Dr. Funk Sees
the Spirit of
edited by Joseph Lewis French
Herald, April 4)
While he will not admit that he is a believer
in spiritualism, the Rev. Dr. Isaac Funk, head of the
publishing house of Funk & Wagnalls, is so impressed with
manifestations he has received from the spirit of Henry Ward
Beecher that he has laid the entire matter before the Boston
Society for Psychical Research, and is anxiously awaiting a
solution or explanation of what appears to him, after
twenty-five years' study of the subject, the most remarkable
test of the merit of the claims of spiritualists that has
ever come within his observation.
Although he has resorted to every means
within his power to discover any fraud that may have been
practiced upon him, he has been unable to explain away not
only messages to him from the great minister, but the actual
appearance to him of Mr. Beecher in the flesh.
Dr. Funk and Mr. Beecher were intimate
friends, and it would be difficult to practice deception as
to Mr. Beecher's appearance. When the apparition appeared to
Dr. Funk at a seance a short time ago Dr. Funk was less than
three feet distant from it, and had plenty of opportunity to
detect a fraud if it was being perpetrated, he believes.
"Every feature stood out
distinctly," Dr. Funk said yesterday, in describing his
experience, "even to the hair and eyes, the color of
the skin and the expression of the mouth. The room was
darkened and I could just make out the outlines of the body,
but it was still light enough to make the face plainly
visible. I had a short conversation with the embodied
spirit, and then it appeared to sink to the floor and fade
MYSTERY OF THE COINS
Dr. Funk vas especially anxious to have an
opportunity to see and talk with Mr. Beecher, in the hope
that light would be thrown on the mystery which surrounds a
previous manifestation. Through the spirit of one
"Jack" Rakestraw, who says he used to lead the
choir in one of Mr. Beecher's churches, but frankly admits
that he cannot remember exactly where the church was
located--even spirits have a way of forgetting things,
spiritualists declare--Dr. Funk was informed that Mr.
Beecher was troubled because the publisher had failed to
return a coin, known as the "widow's mite," which
he had borrowed some years ago, from the late Professor
Charles E. West, a well known numismatist, to make a cut to
illustrate a dictionary. Dr. Funk supposed the coin had been
returned a long time ago but upon looking the matter up
found it in a drawer of a safe, among some old papers,
exactly as Mr. Rakestraw maintained.
When Mr. Beecher appeared to him in person,
so far as he could determine, Dr. Funk asked him several
direct questions, to which the replies, he admits, were
somewhat sublime. Although Dr. Funk has found the long-lost
coin--which, by the way, is said to be worth $2,500--he is
not certain to whom it should be returned, now that
Professor West is dead and his collection of coins sold.
Should "widow's mite" go to Professor West's heirs
or to the purchaser of the collection? is a question which
has as yet remained unanswered.
"That is a matter I am leaving to be
determined by the Society for Psychical Research and Mrs.
Piper, who ought to be able to learn from the spirit world
what disposition Professor West wishes to have made of the
coin," said Dr. Funk. It is at any rate a matter that
does not appear to concern the spirit of Mr. Beecher.
MR. BEECHER APPEARED
"When what seemed to be Mr. Beecher's
embodied spirit appeared to me," Dr. Funk said, "I
asked that very question. He smiled and replied that it was
not a matter that concerned him especially, and that the
whole thing was in the nature of a test, to prove to me that
there actually are sprits, and that it is possible to have
communication with them when all the conditions are
favorable. He remarked that he was glad the old coin had
been found, but seemed consider the disposition of it a
matter of minor importance. He told me he was glad I was
taking interest in the subject, as he believed it would
result in good for the world, and then, excusing himself on
the ground that he had an engagement which it was necessary
for him to keep, the apparition disappeared."
Dr. Funk borrowed the coin from Professor
West's collection, as a lighter colored one he already had
was of doubtful authenticity. Both coins were sent to the
government expert in Philadelphia and the lighter one was
declared to the genuine one. By the spirits it is now
declared, however, that a mistake was made and that the
darker one belonging to Professor West has the greater
"I found both the light and the dark one
in the drawer," said Dr. Funk, "and remembered
distinctly that it was the darker of the two which I had
borrowed from Professor West. I went to the next
séance, and when Rakestraw's spirit arrived I asked
him to find out which one was to be returned. After a brief
interval his voice came to me.
"'Return the dark one, of course,' he
said. 'That is the genuine coin and is the one you borrowed
from Dr. Beecher's friend.'
"While I do not wish to be classed as a
believer in spiritualism, I certainly am open to conviction
after what has come under my personal observation," Dr.
Funk concluded. "I am confident that no fraud was
practiced on me at the séance at which I was told
about the old coin. The medium is an elderly woman living in
Brooklyn, who never appears in public, and the only persons
present were members of her family and known to me. But none
of them knew any more about the coin being in my safe than I