Cora L. V. Tappan-Richmond (1840-1923)
“The most famous American Spiritualist inspirational speaker and healer” Encyclopaedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, Gordon Melton. Born on 21 April 1840 in Cube, New York, Cora Lodencia (sometimes shown as Linn) Veronica Scott was one of the most influential 19th century Spiritualist mediums, renowned as a trance lecturer and author. She found her ability in 1852 whilst she and her family were living in an international community in Waterloo, Wisconsin, where Cora started falling into trances and channelling spirits. Her parents – who were Universalists with an interest in Spiritualism – started to tour locally and exhibit Cora as a trance lecturer and healer. She would even perform surgery whilst channeling a German doctor’s spirit, which was reputedly so impressive that some medical practitioners feared they would become redundant. The ability to heal stopped when she was about fifteen, and it was around this time that her trance lecturing really developed: She would enter a trance and then lecture upon a diverse number of esoteric subjects secretly suggested by the audience so that she had no way of preparing for them.
Her father died in 1853 and at the age of 14 she moved to Buffalo, New York. It was here that Cora and her spirit guide Ouina impressed Professor J. J. Mapes of New York City whilst he was investigating Spiritualism. He chose the subject of Primary Rocks, which Ouina (through Cora) lectured about in front of a packed audience. Mapes then went on the platform to address the crowd stating “I am a college educated man, and have been all my life an investigator of scientific subjects and associated with scientific men, but I stand here this afternoon dumb before this young girl.”
At the age of 16 she married the first of her four husbands, Benjamin Franklin Hatch, a 46 year old professional mesmerist who acted as Cora’s manager. He propelled her to new heights of fame, toured throughout the United States, and to some extent created her public image: even spending huge sums of money on the clothing for her public appearances. He also charged large fees for each appearance, making the lecturers very profitable. Hatch would have the audience form a committee who would propose questions and topics for the audience to vote upon which the channeled spirits should lecture. This was to convince the skeptics that she had not prepared the subject matter beforehand. She was also willing to enter into debates whilst in trance and answer any questions posed to her. As a young girl who had had no formal education since the age of eleven, it was presumed she could not possibly have access to the knowledge she was displaying.
“Believe what you will of Mrs. Hatch’s source of inspiration whether she speaks her own thoughts, or those of other spirits — it is as nearly supernatural eloquence as the most hesitating faith could reasonably require. I am, perhaps, from long study and practice, as good a judge of fitness in the use of language as most men; and, in a full hour of close attention, I could detect no word that could be altered for the better — none indeed (and this surprised me still more) which was not used with strict fidelity to its derivative meaning. The practiced scholarship which this last point usually requires, and the curiously unhesitating and confident fluency with which the beautiful language was delivered, was critically wonderful. It would have astonished me in an extempore speech by the most accomplished orator in the world.” Home Journal, N. P. Willis, Editor
The divorce of Benjamin and Cora caught the media’s interest due to her growing fame. She first sued for divorce in 1858 (after two years of marriage) due to abuse, he replied but for some reason she didn’t go through with it. There were claims that Hatch would consort with a prostitute and make his wife receive her as a guest. He would also make sexual demands upon Cora that were a threat to her “delicacy.” Benjamin then sued for divorce in City of New York 1863, accusing Cora of adultery. Two men were actually named, these being William McKinley and James J. Mapes, which calls into question the validity of his witness account to her abilities above. However she also petitioned for divorce in another court. Her petition was granted then cancelled as Benjamin’s was still being heard. Eventually they split, bitterly, and after their divorce had drawn much public attention.
After divorcing Hatch she took the surname of Daniels, but I am unsure of any details about her during this period or who her second husband was.
Her third marriage was to Samuel Forster Tappan (June 29, 1831 – January 6, 1913), an abolitionist, Native American rights activist and military officer. They lived together in Washington DC where Cora’s abilities were in demand at the highest levels of state. Before Lincoln was assassinated, she had been well known amongst his party and her opinion on the war was often sought after. With President Andrew Johnson in power the opposition party looked for her spiritual advice daily, as did President Ulysses Grant in his first term of office. Grant even gave Cora a Resolution of Gratitude for her six years of service. Her marriage to Samuel Tappan was also to end in divorce.
