The Supernatural Cooking Of Puddings

“The Theobald case . . . is of importance because it demonstrates how blind, unquestioning belief in the occult powers thought to be about them could reduce the attitude of a private educated family of the England of the 1880’s towards their own lives to a condition where it becomes difficult to believe that they were of sane mind. Morell Theobald was a well-known chartered accountant, a member of the first Council of the Society for Psychical Research and its first Hon. Treasurer. Over a period of some years the most extraordinary phenomena were alleged to have occurred in Mr Theobald’s house, in which the whole family ultimately became involved. Dr Dingwall wrote:

In 1882 Mr Theobald had engaged a new cook who turned out to be a very powerful physical medium. Since she found it very difficult to get up in the morning and to get breakfast at 8 a.m. so that Mr Theobald could catch his train, the spirits intervened. Fires were lit in the kitchen: the table laid: kettles put on to boil: the tea made, and occasionally the boiling water transported at a distance from one kettle to another. Hundreds of spirit-writings were found on ceilings and walls and other astonishing phenomena went on from year to year. Not only did the spirits help in the domestic work of the house: they helped to move the baggage when the family was away: and on one occasion the cook and Miss Theobald passed a bath, laden with various objects, going down the stairs by itself just as they were going up.

“Theobald described these wonders in a series of letters to the spiritualist magazine Light in 1884, and in his book Spirit Workers in the Home Circle published in 1887. Other incredible events included the unpacking of a picnic hamper by the spirits, and the supernatural cooking of puddings for the Sunday evening meal whilst the family were holding séances. Whether the spirits assisted Theobald in his auditing of the accounts of the S.P.R., a duty which he carried out for ten years, I do not know.”

Trevor H. Hall, The Strange Case of Edmund Gurney (Duckworth 1964)

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