The Re-Education of Bennie Junot
by Michael E. Tymn
Abstract: For more than six years, Bennie Junot, who died in 1898 at the age of 17, communicated through the trance mediumship of Leonora Piper of Boston, Mass. The communications were observed, studied and recorded by Dr. Richard Hodgson of the American Society for Psychical Research. This article summarizes some of the more meaningful sessions with Mrs. Piper.
On June 18, 1899, Bennie Junot struggled to communicate with his father through the mediumship of Leonora Piper of Boston, Mass. Dr. Richard Hodgson, who studied Mrs. Piper for some 18 years for the American Society for Psychical Research, observed and recorded: “I hear…I hear some thing. Where is my mother – I want very much to see her. I can breathe easier now. I want to go home now.....And take up my studies and go on…I see some one who looks like my father – I want to see him very much.”
Dr. Richard Hodgson
Bennie Junot died on September 5, 1898 at the age of 17. (“Junot” is a pseudonym given by Hodgson for privacy concerns; the actual family name was later revealed as “Judah.” Mr. Judah was apparently a railroad executive and a member of the ASPR.) Bennie’s surviving family consisted of his father (“Mr. Junot”), mother (“Mrs. Junot”), brother “Roble,” and sister “Helen.”
At that point in Mrs. Piper’s mediumship, the spirit entity calling himself “Rector” had taken over as her chief control from “George Pellew,” although “George Pellew,” who had earlier replaced “Dr. Phinuit” as her chief control, often assisted Rector and occasionally substituted for him. Rector belonged to a spirit group directed by a spirit known as “Imperator,” who occasionally looked in on the sittings.
Under Dr. Phinuit, Mrs. Piper was a trance-speaking medium, but when George Pellew took over she became primarily a trance-writing medium, and continued to write more than speak under the Imperator/Rector regime.
After going into a trance, her head would rest on a pillow as her hand wrote. Hodgson would lift her hand and remove the sheet of paper as she came to the bottom of the page.
Before Bennie’s words came through Mrs. Piper’s hand at that first sitting by Mr. Junot,” Rector communicated: “We see among our friends here (on Rector’s side of the veil) a young man who seems dazed and puzzled. He is not near enough for us to give him much help at the moment but will be presently. George (Pellew) is here with him and trying to urge him to come closer…that he may see the world more clearly.”
Apparently, Bennie was confused in both understanding where he was and what was going on, as well as in communicating. “Father…papa…papa…Pa…father, I hear something strange…can it be your voice?” Bennie communicated. Mr. Junot responded that it was “daddy,” to which Bennie replied: “You are not my father.” Hodgson then intervened and assured Bennie that it was his father.
“I want to see father more than any one except mama,” Bennie responded,” after which Mr. Junot asked what message he might want to pass on to his mother. “Oh she is so sad, and tell her I called her the other day and I could not make her hear me…” Bennie said he was having difficulty understanding his father, then asked him if he is still riding (horses). The father replied that he was riding daily and asked Bennie if he remembered his “ride in the West” and who was with him. Bennie correctly identified “Harry” as the cowboy who took him on a long journey in the West. “And he is a good fellow,” Bennie continued, and do you know I liked him very much and I thought he sent the photograph to her.” Mr. Junot informed Hodgson that Harry had sent a photo to them after Bennie’s death. Mr. Junot asked his son what he does with his time. “What am I doing – why pa, dear, I am doing everything, writing, reading, studying, and am generally happy. Do you hear me I am getting …clearing I think. I often…I often think I hear you calling me.” Bennie then asked his father to speak more slowly so that he could better hear him. Bennie told his father that he sees him and his mother frequently drive “out South” to the cemetery to leave flowers, correctly describing the flowers and the arrangements. He then told his father that there were two or three letters written to him by “L,” apparently a girl friend, that were left in his little case and he was concerned that others would read the letters. He asked that his mother retrieve the letters and not let anyone else read them.
“I want you to remember…Af…Alfred…where is he…at home?” Mr. Junot informed Hodgson that Alfred was a near-neighbor and a good friend of Bennie’s.
Over the next six-plus years, until November 22, 1905, a month before Hodgson’s death, Bennie would communicate 65 times, offering much in the way of evidence while also giving Hodgson and other researchers a better understanding of the difficulties in communicating. Here are some of the more interesting messages, exchanges, and observations from later sittings as extracted from On the Cosmic Relations, authored by Henry Holt and published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 1914. Holt was a member of the Society for Psychical Research and drew from their records. He also sat with Mrs. Piper. The Piper-Junot sittings are covered in Chapter XLIX of the book, pages 785-829.
