Florence Cook was born in 1856 in England and claimed to have mediumistic abilities when she was only 14.
In 1871 she became a “disciple” of the famous mediums Frank Herne and Charles Williams who believed that Cook was a materialized spirit of John King’s daughter and she adopted the name – Katie King.
During Cook’s (or King’s) seances she appeared as a disembodied face of Katie King to a fully physical presentation. In the following years her tutor Herne, who claimed to be the materialized spirit of John King, was exposed as a fraud, while Cook was an enigma waiting to be solved as genuine or a fraud throughout the 1870s.
In 1873, the lawyer William Volckman, who was associated with another medium – Mrs. Guppy, attended one of the seances performed by Florence Cook. During it, Cook, or now the materialized spirit Katie King held the hands of the participants.
When Volckman’s turn came he seized her hand and waist and accused her in front of everybody that she is just a resemblance of the spirit she claims she was not a real materialization of it.
However, Cook was saved by the other participants who took her in another room and accused Volckman of inappropriate behavior in front of a spirit. Regardless of the accusations, he published his opinions on the mediumship of Florence Cook but he was accused by her supporters that he just wanted to defame Cook in regard of his friend and Cook’s rival – Mrs. Guppy.
In order to return her fame, Cook asked Sir William Crookes to support her. He asked her to held a seance in his home and only in front of people that he would choose.
It was 1874 and Florence was barely 18. She materialized the spirit of Katie King in front of Crookes’ chosen audience and convinced them that her performance was genuine. Not only that she materialized the spirit, but also both of them were visible – Cook herself and the spirit. Photographs were also taken.
However, it wasn’t convincing for everyone. In 1874, while she held seances in her family home in Hackney, her performance was witnessed by the lawyer Edward W. Cox who publicly reported his doubts about Cook’s mediumship abilities.
Even though Crookes report contained his assertion that the performances of Florence Cook were genuine, Cox’ one raised suspicions about her possible fraud once again.
It was impossible for Cook to pursue her career as a medium after she raised suspicions that were publicly announced. After she was accused of fraud, two American mediums – Jennie and Nelson Holmes claimed that they’ve materialized the spirit of Katie King.
All the fuss around the spirit of Katie King just caused damage to the Spiritualist movement and as Arthur Conan Doyle said – this “exposure” did more damage to Spiritualism than any other exposure of the period (Doyle 1926: volume 1, 269-277).