Spirit trumpets, like the tin model shown here, were often present at seancess in the heyday of physical mediumship. Typically, the trumpet would "float" about the darkened room (sometimes luminous bands having been affixed to the trumpet so the effect could be visualized), and "spirit" voices would issue from it.
There were many trumpet tricks. If the medium's hands were not controlled (a practice intended to prevent trickery) he or she could simply move the trumpet about, a rubber tube being attached through which the medium spoke. Sometimes, a removable luminous band was employed and moved about at the end of a telescoping rod. In these instances, the whispered voices did not actually emanate from the trumpet; the illusion that they did worked on the ventriloquism principle: it is not easy to locate the source of a sound, especially if misdirection takes place. If controlled, the medium had clever techniques of getting one hand free or could use a secret assistant dressed all in black. (For a discussion of trumpet and other séance trickery, see M. Lamar Keene, Psychic Mafia, Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 1997; and Walter Gibson, Secrets of Magic, New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1967.)
The picture shows a card explaining how the luminous rings work. It was produced by E.A. Eckel, who also produced spirit trumpets. On the back are some directions for Trumpet Mediumship. It reads:
"Having been asked quiet often for instructions to develop The Phase of The Trumpet, I will here give a few general instructions. I can not say that any one can develop the Trumpet Phase. Only those who are gifted for it.
"A class of six or eight people should be formed among those who are interested in the cause and are willing to sit one or two nights each week. Have a regular time set, be prompt and do not disappoint your Spirit Friends and they will not disappoint you. Do not make any changes after your class has been formed. By adding to or changing the time set, place to hold the meetings, etc., breaks the conditions. Do not be discouraged if results are not obtained for some time. I know of some of our best Mediums who required from three months to nine years to develop.
"First. Have your circle room dark-so dark that you can not see your hand before you.
"Second. Open your circle with singing or music, after which repeat the Lord's Prayer.
"Anderson, Indiana E.A. Eckel"