Perhaps the most famous United States case of ‘automatic writing’ is that of ‘the invisible author’ who became known as ‘Patience Worth’ manifesting in the presence of Mrs. Pearl Lenore Curran of St. Louis, Missouri. The books by Patience Worth communicated through Curran include novels such as Hope Trueblood (1918) and The Sorry Tale (1917); and an anthology of poetry, Light From Beyond (1923) available in a PDF edition.
The first book to be published about the case was Patience Worth: A Psychic Mystery (1916) by Casper S. Yost, who reported about “The Coming of Patience Worth” in the first chapter. He described how on a July evening in 1913 Curran and her friend Mrs. Emily Grant Hutchings were sitting with a Ouija board when — “The pointer suddenly became endowed with an unusual agility, and with great rapidity presented this introduction:”
“Many moons ago I lived. Again I come. Patience Worth my name.”
The women gazed, round-eyed, at each other, and the board continued:
“Wait. I would speak with thee. If thou shalt live, then so shall I. I make my bread by thy hearth. Good friends, let us be merrie. The time for work is past. Let the tabbie drowse and blink her wisdom to the firelog.”
“How quaint that is!” one of the women exclaimed.
“Good Mother Wisdom is too harsh for thee,” said the board, “and thou shouldst love her only as a foster mother.”
The women began keeping a record of the communication. Curran was found to be the apparent medium “for the communications came only when she was at the board, and it mattered not who else sat with her.” This beginning of the transcripts was due to the appreciation of Hutchings for the quality of the messages. She was a newspaper and magazine writer who later would publish the novel Jap Herron also communicated via Ouija board.
Yost commented about the “marvelous facility” of the manifesting intelligence:
She is surprisingly familiar with the trees and flowers, the birds and beasts of England. She knows the manners and customs of its people as they were two or three centuries ago, the people of the fields or the people of the palace.
Yost mentioned that Patience had “never admitted a residence in England or New England, has never spoken of a birthplace or an abiding place anywhere, has never, in fact, used a single geographical proper name in relation to herself.” Yost observed how perceptions of ‘Patience Worth’ were conceived.
When she first introduced herself to Mrs. Curran, she was asked where she came from, and she replied, “Across the sea.” Asked when she lived, the pointer groped among the figures as if struggling with memory, and finally, with much hesitation upon each digit, gave the date 1649. This seemed to be so in accord with her language, and the articles of dress and household use to which she referred, that it was accepted as a date that had some relation to her material existence. But Patience has since made it quite plain that she is not to be tied to any period.
“I be like to the wind,” she says, “and yea, like to it do blow me ever, yea, since time. Do ye to tether me unto today I blow me then tomorrow, and do ye to tether me unto tomorrow I blow me then today.”
An eminent philologist asked her how it was that she used the language of so many different periods, and she replied: “I do plod a twist of a path and it hath run from then till now.” And when he said that in her poetry there seemed to be echoes or intangible suggestions of comparatively recent poets, and asked her to explain, she said: “There be aneath the every stone a hidden voice. I but loose the stone and lo, the voice!”
Here are responses quoted by Yost from occasions when Patience was asked, “Who are you?”
“I be Him,” she replied; “alike to thee. Ye be o’ Him.”
At another time she said:
“I be all that hath been, and all that is, all that shalt be, for that be He.”
Taken alone this would seem to be a declaration that she herself was God, but when it is read in connection with the previous affirmation it is readily understood.
“Thou art of Him,” she said again, “aye, and I be of Him, and ye be of Him, and He be all and of all.”
Yost commented about the poetry: “Love of God, and God’s love for us, and the certainty of life after death as a consequence of that love, are the themes of Patience’s finest poetry …”
Yost’s case study includes two complete stories (“The Fool and the Lady” and “The Stranger”) that he appraised as “dramatic.” The stories preceded longer works, including what is now known as the novel Telka: An Idyl of Medieval England (1928).
Another case study of the Patience Worth phenomena is the anthology The Case of Patience Worth: A Critical Study of Certain Unusual Phenomena (1927) by Walter Franklin Prince, Ph.D. The book may be read in a PDF edition that is lacking the Introduction. Prince’s other books include the two-volume The Doris Case of Multiple Personality (1916).
In his Introduction, Prince raised the question of the “mystical theory that ‘Patience Worth’ represents the results of an unusual reception of knowledge and power from the ‘Cosmic Consciousness.’” He explained:
This is the thesis which I formulate after a ten months’ study of the data: EITHER OUR CONCEPT OF WHAT WE CALL THE SUBCONSCIOUS MUST BE RADICALLY ALTERED, SO AS TO INCLUDE POTENCIES OF WHICH WE HITHERTO HAVE HAD NO KNOWLEDGE, OR ELSE SOME CAUSE OPERATING THROUGH BUT NOT ORIGINATING IN THE SUBCONSCIOUSNESS OF MRS. CURRAN MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED. In the former case we normalize what hitherto would have seemed “supernormal” (in the same manner as hypnosis, which a hundred years ago was thought to involve a supernormal claim, has been normalized); in the second case we admit the supernormal.
The complete article “Patience Worth” and two more articles about this topic may be read by clicking on the blog link below.