Mind Treks of the Hypnotized Nearly Blind Clairvoyant

Among numerous other types of astonishing hypnotic anomalies  discussed at length in my recent post here, nineteenth century literature contains many accounts of dramatic clairvoyance in hypnotized subjects.  I have discussed such accounts here and here and here.  Some cases from the twentieth century are  discussed here.  One of the more interesting nineteenth century accounts of clairvoyance under hypnosis is found in the document here by William L. Stone, consisting of a very long letter he wrote to a Dr. Brigham with a date of September 10, 1837.  Stone was the author of quite a few books that included works of history, biography and a skeptical critique of religious fanaticism. 


Stone discusses how he did some reading about hypnotism (which was then described by various names such as Mesmerism, animal magnetism or somnambulism).  He describes arriving in the city of Providence on August 26, 1837 to see a woman named Loraina Brackett, who four years previously had an iron weight accidentally fall on her head, resulting in a gradual loss of vision culminating in blindness. Brackett's medical history was related to Stone by a Dr. Capron who introduced Stone to Brackett.  In his letter Stone calls Loraina Brackett "blind," but in another book the same Dr. Capron relates the exact medical history of Loraina Brackett, noting that as of August 31, 1837 "her vision is partially restored." In that other book a Henry Hopkins who housed Loraina for five weeks with his family states she was able to discern the outlines of objects. There is no clear discrepancy here, as people with only partial vision are often called "blind" or "legally blind."


On page 13 Stone states this: "In regard to Miss Brackett, I was assured, upon authority not to be questioned, that the power of seeing objects not present, or rather of transporting herself in imagination from one place to another, no matter how distant, and of viewing objects and scenes which she had never seen or heard described, and giving correct accounts of them herself, had been strikingly displayed in many instances."


On August 28 Stone met Loraina Brackett, at a house with multiple witnesses Stone names.  Dr. Capron began to hypnotize Loraina.  Stone says, "In five minutes the patient gave signs of drowsiness, and in four minutes more she was in a deep and profound slumber — insensible, as we ascertained by experiment, alike to the touch and the voices of all present, excepting her physician."  On page 17 Stone describes the first test of clairvoyance.  Wearing sunglasses that held wads of cotton to block vision,  the nearly blind Loraina was taken to a room in which there were pictures brought by Stone from the house of one of his friends.  Stone states this:


"She took up a portrait, while standing on the side of the room opposite to my friend and myself, and putting it to the side of her head, almost behind, as she remained alone, inquired — ' Is not this a likeness of John Foster? — John — Yes, it is John Foster.'  I immediately passed around the table to her, and held a brief conversation with her respecting the character and writings of Foster — of whom there had not been a word said, before she selected his picture and pronounced his name. Her reading of the names on the prints was very slow, as she read by lettering, as the freemasons call it ; that is, by studying each letter, and first repeating it in a whisper, as though to herself. But she made no mistakes that were discovered....Sometimes she would exhibit the simplicity of childhood, as in the case of an allegorical print suspended by the wall. The Inscription was — 'America guided by Wisdom.' My friend asked her to read it. She replied, that she would read half of it if he would read the other half. She then, after a moment of study, read 'America guided' — and would read no more; insisting, playfully, that the gentleman referred to must read the other two words."


The print "America Guided by Wisdom"


Dr. Capron then introduced the hypnotized Loraina to Stone, causing her attention to be focused on Stone:



"Having satisfied ourselves of the wonderful powers of 'vision without the use of visual organs,' as exhibited upon these objects, and of which I have given but a brief outline, Dr. Capron, by an exercise of the will, withdrew her attention from the whole circle to himself, and then gave her a particular introduction to me. Leading her to a seat, I sat down by her side, and the Doctor transferred her hand into mine, and clothed me with the power of enjoying her exclusive company."


There then follows quite a few pages describing a mental journey in which Loraina and Stone kind of mind-traverse Manhattan.  Such a kind of clairvoyant journey has been reported very many times in the literature describing a clairvoyance of hypnotized subjects. In such a "mind trek," a person who is not hypnotized and who is said to be "in rapport" with a hypnotized person (often holding that person's hand) will kind of mentally traverse some path the non-hypnotized person is very familiar with, and observe whether the hypnotized person seems to point out details that should have been unknown to that person, as if the hypotized person could see with clairvoyant perception various details along the path. 


