by Lisa Butler
Originally published in the Winter 2004 ATransC NewsJournal
The Encyclopedic Psychic Dictionary defines coincidence as, “1. (esoteric) (Carl Jung) two events occurring simultaneously, having no known cause-and-effect connection and unrelated in nature but showing a meaningful response, indicating some kind of intelligence link.”
If you have read our book, There is No Death and there are No Dead, you know that we attended a transfiguration séance at the Golden Gate Spiritualist Church in San Francisco last May. The church is an amazing place full of historical items. Some of these items are spirit paintings painted by a spirit artist during sittings given by the Reverend Florence Becker. During these one to two hour sessions, a blank canvas was set out for the spirit artist to work with. The people attending the séance sat in total darkness, continuously singing until a loud clap was heard. The clap signaled that the painting was complete. When the lights were turned on, the canvas was seen to hold a portrait or scene with still wet paint. The spirit painting was then covered with a black cloth and placed away from light for over a year. It was known that, without this period of darkness, the precipitated painting would fade away.
Most of the spirit paintings were presented to Reverend Becker’s students or church members and were returned to the church upon the recipient’s eventual transition to spirit. The total number of such paintings is unknown but twenty-five have been returned. The earliest known spirit painting was completed in 1911.
In October 2003 we gave a workshop at the National Spiritualist Association of Churches annual Conference in San Francisco, California. While there, a woman approached us with two photographs. One was of a spirit painting that was precipitated at a Reverend Becker séance. It was a painting of a vase of roses. While at the Golden Gate Church, we remember seeing several of the wonderful spirit paintings, but not the painting of roses. The other photograph was of another painting of roses that the woman had found in a restaurant in the California Gold Country. The two were somewhat alike, as you can see by the photographs, and she thought we might be interested in the “coincidence.”
In early November of 2003 we conducted an investigation in the Thunderbird Lodge at Lake Tahoe, Nevada with Janice Oberding (www.hauntednevada.com). It was a large place and it required hours of work to analyze the audio and video we collected during the investigation. (Hear the “Hidden Morphine” example below) Janice writes books about haunted places and was talking to us about a haunted antique store she had discovered, even as we were working on the Thunderbird material. As she was speaking about this new location, I could only think about all the work that we had stacked up and that I was not going to let her get us interested in another investigation. We simply had more to do than we could handle! So I listened, but assured myself that we were not going to get involved!
A few days later an email came from Janice informing us of the address for the haunted antique store on her website and asking us to let her know what we thought. The first thing that I saw on the recommended page was a painting of roses with a title, “Haunted Painting.” To say my mouth dropped open is an understatement. We immediately tore through the house to find the photographs that had been given to us at the convention in San Francisco. Holding the picture of the spirit painting beside the picture of the “haunted painting,” we could see that the similarities were unmistakable. The form and location of each rose and leaf is the same. There is an additional bunch of roses on the table in the antiques store version. This is exactly the location of the spirit artist signature in the original. There is also a difference in the color of the roses. The spirit painting roses are toward the red shade. The roses in the painting in the antique store are pink.
Janice later explained that the rose painting had been the property of the owner’s mother. She loved the painting and even painted a room of the house to match the pink of the roses. When her mother transitioned, the daughter turned the home into an antique store. The rose painting was among the antiques for sale.
As the story was told to us, she had agreed to sell it to a man who helped in the store and was a boarder in an upstairs room. That very night the painting fell off the wall damaging an electrical outlet and nearly starting a fire. A few weeks later the man mentioned that they had not set a price for the painting and its sale was once again discussed. The painting again fell off the wall that evening, even though it was hung with an eight penny nail. After this the proprietor told the man that she felt the painting did not want to be sold.
The next day we were all in the car, making the drive to the antique store. The first thing that we asked after meeting the owner was if she knew anything about Spiritualism. She answered, “Have you ever heard of the Reverend Florence Becker?” We learned from the ensuing conversation that her mother had lived near San Francisco and attended Reverend Becker’s sittings in the late 1950s. The daughter felt that the painting was from the late 1800s but the painting is not signed or dated. The Becker painting is dated 1916 and signed by the spirit artist, Rapierre.
While we were there, we recorded for EVP around the painting. We feel that we possibly heard from the woman’s mother, who via EVP, reassured the daughter that she was pleased with what she had done to the home through renovations. We then asked if the painting would like to be in a Spiritualist household and received a “Yes” and another EVP saying, “We are not happy here.” We asked if the painting would like to be returned to the Golden Gate Church and also got an affirmative answer.
The owner will not sell the painting and is actually afraid that some terrible thing will befall her or the store if the painting were to be removed even for a few minutes. We did not share the EVP that we received regarding the painting. This would not be ethical considering her feelings about the painting. We have no idea who was speaking to us through EVP, and as we all know, this could have easily been a trickster. So, we really do not know the meaning of this series of events. The relationship and similarity of the painting is obvious. We feel that the haunted painting is most likely a copy of the original, which was a gift from the spirit artist to Reverend Becker for her work and dedication. The rose painting hung over the fireplace at Reverend Becker’s house during the late 1950s. A photograph could have been taken of it and a copy made. Still this was a most interesting experience and we wonder if the story is not yet over.