SEATTLE'S PSYCHIC WONDER
Although it is usually thought that good physical mediums are things of the past Keith Milton Rhinehart of Seattle, Washington has produced phenomena under controlled conditions which deeply impressed scientists in Japan. Physicists and chemists from faculties of the universities of Tokyo and Osaka and from electro-technical laboratories publicly expressed their surprise in films that have been televised in Japan and the United States.
Rhinehart's manifestations in Japan occurred during a time when he was securely locked in a specially constructed chair, so designed that if the occupant so much as moved an inch it would be recorded. Before being placed into the chair Rhinehart had been stripped and thoroughly examined, then given a simple dark kimona to wear. He was also carefully weighed, and measured, his blood pressure taken, his urine analyzed and many other tests made. (These tests were repeated after the séance, and the results have been published; indicating that amazing physiological changes occur during mediumship.) Rhinehart was then placed into the chair and tied securely. Both of his arms lay in wooden enclosures from which he could not move them without having his motions recorded. The chair arms were studded with small buttons connected to red lights, and if his arms were raised off the buttons, the red lights would flash on. There was also an automatic weighing device fitted into the chair, which had been especially constructed by scientists for the visit of this prominent American medium. The weighing device was wired to an electrical graph-chart, that recorded any of his movements.
Under these test conditions many physical phenomena showing ectoplasm in various forms were produced under white light and photographed with still and movie cameras. Ectoplasm, a substance that comes from the body of a medium during trance, is quite often invisible. When it can be seen it looks like a milky-white substance of nebulous form and consistency. It has been analyzed in a laboratory and has been found to contain human cells as well as another substance that has not yet been identified. During the Japanese tests ectoplasm flowed from Rhinehart's nose, ears, throat, and solar plexus, levitating trumpets and producing partial materializations. Some of the phenomena were photographed on infrared motion picture film, later televised in Japan.
One sequence revealed an ectoplasmic-mass flowing from the entranced medium downward, then up over the edge of a nearby table. In the picture it appeared to be a long, thick swan's neck. The end of the mass, looking like the swan's beak, actually, consisted of two finger like proturberances, known as pseudopods, which grasped a pencil and drew with it on a sheet of paper. The drawing afterwards found to be a face, recognized by Mr. Mikami, the leader of a religious group, attending the séance, as the alleged face of his spirit guide. In a second picture, taken a short time after the first, so much ectoplasm had come out that it had covered the entire body of the medium.
At other séances, arranged under controlled conditions in Tokyo and Kyoto during the medium's visit to Japan in 1958, materialized spirits appeared: One was recognized as the deceased father of Professor Iki Goto, D.E., of Tokyo University an investigator at the séance. The spirit walked out of the cabinet down the room, turned around, and walked slowly back into the cabinet. A cabinet, of course is the dark, enclosed area in which the medium frequently sits in order, it is claimed to build power and to allow the ectoplasm a controlled area in which to form.
Some fifteen minutes later, the spirit appeared again. This time he had his sleeves rolled up and showed a scar he had received while in his earth life. This phenomenon, illuminated by white light was witnessed by some three hundred sitters who marveled and wondered, according to the widow of the late Wasaburo Asano, founder of modern psychical research in Japan and first president the Japanese Psychic Science Association.
Just before the end of the séance, Mrs. Asana reports, the guide requested that a basin be put near the medium, ready for him. when he was taken from the trance state. As soon as this was done the medium tore off the adhesive plaster that bound his mouth spat out hundreds of polished agates in rapid succession. After this more agates came from the trumpet that was poked through the cabinet curtain. There were a total of 720 pieces of agate which were later examined by Kenichi Ikeda, a jeweler who valued them at more than five hundred yen apiece.
Keith Milton Rhinehart's trip around the world was his second world tour, and had been given to the young medium by his church, the Aquarian Foundation, as a coming-of-age present.
He visited forty countries and held séances under test conditions in many of the them, including England, India, and the Union of South Africa.
