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Looking Backward - Something's Up on Downer Street -- Part II

On May 5, 1882, Carrie hosted a reception in Oswego for 20 people. The Oswego Morning Express reported that, "Miss Downer is about twenty-one years of age, possesses an appearance of honest candor, and is not highly educated. She is what is known as a trance medium, and when under the influence of certain spirits, as she claims, will deliver scientific addresses, and beautiful poems. Last evening, under the influence of A.R. Wallace the compeer of Darwin, she delivered a most interesting lecture, of which evolution was the subject. She delineated the theory of evolution, tracing life from infinitesimal atoms to the highest forms of human existence, and the still further developed spirit life. She employed many scientific terms, and the production was superior to any impromptu effort by a person well versed in the theory."

"Someone in the audience desired to hear from Longfellow, and he kindly responded through the medium of Miss Downer. He thanked them for calling for him, and then proceeded to compare his earthly existence to his spiritual. This was also couched in the choicest language, and was a most charming address. Miss Downer next passed under the influence of Edgar A. Poe, and delivered two poems which were identical with Poe's style, but were of entirely new composition and considerable length. These feats were performed in a well lighted room, and Miss Downer declares that she knows nothing of what she says, either before or after the trance, she also speaks very rapidly. These exhibitions are certainly remarkable, and we do not know that they have any strictly scientific explanation."

Carrie last appeared in public on April 1, 1888, at spiritualism's 40th anniversary party. One hundred and fifty people packed the Odd Fellows' Hall in Syracuse to hear her speak. According to one local paper, "Miss Downer wore a dark dress and an earnest expression. When the inspiration took her, she closed her eyes, trembled perceptibly, and spoke rapidly but distinctly .Modern spiritualism came into the world, she said, with the spirit rappings for which the Fox sisters became celebrated at Rochester in 1848 .Without spiritualism humanity is struggling and groping in the dark .Some people laugh at it, but they show their own ignorance and bigotry."

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