I came across on YouTube a BRITISH MOVIETONE NEWSREEL of trance medium Meurig Morris and her guide ‘Power’ delivering a trance address.

Here is the background story behind that demonstration:

Born in 1899, trance medium, (Louisa Anne) Meurig Morris’s psychic gifts were noticeable at an early age, but were stifled by an orthodox education. However, she began to develop rapidly after joining Mr Maddams circle in Newton Abbot in 1922. “I sat in his group and went into trance. I was told that my work would be spiritual teaching and philosophy.”

“Little Sunshine,” the spirit of a child, spoke through her, “Father O’Keefe” an old Irish priest described as “an elderly man with a long beard and thin face” and “Sister Magdalene,” the spirit of a French nun, who assumed charge as principal trance control were her main controls

The prediction came through that Morris would be trained for the delivery of teaching by a spirit called “Power.”

Under the control of “Power,” the medium’s soprano voice changed to a ringing  baritone, her mannerisms became masculine and priestly, and the teachings disclosed an erudition and sophisticated philosophy that was far above the intellectual capacities of the medium.

Morris’s rise into the forefront of inspired orators was punctuated with two publicly attested supernormal occurrences. First, an attempt was made by the Columbia Gramophone Company to make a phonograph record of “Power’s” voice. According to the publicly rendered account of company spokesperson C. W. Nixon, at the very commencement of the experiment an incident occurred that by all the rules should have spoiled the first side of the record.

Ernest Oaten, president of the International Federation of Spiritualists, was in the chair, and, being unaware that the start was to be made without the appearance of the usual red light, he whispered loudly  to Morris as she stood up: “Wait for the signal.” These words were picked up by the microphone and heard by the engineers in the recording room after the apparatus had been started, and it was believed they must be on the record. Later, when the second side of the record was to be made, there was confusion in starting, and towards the end, as if to make technical failure a certainty, Morris turned and walked several paces away from the microphone.

A week before the record was ready for reproduction, Cowen telephoned Nixon and told him that “Power” had asserted that notwithstanding the technical mistakes the record would be a success, that Oaten’s whispered words would not be reproduced, and that the timing and volume of the voice would not be spoiled by the later accidents.

This statement was so extraordinary and appeared to be so preposterous in view of technical expectations, that Nixon had it taken down word by word, and sent it in a sealed envelope to Oaten in Manchester with the request that he would keep it unopened until the record was ready, and the truth or otherwise of the prediction could be tested. The record was played in the Fortune Theatre on April 25, 1931. It was found perfect. The letter was opened and read. The prediction was true in every detail.

The second strange incident occurred in the studios of the British Movietone Company where a talking film was made of “Power’s” oratory. Seventy people saw the microphones high in the air, held up by new half-inch ropes. The rope suddenly snapped (it was found cut as with a sharp knife) and a terrific crash startled all present. Within half an inch of Morris’s face, the microphone swept across the space and went swaying to and  fro. A foremen rushed up and dragged the rope aside to keep it out of sight of the camera. The cameraman never stopped filming. Nor did Morris falter. In spite of the obvious danger to her life she never stirred and went on undisturbed with her trance speech.

According to expert opinion the voice registering must have been a failure. Yet it was found that the accident had not the least influence. The record was perfect. According to “Power’s” later revelation, everything was planned. The ropes were supernormally severed so as to prove, by the medium’s demeanour, that she was indeed in trance (which a newspaper questioned) as no human being could have consciously exhibited such self-possession as she did when the accident occurred.

Sir Oliver Lodge, in his book Past Years (1931), refers to Morris: “When the medium’s own vocal organs are obviously being used—as in most cases of trance utterances—the proof of supernormality rests mainly on the substance of what is being said; but, occasionally the manner is surprising. I have spoken above of a characteristically cultured mode of expression, when a scholar is speaking, not easily imitated by an uncultured person; but, in addition to that a loud male voice may emanate from a female larynx and may occasionally attain oratorical proportions. Moreover, the orator may deal with great themes in a style which we cannot associate with the fragile little woman who has gone into trance and is now under control. This is a phenomenon which undoubtedly calls attention to the existence of something supernormal, and can be appealed to as testifying to the reality and activity of a spiritual world. It is, indeed, being used for purposes of such demonstration, and seems well calculated to attract more and more attention from serious and religious people; who would be discouraged and offended by the trivial and barely intelligible abnormalities associated with what are called physical (or physiological) phenomena and would not be encouraged by what is called clairvoyance.”

In April 1932, Morris sued the Daily Mail for a poster reading “Trance Medium Found Out,” and also for statements made in the article to which the poster referred. The action lasted for 11 days. The summary of Justice McCardie was dramatically interrupted by the sudden entrancement of Morris and an address of “Power” to the judge. The jury found for the newspaper on the plea of fair comment but added that no allegations of fraud or dishonesty against Morris had been proved. Morris’s appeal, after a hearing of four days before Lord Justices Scrutton, Lawrence, and Greer, was dismissed. The House of Lords, to which the case was afterward carried, agreed with the Court of Appeal.



(Ira Erastus(1839-1911) and William Henry (1841-1877))

Famous American demonstrators of claimed spirit medium-ship who performed before large audiences on the theatrical stage. Their father was a police official in Buffalo, New York, where Ira was born on September 17, 1839, and William on February 1, 1841.

In 1846—two years before an outbreak of paranormal activity at Hydesville, New York—”raps, thumps, loud noises, snaps, crackling noises” were reportedly heard at the Davenport home during the night. In 1850, in the wake of the widely reported events in Hydesville, the Davenport boys and their younger sister Elisabeth tried table-turning. According to their father, the table soon moved, raps were heard, messages were spelled out, and Ira’s hand began to write automatically. A little later a simultaneous levitation of the three children was witnessed by all present. On the fifth night of the experiments, to comply with rapping directions, Ira fired a pistol into a vacant corner of the room. At the instant of firing the pistol was taken from his hand and in the flash a human figure was seen holding it and smiling at the company. The apparition was the first appearance of “John King,” their self-appointed control. It lasted for an instant only, and with the extinction of the flash the figure vanished, the pistol falling to the floor.

A short time later a public rope-tying performance, for which the brothers became famous, was instituted on direction from the spirits. The brothers released themselves from the most complicated knots remarkably quickly. In due course both direct-writing and direct voice phenomena developed, and the brothers took to the road as performers, holding public séances amid challenging circumstances. Public committees were set up to examine the Davenports’ phenomena, and their rope tying developed into an art of torture.

In 1857 the Boston Courier offered a reward of $500 for the production of genuine physical phenomena. Dr. H. F. Gardner of Boston accepted the challenge and arranged, before a committee of Harvard professors (consisting of Benjamin Pierce, Louis Agassiz, B. A. Gould, and E. N. Horsford), a series of séances with the sisters Kate Fox and Leah Fish, J. W. Mansfield, Dr. G. A. Redman, and the Davenport brothers. The Davenports were tied in the most brutal manner, the ropes drawn through holes bored in the cabinet and firmly knotted outside to make a network; the knots were tied with linen. Pierce sat in the cabinet between the mediums. As soon as he entered, an invisible hand shot the bolt, and the din of musical instruments began. A phantom hand was thrust through a small, curtained opening near the top of the middle door of the wardrobe-like cabinet, and the professor felt it touch his head and face.

At the end of the séance, the mediums were found released, and (according to T. L. Nichols’s biography) the ropes were found twisted around Pierce’s neck. (The latter statement, however, was pronounced “shamelessly false” by the Boston Courier.) The committee issued only a brief negative report; a complete report was never published. It was countered by the report of Dr. Loomis, a professor of chemistry and toxicology at Georgetown Medical College, who also investigated the brothers. He concluded that the manifestations were produced through some new unknown force.

A Professor Mapes also had interesting experiences with the Davenports in Buffalo. He conversed with “John King” in direct voice for half an hour. His hand was seized in a powerful grasp, and when it was taken a second time, the phantom hand increased in size and was covered with hair. A large table on the elevated platform where the mediums were sitting was carried in an instant over the heads of the sitters and deposited in the most distant part of the room.

While some found the phenomena inexplicable, charges and evidence of fraud soon emerged. For example, a letter from Dr. John F. Gray, a well-known New York Spiritualist, to Epes Sargent (June 7, 1864) states: “I have not seen the Davenports this time here; but I entertain no doubt of the genuineness of the manifestations made in their presence. When they were here some years ago they were detected in making spurious manifestations when the genuine failed.”

As a means of control, investigators often filled the hands of the mediums with flour or placed pennies on their shoes after carefully drawing the outline of the shoes on a piece of paper beneath them. When the door of the cabinet was opened, the flour was found in the brothers’ hands as before, no white spots were on their clothes, and the pennies were in place.

The performance while sitting in the cabinet was called the light séance. There was a second part, the dark séance, in which the lights in the room were extinguished and the mediums sat tightly bound to their chairs between the other sitters. Tying and releasing occurred as in the cabinet. The swishing of rope was heard. The knots presented no obstacle. Sometimes every intermediate knot was left undone, with the seal at the end, yet the mediums were found free. As an additional amusement the rope was often coiled around the neck of some sitter. Then through the ropes, in some mysterious way, the coats of the mediums, or their waistcoats underneath, were whisked off and on again.

Those who entered the cabinet to sit with the brothers in the light séance were usually victims of strange pranks. Their handkerchiefs were taken, their breast pins removed and stuck into their coats, and their spectacles transferred to the face of one of the mediums.

“I have, at different times,” wrote Robert Cooper, who spent seven months with the Davenport brothers in England and on the Continent, “seen at least three hundred persons enter the cabinet, all of whom certified that there was no movement on the part of the Brothers.”

The Davenport brothers arrived in England in 1864. They were accompanied by the Rev. J. B. Ferguson, a former pastor from Nashville, Tennessee, who was famous throughout the South; D. Palmer, their operatic manager, who acted as secretary; and William M. Fay, another physical medium. Their stay in England was strenuous. Public opposition was violent, but interest in their feats was tremendous, and the Spiritualists reaped rewards of favorable press.

Their first séance in London was held privately at the residence of Dion Boucicault, the famous actor and author, in the presence of scientists and members of the press. In a report on the séance, after describing the babel generated by the musical instruments playing in the light and dark séances, a correspondent for The Times continues: “A new experiment was now made. Darkness having regained its supremacy, one of the brothers expressed a desire to be relieved of his coat. Returning light showed him in his shirt-sleeves, though his hands were still firmly bound behind the chair. It was now stated that he was prepared to put on the coat of any one of the company willing to ‘loan’ that article of attire, and an assenting gentleman having been found, the coat, after a short interval of darkness, was worn in proper fashion by a person for whom it had not been designed by the tailor. Finally, the brothers desired a release, and one of the company, certainly not an accomplice, requested that the rope might fall into his lap. During the interval of darkness a rushing sound as of swiftly-drawn cords was audible, and the ropes reached the required knees, after striking the face of the person in the next chair.”

The Times correspondent said he was not sure that he had witnessed simple conjuring. An account in The Standard says the knots were tied by a sailor who was “profound” at knot tying, and the reporter of the Daily Telegraph was not certain whether the feats were “the annihilation of what are called material laws” or a display of some extraordinary physical dexterity. He was unsure whether to regard the believers in Spiritualism as “the embodiment of a mutual and colossal self-deceit, or the silent heralds of a social revolution which must shake the world.”

The Davenport public séances began in October 1864 at the Queen’s Court Concert Rooms, Hanover Square, London. They continued almost nightly until the end of the year. No committee could pinpoint the brothers’ fraud, though a group of stage magicians attempted to prove that the performance was fraudulent.

It is probable that a sailor could tie a magician so that he could not free himself. “But no person,” declares T. L. Nichols in Supramundane Facts in the Life of the Rev. J. B. Ferguson (1865), “of all the hundreds who have tried, has ever tied the Davenports or Mr. Fay so that they were not freed in a few minutes, nor so that the manifestations, which must have been made either by them or by an intelligent, invisible force attending them, did not occur in two seconds.”

Although their stay in London was somewhat successful, the Davenports and Fay met with open hostility in the countryside. In Liverpool, for example, two members selected from the audience tied the mediums with a peculiarly intricate knot. The mediums protested that it was unfairly tight and injured their circulation. A doctor from the audience made an examination and pronounced against them. The Davenports refused to sit and asked Ferguson to cut the knot. The next night a riot broke out and the party left town. At Hull, Huddersfield, and Leeds they found a hostile public, inclined to lynch them. Since they did not find the police protection sufficient, they broke off their engagements. In a letter to Ferguson, the Davenports later wrote: “Were we mere jugglers we should meet with no violence, or we should find protection. Could we declare that these things done in our presence were deception of the senses, we should, no doubt, reap a plentiful harvest of money and applause. As tricks they would transcend, according to the testimony of experienced observers, any ever exhibited in Occident or Orient. The wonders of the cabinet, or still more, of the dark séance, surpass all pretentions of conjurers. We should safely defy the world to equal them, and be honoured for our dexterity. But we are not jugglers, and truthfully declare that we are not, and we are mobbed from town to town, our property destroyed and our lives imperilled.”

The truth of these wonders was solemnly promulgated by Ferguson: “I have in their presence had articulate and audible conversation with a voice which was not theirs, nor that of any living person. With this I have conversed as a man talks with his friend, while the power or being from which the voice proceeded made its presence and reality known to me by other physical manifestations. In railway carriages, when in company with the Brothers Davenport and Mr. Fay, in passing through dark tunnels, I have been manipulated all over my body by hands seemingly human, sometimes unexpectedly, others at my request, when no one present could have touched me without my knowledge.”

Robert Cooper’s Spiritual Experiences (1867) thus sums up seven months’ of close observation: “I can truly say that during the whole time I was with them, extending over a period of seven months, I never saw aught to indicate that they were anything but passive instruments, the manifestations being produced by a power outside themselves. Indeed, I feel quite sure they could not accomplish these things by natural means without being detected every week of their lives; and I give it as my deliberate conviction after all the opportunities I have had of forming an opinion, that their manifestations are a reality; if they are not, then all creation is a myth and our senses nothing worth.”

In France, where the Davenports travelled after their misadventures in England, they could not get the necessary permit to exhibit in public for some time, since the authorities feared similar disturbances. When the time finally arrived for their first performance, an emissary of a conjurer named Robin stepped onto the platform. Under pretence of examining the cabinet, he tore off the rail that supported one of the seats and, holding it up before the excited crowd, asserted that he had discovered a secret spring. Because of the confusion that arose, the police cleared the room. A few days later the séances continued, but by order of the prefect attendance was restricted to 60 persons.

Some magicians were more friendly, however. The famous conjurer Hamilton, and one Rhys, a manufacturer of conjuring implements, state in letters to the Davenports published in the Gazette des Etrangers (September 27, 1865) that the phenomena were inexplicable and could not be attributed to fraud. In later years a Professor Jacobs similarly testified that the phenomena seen in Paris “were absolutely true and belonged to the spiritual order of things in every respect.” Before they left Paris, the Davenports were summoned to appear before the Emperor and the Empress Napoleon at the palace of St. Cloud. A party of 40 witnessed their demonstration with astonishment. They were well received in Belgium and appeared in St. Petersburg before the Czar in the Winter Palace. Their first public séance in St. Petersburg was attended by a thousand people.

In 1868 they returned to England. At Cooper’s initiative the Anthropological Society appointed a committee to investigate their phenomena. A trial séance was held, which the committee considered a failure. The conditions they proposed were found unacceptable by the mediums, and the investigation was broken off.

In 1876 the Davenports visited Australia. The following year William Davenport died in Sydney on July 1, 1877. His brother had the cabinet, ropes, and so forth engraved on William’s tombstone. Ira returned to Mayville, New York, and continued to give stage demonstrations with another partner in Boston, Washington, and Pennsylvania. In 1906 he toured Jamaica and Cuba. His last performance was on November 19, 1906, for an American regiment near Santiago de Cuba. He died on his farm in Mayville, July 8, 1911.

The general conclusion regarding the Davenport brothers’ phenomena is that their performance was simple stage conjuring. Trick cabinets and rope tying were standard items of stage magic at the time, and Harry Houdini and his students demonstrated feats equal to and surpassing those of the Davenports. The brothers’ refusal to continue with a performance in England when their wrists were tied too tightly argues against spirit agency, since this should have operated even in such unfavourable circumstances considering other marvels that were demonstrated. They escaped any exposure of trickery though, in spite of observation by alert and intelligent investigators (which other mediums also accomplished only to be caught later), and their release from binding with strong ropes was phenomenally rapid—often taking only two or three minutes.

Furthermore, during their long and chequered career the Davenports never claimed to know how their phenomena occurred. In a letter he wrote to Houdini, Ira Davenport declares, “We never in public affirmed our belief in Spiritualism. That we regarded as no business of the public, nor did we offer our entertainment as the result of sleight-of-hand or, on the other hand, as Spiritualism. We let our friends and foes settle that as best they could between themselves but, unfortunately, we were often the victims of their disagreement.”

In A Magician Among the Spirits (1924) Houdini claims that Ira Davenport admitted that he was a fraud and described how the rope trick was performed. There is no independent confirmation of this admission, however, and Houdini privately voiced different opinions to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In The Edge of the Unknown (1930), Doyle asserts, “I was an intimate friend of Ira Erastus Davenport. I can make the positive assertion that the Davenport Brothers never were exposed…. I know more about the Davenports than anyone living.”


The Mediumship of Stella Cranshaw

The Mediumship of Stella Cranshaw

One of the descriptions of Stella Cranshaw, better known as ‘Stella C.’, was that she was ‘a simple, well-educated girl whose main interest in life was not in psychical science at all, but to whom “odd” things occurred’.

After being ‘discovered’ by Harry Price in 1923, Stella undertook thirteen sittings with him early in the same year: after a break, possibly through becoming engaged, she resumed sittings from February 1926. Stella had a degree of interest in the phenomena that surrounded her, but she had no wish to actually probe them for a meaning. As Tabori notes: ‘She thought them strange but felt little concern about them. She was perfectly happy in her chosen career – a hospital nurse and dispenser’; her amiable disposition led Price and his colleagues to refer to Stella as the ‘gentle maiden’. When Price met Stella, she ‘knew nothing whatever about psychical research, and had never sat with a circle of investigators’

In the years leading up to her chance encounter with Price, she had often been the focus of different phenomena, e.g. strong breezes, object movement, rappings and lights, but had done nothing to investigate them. The breezes were of particular interest due to their highly unusual character. It was noted that when Stella was motionless, a breeze would ‘sweep across the room, taking in its path the flowers, which bend under the strain’. Such occurrences even took place on occasions when she was in a room where the windows and doors were firmly closed, or a ‘hot, still night, when not the slightest ripple in the atmosphere has been noticeable in the open air’. Of those who witnessed the lights which would sometimes appear, they compared these to the sparks generated by an electrical discharge.

Tabori mentions that Stella had only attended one séance in her life before meeting Price: this was ‘at the age of eleven – and then had to be removed from it because of a fit of unconscious giggling’.

Price presumably believed that in Stella, he had found someone with considerable mediumistic abilities; he therefore asked her to co- operate in his work, and was surely delighted when she agreed.