The medium was born April 1, 1936, in Nunn, Colorado, and probably became one of the youngest practicing mediums in the history of mediumship. The first indication of his futures powers occurred he was about five years and his parents were divorced: Although little note was taken of them at the time, except wonderment and curiosity, poltergeist manifestations occurred in his home then. An occasional picture fell from the wall and rappings were heard here and there when no one was around.
When Keith was ten years old and living with his mother, Mrs.Val Rhinehart, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, she took a trip to San Francisco without him. There she happened to meet a woman named Lillian Laneville, who was planning to attend a meeting, at Florence Becker's Spiritualist Church. Keith's mother was asked to accompany her, and she did on the spur of the moment. When her time came for a message, Mrs. Becker began to sing, Why, oh why, oh why-o, did I ever leave Wyoming? Then she told Mrs. Rhinehart that she had a young son at home who would some day become a famous medium. This story, incidentally; has been confirmed independently by Lillian Laneville, who told it to me before Keith Rhinehart did. She now lives in Seattle and is a member of the Aquarian Foundation.
When Mrs. Rhinehart returned home she did not mention the prophecy to her son, but she told him how the medium had identified her as coming from Wyoming. The boy scoffed, You must have written your address down somewhere there and forgotten it. He was already interested in the subject of psychical research and had read a good bit about it, but he was highly critical of any of the phenomena about which he had read. In junior high school he wrote an article on the subject for his school paper, of which he was an editor.
When Keith was twelve he began delivering a morning newspaper, and he well remembers the days when he had to traverse his route in twenty below zero weather. It was his habit each morning before starting out with his papers to glance at the personal column. Once he found an announcement there that a medium wanted a group of people to start a development class with her.
I had read about this subject since I was just a little boy, Rhinehart says. It always fascinated me. I went to this class just to see if what I'd heard about such phenomena was really true. His interest captured by the activities of the group, he attended every week after that.
When Keith Rhinehart was fourteen years old, a visiting medium came to Cheyenne and gave billet readings without charge. The boy attended, and being so critical, he was the one who offered to put the tape over the medium's eyes. On his billet, he says, he merely asked for a message, and signed the initials K.M.R. When his turn came for a reading, he heard the words, Keith Milton Rhinehart, you are not going into science or radio as you plan but will end up a medium and will be world famous.
I stood right up in the meeting and denied that, Rhinehart recalls. I told him he was definitely wrong about me. But the message continued: Your main spirit guide will be Dr. Robert John Kensington, and you will go into trance within a year.
Although he did not believe this, Keith continued meeting with the development class, and one night he became so bored that he fell asleep. When he awoke later in the evening, he says, I was told that I had been in trance and that objects in the room had moved about in the air and deceased relatives of people present had spoken through me. After this initial experience, he went into trance every week, and his development proceeded at a fast pace.
Toward the end of that year a Spiritualist minister from Tacoma, Washington, visited in Cheyenne. Impressed with the potentialities of the young boy who was developing mediumship, she invited him to come to visit her when he could. And so he did, during the summer between his junior and senior years of high school. He held some séances there which were so successful that he was ordained as a minister at that time. Naturally, when he returned home, he kept his new status from his school friends for fear of their scorn; but he remembered the State of Washington most favorably because the hay fever from which he usually suffered did not bother him there.
When Keith Milton Rhinehart graduated from high school, he had the opportunity for scholarships to four colleges, but he passed them up in favor of the University of Washington because of its climate. By the end of his first year in college, however, his mediumship had developed so strongly that his guides insisted he start a church of his own. Because he was only nineteen, others formed a corporation for him, and the Aquarian Foundation was established, with a nucleus of fifteen charter members. It has grown until it now has seven hundred members throughout the world, with branches in Spokane, Tacoma, and Honolulu, Hawaii.
