The spirit of Princess Ruth dances at a séance.
William Tufts Brigham (1841–1926) came to Hawai'i in 1864 with Horace Mann. He was curator of the Bishop Museum from 1890 to 1920. This paper details his belief in and experiences of spiritualism. A good many of the experiences take place on the mainland and include the standard props of the Victorian cult: levitating tables, rattling chains, etc. His Hawaiian séances, however, take on the flavor of the region. In the most remarkable anecdote in the memoir, he tells of a visit from the spirit of Princess Ruth Keelikolani. She was considerend the largest and richest woman in Hawaii. One observer commented, "Her size and appearance are most unfortunate, but she is said to be good and kind." At a séance, Princess Ruth's spirit enters the room through a piano. Brigham drily notes, "Her weight was probably equal to that of the piano." A medium seated herself at the piano and asked the spirit for guidance, after which she went into a trance and began to play a waltz which Brigham had danced with Ruth at a ball fifty years before. The waltz put Ruth in such a good mood that her spirit lifted the legs of the piano and tapped time to the music.
In another séance, Brigham experiences "the greatest exhibition of muscular power by spirits that I have personally known." The spirit of an old friend, the superintendent of a sugar plantation, enters the room. "At once, hands, quite substantial, clapped me on my knees and I heard 'Aloha'. Nothing more."
with: a cover letter from Brigham, sending this memoir to Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University, Honolulu, 1 June 1924.
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