized, as being without life or movement, and resembling sewn tracheae. Allegations were made by some conjuring historians of Houdini and medium-ship that Mina's surgeon husband altered her vagina and this was where she concealed her teleplasmic hand. She refused to wear tights, and refused to be internally searched. However, proof that Mina had been surgically altered has never been found. There are photos of the alleged teleplasmic hand and its position on page 237. It appears to be coming from Mina's groin.
Mina was finally fully discredited when a fingerprint left on wax ostensibly by her channelled spirit, her deceased brother, Walter, was discovered to belong to Mina's dentist. Her dentist divulged that he had taught Mina how to make these prints. However, Mina continued to perform until her early death in 1941, at the age of 50.
See: http://www.forteantimes.com/gallery/seance.shtml Compare this with other photos
- Margery by Thomas Tietze, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1973.
- A Review of the Margery Case. The American Journal of Psychology, Volume 37, pp. 431-41 by Franklin Walter Prince
- Houdini by Kenneth Silverman, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 1996.
- Ghosts I have Talked With by Henry C. McComas, Williams and Wilkins Co., 1937
- Final Seance by Massimo Polidoro, Prometheus Books, New York, 2001.
- Secrets of the Psychics by Massimo Polidoro, Prometheus Books, New York, 2003.
- The Secret Life of Houdini, by Kalush and Sloman, Atria Books, New York, 2006.