In the years since his mediumship began, Keith Rhinehart has run afoul of the law in various places, as many mediums do—the laws involving mediums being what they are in this country. In one city it is illegal to practice fortune-telling, while mind reading is perfectly all right. In another city the laws might be just the reverse. In New York City and Los Angeles one may practice telepathy and clairvoyance if he is careful never to predict the future. In Seattle, telepathy and precognition seem to be legally acceptable, but clairvoyance must be guarded against at all costs. Since parapsychologists have difficulty deciding where the lines can be drawn delineating various extrasensory capabilities, it must be especially difficult for police and detectives to decide such complicated questions. But they usually seem to find an excuse one way or another to arrest a medium who in any way manages to get into their hair. Since Dr. Rhinehart, an alert and vibrant personality, is a very outspoken young man who does not hesitate to express himself freely about almost anything to his large and flourishing congregation, many of his followers are not surprised at his frequent harassment by the law.
At thirty-one, Rhinehart looks less like a pastor of a church than like a country-and-western-singer, as he was described last year in the Seattle Magazine. Slim and youthful, he has an unusually high and broad forehead, wide cheekbones tapering to an almost pointed chin, black hair, and bright blue eyes. Clean-shaven he looks boyish, with a goatee he looks like a beatnik, and when he wears a beard, which outlines his face, he looks like a prophet. His intensity of delivery when he becomes inspired with one or another of the many causes he espouses in his sermons makes him look like a veritable fanatical demagogue of olden times. There is nothing old-fashioned about the New Age services which he conducts, however, dressed in one of his well-tailored, expensive, and brilliant Liberace-type jackets. He may wear gold lame or turquoise shot with silver threads, but he carries them off with first-class showmanship. Until the winter of 1966 he drove a gold-colored Cadillac which was the pride of his life, but it had to be sold to help him meet the expenses of his recent court trials.
If all this were mere effect, one might not react at all favorably, but is it? If Rhinehart were only putting on a big act with no genuine phenomena to back it up, then he could be thought of as an entertainer masquerading a shoddy performance as a religion. But those who have given his efforts more than a superficial examination see beneath the surface and realize the deep religious fervor this man has inspired in many members of his congregation over the past years, partly by his own zeal, partly by the wise and profound lectures that come through him, allegedly from master teachers, when he is in a trance state, and partly by the physical phenomena of his mediumship.
I personally spent some three months in Seattle in the fall of 1965 attending meetings, church services, and development classes at the Aquarian Foundation. For a time I was allowed during séances to put the medium under test conditions, and in the strictest sense of the word and limiting myself only to those meetings that were carefully controlled, I must say that I observed several phenomena that I cannot account for by normal means.
Because physical mediumship is the most difficult of all to investigate, for so much of it is alleged to require darkness, one begins to feel that the importance of human character should enter into his evaluation of a medium and his associates. That is why I was glad of the opportunity to spend time at the Aquarian Foundation and get to know not only Keith Rhinehart but the people closely involved with him. I liked these people, and learned that many of them were still highly critical in their observations, while at the same time loving and wanting to protect their medium.
I felt in Keith Rhinehart a sense of integrity and pride in his mediumship; I watched members of his development groups grow in their own mediumistic powers, and saw their joy in their achievements and the pleasure their friends took in their accomplishments. I began to be aware that in order to account by normal means for some of the phenomena which occurred in the dark there, one would have to presuppose the collaboration of certain members of the foundation. But as I got to know these members it was difficult to believe them capable of any kind of fraudulent collusion with a medium.
Still, in order to maintain the strictest objectivity, I can only report, as in any way conclusive to me, a few incidents that occurred in the light under strictly controlled conditions. The Sunday morning billet services give the best evidence I encountered of something paranormal, however it be explained. At these Keith goes into trance and then Dr. Kensington purports to speak through him. He asks that a stranger or skeptic in the audience come up to blindfold the medium. First the eyes are carefully wiped so that one can be sure there is no oil or grease on them that might allow the bandage to slip so that a peep hole could be devised. Then wide adhesive tape is applied flat across the eyes and temples, usually so tightly pressed down that it removes some of the medium's eyelashes when it is peeled off afterward. In fact, among my souvenirs of my visit to Seattle I have a few strips of adhesive tape with the medium's eyelashes on them, retrieved after message services for any evidence of oil on them. Incidentally, I have also taped my own eyes with the adhesive from Keith's roll, and I know that it is impossible to see out when the tape is applied as it is done at the Aquarian Foundation. After the eyes are taped, with the adhesive carefully flattened and pushed down all around the eyes, a large white bandage is tied around the head. Then a box is placed in front of the medium, containing the billets that have been written and signed by members of the audience.
