Between 1857 and 1908 Flora Cooke was a well-known name amongst the British followers of Spiritualism. Her demonstrations drew great crowds who witnessed her communications with the spirit Katie King. The turn of the century saw a decline in attendance and it is believed that Cooke crafted a tool to allow private demonstrations at her residence. Recently a derelict building in West London has uncovered this very tool: a chair.
Documents discovered have given researchers an insight into the usage of the piece, named by Cooke as the Phantasmagoria Chair. Under Cooke’s guidance a member of the gathered circle would attempt to communicate with a spirit using the chair. They would be prompted to place their hands and feet on the metal conductors thus completing a theoretical electrical circuit, meant to collect the participant’s energy to power a spiritual connection and, in turn, allow the gathered group to contact the dead. The spirit would communicate by making words appear on the paper in front of the participant, which they would then read out, to the rest of the group. In 1908 Ms Cooke passed away and her chair, along with many other tools she used in her demonstrations, were lost.
A short documentary recording the history and design of the Phantasmagoria chair