Etta Wriedt (1859-1942) was an American direct voice medium.[1]

Etta Wriedt
Etta Wriedt.png
Born1859 (1859)

Wriedt was born in Detroit and was well known in the field of spiritualism, she employed a trumpet in the darkness of the séance room which she claimed spirits would use to make noises and voices. She charged people money to attend her séances, one of her spirit guides was "John Sharp" who claimed he was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in the eighteenth century.[2] She visited England five times and held séances with W. T. Stead.[3] Stead and Vice-Admiral William Usborne Moore author of the book, The Voices (1913) endorsed her mediumship as genuine.[4][5]


W. B. Yeats who attended séances found them interesting but was skeptical and expressed doubts about the voices. This led to his dismissal from Wriedt's séances.[6][7]

Wriedt was exposed as a fraud by the physicist Kristian Birkeland when he discovered the noises produced by her trumpet were caused by chemical explosions induced by potassium and water and in other cases by lycopodium powder.[8] Joseph McCabe wrote:

[Birkeland] jumped up, switched on the electric light, and, before the Spiritualists could interfere, had snatched the two trumpets from the floor... So the curtain fell on one more glorious act in the Spiritualist drama. Mrs. Wriedt had put in the trumpet particles of metallic potassium which, meeting the moisture she had also thoughtfully provided, explained the "psychic movements." Close examination disclosed that on other occasions she had used Lycopodium seeds to produce the same effect.[9]

McCabe also wrote that the "spirit" voices heard in the séance were Wriedt herself and were performed by a hidden telescopic aluminium tube.[9]

She has been described as a skilled practitioner of ventriloquism.[10]


  1. ^ Benjamin B. Wolman. (1977). Handbook of Parapsychology. McFarland. p. 314. ISBN 978-0442295769
  2. ^ Victoria Barnes. (1948). Centennial Book of Modern Spiritualism in America. National Spiritualist Association of United States of America. p. 148
  3. ^ Roy Stemman. (1972). One Hundred Years of Spiritualism. Spiritualist Association of Great Britain. p. 4. ISBN 978-0900697142
  4. ^ Leslie Shepard. (1991). Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. Gale Research Company. p. 1612. ISBN 978-0810301856
  5. ^ Allan Levine. (2011). King: William Lyon Mackenzie King: a Life Guided by the Hand of Destiny. Douglas & McIntyre. p. 250. ISBN 978-1553655602
  6. ^ A. Norman Jeffares. (2001). W. B. Yeats: A New Biography. Continuum. p. 153. ISBN 0-8264-5524-7
  7. ^ Margaret Mills Harper, Warwick Gould. (2013). Yeats’s Mask: Yeats Annual No. 19. Open Book Publishers. p. 202. ISBN 978-1-78374-017-8
  8. ^ Terje Emberland, Arnfinn Pettersen. (2006). Religion for a New Era: Open Mind or a Hole in the Head?. pp. 257-258
  9. ^ a b Joseph McCabe. (1920). Is Spiritualism based on Fraud?: The Evidence Given by Sir A.C. Doyle and Others Drastically Examined. London: Watts & Co. p. 126
  10. ^ Steven Connor. (2000). Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism. Oxford University Press. 367-383. ISBN 978-0198184331