In the case of the first series of séances with her, a thermometer was placed within the room and invariably a reduction in temperature, sometimes quite dramatic, was noted during the proceedings. It was interesting to note that the temperature reduction coincided with the more powerful phenomena. Careful records were made of the séances and these documented the types of phenomena manifested. In the séance room, a sixty-watt lamp was available, controlled by a rheostat. Furthermore, despite the criticisms made of doing it, incense was burned; it was not through any belief that it would, or could directly assist the phenomena, but simply because Stella enjoyed this. A musical box was also used.

The regular sitters included a number of people from varied backgrounds, e.g. Mercy Phillimore, the General Secretary of the LSA, Lt.-Col. W. W. Hardwick, the Managing Editor of ‘Light’, H. W. Pugh, an SPR member, David Thomas, a retired barrister, and Harry Price. Those who were not regular sitters, but attended a number of the séances, included Everard Feilding who had carried out successful research with Eusapia Palladino, and Dr Dingwall, the Research Officer of the SPR. When the séances took place, one of the regular sitters sat on the right of Stella and controlled her right hand and foot, and Price sat on her left controlling Stella’s hand and foot on that side. In the midst of this, it was noted: ‘Never was a medium easier to control than Stella. She did exactly as she was requested, and made no comments – in fact, she hardly spoke at all’.

The records that were made provide a truly remarkable insight into what the sitters were fortunate enough to witness. In the first séance on 22 March, 1923, after twenty minutes from the commencement, the table began to move and rose up on two legs and quickly moved across the room. After this, ‘the table then oscillated, and was apparently controlled by an intelligent entity’. The red light was then switched off although a little light still entered the room through the window: at this, the table moved even more dramatically. During the séance, one of the sitters noticed a ‘column of pale phosphorescent light just behind the medium’. On checking the temperature of the room when the séance concluded, it was discovered that it had fallen by eleven degrees.

In the second séance on 29 March, 1923, the table moved almost constantly throughout the period and it was noted that one of the sitter’s hands had become obscured by ‘some substance (teleplasm?)’. During the latter period, the table movement was accompanied by raps given in response to questions asked, and breezes were also felt by all the sitters present. Once again the temperature fell dramatically. It was also reported that Stella’s position in the room made it ‘physically impossible for her normally to control the table in any way’.

In the third séance on 5 April, 1923, the table levitated and was followed by communication achieved by rapping. It was then decided to use a table again whereupon it levitated several times; in one case it rose above the heads of the sitters who had to rise up to keep some contact with it. However, one unfortunate sitter who decided to remain in his seat was struck by it and then had it descending to rest upon his chest. After the sitters had resumed contact with the table, two of the legs broke away. This activity took place with either a full red light or a degree of daylight.

In the fourth séance on 12 April, 1923, after yet further table movement, the sitters ascertained that Stella’s control was called ‘Palma’, apparently a young child, presumably explaining the gusto displayed in the table communication/movement. Tabori refers to her as ‘an intelligent entity which followed requests and moved a heavy oak table in accordance with the directions given’.

Later in the séance, Stella fell into a light trance state and said that she was seeing a copy of the ‘Daily Mail’, relating to thirty-seven days ahead (i.e., 19 May, 1923). She also reported that she could see a reference to an ‘Andrew Salt’ in large characters and felt this was connected with a boy falling and a man, who seemed to be of the medical profession, stooping over the boy and giving him white powder from a container. As none of the sitters could understand any of this, little attention was given to what had been said. However, on 19 May 1923, it was noticed that the ‘Daily Mail’ had a full page advertisement on its cover page. This was for ‘Andrews Liver Salt’ in large characters, together with a boy pouring, or allowing the falling of white powder from a container. The number of correct features of Stella’s description when compared with the advertisement was totalled as being ten, possibly eleven. The only item missing from all the features that Stella had mentioned was a man with a medical connection, although it was noted that the product itself was of a medicinal type. Enquiries were made into the background of the advertisement and it was ascertained that the advertisement had not been in any poster display; moreover, the ‘Daily Mail’ confirmed that it was only three weeks before the publication date (i.e., at the end of April) that it had been requested to publish this particular advertisement; in fact another had been planned for this issue, but the arrangement had been changed, and furthermore, changed after the time of Stella’s vision. Price observed of this: ‘I have no explanation or hypothesis to offer for the above amazing case of prevision’.

In the fifth séance on 19 April, 1923, there was, in full red light, the usual table movement, and when ‘Palma’ was asked to communicate by rapping, the sitters were confronted by four different types which occurred in different areas at the same time. Further progress was made when an experiment was carried out with the table; in this instance the medium and sitters moved well away from the table and had no contact with it and yet it was seen to move, accompanied by raps being made. After this, the table moved towards Hardwick, injuring his knee; when it rose up on two legs, all the sitters present tried to push it down but were unsuccessful. One only has to consider the power that must have been made present by the communicator(s) to gain some idea about the energy of the phenomena manifested through Stella’s mediumship.

Another such occasion was during the sixth séance, on 3 May 1923, when the table ‘started to wander around the room, compelling the sitters to relinquish their seats’. In the same sitting, two other events took place; firstly a large piece of lilac fell down on to the table. Although a vase of lilacs had been in the séance room earlier on, this had been removed to another room on a different floor, and Price agrees that there was ‘no explanation…as to how it apparently fell from the ceiling on to the table top’. Secondly, those present were fortunate to witness how a ‘bright blue…flash appeared over the head of medium. These flashes were repeated six times’. Indicating an intelligence behind this particular phenomenon, while the lights were appearing, the name of one of the sitters was rapped out, together with other words.

The seventh séance on 10 May, 1923, manifested yet further phenomena; in addition to the table movement and rapping, a handbell under the table was moved (during this time, the hands of all the sitters were linked and visible, and the feet of each sitter were touching the person on either side). This was followed by notes being played on the mouth-organ, also under the table; this was accompanied by a bright flash of light above one of the sitters. Further notes were then played on the instruments. One of the sitters stated that she observed a formation of ectoplasm above the medium, while another saw what was believed to be ‘Palma’. The séance also experienced breezes and the movements of different objects. For the first time, Stella became fully entranced and it was noted that when this occurred, there was a greater assortment of phenomena. The events which took place in each séance as the series continued, clearly indicated the progress being achieved.

The reality of this was made apparent by the eighth séance on 17 May, 1923. As soon as the séance began, breezes were felt and different musical instruments placed within a cage area under the table, were played. There were also several occasions of lights being seen above Stella’s head. In the case of the instruments, Dr Fodor refers to how they were encased by wood from an outer table and the gauze mesh of the inner table, but ‘nevertheless, the operators of Stella C. found no difficulty in getting within and playing upon the instruments’.

In the ninth séance on 24 May, 1923, the sitters spoke to ‘Palma’ who responded by clear raps to indicate that she was responsible for the phenomena; these included the musical instruments again being played, accompanied by lights appearing in the séance room and obvious movement of different objects. The remaining séances on 7 June, 21 June, 27 September, 14 October, were no less spectacular. Shortly before the last séances, there had been some discussion about Stella going to America, but for various reasons this did not occur.

There was a break until 1926 with Stella having taken up employment in Clerkenwell with a business of silversmiths. The next séances took place between February and July 1926 (numbering eighteen), then in 1927 (the only report that exists is for the one on 28 April), and were followed by further ones between March and July 1928. In these, the phenomena continued. The 1928 series included sitters who had a noted scientific background, e.g. Professor Julian Huxley, Dr E. B. Strauss, and Lord Charles Hope; the observation of the latter in respect of the 1928 series is enlightening. Writing in the SPR Journal, he recorded: ‘At three out of the last four sittings considerable phenomena were obtained, clearly denoting a supernormal origin…These phenomena, although not appearing to indicate the direction of any profound intelligence, yet did not give the impression of an uncontrolled force at work’. This series included object movement, rapping (in one case, it kept time with the music being played), breezes, and sitters becoming aware of sensations on their own bodies.

After Stella married Leslie Deacon in 1928, she had no further involvement in the subject of psychical research, although she kept in contact with Price after this date. Tabori notes that Stella ‘was one of the very few mediums in whose genuineness all the people who sat with her believed without reservation. She was never “temperamental”, she did not demand any special ritual and made no stipulations’. In the very short time during which Stella was prepared to undergo tests, she revealed something of the potential of undeveloped physical mediumship. It is natural to wonder what she would have been able to achieve under different circumstances. Undoubtedly, the phenomena produced by her were far less than in the case of many other physical mediums, but the noteworthy factor is the amount produced in such a short period of time and under such stringent conditions. It is surely because of this, one name that will always be remembered in the list of powerful physical mediums of twentieth century Britain is that of Stella Cranshaw, ‘the gentle maiden’.

Note:- (1)Harry Price was involved with a number of well-known physical mediums, e.g. Stella C., Helen Duncan, and Rudi Scheneider. He was a complex and highly controversial figure who sought publicity and frequently irritated Spiritualists. What was his personal view of the subject?

Mrs Clarice Richards, a close friend, admitted that Price did believe in an afterlife. In “The Future of Faith”, ed. Percy Colson, Price replied to the question of whether communication with the dead had been established:

‘Scientifically, no: occasionally and spontaneously, yes’. His belief was presumably overshadowed by his Christian convictions (he was a devout Christian and warden of the church at Pulborough): Tabori sums up the position as: ‘he rejected Spiritualism as a religion just because it was contrary to the tenets of the Church of England’ (Harry Price: Ghost Hunter, pp.13,22).

(2)Stella’s surname is found in different material, and bewilderingly sometimes in the same material, spelt with and without an ‘e’. However, in her letters to Price, she signed herself as ‘Cranshaw’.

The Mediumship of George Spriggs

The Mediumship of George Spriggs

George Spriggs (1850-1912) is rightly designated as a ‘powerful English materialisation medium’ by Nandor Fodor.

The first records made of his mediumship began in the 1870s, being witnessed at ‘the Circle of Light’ in Cardiff. George worked as a non-professional medium at the circle, this having been formed by Rees Lewis in 1875.

The circle enjoyed spectacular results and may have possibly been linked to the arduous routine adopted by its members; this included a vegetarian diet, abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, and fasting on the day of the séance: a special room was also set aside for the séances. Possibly more relevant was that the circle was, according to Lewis, ‘physically, intellectually and morally good’; the members saw their activity more as a sacred service than an attempt to simply commune with ‘the other side’. Until George joined the circle, there had been limited to table-turning; however, when he participated, dramatic phenomena began.

The first indications of his mediumship were the occurrences of automatic writing and clairvoyance; these were followed by the appearance of a luminous cloud in the séance room that signalled greater things would soon follow. And indeed they did, with full materializations joining the circle and speaking to the sitters; on occasions, as many as twelve materialized persons would appear during one séance: in this time, George was also visible. Furthermore, séances could be conducted when, ‘the light at times streamed in, permeating every corner of the room, and falling on the form of the spirit’.

Most people acquainted with this type of phenomena and communication are aware that a negative or even a disbelieving nature reduces the degree of quality. While this in itself attracts criticism, the reality of the situation has been noted time and time again. Robertson noted that the Cardiff circle were disinterested in any scientific testing because: ‘They had the evidence of their eyes, their ears, and their hands. The faces of those they had known, the voices they knew of old, were sufficient for them’. This does not mean everything has to be accepted at face value with blind faith: this attitude is, and has always been quite alien to authentic Spiritualism; but the fact remains that a positive stance does assist in quality communication, and having received this, it may then be evaluated accordingly. In the upshot, it can be seen that the right attitude secures the best results, and the Cardiff Circle was a very apt example of this.

It has often been observed that in most cases, materializations are confined to appearing within a certain distance of the medium. However, George’s mediumship differed in this respect as those who materialized could function at some distance from him, e.g. walking about the property and even into the garden. Robertson recorded how the next-world visitors ‘would come out of the sitting-room into the hall and show themselves in good light. They would ascend a short flight of stairs, open the doors of the rooms, and enter them’.

In one case, Lewis was accompanied by a materialization, holding his arm, as he walked downstairs, a distance of about fifty feet. In the midst of such activities, a direct voice could also sometimes be heard.

One of the more amusing aspects of George’s mediumship was that in the case of spirits going out into the garden, this upset the religious neighbours who saw and heard them, and threatened to call the police. An interesting feature of the materializations facilitated by George was that a form would change into another person without having to dematerialize, and the second visitor was spared having to go through the process of appearing from a basic form. The argument that the materialized forms were simply George undergoing transfiguration was shown to be incorrect as he could be seen when the figures joined the circle and then dematerialized in front of the sitters.

A record was kept, detailing those who attended and what had occurred, and Lewis wrote about the events that were witnessed, e.g. in Light in 1886.

In 1880, George travelled to Melbourne, Australia; before he left, he asked Lewis to demonstrate his own survival after he died, and if possible, in a lighted environment. On arriving in Australia, George continued to produce the same type of phenomena that had been witnessed in Cardiff. An editor who attended fifty of George’s séances testified that he recognized associates who had died.

After many months of not hearing from Lewis, George was outside his home one afternoon in the bright Australian sunshine and felt his clothing being pulled; on turning around he recognized his friend, Rees Lewis: Lewis had died a week earlier. He had kept his promise.

Another instance that demonstrated George’s remarkable mediumship was the case of three teenagers who had drowned while sailing. Hugh Junor Browne, the father of two of them, went to George seeking information after they had not returned home. George, not knowing anything about the circumstances, went into trance and told Browne there had been trouble at sea, and described the movements of the boat and advised that it had foundered.

During séances on the following two days, George was controlled by all three boys who confirmed what had been said earlier. Three weeks later, the remains of one of Browne’s sons were recovered from the sea; amongst them was the boy’s watch and this had stopped at the very time that George had said the ship had foundered. Fortunately, Browne was a Spiritualist, and the boys were acquainted with its teachings and testified to how their knowledge had assisted them in their transition. In fact, ‘the lads made their materialised appearance once or twice a week, and the father and others recognized them distinctly, and were cheered by the messages they gave’.

Meads, a prominent worker and speaker for Spiritualism in its early days, once attended a meeting arranged in honour of the American medium, Mrs Wallace, and was seated next to George during the events. While one of the speeches was being made, Meads became aware of ‘faint rappings’ on the platform. On commenting upon this to George, he calmly replied that he had not only heard them, but seen the next-world visitor responsible.

Meads added that on meeting George, he had ‘formed a very favourable impression of his sincerity and honesty’. George’s abilities for materialization had faded by 1886, although he continued with his work of healing. Many testified to their recovery through his intervention. Meads also made mention of George’s abilities in this respect saying that he doubted, ‘if any medium had surpassed him in diagnosing disease’. Furthermore, ‘he asked no questions, but carefully avoided the subject of health’; in fact, George was quite ignorant of health matters, but having passed into a trance state, he would locate the area causing concern and prescribe a suitable cure.

After several visits to England, George returned in 1900 and resided in London; he was then involved in establishing the Psycho-Therapeutic Society in 1901 that sought to heal, by psychic treatments, through a ‘society where those who needed it could get free treatment’.Here, he continued to give his services, making no charge, for those who required them.

Writing before George died in 1912, Robertson said that having met him, he had ‘a generous, happy, cheerful, healthful nature’, and ‘if there are souls needing help, his powers are ever at their service’.

The Mediumship of Frank Decker

The Mediumship of Frank Decker

The name and abilities of the medium Frank Decker were often mentioned in Spiritualist news during the 1930s and 1940s; of his remarkable mediumship,  Joseph de Wyckoff said that it provided ‘direct voice, telekinesis, levitation of medium and sitters, full form materializations … in good red light, clairaudience, clairvoyance … slate writing and transfiguration.

Frank was born of Syrian ancestry in Pennsylvania, and as so often happened when a mediumistic child had Christian parents, a priest was duly summoned to ‘exorcise’ the supposedly malign cause. Needless to say, such action did not diminish the young Frank’s psychic abilities and as he became older, he became perplexed about them and presumed that he must be ill.

He then encountered a Spiritualist who explained what was happening and put the youngster’s mind at ease. Frank then joined a circle, having to save up to be able to pay the admission fee; in time, the phenomena of direct voice and apports were manifested although it was understandably presumed these occurred through the medium who conducted the circle. However, while Frank was absent for a short time, it was noticed that the phenomena ceased; consequently, it was realized that it was Frank who was facilitating the communications. Although his mediumship was initially of the mental type, it was his physical mediumship that developed and gave him prominence, and by 1928, he was establishing himself as one of America’s leading mediums.

The fact that he had struggled to find the money necessary to join the circle made him think about the aspect of payment; he decided that as ‘the guides received no pay, and they did most of the work, so why should he take any?’. He therefore derived earnings from his own business and demonstrated his mediumship in his spare time. However, his guides advised him that he should become a professional medium and if he did not, his business would fail.

Refusing to acknowledge this, Frank continued with his mediumship on a part-time basis only to witness his business failing – just as he had been warned; he then realized that he had to follow his guides’ instructions, and joined the Spiritual and Ethical Society in New York to work full-time as a medium. He demonstrated his mediumship to anyone who wished to see it, and submitted to whatever restrictions those attending sought to impose. He had several guides, one of whom was Patsy, who often made himself known in a very enthusiastic manner during the séances. He had died in an accident in Chicago when he was about twelve years of age.

The Progressive Thinker of August 16, 1930, reported how J. J. O’Neill, the science editor of the New York Herald- Tribune, attended a séance with Frank as the medium. O’Neill was taken around the darkened séance room and introduced to the other sitters by the materialized son of one of the sitters. After this, O’Neill reported, with the usual American dry humour: ‘”That is all” said the ghost. “You may go to your seat Mr. O’Neill”. He released his grip and I stood alone before the medium. “Thank you. That was very interesting” I said to my ghost escort. I felt sure that with my sense of direction and a bit of dead reckoning I could cover the distance quite accurately. But I spoke prematurely. I had scarcely gone three steps before I fell over a sitter…I made the necessary corrections in my calculations and started out again. Again I stumbled’. After a few more failed attempts, O’Neill struggled back to his seat having conceded that he required assistance from the other sitters who guided him back by their hands and voices. Apart from other evidential occurrences that caused O’Neill to realize the reality of what had taken place, he suggested that the materialized person had the ability to ‘see’ radiation from the sitters ‘not visible to human eyes’ that made it possible to function in a darkened room.

Reunion with loved ones who had died was common with Frank’s mediumship; one such occasion was when Dr Edwin Bowers, an American writer, attended a séance and testified to how ‘Adolph [his brother] appeared and, in the direct voice … announced himself by name, as is the usual custom’. Adolph then took Bowers’ hand and put this against his scalp where there was an indentation. Adolph then reminded him of a game that they had played as children when Bowers had injured Adolph’s head.

Bowers also related how Patsy had asked that one of the sitters place a harmonica in his pocket and hold it with his hand, and ‘within a few seconds, we all heard the muted sounds of this little instrument’; the sitter then told the others that he ‘could distinctly feel a warm breath on his hand’. To further demonstrate his versatility, Patsy then requested that the harmonica be placed under the sitter’s foot and once again, it was played.

Bowers also related the events of what he termed, ‘a red letter occasion’. He asked one of Frank’s controls concerning the subject of Masonry about which the control was quite bewildered. Bowers then commented that by doing this he had been attempting to determine whether the control had ever been a Mason, as he was. The control then told Bowers that he would bring a person who had been one.

