In the late 19th century, Constantine Sanders was known as Alabama’s Sleeping Preacher. Often writing down premonitions and visions from a “trance state” that would be signed by his “companion” X+Y=Z. Was Sanders evil? Possessed? Or haunted by X+Y=Z?
A “sleeping preacher” as they have been known for centuries, is a person who preaches a sermon, addresses an audience or shares prophecies or visions, while in a trance state. Somewhere between awake and asleep.
Most historical accounts are connected to a religion with the belief that the sleeping preacher has been inspired by God or some higher power. Accounts of Sleeping preachers date back to the 16th century with historical records of men and women possessing this gift. Some call it a gift. Others consider these “episodes” to be a manifestation of evil.
Sleeping preachers have been associated with pastors from a wide range of denominations. Many experienced fear and abandonment when their ability was exposed.
The earliest accounts of trance preaching are found in 16th and 17th century Germany. Reports emerged in England, Switzerland and France by the early 18th century. Historical accounts have shown similarities between trance preachers at this time…many were female children.
In all cases, from children to adults, the person would fall back as they entered their trance like state. They would begin to quote long texts from scripture. Simultaneously terrifying and inspiring those who watched this happen. A majority of those who entered a trance like “preaching state” as they called it…could not read or write. Had never read or studied a Bible or a single book. They would emerge from their trance confused and with no understanding or memory of what had happened.
Some feared what was over taking their mind.
Constantine Blackmon Sanders experienced that fear. Questioned himself and his work as a pastor when he realized something was taking control of his being and sharing visions, even healing the sick, when Sanders was in his trance state. This companion would write down its messages and always signed the messages: X+Y=Z.
There was one place Constantine Sanders felt at peace: Mooresville, Alabama. Here, in this Alabama village, Sanders felt at peace. It was his sanctuary where no one called him evil, questioned his motives or treated him like an outcast. Below you’ll see photos of the Old Brick Church where Sanders preached sermons. See more photos of the village here.
READ X+Y=Z or The Sleeping Preacher of North Alabama. Containing An Account of Most Wonderful Mysterious Mental Phenomena, Fully Authenticated By Living Witnesses. The book is available, in its entirety, here
More episode sources
Constantine B. Sanders, The Sleeping Preacher of North Alabama by Elbert Watson. Huntsville Historical Review, April 1971.
Trance Preaching In The United States by Don Yoder. Pennsylvania Folklife Vol 18 No.2
Hidden History of North Alabama by Jacquelyn Procter Reeves
Alabama, One Big Front Porch by Kathryn Tucker Windham
“Lightless Dawn”, “Easy Day”, “Evening Fall Harp”, “Ambient”, “Long Note 1”, “Long Note 2”, “Long Note 4”, “Dark Times” and “Peace of Mind” by Kevin MacLeod. “Resolution” by Wayne Jones. “A Revelation” by Jeremy Blake. Licensed under Creative Commons