As most of the communication came through without punctuation marks, they have been added when clarity is required.
March 5, 1900: Mrs. Junot told Bennie that she often feels him around and wonders if it is him. “Yes, indeed I do and mama there is no doubt about it. I do see and know a great deal about you and the things you do. I see all the pictures of myself and all my own work.” (Mr. Junot informed Hodgson that there are many pictures of Bennie around the house and various pieces of his handiwork.)
When asked to write his name, he spelled out “Benjamin Roble Junot.” However, Roble was his brother’s name, not his middle name. When Mrs. Junot informed him of this, Bennie struggled with the name, writing, “H…H…Haer…Hher” before giving up. His middle name was “Harrison.”
Bennie later communicated that Miriam, his cousin, was the first to greet him after he crossed over. Mr. Junot noted that Miriam passed only a few weeks before Bennie’s death.
Mr. Junot asked Bennie if he had seen his mother. “Yes, I did and she told me to tell you dear Dad that she had taken care of you ever since she came here, and no matter what you do she will still watch over you.
At the end of the sitting, Bennie signed his initials, “B.H.J.” and Mrs. Junot noted that the writing was very much like Bennie’s.
As Mrs. Piper was coming out of trance, she said she saw a young man with light hair singing “Swanee River,” a song that his parents had recalled him singing when in the flesh.
March 6, 1900: Bennie told his parents that he is frequently with them when they are driving and that the “Good Priest” (Imperator) is helping him keep his thoughts clear. He then mentioned that he and his maternal grandmother had noticed that “Aunt Helen” was having a lot of problems with her teeth, a fact confirmed by Mrs. Junot.
March 7, 1900: Bennie recalled the new stall that his father had built for his pony, but he could not remember the name of the pony. “I know everything so well before I speak, then I lose it,” he commented, then recalling the “long things that used to grow” which he picked and gave to his sister, Helen, but he could not remember the name of those either. Mrs. Junot reminded Bennie that they were cat o’nine tails. When told this, Mrs. Piper hand became very excited. Rector then intervened and said that Bennie was leaving for a moment. After a short time, Bennie announced that he had returned. “My head is getting clear since that man named …called George went away with his father.” Hodgson then gathered from Rector that his (Hodgson’s) deceased father had come to deliver a message to him (Hodgson) and this had confused Bennie.
March 19, 1900: Hodgson sat alone with Mrs. Piper when Bennie came and asked if he was his father’s friend. Bennie said he could hear Helen (his sister) playing the piano. Hodgson noted the time as 11:26 a.m. and sent a telegram to the Junots after the sitting, asking if Helen had been playing the piano that morning. Mrs. Junot replied by telegram that Helen had been playing the piano that morning between 11:15 and 11:30. By letter, Mr. Junot explained that Helen would have been in school that morning except that she had been allowed to stay home because of bad weather. Bennie told Hodgson that they have great music where he was and asked if he could hear it. Hodgson told Bennie that he could not hear it as his senses were too shut in. Bennie then said he forgot that Hodgson was still “in the body.”
March 28, 1900: Again, Hodgson was sitting alone with Mrs. Piper when Bennie communicated. Hodgson noted that this was the only time Bennie acted as “control,” i.e., actually took over Mrs. Piper’s body and wrote himself, not requiring Rector or George Pellew as intermediaries.
Hodgson noted that Mrs. Piper’s fingers felt the pencil, lifted it up and down a little, tapping it various times, then threw it across the room. A fresh pencil was placed on the table by Hodgson. Mrs. Piper’s hand then came up as her eyes closely inspected the back of her hand. She then turned her palms toward her face and closely inspected the palm area, then bent her hand backwards and forwards at the wrist. Finally the hand took up the pencil in the ordinary writing position on the block book. This took several minutes.
But instead of grasping the pencil between the thumb and the forefinger, the hand seized the pencil between the second and third fingers while guided by the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger. “Yes, here I am…and he is teaching me how to speak, this is a queer place I think and I am wondering how I got here with you,” Bennie wrote. “I feel quite happy to know I can come myself. I am Bennie and your are Mr. Hodgson. They tell me I am doing well…Tell me if you hear me, do you hear me or do you see me or how do you do?”