After a short period, Bowers recalled that a voice whispered in his ear, indicating the speaker was indeed a fellow Mason, and he then felt a hand that by its movements further confirmed this. Bowers continued: ‘With this he gave me the grip and whispered the pass-words of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason’. Further communication took place that resulted in Bowers saying: ‘I do not believe that in all my years of experience I have ever had a clearer and more definite proof of survival of personality’.

During Frank’s séances, some communicators spoke in foreign languages, and conversations would take place between sitter and communicator in their native tongue. Bowers described one séance with twelve sitters present, and four being ‘avowed sceptics’; while Frank was in a deep trance, there were ‘a dozen or more highly evidential and satisfactory’ messages from the communicators. Following these, ‘three different trumpets were levitated simultaneously, and three different voices – one speaking in German – came simultaneously’. After this, objects in the séance room were moved and then Toby, the guide of one of the sitters present, materialized. The guide, well over six feet in height took hold of Bowers, who recorded that Toby ‘drew me to my feet as though I were a feather’.

Elizabeth Darwin, one of those present, previously a sceptic, also wrote of her experience, confirming Bowers’ account and adding how she had ‘held an astoundingly interesting conversation with my own grandfather, who recalled almost forgotten incidents of my childhood’. In addition to the communication in German, she remarked on an invocation given in Arabic, and how ‘I heard the stertorous breathing of Frank Decker, lying back in his chair in a deep trance, during all this time’.

Bowers also related an incident that must have surely been one of the most spectacular occurrences that he had experienced. On a number of occasions his mother had communicated and promised him that when it was possible, he would be given a lock of her hair; in view of this, he was asked to bring scissors with him to séances.

In one séance when both Frank and Ethel Post, another physical medium, were working together, Bowers’ brother communicated and joked about him forgetting to bring the scissors. Bowers admitted that he had forgotten this and said that he would obtain the pair that he had seen earlier. His brother told him not to bother, and Bowers related how, ‘in the fraction of a second he thrust into my hands the small scissors’; he was then told to wait. After nearly fifteen minutes, his brother materialized, slapped him on the back, told him to rise from his seat, and guided him to the middle of the room. At this point he heard his mother greeting him in her Irish accent, and by guiding his hand, helped him to secure a small lock of her hair. He reported that, ‘then she said, “I must go now Edvin” [‘Edvin’ being the way that she had addressed him]. Leaning over, she kissed me on the cheek and was gone’.

Frank’s mediumistic abilities were shared to some degree by Ruth, his daughter. In 1937, she discovered that she possessed the ability of clairaudience and soon worked as a medium herself in America; she died a few years later in 1940, and within two days she demonstrated her survival by supplying evidence of her identity during a séance.

In addition to Frank allowing himself to be tested by investigators and professional conjurors, in one instance, he allowed himself to be immobilized during a séance. This occurred on 8 December, 1932, when a Mr M. Taylor arrived at the beginning of a séance, and said that he was acting on instructions from the Magicians’ Society and produced a mail sack that he wanted Frank to enter. Frank agreed to this after allowing himself to be searched, and despite protests made by the other sitters, Frank also complied with the demand to be completely tied up within it, i.e. not even allowing his head to remain outside. Regardless of this, Patsy still communicated and in due course the sack was taken off the medium and deposited in the lap of one of those present. During this time, there was, ‘Telekinesis, strong and loud voices, playing of musical instruments, flashes of brilliant lights…levitation of sitters…and a marvellous exhibition of juggling a trumpet with luminous band…In all, some ten distinct personalities manifested and spoke’.

Frank’s abilities were also demonstrated when, in September 1937, he was conducting a séance in London, and despite the sitters being unable to prevent light from entering the séance area, there were still partial materializations and the movement of objects in the room. Furthermore, one sitter received remarkable evidence of survival when his fiancée communicated, as did another sitter when her mother spoke to both her and her sister, followed by the mother materializing and embracing the two girls. In addition to these events, three of Frank’s guides spoke, and there was also communication in foreign languages; a sitter who was present was able to identify words that were of the Arabic and Urdu tongue. Patsy materialized in addition to the materialized hands that were moving objects about in the room, and he ‘kept up a running commentary of shrewd, humorous remarks’; in view of the experiences to which Frank had been subjected, Patsy also drily commented, ‘It is about time that some of these “investigators” were investigated’.

On one occasion, when de Wyckoff stayed at Frank’s home, he was awoken during the night by someone shaking him; he looked up and saw Patsy materialized who promised him that he would witness ‘things you never saw before’. After de Wyckoff confirmed that Frank was in a trance, he was greeted by a figure that ‘began to swirl and pirouette round the room’; other persons then materialized and Patsy then suggested that they call Dr Bowers by telephone. The amazed de Wyckoff saw Patsy pick up the telephone receiver and speak to the operator; de Wyckoff noted Patsy’s annoyance on being called ‘ma’am’ by the operator, i.e. due to his child-like voice. The operator connected Patsy to Bowers’ home and Mrs Bowers later confirmed the voice was the same as that heard on an earlier occasion when Patsy spoke with Frank nearby.

The full reality of the materializations made possible through Frank’s mediumship was demonstrated by Dr Blatt: on 5 December, 1935, he attended a séance with Frank as the medium, and examined a John Benton who materialized; Blatt confirmed that in the physical form materialized, he was registering the usual characteristics of the human organism. After this, Blatt examined Frank and noted ‘the difference between this examination and that of the materialized entity was marked’. Interestingly, in contrast to Frank where rales were heard, the breathing of John Benton the materialized person was absolutely normal.

Frank’s spectacular mediumship was not only demonstrated by the restrictions that he allowed to be placed upon himself, but by the astonishing dexterity of the communicators during these occasions. When Mr and Mrs Mackay attended a séance in New York, the trumpet moved and Patsy spoke, guiding Mrs Mackay to the centre of the circle when she felt materialized hands; this was followed by her husband also being directed there by materialized hands. Instructions were then given that Frank be immobilized by the sitters. Frank’s hands were held by a sitter either side of him, a third sat on his lap, and another placed her fingers in his mouth and yet the phenomena continued. The control’s voice then moved about the room and Mr Mackay remarked: ‘The voice travelled so quickly…first at my left, next at my back and then so high in the air that I couldn’t keep pace with its travels’. The sitters also received evidential communications in addition to witnessing other phenomena.

A further example of Frank’s mediumship was when, in 1947, he held a séance in New York and a Hollywood cameraman was present, taking photographs of the events; these included seeing a ball of light appear that ‘then exploded, “like an atomic bomb”, with a white illumination that flooded the room’.

By 1956, Frank’s séances were so impressive that they were being broadcast on American radio.

Reports of Frank’s mediumship continued until he died on 8 August 1957. The notices revealed his talents, humour, dedication and how he had left this life a poor man.

Horace Leaf, when writing about Frank Decker’s mediumship, made the very pertinent observation that: ‘If we had more of this sort of mediumship, Spiritualism would soon attain the public credence to which all experienced Spiritualists know it is entitled’.




The question as to the reality of so called “physical phenomena”, that is the movement of objects without any recognisable agent ranging to the materialisation of objects or even limbs and complete figures, popularly attributed to spirits of the dead, may at first glance appear absurd. However, the records of psychical research demonstrate the difficulty of either denying or establishing the range of phenomena in question. Even amongst researchers optimistic with regard to the very facts of physical mediumship, there is much discussion about the relevance to the question of survival of death.

Although it is by the rapping which occurred in their presence, that the Fox SISTERS are well-known, they also produced a wide range of physical phenomena.

LEAH, the eldest of the three, was married at the age of fourteen, but was deserted by her much older husband. She supported herself and her young daughter by giving piano lessons. Her mediumship was the last to blossom, the rappings being particularly strong in the presence of KATE and MAGGIE.

After the death of her second husband, CALVIN BROWN, LEAH sat every Wednesday night for a period of two years with a small group who wished to make every possible sort of test. The circle was composed of a small group who met at the house of Dr. JOHN F. GRAY in Lafayette Place, New York.

One of the circle, Major GEORGE WASHINGTON RAINS, was an educated chemist and electrician. He arranged a swing, which was fastened to iron or steel chains, sustained by tackles and pulleys attached to the ceiling. LEAH sat in the swing and over her head was a large piece of circular glass about two and a half feet in diameter, while beneath her feet (which were about four feet from the floor) was a circular glass disc about three feet in diameter. The whole arrangement was suspended by tackles.

Major RAINS brought his electrometer, and made every experiment that their ingenuity could invent or suggest. They suspended the table; each person in the room standing on horseshoe magnets provided for the occasion.

The physicians were provided with stethoscopes and placed them on different parts of her body. They all declared that the sounds had nothing whatever to do with the physical body and that the medium had no more power over the sounds than the investigators had.

That was the verdict whenever an honest attempt was made to discover the source of the rappings.

On Monday evening of each week she sat with Professor JAMES J. MAPES’ circle plus a few specially invited guests. The group had pledged themselves to sit for development, waiving all private communications. It was also agreed that “no fanatic in Spiritualism, nor any disinterested or selfish individual was to be admitted”.

Anyone suspected of being in conflict with the harmony of the group was to be dismissed and this occasionally had to be done. Many amazing demonstrations came to this circle principally physical phenomena, such as levitation of heavy furniture, and occasionally of the medium herself.

There were great numbers of phosphorescent lights, large and sufficient in number to light the room clearly. Very often the raps seemed to be produced by the action of a globe of yellow light, which struck against the floor, ceiling, or the table before them; the sounds coinciding with the movement.

Meanwhile, as KATE’s mediumistic powers developed, which led her to becoming possibly the greatest physical medium of her time, her nervousness and fear of the manifestations also increased and often resulted in an interruption of the séance. She could never overcome her own fears and never fully understood the phenomena which came through her.

As always the highest type of demonstrations were produced in small groups of completely harmonious individuals. LEAH found her greatest satisfaction in sitting with honest and sincere inquirers. LEAH’s mediumship had become highly individual and from time to time there was an unusual display of phenomena, some outstanding manifestations which was never repeated.

One experience which was never repeated, nor equaled, happened one Sunday evening at the close of a sultry day. LEAH was alone with her mother, MARGARET. Two physicians, Drs. WILSON and KIRBY, who were in their circle of close friends, called unexpectedly.

As a thunderstorm was gathering, Dr. WILSON instructed his driver to return for them after the storm had passed. As they settled themselves in the parlour the familiar five raps, calling for the alphabet, were strongly sounded on the wall. (Three raps signalled ‘Yes’, one rap ‘No’, two raps ‘Don‘t Know’ etc. and five raps meant ‘Use the alphabet’).

The four seated themselves round the centre table after turning out the lamp. The raps tapped out ‘Sing’. As they sang, the storm burst. The raps echoed the heavy roll of thunder. There was a great flash of lightning followed by a crash of thunder as the room became illuminated.

Suddenly Dr. WILSON jumped up from his chair, his voice raised excitedly, “Oh my God, there’s my mother!” quickly followed by “And there, Dr. Kirby, is your mother, close beside you!” Flash after flash showed the amazing assemblage of loved ones, radiant figures, glowing with life and love.

It had all happened in a few short moments. As the first violence of the storm subsided the beautiful sight became invisible. Try as they might to obtain the same conditions they were never able to repeat the phenomenon. For a few brief moments the veil between the spheres of life had been lifted for them.

After LEAH’S marriage to DANIEL UNDERHILL and her retirement from all public séance work the burden fell on KATE, now 23 years of age. MAGGIE was recovering after long months of mental illness following the death of her husband, ELISHA KANE.

KATE had a growing belief the best results came to small groups of truth seekers, when no payment was accepted, so she insisted upon giving freely of her amazing power whenever it was possible. She was always overworked, nervous and frequently exhausted after some unusual displays of phenomena.

She could not overcome her fears which, in her complete ignorance of psychic laws, were to be her downfall. With hindsight it is easy to say that the FOX SISTERS overdid their public and private work but it is almost impossible to understand the pressures they were under at the time. Their lives should serve as a warning of the danger of uncontrolled sitting day after day, after day.

Perhaps the sittings which were to prove the most astonishing were the private sittings with CHARLES LIVERMORE, a well-known New York banker, who had lost his wife in the early part of the year (1850). ESTELLE’S early death had been a heartbreaking blow to LIVERMORE as he had no belief in the afterlife.

After twelve sittings he received a brief personal message to the effect that ESTELLE was present and would try to become visible to him. Many more sittings passed until one humid night in mid-April, LIVERMORE and KATE sat alone.

The room had been carefully sealed, making it close and uncomfortable. They sat in complete quiet, for nearly half an hour when all of a sudden a terrifying uproar broke out.

Tremendous raps sounded upon the centre table as the heavy piece of furniture rose and fell. The doors were violently shaken; the windows which had been so carefully sealed were opened and shut; a cold wind swept the room and was gone.

The raps called for the alphabet, spelling out “Watch closely, I am here”.

They heard a sharp, crackling sound behind them and as they looked back saw an illumined substance growing in form and deepening in quality. It took on a globular form gradually assuming the form of a woman’s head veiled in a glowing gauze.

Once again there were sharp, crackling sounds as the light increased in brilliancy showing a slowly building form. The dark hair, the brown eyes, the smooth brow were ESTELLE’S. The light which floated round about her form made every object in the room plainly visible. Then, suddenly, her entire form could be seen while behind her, in a long mirror, was her reflection.

After that first successful attempt ESTELLE came again and again although there were times when seemingly nothing happened.

On one occasion, having been previously instructed to bring a blank card with him, LIVERMORE sat holding it in his left hand, his right hand pressed closely over KATE’S — who held hers clasped together on the arm of his chair. Almost immediately a brilliant light appeared, seemingly shaded from above, glowing with a silver radiance over a radius of several feet directly in front of them.

As LIVERMORE watched, the card in his hand was gently but firmly withdrawn. It disappeared as it left his grasp. He turned to the bright cone of light before him. A dark shadow which appeared to be a narrow curtain of black passed before him. It parted and there in the indescribable brilliance stood ESTELLE in full form — every feature perfect, as she looked directly into her husband’s eyes.

Again the shadow came between them, and at that instant the card was slipped into his hand. By the light which glowed above him he read the lines inscribed on it. They were words of love, written in French — a quotation of special meaning to ESTELLE and him.

As the shadow dissolved, ESTELLE stood before him, bathed in light, smiling down into his eyes. He forced himself to examine her closely noting, in particular, “the rose-flushed ivory of her skin, the sheen of her black hair so carefully arranged; the velvet softness of the white rose which adorned it.”

The materialisation came and went, appearing six or seven times before the séance ended.

LIVERMORE sat with KATE twice weekly throughout the summer, and each time ESTELLE came it was with greater power, sometimes leaning over him so that her soft hair dropped down against his face. Often she carried flowers of great beauty, her favourite violets and white roses. It seemed as if the spirit light, which revealed her full form, enclosed in white draperies, was held by an unseen hand.

One evening in late August, another form appeared beside ESTELLE — a sturdy figure in dark clothes, the features hardly distinguishable. The raps came calling for the alphabet. They spelled out the strange and totally unexpected statement, “It is I, Benjamin Franklin. I have made Estelle’s  appearance to you possible, my son.”

Taken aback at this manifestation, the very next morning, LIVERMORE consulted his friend, Dr. GRAY, who had introduced him to KATE. He confirmed that there had been messages from FRANKLIN before through both KATE and LEAH and was convinced of their genuineness. He asked to be allowed to attend a séance in the hope of seeing FRANKLIN materialise.

The tests went on, through the winter and into another year. Dr. GRAY and JACQUES GROUTE, ESTELLE’s brother, were present several times, and both witnessed materialisations of ESTELLE and FRANKLIN. GROUTE came as a confirmed sceptic, locking the doors and windows himself and thoroughly searching the room as well as the sitters.

He approached the figure of FRANKLIN as it appeared in full from; the hair behind FRANKLIN’s ears was grey and worn long, exactly as in his pictures. They could see his white cravat and his coat of some dark brown material, cut in an old style. GROUTE was given permission to touch the form. He examined the clothing with interest. LIVERMORE and Dr. GRAY had, on an evening several weeks earlier, been permitted to cut off a piece of FRANKLIN’S coat, and had examined it closely. It was of strong texture, seemingly a rough woolen material, but after a short time it had disintegrated in their hands and disappeared.

GROUTE, who had ridiculed the happening when told about their experiences, like so many others since when faced with the reality of the séance room, now humbly acknowledged the reality of the manifestations.
In one year LIVERMORE had kept careful and detailed records of over 170 sittings. Here was a man whose veracity and probity had never been questioned, so much so, that his words carried weight even among those who could not completely believe.

Another séance which must surely be unique in the history of Spiritualism took place in 1871 in the home of Dr. GEORGE TAYLOR and his wife, SARAH. They had lost two children in an epidemic, FRANKLIN, aged two, and their only daughter, LEILA, less than a year old. SARAH’S brother, OLIN, was also on the Other Side having been killed in an accident. Over the years, through KATE they received evidence of their children’s survival including portraits painted by spirit hands and apported into the séance room.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, again, claimed to be the motivating force behind the phenomena. He had promised that one day they would hear LEILA playing the harp which she had learnt in the spirit world.

One afternoon, almost as soon as they were seated, the raps spelled out, “We are all here. We have devoted all our power to this subject. B. F.”

As the last word was spelt a new sound echoed in the room — the resonance of a harp string, firmly touched.

SARAH, who had kept a meticulous record of all her séances takes up the story: “…Then we kept perfectly still, held both of Kate‘s hands and listened in rapture for about three-quarters of an hour to music performed in our room by an angel, on a harp brought from Paradise, from Heaven. The notes were clear, full, strong and penetrating. The music sweeter than anything I had ever heard. Ten pieces were played and one was long, and none were familiar.

“At an interval between the tunes, Dr. Franklin said, ‘I am proud of my pupil’.

“Then she struck the strings again, and again with full power played and played.

“…Then the harp was brought so near to me that when the first note was touched it hurt my head, and again she played stronger, sweeter, purer than before…

“The music from the harp was so loud and clear that the people in the next house must have heard it. The ladies on the floor above us went to their windows, opened them and listened, but did not know what the instrument was.”

As the music faded away the raps spelled out the closing message:

“We have all been here. Our efforts have been great to play upon the harp so that you could hear its heavenly strains. Leila is guarded by Dr. Franklin, and I assure you that we are more than pleased, for we are awed by our own power in thus being permitted to come.

“Few on earth have ever been so blessed, and oh, few there are who will ever be permitted to listen to those strains. Be thankful and happy. We are happy! Leila is perfectly wild with delight, and so is Frankie, and we feel awed with gratitude, Olin.”

On October 7th 1871, KATE left New York for London, accompanied by BLANCHE OGDEN, a relative of CHARLES LIVERMORE, who had financed the trip.

To finish this article, I cannot do better than to quote a letter LIVERMORE wrote to his friend BENJAMIN COLEMAN in London:

“Miss Fox, taken all in all, is no doubt the most wonderful living medium. Her character is irreproachable and sound. I have received so much through her powers of mediumship during the past ten years which is solacing, instructive, and astounding, that I feel greatly indebted to her and desire to have her taken good care of while absent from home and friends.

 “That you may the more thoroughly understand her idiosyncrasies, permit me to explain that she is of a sensitive nature of the highest order, and of child-like simplicity; she feels keenly the atmosphere of everyone with whom she is brought in contact, and to that degree that at times she becomes exceedingly nervous and apparently capricious.

