Spiritualists–Quirky but not Scary

Bodies are buried in the floors and walls of the old churches

Bodies are buried in the floors and walls of the old churches

Spiritualist services are quirky—no doubt about that—but they are nowhere near as macabre as the old churches in Europe. If you are fortunate enough to visit Westminster Abby or St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, you will find there are bodies buried in the walls and floors. You have to walk around elaborate marble sarcophaguses, and the cellars are crypts.

There’s no doubt what the old churches were all about—survival after death. There’s no doubt about the Spiritualists’

Sarcophagus in St. Paul's Cathedral

Sarcophagus in St. Paul’s Cathedral

theme either. No bodies are buried in the walls and floor of the old frame house that serves as the Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City but the pastor wore a beaded necklace fashioned from funeral programs—and of course she talked to ghosts.

About ten people usually show up for a service, but last Sunday there were four. Not much of an audience but the spirits didn’t seem to mind. One ghost reminded an attendee of sharing a meal of polk salad. Another congregant was having car trouble and her spirit guide told her where to find a good mechanic. One lady was alerted to a problem in her grand th-3daughter’s chest. “Difficulty breathing, I think,” the pastor said. “It’s not anything serious but keep her in your prayers.”

It turns out there are spirit doctors and nurses who help us when we are sick. I guess there are spirit nutritionists and mechanics too—why not?

There were only four of us so the pastor couldn’t really leave me out. She looked at me for a moment and mentioned a name. “Do you know her? I don’t believe she’s in spirit.” I recognized the name immediately. She’s still very much alive so I’ll respect her privacy.


The Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

The Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

The thing about spontaneous messages from beyond the grave is: none of them are really all that spontaneous. The pastor says a name, or sometimes only a letter in a name, followed by a who, what, when, and where information exchange.  Then comes the message from the “other side.” Usually it’s something general, but this voice had some very specific things to say.

“This spirit feels like her mother or her grandmother. Your friend has suffered a loss and needs to know she’s loved.” The pastor kept her eyes closed through the first part of the message but now she opened them. “Tell her you care. Don’t forget about her and . . . This mother presence thinks she should get a dog.”

The mother spirit didn’t specify a breed but she thought an older dog might work out best. “One that’s not so full of energy.” A member of the Spirit ASPCA? I leave it up to you.

I promised I’d pass the word along.

The future of the Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City is in question, because the pastor will be retiring soon. If you are interested in seeing what a spiritualist service is like, you can attend at 2:30 p.m. on the first and third Sundays of the month, at least through July. The address is 2348 NW 36th St.

This has nothing to do with spiritualism, but I want to mention that My Publisher is offering OWL DREAMS this month at 20% off.


Spiritualism—origins and experiments

Margaret, Kate and Leah Fox

Margaret, Kate and Leah Fox

Things have always gone bump in the night, and when that happens, people usually give a passing thought to the supernatural. Spirits are nothing new. They are found in the oral histories of every culture, in the scary stories children tell during sleepovers, even in the plays of William Shakespeare.

Ghosts (real or imaginary) have always been with us, but the Spiritualist Church got its start in Hydesville, NY on March 31, 1848 when Margaret and Kate Fox (ages 15 and 11 respectively) used “rappings” to convince their much older sister Leah that they were communicating with the spirit of a murdered peddler whose body was hidden in the cellar of the family’s recently acquired home.

There were already rumors the house was haunted. People heard groans, bumps, and even the sounds of furniture being moved. Those sounds might have been attributed to

The National Spiritualist Summit Magazine

The National Spiritualist Summit Magazine

settling noises that are common in old houses but when the Fox sisters asked questions, the noises answered—one “rap” for yes and two for no. After an elaborate game of twenty questions, the girls had the foundations of a new religion all laid out.

 A lot of religious movements took root in western New York in the early and mid 19th century. These included:

  • The Later Day Saints Movement. In 1823 Joseph Smith claimed he was led by an angel to a hill near his home in Manchester, NY where he found the golden plates that were his source for the Book of Mormon.
  • The Millerites. William Miller founded a church based on a vision of the end of the word that would take place on October 22, 1844. That obviously didn’t happen, but many of Miller’s concepts are still held by adherents of Adventism.
  • The Shakers were very active in that area, and established their first communal farm in central NY.
  • The Oneida Society established a temporary community in the region. They had a unique interpretation of group marriage with mates chosen by committee and children raised in common.

