The Ghosts of Senate House is one part of a creative research project led by Sarah Sparkes. It serves as an archive for uncanny, apocryphal stories emanating from Senate House. These stories formed part of "a Magical library for the 21st Century" an archive of writings, recordings, artwork, artefacts, and other contributions, which was first shown at the University of London as part of The Bloomsbury Festival October 2011.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Adventures of a Séance Table

The Slade Table - not as innocent as it looks!

The Thanet Hotel stands at no 8 Great Bedford Street, just around the corner from Senate House. In 1876  a rather singular guest took up lodgings at this address - the notorious slate-writing medium Henry Slade.  
no. 8 Great Bedford Street, 2012
Slade had been a celebrated medium in America, his home country, for at least 15 years and had arrived in London to prove his psychic powers. He gave many sittings at his Great Bedford Street residence and was pronounced  by many of the notable Spirtualists of the day to be psychically gifted.  Sittings took place in bright sunlight around a smallish table. Slade would place a slate underneath this table, later pulling it out into the sunlight to reveal scrawly writing across its surface - alleged communication from spirits of the dead.

Unfortunately Slade was not able to convince everyone of his powers and was eventually put on trial accused of faking the phenomena. For want of a more appropriate law with which to prosecute him, he was sentenced under the Vagrancy Act to three months' imprisonment with hard labour.  After an appeal the conviction was overturned on a technical point and he was released on bail. 

Slade returned to America, but his séance table remained behind where it was later acquired by non other than psychical investigator Harry Price. 

Price describes how "the Slade table" was being used as an ordinary writing table at the offices of the London Spirtualist Alliance when he first came across it.  Price went on to use the table in a series of  so-called "controlled sittings" or séances on "the electric girl",  a young dental nurse and alleged medium named Stella Cranshaw.

In 1925, Price's book reporting the findings  - "Stella C. An Account of Some Original Experiments in Psychical Research"  - was published.  The Slade table's rather violent psychical activity at many of the sittings is documented in detail in this book.  

The table appears to take a particular dislike to a certain Colonel Hardwick, present at many of the sittings, physically attacking him to the point of actual bodily harm.
Here is the Colonel's own report of his encounter with the Slade Table:

"The table tipped towards me as usual...It began to hammer on my knees until the blows became painful and I consequently removed them, expecting the table to crash to the floor.  My knees were red from the blows...To my surprise the table did not go beyond the position where my knees would have been, but it made one or two smart blows as of to ensure that they had been removed."

If anyone knows the whereabouts of the Slade table today, please do get in touch - there are plenty of 'Colonels' in need of correcting!


  1. I was told it is at the College of Psychic Studies - I mentioned it in passing in an article I wrote for Fortean Times, reproduced here:

    The CPS kindly supplied me with articles from Light, and the subject came up. I've not seen the table myself.

    1. Thanks Tom! It's good to hear that this wonderful table is still out there. It would be good to plan a visit - perhaps wearing knee guards...

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