Arthur Ford was an American spiritual medium who also claimed to be a clairvoyant. He also founded the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship in 1955.
The Fellowship was a group of people believing in “an interfaith, non-profit movement” consisting of writers, believers, and professionals who had an interest in the ever growing curiosity of altered states of consciousness and paranormal experiences.
Ford became widely known in the late 1920’s for having contacted Harry Houdini’s mother then soon after, Houdini himself. He also claimed to have contacted the deceased son of Bishop James Pike on national TV in 1967.
For most of his life there was speculation of Ford being a fake and this was further validated after his death in 1971. His own biographers suspected that most of his antics were a fraud and they had evidence to prove it.
With all of the speculation and negativity, there were also those who believed in Arthur and his abilities whole-heartedly.
The Early Years
Arthur Ford was born January 8th, 1896 in Titusville, Florida. He came from a devout Southern Baptist family, but at a young age didn’t experience any extraordinary abilities other than maybe sometimes knowing what someone was going to say or an increasing fascination with life after death. He was always drawn to religion and their doctrines, especially dealing with death.
At the age of 16 he was excommunicated from the Baptist Church, but went on to Transylvania College in Lexington Kentucky on scholarship with intentions of still becoming a minister. His aspirations came to a halt once World War 1 and he enlisted in 1918. He achieved the rank of Second Lieutenant but never saw any combat, for the war ended soon after he enlisted.
Ford did observe the horrible influenza conditions in the Army camps and he began having visions of the men dying he was serving with only to see their names on casualty lists a few days later. At first Arthur thought he was going insane because the visions grew to a larger number of men losing their lives in Europe, not just the ones he was serving with.
After the war he then went back to his College in Lexington where he encountered Dr. Elmer Snoddy, a psychology professor. Snoddy believed Ford was experiencing some sort of sixth sense or extraordinary phenomena instead of insanity.
Arthur the Psychic
Ford began to investigate his abilities even further joining a group of spiritualists. It was around 1921 Arthur considered himself and claimed to be a trance medium. He began to attract attention both positive and negative for his ‘ability’. Most of the negativity came from his personal relationships which ultimately ended in a divorce from his wife of five years. This sparked a quick departure from the church where he began lecturing about life after death and putting on shows by going into trance induced meditations.
Ford soon had a large following and he traveled the U.S. and Great Britain. Arthur would often times refer to his spiritual guide, Fletcher, which was the name of a childhood friend who had died in the War.
Talking to the Dead
Most of Arthur Ford’s claim to fame came from a message he said he received from Harry Houdini (1874-1926) after the magician’s death. Houdini’s wife, Bess, had been obsessed with her husband’s death and the afterlife. She would attend multiple séances to try to communicate with her deceased husband. It was widely known in the press that Houdini had left a very well coded message with his wife that only she would know so he could reach her after he died.
There were vast amounts of mediums and frauds alike, claiming to have received a message from the ‘soul’ of Harry Houdini. Ford was one of them claiming on February 8th, 1928, that he went into a trance with the guidance of ‘Fletcher’ whom they encountered the spirit of a woman claiming to be the mother of Houdini. The woman stated that her son had once wanted to hear a certain word from her, ‘forgive’. “his wife knew the word, and no one else in all the world knew it.” The woman spirit told them.
It was said that the word ‘forgive’ were the last words of Houdini’s mother on her deathbed. Ford would soon reach out to Bess Houdini and she did validate that the word ‘forgive’ was the one word Houdini, his mother, and her knew that was sentimental to them. There seemed to be skeptics and believers going into a frenzy in the media as Ford continued to get more messages from Houdini.
Bess would then endorse all of Ford’s claims but later would recount her memories differently and some biographers believed this was because of alcohol. Doubters would also claim she just really wanted to believe in these antics and would go to any length to validate them.
In 1931, a horrible accident occurred in which a truck struck the vehicle Ford was driving and his sister died. Arthur was also severely injured in the accident suffering multiple internal injuries including crushed ribs and a broken jaw. He soon became addicted to morphine and alcohol, and addiction he would never overcome. He would admit this in his autobiography ‘Nothing So Strange’ in 1958. However, his addictions never seemed to keep him from impressing people with his psychic abilities.
Back in the Public Eye
In 1967, close to the end of his life, Arthur was on network TV to discuss life after death. On this public performance, Arthur went into a deep trance and claimed to be speaking to Episcopal Bishop James Pike’s son who had committed suicide in 1966.
During multiple séances, it was strongly believed that Arthur Ford was a legitimate psychic with extrasensory abilities and after the show, the network received thousands of letters. Ford also impressed Pike so much, that he admitted his belief in psychic phenomena.
Death and Speculation
After Ford’s death in 1971, biographer Allen Spraggett and his co-writer Rev. William Rauscher discovered evidence in notes, poetry books, and random papers that they believed the Houdini incident had been faked. A lot of other discoveries showed the TV séance of 67 had also been a fraud.
Amongst Ford’s personal belongings they also found newspaper clippings, obituaries, and other sources that had been disguised to look like something else, like a poetry book. They suggested Arthur used these tools to research his clients and their backgrounds.
Spraggett went on to say that the evidence was overwhelming that Ford was a con-artist and had exploited people’s losses. His secretary also made claims he would secretly want her to burn things for him like, papers, documents, and news clippings. However, she claimed later he may have done this because they had a falling out.
The biggest mystery is on the Houdini code. Even those who don’t believe are not sure how he seemed to get information on what the wife knew and the deceased mother. It was also haunting how Houdini told the world he would make contact from the dead. Could just be a scary coincidence.
The Life and the Man
It’s undeniable that Arthur Ford was a man of charisma and an amazing storyteller. Friends that knew him also made this claim. There are many biographies about the man, and most of them have positive or negative inconsistencies about his life and his abilities.
Whether it was his extreme storytelling or his believable showmanship, this made him the popular psychic he was and continues to captivate readers and skeptics alike.