The Fox family was good friends with a radical Quaker couple who helped spread their fame through their religious community. You might be asking yourself, what constituted a radical in the 1840’s? These Quaker extremists believed in abolition of slavery, equal rights for women, and temperance.

th-1Before long, the Margaret and Kate Fox were the central focus of the Spiritualist Church in America and Great Britain. Their sister Leah spent much of her life managing their careers. The sisters had many notable supporters including: James Fenimore Cooper, Sojourner Truth, Horace Greeley, William Cullen Bryant, George Bancroft, and William Lloyd Garrison. They could have probably maintained a socially respectable following if they hadn’t developed serious drinking problems.

As their alcohol dependency grew worse, Kate and Margaret quarreled with their older sister (and business manager) Leah. They denounced her and confessed that Spiritualism



was a fraud. In 1888, before an audience of 2,000, Margaret showed how she produced “rapping” by popping her toes. She told the crowd, “I am here tonight as one of the founders of Spiritualism to denounce it as an absolute falsehood from beginning to end, as the flimsiest of superstitions, the most wicked blasphemy known to the world.”

A year later she—and her sister Kate—retracted their denouncement and tried to resume their careers. They never regained popularity and died penniless five years later.

The Spiritualist Church did not share the Fox sisters’ demise. It gained popularity in the U.S. after the Civil War and expanded even more in the U.S. and in the UK after WWI. Mary Todd Lincoln conducted séances in the White House. Alfred Conan Doyle (physician and author) joined the Ghost Club (Charles Dickens had been a member before him) and promoted Christian spiritualism.


Site of the Fox Sister's Cabin

Site of the Fox Sister’s Cabin

The town of Lily Dale, NY became renowned as a center for American Spiritualism when it purchased Margaret and Kate Fox’s house in 1927 and moved it into the town. The building is gone, but the site is now maintained as a small clearing in the woods where devotees can go to meditate.

Here’s an interesting bit of information for skeptics to consider. In 1904 (long after Margaret and Kate were “in spirit”) a false wall collapsed in the cellar of the Fox’s old home and revealed a man’s skeleton. A peddler’s tin box was also found. Here were two bits of physical evidence supporting the

Peddler's Box from the Fox's house

Peddler’s Box from the Fox’s house

validity of the sisters’ first séance. That box is on display in the Lily Dale Museum, but it isn’t clear what happened to the bones.

Skeptics and devotees of Spiritualism have continued to search for proof or refutation of communication with the dead.

In 1921, Thomas Lynn Bradford of Detroit, Michigan decided the only way to settle the controversy was to commit suicide and communicate an undeniable message through a medium. Unfortunately, the message was not all that undeniable. He told his co-investigator, Ruth Doran, “I am the professor who speaks to you from the Beyond. I have broken through the veil. The help of the living has greatly assisted me.” He had more to say but nothing specific enough to satisfy a non-believer.

Museum2014-640x532Harry Houdini was a famous spiritualist skeptic of his day. He promised to pass on a very specific message to his wife, Bess, from beyond the grave if such a thing was possible. The message was short, sweet, and specific: “Rosabelle Believe”. After ten years of consulting mediums and attending séances, Bess finally gave up.

By the way, Houdini died on Halloween, in 1926—coincidence?


Spiritualist Church / Visit 2 (A Message)

DSC01737On my second meeting at the Central Spiritualist Church, I received a message from a dead relative. In my typical skeptical—some might say devious—manner, I had laid the groundwork. I told the pastor my mother’s name. I expected to hear that name recited back to me, or at least hinted at when the spiritual communication part of the service rolled around. It didn’t go that way.

The atmosphere inside the little frame house didn’t change from the first meeting to the second. The congregation did. There were some repeat attendees, but most of the

Inside the Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

Inside the Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

people there were new to me. The minister, Juanita Oyer, knew most of them by name. It was a small group, ten mostly middle aged people, eight women and two men including me.

