Joseph Smith and The Bleeding Ghost — Rich Kelsey

Half-moon photo taken by Rich Kelsey

Joseph Smith and The Bleeding Ghost:

An account of Joseph Smith being visited in a dream by a bleeding ghost from Joseph Smith’s neighbors, Joseph and Hiel Lewis, who were the sons of the Rev. Nathaniel Lewis, match elements of an account from Joseph Smith’s mother.[1]

Joseph and Hiel Lewis bleeding ghost account also matches elements from the story Joseph Smith’s father told, and what other relatives, neighbors and associates described back in the day. Yet it doesn’t resemble accounts of “Moroni’s” visits with Joseph Smith published by the LDS Church today, and for good reason. If Joseph Smith’s real history were ever made known, millions of Latter-day Saints would abandon the faith.[2]

Bleeding Ghost Continued:

“He said that by a dream he was informed that at such a place in a certain hill, in an iron box, were some gold plates with curious engravings, which he must get and translate, and write a book; that the plates were to be kept concealed from every human being for a certain time, some two or three years; that he went to the place and dug till he came to the stone that covered the box, when he was knocked down; that he again attempted to remove the stone, and was again knocked down; this attempt was made the third time, and the third time he was knocked down. Then he exclaimed, ‘Why can’t I get it?’ or words to that effect; and then he saw a man standing over the spot, which to him appeared like a Spaniard, having a long beard coming down over his breast to about here. (Smith putting his hand to the pit of his stomach) with his (the ghost’s) throat cut from ear to ear, and the blood streaming down, who told him that he could not get it alone; that another person whom he, Smith, would know at first sight, must come with him, and then he could get it.” (The Amboy Journal, June 11, 1879, p.1)

Magic World View:

LDS scholars explain that while trying to obtain buried treasure:

“… the treasure seekers staked out magical circles around the treasure. They used Bible passages and hymns, prayers and incantations, ritual swords and other magical items, or even propitiatory animal sacrifices to appease or fend off preternatural guardians of the treasure. Excavation usually commenced under a rule of silence. Should someone carelessly mutter or curse, the treasure guardian could penetrate the circle or carry the treasure away through the earth.” (Mark Ashurst-McGee: Moroni: Angel or Treasure Guardian? LDS Maxwell Institute, 2006)

Joseph Smith’s mother spoke of the family drawing “magic circles,” “abrac” — which is short for (abracadabra), and “sooth saying:”*

“Let not the reader suppose that because I shall pursue another topic for a season that we stopt (sic) our labor and went at trying to win the faculty of Abrac drawing Magic circles or sooth saying to the neglect of all kinds of business.” (Biographical Sketches… Smith, Lucy Mack, Liverpool, England: S. W. Richards. 1853)

(Magic circles are used to form a space of magical protection from an evil spirit. Soothsaying is the supernatural ability to perceive things, including what may happen in the future)

Bleeding Ghosts:

I, [Lewis] with Joshua McKune, a local preacher at that time, I think in June, 1828, heard on Saturday, that Joe Smith had joined the [Methodist] church on Wednesday afternoon, (as it was customary in those days to have circuit preaching at my father’s house on week-day). We thought it was a disgrace to the church to have a practicing necromancer, a dealer in enchantments and bleeding ghosts, in it. So on Sunday we went to father’s, the place of meeting that day, and got there in season to see Smith and talked with him some time in father’s shop before the meeting. Told him that his occupation, habits, and moral character were at variance with the discipline, that his name would be a disgrace to the church, that there should have been recantation, confession and at least promised reformation. That he could that day publicly ask that his name be stricken from the class book, or stand an investigation. He chose the former, and did that very day make the request that his name be taken off the class book. (The Amboy Journal, June 11, 1879, p.1)

Murdered Man Guarding the Treasure:

Joseph Smith’s father told Fayette Lapham about the spirit of a dead man guarding the golden plates:

“… he was murdered or slain on the spot and the treasure had been under his charge ever since.” (Money-Digging Folklore and the Beginnings of Mormonism: An Interpretive Suggestion, Marvin S. Hill, BYU Studies, p. 480) see image below:


This was the same type of yarn which was recorded in Joseph Smith’s 1826 Glass Looking Trial:

“… he [Joseph Smith] discovered distinctly the two Indians who buried the trunk; that a quarrel ensued between them, and that one of said Indians was killed by the other, and thrown into the hole beside of the trunk, to guard it, as he supposed.” (1826 Glass Looking Trial, Jonathan Thompson Testimony, Pearsall Account)

The words,

“… as he supposed.”

reveal what Joseph Smith believed about treasure guardians was a common theme back in his day. Consider the implications: early versions of the golden plate’s accounts are along similar lines.


1. “In the moment of excitement, Joseph was overcome by the powers of darkness, and forgot the injunction that was laid upon him. Having some further conversation with the angel on this occasion, Joseph was permitted to raise the stone again, when he beheld the plates as he had done before. He immediately reached forth his hand to take them, but instead of getting them, as he anticipated, he was hurled back upon the ground with great violence. When he recovered, the angel was gone, and he arose and returned to the house weeping for grief and disappointment.” (Lucy Mack Smith History 1845, p. 88)

2. Statements of Joseph and Hiel Lewis, sons of Rev. Nathaniel Lewis, concerning what they saw and heard of the sayings and doings of the prophet Joseph Smith, jr. while he was engaged in peeping for money and hidden treasures, and translating his gold bible in our neighborhood.

“In all this narrative, there was not one word about ‘visions of God,’ or of angels, or heavenly revelations. All his information was by that dream, and that bleeding ghost. The heavenly visions and messages of angels, etc, contained in Mormon books, were after-thoughts, revised to order.” (The Amboy Journal, June 11, 1879, p.1)

Full Article Index / LDS SERIES

Articles of interest:

LDS Lesson 1 — Rich Kelsey

LDS Lesson 2 — Rich Kelsey

■ Joseph Smith Stone In Hat Routine — Rich Kelsey