After Loraina seemed to perceive well various features along the path to Stone's house in Manhattan, Stone guided this mental journey to his own house on Church Street, which Loraina had never physically visited.  Mentally guiding Loraina into the house, Stone asked her to look at various pictures on his walls.  Later Dr. Capron asked her about the pictures in Stone's house. We read the following:


"The Doctor continued — 'Mr. Stone told me there was a painting over the side-board — what kind of a picture was that ?'


'It was a lake, with mountains around it. I thought it very beautiful.'


Such is the fact. The picture is a charming mountain landscape, the scene being a beautiful lake among the Catskill mountains, by Hoxie. 


' Well, what other pictures did you see ? What is that picture which Mr. Stone told me was hanging over the settee?'


'Oh, it was a curious picture. It represents three Indians sitting in a hollow tree, which looks as though it had been dug out on purpose. And the tree is filled with marks.'  [Hieroglyphics.] 


This was the most wonderful reply we had had yet. The picture is a composition landscape, by Hoxie, containing the portrait of the decaying trunk of an enormous sycamore tree, standing in the neighborhood of Montezuma, N. Y. The artist has introduced a group of three Indians, and has likewise traced a number of hieroglyphics within the open trunk. These hieroglyphics are seldom noticed by visitors, unless specially pointed out. And yet this blind lady, with bandaged eyes, who had never been in New York, nor heard a whisper of the existence of the picture, had discovered them ! The fact seems not only incredible, but absolutely impossible. But, as I believe, it is nevertheless true." 


The doctor then asked Loraina about other pictures she saw in Stone's house during this clairvoyant mind walk. She identified  very exactly two pictures: a picture of Jesus with a crown of thorns, and a picture of an Indian chief with a head almost entirely shaved. Later we read that Loraina correctly identified a picture in Stone's house of someone pulling a cat's ear. These were all pictures in a house that Loraina had never physically visited. 

On page 51 Stone recounts that Loraina was given a mailed package consisting of several sealed envelopes. She was put into hypnosis, and asked to read what was in the innermost envelope. She said she would take it to bed with her and read it before morning. The next morning she said the statement in the innermost envelope was, "NO OTHER THAN THE EYE OF OMNIPOTENCE CAN READ THIS IN THIS ENVELOPEMENT, 1837."  Stone states this:

"I examined the seal with the closest scrutiny. It was unbroken, and to open the letter or to read it without opening, with human eyes, was impossible."

The sentence in the sealed package of several envelopes was this: "No other than the eye of Omnipotence can read this sentence in this envelope. — Troy, New York, Aug. 1837."  

On page 52 Stone discusses a similar test, involving a sealed letter he left for Loraina, which was mailed back to him:

"I also left a note, hastily prepared, for the blind lady to read, the contents of which were known only to myself. It was carefully folded, so as to preclude the possibility of reading it, by the natural sight, without opening, and sealed with seven wafers and two seals of wax, with my own private signet. By the mail of the following Saturday I received the letter ; the seals were unbroken, and exactly in the condition I had left them, with the answer written on the outside, in the hand-writing of the friend who had assisted me in obtaining the interview, which answer is correct, as far as it goes."

The note stated this: "The following is the title, equally quaint and amusing, of a book which was published in England in the time of Oliver Cromwell : — 'Eggs of  Charity, layed by the Chickens of the Covenant, and  boiled by the waters of Divine love. Take ye and eat.' " The attempted reading received by mail from Loraina (relayed by someone else) was this:

"The following is a title, equally amazing (or amusing) and quaint, of a book published in England in the time of Oliver Cromwell : — 

'Eggs of Charity'— 

Miss B. does not know whether the word is  amazing or amusing. Something is written after  the 'eggs of charity,' which she cannot make out." 

On page 56 Stone tells us that he is only one of very many witnesses who can tell similar accounts:

"Were it my desire to enlarge upon this subject, or rather, were it not my design to confine the present communication strictly to a narrative of facts transpiring under my own eyes, I might easily fill a hundred pages more with incidents and illustrations of the most surprising character, which have occurred at Providence and in its vicinity within the last few months, in the course of the experiments that have been made — as well attested, too, as the battle of Bunker Hill or the Declaration of Independence. These facts might be gathered by hundreds, from the most authentic sources — arising, not from two or three cases of nervous, debilitated, and practised females, nor under the auspices of one, or even two, magnetisers, — but in the course of hundreds of experiments, upon as many subjects, of different ages and sexes, under the care of gentlemen of the first character — lay and professional."

