(New York Herald, April 4, 1903)
While he will not admit that he is a believer in spiritualism, the Rev. Dr. Isaac Funk, head of the publishing house of Funk & Wagnalls, is so impressed with manifestations he has received from the spirit of Henry Ward Beecher that he has laid the entire matter before the Boston Society for Psychical Research, and is anxiously
awaiting a solution or explanation of what appears to him, after twenty-five years' study of the subject, the
most remarkable test of the merit of the claims of spiritualists that has ever come within his observation.
Although he has resorted to every means within his power to discover any fraud that may have been practiced upon him, he has been unable to explain away not only messages to him from the great minister, but the actual appearance to him of Mr. Beecher in the flesh.
Dr. Funk and Mr. Beecher were intimate friends, and it would be difficult to practice deception as to Mr.
Beecher's appearance. When the apparition appeared to Dr. Funk at a sance a short time ago Dr. Funk was
less than three feet distant from it, and had plenty of opportunity to detect a fraud if it was being perpetrated,
'Every feature stood out distinctly,' Dr. Funk said yesterday, in describing his experience, 'even to the hair
and eyes, the color of the skin and the expression of the mouth. lines of the body, but it was still light
enough to make the face plainly visible. I had a short conversation with the embodied spirit, and then it
appeared to sink to the floor and fade away.'
MYSTERY OF THE COINS
Dr. Funk was especially anxious to have an opportunity to see and talk with Mr. Beecher, in the hope that
light would be thrown on the mystery which surrounds a previous manifestation. Through the spirit of one
'Jack' Rakestraw, who says he used to lead the choir in one of Mr. Beecher's churches, but frankly admits that
he cannot remember exactly where the church was located--even spirits have a way of forgetting things,
spiritualists declare--Dr. Funk was informed that Mr. Beecher was troubled because the publisher had failed to
return a coin, known as the 'widow's mite,' which he had borrowed some years ago, from the late Professor
Charles E. West, a well known numismatist, to make a cut to illustrate a dictionary. Dr. Funk supposed the
coin had been returned a long time ago, but upon looking the matter up found it in a drawer of a safe, among
some old papers, exactly as Mr. Rakestraw maintained.
When Mr. Beecher appeared to him in person, so far as he could determine, Dr. Funk asked him several direct
questions, to which the replies, he admits, were somewhat sublime. Although Dr. Funk has found the long-lost
coin--which, by the way, is said to be worth $2,500--he is not certain to whom it should be returned, now that
Professor West is dead and his collection of coins sold. Should the 'widow's mite' go to Professor West's
heirs or to the purchaser of the collection? is a question which has as yet remained unanswered.
'That is a matter I am leaving to be determined by the Society for Psychical Research and Mrs. Piper, who
ought to be able to learn from the spirit world what disposition Professor West wishes to have made of the
coin,' said Dr. Funk. It is at any rate a matter that does not appear to concern the spirit of Mr. Beecher.
MR. BEECHER APPEASED
'When what seemed to be Mr. Beecher's embodied spirit appeared to me,' Dr. Funk said, 'I asked that very
question. He smiled and replied that it was not a matter that concerned him especially, and that the whole
thing was in the nature of a test, to prove to me that there actually are spirits, and that it is possible to have
communication with them when all the conditions are favorable. He remarked that he was glad the old coin
had been found, but seemed to consider the disposition of it a matter of minor importance. He told me he was
glad I was taking interest in the subject, as he believed it would result in good for the world, and then,
excusing himself on the ground that he had an engagement which it was necessary for him to keep, the
Dr. Funk borrowed the coin from Professor West's collection, as a lighter colored one he already had was of
doubtful authenticity. Both coins were sent to the government expert in Philadelphia and the lighter one was
declared to be the genuine one. By the spirits it is now declared, however, that a mistake was made and that
the darker one belonging to Professor West has the greater value.
'I found both the light and the dark one in the drawer,' said Dr. Funk, 'and remembered distinctly that it was
the darker of the two which I had borrowed from Professor West. I went to the next sance, and when
Rakestraw's spirit arrived I asked him to find out which one was to be returned. After a brief interval his voice
came to me.
''Return the dark one, of course,' he said. 'That is the genuine coin and is the one you borrowed from Dr.
'While I do not wish to be classed as a believer in Spiritualism, I certainly am open to conviction after what
has come under my personal observation,' Dr. Funk concluded. 'I am confident that no fraud was practiced
on me at the sance at which I was told about the old coin. The medium is an elderly woman living in
Brooklyn, who never appears in public, and the only persons present were members of her family and known
to me. But none of them knew any more about the coin being in my safe than I did.'