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The Watseka Wonder: The Double Life of Lurancy Venum

One family mourned the death of a daughter. Another family welcomed a new daughter. A few years later, Mary Lurancy Vennum "became" the deceased Mary Roth! Was it a case of multiple personality, reincarnation, a haunting, or just wishful thinking?

Mary Roff had died in July 1865 at the age of 18, having suffered from fits throughout her life. It now seemed to Roff that his daughter had returned from the grave and taken over Lurancy’s body. Indeed, Lurancy was giving every sign of being Mary Roff and was constantly pleading to be allowed to go home to her parents.

On February 11 “Mary Roff” moved to the Roff household. For three months she behave exactly as if she were the dead daughter of the Roffs’ immediately recognizing friends, relatives, clothes, and belongings. She also remembered scores of events from her past, many of which had occurred up to 25 years before. When the Vennums visited, “Mary Roff” behaved as if Lurancy reemerged.

From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by MrGhaz.

Not a very good article. It was difficult to follow.

How could she remember "scores of events from her past, many of which had occurred up to 25 years before" when she died at the age of 18?

Also, Richard Hodgson was not "a notoriously skeptical researcher into psychic phenomena." He was notorious for doing a 180 and becoming an ardent believer in psychic phenomena after once claiming himself a skeptic. Furthermore, his supposed careful study of the case amounted to nothing more than interviewing whatever witnesses remained in neighborhood more than ten years after the whole thing was over. He never even spoke to Lurancy Vennum.

For better reading on the story:
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I have to tell you that I - the penultimate skeptic, confirmed and happy atheist, believer in nothing supernatural - became convinced that there is "more to heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy" when my daughter, at age three began to say things that I couldn't explain. Once she was sitting quietly on a little couch in her room, hugging her toy bunny "lovey" when she sadly said, "I couldn't kill my brother yesterday. That's why there wasn't enough food. After all, I was supposed to be a preacher man." (For the record, she adored her real brother who is much older than her. And no, she didn't see it on TV and I was with her 24/7 so no one said it to her and here in the northeast no one is called a "preacher man.") Other times she talked several times of a young man she just called "Starting Over" -- one time she picked up a rose, put it to her cheek and said it was just like the one "Starting Over" had given to her. And there was one "imaginary friend" who was here for the better part of a year - Denne - she typed some letters on the computer and asked how to say them and said he was a boy who used to live where her preschool was (a building that was renovated from a barn from the 1800s.) I wrote all these things down (especially because there were a couple verging on scary) and so I know I haven't embroidered them over the years. I still believe that there are reasonable explanations for everything -- after all even physicists say that there is no reason that time has to be sequential, so perhaps there are little time warp overlaps from time to time -- whatever the reason, it was a very strange but numinous year.
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Elagie oh that's really interesting about your daugther. Does she still do things like that or is she much older now and grew out of that 'phase'?
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LisaL, It went on for about a year and a half or so (I think Denne was the last to go -- he was the only one she ever referred to by name and who seemed to talk to her, rather than through her. (BTW probably utter, utter coincidence but last year, while working on my family history, I found that one of our ancestral families in the 1700s had the last name of Denne.) In any case, she's nearly ten now and doesn't remember anything at all about it. I told her that I'd let her read about it when she's older but don't want to freak her out now!
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What a good parent, Elagie.

It certainly would be a neat trick if what we observe as real via our senses, and the totality of existence, were one in the same.
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Elagie- That's very interesting about your daughter. If it still interests you, I would recommend checking out this book:
The author is a researcher at the University of Virginia's Division of Personalities center, which studies reincarnation basically.
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Sounds to me like Stevens sort of encouraged Lurancy's behavior. Sounds like the girl had a weird experience, the Roffs recommended Stevens, and he probably helped introduce the ideas of the paranormal and of Mary Roff and the already disturbed/impressionable Lurancy started to genuinely believe she was possessed. The Roffs fell for it because they missed their daughter and wanted it to be true. The Venums fell for it because their daughter believed it so fully herself.
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I have to say this article doesn't do the subject matter any justice and is why so many people are skeptical. There's much better info on this incident, suggest a good online search, and it may in fact be real - google the 'Shanti Devi' incident as well, and read the book 'Transformed by the Light' by Melvin Morse M.D. with Paul Perry, and pay close attention to Chapter 6 as it provides much more scientific based evidence that strongly suggests that at least some of these encounters (if you will) are real, but the phenomena as yet is still very much an unexplored mystery.
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