 “For this reason, I have advised her not to sit in dark séances, that she may avoid the irritation arising from the suspicion of strangers, mere curiosity-mongers and lovers of the marvellous.

“The perfection of the manifestations through her depends upon her surroundings and in proportion as she is in rapport or sympathy with you, does she seem receptive of spiritual power.

 “The communications through her are very remarkable and have come to me frequently from my wife Estelle, in perfect, idiomatic French, and sometimes in Spanish and Italian, whilst she, herself is not acquainted with any of these languages. You will understand all this but these explanations may be necessary for others. As I have said, she will not give séances as a professional medium, but I hope she will do all the good she can in furtherance of the great truth in a quiet way while she remains in England.”

 ROBERT DALE OWEN also wrote: “I have known Kate Fox for years. She is one of the most simple-minded and strictly impulsive persons I have ever met; as incapable of framing or carrying on any deliberate scheme of imposition as a ten-year- old child is of administering a government.”


BUCKNER POND, MARIAM: The Unwilling Martyrs. Volume I. Psychic Book Club, London 1947.
TAYLOR, SARAH L. (ED.): The Fox-Taylor Record (1869-1892). W. G. Langworthy Taylor, Lincoln, Nebraska 1932.
AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Only the latter is one of those rare finds. SARAH TAYLOR kept a meticulous record of her sittings including copies of the automatic writing she received from her children in the Spirit World via the FOX SISTERS.






Hunter Selkirk

The Mediumship of Hunter Selkirk

Very little has been written concerning the mediumship of Hunter Selkirk; for this reason, I would acknowledge the important contribution of Harry Emerson’s book, Listen My Son, in which the writer describes some of his experiences with the medium.

Hunter was born in County Durham in 1900. When both his father, and later, his stepfather died, he bore the responsibility of being head of his family of eight, most of which were young children. Growing up as a miner in the years of the Depression, he faced extreme poverty: despite this, he occupied himself by working for, and supporting the children of Craghead, where he lived, in the periods of severe hardship that afflicted the area.

Hunter’s first awareness of his own mediumship occurred when he saw and spoke with his father who had died a week earlier in a mine explosion along with nearly two hundred other men and boys. As so often happened in similar cases, when Hunter told his mother of what he had experienced, she simply said that he had been dreaming. The local priest then became involved and decided that Hunter should be monitored; the young medium then became a member of the local church choir, but this only increased his awareness as he saw spirit-beings in the church and also became conscious of other mediumistic abilities that he possessed.

Although other phenomena took place, when Hunter and a friend attended a Spiritualist meeting in his twenties, the reality was, as Emerson related, that they ‘went to the “spookies” for a “bit of fun”‘. Nonetheless, Hunter was impressed by the philosophy expounded; he was told that he would be a great medium, but he interpreted this as something that was said to everyone to encourage them to return. However, he met a Sam Barker at the meetings who suggested that he should join a home circle. This he did, and demonstrating the patience of those involved, some seven years elapsed before the first materialization joined the circle.

Hunter’s mediumship developed to where an eye-witness could say, ‘In a séance, I have seen the spirit form and the medium side by side’; furthermore, after Hunter left the cabinet, his facial appearance, having been altered by ectoplasm, was ‘so finely moulded that recognition was instantaneous’. In the case of direct voice, the communicator ‘was recognised immediately by a near relative’, and the voice was ‘entirely free from any trace of the medium’s voice or personality’.

Hunter’s mediumship was not limited to his immediate locality, i.e. he demonstrated his abilities before many hundreds of people in various places: reports of these events being published, e.g. Two Worlds (14 October 1938).

Emerson detailed the events of the first séance that he attended; this was in 1938 and conducted by Hunter, who had been working in the mine less than two hours earlier. After Emerson examined the séance room and the cabinet, this being constructed of wool curtains hung across the corner of the room, the séance commenced. After hymns and a prayer, a light appeared close to the ceiling: ‘transparent blue and particularly bright and twinkling’. The light then moved down and passed through the cabinet curtain, and one of Hunter’s controls spoke and greeted the ten sitters present. This was followed by another light manifesting, that Emerson described as a very large opal. The light moved around the sitters and Emerson related that he could see a woman’s face: ‘the eyes were blue and had depth and expression’. On going to a sitter who was next to him, the visitor was recognized as a guide who had been seen on an earlier occasion. Subsequently, there was direct voice and Emerson then recorded that ‘two small lights came out of the cabinet and moved across the room towards where I was sitting’. They hovered above his head and then ‘from out of the air, fully six feet away from the medium’; a voice spoke to Emerson and introduced herself. It was Emerson’s wife; she spoke in a whisper that he said, ‘I recognised immediately’. After further phenomena, Emerson left the séance room, understandably overwhelmed. He reported: ‘I had seen; I had heard; I had felt; I had spoken to people who had lived upon the earth as I was doing now’. This resulted in him suddenly realizing that in the subject of the afterlife, ‘The Christian religion, as I understood it, was confounded. It was incomplete. It had shrivelled to a vague, indefinite theology’.

Emerson described a number of séances that he attended in which the truly amazing limits of Hunter’s mediumship were manifested: in one, after some spectacular light phenomena, he detailed how, ‘A small light appeared low down near the floor and…it rose to the height of an average sized man’. When the visitor approached, Emerson saw that he was a man who looked no more than thirty years of age. At this point, the visitor spoke and described what had occurred during the initial stages following death. At the point of transition, he said, ‘It all seemed to happen so quickly and so naturally. I was conscious of my surroundings and I felt wonderfully refreshed’. Noteworthy is the fact that it is in such instances that the nature of the next life is revealed; this is salient as it invalidates the charge often made that physical mediumship provides little knowledge or enlightenment concerning the subject of post-mortem survival. The communicator also confirmed that he had been assisted, and he believed the physical life served as an education and preparation, adding that ‘You are born to live with each other and to be of use to each other’.
Emerson also referred to the more humorous instances that occurred during Hunter’s séances. On one occasion when the sitters were seated very close to the wall, he felt someone touch him: following this, his own chair and that of the person next to him ‘were tilted forward and we heard someone behind us laughing’. He identified this as being like ‘one of Bob’s tricks’.

This was Bob Ellis, a war-time fatality, who often visited the séances and introduced some amusement into the proceedings whenever possible, e.g. he would produce music and once removed a carpet on which four of the sitters were sitting, and lifted an eleven stone man into the air; during these episodes, there was indisputable evidence that Hunter was in the cabinet.

Hunter’s mediumship not only produced physical phenomena but unmistakable evidence for the survival of physical death: Emerson detailed how in one séance, with a blue light being used, Hunter’s controls made themselves known, with one materializing for the benefit of the circle, and the sitters were asked to look inside the cabinet. Emerson did so, and saw a light that looked ‘almost as if the moon had come down into the room’; this was followed by a visitor materializing and standing in front of him. He was unable to see the facial features and the visitor walked across the séance room to Emerson’s daughter who immediately recognized him as her uncle. He then walked back to Emerson who recorded that on being able to see him clearly, ‘It was indeed my brother Lincoln who died in 1923’. Afterwards, two sitters attending their first séance were reunited with their mother who spoke to them, and also carried an infant in her arms. This was followed by Hunter’s stepfather materializing and then, Emerson’s wife. He related how, ‘I saw her face as clearly as I had ever done in my life’. She was ‘alive and smiling’ and on being asked whether she was happy, she replied ‘Yes’.

Following the traditional Spiritualist practice, a special séance was held at Christmas for the children who were able to return and participate in the festivities. Emerson recorded how, ‘It seemed strange to be sitting in a room decorated for a children’s party with not a child to be seen’: but he went on to note how, ‘after the door was shut and the light was put out, they did come, and made no mistake about making their presence known’. In fact, although the light was extinguished, bright moonlight entered the room and some visibility was available. Despite being for the children, the first next-world visitor was Bob Ellis. Emerson noted how the event became lively when Bob began trying to force an inflated balloon inside the clothing of the sitters, that promptly burst on each attempt. Shortly afterwards, Emerson recorded how, ‘we heard the sound of little feet’, and after four children ran out into the room from the cabinet, ‘we lost count’, although ‘we could just see the small forms flitting past’. After a while, calm ensued and each child spoke and introduced him/herself while the sitters could hear Hunter’s breathing from the cabinet. Noteworthy was the fact that despite their premature deaths, the children all demonstrated a noticeable degree of maturity and wisdom.

In the same manner that many mediums had worked in the First World War, Hunter was able to enable victims of the Second War War to demonstrate their survival to those who mourned their passing. Many of these described how they had died and been met by friends and relatives who had passed at an earlier time. One feature that emerged from what was said was the value of having knowledge of the subject. One soldier explained that he had read books about the survival of death, including Sir Oliver Lodge’s Raymond, and said his reading ‘has been a great help to me. It is a great advantage to have this knowledge’.

Demonstrating the worth of being able to adapt to the new mode of existence, the soldier was not only able to communicate effectively, but bring other soldiers to the séances who communicated through Hunter’s trance mediumship, direct voice and even materialization.

One R.A.F. officer spoke about his passing, and described the frustrations that arise in trying to communicate: he explained that it was necessary to look for ‘that tell-tale light that indicates psychic power, either in an individual, home circle, or Spiritualist meeting’. He went on to add, ‘There are so many of us and so few mediums’ and drolly commented on how he thought of one Prime Minister’s words that, ‘Never was so much owed by so many to so few’, and ‘We have to queue and wait, and many are disappointed’.

Hunter’s mediumship also followed the style of a number of mediums in making it possible for animals to materialize during the séances. In the séance on the last day of 1941, Hunter was outside the cabinet and joined in with the singing and talking of the circle members. He was then levitated and, ‘soon the materialised form of a dove emerged from the cabinet and flew around the room’. The materializations made possible were unmistakable: in the same séance, several next-world visitors joined the circle, including a boy: ‘A halo of light encompassed the full form. Every feature was perfect, hair, eyes, nose, ears, and the little teeth, when he smiled, could be clearly seen, and made an unforgettable picture’.

A frequent occurrence during the séances was the presence of materialized lights that Emerson said, ‘varied in size, shape and colour and behaved sometimes in the most extraordinary way’. On occasions, up to eight of them would appear, originating from different places in the séance room. He described how some, ‘shot across the room like a comet, up to six inches in length. I have seen one of these lights weave behind and in front of alternate
sitters at amazing speed’. In one instance, a Mr Bulmer, who had been president of the local Spiritualist church, and had died in 1938, appeared and carried one of the lights: ‘the most beautiful blue, flecked with white’. From the glow that the light produced, the sitters recognized him while he spoke to them about the church. In addition to the phenomenon of lights, the séances also enjoyed the materialization of flowers and the room would be filled with their perfume. Hunter’s mediumship also included healing, and Emerson related several cases of people either seriously or even terminally ill, healed by one of Hunter’s controls, aptly named ‘the doctor’. The fact that Hunter was independent from the voices was further demonstrated by the occasions when he suffered from a cold, and while his coughing could be heard from the cabinet, the voices continued to speak, simultaneously, and without any interruption.

In addition to the lighter moments, there was also the more serious aspect to what was facilitated through Hunter’s mediumship. In one séance, lights appeared above the cabinet, and one of Hunter’s controls spoke and said that he would bring Hunter out of the cabinet which he duly did. Each sitter was then summoned to the cabinet and in the light that was present, they saw ‘the materialised form of a baby lying cradled in the light’. The control told the sitters that the infant was the child of John, Hunter’s brother: the child had died only half an hour after being born.

Multiple-materializations also occurred: Emerson mentioned how a Mrs Storey had been rescued from her burning home in the district, but had rushed back inside to save her three children. Tragically, they had all died in the inferno. In one séance, with some light present, ‘the form of a woman with a child in her arms stepped out from the cabinet, then a child came out and stood at her side. In a few seconds a younger child came out and stood on the other side’. The group moved closer to the light and were recognized by the sitters as Mrs Storey and her children: ‘one of the sitters exclaimed immediately, “Its Mrs Storey and her three bairns”. Zuru [one of Hunter’s controls] from the cabinet responded: “That is correct”‘.

In the light of what he experienced with Hunter Selkirk, Emerson referred to the many who manifested themselves to assure the sitters of their continuing existence, and communicated in voices, ‘clear and distinct’. He went on to make the significant observation that when critics argue that by communicating with the departed, ‘Spiritualists disturb the dead’, the reply to be made is very simple: ‘The dead started it first’.

Here is an account of one meeting, from the Two Worlds of October 14, 1938, headed “A Great Clairvoyant”:

“One of the best displays of evidential clairvoyance and clairaudience that I have witnessed for a long time was given by Mr. Hunter Selkirk at West Stanley last week. The West Stanley Church, which is doing useful work in a busy mining area of Durham, held its largest propaganda meeting when over 500 people were present.

“Mr. Hunter Selkirk, of Craghead, is a collier, a man in the prime of life, a fine example of muscular manhood, and I particularly liked the naturalness with which he did his work.

“There was no desire to create a great impression, no attempt to pose before his audience, no theatrical display. He was a working man who talked on the platform as he would talk amongst a company of friends. He was evidently under a strong measure of spirit control, for here and there the broken English of his inspirer obtruded itself. In every case he indicated the individual for whom his description was intended. In the course 45 minutes he gave evidence to 18 different people, and his descriptions were accompanied by names and particulars which made identity sure.

“Mr. Selkirk started by saying: ‘There’s a friend here upon the platform who says she is Mrs Coxon and that she comes for Mr and Mrs Jack, who are in the audience. She also brings a friend by the name of Rutherford.’
Speaking to a lady at the side of Mrs Jack he said: ‘Your Auntie is here and your husband, too; he wants you to stop fretting, to buck up and catch the sunshine.’

There’s a young girl here who wants her mother; it is for you, madam,” indicating a lady in the audience. “She says she’s your daughter, Janie. She tells me that the person sitting next to you is her Granny; her Grandad comes with her and brings his love. They also bring a woman here who wants her husband; she says she’s Mrs. Cook. Her husband is not here hut you know him, and she wants you to convey the message to him. ‘Tell him not to bother to take flowers to my grave every week, but to put the flowers before my photograph in the home.’

“Pointing to another lady he said: ‘There’s a man here who says he is William Young, and that he passed away at Bumopfield. He brings a bad condition of the chest, which had much to do with his passing. He is brought by Jack and Robert, both of whom belong to you. They also bring with them Mrs Curry and Mr Croft. Mr Croft evidently belonged to some society or something, for when his name is mentioned he wants to shout “present.” They tell me you have visited the hospital today. You have no need to worry; the patient will recover.’

“Speaking to another lady and gentleman, he said: ‘With you there’s Mrs Miller and Jane Ann Oliver; she died at Blackhill, and you are to tell Tom that she’s been. They tell me that you are both investigators who are just starting your interest in the subject. You are both going to be successful.

“‘Then there’s Mrs Walton who passed away near where you live. She wants to speak to Tom. She was an elderly lady, over 70, and she says that she passed away in the Old Miners’ Home. There’s someone with her who says his name is Thomas, and he tells me to tell you that William has arrived safely.’

“Speaking to another lady, he said: ‘There’s a young girl for you, called Ivy, closely related to you. She’s about 18 or 19 and had long golden hair. She must have passed away some time ago, as she evidently died before permanent waves were in vogue.

“To another member of the audience, Mr Selkirk described an old lady of 89 years of age whose name was Nellie Blatchford. There was also a Mrs Barde there, who said she wanted her son. Mrs Bartle said that she wished she could stay a week and tell her son all he wanted to know, but at any rate she could assure him that ‘Spiritualism is the key to the house of perfect happiness.’ The son was advised to keep working and to dig hard and he would presently get all his difficulties and doubts explained.

“There was not a single point made by Mr. Selkirk in connection with any of the descriptions which was not clearly acknowledged as correct.

“The meeting at West Stanley created a tremendous impression on an interested audience, and the evidence produced by this fine clairvoyant left no doubts in the minds of his hearers.”

I think you will agree that this is outstanding for a man who knows nothing of what he is going to say when he mounts the platform before an audience of 500 people.

Just think of the many traps he could fall into did he attempt to foist upon these people something of his own manufacture. All these people are not Spiritualists. Many are there to see if it is really true. Some who attend, hoping it is not true, get a shock sometimes when they get evidence that they cannot deny from their dead friends.

I know of an instance where a man denied everything the medium gave him concerning his wife who had passed on. The medium gave her name and told the man that his wife was asking him to forgive her for something she had done. On being asked if he recognised the description, he replied that he did not know the woman.

Afterwards it was found that everything the medium had told him was correct, but he refused to recognise his wife because he would never forgive her for what she had done to him. It was hardly fair to the medium and certainly not very kind to his wife, who had pleaded for forgiveness from beyond the grave.

I remember a meeting, held in a large hall capable of accommodating 6oo people, where many latecomers had to be provided with forms on the stair-head landing. In one case a name was claimed by a person in the hall, but the medium said it was not for her, it was for someone of the same name on the landing to whom he wished to speak. This proved to be correct.

At a meeting held in the City Hall, Newcastle-on-Tyne, in April 1944, over 2,000 people attended. This meeting was addressed by Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding and Hunter Selkirk was the demonstrator.

Many evidential messages were given by the medium, from young men of the Services who had recently passed on and who gave their names, all of which were claimed and recognised.

One outstanding example was a message from a young airman to a lady in the audience. He asked the lady to tell his wife that he had been, and to prove his identity he gave his wife’s christian name, which was the extremely uncommon name of Ethne. The lady acknowledged that this was correct. This could not be guesswork.

I have never heard of the name before, and I know that Hunter Selkirk had never seen the lady before; also, it is very unlikely that he would be able to see her clearly enough to be able to identify her again. So again it seems that the most intelligent explanation is that the young airman was not dead, but alive and active enough to come to that meeting and take advantage of what must have seemed to him a heaven-sent opportunity to let his wife know that he still loved her.

At a meeting held in our own church at Craghead, a lady, unknown to Hunter Selkirk, was given a message from her husband. She acknowledged the name given, but the husband, to make certain that she would know that it was indeed he, gave the number, containing seven figures, of a silver watch that had belonged to him and which the lady had with her in her handbag.

Four hundred people heard that message given. This lady came to the meeting to see if there was anything in Spiritualism. Like many more she found all she needed.





Mona van der Watt


By George Cranley

Mona was born in Scotland on the 8th Apri1 1906, and proud of her heritage, she started developing her mediumship after receiving evidence of her father’s survival.

With a small group of friends, she started a church in Edinburgh.

Her philosophy was based on the biblical injunction to “comfort the mourner, heal the sick and bind the broken-hearted”.

The practical application of Spiritualism led her to support a local children’s home.

Thus began her career and the charity work which continued right up to the time of her passing.

After about seven years, Mona MacDonald, as she then was, developed an aspect of her mediumship which was to provide incontrovertible evidence to mourners.

This was the spirit voice which could be heard emanating from the region of her left shoulder.  This voice was described by Maurice Barbanell in Psychic News as a ‘sibilant whisper’.

Communicators would use the voice to relay their messages to a guide working through the medium.

I particularly remember one occasion when, in a special research group, I obtained permission to place a microphone as close to her left shoulder as possible.  The voice, which to me, sounded like a record being played at a very fast speed, was duly recorded.

To my astonishment, when playing the tape back, I clearly heard my grandmother’s voice, then a guide, both of whom relayed very evidential messages.

