1910 Spiritualistic Manifestation in Geneva

Halloween 2022

For the Halloween season, below is an interesting piece about an eerie manifestation in the nearby town of Geneva, Indiana, in 1910.

Geneva Excited, Celina Democrat, 2 Sep 1910.

Over Spiritualistic Manifestations That Have to Do With Man Long Dead.
Picture Appearing Upon Canvas Recognized by Man Who Saw Victim Killed.

The people of Geneva and that community are considerably “up in the air” just at present over a most astonishing accomplishment in Spiritualism.

Charles Reicheldeifer, a pioneer of that place, was killed in 1858, when a tree fell on him when he and Alexander Bolds were at work in a woods near there. His son, Charles Reicheldeifer, never saw him, and thounh [sic] he had tried for years, has never been able to secure a picture of him.

On August 13th last, Charles and his friend, A.P. Hardison, made a trip to Chesterfield Spiritualistic camp near Anderson. At 5 o’clock that afternoon they attended a seance held in a business room there. Mr. Reicheldeifer was asked if he would like to talk to any one [sic], and told the medium he would appreciate a conversation with his father. He made the request in writing, placed it in a slate and was soon answered by message that his father would talk to him. Soon a voice asked him what he wanted and he said he would like a picture of his parent whom he had never seen. The father agreed to set for the picture. A canvass was placed upon the window and the two Geneva men faced it and watched for developments, which came. Soon an ear appeared, then the eyes, and in a few minutes a clear, life-sized photograph of a man dressed in the style of fifty years ago came upon the canvas.

Of course, Charlie could not tell whether it was a photograph of his father or not, but consented to have it finished and framed and sent to him. Ten days later it arrived and was placed on exhibition in Sam Acker’s window at Geneva. It is on the of the finest works of art ever seen there and has attracted much attention.

A day or two ago, Alex Bolds, who, as stated, was with Mr. Reicheldeifer when he was killed, was brought to the store, without being told what was wanted or that a picture had been obtained. As soon as he saw the picture he recognized it as that of his old friend.

The affair has all of the people of that place guessing, and many have made trips to Chesterfield camp since. [1]

Just for the heck I did a little research. FindaGrave.com indicates that Charles Reicheldeifer Sr, memorial no. 20938501, is buried at Hartford Cemetery, Adams County, Indiana. His tombstone apparently does not exist but FindaGrave.com indicates that he died 6 January 1859, at the age of 25. His calculated birth date is 24 June 1833.

According to FindaGrave.com Charles Sr married Sophia Pontius (1829-1898) in 1852 and they had two children, Henry Reicheldeifer (1854-1859) and Charles Reicheldeifer (1858-1927). That explains why Charles Jr never saw his father. Charles Jr was only 9 months old when his father died. This memorial indicates that Charles Sr died in 1859, not 1858, as the news article reported. Charles Sr’s widow Sophia is also buried at Hartford Cemetery, FindaGrave memorial no. 20938631.

And, as I looked over these families I noticed that Alex Bolds, the person who knew Charles Sr, who was with Charles Sr when he died, and who identified his picture image in 1910, was Charles Sr’s brother-in-law. Alexander “Alex” Bolds (1830-1912) married Leah (Pontius) (1835-1907), the sister of Charles Sr’s wife, Sophia Pontius. Alex and Leah Bolds are also buried in Hartford Cemetery.

Charles Reicheldeifer Jr is buried in Westlawn Cemetery, Geneva, FindaGrave memorial no. 59241086.

The characters and families all fit together but the story about the medium, the séance, and the mysterious picture is more of a mystery.

And what about the Chesterfield Spiritualist Camp? According to the Discover Indiana website, “The Chesterfield Spiritualist Camp was established in 1890 outside of Anderson, Indiana. Modern spiritualism emerged in the mid-1800s and involves the science, philosophy, and religion of continuous life, based on the communication through a medium with those in the spirit world. The camp setting was used to meet, exchange ideas, and witness the demonstrations of famous mediums and believers streamed to these sites all over the country.”

Their webpage goes on to tell that they met in tents in the 1870s but as time went on permanent structures were built and people attended the camps all year long.

Spiritualism was particularly strong in Indiana and two state associations were established in 1888 and in 1904. By 1924 almost every state had a spiritualist camp and Indiana had over 50 spiritualist churches, some located in Veedersburg, Angola, Muncie, Yorktown, Crawfordsville, Greensburg, Fort Wayne, North Vernon, and Indianapolis. Attendance was over half a million people and in 1927 the six-week camp session at Chesterfield drew over 20,000 people.

Today, the Chesterfield Spiritualist Camp contains a variety of buildings dating from the 1900s-1950s and is one of the few spiritualist camps that remain today, one located in Florida and another in Maine. Chesterfield was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. [2]

An interesting story, indeed.

Happy Halloween everyone! Here are a couple more photos of our Halloween display.

Halloween 2022

Halloween 2022

Halloween 2022

[1] The Celina Democrat, Celina, Ohio, 2 Sep 1910, p.8; Library of Congress.gov, viewed 25 Oct 2022.

[2] Chesterfield Spiritualist Camp, Discover Indiana, https://publichistory.iupui.edu/items/show/308 , viewed 26 Oct 2022.


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