On pages 72-73 Stone quotes a case cited by a Dr. Brownell, who said that under hypnosis a woman (different from Loraina) "could tell correctly the time by a watch, though enveloped in a cloth, and at the same time having a bandage over her eyes." The woman was asked to "go in spirit" to the house of a patient, who was believed to have a liver problem. The woman said the man's liver was fine, but that his spleen was enlarged. The man soon died, and an autopsy showed that he had suffered from just such an affliction: "all that ailed the man was an enlargement of the spleen." 

In another book by another author, we read the testimony of an Isaac Thurber who tried a test of the clairvoyance of Loraina Brackett:

"I wrote this sentence on a sheet of paper, 'Animal Magnetism may be rendered useful,' and carefully folded up the sheet so that the writing was covered with three thicknesses, sealing it with four seals. I then directed it to Dr. Capron, with a request that he would find out the contents of the letter and write the same on the back of it. No person but myseif knew what was in it. Dr Capron brought it the next day to my courting room, and it was opened in the presence 
of a rumber of witnesses. The writing on the back corre- 
sponded exactly with the writing inside, and the seals had not 
been broken."

In the same book, we read an account by a Rev. Frederick A. Farley who describes how he took a hynotized Loraina Brackett to a house of his brother-in-law in Boston, a house she had never seen:

"In this interview, Miss B. exhibited the faculty of clair- 
voyance, in my house, with perfect accuracy. I do not re- 
member a single error in regard to the things around her in 
several distinct rooms. And, as I before hinted, the external 
appearance of the house at Boston, its entry or hall, both 
drawing-rooms, the china closet, and many articles of furni- 
ture, both what they were, and where placed, she also de- 
scribed as well."

Elsewhere in the same book, we read the testimony of a J. R. Knox who tells us about this test with Loraina Brackett. who he refers to as "the somnambulist," a test in which fifteen out of seventeen words in a heavily sealed envelope were identified::

"I wrote a note of four lines, directed to Miss Brackett, to the contents of which she could have no possible clue. I enclosed it in two envelopes, so that the writing was covered by four folds of paper. I sealed it with four wafers and four wax seals, and impressed it with a peculiar device. No light, however strong, could render it possible to discover that there was anything written within. This was left with the somnambulist, and two days after Dr. Capron returned it to me with the contents of the note written on the outer envelope, with the exception of one word, which she could not decipher. This was, no doubt, owing to the illegible character of the handwriting, as, on opening it, I was convinced I could not have read it myself but from recollection. She likewise wrote ' sentiments' instead of 'selections' — another mistake certainly attributable to the same cause. The note contained seventeen words, which were known to no one but myself. It was returned as it was given, without the slighest appearance of having been handled or crumpled. The supposition of the removal or opening of the seals was out of the question. The idea that the discovery was a happy conjecture is absurd."

On a recent episode of the History Channel's series The UneXplained, hosted by William Shatner,  we saw children who could read even though their eyes were covered by fancy high-tech devices that acted like blindfolds.  We heard the director of the recent two-hour film Superhuman: The Invisible Made Visible discuss her filming of such children, along with high-tech tests verifying that no light was getting through such blindfold-like devices.  You can see the trailer for the film here. The show discussed this almost as if it was a novel anomaly, but such abilities were abundantly documented in nineteenth century literature describing hypnotized subjects, as you can read by following some of the links above. Similar clairvoyance has been widely reported among non-hypnotized Chinese children in the late twentieth century, as discussed here

In a remarkable book entitled Breakthrough to Creativity that you can read online here, Shafica Karagulla MD discusses similar experiments:

"I had been doing some experiments with people who could read blindfolded by simply touching a page of print or a picture with their fingertips...I asked them how they would explain such a phenomenon. Dr. James immediately insisted that such a 
thing was impossible, totally impossible. 'But,' I in- 
sisted, 'I’ve been working with people who can do it. 
I’ve tested them.' "

Dr. Karagulla then describes doing such an experiment with a blindfolded doctor, who correctly identified details of a photo he touched.