Mona’s guides repeatedly demonstrated their ability to produce the spirit voice even when she was more than a thousand miles away.

En route to the 1960 and 1963 International Spiritualist Federation Conferences, her guide, Zara, told us that while the ship on which Mona was travelling was at sea, they would link with us in Cape Town during the Sunday service and attempt to make the voice audible. Sure enough, on both occasions, it was clearly heard during the service by the 100-strong congregation.

Her husband, Ehen, often had conversations with his father, in Afrikaans (a language unknown to the medium), through the spirit voice, while she was fast asleep.

In 1954, acting on doctor’s advice, to cease all spirit work, following a number of operations, Mona and Eben emigrated to Cape Town, South Africa.

There is an interesting psychic story to their meeting.

At a public meeting in London, Eben received a message from the famous medium, Helen Hughes, to the effect that he would meet his mate in Scotland and return to his own country.

Following a series of astonishing messages from mediums all over England, he was gradually led to Scotland, where he met and married Mona.

With hindsight, the spirit plan was clear.

Destiny was bringing two people together to begin a partnership unswerving in its devotion in service to God and mankind.

Despite Mona’s enforced retirement, people beat a path to her door to plead for sittings.  The demand became so great that she opened the Little Temple of Spiritual Fellowship, on the slopes of Table Mountain, which was to bring comfort and guidance to thousands.

I have never witnessed mediumship of such a consistently high standard.

Week after week, the evidence was so breathtaking that it almost seemed too good to be true. Yet it was.

It was a pleasure to bring sceptics to her meetings. No Super-ESP hypothesis could explain away her mediumship.

Many well known people in South African political and religious life came, often secretly, to her for sittings.

One who made no secret of his Spiritualism was Professor T. J. Haarhoff – a former professor of classics at Witwatersrand University.

He told me how, through her mediumship, he had received information on ancient languages now extinct.

Much of the evidence confirmed what he received from the well known materialization medium, Alec Harris, then living in Johannesburg.

Haarhoff brought a man to her and requested a sitting, saying he would introduce him afterwards.

Mona went into trance and almost immediately the spirit voice began.

The guide said General Smuts (South Arica’s most famous statesman) was present and wanted to say “Hello Fagan”.

It was then revealed that the sitter was the former Chief justice of the Appeal Court.

He volunteered that Smuts had never called him by his first name, but always by his surname. The rest of the séance was naturally private and personal but suffice it to say, that as a result of the sitting, Fagan entered politics and became a respected member of the Senate (South Africa’s Upper House).

Members of the ISF will remember Mona as an international medium following her demonstrations in Denmark and Switzerland and her appearance on Swedish TV in 1966.

Although continually plagued by illness, she, nevertheless, managed to demonstrate in every major city in South Africa, as well as in Rhodesia.

Perhaps, because he main guide was an African, she drew a particular response from the black population who affectionately called her ‘Nobantu’ meaning “mother of the people”.

The practical side of Spiritualism was never forgotten as regular readers of Psychic News will remember.

On Christmas Day each year, a thousand food parcels would be delivered to poor people living in conditions that defy the imagination.

We would trudge through the bush, down sandy tracks, to find people living in corrugated iron shacks, sometimes waist high in water following a storm.

The gratitude of these people as they realized they were not forgotten is something I will always remember.

A party was held on Boxing Day for poor, crippled and mentally handicapped children at her home on the slopes of Table Mountain.

Those of us who brought the children, from their homes, to the party learnt many valuable spiritual lessons that day.

Her healing successes were legion.  Perhaps the most spectacular was the healing of a 12-year old boy in 1970.

Blind from the age of four, his sight was restored during a public healing demonstration at the Durban City Hall.

When I left South Africa in 1965, Mona’s guide promised to communicate through another medium to prove his spirit identity.

This spirit promise was fulfilled in November 1974 when he communicated through the mediumship of Gordon Higginson and again in September 1978 at a public demonstration at a Swanwick Symposium through Betty Wakeling.

On the latter occasion, Zara, not only gave the name of his medium but stated that he had been responsible for my introduction to Spiritualism some twenty years earlier.

No words of mine can convey that intangible quality of love which characterised her mediumship.

All I can say is that this world has lost a very special person and that the spirit world is immeasurably richer.

What a grand welcome must have awaited Mona van der Watt when she arrived in the spirit world.

She passed over on the 23rd August 1980.

For over 52 years this brilliant voice medium demonstrated the truth of survival.



By George Cranley

It seems to be the fashion today to denigrate physical mediumship and its value to Spiritualism. Many of those who hold temporary positions of authority within what is loosely called ‘The Movement’ have never had what I call convincing evidence of the continuity of life. In fact, when questioned by the media they are extremely unconvincing and often fail to put the case across. They invariably disappear from prominence as quickly as they rose.

Indeed, I recall how one speaker/medium at Stansted Hall openly boasted that she had never received evidence of survival: she just ‘knew’! How can we ever hope to convince others when we lack conviction ourselves? With such an attitude is it any wonder that we fail to attract, as we did in the past, people of intelligent and enquiring minds.

After 50 years of investigation – with ten physical mediums and many first class mental mediums – it is my contention that, if you are really sincere in your quest and are prepared to keep an open mind, you will always receive the evidence you need. I will go even further. You will never lose contact with those you really love.

In this article I want to discuss the first two physical mediums who made a tremendous impact on my life, namely Mona van der Watt and Alec Harris, who was featured in. Zerdini’s World on August 2nd  2012.

Mona, a Scotswoman, had emigrated to South Africa in 1954 with her husband, Eben, a South African psychologist and was living in Cape Town when I first met her.

When I was 16 I started to investigate the various religions that advertised in the local paper on a Saturday. Christianity had the most offshoots so it took quite a long time to work my way through them. The last one I came to was the Spiritualist Church where a demonstration of clairaudience was advertised. I decided to attend. So it was that on December 2, 1959, I received my first contact with the spirit world.

As I look back now I realise that date had the same impact on me as the March 31, 1848 had on the Fox sisters.

Mona had a gift, which I believe was unique in modern times. While demonstrating or in private sittings you could actually hear the spirit voices talking to her. Although Mona’s gifts unfolded without any obvious development it was eight years before the voices manifested.

Mona told me that at one stage she was given a choice by her guides: she could sit in complete darkness and develop direct voice, which would be limited to a small number of people or reach a larger audience, but the voice would be weaker. She chose the latter. On one occasion she was tested by six doctors.

As Psychic News reported at the time: ‘They examined the medium with a stethoscope. Wherever they put it, they heard the voice speaking. Yet it was impossible for them to trace the source.’ The guide who was entrancing her said that he would stop her pulses one by one and asked the doctors to verify it. When he finally stopped the last pulse in her temple the doctors agreed that by their standards she would be classed as dead. Her guide then said he would put ‘power’ back into one finger which he did – and then placed the medium’s finger on the forehead of one of the doctors who immediately collapsed on the floor as though struck by lightning. One by one the guide restored the pulses and Mona returned to normal.

The reporter told readers that a high-pitched voice emanated from Mona’s left shoulder. At times the voice would travel across the audience and speak to people from just above their heads, but that was exceptional. Usually the voice addressed the guide, who then repeated the communication through the entranced medium.

The controlled Mona ‘walked around the hall without faltering. Her eyes were shut, but the guide knew who was before him.’ Occasionally when demonstrating before an international audience, such as at the International Spiritualist Federation Conferences, she would wear a throat microphone so that all could hear the spirit voice which relayed communications to her. During the demonstration, ‘everyone had a good opportunity of hearing the voice mediumship.’

For a number of years I spent six days out of seven attending the various activities of the church and so had an excellent opportunity of observing her mediumship at very close quarters. Thursday nights were usually reserved for research and experiments.

I remember one occasion when I obtained permission to place a microphone as close to her left shoulder as possible. The spirit voices, which manifested sounded like a record being played at very fast speed. The guide then relayed what was being said. To my astonishment, when playing the tape back, I clearly heard my grandmother’s voice as well as a guide who had frequently been described to me. Both relayed very evidential messages. An interesting point here is that this same guide has given evidence of his identity in private sittings with Gordon Higginson and Gerard Smith.

What I particularly noticed was that though the gist of the communication was relayed by the guide it was not necessarily word for word as said by the spirit contact. Her guide often used African words which when roughly translated meant ‘I’m sorry I didn’t quite catch that’ or ‘Give it to me again’ which illustrates the difficulty communicators have of getting an accurate message across. I’m often amused when I hear alleged mediums saying with absolute confidence ‘they are telling me this or telling me that’ when I know how difficult it is to get one sentence over with any degree of accuracy.

At another time a spirit who claimed to be Nobel Prize winner, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, the inventor of X-Rays, gave a talk on the healing rays used by spirit doctors and guides and, as evidence of his presence, said he would leave a mark on the medium which would disappear within twenty minutes.

When Mona came out of trance, clearly visible on her hand was the raised shape of an X, which gradually subsided and disappeared.

Mona’s guides and helpers repeatedly demonstrated their ability to produce the spirit voice even when she was more than 1000 miles away. In transit to the 1960 and 1963 International Spiritualist Federation’s congresses, Mona’s guide made a promise. While the medium was on the ship they would link with us in Cape Town during the Sunday service and try to make the spirit voice audible.

On both occasions it was clearly heard by the whole congregation at some point during the demonstration of clairvoyance. Week after week the evidence was so breathtaking it seemed almost too good to be true, yet it was. No super-ESP hypothesis could explain away her mediumship. It was with supreme confidence that I would bring sceptics to her meetings and watch with amusement the look on their faces as they heard the spirit voices and the evidence of survival. Today I would be hard-pushed to find a medium of comparable quality.

Many people associated with South Africa’s political and religious activities came for sittings. One of Mona’s regular sitters was Professor T.J. Haarhoff, a Spiritualist, medium, healer and classical scholar whom I met at a healing conference in the early 60’s. Haarhoff, a professor of classics at Witwatersrand University, told me that at sittings with Mona, not only did he receive information on ancient, now extinct, languages but much of the evidence confirmed what he obtained from materialisation medium Alec Harris, then living in Johannesburg.

On one occasion, Haarhoff took a man to Mona requesting a sitting, saying he would introduce him later. As usual, Mona quickly became entranced and almost immediately the spirit voices began. The guide said he recognised the spirit communicator who was present. It was General J.C. Smuts, a former Prime Minister and national hero. His opening words were ‘Hello, Fagan’.

It transpired that the sitter was the former Chief Justice of the Appeal Court. He volunteered that though Smuts and he had been friends for very many years he had never called him by his first name, always by his surname. The conversation that ensued cannot be disclosed, but it is true to say that as a result of that sitting Fagan entered politics and became a respected Senator in South Africa’s Upper House.

At another time Mona and her husband were invited to address the students at Cape Town University, at which General Smuts had once been Vice-Chancellor. Knowing the attitude of some students, I was filled with a little foreboding, particularly when I saw the poster advertising the meeting which said, simply, ‘Séance tonight.’

It wasn’t the sort of meeting where you could get away with saying ‘I see a pile of books with you – are you studying?’ or something equally ludicrous as I’ve often heard in Spiritualist churches since.

Dr van der Watt (or Van as we called him) spoke on ‘The mind in relation to Spiritualism’, which was well received, and he then briefly explained how his wife’s mediumship worked. When she stood up to demonstrate my sense of foreboding disappeared. As the spirit voice rang round the crowded hall you could have heard a pin drop. The first contact was for a young man whose brother had drowned. In an emotional reunion, evidence of his survival poured forth…and I doubt if there was a dry eye in the house.

It set the tone for the rest of the evening. Indeed many of the students became regular visitors to her home. The demonstration finished with the guide passing on a message to all the students from General Smuts. He stated there was a group of former statesmen working from the Other Side to help South Africa. Great changes were coming and the day would come when she would regain her rightful place in the world. I can still remember thinking how far-fetched it seemed, yet thirty years later…!

One of the most moving examples of how helpful her mediumship could be was illustrated in the dramatic account, front-paged in Psychic News, of how her guide located a missing boy. I knew the family concerned and saw the emotional outcome so I cannot do better than quote the story as published:

“The parent – Psychic News did not reveal her identity – had a heartbreaking story to tell. While living in the then Belgian Congo she was legally separated from her husband, but was given the custody of their four-year-old boy. “Soon after the separation, her husband’s brother stole the boy from the front door of her house. With a false passport, the father took his son to the USA.

“The wife was frantic because she could not get news of her child. She even made the journey of thousands of miles to the USA where she searched without success for two years. Then she returned to her family in Cape Town.

“Every possible channel for help was tried. In turn the mother consulted lawyers, clergymen and officials responsible for the administration of the Congo. Alas, because of internal troubles there, all official avenues of help were closed. Moreover, none of her legal papers could be traced.
“At this stage, almost at the end of her tether, she was brought to Mona.

Her guide gave the mother a message, which indicated that the spirit world was aware of her plight. He said, guardedly in public, that she had lost what was very dear to her, but this would be found. On no account was she to give up hope. The message stated that her problem was linked with the USA.

“After the service, the mother asked for a private sitting with the medium. The guide discussed her troubles fully, saying he knew that she was looking for a child. The parent would be helped by the spirit world, he added. The guide forecast that she would return to the USA. At the right time, guidance would be provided. During the next 18 months, the mother visited the church at regular intervals. Always similar encouragement was given. At one private sitting, she asked the guide if she should leave South Africa and go to Israel, to try and make a new life for herself without her son. She explained that the strain was proving too much. “‘No, you must not go to Israel’ said the guide. ‘You will find your child. Just hold on a little longer.’

“At the next séance the guide volunteered, ‘Now is the time that you must write, as a mother, to Mrs Kennedy because she is the first lady of the land, and ask for her help.’ “He stated again that she would return to the USA and find the boy. The mother complied with the spirit request and wrote to Mrs Kennedy. Later she received a letter from the American Consul in Cape Town asking her to call at his office. This official explained that the letter she had sent to Mrs Kennedy had been handed to the FBI. “The Consul disclosed that, at the time she wrote to Mrs Kennedy, her husband had applied for a permit to practise as a dentist in America. Once more she consulted the medium, who advised her to go to the USA, which she did with the Consul’s help. Meantime, the American authorities questioned her husband.

“Realising that something was amiss, he fled again with the boy. When his wife arrived in America it was a bitter disappointment because she could find no trace of either of them. Now strained to the uttermost, she wrote to Mona for help. “The guide replied, counselling her to stay in America. He insisted that she should continue with her quest and not return to Cape Town. Once more he repeated his assurance she would find her child.

“The mother then decided to employ a private agency, but alas with no results. Once more she asked for spirit help. The reply was that she should write to Mrs Kennedy again and this would lead to co-operation with the FBI. At the time Mrs Kennedy was the President’s wife.

“The medium heard nothing for a while. Then one day her telephone rang. It was the woman’s mother to say that she had received a cable from her daughter. “She particularly wanted Mona to know that after four years her little boy had been found. The FBI did co-operate, as was foretold. They succeeded in tracing the husband in Canada.

“Because all her legal papers had vanished in the Congo troubles, the mother had to go through the ordeal of another court case in Canada before obtaining full custody of her boy.

“When she saw Mona she said to this medium, ‘You gave back my God, peace and hope – and then you gave me back my little son'”. Those of us in the church who knew of the case were delighted when the lady brought her little boy to say ‘Thank you’ for all the prayers that had been offered for his safe return.

Another prominent feature of Mona’s mediumship was healing with the help of a spirit doctor who said that on earth he had been a hunchback. It was noticeable how, when entranced by him, her body would change showing a quite definite hump.

Each guide had his or her own characteristic personality, which was evident before they spoke. Over the years I got to know at least thirteen different guides, each specialising in a particular aspect of mediumship. Only three or four would demonstrate in public, the others manifesting in private or research groups.

I have deliberately refrained from giving examples of the evidence and help I received which could probably fill a book but I can say that my father, a renowned sceptic of things psychic, was instantly healed through her mediumship. After the healing he demanded to know where the electric heater was, which he said had been placed on his back. I explained that she had placed only her hands on his back, a fact he never really came to terms with.

Mona’s healing successes were legion but the most spectacular case was a 12-year old boy in 1970. Blind from the age of four, his sight was restored during a public demonstration at Durban’s City Hall.

When I left South Africa in 1965, her guide promised to confirm his identity through another medium. It was 1974 before the spirit promise was fulfilled. Travelling in a car to Euston station with Gordon Higginson, he suddenly turned to me and relayed a message from Mona’s guide.

Again, in 1978, through the mediumship of Betty Wakeling, at a public demonstration, he not only stated that he had been responsible for bringing me into Spiritualism, but even gave the name of the medium.

Mona’s philosophy was based on the biblical injunction to ‘comfort the mourner, bind the broken-hearted and heal the sick’ all of which I have tried to illustrate. Mona van der Watt passed to the Spirit World in August 1980 but within days made her return through Edinburgh medium, Mary Duffy.

At that time news of Mona’s passing, in South Africa, had not been made public. In a trance sitting Mrs Duffy’s guide indicated Mona’s spirit presence without naming her, but said she was a medium who came from the same city as mine does.’ Mona’s mediumistic career began in Edinburgh.

A little later that year Mona and her guide manifested at a Silver Birch sitting which I was privileged to attend. She has since continued to communicate through Betty Wakeling, Mary Duffy, Gordon Higginson and regularly through Gerard Smith. In fact at a private sitting with Gordon Higginson, both Maurice Barbanell and his guide, Silver Birch, returned with some extremely good evidence.

Barbanell also stated that he had met Mona on the Other Side, and had recently had a sitting with her. He explained that very often when they wanted to make contact with spirits further on they use a medium to make contact between the spheres.

Neither Gordon nor I could recall ever hearing of this before yet the very next day I picked up a book by J. J. Morse, which fell open on a page, which said that those who had been mediums on this side were often used as mediums on the Other Side!

The latest communication has been through the mediumship of Colin Fry at a recent Home Circle when 12 red field poppies were apported (the first time flowers had been produced) through the narrow end of the trumpet, and the guide said that Mona was hoping to speak in the direct voice very soon.


 Mona and her husband have both spoken to me in the Direct Voice through the mediumship of Colin Fry, as have Gordon Higginson and Alec Harris on a number of occasions.





George Valiantine

George Valiantine

The mediumship of George Valiantine, from Williamsport, New York, is an occasion of dispute and uncertainty.

Valiantine did not become aware of his mediumship until he was forty-three. After hearing noises for which he could not account, he spoke to a Spiritualist who invited him to participate in a séance; he did so and raps were made that stated his brother-in-law was communicating. Valiantine then developed his mediumship, and although having a number of guides, the principal one was his brother-in-law.

Although Valiantine was able to produce a materialization of his guide, he principally became known as a direct voice physical medium in America during the 1920s. He travelled to Britain several times (1924, 1925, 1927, 1929 and 1931), and other countries in Europe, to give sittings.

One of the principal figures in the reporting of Valiantine’s mediumship was H. Dennis Bradley who met the medium in America in 1923. Unfortunately, he heaped vitriol on any person who chose to have a different opinion from his own, and his lengthy record in Towards the Stars has many irrelevancies and often lacks important detail. His subsequent book, The Wisdom of the Gods, is much the same. Nonetheless, they contain valuable information concerning Valiantine’s mediumship despite the shortcomings.

