[The following passage is from our work-in-progress and closes the section devoted to the second Arbuckle trial.]
On February 6 1922, at a time when many of the nation’s mediums were trying to make contact with the ghost of the recently-murdered William Desmond Taylor, the Jonsons of Pasadena, a couple well known in Southern California’s spiritualist subculture, conducted a “trumpet séance,” at which Mrs. Jonson would go into a trance and channel the spirit of an Indian guide named “Krocho.”
In the darkness, the “spirit trumpet,” a telescopic tin megaphone floated up to the ceiling and descended, tapping each of the eight participants on the head. After conferring with other spirits identified as “Mother,” “Sister Clara,” “Santa Fe John” “Gray Feather,” and so on, the voice of a spirit named “Tim” came on the trumpet and requested, in a slightly amplified voice, that the mortals in the room turn their thoughts to “a little charity.”
Unlike the October performance where a Chicago stage medium was said to have conjured the ghost of Virginia Rappe to exonerate Roscoe Arbuckle, the Jonsons specialty was communing with a group of visitants from the “other side” who were attempting to introduce to the gathering a recently-deceased and unnamed victim of a crime.
“I am going to bring in a lady who deserves your help, your good thoughts and efforts,” said “Tim,” an especially accommodating spirit. “She is not a stranger to Los Angeles and this is the place, and this is the circle for her to come to, and I feel at liberty to ask you to open your arms and give her your help. The earth was not very kind to her in life and from childhood on she walked with fate against her.”
The assembled group assured “Tim” that their door was open to this troubled spirit, that their arms were extended. Then, a female spirit was alleged to have taken up the trumpet, but it fell on the table with a clatter. She tried again and it fell. On the third attempt, a barely audible female voice was heard and the trumpet fell once more. But the participants guessed who it was.
“Rappe! Rappe! It’s Virginia—Virginia Rappe!”
Silence followed. Someone interceded to ask “Krocho,” the higher authority among the dead, to get Miss Rappe back to the trumpet. So, Mrs. Jonson surrendered her voice to him and he responded at length.
No, not tonight, friends. Miss Rappe has gone for the evening. She tried hard to make it, but didn’t have the strength. She will try it another time. But there is a worthy case friends, a fine girl more sinned against than sinning. She did not come to this world with a silver spoon in her mouth and all she ever got out of it was a bitter fight. She had talent, yes; but it was talent that brought her under the show and tinsel of a false life. She fought against evil forces, and there were none in her world brave enough to help her to better things. They worked with her, yes. but to her undoing. She paid the price with her life, while those who planned the sorry deed fight for freedom with money. But the law of compensation will have its day. You might fool the courts, but you can never fool God on high. When she came into the world, the day had gone when the law of the home was the law by which your earth lived. The day when parents tapped their fingers gently on the table and the children followed in loving obedience, had already given place to the cold and workaday world that cares not for your honor just so it uses your talent-that day found her fighting her way in the world without a guiding hand to help. What was the end? What can be the end of a people who can never spend money enough, can never wear clothes enough, can never be amused enough and who live only by the light of vanity and false show? Her lot was among those who didn’t care. She fought an uneven fight and found her rescue only in death. But she will live to pass judgment upon those who seek victory in her defeat, for her triumph is just beginning and we want you all in this circle to send out to her your loving thoughts and give her Godspeed in her new life. Good night, friends, and God love you all.
A skeptical Harry Houdini and friend in 1926 (Library of Congress)
George F. Goerner, A Record of Psychic Experiences (Los Angeles: Los Angeles Society for Advanced Psychical Research, 1922), 189.