Henry Murfey letter book (1855-1856)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Cari Griffin, October 2019
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Henry Murfey letter book
Creator: Murfey, Henry, 1827-1870
Inclusive dates: 1855-1856
Extent: 54 pages (1 volume)
Abstract:
The Henry Murfey letter book contains copies of 12 letters addressed to Henry, of Cleveland, Ohio, ostensibly from his deceased sister and father via a spirit-writing medium. The letters date from December 28, 1855, to September 20, 1856. The longest and most revealing of the letters details the experience of his sister Mary's physical death, her arrival at a "large spiritual temple," and her introduction to a spirit guide named "Flora." Mary then described her visit to the planet Saturn and its inhabitants.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

2017. M-6078.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copyright

Copyright status is unknown

Preferred Citation

Henry Murfey Letter Book, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan

Arrangement

The collection is a single bound volume.

Biography

Henry Murfey was born July 19, 1827, in Colchester, Connecticut. He was the eighth child of Captain John Murfey (1776-1844) and Ardalissa (Southworth) Murfey (1788-1876). By 1850, Murfey moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and worked as a bank clerk in the city. He married Eliza D. Murfey (1831-1879), a clairvoyant and magnetic physician. Henry died in February 1870, in New York City, New York. He is buried in Indian Hill Cemetery in Middletown, Connecticut.

Henry Murfey's sister Mary, the attributed author of eleven of the 1855-1856 letters, was born September 6, 1829, and died March 12, 1831. Spiritualist attempts to contact the dead typically occurred via séance led by a medium or spirit guide. Once a connection was established, spirits could then communicate with the living via various means. One popular channel for supernatural communication was a process known as automatic or spirit writing. The psychic, in a trance-like state and unconscious of their actions, would write out a spirit's communication to the living. This was the method apparently used to create these incoming letters to Henry Murfey.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Henry Murfey letter book is a wallet-size, leather bound notebook containing 12 letters recorded over 54 handwritten pages and dating from December 28, 1855, to September 20, 1856. The letters are each addressed to Henry Murfey of Cleveland, Ohio, ostensibly from his deceased sister Mary (11) and father John (1) via a spirit-writing medium.

The letters are written in reverse chronological order, with the final letter located at the beginning of the letter book. The longest and most revealing of the letters details the experience of Mary's physical death, her arrival at a "large spiritual temple," and her introduction to a spirit guide named "Flora." Mary then described her visit to the planet Saturn and its inhabitants. Later letters assured Henry of the veracity of their communication and assured him that she often thought of him and communicated with him through the movement of inanimate objects. Several letters are undated, including one by Murfey's father John. The final three pages contain a crossed-out note, a recipe for an herbal remedy, and random calculations.

Subject Terms

Subjects:
  • Astral projection.
  • Brothers and sisters.
  • Cleveland (Ohio)
  • Death.
  • Mediums--United States.
  • Saturn.
  • Spiritualists.
Genre Terms:
  • Letter books.
  • Letters (correspondence)

Contents List

Container / Location Title
Volume   1  
Henry Murphy Letter Book,  1855-1856 [series]

Additional Descriptive Data

Bibliography

Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

Connecticut Town Birth Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection).

The Charles R. Hale Collection. Hale Collection of Connecticut Cemetery

Inscriptions. Hartford, Connecticut: Connecticut State Library.

North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000: A Genealogy of the Southworths (Southards), Descendants of Constant Southworth. Provo, UT; 2016.

U.S. Census Mortality Schedules, New York, 1850-1880; New York State Education Department, Office of Cultural Education; Albany, New York; Year: 1870; Roll: M7; Line Number: 31

Ullmann, Helen Schatvet. Early Murphys in Newport, Rhode Island. Acton, Massachusetts, 2016.