A Mediums’ Feud: Agnes Guppy & Florence Cook

By Travis Sanders

Born in 1838, Agnes Guppy was was a bit of a Spiritualist superstar in Britain. In the 1860’s through 1870’s she was a highly sought after apport and materialization medium.¬†Raised by her grandfather after being orphaned as a baby, Agnes (then called Liz) began attending seances and developing her mediumistic sensitivity, encouraged by a couple known as The Sims. Her first physical feat was the apport of flowers.

Agnes Guppy on Right

Guppy, along with several medium friends of hers became known for their apports. Many apports often “teleporting” from home to home between the colleague mediums. The most impressive apport was actually Mrs Guppy Herself.


In June of 1871, a seance was taking place at the Herne-Williams home, 3 miles away from where Mrs Guppy lived. One sitter jokingly requested an apportation of Mrs Guppy herself, and moments later there was allegedly a loud crash on the table, being Mrs Guppy, followed by a smaller crash, which was a coat and some boots to walk home in.

Agnes Guppy was not just a materialization medium, but the first to produce full form materializations in Great Britain….and then Florence Cook came along.

Florence Cook

Florence Cook was a pretty young woman. Born in London in 1856 she displayed mediumistic phenomena from an early age. Somewhat of a supposed prodigy, she began conducting public seances in her adolescence, eventually producing materializations of the famed spirit, Katie King, daughter of John King.

Katie King materialized in Seance

This displeased Agnes for several reasons. One, because one of the spirit controls that manifested in Mrs Guppy’s seances was John King, the spirit identity of the famed pirate, Henry Owen Morgan. The competition of another materialization medium was one thing but to have another elbowing in on the “King” franchise agitated Agnes greatly. As an interesting aside, the spirit control John King has worked with many mediums through history such as the Davenport Brothers, Eusapia Palladino, W.T Stead, Helena Blavatsky, and Jonathan Koons of Athens, Ohio. Currently German physical medium, Kai Muegge has claimed full materialization of King in his seances as well.


Many of Agnes’ regular sitters began to flock to Cook’s Seances’, partially because they were free of charge, and partially, Cook’s beauty and youth drew prospective sitters in. Agnes Guppy was anything but young and beautiful, in fact, Agnes was quiet a large woman, and was highly jealous of Cook for her looks. This lead Mrs Guppy to conspire to have colleague mediums throw vitriol acid in Florence Cook’s “doll face.” When her colleague’s refused to do so, Agnes outed them as fraudulent.


In 1873 William Volkman, a man who believed Cook to be a fraud, broke seance protocol and grabbed the alleged spirit of Katie King, which lead to a scuffle between the spirit (who suspiciously looked a lot like Florence) and William. Cook’s fianc√© escorted the “spirit” back to spirit cabinet, but for many, this shook Cook’s credibility.

Many people considered both Guppy and Cook to be frauds. Many people considered both Guppy and Cook to be miraculous. One such person who shined to young Florence was the scientist, Sir William Crookes. While many believed the materializations of Katie King to be nothing more than Florence in cheesecloth, Crookes allegedly tested Cook’s authenticity through a series of scientific testing and was convinced she was genuine.

Depending on who you talk to there is argument and evidence from both perspectives supporting an authentic and fraudulent verdict. Some claim that Crookes was romantically linked to Cook and conspired in the hoax.


After the death of Mr Guppy, Agnes Guppy married William Volkman, and went by Agnes Guppy-Volkman until her death in 1917.


Encyclopedia of Ghosts & Spirits: Guiley