Understanding What Physical Mediumship Is

Physical Mediumship was the practically the only form of Spirit Communication demonstrated from the very beginnings of the Spiritualist Movement in 1849. It wasn’t until about the 1950’s that another kind of Mediumship emerged called, Mental Mediumship. There is another form of Mediumship known as Trance Mediumship which we cover briefly in this particular post.

How Physical Mediumship Works

Physical Mediumship occurs when anyone present can witness spirit phenomena by seeing, hearing, touch, or even smelling spirit-related events as you will read about shortly. The spirits visiting will work in tandem with the Spirit Control and the medium to make itself known. Trained mediums call this “Objective Mediumship.” However, Objective Medumship is not a term often used except in Mediumship Development Circles.

In sort, Physical Mediumship is known for the medium producing many kinds of tangible phenomena with the aid of a Spirit Control. It was believed during the heyday of Physical Mediums, from about the 1850’s to the 1950’s, that this was definite proof of the afterlife and that spirits of the dead could communicate with the living. Read on to find out more about the different kinds of manifestations most commonly seen.

Mental Mediumship Has Replaced Physical Mediumship

It’s only been in the last three decades or so that Mental Mediumship has replaced Physical Mediumship as the primary form of Mediumship demonstrated. If you want a good example of what a Mental Medium is, think of James Van Praagh. Van Praagh is definitely a Mental Medium. This means he is fully conscious and aware when connecting with the Spirit World and relaying messages to others. Mental Mediumship can also be called, “Subjective Mediumship” because it is done telepathically incorporating most of the sixth or psychic senses. However, those present cannot hear or see the spirit as they are experienced only in Van Praagh’s mind.

Common Manifestations of Physical Mediumship:


The Appearance of Full or Partial Human Apparitions:

These are figures of the dead and sometimes spirit guides, that are produced by the medium with the aid of their Spirit Control. The figures can appear as solid, semi-transparent, and either part or all of the body is visible.

Apports and Asports:

Objects which are gifts and proof from the Spirit realm which seem to fall into the room seemingly from the ceiling. An asport is when the same object mysteriously disappears at the end of the session.

Automatic Writing or Slate Writing:

Also known as Slate Writing, Automatic Writing occurs when a spirit to takes control of a person’s arm and hands to facilitate communications from a spirit entity. The writer will often disengage their conscious mind and allows the energy of the spirit to assume control of their writing hand– usually the nondominant writing hand. Words and sentences begin to be written on paper or chalk slates without the individual consciously moving their pen or chalk. It is said the words appear with unbelievable speed. Some mediums used this method to produce works of art and portraits of the dead.

Various mediums today practice a form of automatic writing to contact spirits which doesn’t require going into a deep trance state. However, I would categorize these types of mediums as being mental mediums.

Breezes and Hot or Cold Spots:

Unexplained movement or pockets of air which can either be warm or ice cold which have no explainable cause, e.g., open windows, doors, air conditioning, or fans.

Direct Voice Communication:

The medium speaks with the actual sounding voice of the Spirit who has crossed to relay messages. Actually, it’s Spirit who produces the phenomena with the aid of ectoplasmic materials.


Used for materialization, ectoplasm is a rarified white to milky substance often emitted from various bodily orifices of the medium. The Ectoplasm is manipulated into hardened rod-like forms, and the Spirit Control can direct these rods to move large objects like tables and chairs and even cause levitation. Ectoplasm can also be molded into an artificial voice box so that spirits present can speak in their own familiar voices to attending relatives as proof of their loved one’s existence. The downside of this is that eventually, these activities will ultimately wear down the medium’s overall health.


The act of lifting from the ground persons or objects –usually with the substance of stiffened ectoplasm and with the assistance of Control guides.


Producing a partial apparition of a spirit or spirit hands which can be touched or smelled as well as seen.


The appearance of strong fragrances and odors of which the source cannot be explained.

Sound Phenomena:The ability of the medium to produce voices, music and other sounds in a room without using their own mouth. The voices seem to come from within them or in the air around them. (see Direct Voice above.)

Spirit Lights:

The phenomena of lights and orbs of different colors and pulsations which move and rapidly dart about a room.

Spirit Photography:

The medium causes images, ghostly apparitions of the dead, and mists to appear on film or photographic plates which have allegedly been checked for tampering or fraud by non-partial observers before the session.

Spirit Rapping & Tapping:

Sounds such as tapping and rapping noises produced by the medium in which the source cannot be explained.

Table Tipping:

Table tipping is a form of Physical Mediumship but can also be placed in the category of Mental Mediumship as participants are usually fully conscious. Folks gather around a 3 or 4-legged table and with fingers lightly touching at the pinkies, and start asking spirits questions. The table begins to move, rock, and even levitate. Other phenomena associated with table tipping is rapping sounds that can answer questions in some kind of code if a code has been set by the participants beforehand.

Table tipping is alive and well in groups today. I’ve participated in some groups and have even taught table tipping in some of my classes. It’s quite real and astonishing when you know that no one is causing the table to move or lift up!


Objects moving through the power of the mind and with the help of Spirits present.


An instrument which looks like a musical horn and is used to amplify and bring through Spirit voices and/or musical sounds.

These physical phenomena can be mysterious and even startling to those who have never witnessed a demonstration by a Physical Medium. Of course, it brings to mind the question, “Is the phenomena real or is it faked?”And, you would not be the first to question this. Sadly, with the advent of spiritualism in the 19th and 20th centuries, multitudes of fraudulent mediums popped up to bilk grieving and gullible people of their money.

Why the Insistence of Producing Physical Manifestations?

It was believed at the time that only outward spirit manifestations could provide verifiable proof of an afterlife and spirit communication.

Setting the Stage

In past times, Physical Mediumship was often done in a dimly lit room where the was medium usually sequestered behind a curtain, screen, or in a wooden cabinet. Why was this? It was once thought that physical mediums needed to be in the dark for participants to be able to witness the luminous substance called, ectoplasm (see above) and apparitions of spirits. It has also been claimed that if a Physical Medium were to be touched or startled during a demonstration, it would cause a severe shock to the medium’s neurological system. Yet, many physical mediums did not use a seclusion device when summoning spirits. The best known of these were Helen Duncan, Leslie Flint, Eusapia Palladino, and Florence Cook.

Is Physical Mediumship the Same as Trance Mediumship?

The function of a Trance Medium is to relay messages from the Spirit World only—whether it’s in the medium’s own voice or with the actual sounding voice of the spirit communicator (the spirit wanting to relay a message). Trance Mediumship is very similar to Physical Mediumship but does not incorporate the dramatic outward manifestations that Physical Mediums usually demonstrate. Like Physical Mediums, Trance Mediums go into a deep altered state of consciousness. A Trance Medium may or may not have a Control Guide as most Physical Mediums do. Examples of well-known Trance Mediums are Eileen Garrett, Gladys Leonard Osborn, and more recently, Doris Stokes. »Read more about the differences

Is Physical Mediumship Still Practiced Today?

Some believe that Physical Mediumship has completely gone out of fashion. Yet, far from being entirely lost to history, Physical Mediumship is still actively seen and taught in certain countries such as Great Britain, Scotland, Brazil, India, and even Japan.

What’s Required to Develop Physical Mediumship?

It can take years of assiduous work to develop authentic Physical Mediumship. Today, training for this style of Mediumship is done in a development circle with a highly experienced facilitator. You might find authentic training for Physical Mediumship in places such as Lily Dale, New York, Cassadega, Florida, or overseas if you happen to reside in the U.S.


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