Goligher Circle

A focal point of early 20th-century spiritualism, marked by controversial psychic phenomena and investigations.

The Goligher Circle was a Northern Irish Spiritualist group that gained prominence through the psychic phenomena reportedly produced during its séances, which were conducted from 1914 to around 1920. The circle consisted of Kathleen Goligher and her family members, who held private séances as part of their religious observance. The phenomena included table levitations, rappings, and other physical manifestations attributed to spiritual entities.

Investigation by William Jackson Crawford

William Jackson Crawford, a lecturer in mechanical engineering at Queens University, Belfast, became intrigued by the Goligher Circle’s activities and conducted a series of experiments to study the phenomena. His investigations focused on the physical aspects of the séances, particularly the levitations, which he believed were facilitated by “psychic rods” emanating from Kathleen Goligher. Crawford documented his findings in three books, asserting the phenomena to be genuine manifestations of psychic energy. However, his methods and conclusions were later criticized, and suspicions arose about the authenticity of the phenomena following Crawford’s suicide in 1920.

Criticism and Exposure

The credibility of the Goligher Circle’s phenomena was challenged by subsequent investigators, notably E. E. Fournier d’Albe, who attended séances after Crawford’s death and reported minimal activity, concluding that the observed phenomena were fraudulent. Critiques also emerged from within the psychical research community, with researchers questioning Crawford’s objectivity and suggesting that his deep interest in Goligher might have clouded his judgment. Allegations surfaced regarding Crawford’s possible fabrication of the phenomena, with some suggesting he had admitted to fraud before his death.

Legacy and Decline

The Goligher Circle ceased public séances and further external investigations following scrutiny. Kathleen Goligher continued to conduct private séances, and while there were attempts to document her mediumship through infrared photography in the 1930s, the physical phenomena of earlier years were not replicated. The Goligher Circle remains a contentious chapter in the history of spiritualism and psychical research, embodying the challenges of validating supernatural claims and the potential for deception within mediumship.

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