The blue book

20th August 2022. Reading Time: 10 minutes Conspiracy Theories, General, Famous Paranormal Cases. 1395 page views. 3 comments.

In today's modern World, it is quite easy to get a lot of information from a person just from their digital imprint. What about 100 years ago when there was no internet?  Researchers from 100 years ago speculated there was a network of mediums that collated and shared information in a book.  It was called the blue book. But did it really exist?

As much as I am intrigued by psychic mediums and I have seen some people do some pretty incredible things that I can't explain.  They also know things I believe they possibly couldn't know.  I do believe there are genuine mediums out there, however unfortunately there are also those who are not.  Much of the reputation of mediums was tainted by the deception of the spiritualist era where many were exposed by faking their abilities.  While mediumship looks a lot different these days, unfortunately, there are still those who take advantage of others.  In today's modern World, it is quite easy to get a lot of information from a person just from their digital imprint. It would be quite easy for someone to gather intel or information on a person just from some google and social media searches.  Exposes have proved that some mediums use this as a way to demonstrate their abilities during mass platform readings.  Again this is not saying every medium does this, but there are some out there who have been proven and have admitted to doing so. 

What about 100 years ago when there was no internet?  Researchers from 100 years ago speculated there was a network of mediums that collated and shared information in a book.  It was called the blue book.  But did it really exist?

The blue book

In the late 1800's/ early 1900's there was said to be a type of underground network of psychic mediums dubbed the 'Mediums Association'.  The mediums who were a part of this were all intentionally deceptive in their methods, so much so that created a way to collaborate.  The blue book was created.  The book contained information on a person's family life, any deceased loved one and any information which has come through at previous seances.  If their name was not in the book, someone was employed to do some digging or research in the days before their scheduled meeting with the medium.  Blue books existed for each town so a travelling medium could simply waltz into town and have all of the information they needed to be begin their readings.

There is strength in unity!" So thought the mediums, too. While, in the early days, each medium doubtless had to gather his own information, by his own efforts, in the manner above described, it gradually dawned upon the mediums throughout the country that if they were to " combine their forces," so to speak, i. e., if they were to all contribute to some general headquarters whatever information they had been enabled to gather in their travels through the country, and if each medium covered different territory, they would soon have a tremendous fund of information about spiritualists and persons in the habit of frequenting seances, which any medium travelling through that section of the country could use thenceforward. The idea was a brilliant one, and accordingly a "brotherhood" of mediums was formed, each member of the organization binding himself to turn into the "public fund" whatever information he obtained concerning sitters, their dead friends and relatives, etc. As numbers of mediums were constantly travelling over all parts of the country, it will readily be seen that, in the course of a few years, a great mass of information was accumulated, which was arranged, printed, and circulated among the mediums who had joined the Brotherhood. So closely was this secret guarded from the public, however, that it was in operation many years before any inkling was had of such a publication being in existence. It was called the "Blue Book," and its present size and thoroughness may be imagined when I state that the Blue Book contains about seven thousand names devoted to Boston alone! Other cities are in proportion.1 Supplemental lists, giving the latest information, are issued from time to time. Those who are exceptionally credulous are marked "dead easy!" I herewith quote a typical page from one of these Blue Books, relating to Cincinnati, Ohio. (The names are altered, in order to prevent the identity of the person mentioned being discovered.)
FOR CINCINNATI, OHIO
G. A. Anson, Merchant
Spt. Dau. Elsie, died '76, age 14 mos., diphtheria, blonde, blue eyes.
Spt. Moth. Eleanor Anson, died '67, consumption, age 56, dark.
Spt. Fath. Nathan E. Anson, died '71, pneumonia, age 64, light.
Spt. Friend, Andy Nugent, schoolmates at Oberlin, O.
S. 0. Atwood, Shoe Dealer
Spt. Son, Albert E., '74, lung fever, 19 years, blonde, only child. His parents keep his books and clothing. He is always described as a student with book in hand. Good mark for private sittings.
R. B. Barker, Rich
Spt. Dau. Alice E., age 19, pneumonia, '79, upper front teeth gold-filled. Extraordinarily long hair. Quite an artist, and one of her landscapes hangs in the parlor in gilt and plush frame. Spirit painting of her in the sitting-room, that is kept curtained. She is an artist in spirit world. Supposed to have a son in spirit that had no earth life, named Egbert O. Spt. Son, Egbert O., never had earth existence; an inventor in spirit life and supposed to work through Thos. Edison. Is especially interested in electrical work.
Spt. Fath. Robert B., died '69, paralysis. Manufacturer of machinery, two fingers off left hand.
Spt. Mother, Sarah, died when he was a child.
Spt. Broth. James and Samuel.
Spt. Aunt, Lucy Wilkinson, Mary Wilkinson, and Eliza Shandrow.
Remarks. — A good mark for private seances at his home, and will pay well. Dead gone on physical manifestations and materialization. Will get up lots of seances. Agree with everything he says and you are all right.
A. T. Baton
Spt. Son, Albert F., drowned under suspension bridge, May, '87. Sends message of greeting to Aunt Mary and Cousin Harry.
Spt. Father, A. O. Baton, died '84, railroad accident in Illinois. Is looking for private papers supposed to have been left by him. Sends love to his wife Kate in Covington.

