“A Book for Skeptics” and the Spirit Room

A message from an angel, from "A Book for Skeptics." Courtesy of the State Library of Ohio Rare Books Collection on Ohio Memory
A message from an angel from “A Book for Skeptics,” in the State Library of Ohio Rare Books Collection on Ohio Memory

In the mid-1800s, a new spiritualist movement swept America, and people everywhere began conducting séances in an attempt to communicate with otherworldly bodies. In Athens, Ohio, Jonathan Koons, an enthusiastic participant in this movement, created a “spirit room” in which he and other interested parties sought to contact spirits and angels, and insisted that they had been successful. A Book for Skeptics: Being Communications from Angels (1853) was written as documentation of that success.

A message from Filenia Koons (deceased) to her mother
A message from Filenia Koons (deceased) to her mother, published in “A Book for Skeptics.”


A Book for Skeptics (full title A Book for Skeptics: Being Communications from Angels, Written with Their Own Hands; Also Oral Communications, Spoken by Angels through a Trumpet, and Written Down as they were Delivered, in the Presence of Many Witnesses, Also a Representation and Explanation of the Celestial Spheres, as Given by the Spirits, at J. Koons’ Spirit Room, in Dover, Athens County, Ohio) contains multiple messages from heavenly beings on a variety of topics ranging from laws (“both mental and local”) to the future of man and the omniscience of God. The book also documents personal communications between the deceased and their living family members.

Illustration of the "Celestial Spheres" from "A Book for Skeptics"
Illustration of the “Celestial Spheres” from “A Book for Skeptics”


Several pages of A Book for Skeptics are dedicated to a description of the Celestial Spheres, a chart of the heavens that is depicted at the beginning of the book. The Spheres came to a 15-year-old clairvoyant member of the Koons family as visions which occurred to him over the course of six months. According to the publication, a spirit named King was present to help the teen in his depiction of the Spheres. King also played the role of go-between for the spirit world and the members of Koons’ circle, often translating into English the messages of the various spirits who appeared in the spirit room.

Koons’ spirit room no longer exists, but Mt. Nebo in Athens County, where the room used to stand, is legendary for spiritual activity. Is it possible that those who frequented the spirit room were as successful at contacting another plane as A Book For Skeptics claims? Anything is possible!


Thank you to Shannon Kupfer, Digital/Tangible Media Cataloger at the State Library of Ohio, for this week’s post!

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