For a religion based on ghosts, the church is not a scary place. The religion is based on nine principals, two of which set it apart from more orthodox Christian churches: (4) We affirm that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change called death, (5) We affirm that communication with the so-called dead is a fact, scientifically proven by the phenomena of Spiritualism.

The purpose of the “contact” portion of the service is to provide evidence that our departed loved ones survive “in spirit.” This evidence comes in the second half of the DSC01745service, when the pastor delivers messages from the other side.

Juanita Oyer makes firm eye contact with one person after another while she says something like, “I have someone here in a long black dress. I think her name begins with the letter L.” If she sees a spark of recognition she pursues the connection: “Something in your life is about to change—a career, money—something involving your name written on a contract . . .” She follows a line of thought until it runs dry and then she, “lets this spirit go.”

Many of the “spirits” in the room are repeat guests. “Genevieve is back again.”  Many of them attended the church in its salad days. They drop in with advice for continuing members who knew them in life. Most of the spirit visitors, like most members of the congregation are women.

The pastor looked at me several times during the communication part of the service IMG_0057but she never made a connection. She had fallen on her way to church, and wasn’t strong enough to maintain contact.

“I’ll have to stop right now,” she said. “Susan, would you like to try and bring someone through?”

In the early part of the service, we introduced ourselves. I didn’t remember anyone’s name (as usual), but Susan did. She sat in a chair in front of the congregation and had a message for everybody the pastor had missed. She had a different style. More direct, more specific,

Indian Spirit Guide

Indian Spirit Guide

more like Patrick Jane on The Mentalist.

One woman in the front row had a message from an unnamed spirit who wanted to tell her, “something about a man.”

“Does that sound right?” Susan asked.

It did.

“This might be one of your spirit guides,” Susan told her. “She has five words for you: Kick him to the curb.”

Susan asked my permission to focus on a spirit who was there for me.

“I think this is an aunt,” she said. “Someone who was important when you were a child.”

I only had one aunt. I know that sounds strange but my extended family was badly broken. She made reference to my lonely childhood. That was partially true. I had friends but no siblings.

She said, “Your aunt wants you to connect with more people.” I’m presuming she meant people who are still alive. My dead aunt had me pegged as an introvert. Not the kind of message I found convincing but it was a start.

th-1Susan continued: “You have a Native American spirit guide.”

According to spiritualists we all have spirits who stay close to us. They give us premonitions, keep us safe, whisper advice in our ears. Differences in language don’t seem to be a barrier. For some reason many of the spirit guides are Indians. Susan told me mine wore a feathered headdress—most Indian spirit guides apparently do that—and he was, “a giant of a man.”

I was intrigued if not convinced. I write fiction loaded with Native American mysticism. Maybe my muse is a giant Plains Indian Ghost.

My paranormal fiction-writing friends are missing out by not visiting the Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City. It’s likely to be closing soon. Juanita Oyer is retiring and according to her, “Oklahoma hasn’t been very fertile ground for spiritualism.” Services begin at 2:30 p.m. on the first and third Sunday every month—for as long as the pastor is willing to continue. The address is 2348 NW 36th St.

Here are some links you might find interesting:

My Books: Owl Dreams / Southwest Gothic Tales (Free) / Messages / Publisher’s June Sale.

Spiritualist videos:

 Adrian Conan Doyle about his father’s belief in spiritualism.

Carol Lynne defines spiritualism.

Do spirits guide us—Carol Lynne.

Validation / John Edward.

The nine principles of spiritualism.


Spiritualist Church Service


The Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

The Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

The Spiritualist Church of Central Oklahoma City is a small well-kept white frame house with a sign in the front yard. You enter through the kitchen. A hand written note posted on the door reads, “Services on the first and third Sundays of every month.” It’s a tiny congregation, far to small for an interested skeptic to attend anonymously, so I called the pastor, Juanita Oyer, and made certain that services were open to the public.