His record of the first séance related how after luminous bands were placed around Valiantine’s wrists to monitor any movement, ‘the phenomenal happened’. He sensed another person in the room who called out to him and said that she was his sister (who had died ten years earlier). At this point he said that, ‘we talked, not in whispers, but in clear, audible tones…Every word was heard by the other three men in the room’. Bradley asserted that the other sitters could not have known of his sister, or the family matters that were discussed with her for some fifteen minutes.

He also observed that, ‘she said sayings in her own characteristic manner. Every syllable was perfectly enunciated and every little peculiarity of intonation was reproduced’. After his sister departed, five more communicators spoke to those present, and ‘each spirit was distinct and each spoke with an accent unlike the other’.

Bradley also witnessed how the trumpet ‘floated in the air and careered around the room’. In later sittings, he confirmed that he heard the voices of communicators and Valiantine simultaneously: ‘Valiantine, the medium, often speaks and can be spoken to at the same moment that the spirits are speaking’. During these séances, sitters were touched and there were partial-materializations: ‘A…hand rested for a second on my right hand…it was surrounded by astral light’. Bradley also recorded how ‘luminous lights floated about the room’.

In addition to sittings with Valiantine, Bradley had sittings with the medium, Mrs Gladys Leonard that were, not surprisingly, evidential. Most interesting, was that Bradley’ sister, communicating through Mrs Leonard, confirmed that she had communicated at the Valiantine séances and also referred to what had been said during these. In view of the sittings with Mrs Leonard and another medium, and the references to the sittings with Valiantine, Bradley believed that he had obtained ‘incontestable proof of the triple link’.

It is an interesting point that Feda, Mrs Leonard’s control, also communicated through Valiantine on numerous occasions; Bradley stated that he had ‘a remarkable accumulation of cross evidence’ that it was the same personality who communicated through the two mediums, in addition to others who had obtained cross- evidence confirming this view.

In one Valiantine séance, Bradley noted that ‘some brilliant silvery stars appeared near the ceiling; later similar lights appeared in other parts of the room’ and the trumpet ‘moved around the room and touched each of the sitters’. Although the séance was to be held in darkness, light did penetrate the room and Valiantine was seen to be in a trance, and at the same time the sitters ‘saw a trumpet suspended without visible support…in mid-air’. Furthermore, after the séance ended, Valiantine was found to be covered in ectoplasm.

Bradley also recorded the many instances of not only when he, but other sitters, including those of a sceptical persuasion, were supplied with evidence. One sitter was addressed by an aunt who gave personal details and family names relating to his mother, even though he had referred to her by forename rather than ‘mother’ to avoid giving information.

At the beginning of 1924, Bradley attended a séance at the British College of Psychic Science, with Valiantine as the medium, and nine other persons, five of whom Valiantine had never seen before. One of these was spoken to by her son who referred to his own children for whom the sitter was caring. Another sitter heard from someone who had been a close friend before he had died, and an Austrian sitter heard from her mother who spoke to her in German.

In respect of this séance, Bradley made the important point that further information would have been forthcoming if the sitters had been more able to hold a purposeful and engaging conversation rather than simply asking for ‘a message’, as conversation does assist the communicators in their activity.

Another séance, held less than a week later, included Mrs Gladys Leonard, her husband, and Hannen Swaffer as sitters; this was a further occasion of evidential communications being received when personal information was supplied by next-world visitors. In a séance at a later date, Raymond, the son of Sir Oliver Lodge communicated with his father; after Raymond had called to his father, ‘the luminous trumpet was lifted, and taken close to Sir Oliver, who was touched on the head and on the body. A conversation ensued between Sir Oliver and Raymond on family matters…Names were volunteered by the spirit’.

Although it has been argued that communications in foreign languages were piecemeal, thereby diminishing the evidential quality of Valiantine’s mediumship, it is difficult to envisage the medium being wholly responsible for all such instances.

During a séance on 27 February 1924, the novelist Caradoc Evans, one of the sitters, heard the voice of his father that he ‘described as struggling through the floor and coming up between his feet’. After the introduction, Evans said that if the communicator was his father, he should speak in his own (Cardiganshire Welsh) language, which he then did, including such statements as ‘Uch ben yr avon. Mae steps – lower lawn – rhwng y ty ar rheol. Pa beth yr ydych yn gofyn? Y chwi yn mynd i weled a ty bob tro yr rydych yn y dre’ (this being the father’s reply to Evans’ question about the family home, which he described.  It is up to the reader to decide what would be involved in being able to speak in such a way, and in the case just cited, not knowing what questions would be asked, with of course, the necessary pronunciations; this is apart from the production of the other different languages (e.g. Russian, Spanish, German, Italian) spoken in various Valiantine séances, if these did not arise from genuine communicators.

In the preface to his book, Northcliffe’s Return, Hannen Swaffer records how, at a séance with Valiantine on 25 February 1925, one sitter, a Chinese Countess heard from her father; this was followed by Lord Northcliffe communicating and telling Swaffer what the intended book should be called. Swaffer confirms: ‘I have heard Northcliffe’s voice speak to me on, at least, eight occasions at Valiantine sittings. Once he spoke to me in daylight, in a way which precluded any chance of fraud or trickery’.

One of the more unusual instances of Valiantine’s mediumship occurred in 1927. A sitter possessed an ancient Chinese shell that was used as a horn, although none of the sitters could produce any note from it, no matter how hard they tried. However, in the séance when the shell was brought along, it was heard to be blown from high up, and furthermore, the notes produced were in the appropriate Chinese mode.

An article by Mrs W. H. Salter was included in the SPR’s Proceedings in 1932, in which there was a negative appraisal of George Valiantine. After mentioning the unsatisfactory testing of Valiantine by The Scientific American in 1923, she referred to Bradley’s later charges of fraud being carried out by Valiantine.

Bradley had already made reference in Towards the Stars to the suspicions of Dr Wyckoff about direct writing produced, although Wyckoff admitted that he was not convinced that Valiantine was a fraud and believed, ‘that unquestionably he has mediumistic powers’. But, ‘perhaps not all the time or at will’.

Nonetheless, Bradley subsequently changed his opinion about Valiantine, and recorded this in his book, And After: his change of opinion is startling, particularly in view of his positive reports and the vociferous criticisms of those who challenged Valiantine.

Bradley recorded that when imprints of spirit-hands in wax and smoked paper were obtained, he believed these to be fraudulent; nonetheless, he was careful to disconnect this from the occurrence of spirit voices that he believed were genuine.

Mrs Salter made the interesting observation that when the book was reviewed on 22 October 1931, by the Times Literary Supplement (hardly a publication known for a pro-Spiritualist stance), the reviewer believed there was ‘evidence of Valiantine’s supernormal faculties which no sceptic, as it seems to us, can reasonably call in question’. Indeed, by virtue of the testimony of sitters, there really could be little doubt about Valiantine’s mediumistic abilities.

When dealing with Valiantine’s mediumship in her report, Mrs Salter referred to a number of different séances when events indicated fraud, and suspicious features were noted by sitters, some of whom who were certainly not of a sceptical persuasion. Despite what is included in Mrs Salter’s writing, the reader is often confronted by the common custom of raising objections simply through certain details not being supplied, or possibilities that are really only conjecture, when the phenomena are not easily explained away. For example, in one séance when Valiantine was tied to his chair and the sitters were tied to each other, a complete list of whom the sitters were was not available and by virtue of this, Mrs Salter raised the question of whether the sitters might have colluded. When foreign languages were heard, she believed that the sitter’s own expectations may have influenced what they believed they had heard.

In a séance during which Italian was spoken, she suggested that it was possible a sitter may have pretended to have been the communicator, although she admitted that she had no grounds for doubting the integrity of the sitters present. When a communicator spoke to one sitter, and gave good evidence, Mrs Salter said this only ‘constitutes a case for further enquiry and nothing more’. It is difficult not to gain the impression that Mrs Salter sought to give any explanation to account for the phenomena, no matter how unsubstantiated, if it would preclude genuine mediumistic phenomena.

It was the instance of archaic Chinese being spoken to Dr Neville Whymant, a highly qualified Oriental scholar, involved in the translation of languages, that seems to have caused Mrs Salter some difficulty. It is this case where she suggested that the explanation might lay in the sitter’s suggestibility. To arrive at a conclusion about this particular matter, the reader can review Whymant’s own record of his experiences in Psychic Adventures in New York. At a Valiantine séance, a communicator spoke in Chinese mandarin ‘correct in intonation and pronunciation’, despite the immense difficulty of which Whymant was only too aware through his own teaching of the language.

The communicator said that he was Confucius, and Whymant asked him various questions, e.g. about the meaning of certain Chinese words and an item of textual criticism that had prevailed for many centuries; the communicator then supplied Whymant with two renderings, including the one which was correct, as the communicator knew and pointed out.

Despite her critical stance, Mrs Salter obviously had difficulties in attributing fraud or a this-worldly explanation for all of Valiantine’s mediumship; when suggestions, often lacking substantiation would not suffice, she had to agree that there were events that could not be accounted for, e.g. in the case of Valiantine being found to be covered in ectoplasm, she said that without further data, ‘this incident is likely to remain unexplained’.

Other examples of Valiantine’s mediumship can be easily found: when Dr Vivian was present, ‘while two voices were speaking, Valiantine was simultaneously heard to draw the attention of the sitters to the two voices’. When Admiral Nimmo had daylight sittings, ‘the voice which he heard to come distinctly from within the trumpet gave intelligent and evidential communication.’

A report by Lord Hope concerning his sittings with Valiantine, in the same Proceedings, essentially follows the overall style of Mrs Salter, offering telepathy or the medium possibly overhearing casual mention of certain facts beforehand as possible explanations. However, he related the positive instances that were witnessed together with those that were debateable. He referred to the lack of evidential material by communicators, apart from supposed communications from people who were in fact still alive, others who were fictitious and suggested by sitters in desperation to stimulate activity, and information given in earlier sittings being given back in later ones. Nonetheless, this was not always the case, e.g. Valiantine gave him the names of guides, two of which had been given at sittings with other mediums, and on one occasion, a communicator referred to a girl that Lord Hope knew, and correctly relayed specific information about her.

Another sitter, unknown to the medium, was given the full name of ‘a likely communicator’ and Hope admitted ‘there seemed no likely normal means by which the medium could have learnt this name’.

One communicator said that he was Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, and Hope agreed ‘the accent showed no trace of American [Valiantine’s accent], and was indeed quite unlike the medium’s ordinary voice and also unlike the guide “voices”‘. Hope asked the communicator to speak in German, the language of Martin Luther, and he did so; one sitter confirmed that ‘it was good German of an old- fashioned type’. A Japanese sitter was spoken to by a communicator and ‘was undoubtedly favourably impressed with what he had heard’.

Of trumpet movement, Hope said this was sometimes ‘very impressive’, and on one occasion a trumpet appeared to rise very high and strike something sounding like the ceiling, that was over eleven feet from the floor. Furthermore, two trumpets were sometimes in the air at the same time. In the case of the movement of other objects in the séance room, Hope noted that gramophone slowed down several times when it was ‘a considerable distance from the medium’s chair’ and the table moved from ‘where it would have been very difficult for the medium to have reached it’.

In the case of direct writing, on the occasion when Oriental characters were supplied, Hope suggested how Valiantine could have produced this fraudulently, but nevertheless conceded that the characters ‘were probably written in complete darkness during the sitting’. On asking an expert about the writing, Hope recorded how he ‘told me he did not think he could have done it himself in the dark’.

In addition to Bradley’s record, Mrs Salter referred to séances in 1925, when Lady Troubridge and Miss Radclyffe-Hall, representing the SPR, were present, and how their report was ‘refreshingly free from the obscurity and superficiality of most reports on Valiantine’.

In their report, supplied by Dr V. J. Woolley, they raised a number of justified questions together with criticisms concerning some aspects of Valiantine’s mediumship and the communications provided through him. However, they noted that Valiantine ‘asked no questions that could be interpreted as fishing for information’, and while they believed that it was impossible to arrive at any definite opinions, they felt that in the first séance, ‘that the total phenomena produced at this sitting were beyond what could have been obtained by the fraudulent efforts of the medium unaided’.

In the first séance on 13 March, there was trumpet movement, and Miss Radclyffe-Hall heard from a communicator who was recognized as someone who had died eighteen years earlier, and on being asked to supply the name of a mutual acquaintance, did so, with this being audible to all present. Later, a communicator gave a name to the same sitter that was recognized and complied when requested to supply a further name that was relevant: this being an unusual forename. Further evidence was supplied, to the sitter again, when her father communicated. He gave his name as ‘Radclyffe’ and Valiantine said that he probably did not have sufficient power to add ‘-Hall’ to his surname; in fact, her father was actually called Radclyffe Radclyffe-Hall. This was obviously evidential as a father would hardly introduce himself by his surname, but the medium was unaware of the duplicate name. In the record of the second séance on 16 March, the two researchers noted their reservations and concerns about the content of some of the communications, but agreed that the behaviour of one communicator was ‘characteristic of him and his manner’. The report also said there was ‘some opportunity of ascertaining that the medium…remained seated in his chair when voices were wandering round the circle’, and that the voice of a guide was heard at the same time that Valiantine was speaking.

The third séance on 21 March was not evidential, and had to be prematurely concluded due to the events, and the disruptive behaviour of Bradley who was present. These séances were followed by a daylight sitting on 23 March; in this, taps were heard inside the trumpet and Lady Troubridge and another sitter ‘were satisfied that the medium’s hands made no movement’. Later that day, a séance was held in a red light; Lady Troubridge carefully monitored the medium and said that she ‘could easily discern every feature and movement of his face…I could also  see with absolute certainty whether or not his mouth was closed’. She then went on to say that taps were heard in the trumpet, and one at the far end of the room, furthest from Valiantine, followed by a a voice giving his name and greeting the sitter who had her ‘eyes fixed on the medium’s mouth’ which was closed; this was followed by other voices speaking to her.

In Miss Radclyffe-Hall’s daylight sitting on the same day, taps and a voice were heard in the trumpet, and she reported that she ‘could not detect the least suspicious movement’ by Valiantine, and ‘during the whole time that the voice was going on, his mouth remained closed’ and his lips ‘remained without movement’. The communicator said that he was her father and named his wife, asking that she be told that he was ‘all right’. After the séance, both Lady Troubridge and Miss Radclyffe-Hall attempted to reproduce the taps and speech by normal means, but were unsuccessful.

When considering Valiantine’s mediumship, I believe it is fair to argue that it unfortunate that Lady Troubridge and Miss Radclyffe-Hall did not have more opportunity to attend séances with Valiantine. A reading of the available material certainly suggests that far more information about Valiantine’s mediumship would have been forthcoming from them as they were clearly concerned with evidence of survival with an objective approach. Regrettably, Bradley occupies a prominent role and the value of his contribution is highly questionable; as Inglis noted of him, ‘He had put in a great deal of work… investigating mediums, and had little positive to show for it’.

The full status of George Valiantine’s mediumship is really one of some uncertainty; nonetheless, some light is shed on the matter in view of those who attended Valiantine’s séances, holding very diverse opinions, and were unable to account for what was witnessed, or believed they had obtained evidence of survival.

Even in his book, And After, when Bradley modified his opinion concerning Valiantine, he admitted: ‘He is semi-illiterate. He possesses no scholastic education whatsoever…I mention these facts because many of the communications which have been in direct voice under his mediumship have been brilliant in their expression and culture’.

Estelle Roberts

The Mediumship of Estelle Roberts

Estelle Roberts was born May Estelle Wills, in Kensington, London, on 10 May 1889: Barbanell referred to her as ‘one of the world’s greatest mediums and the possessor of nearly every psychic faculty’.

She recalled that her childhood was ‘ordinary, unremarkable’, except for the fact that she heard voices that other family members did not. In time, her experiences became a problem and she was told that such matters were evil and suffered chastisement from her father’s leather belt. Nonetheless, the attempted suppression was unsuccessful and she frequently spoke with her brother Lionel in the years following his death. After leaving school, when she was fourteen years old, she took up employment as a nursemaid, caring for the children of a family in Turnham Green.

She then married Hugh Warren Miles who was sympathetic to her psychic experiences; three children, Ivy, Eveline and Iris were born to the couple. In this period, there was considerable hardship as her husband earned only a meagre wage; matters were not helped by his charitable nature, e.g. giving his wages away to those in need. Eight years after being married, Hugh became ill and was unable to work, and Estelle therefore had to take up employment as a cleaner to support him and their three children.

After moving to Hastings, Hugh’s condition continued to worsen and he died in May 1919. At the moment before his death, Barbanell referred to how Estelle ‘saw two spirit forms sharing her vigil. They were her husband’s parents’; she recorded that she saw his spirit departing and that it ‘gradually moulded itself into an exact replica of his earthly body’. There were also physical phenomena elsewhere in the house at this time, surely indicating something of the events to follow in Estelle’s life. Following his death, Estelle saw Hugh on a number of occasions and heard him say: ‘Here, all live on and cannot die. It is quite wonderful’. Estelle’s response to these experiences was: ‘You live, and others live. It is the message I must tell the world’. However, much needed to be done before she would be able to demonstrate this.

Estelle moved to Hampton-on-Thames and shortly afterwards, married again. She was then able to devote more time to her children, but also to communing with her ‘spirit people’. Her neighbour, Mrs Slade, invited her to a Spiritualist church at Hampton Hill, and she was able to discuss her own experiences there with Mrs Elizabeth Craddock, whom she described as ‘a very good medium’. Mrs Craddock told Estelle that she possessed mediumistic abilities and she, therefore, attempted table-tipping, but after a complete absence of activity, she gave up in disgust and walked away – only to see the table rising which then hit her on the back.

She attempted a hasty exit whereupon she saw that ‘the table pursued me’. Realizing that this is what she was seeking, she stopped and thanked whoever was responsible: a voice was heard, in stilted English, saying that his name was ‘Red Cloud’, and she then saw the speaker. In view of these events, Estelle decided to conduct a séance with Arthur, her husband, and she reported: ‘We had not long to wait. Almost at once a brilliant golden light shone’; at this point, Arthur was alarmed to note that he could no longer see Estelle in her chair. This was the beginning of spectacular phenomena that would accompany Estelle for many years afterwards.

Following this, Estelle began to demonstrate her clairvoyance and clairaudience in churches in South London and North Surrey. At this stage important information was being relayed to her: one instance was when Red Cloud advised Estelle that in some cases people were unable to communicate due to the beliefs they endorsed before they died. Another example was Estelle realizing that on death people do not change: ‘By passing over they do not suddenly become paragons of all the virtues as some people seem to think…To all intents and purposes [they] are the same people they were on earth’.

Estelle’s mediumship continued to develop, supplying excellent evidence of survival; she recalled the occasion when a woman attended a sitting and Estelle only received one, rather odd, word over and over again. With considerable reservation, Estelle told the woman what she had heard and the woman responded: ‘But that is the very word my husband and I agreed upon as evidence of identification’; additionally, she achieved successes in the work of healing in which she was very active.

There can be little doubt that one of the most remarkable features of Estelle’s mediumship was the wide range of abilities that she possessed. In addition to those already mentioned, she was also involved in the investigation of haunted properties. In this, her mediumship would often determine the cause of the disturbances and she would be able to advise the person involved concerning matters about which she could not have known by normal means.