Dr. Kensington frequently begins giving a message even before reaching for a billet from the box. Then, as he talks, the blindfolded figure fumbles around in the box and pulls out a card. He usually twists this in his hands as he talks, and when his message is finished he passes it to a monitor, who returns it to the person who signed the billet. It is invariably the correct card for the person!—even when, as I once observed, the message was written with a mechanical pencil that contained no lead, and that had barely made a few indentations on the card. Week after week, cards are returned to visitors, strangers, and regular members of the congregation alike, and little gasps can be heard as they identify their own come back to them.
One Sunday Dr. Kensington called for a certain person, who answered from the audience. He gave her several names and messages which she identified. Then he asked her if she had ever been to a service in that church before, and she admitted that she was a complete stranger. Then, and only then, he reached into the billet box and pulled out a card which was handed to her and she identified as her own.
One Sunday a man who admitted that it was only his second Sunday at the services was asked to stand up. He was then told that Anna, his wife, was asking for Steve and, that she loved him. She was reported to say that a candle must be lighted for her at the table on Christmas, because she would be there. Then Dr. Kensington began to describe a dress, with red flowers and green leaves and dashes of yellow in it. The man by this time was standing there shedding tears, for he was told that he had very recently had this dress out because it was a favorite of his wife's, and that he had been sitting and holding it and crying. After the service I asked this man what his message had been, wondering just how much he had given away by his question. He showed me the card that had been returned to him. It read, To Anna, please talk to me, I love you. It was signed merely, Steve. He told me that his wife had died just a few weeks earlier, and that the night before he had taken out his favorite dress of hers (which answered the medium's description) and had sat and held it and cried over it. Needless to say, he had not told anyone of this.
When I was in Seattle, most of Keith Rhinehart's physical phenomena were direct voices, apports, and things of that nature. An apport is an object which appears after having ostensibly been dematerialized from somewhere else and then rematerialized in the séance room. They are said to come from sunken ships, old ruins, large factories with such vast quantities of small, inexpensive objects that a few would never be missed, or somewhere of like nature. The alleged spirits seem to be very careful to do nothing really dishonest in the securing of apports. This is why, it is said, that the amounts of green folding money a medium would appreciate having apported to him never appear. The first apport séance I attended at the Aquarian Foundation was exciting and strange. I enjoyed it, but gave it no evidential value, as it was held in abysmal darkness. Although two dozen white carnations dropped neatly into my arms where I was sitting in the third row, and red rosebuds were handed to me inside a trumpet, I could not give them too much significance. I had not examined the stage beforehand to see if anything was hidden there, and I did not know whether or not a confederate in the audience might have brought them in. I found the experience highly entertaining, but not conclusive in any way.
The next apport séance that was scheduled was therefore planned to give me the maximum of assurance. Keith himself suggested that the lights be left on. This is not often done because it is said to be extremely hard on this medium to produce ectoplasm in the light-even though he is inside of his cabinet at the time. After the séance, he was reported to have been ill for several days, and a few members of his congregation were furious at me for trying to kill their beloved medium. I don't take this too lightly because, frankly, I have never been a physical medium and I don't know what bodily conditions are involved. I do know better than to scoff completely; far too many investigators more critical and more scientifically oriented than I have observed physical phenomena they couldn't account for.
However, as I said, the suggestion that this session be held in the light was made by Rhinehart himself, and I cannot but give him credit for it. Before the meeting I was given the opportunity to examine the entire room, particularly the stage area, to make sure that no objects were hidden there. There was no basement under that part of the building, as I knew from personal inspection. The floor was covered with wall-to-wall carpeting, which was fastened tight to the stripping along the wall, and the chair in which the medium sat would have to be moved in order to pull it back. The walls were of plaster, with no recesses or indentations where anything could be hidden. I almost took the medium's chair apart, but found no trick arms that would come loose, no false bottom of any kind, no hollow legs or arms.