The congregation sits in on blue upholstered kitchen chairs in a gray paneled

The back door of the Centralist Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

The back door of the Centralist Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

room. On one wall is a large tapestry sunflower, which I believe is the symbol of the National Association of Spiritualist Churches. A portrait of Jesus is mounted on the wall behind the pulpit.

I was interested in the spiritualist hymnals that were on every chair, and I didn’t have to wait long to have my curiosity satisfied. Music plays a large role in the service. The songs sound like ordinary church music, but some lyrics deal with contacting the departed. The purpose of the songs is to “raise the vibration” in order to attract friends and relatives who are “in

Inside the Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

Inside the Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

spirit” (deceased).

The collection plate was passed while the congregation sang “The Magic Penny.

The first half of the service was not much different from other Christian churches I’ve attended with two major exceptions: the pastor made repeated references to spirits being present in our daily lives (including a spirit guide which we all have), and she read verses from the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ.

aquarianThe Aquarian Bible came (theoretically) from translations of the Akashic Records. It deals with Jesus’ relationships with people around him and the “missing years” that aren’t addressed in the New Testament.

The service included to a healing prayer that focused on those present then gradually expanded to include everyone in the world and then to include life on other planets. It progressed very much like a hypnotic trance induction and by the time the pastor was finished we all felt relaxed and open.

Juanita Oyer is one of the most charming people I have ever met. Everyone in that room was on her side by the time she brought us, “to the part of the service that differentiates us from other Christian churches.” She prayed for strength and clear communication and started receiving messages.

The National Spiritualist Summit Magazine

The National Spiritualist Summit Magazine

“There’s someone over here named Susie. She’s strong in this area.” The pastor pointed to her left. “She’s saying something about strawberries.”

“Probably my aunt,” someone told her. Details were fleshed out over the next few minutes and there were more contacts. Always a spirit wanting to contact someone seated in a specific area in the room.

“Between one of these two people. I think his name is William. Could have been a father or a grandfather. He wants to talk about a family picnic.”

The spirits gave advice about health—all good as far as I could tell—and general encouragement. Some of the “hits” seemed on target, and others missed the mark.

“Well Lillian definitely has something to say, but if no one knows her, I’m going to let her go.”

I’ve seen a couple of psychic cold readings. The process was very similar.

No messages for me. The pastor told me she sensed a nearby spirit, but she wasn’t strong enough to bring her through. The lady sitting next to me thought it might be because my legs were crossed.

The pastor didn’t think so. “Some days I’m stronger than others. I don’t think crossed legs matter.”

I have days like that too.

I want to make it very clear that Juanita Oyer is a true believer. Nothing she did indicated she was out to fool or defraud anyone. Nothing I saw convinced me there were spirits in the room either, but I have to say—from the point of view of a magic realism fiction writer—the process and the people were interesting.

I’m going to give the church another try. It’s not a scary place once you walk through the kitchen door, and the congregation is friendly. If you are interested, maybe I’ll see you there Sunday, June first. The address is 2348 NW 36th Street
Oklahoma City. Dress casually.


Karen Cooper’s Links for Writers Publishing in Oklahoma

IMG_4053Last February I had the pleasure of speaking to Tahlequah Writers (an OWFI affiliate) about writing short fiction, finding markets, and winning contests. This was an incredibly well organized and well attended group.

Karen Cooper created this affiliate almost (if not totally) single handedly. She arranges meeting venues, finds speakers, coordinates activities with local libraries and other groups interested in regional authors, and still manages to keep writing. She has put together this collection of links for writers publishing in Oklahoma. Carolyn Leonard will be updating this list on her website. If you can help make it complete, contact Carolyn here. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the Tahlequah Writers Facebook page.

Here is the list as of 5/24/14:

Organizations/Information Services:

Oklahoma Small Press Association, www.oklahomasmallpress.com

Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc., www.owfi.org

Oklahoma Poetry Portal: www.okpoetryportal.com

Oklahoma Center for the Book, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, 200 NE 18th Street

Oklahoma City OK 73105-3298, Connie Armstrong.

Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers, OSU-Tulsa, 700 N. Greenwood, Tulsa OK 74106, 918-594-8215, Teresa Miller, Teresa.miller@okstate.edu.