It is not surprising that Estelle was often requested to become involved in cases where people were frantic with worry, although she attempted to avoid instances where it would be thought that she was seeking media attention. However, on the occasion when she was asked by Douglas Sladen, a friend, to help in tracing Mona Tinsley, a ten- year old child who had gone missing in Newark in 1937, she agreed to assist: however, she stressed the need to avoid her involvement becoming publicized.

Estelle then obtained an item of the girl’s clothing from the Chief Constable of the area concerned and she recorded: ‘As I took it from its wrapping…I knew at once that Mona was dead. Just then, my old dog, who had been sleeping… suddenly leapt to his feet and began to career madly around the room’. Estelle then spoke with Mona through Red Cloud’s help and the girl described how she had been taken to a small house and strangled, and gave a clear image of the area.

The Newark police were contacted and Estelle was told that the description coincided with the area where the girl had disappeared. Estelle travelled to Newark and was collected by the police and they drove until Estelle recognized the house that Mona had described. They entered into it and here, Estelle felt the child’s presence and was able to give the police information about certain items in the property, and what had happened, e.g. the place and cause of death.

The police were obviously startled as the girl’s body had not even been found. They asked Estelle where the body was and she told them that they should look in the nearby river. The police later charged the owner of the house for abduction, and subsequently, when Mona’s body was found in the river, as Estelle had told them, he was duly convicted for murder. Estelle admitted that she did not enjoy dealing with such cases because of the strain effected, although she was nevertheless willing to assist people who had been bereaved through their loved ones being murdered. One such case when she was able to provide excellent evidence was detailed in the Sunday Pictorial. An occasion of when Estelle was able to bring comfort to a Mr Proctor, whose wife had committed suicide, was fully reported in The People.

In addition to the mediumistic work described above, Estelle demonstrated her clairvoyance at many of the public halls in this country, e.g. the Royal Albert, Victoria, Caxton, etc. In these demonstrations, many people received convincing evidence, and on some occasions, so many attended, that two halls had to be linked together by microphone. Fodor remarked on how her demonstrations at the Albert Hall were before up to six thousand people.

In the case of Estelle’s work as a physical medium, she recorded the time when Red Cloud made himself visible. The séance began with the trumpet ‘becoming most lively’, with a conversation taking place between one of the sitters and her father. After a period of silence, one of those present noticed ‘a billowing cloud that was becoming slowly more visible as it grew in volume’: it was realized that a face was present and this was recognized. It swiftly disappeared upon which the trumpet and two luminous plaques began to move; Red Cloud asked for a torch to be given to him and after a sitter had held this out, ‘the next instant it was high over the heads of the circle, flashing on and off as though being tested’. It remained on and moved across to where ectoplasm had formed in the room and a face became visible. Estelle detailed how: ‘This time it was the strong, cleanly-etched features of Red Cloud. The materialisation remained there clearly visible to all’.

It was several years before Estelle’s guide was seen again, this time in the presence of twenty people. Maurice Barbanell recorded the sequence of events in Psychic News. He explained that Red Cloud had requested in advance that two luminous plaques and a red torch be made available at a forthcoming séance; by this it was known that materializations would be joining the sitters. When the time came for the séance, Barbanell remarked on the humour and absence of any tenseness in those who were there: this was in response to Red Cloud’s wishes. Estelle took her place in a hastily-made cabinet, or ‘Wendy house’ as one of her daughters jokingly referred to it.

After the area was examined, the séance began and within a short time the two plaques rose up and Red Cloud’s silhouette could be seen. He called Barbanell forward and asked for his hand and then requested that Barbanell feel his hair; Barbanell noted the hand was masculine and the hair was long, silky and shoulder-length; he was close enough to see Red Cloud’s face that included a short beard and that ‘it was a handsome face, with eloquent eyes’. Each sitter was then invited to come up and inspect the guide’s features.

Following this, ‘an extraordinary spectacle’ took place. This was when the cabinet curtains were parted and one materialized person held the torch to illuminate another. After this, the trumpets moved and apports were produced through them. Each sitter received one, and most were given a jewel. Barbanell asked Red Cloud where they came from and ‘laughingly, he replied, “The Land of Anywhere”‘. In fact, while the apports were being dropped out of the trumpet, Red Cloud was laughing and ‘treating it all as a huge joke’.

Barbanell wrote that the guide ‘always welcomed controversial discussion [and] he never showed the slightest sign of irritation to any who disagreed with his viewpoints. Frequently, his humour was displayed in masterly repartee’. After this séance, further marvels occurred only a short time later when Red Cloud materialized with Archael, another guide, who was present for an hour with some sixty sitters.

As the séances of Estelle Roberts were often accompanied by apports, Estelle wondered whether, by their production, it might be thought this was through somebody else’s loss. However, Red Cloud assured her that they were all items previously lost or abandoned, with a number of them being drawn up from the sea. One of the more remarkable incidents of this type was when a sitter asked that a budgerigar from the bottom of the garden be brought to the séance. Estelle recorded that Red Cloud declared that it would be done, and ‘as he finished speaking, one of the two luminous plaques on the floor took flight and darted quickly about the room. Then it returned…its glowing phosphorus background showing the clear-cut silhouette of a budgerigar’. Having been assured by Red Cloud that the bird had been entranced and was wholly unaware of the events taking place, each of the sitters came up to the bird and touched it.

In the case of facilitating direct voice, Estelle stated that while entranced, ‘the spirit forms I see clairvoyantly and the spirit voices I hear clairaudiently…are suddenly no more’, and likened the state to being in ‘a drugged sleep’. It was only after nearly four years of her trance work that a circle was formed to develop her direct voice mediumship. Nearly a year passed without any progress being noticeable. However, after some patient waiting, phenomena did occur: ‘Once our ten-month initiation period was over, the voices started to come in, and keep coming in, almost without break’.

One sitter, who saw the moving trumpet when some light had been allowed to enter the room, described it as being ‘supported by a pillar of smoke’. In addition to the sitters, a shorthand writer joined the group and was placed outside the circle in an alcove where light was provided to enable her to write. As Estelle pointed out, the direct voice phenomenon was particularly evidential as communicators could be recognized by the phraseology and verbal expression that they used. In some cases, the communicator’s native tongue was heard; this occurred in the case of a Dutch communicator who spoke with his brother; the brother confirmed ‘that the voice spoke in excellent, idiomatic Dutch without any trace of accent’. Other similar occasions arose when communicators spoke in Finnish, Swedish, and Hindustani.

One palpable instance of evidence through Estelle’s direct voice mediumship was when Lady Segrave attended a séance: her husband, Sir Henry Segrave had died as a racing motorist, and coincidentally, had taken up an interest in Spiritualism some time beforehand after attending a séance with the circle of Hannen Swaffer. Shortly after the séance with Estelle began, the trumpet moved towards Lady Segrave and other sitters with short spells of conversation taking place.

The trumpet returned to Lady Segrave and her husband called using his pet name for her; but she ‘was so overcome at being addressed by the pet name which only her husband used and was unknown to anyone present’. He called the name again, and made further attempts to engage in conversation, but overcome with what was happening she was unable to respond. Eventually, Henry Segrave had no further power and the trumpet dropped to the floor. Despite the disappointment of this occasion, at the next séance, he and his wife did manage to speak with each other. He admitted that he had difficulty on the earlier occasion with manipulating the trumpet and drily added: ‘I knew how to drive a boat or a car, but I’m hanged if I can get the run of this yet’.

In the following months he and his wife held long personal conversations between themselves. She later brought friends along to séances who also received excellent evidence. In view of what she had experienced, a year after her first visit, she publicly told of the evidence that she had received. She admitted that she had been forced to do this as: ‘I feel it is my duty to help others who have been through the sorrow of bereavement, so that they can become happy again as I am’.

Estelle detailed a further striking piece of evidence connected with this particular sitter. In one séance, a boy spoke to Lady Segrave, giving his name and thanked her for the help that she had given his mother. He supplied further information when requested to do so, giving personal details of names and journeys. When the boy’s mother was informed of the communication, she ‘confirmed in awe-struck wonder every detail that had been known’.

Another case of remarkable evidence was when Bessy Manning communicated.

*See article below.

Estelle’s mediumship also brought her into contact with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one of Spiritualism’s most tireless advocates. After he died, he successfully communicated through Estelle’s mediumship. At one séance, one of Doyle’s friends was present and decided to gain personal evidence by asking the communicating Doyle a personal question. He decided to ask where they had last met and, ‘Instantly the voice replied they had last met by accident in a doorway in Victoria Street’. The sitter recalled that this was so.

Estelle admitted that Red Cloud, as a number of prominent guides of other mediums, made a mistake in 1939 when he predicted there would be no war. Estelle explained that wrong predictions were caused through looking at the current circumstances and making a judgement from these, i.e. a ‘forecast only on probabilities, on a knowledge of the facts and a careful weighing of them’.

In fact, indicating the peril of accepting predictions as unfailing, it is worthwhile noting that the forecast of there being no war from various communicators was one of the principal reasons for the decline in Spiritualism after the Second World War: ‘The outbreak of war in September hit Spiritualism with devastating force…a section of the movement…had explicitly accepted certain predictions made by the spirits through their mediums about the possibility of war…The movement has never recovered its pre-war position’. In view of the consequences, this aspect in communications is something that should be constantly kept in mind.

Despite the problems faced in these dark years, it was during this time that Estelle fulfilled the important task of bringing comfort and reassurance to those who had been bereaved, and allow those who had been killed to confirm their survival. One example was Mrs Stevens, whose husband, Flt. Lt. Richard Stevens had been killed in action; when she attended sittings, ‘her husband…identified himself by recalling trivial incidents in their domestic lives’; he also spoke about the children and events taking place in their lives at that very time. Numerous cases such as this occurred when the sitters were left in no doubt that their associates, friends and loved ones had not only survived death, but were able to communicate the reality of this fact.

Estelle died in May 1970, and in the years up to this time when she worked as a medium, she surely demonstrated a truly remarkable degree of mediumistic ability. This included many different forms that provided an unmistakable amount of evidence to the many thousands who witnessed her at work.

It is no wonder that Barbanell said that, ‘though I have read all the worth-while literature in Spiritualism in the last hundred years, I have not come across any accounts to excel the proofs received in the séance-room of Estelle Roberts’, whom he believed to be ‘perhaps the most versatile of all mediums’.



It may be fairly argued that all evidential séances are naturally memorable, and undoubtedly they are, and certainly so for those who actually gain the evidence forthcoming. Nonetheless, in modern Spiritualism’s short history, there have been a number of séances providing outstanding evidence with which few could remain unimpressed. One such occasion was a séance with Estelle Roberts, details of which were given by Maurice Barbanell in his book, This is Spiritualism. Despite the very considerable extent of his encounters with quality evidence, he referred to this as a ‘most moving experience’.

Barbanell related how, halfway through the séance, Red Cloud, the guide of Estelle Roberts, advised him there was a girl who wished to communicate with regard to her mother. Barbanell asked whether he knew her, and Red Cloud simply replied ‘No…but you can help her’. The trumpet then moved towards Barbanell and he could hear a young girl speaking; aware that encouragement often assisted communicators, he asked her to talk to him. Whereupon she ‘very slowly, but distinctly’ said that her name was Bessy Manning, and she had died during the previous Easter from tuberculosis. She then added that Tommy, her brother, was with her; he had been killed in a road accident. She went on to explain that her mother, having read some of the accounts written by Barbanell, was praying that Red Cloud would bring her daughter to one of Estelle’s séances.

Bessy then told Barbanell: ‘Tell mother that I still have my two long plaits. I am twenty-two, and I have got blue eyes. Tell her I want her to come here. Could you bring her?’ adding, ‘She is poor’. Barbanell assured Bessy that he would do his best and she thanked him and stressed how important it was, as her mother was very distressed having lost two of her children. Barbanell asked for the address where the mother could be contacted, and Bessy advised him this would be at ’14 Canterbury Street, Blackburn’. He then discussed the matter with Red Cloud and it was clear that the mother was to be contacted and invited to the next séance.

Without delay or hesitation, in view of his absolute confidence in Red Cloud, Barbanell sent a telegram to a Mrs Manning at the address given saying: ‘Your daughter, Bessy, spoke to us at Red Cloud’s circle last night’. However, there was no reply to the telegram, and Barbanell therefore despatched a further one. A few days later, Barbanell received two letters from Mrs Manning; the first expressing her absolute joy on having received the first telegram saying, ‘I laughed and cried all at once’ and that the telegram, telling her of Bessy’s communication, was worth ‘more to me than untold gold’. In the second letter, she apologized that Barbanell had needed to send a second telegram but she explained that she lacked the funds to reply by anything other than letter (in fact she had other children and her husband was unemployed).

Once again, she expressed her joy and said the telegrams were beyond value. She further explained that Bessy had died the previous Easter and her son had been killed nine years earlier, and if she had not been helped by a Spiritualist family, ‘I would have gone raving mad’.

At this stage, Barbanell viewed Bessy’s séance communication: ‘as flawless evidence for the after-life. No theories of telepathy or the subconscious mind can explain it away…Mrs Manning had never met Estelle Roberts, or corresponded with her or any member of her family’.

Barbanell arranged for Mrs Manning to travel to London and took her to where the séance was to be held. It was not long before Bessy was speaking with her mother, with the trumpet on one occasion falling to the ground with the excitement. After Bessy had told her mother that Tommy was with her, Mrs Manning asked whether she ever returned home. Bessy replied that she did and commented on how she saw her mother pick up her photograph and she would speak to, and kiss it. Barbanell reported that Mrs Manning later told him this was absolutely correct. Bessy continued by telling her mother that she had seen her talking with her father that same morning and referred to the subject of their conversation; this was followed by yet further evidence, all of which was correct.

Before Mrs Manning returned to Blackburn, Estelle Roberts gave her another sitting, when, once again, Bessy ‘continued to prove her identity with detail after detail, none of which the medium could have known’. Only a matter of days later, Mrs Manning wrote to Barbanell thanking him for his involvement and supplying him with a statement that he could use: in this she detailed all that had occurred and confirmed that, ‘I heard my own daughter speak in me, in the same old loving way, and with the self-same peculiarities of speech. She spoke of incidents that I know for a positive fact no other person could know’.

Barbanell added a note that after some years had elapsed, he attended another séance with Estelle Roberts and after Red Cloud announced that he had a visitor, Barbanell heard someone attempting to speak through the trumpet. After some encouragement, he heard: ‘You helped me very much by enabling me to talk to my daughter’. Barbanell recognized the communicator as Mrs Manning who continued by saying, ‘I have got Bessy and Tommy here. Can you tell my family?’

Barbanell wrote to the old Blackburn address but the letter was returned. However, he then received a letter from Mrs Smith, one of Mrs Manning’s married daughters who had been told by someone about an article written by Barbanell regarding Mrs Manning’s return. The daughter confirmed that her mother had suffered a seizure while alone, and by the time her children reached her, she was unable to speak before she died. The daughter said that her mother’s passing was ‘a cruel blow’ but went on to express her joy on receiving news about her survival and successful communication.

Estelle Roberts added an amusing footnote to the account in her own book. She explained that Barbanell would recount the incident of Bessy Manning’s return ‘in the scores of lectures up and down the country’ because of its remarkable evidential value. Eventually, he decided that he should no longer mention it as he had referred to it so often, and he realized that he would have to use later evidence.

On the first occasion that he gave a lecture, this being in Blackburn, and omitted the account, ‘he was approached by a woman whose face seemed vaguely familiar’. He suddenly realized that it was Mrs Manning who gently chided him saying, ‘I thought you would have told them about my Bessy’. Despite the omission in his later lectures, as the account is recorded in his book, Maurice Barbanell in fact continues to tell the world about the evidence of survival for Bessy Manning.


More about Estelle Roberts

By F. W. Fitzsimons F.Z.S., F.R.M.S., etc.

After a visit to Italy, I returned to London, and went to a Sunday service at the Grotrian Hall, sitting in the audience with a friend. The hall was packed and many failed to gain admission. Mrs Estelle Roberts was the Clairvoyant for the occasion. After the address, she gave clairvoyance, selecting members of the audience at random.

This medium is remarkable in that she usually gives both Christian and surnames. If the person does not recognize the name or description of the spirit she is describing, further evidence is tendered; it is often most convincing. For instance she selected me.

“You there” and she pointed. I raised my hand.

“Yes, that’s right”, then she proceeded to say:

“There is a young lady in a robe of mauve standing near you; she wears a girdle of twisted rope of gold, caught up on the left, and with three knotted tassels. She gives the name of Annie – Annie Russell; she is your cousin, and passed out about twenty years of age. She says, Doctor is here – Dr Charles Morgan. You have two sons, she has a third with her in spirit land. Is that correct? She asked.

“Yes”, I replied, “every word of it.”

As a matter of fact, every time my cousin has appeared, she has been described to me exactly as above.

I stood up, faced the great audience, and publicly declared that all the medium had said was true, even to details.

A short time after this incident I met a clergyman I knew, and we booked private sittings With Mrs Estelle Roberts through the Marylebone Spiritualists Association (now known as the SAGB).

We went to her home at Teddington, and my friend sat first.

Mrs Roberts’ Guide, “Red Cloud” took control and went into intimate details of the sitter’s life, and gave startling accurate messages from the sitter’s deceased wife. My sitting was equally successful.

We visited her as perfect strangers, and the medium was in no way curious. She did not even ask our names. In bidding us adieu she, as an afterthought, called to us as we were going down the garden path, and gave us an invitation to be guests at her next private Direct Voice Circle, which was to be held on the following Friday. Naturally we accepted and were there at the appointed time.

The séance was held in an upstairs room reserved for the purpose. It was bare of furniture excepting the chairs on which people sat. The circle consisted of eight personal friends of the medium, excluding ourselves. The door was locked, the light turned out, and the sitters sang hymns.

Presently Mrs Roberts was heard to be breathing audibly, and this continued throughout the séance. It appears she sinks into a deep trance and remains thus during the whole time of the sitting. A red light was switched on at the termination of the séance. I then saw her body in a sagged condition in an armchair, and what appeared to be soft white net, concealed her head and the front part of her body.

To my friend and me, the sitting was astounding; literally, we were flabbergasted.

We had only sat a few minutes when one of the trumpets was raised, and it travelled right round the circle, tapping each person on the knee in greeting.

Everybody, by the way, had their hands linked with those of their neighbours’. Then from high up in the air we heard the low guttural voice of Red Cloud, the guide. He greeted my friend and me, and said we were heartily welcome.

A number of spirit people spoke through the trumpet; between each, Red Cloud would interject a few remarks, usually of a humorous nature; apparently with the object of keeping up the right rate of vibration and creating a brighter and happier atmosphere.

Gloom, pessimism, and a hostile, sceptic, or suspicious frame of mind reduce the “power” more or less considerably, and at times it is completely negatived.

Music, either instrumental or vocal, raises the vibrations and promotes successful results. Indeed, it is, in most instances, indispensable.

At this séance the singing died down to a mere hum when a spirit started to speak, so that even a whisper could be heard. All spirit people who came through were, apparently, relatives and close friends of the various sitters. One, a man’s voice, came, not loud, but quite strong, and vibrant with emotion.

”Doris; Doris; my darling, it is Harry, your husband Harry. Can you hear me?”

“Yes, yes, go on speaking; I can hear you, dear”, the widow replied (For evidential purposes Harry went into intimate private family matters.)