The medium's cabinet was in the outside corner of the room, which was at the outside corner of the building, almost against the street. Keith's cabinet was composed of two purple velvet curtains that were pulled out on a rack from the wall to make a square in the corner of the room. The top is about two feet down from the ceiling.
After my examination of the room, I asked two men from the audience to come up and search Keith. One was Clyde Beck, who has been a member of the American Society for Psychical Research for some years. The other was a man who had never attended a séance before and did not believe any mediums were genuine. They stripped him of all his clothing and examined him carefully. (Of course, there was no way to give him an internal examination to make sure that he had nothing hidden within his body, but the nature of the apports themselves would seem to preclude that.)
Keith then resumed his shorts and shirt, and I entered the cabinet and tied him securely to his chair with a heavy cord that frayed if one were to attempt to loosen it. His wrists and bare feet were tied so tightly that afterward there were deep red grooves in them.
Now, in order that his audience will not think that he is practicing ventriloquism when the voices are heard, Rhinehart always has his mouth filled with water and then taped shut before going into trance. After the séance is over he spits out the water to indicate that he has held it in his mouth all the time. On this occasion I gave him milk instead of water, which he still retained when the session was over. I placed a wide strip of adhesive tape across his mouth and made marks on it extending out onto his skin so that if the tape were removed it would be evident. This is also part of his usual procedure.
I have learned from experimenting, however, that it is possible to loosen the center of the tape and talk without disturbing the correlation of the markings; I also know that one can do a little talking with water or milk in his mouth, and that it is possible for some persons to swallow a fluid which they later can regurgitate. I am not sure whether it would be possible under these conditions for a variety of voices to be produced, ranging from very deep, sonorous tones, to children's prattle, to a beautiful tenor voice singing, when the medium's natural voice is a mediocre baritone. I don't know either whether conversation can be sustained for hours on end under these conditions, as I have heard it at the Seattle séances.
The room itself on this afternoon was illuminated by several ceiling lights and visibility was excellent. I sat in the second row of the audience, the front row of seats being vacant, and watched everything that occurred. What did occur, in the light, with the medium bound and gagged, were apports. Susan, the cabinet guide—the little spirit entity who acts as master of ceremonies—called out the name of each person in the audience in turn. Then she passed each person's apport under the cabinet curtain for him, talking as she did so about where it had come from, what it was, or why it was particularly appropriate for that individual. I observed each object land outside of the cabinet before it was picked up.
On that Sunday afternoon, in the light, with the medium gagged and tied up, some fifty apports were dropped out of the cabinet, varying in size from tiny plastic disks and inexpensive items of jewelry and scarabs, to a Mayan or Aztec relic of stone about two inches high, a plain oval rock almost two inches long, a jagged-edged arrowhead three inches long, and several smaller arrowheads. My particular present was a bronze Roman coin from about the second century A.D.
My own testimony about Keith Rhinehart's apports is enhanced, it seems to me, by a color movie taken in the brightly lighted church one Sunday before I arrived in Seattle. In it the medium is seen spewing from his mouth quantities of small objects as he did in the Japanese séance. The most curious thing about this film, however, is that apports are seen in his ears. I have talked to men, whose powers of observation seem perfectly reliable, who were standing right beside the medium at the time. They saw that he was not by any kind of sleight of hand sticking those black stones in his ears, but that the stones seemed to arrive as bulges in his neck, which then inwardly popped up into his ears one by one and were removed as they appeared.
This movie was made by amateurs and is not too good. By itself it is not conclusive evidence. Neither is the testimony of witnesses, when taken alone. But taking everything in aggregate, and with the testimony of the Japanese scientists to back up other statements, it seems to me that we have here one of the best possible cases for honest physical mediumship. I hope that it will be possible for American scientists to expend time and effort examining Keith Milton Rhinehart while his talents are still available.
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