 WRITERS REMINDER -Since 1993 info on writing contests, conferences, publishing industry news, programs, speakers, letters, book reviews, website winners, story call-outs, writing opportunities, practically anything of interest to writers. WR is not subsidized or sponsored by any person or group, and is free.  http://bit.ly/H6krq9


Oklahoma-Based Book Publishers:

4RV Publishing, PO Box 6482, Edmond 73083, 405-225-7298, www.4rvpublishing.com. Handles most books except poetry. Vivian Zabel

Forty-Sixth Star Press, 5030 N May Street Suite 323, Oklahoma City OK 73112. www.fortysixthstarpress.com, Pam Bracken.

Honor Books PO Box 55388, Tulsa, OK 74155. 1-877-663-1330. inspirational books.

IMOCO Publishing, PO Box 471721
Tulsa, OK 74147-1721, 918-249-9338, Paul Brodsky. Humor books and other related.

Literati Press, 820 W. Danforth #A-19, Edmond, OK 73003, 405 315-6224. www.literatipressok.com; Charles@literatipressok.com. Comics and sub-culture fiction.

Mongrel Empire Press, 1108 W. Main Street Suite 103, Norman OK 73069, mongrel@mongrelempire.org, www.mongrelempire.com. Jeanetta Calhoun Mish.

New Forums Press Inc., 1018 South Lewis Street, Stillwater, Oklahoma 74074.

405-372-6158, www.newforums.com, Info@newforums.com, contact@newforums.com. Educational materials, regional history, regional fiction.

Pen-L Publishing, Fayetteville AR. Various fiction, some non-fiction. www.pen-l.com

Rainbow Studies International, PO Box 759, 
El Reno, OK 73036 
(405) 262-6826
or 9777. Children’s Bible stories and videos, Christian inspirational. Billy Hughey.

RoadRunner Press, PO Box 2564, Oklahoma City OK 73101, 405-524-6205. Jeanne@theroadrunnerpress.com and www.theroadrunnerpress.com  Primarily children’s books.

Tate Publishing, 127 E. Trade Center Terrace, Mustang OK 73064. 405-376-4900. www.tatepublishing.com.

TwinOaks Publishing Company, RR. 1 Box 935,
Thackerville OK 73459, 580 276-4776. Lou Harper, luharper@ardmore.com, www.freewebs.com/luharper. Small books on demand for $6 each.

University of Oklahoma Press, 1005 Asp Avenue,
Norman, OK 73019-6051.
Publishes books about American Indian and Western history, literature, political science, classics. www.ou.edu/oupress/.

Village Books Press, Route 2, Box 6, Cheyenne OK 73628. Dorothy Alexander, poetry, etc. 580-729-0242, villagebookspress@yahoo.com.


Magazines and Journals accepting creative works in Oklahoma:

Cimarron Review, Oklahoma State University, 205 Morrill Hall, Stillwater OK 74078. cimarronreview@okstate.edu, www.cimarronreview.com.

Cooweescoowee, Rogers State University, 1701 W. Will Rogers Blvd, Claremore OK 74017. 918-343-7976. www.rsu.edu/academics/eng-hum/coowee.asp, sallyemmons@rsu.edu.

Crosstimbers, University of Science and Arts Oklahoma, Chickasha OK. http://projects.usao.edu/crosstimbers/; accepts poems, articles, and fiction.

Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry, 918-631-3080, www.utulsa.edu/nimrod/  nimrod@utulsa.edu.

Oklahoma Today Magazine, 15 N. Robinson Avenue, Oklahoma City OK 73102

405-521-2496; steffie.corcoran@travelok.com.

Sugar Mule, www.sugarmule.com, Jeanetta Calhoun Mish. Poetry journal with Buddhist leanings.

This Land Press, 1208 S. Peoria, Tulsa OK 74120. 918 200-9428, mail@thislandpress.com.