Hodgson explained to Bennie that he was using Mrs. Piper body and writing through her hand, to which Bennie replied, “Well that is queer too because I hear you and I see you very clearly and I talk to you because I am using my own mind and I see just what you are wishing me to do…I like you pretty well already because I think you are a friend of dad’s, aren’t you?” Hodgson noted that the hand of the medium stretched forward, as if someone were standing in front of her. “Did you hear that spirit tell me to look up when He spoke to me?” Bennie asked Hodgson, apparently referring to Rector or George Pellew. Hodgson wondered if “looking up” corresponded to stretching up the hand to spirit.
Referring to a letter he had received from Mr. Junot, Hodgson asked Bennie if he had seen Sammy. “Well, yes, I have and Sport also,” Bennie replied. Hodgson would later be told that Sport was the name of their stable dog who had died some years before.
Hodgson then asked Bennie if he would look up his (Hodgson’s) cousin Fred Hyde, who had died many years earlier. He suggested that George Pellew could probably help him find Fred.
April 3, 1900: “I saw Mr. Hyde and I like him mighty well,” Bennie communicated to Hodgson, who was again sitting alone with Mrs. Piper. “He is a very bright fellow and has been helping me in many ways.” Hodgson then remembered his request to locate his cousin. “Oh, you mean my cousin Fred?” Hodgson replied. “Yes he is your cousin Fred and the gentleman (George Pellew) who is speaking for me helped me to find him.
October 29, 1900: Bennie broke in at another solo sitting by Hodgson and said he had just one thing to communicate – that he had cured Helen’s throat problem. Hodgson later found out from Mr. Junot that Helen had an “ugly sore throat” during September and it had caused much anxiety.
February 18, 1901: With Mr. and Mrs. Junot present, Bennie referred to a “wall” that was being put up behind the house. Mr. Junot said it was a fence, not a wall. Bennie said that is what he was referring to and that “you will forget the names of things when you get here.”
Bennie asked his mother if she heard him when he called her the other night. Mrs. Junot replied that she wasn’t sure and asked what he said to her. “I said to write to Roble,” Bennie responded. Mr. Junot recalled that evening when his wife “suddenly started up and proceeded to write to Roble. Her motions were so unusual in some way as to attract comment from others of the family. She said, ‘I must write to Roble’.”
February 19, 1901: Mrs. Junot asked Bennie what he does when not communicating with them. “Do…well the things I care for most are those I left behind in the body,” he responded, “but I am most contented here dear and I live with grandpa and grandma Junot…I am learning all the time the conditions of this life, the reality and truth of our having to live in one life to be able to in this.”
Mrs. Junot asked why Grandma Junot never comes to the sittings. “But she has dear, only I fear I am a little greedy and take up all the light dear mother, but I do not mean to,” Bennie answered, the “light” referring to the medium.
February 20, 1901: Bennie told his mother that George, her cousin, sends his love and commented that he was such a jolly fellow when alive. Mrs. Junot did not agree. “This is a joke dear mother, because he was never known to smile…and we often remark…we remark it here,” Bennie replied. “And I speak it in particular that you may know just who I mean.”
Bennie then passed on a message from another male cousin who had recently passed over and asked that it be given to his mother: “I was I thought as happy as I could be when I owned the body, but after I left I found I did not know what happiness was…I saw you almost as soon as I lost control of my body, and I was so happy, and I was told that I should see clearer and clearer as time passed and so I have, and when I have seen you grieve I have said, ‘Oh well it is not for long, and it is only a condition of the body’.”
February 11, 1902: Frank Junot, Bennie’s uncle, communicated, speaking to his brother. “I am delighted to see you – I took Bennie’s place for a moment, a good boy…one of the best I ever knew. Tell Alice (Frank’s widow) I am sure I can remember everything soon…” Frank told his brother that he had tried to communicate earlier but “could not understand the whys and wherefores.” He also said that he had been met by his deceased son and that they are now together. “I found it all better than I had ever dreamed,” he added. Hodgson noted that the handwriting from Frank was larger and more emphatic than with Bennie.
Bennie then returned and told his father that he had brought Hugh Irving, their old servant. In a previous sitting, Mr. Junot had asked Bennie if he could find Hugh and determine what ever happened to Rounder, the Junot’s dog. Apparently, when Hugh left their employment, he took Rounder with him. Hugh told Mr. Junot that he lost Rounder, but that he would attempt to find him and see that he is returned. Mr. Junot noted that Hugh referred to Bennie as “Mr. Ben,” just as he had when alive, but referred to him by his first name when he had always called him “Mr. Junot” when alive. (Henry Holt noted that controls show a tendency to use Christian names.)