She moved to England in 1873 where she reputedly gave three thousand lectures. “That the flow of verbiage never fails is a small matter; Mrs. Tappan’s trance-utterances surpass those of almost every other automatist in that there is a fairly coherent argument throughout. Two at least of the subjects sent to her in 1874 ‘The Origin of Man’ and ‘The Comparative Influence of Science and Morality on the Rise and Progress of Nations,’ may be presumed to have been little familiar. But the speaker is never at a loss … Again, we find none of the literary artifices by which ordinary speakers are wont to give relief—there is no antithesis, no climax, no irony or humour in any form. And the dead level of style reflects a dead level of sentiment; there is no scorn or indignation, no recognition of human effort and pain, no sense of the mystery of things. The style is clear, as jelly is clear; it is the proto-plasm of human speech; and it is flavoured throughout with mild, cosmic emotions.”
“Frequently at the close of an address Mrs. Tappan would recite an impromptu poem, again on a subject chosen at the moment by the audience. Some of these poems are strikingly melodious, and it is interesting to note how the melody continually overpowers the sense.” Frank Podmore, Modern Spiritualism (2 vols., 1902).
On her return to America she married William Richmond and moved to Chicago, where her new husband acted as her publisher. Her first books as Cora Richmond were published in England. On 24th February 1883 she gave a message to the nation from Washington DC, by channelling the spirit of President James A. Garfield who was assassinated in 1881.
During 1892 she officiated at the funeral of her good friend Henrietta S. Maynard who had been Lincoln’s medium. Then in 1893 Cora was one of the founding member of National Spiritualist Association, becoming the first Vice President, and Harrison D. Barrett, Editor of the Banner of Light being President. She opened her ‘ First Society of Spiritualists ‘ in Chicago where growing audience figures ranging from 2000-5000 forced her to keep looking for bigger premises. This church later became known as the ‘Church of the Soul’.
Cora died on 2nd January 1923 after having served Spiritualism for over 70 years.
“LOVE is the highest standard by which everything is to be measured, determined, built and understood… “ Cora L.V. Richmond
” The philosophy of Spiritualism is the inblending into the one perfect whole of all its parts; the union of its phenomena and spirit, the meeting and merging of its body and soul.” Cora L.V. Richmond
There is no doubt that Cora was a very important Spiritualist and according to her supporters she had a rare talent. However not everyone was convinced of her abilities and found her earlier lecturers to be nothing more than a farce as is clearly demonstrated in this piece published by the Boston Daily Courier, November 21, 1857, regarding Mrs. Cora L. V. Hatch and her recent visit to Lynn.
To The Editor of the Boston Courier:
The above named trance medium, has recently visited Lynn, where, as in other places, the most extravagant claims, in regard to her eloquence, logic, and scientific attaqinments, were put forth by her friends, and circulated all over the city. But Lynn, though always awake to new and startling views, on any and all subjects, and with a considerable portion of its population ready to adopt the new and the strange, is, nevertheless, just the worst place in the world for a person of vast pretensions, who has not some solid foundation on which to build those pretensions. It proved to be such in an eminent degree to Mrs. Hatch on her late [recent] visit to this city. Every one of her claims to more than ordinary human powers or knowledge was utterly annihilated on Tuesday evening last. Never was there a more complete defeat than that suffered by Mrs. Hatch on that occasion.
. . . It is due to the cause of truth, that this exposure of the most successful of all advocates of the “stupendous delusion,” should be given to the public at the earliest moment. For this reason, I offer you the following brief statement of the affair:
The first evening [Monday], Mrs. Hatch, though professing to be too ill to speak at all, did, nevertheless, talk one hour and a half “against time,” in order that the committee might not have an opportunity to test her claims to scientific attainments, as they had given notice they should do when she had finished her address. Seven-eights of her time, at least, was consumed in rhapsodies upon points that had not the most distant connection with the subject given her; and when at last she concluded, she said, that “in consequence of illness and exhaustion of the medium, we shall answer no questions tonight.” This was a downright imposition upon those who had been invited there to test her superhuman powers, and an effort was made to induce her to answer. Her reply was: “The spirts have declined to answer, and that is sufficient.”