The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism: Fraudulent and Genuine; Being a Brief Account of the Most Important Historical Phenomena; A Criticism of Their ... Employed in Fraudulently Reproducing the Same by Hereward Carrington (1920)

Houdini and the blue book

Famous magician Harry Houdini was one of the skeptics familiar with the blue book.  It is something he wrote about and referred to often in his books and correspondence.  Below is a Q & A with Houdini which was published in a newspaper where he mentions the blue book.

Below was published on August. 26th 1922 in the Washington Times 

"Scores of letters today were received by Harry Houdini, master magician and student of psychic phenomena, who has consented to answer, through The Washington Times, questions on matters pertaining to communication with the spirit world. Houdini avows he is open to conviction on the subject of spiritualism, but in three decades of world-wide research he has uncovered no direct evidence of the professed powers of mediums. Houdini does not claim to be a clairvoyant. He will answer no questions on love problems or other matters which do not reach into the realm of his study. Letters addressed to him through The Washington Times, and received today, are answered as follows"

Q.Out of curiosity, about two years ago, I visited a spiritualist. I made no appointment with her and she didn't know I was coming until I walked in on her. We had neither seen nor heard of each other before. Notwithstanding this, she could tell me correctly name, the names of members of my family and of friends and various facts connected -with my life which were all true. I would appreciate it very much, indeed, if you would tell me how she could tell me these names and facts concerning my life, in view of the fact that she had never heard of me before. Recently I again made a surprise visit on another spiritualist who had never heard of me before. She also surprised me by telling me correctly similar facts, including correct names.

R. C.

A: I am wondering, R. C., if you ever heard of the "Spirit Blue Book? It is one of the most Important properties of the mediumistic profession in the world. International in scope, it lists hundreds of thousands of names, addresses and the most searching information. What is not in the book is in the form of data gathered through a co-operative plan.
Special attention is paid in the listings to persons interested in spiritualism, its advocates and its opponents. The means by which mediums know who is coming to see them are too numerous to mention. Once inside, however, the work is easy. I know that a favorite trick of the medium who is confronted by an absolute stranger is to say, "The spirits are not with me. Come again tomorrow." As the person leaves, the medium signals to a confederate outside. This latter follows the stranger and obtains, in divers eways, all necessary information. It may be necessary in some cases to telegraph out of town for the desired data. I know for a fact that this is done. I have tricked some mediums in this way, through my knowledge of their methods: Going to their rooms, I would be purposely on my guard for any question they might ask me that would give them a hint of my identity. Then the medium, perhaps a little worried, would go through a stock performance, telling me who, in the spirit world, was very happy; In other words, attempting to cover the fraud by generalities. When the seance was over. I would reveal myself and the medium would say, disgusted: "Why didn't you tell me you were Houdinl when you came in?"

Did the blue book actually exist?