Grandpa Junot then communicated briefly, telling his son that even though he died when his son was young there is very little about his life that he did not know.
February 12, 1902: Bennie brought Sam, the son of some Junot friends who had died not long before. Sam asked Mrs. Junot to tell his mother to keep the Mansfield photographs. When Mrs. Junot later relayed the message to Sam’s mother, she understood what was meant.
April 2, 1902: Hodgson was sitting alone with Mrs. Piper when Bennie broke in. “John Welsh has Rounder.” Hodgson did not understand. “John Welsh has Rounder. Tell this….tell…tell…John Welsh has Rounder.” Hodgson still didn’t understand and repeated “John Welsh is round her?” Apparently frustrated, Bennie replied: “Has…has…It’s I, Benny, don’t you see me? I, Benny.”
February 23, 1903: The subject of Bennie’s horse came up again and Bennie said he could still not remember the name, but then he wondered if the name started with a “K.” Mr. Junot told him that was correct and urged him to try and get the rest of the name. Bennie then proceeded to spell it out, “K-L-O-N-D-I-K-E,” which Mr. Junot confirmed as correct.
Bennie told his father that he saw some men working around the old barn. Mr. Junot confirmed that for the past three days workmen had been moving the old barn at their farm, although he had not been home since the moving began.
Bennie then gave way to Hugh, the old servant. However, the writing involved curious looping and neither Hodgson nor Junot could make it out. Rector then communicated that Hugh “speaks queerly” and this was responsible for the strange writing. But Hugh managed to ask how Rounder is doing. Apparently, Mr. Junot found John Welsh and got his dog back. “Rounder is all right, Hugh,” Mr. Junot said. “He’s so glad to get back.” Mr. Junot then asked Hugh if he gave Rounder to Welsh. “No, I saw him at Welsh’s house in the body, and prayed him to send him to you,” Hugh explained. “Then Mr. Bennie got hold and we worked to get him back. I hope you keep him now – look out for him.”
After some confusing remarks, Bennie said, “When I get here and they don’t always understand what I do say. You will know when you get here how hard I try to tell you all that you may (know) it is really I.”
February 24, 1903: Mrs. Junot said she had concerns about communicating with Bennie, wondering if it was holding him back in his progress. “…now let me tell you one thing,” Bennie told her. “Don’t question the right and wrong of my returning because there are no wrongs in it.”
Bennie then informed his mother that he could see Helen having more throat problems in a couple of days, but not to worry. Upon returning home, Mrs. Junot reported to Hodgson that they found Helen quite ill with a sore throat and under the doctor’s care.
Mrs. Junot asked Bennie if he knew all that happens to them. “All to my immediate family, yes – you, dad, Robie, Helen,” he responded. Mrs. Junot then asked him if he knew what was going on with others that he knew. “Yes and no,” Bennie answered. “I can if I think specially about any one friend and wish to know. Otherwise, I do not.”
In a sitting the previous day, Mrs. Junot asked about Bennie’s cousin, Mary, the daughter of Frank and Alice Junot who had died some time before Bennie. Bennie said he had brought her for this sitting but she was unable to communicate as she did not yet understand this method of speech. However, he assured her that Mary was often around Aunt Alice. Mrs. Junot asked what Alice was doing in that world. “She looks after some of the other children here,” Bennie replied, but added that he could not get Rector to communicate exactly what she does. As he talked about Mary, he said she was standing there and laughing at his words about her.
Mrs. Junot asked Bennie if he hears her when she asks for his help. “Yes, I often do,” Bennie replied. “I know a great deal that goes on with you dear, and when grandma says you humor Helen I think she don’t (sic) understand…I help you with her often.” Bennie said that he was also helping Roble as much as possible.
Bennie asked his mother if she understood the philosophy of prayer, to which Mrs. Junot asked what he meant. “How necessary it is to pray for what you wish,” Bennie told her. “I understand it since I came to this life…prayer is everything to us here.” December 16, 1903: With Hodgson sitting alone, Bennie asked him if Roble got his hat into the paint. Hodgson wrote to the Junots and found out that Roble had painted his old straw hat green and wore it about the farm all summer.
Bennie also said that he saw Roble “fussing about his clothes” recently while also trying on a new suit which he did not like. Checking on this, Hodgson was told by Mr. Junot that Mrs. Junot bought Roble a new suit at Thanksgiving time and it was exchanged at Roble’s request.
Bennie said that Rounder appeared to be getting very stiff in his legs and that he often pats him and talks to him. He wags his tail and sniffs at him. “I think he sees me, really, I do.”
