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Observations placeholder

Account of Alexander Henry – The Great Turtle Spirit, who had never lied



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

As described in Spiritism (Western Fakirism) Study Historical, Critical and Experimental - Dr. Paul Gibier [1887]

Account of Alexander Henry, taken prisoner by the Indians in the wars of 1759. Sir Williams Johnson had sent a message to the Native American Indians inviting their chiefs, based in Sault-Sainte-Marie, to come and settle the peace at Fort Niagara.

This was something too important to be left to the decision of simple human wisdom. The necessary preparations were therefore made to solemnly evoke and consult the Great Turtle. First a large house, or wigwam, was built in which a kind of tent was placed inside, for the priest's use and to receive the spirit. This tent, about four feet in diameter, was made with elk skins covering a frame built with piles driven two feet underground, ten feet high, eight inches thick and tightly connected by crossings. The skins were firmly attached around this frame by leather straps, except on one side where a small opening was left through which the priest had to enter.

Soon the priest arrived in a state of complete nakedness.

He approached the tent, into which he entered, crawling on his hands and knees. His head had barely penetrated the opening, that the massive and solid structure as I described it, began to be shaken; and the skin hanging in front of the entrance had not fallen back, that many noises and voices were heard in the tent, some making wild cries, others barking like dogs, others screaming like wolves.

During this horrible concert, there were complaints, tears of despair, anguish and sharp pain. Words were also articulated as if they came out of human mouths, but in a language unknown to the entire audience.

After a while, a deadly silence followed this confused and horrible tumult. Then, a voice, which had not yet been heard, indicated the advent of a new phenomenon in the tent. It was a weak and low voice, resembling the cry of a young small dog. When this voice was heard, all the Indians clapped their hands with joy, crying out that it was the head of the spirits, the Turtle, the spirit that never lied. - They had previously whistled at the other voices that were heard from time to time, recognizing them as belonging to the evil and lying spirits that deceive men. New sounds came from the tent. During the period of an hour and a half, a succession of noises were heard, in the middle of which various voices struck the ear.

Since the priest had entered the tent, until all these noises had ended, his voice had not been heard. But then he addressed the crowd, announcing the presence of the Great Turtle and the consent of the spirit to answer any questions that might be addressed to it. The questions were addressed by the village chief, who previously inserted a large quantity of tobacco through the opening of the tent. It was a sacrifice offered to the spirit, for the Indians believe that spirits love tobacco as much as they do themselves. Once the tobacco was accepted, he requested the priest to ask whether or not the British were preparing to wage war on the Indians and whether there was a large quantity of red clothing at Niagara Fort.

As soon as the priest asked these questions, the tent was immediately shaken, and a few minutes later it continued to shake so violently that I expected it to collapse.

I assumed that this was the prelude to the answer; but a terrible cry announced quite clearly that the Great Turtle had just left.

A quarter of an hour passed in silence, and I was eager to see what the new episode of this scene would be. It consists in the return of the spirit, whose voice was heard again, and who then made a long speech. The language of the Turtle, like the one we had already heard, was illegible to all ears, except for the priest. It was only when the spirit had finished speaking and the priest had translated this story for us, that we found the meaning of this extraordinary communication.

The spirit, as the priest informed us, had, during his absence, crossed Lake Huron, gone to the Niagara Fort, and from there to Montreal. At the Niagara Fort he had not seen many soldiers, but as he went down the St. Lawrence to Montreal, he saw the river filled with boats full of soldiers as numerous as the leaves of the trees. He had met them on the river to come and fight the Indians. The chief then asked if, in the case of the Indians visiting Sir Williams Johnson, he would receive them as friends.

The spirit replied, still according to the priest's interpretation, that Sir Williams Johnson would fill their canoes with presents: blankets, pots, guns, powder, bullets and large rum barrels, as much as the canoes could contain, and that everyone would return safely to the village.

So the transport was awesome, and in the middle of the clapping hands, everyone cried out, "I will go, I will go too!"

I was very cautious throughout the scene I described to notice any collusion that might have taken place, but it was impossible for me to find any.

The result of the expedition told in Drake's story, fully confirms the promises made by the spirit who had never lied.

The source of the experience

Native American Indians

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



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