Oklahoma Authors (2 or more books):

Biggs, John. Owl Dreams and Southwest Gothic Tales. www.johnbiggsoklahomawriter.com

Cooper, Karen Coody. Non-fiction Cherokee Wampum and Spirited Encounters: American Indians Protest Museum Policies and Practices, plus Fault Line poetry. www.karencoodycooper.com

Gensler, Sonia. Historical fiction: The Revenant and The Dark Betweenwww.soniagensler.blogspot.com  Historical fiction.

Laughter, Jim. Tulsa author writing suspense, Escape to Destiny, Polar City Red, The Apostle Murders, and more. www.jimlaughter.comjimlaughter@att.net

Mullins, Jonita. Muskogee author of history, Journey to an Untamed Land (novel) and Haskell: A Centennial Celebration. www.okieheritage.com

Rains, Eyvonna. Children’s book Sleep my Child, and poetry, Wanderer. www.EyvonnaRains.com

Wetterman, Bill. Mystery thrillers Room 1515, The Fifth Step, and more. www.billwetterman.com

Blogs on Writing:

My Blog:  Writing is easy. My Blog is mostly about the life of freelance writing. Here is what is going on in my life at the moment — and by writing it down, then I can better understand why things happen as they do, and maybe you can understand it too.

Hotlink: http://bit.ly/1cKl879






 When I saw The Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City across the street from

The Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

The Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

my grandson’s elementary school I wondered if a piece of my life had just re-emerged to haunt me.

My mother’s family was part of the spiritualist movement before I was born. Her father had a Native American spirit guide who showed up at séances and offered what amounted to family counseling. She had a couple of aunts who were semiprofessional mediums, and an uncle who was a psychic painter before he got serious about drinking.


The back door of the Centralist Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

The back door of the Centralist Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

Ghosts were common fair in the 30’s and 40’s. Newspapers reported hauntings they way they reported political scandals. There were spiritualist camps, spiritualist libraries, spiritualist schools and plenty of spiritualist churches, where—according to Mom—services usually started with the pastor saying, “I have someone here with a message for . . .”

The spirit world had mostly gone out of fashion by the time I came along. Mom’s family (and I) attended the Baptist

Inside the Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

Inside the Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City

church. The only messages came from a man in a suit standing behind a pulpit. Those messages were peppered with thees and thous and whosoevers—incomprehensible from my childish point of view. I drew pictures and daydreamed and waited almost patiently for the Sunday drive back home when Mom would entertain me with stories from her supernatural salad days.

She described table rapping séances and materialization séances. She’d seen spiritual possessions and touched ectoplasm—it’s slippery, if you’re wondering. One ghost (a friend of her father’s) interrupted a family picnic at a spiritualist retreat and announced he’d drowned that very day. Nothing that cool ever happened in the Baptist Church.

DSC01737 I believed everything Mom told me. Ghosts were no exception. I had confidence in her right up until an embarrassing episode in my life when I turned out to be the last person in the third grade who believed in Santa Clause. Then everything she said came into question.

My father wasn’t interested in spiritual matters of any kind. He never set foot in a church unless there was a wedding or a funeral. I asked him once if he believed in God. He thought about it for several seconds and finally said, “I guess so . . .sure.”

His disinterest didn’t stop him from seeing ghosts. Dad saw his grandmother during World War II when it looked like he was going to be killed. He saw his father-in-law shortly after the old man died, and he saw my mother—his wife—off and on for the ten years he lived after she, “had to go away.”

“Probably my imagination,” he told me. “But those ghosts look solid as a Cadillac.”

I complained that I’d never seen anything that faintly resembled a ghost.

“When I die,” he told me. “I’ll let you know if there’s anything to it if I can.”  He died six years ago and I’m still waiting.

IMG_0057The Central Spiritualist Church of Oklahoma City is a white frame wooden house, about 1,000 square feet. Too small for me to attend a service without being noticed. I write fiction. Some of it is horror. That little house looks like a perfect prop for a final scene where things go bad for the protagonist.

A Google search revealed an almost imperceptible digital footprint but I found a telephone number. I called the pastor, told her about my mother’s family, told her I was curious about the church and asked if I could come.

“Of course,” she said, without a hint of Stephen King in her voice. “Services are at 2:30 p.m. the first and third Sunday every month.”

I’ll let you know if Dad left any messages.