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Charles H. Foster

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Charles H. Foster
BornCharles Henry Foster
Salem, Massachusetts
DiedDecember 15, 1885
Salem, Massachusetts
Resting placeHarmony Grove, in Old Salem

Charles Henry Foster (1833-1885) was an American spiritualist medium.


Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Foster became a medium as a young man producing in his séances a phenomenon known as "skin writing", alleged names of spirits would appear on parts of his body such as his arms or forehead.

He was also known for pellet reading. This involved séance sitters writing the names of the deceased on slips of paper that were rolled into pellets and put on a table. The pellets were mixed with blank slips. Foster would then select a pellet and without opening it, give the name of the deceased and reveal the name to his audience with a 'spirit' message.

In 1863, The Spiritual Magazine reported that there was evidence Foster had faked his phenomena. The writing on his skin was said to be the same as his own handwriting. His pellet reading was also suspected of being fraudulent.

Psychical researcher Hereward Carrington commented that most o his feats easily be the "result of trickery... That Foster was an impostor there can be no doubt." Foster came into dispute with mentalist Washington Irving Bishop who claimed he could duplicate his phenomena.

Foster was exposed by John W. Truesdell in 1872. He noted that during séances, Foster who was a smoker would repeatedly light matches for his cigar. He suspected whilst doing this, he would approach the table, read the pellets and substitute them for blanks.

R. D. Chater (who performed as Hercat) attended séances with Foster and also claimed to have detected his tricks.

NOTE: Many sources claim Foster was born 1838 and died 1888, but MagicPedia is fairly confident he lived from 1833 to 1885.


  • The Salem Seer, Reminiscences of Charles H. Foster, by George Bartlett (1891)


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