At her second meeting it was fully determined by the committee that they would not afford Mrs. Hatch another opportunity to impose upon them by exhausting herself and all her time in talking upon irrelevant topics. They therefore concluded to begin with a scientific test. Accordingly, they proposed as a subject to be discussed by her and a scientific gentleman present, THE PYTHAGOREAN PROPOSITION. Upon the announcement of the subject the blood rushed to Mrs. Hatch’s face until it seemed ready to force its way through the pours [sic] of the skin. She stammered and asked what proposition of Pythagoras the committee wished her to discuss. Their reply was, that the very learned spirits ought to know without inquiry of the committee. She was left to her own resources, and commenced a rhapsody upon what she was pleased to term the Pythagoran philosophy.
After taking some twenty minutes or more, in a hesitating and bungling manner, upon the merest generalities, she stopped and asked the gentleman who was to debate with her, what he had to say in reply to what had been offered. He replied that he had nothing to say, that the lady, or rather the spirits, had entirely misunderstood the subject; that the proposition was purely a mathematical one, being simply that the sum of the squares of the two legs of a right-angled triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse. The audience could not restrain their laughter at the lady’s blunder. When silence was restore, she modestly said that she understood it to be a mathematical proposition, but as she preferred to discuss the philosophy rather than the mathematics of Pythagoras, she had done so. The confusion of countenance with which she uttered this transparent falsehood was noticed by the whole rational part of the audience.
But worse was to come. Mr. Moore, one of our public teachers, arose and told the audience that, if Mrs. Hatch intended to discuss the Pythagorean Philosophy, she was singularly unfortunate, as all she had uttered had about as much to do with any views held by that philosopher, as it had to do with the views of Tom Thumb. Rev. C. C. Shackford confirmed this statement, and said that no one sentence uttered by Mrs. Hatch could, by the greatest ingenuity, be tortured into the most distant allusion to anything ever put forth by Pythagoras. Mrs.Hatch’s defeat was complete. A scene of considerable confusion followed, the Doctor, her husband, coming to the rescue of the spirits, abusing and insulting by coarseness of manner, and grossness of language, those who had been active in this exposure, calling one of the gentlemen a bulldog, for which he received from Hon. George Hood, one of our ex-Mayors, the sever castigation he so richly deserved.
An opportunity arising, the Lynn Bard [sic] arose and asked “the spirits” the following question: “Is it possible for two converging lines to be extended to infinity without meeting?” The spirits said “No.” “If I tell you that the diameter of a circle is one foot, can you tell me the exact circumference?” The spirits ansered “Yes.” “I am satisfied,” said Mr. Lewis; “both questions are answered wrong.” The spirits still contended that they were right, and promised to send Mr. Lewis, in thirty days, the exact circumference, and the rule for it, with a demonstration of the rule. So the vexed question concerning the square of the circle, is at last to be settled.
After Dr. Hatch had left the hall, the greater portion of the audience remained, and organized a meeting. The following account of the meeting I clip from the Lynn Bay State:
Mrs. Hatch in Lynn.
The audience at Lyceum Hall, in Lynn, on the evening of Mrs. Cora L. V. Hatch’s “trance-speaking” exhibition, November 17, 1857, after the lady had concluded, organized by the choice of Hon. John B. Alley as chairman, and J. F.Kimball as secretary.
A committee, consisting of Messrs. James N. Buffum, Daniel C. Baker, and James E. Oliver, was appointed to draft a resolution expressing the sense of the meeting. The Committee reported the following: “Resolved, That we, the citizens of Lynn, who have listened to the exposition of Mrs. C. L. V. Hatch this evening, feel it our duty to say to the public that, in our opinion, she has failed to comply with any test which could have been reasonably expected from the wording of the call, or to give evidence of any supernatural inspiration; and we feel called upon to warn our fellow-citizens against her impositions.” After discussion by several gentlemen, the resolution was adopted. It was voted that the proceedings of the meeting, signed by the chairman and secretary, be published in the Lynn newspapers.
JOHN B. ALLEY, Chairman
J. F. Kimball, Secretary
This is a final blow to Mrs. Hatch’s performances in Lynn. She has succeeded in all other places, simply because those whose duty it was to unmask her pretension, have allowed her to escape without a test; and emboldened by her uniform success, Dr. Hatch has gone so far as to challenge the world to discuss any question in philosophy, science, theology, or morals, with her, without any previous preparation on her part, while the opponent would be allowed any time he required for preparation. Let other places imitate the example set by Lynn, and the “stupendous delusion” will soon loose [sic] its most successful advocate.
Lynn, November 20, 1857.