Franklin Expedition: The Psychic Search

Franklin Expedition: The Psychic Search

The lost Franklin expedition use psychics for help. Described below is their role…

Supernatural Power

Those who hold claim to supernatural powers, especially those of knowledge, often take advantage of the information vacuum that surrounds unexplained disappearances. Everything from the Lindbergh disappearance to the disappearance of the MH370 flight, psychics and clairvoyants have come out of the woodwork to provide location services to those that wish to connect with those who have gone missing.

In the loss of the Franklin expedition an outpouring of psychic activity in Britain that ranged from prayer sessions to seances. There truly ran the spectrum of psychic abilities. In 1849 and 50, when the Admiralty search and rescue missions had failed to locate both the Terror and HMS Erebus, Jane Franklin called on psychics, clairvoyants, and even crystal gazers to help solve the mystery. Generally, these were young women who were mostly illiterate that ha been entranced by mesmerists and then sent to the Arctic so they could report on the condition of the ship locations and explorers.

Specific examples included a domestic servant from Liverpool name Sarah who visited Franklin in the Arctic and reported him to be tired, poorly, worn out with deferred hopes, but being comforted by his men in a noble manner. Another Liverpool servant at almost the same time was sent on an aerial journey or seeing mission. Her name was Jenny and with the help of a small drinking glass that rested on her nose, her vision was increased. Jenny went on to describe that she had reached a cold place with ice and met the expedition. She said it was in a sorry state, but had provisions for at least a year, but that three ships with salt should be sent to free them. She was upset when this was not tried.

Among the most celebrated was a clairvoyant named Emma who was known as the Seeress of Bolton. Using a séance, she said Franklin was alive, but his cheeks were sunken. She said he hoped to be in England in nine and a half months, but that this was just what he ha in his mind, not a prophecy. Emma’s visionary journeys were talked about often and contemplated by experts. The one person who was greatly impressed was a friend of Franklin, Captain Alexander Maconochie, who had once served as secretary of the Royal Geographical Society.

Gross Humbug

Maconochie did attend a few of Emma’s seances and reported on them. He encouraged her to use maps of the Arctic regions to identify a certain location. One time she pointed to the west of the Hudson Bay, but then at the Parry Islands. At this point, Maconochie scribbled the note “gross humbug” to the Admiralty.

We now know that before any of the clairvoyants visited Franklin, he had been dead for years in the Arctic. This means their visions were fantasies or simple fraudulent inventions. This episode showed two ways that the Arctic exploration was transformed when Franklin disappeared. First, emotions were now key forces when marketing or imagining any Arctic exploration. Psychics and handlers knew this and used it to their advantage. Secondly, though expeditions were exclusively male, in the 1840s women began showing up in the Arctic as ghostly presences, psychic travels, and fiction writing. This ultimately meant that illiterate women that were use as part of the Franklin expedition took on an unexpected role, making more room for non-explorers in the understanding of Arctic exploration.

The entire shocking story of Franklin’s final expedition to the Arctic was on display at the National Maritime Museum in London until early 2018.

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