February 22, 1904: “Music is the inspiration of the soul,” Bennie told his father, asking him to tell Helen how much he loves to hear her play and practice. He then asked his father if his coat is blue. Mr. Junot acknowledged that it was blue with red inside. “Do you understand what a beautiful place this is dad?” Bennie communicated.
February 24, 1904: With Hodgson sitting alone, Bennie said, “Here is George (Pellew), perhaps you would better greet him too. He has been a good friend to me, and when the light (Mrs. Piper) has been especially drawn upon by myself he has been my support.” Hodgson then told George that he was grateful for all his support. “Just say good morning that will do,” George communicated. “You know I understand. It is only to please the boy, understand.”
June 27, 1904: Bennie told his mother that he could see some one in the body with her but couldn’t make out who it was. They moved closer to the table. “It is my sister (Helen),” Bennie exclaimed. “Oh I am so glad you are here. After discussing her music and school, Bennie asked Helen what made her let Klondike run away. Mrs. Junot then corrected Bennie and said that it was Roble’s horse that ran away. “So it was,” Bennie responded. “That’s so. I remember now but mine kicked up a good deal.” Helen agreed and said that Klondike was becoming very mean in his old age.
Bennie said that he does not like the girl his sister calls Edith at school. Helen asked if he meant Edith Waterman and asked why he did not like her. Bennie replied that he saw her as insincere.
June 28, 1904: Roble had just graduated college and attended with his mother. “Say Roble what was the matter with your foot,” Bennie asked. “I cut my toe in swimming,” Roble responded. “I though so,” Bennie said. “I heard you sing out but I saw it bleed…Was that your handkerchief you put on it?” Roble told him that it was one borrowed from another boy. “I thought so,” Bennie continued. “I saw the influence but it didn’t look just like yours. Do look out.”
Bennie then mentioned that his father, who was not present at the sitting, seemed very troubled over some railroad business. Mr. Junot confirmed this with Hodgson, informing him that the issue with the railroad had caused him great anxiety for weeks.
February 27, 1905: Bennie told his father that he would be there to meet each of them when they came over. “I heard you talking about my going a long way from you,” he communicated. “Not so, dad. I am growing all the time in knowledge of this new life but not that I shall leave you. Don’t forget that. Did you understand that I heard you talking about my going so far away?” Mr. Junot told Hodgson that he and his wife had talked of the possibility that Bennie might have to pass on and away from remembrance of them.
Mrs. Junot then told Bennie that he should do nothing to prevent his own progress. “No, how could I dear mother?” Bennie responded. “There are laws connected with this life and its conditions which enable me to progress constantly yet. While progressing I am better able to, if possible, help you.”
Mr. Junot asked Bennie if he had any messages from his father and mother. “Grandma is so interested in my talks with you that when I finish here she gets close to me and asks me all sorts of questions,” Bennie answered his father. “And I have to tell her everything about you, all as I hear from you.”
February 28, 1905: Bennie asked about the condition of his horse, but again struggled with the name, getting only “KLON.” Mr. Junot informed him that he went bad and had to be sold to the butcher.
Mrs. Junot asked Bennie if all the people in his life help those on their side. “Invariably, except the children here and we have to help them ourselves,” Bennie told his mother. She then asked him if his appearance had changed. “I look about the same. You will not have any trouble recognizing me when you come.” Mrs. Junot said she had often wondered if people change appearance in that life. “That depends, mother dear, on the conditions under which they passed over and the condition of their lives while in the body.
Mrs. Junot asked if they grow old. “No, not in spirit mother…Old people grow younger in a sense while children grow to the years of maturity as you would express it…We look as we did when in the body with the exception of looking old. I do not grow wrinkles, lose my hair, etc. I retain my looks so you would know me.”
November 21, 1905: Mrs. Junot asked Bennie if he had any regrets about leaving this world so early. “Why no, mother,” he replied. “I have nothing to regret dear. I am very happy here and I have greater privileges than you can possibly have. I can see you all just as often as I wish and I understand you are coming to me some day. Therefore, I am not only glad I came over but I am supremely happy, if you can understand it.” Mrs. Junot said she thought everyone should have a long life. “But god (sic) thinks differently,” Bennie replied. “And this is the way of all – all must come sooner or later. He knows better than any of us on our side or yours. I get dad’s thoughts sometimes when he is surrounded by curious influences giving advice and help, and I say…Oh how much better off I am and how I wish he could see me as I am.”