KENTLAND — John Cook presented a program to the Kentland Rotary Club about the strange and amazing tale of Lurancy Vennum from the book “The Watseka Wonder” written by Dr. E.W. Stevens who observed and help treat the nature of her illness or possession in 1878.
In the course of a few months in 1877, Lurancy at the age of 13 had taken ill and was visited by many spirits as she slipped in and out of fits and trances at her home in Watseka. The story says Mary Roff came to inhabit her body for 4 months in the winter and spring of 1878. Mary Roff had died 12 years earlier and was the daughter of a prominent Watseka businessman Asa Roff and his wife Ann. They resided in a new brick home they built on north 5th street in Watseka that still stands today.
Mary also suffered from illness from the time of her birth as she fell into fits and even madness at times. It was observed during this time by family members, the local newspaper editor and Methodist minister that she could see and even read while blindfolded. Mary was overcome by her illness and died at the age of 19 in 1865.
It was 12 years later that Mary appeared again through Lurancy Vennum and had such complete control of her mind that Lurancy did not know her own parents and only believed she was the daughter of Asa and Ann Roff. The Vennums finally agreed to let their daughter live with the Roffs that February as she was so convinced that was her family.
As Dr. Stevens and others observed she knew everyone Mary had known, everything about the house and her room and even described her own funeral. In May, Lurancy became herself again and returned to her home and reunited with her parents, never to have another episode again.