There is a big question mark when you start researching the blue book and no one actually knows for sure if a physical book ever existed.  I suppose when I think of it, I think of a like phone book-type directory with all the information needed, but it was likely not as simple as that.  I encourage you to read in full this a blog piece which is a very well-researched piece that looks into the blue book when it was first mentioned and if it did indeed exist.  It is called Books, Blue and Red: Syndicating Private Data by Emma Hardinge Britten.  The writer casts doubt and thinks from their own research that it is was more a metaphorical reference than a physical book.

The idea that a syndicate of bent mediums, producing "blue books" of potential fleecing targets as artifacts, might have existed is, IMHO, an easily swallowed notion, particularly since the financial data syndicates we know today as credit bureaus have their origins in "protective associations" -- usually organized by industry -- that developed in the 1870s to syndicate information about buyers who specialized either in kiting fraudulent financial instruments or beating the check entirely, to the member organizations. Some of these protective associations, like the Hotel Keepers' Protective Association, became quite large as the problem of run-of-the-mill financial "beating" became more prevalent in the second half of the century. The Hotel Keepers' Protective Association called their printed syndication of the names of people who were known to have beaten their hotel bill once, or more frequently, the blue book, presumably as a sort of ironic reference to society blue books.

http://ehbritten.blogspot.com/2013/07/books-blue-and-red-syndicating-private.html

So while it seems there is no solid information on a mediums association or a physical blue book, that doesn't mean the deception itself didn't exist.  The methods were used and observed, it is more the notion of a physical book being exchanged by some sort of underground network that is in question.  Were some of the psychical researchers and personalities like Houdini so hell-bent on proving their point that they spoke about and accepted the blue book as an explanation without really looking into it?  I suppose in some ways it is a lesson to not take everything we hear at face value.  Always do your own research - just not into the lives of people you may be about to do a psychic reading on!


References

The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism: Fraudulent and Genuine; Being a Brief Account of the Most Important Historical Phenomena; A Criticism of Their ... Employed in Fraudulently Reproducing the Same by Hereward Carrington (1920)

Revelations of a spirit medium by Harry Price & Eric J. Dingwall (1922)

Lives of The Conjurers Volume 4: Houdini and Spiritualism by Professor Solomon (2021)

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/26/magazine/psychics-skeptics-facebook.html

Books, Blue and Red: Syndicating Private Data by Emma Hardinge Britten.

https://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=667575&forum=15&start=0

August. 26th 1922 Washington Times

Cover Photo by Pavel Danilyuk: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-standing-in-black-room-illuminated-by-cand-7267116/

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Comments

  • Amanda Fairweather 2 years ago

    I have been to two mediums in the past. The first was pretty spot on with no issues and thought he was great and still have the recording of our session that he let me keep so there are good ones out there. Unfortunately years later I went to a seconed medium and had a complete opposite experience that gave me a reading that was completely wrong and way off the mark and also very unethical in what they were accusing in fact I was pretty horrified and offended, but I went along with it intrigued of what other things they had to tell me confident in knowing that what they were telling me was without a doubt false but curious on how far she would go. I went straight home after and googled a few so called (good) reviews on this medium that other people had left and found that she had given numerous people the same script she had given me word for word but had thrown in a few stereotypes based on my appearance which were also way off the mark. It does happen, there are good ones and bad ones out there and yes I definitely think that as a client you also have to do your own research when visiting a medium. It also highlights there are a few mediums that could cause alot of hurtful damage to people if taken seriously. Great article and food for thought.

    • LLIFS 2 years ago

      Thankyou for sharing your experience! I am the same I have had readings where I genuinely think they may have picked up on something, and I have also had some terrible ones. There was one I specifically remember where the psychic told me I had family members with a message but it was really generic (and not something they ever would have said) and it was referring to something that had never happened!

      • Amanda Fairweather 2 years ago

        This one claimed my relatives were still alive! Was a little bit of a giveaway......but yes the other stuff was was also ridiculously bad in what they were claiming and was not pleasant. Thanks for highlighting these issues in what goes on and still can do today.