“The book – the book –“he said. “Submit it to the publishers at once, please. I want to see it in print.” Breaking off he remarked, “the old wall, the garden wall, I see you have stopped the work.

My darling I see you are thinking of spending three months in France; go, I want you to go to get well and strong again. I must leave now for the power is waning. God bless you, Doris, goodbye” and with a sob he was gone.

[It appears Harry had just completed a book in manuscript when he died. The old garden wall was being demolished and a new one was to have been built. Nobody knew of the widow’s intention of going to France for a holiday, in order to tear herself away from home and its associations.]

Another voice spoke, claiming to be a deceased son of one of the sitters.

“Mother, mother”, he cried, his voice vibrating with affection. It is I, Reggie, your son, Reggie. You MUST believe it mother. Do not grieve anymore; it hurts me and makes me suffer too. I am alive and happy.”

[This was the mother’s first experience of voice phenomena].

Recovering from her surprise she said: “Reggie if it is you who is speaking, tell me how you passed over, and anything else which will convince me.”

Instantly came the reply: “I was killed in the trenches in France; a piece of shell hit me.” A pause, then he resumed. “I saw you this morning upstairs in your room.”

“What was I doing?” the mother asked.

“You took up a frame and removed my photograph from it; you have it in your bag which is lying on your lap.”

I asked this lady afterwards if the statements were true, and she said, “Yes, absolutely in every detail as my boy stated.”

In regard to the photo: it occurred to her that by bringing it to the circle it might, in some way, help her to obtain contact with her son.



Willy Schneider

The Mediumship of Willy Schneider

The Schneider family became interested in Spiritualism after hearing about soldiers at the nearby garrison in Braunau, experimenting with spirit communication; when the Schneider family attempted this, it was discovered that Willy, only sixteen years old at the time, was a physical medium. According to the record made by Willy’s father’s, on 17 January 1919, the boy attempted table turning and messages were conveyed in writing through a pencil fastened to the table. The communicator gave her name as Olga and from thereon, the family continued to obtain communications; this developed to the stage when the table moved without Willy having to have any physical contact with it. Further development occurred when ‘the clapping of two tiny hands was heard and finally there was a materialised hand…Willy being visible…and enjoying the fun all the time’.

In fact, his mediumistic abilities had become apparent two years earlier when, after returning from the funeral of his older brother, Willy saw the brother; when he told his parents about this, he said that they ‘laughed’. Almost apologetically, he explained, ‘I was quite young and didn’t understand what that was supposed to mean’.

In time, news of Willy’s mediumship reached those living in Braunau, and one person who became interested was Fritz Kogelnik, a retired naval commander. Believing it was nothing more than ignorant superstition, he nevertheless attended one of Willy’s séances. In this, he saw the young Willy, who ‘was a little fellow, and in sitting on the sofa, his feet did not reach the floor’, and the phenomena that the boy was able to produce: the table moved in response to questions asked and was followed by the movement of objects in the room. Gregory cites Kogelnik’s statement that he then ‘saw a very small hand, which touched and caressed mine’, and notes, ‘Kogelnik reports that he left the Schneider house that day entirely convinced that he had witnessed genuine “paranormal” phenomena’.

However, as so often happens in such cases, Kogelnik began to doubt his own senses and attended further séances: in fact he returned ‘time and time again’, but ‘his first experience was followed by hundreds of others’. In view of what he had encountered, and despite his scepticism, Kogelnik was forced to concede the phenomena were genuine. These were not only genuine, but spectacular: he recounted how on one occasion a hand ‘well visible [that] looked like that of a baby, and very well developed in every detail’, materialized and attempted to play a zither that had been left on the floor. One amusing incident that occurred was when a woman was having difficulty in trimming her hat; Olga requested the necessary implements, e.g. ribbon, needles, etc., and these were placed in front of the table in the séance room. Olga’s ‘hand drew them under the table. A few minutes later a very tastefully trimmed bonnet was returned to the surprised owner’.

The noteworthy feature was that in the Schneider séances, there was an atmosphere of enjoyment and warmth, and it is possible this assisted in the phenomena that occurred. Olga was a warm, albeit fiery character, and apparently enjoyed the gatherings: on one occasion at his own home, Kogelnik recorded how she appeared, ‘standing amongst us’ and then proceeded to dance among the sitters. He reported, ‘It was a most impressive sight…At the last note of the music, the phantom disappeared like lightning, just as it had come’.

Despite the doubts about Olga, she appeared to be a character in her own right: she requested certain music to be played, preferably of a military marching type, and before phenomena were produced, she demanded that the sitters sang a song that she liked. As Tabori humorously notes, this resulted in ‘the spectacle of philosophers and physicists, psychical researchers and eminent writers singing unharmoniously together’.

As time went on, Willy’s mediumship was becoming well-known, although the mediumship of Rudi, his younger brother, was also becoming the subject of attention. When Olga ceased to be Willy’s control and took on this role with Rudi, she was replaced by Mina, in addition to others who worked through Willy as controls, e.g. Otto. There was some experimentation with the séance room environment, i.e. changing from the use of a white light to a red one and using a dark cabinet. After events such as object movement and writing were produced by communicators, Willy developed trance through which Olga could speak directly to the sitters.

In view of what he had witnessed, Kogelnik notified Baron Schrenck-Notzing, one of most active researchers at the time, about Willy’s mediumship; Schrenck-Notzing then undertook an investigation with the young medium. After Willy finished school and an apprenticeship, he was employed by a dentist in Munich and was regularly tested there by Schrenck-Notzing in his laboratory. Over a hundred séances were conducted, many of which were attended by university professors, doctors, and other academics.

Before a séance, Willy was searched and put in luminous clothing, and during the séance itself, there was a red light that enabled the sitters to monitor his movements. Willy would sit outside the cabinet and had two persons holding each of his hands with a third sitting in front of him; they were all separated by a gauze screen from the objects that were to be moved: nonetheless, ‘the severity of the control did not prevent the phenomena’, e.g. ‘the table soon began to tilt and was then completely levitated to the height of about a foot’.

Other phenomena were noted by Schrenck-Notzing, e.g. materializations that were ‘flowing, changing and fantastic shapes’. After over fifty séances by mid-1922, Schrenck-Notzing stated, ‘No single participant noticed the slightest suspicious manipulation by the medium or anybody present and the collective impression of all witnesses can be summed up by saying that Willy Sch. could not have produced the phenomena through the known mechanical means’.

Dr Dingwall, who was present during some of the séances in Braunau, attended one in Munich in 1922, and carried out a thorough search of the séance room, and found nothing untoward; during the séance, he conducted tests to determine the force being exerted by the unseen visitors. After trying to unsuccessfully prevent a table from levitating, he held a board whereupon he reported, ‘Within a few seconds I felt sharp thumps and blows against the surface…it was if a small hand within a boxing glove were delivering the blows’. Dingwall stated that he believed the phenomena produced by both Rudi and Willy were genuine and in 1922, wrote an account in the American Society of Psychical Research’s Journal of what he had seen, and also said that accusation of fraud was untenable.

However, after this, and surely demonstrating how the process of mediums submitting to researchers can sometimes be valueless, Dingwall apparently changed his mind about what he had witnessed and seemed to think that Schrenck-Notzing might be inept, or involved in fraud himself. Despite his earlier positive statements, Gregory notes how Dingwall ‘kept alternating between the hypotheses of fraud and genuineness, and qualifying his assertions…in such a manner that no one could pin him down to anything beyond a general half-qualified irate hovering’. And yet this was the man who had written that he regarded Willy Schneider as ‘the king of the mediums’.

This is a excellent example of what often occurred in such cases: if a researcher was convinced that any supposed paranormal phenomena had to have a ‘normal’ cause, he was therefore faced with having to embark upon making extraordinary allegations and accusations; in this case, suggesting that a fellow-researcher might have been involved in fraud. At this point, those who read the account of Rudi’s Schneider’s mediumship will recognize similarities in the lives of both Schneider mediums in respect of those who investigated them.

When Thomas Mann, an author and Nobel Prize winner, attended a séance with Willy at the home of Schrenck-Notzing, he stated that in view of what he saw, the suggestion of fraud was absurd. However, by this stage, it clearly becomes evident that once Willy had placed himself in the hands of Schrenck-Notzing and others, tests were not related to survival or evidential communications, but rather, the providing of repeated performances of telekinesis.

After a disagreement with Schrenck-Notzing, Willy worked with Dr Holub in Vienna and during this time materializations were manifested in addition to the usual phenomena and levitation. However, this only lasted for a short period due to Holub’s sudden death and Willy then continued to demonstrate his abilities to various university professors. In 1924, Willy came to London with Mrs Holub and gave demonstrations to members of the SPR; some phenomena were produced, and Dingwall admitted in the SPR’s Proceedings (XXXVI), that ‘the only reasonable hypothesis which covers the facts is that some supernatural agency produced the results’.

In 1925, Harry Price attended a number of séances in Vienna with Willy, and in one of these, saw a sequence of events that convinced him that he had witnessed genuine phenomena. He had in fact seen what Willy could produce on other occasions, e.g. in Munich in 1922 and at the Schneider home; in the latter, he was accompanied by two professors and recorded how, during the séance, there were breezes, the movement of numerous objects and partial materializations. Of the séance, Price said that he and the two other witnesses, ‘agreed was the best the medium had ever given under test conditions’.

Willy visited Britain again in 1926, but his powers were clearly weaker than ever before. In 1928, Schrenck-Notzing invited a number of SPR members to Munich to observe both Willy and Rudi; while Willy’s powers had clearly diminished, there were some phenomena apparent to the observers. However, as his powers were by this time so limited, Gregory rightly asks, ‘One may well ask why, in the circumstances, Schrenck-Notzing attempted to give a demonstration’. In fact it appears that it was because he had just discovered that a medium he was to show the SPR members was actually fraudulent, and he therefore decided to use the Schneider brothers instead. In sum, mediums could be used as demonstration tools, particularly if it avoided embarrassment.

After submitting to the researchers mentioned above, and aware that his mediumistic powers were no longer present, Willy retired from this activity. Nonetheless, what is possibly relevant is Beloff’s comment that during the period, Willy became ‘bored with the endless repetitions that were demanded of him’. This observation says a great deal; as detailed in the article concerning Rudi, tremendous opportunities were surely lost through the antics of the researchers involved. It was not so much simply the factor of ‘research’ that effected the problems, but the type of researchers involved and their goal(s), that were apparently not related to the matter of survival but something quite different.

The difficulties created were primarily through a craving for repeat performances of certain phenomena that could only be fairly described as mundane, and certainly so when compared with what might have been available with a different approach. Hopefully, the obvious lesson of the Schneider brothers has been learned and will not be repeated. Time will tell…..

Recommended reading:

P. Tabori, Companions of the Unseen

J. Beloff, Parapsychology: A Concise History


Rudi Schneider


Rudi (Rudolf) Schneider (1908-1957) was one of the four sons in the Schneider family who demonstrated their mediumistic abilities at a young age. Although his older brothers, Willy, Hans and Karl, possessed this talent to some degree, Rudi’s mediumship, and its history, is surely the more interesting of the four. I am indebted to Anita Gregory’s, The Strange Case of Rudi Schneider for much of the detail that follows. Her interest in Rudi began after hearing Dr William Brown’s declaration regarding what had been witnessed in a séance with Rudi as the medium.

The account may begin when Kogelnik, a sceptic, saw the mediumship of Willy in the family’s hometown of Branau, Austria; he accepted this as genuine and was prompted to contact von Schrenck-Notzing, an active researcher. Willy was then tested and monitored by a number of researchers and academics, and produced physical phenomena. However, attention was directed to Rudi: this was said (although Willy’s version of events differs) to have arisen when ‘Olga’, the control, specifically requested Rudi’s presence, despite him being just eleven years old at the time. In due course, Rudi was tested by von Schrenck-Notzing and others; his mediumship was not so powerful, but unlike Willy who requested darkness (his mediumship declined during the 1920s), Rudi was content to have at least some form of lighting present in the séances. Josef Schneider, his father, made a careful record of these from 1923, in addition to those made by others who attended.

Many examples of Rudi’s mediumship can be cited; one being the séance on 8 December 1932, where a detailed record was made and is therefore suitable as an illustration. In this, three professors and two doctors were included amongst the sitters, with Rudi seated with them. After Olga made herself known, Rudi was levitated several times, being visible to those present, and this was followed by the movement of objects within the room. Gregory notes how the person designated to be the controller, i.e. the person who monitored the medium and controlled his movement during the séance, was invariably the ‘most eminent and preferably the most sceptical participant’.

The séance attended by the investigator Sudre included phenomena that resulted in him detailing: ‘I saw something appear…the impression of being a child’s hand. The hand showed itself several times…It performed various acts, sometimes spontaneously and sometimes at the demand of the sitters’. He also reported, as so often happens, how the next-world visitor chose to enliven the proceedings by throwing items at the sitters. More relevant is his observation that while this materialization was present, another object was moving elsewhere.

Shortly afterwards, there were contrasting opinions voiced by different investigators, e.g. Professors Meyer and Przibram, who were publicized as having declared the Schneider phenomena false (this announcement caused another researcher, who had accepted the phenomena as genuine, to suffer a stroke and die a matter of days later). Meyer and Przibram were challenged by others, resulting in the two accusers softening their view and saying they had only demonstrated how the phenomena might have been produced by normal means.

Due to this, von Schrenck-Notzing introduced more rigid conditions in the control of Rudi during the séances: there were to be two controllers to ensure that there was no movement by Rudi. Despite these conditions, there were cases of materialized forms, direct writing, object movement and levitation. A number of researchers became convinced of the authenticity of the phenomena (e.g. Professors Fischer and Bleuler), but there were opposing views that continued to challenge the authenticity. It is interesting to note that one sitter at Rudi’s séances in 1925 was Jung, the renowned Swiss psychologist who made the statement that many researchers might do well to consider: ‘I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud’.

Nonetheless, sitters continued to be divided into believers and sceptics; with regard to the second category, Dr. Prince who was a member of this group, held this negative conclusion, as Gregory summarizes, as ‘long as explanations in terms of fraud and conspiracy were tenable under the conditions of the sitting’. In the upshot, as long as these possibilities existed, they had to be the most likely explanation. In the case of the believers, Gregory refers to one such person who testified to seeing object movement, levitation and the materialization of a hand: this was Dr Gatterer, a Jesuit professor, and hardly someone sympathetic to mediumship. One of the difficulties that arose in Rudi’s séances was the presence of family members that led to accusations of collaboration, but at a séance held by von Schrenck-Notzing in 1926, where members of the family and circle were absent, phenomena still occurred.

Fortunately, the situation between investigators and communicators was not all one-sided: when von Schrenck-Notzing complained about the length of time before phenomena were produced and other matters about which he felt annoyed, Olga declined to ever allow any phenomena to occur when he was present and seemed to be intent on annoying him from thereafter.

In the case of the sceptical Dr Prince already referred to, he had water poured over him at one séance, and when Dr Hoppe-Moser insisted that he examine a violin that was levitating, he was then struck by it several times. Furthermore, Olga not only insisted on sitters singing, but each one giving a solo rendering. Meanwhile, matters were not altogether straightforward for Olga as, ‘Rudi was a healthy and robust youngster, more interested in cars, football and, later his sweetheart Mitzi than in psychical research’.

Von Schrenck-Notzing died in 1929, and within a month, the psychic ‘researcher’ Harry Price was on the scene. Gregory adequately sums up the character of Price: ‘He had a picture of himself as the great amateur scientist, presenting the world of learning with a new discipline….in the last resort his own part mattered more to him than the subject…he was willing to bring the edifice crashing down rather than take second place to it’. Sadly, it was with such a person that Rudi became involved. Price had in fact been involved at an earlier time in the testing of both Willy and Rudi; he was ‘fully convinced’ that Willy had genuine psychic powers and ‘much impressed’ with Rudi’s mediumship.

The first séance with Rudi, and Price controlling the proceedings, was conducted in London during April 1929; in this, there were a number of electrical circuits in place, with sitters wearing special socks and gloves to relay the charge, and several lights present to show if there were any breaks. This appeared to cause Rudi no difficulties and he succeeded in producing physical phenomena, including some degree of materialization. Phenomena occurred in other séances later that same month: ‘They were all successful, producing brilliant and varied phenomena’.

A further sequence of séances for Price took place in 1929-30 when some phenomena arose although difference of opinion continued; in 1930, Rudi then submitted to tests conducted by Dr Osty in Paris. In these, an infra-red light was installed that would activate an alarm if broken. The beam was interrupted on many occasions, but the photographs taken at this very time showed nothing whatsoever, i.e. the movement that activated the complex set-up was not visible. Despite the conditions, Rudi’s mediumship continued, e.g. in the third séance, a mist appeared, with table movement; this was in a lighted environment where those who were present could be seen. Further séances took place with extensive testing equipment and a rubber tube around Rudi’s chest to monitor his breathing and luminous tape around his clothing; Osty conceded that paranormal events were occurring through Rudi. However, amazingly, after all of this, Osty, as Gregory records, could not ‘offer any interpretation of the phenomena beyond pointing out that the oscillatory character of the “substance” could be a result of the interaction between the “substance” and the radiations manifestly harmful to it’, and the substance could be viewed as ‘a peculiarly ephemeral physiological extension of the medium’, although the events seemed to counter this hypothesis.

The rate of breathing while entranced was a further spectacle of Rudi’s mediumship; as Carrington commented: ‘The ordinary breathing rate of anyone not engaged in active exercise is about 14-26 to the minute. But when Rudi Schneider goes into trance an extraordinary thing happens. His breathing increases to 200, 250, even 300 and more respirations per minute, and he keeps this up for considerable periods of time’.
After the experiments with Osty, Rudi continued to provide demonstrations; at one, the signed statement of witnesses, including Walther, who was von Schrenck-Notzing’s personal assistant, testified to a materialization seen by several sitters, in addition to object movement. In 1932 Rudi began another series of experiments in London with Price between February and May, with Price’s equipment present to photograph the proceedings when phenomena arose. Many of the séances were unsuccessful, although a number were not, with psychic winds, object movement and forms of materialization. Despite this, the opinions of different researchers still continued to vary widely.

On 5 March 1933, an article by Price appeared in the Sunday Dispatch claiming that Rudi was a fraud. Price also produced a bulletin with photographs that included those, taken on 28 April the previous year, that showed Rudi had freed his hand when phenomena had occurred. With regard to this, Gregory deals with the matter in considerable detail, and some of the very pertinent observations that she includes are: (i) even if Rudi had been responsible for creating the phenomena on this occasion, it hardly accounted for the many others; (ii) Price’s accusation was almost a year after the actual séance and yet he had said nothing about this supposed ‘proof’ of Rudi’s fraudulent behaviour in the meantime; (iii) the incident occurred when Price was supposed to be controlling Rudi; Price blamed his failure due to severe toothache, but one wonders why, if unable to supervise effectively, he took up the role; (iv) between the time of the séance and Price’s accusation, Price continued to proclaim the genuineness of Rudi’s mediumship (e.g. saying Rudi ‘has emerged unscathed from his very strenuous ordeals’ in Empire News, 8 May 1932, and he had passed every stringent laboratory test ‘with flying colours’ in Light, 20 May 1932).

It is therefore extremely difficult to harmonize these factors. What was Price’s motive? According to Gregory, it was to harm the other researchers who had ‘taken Rudi away from him’ and refused to accept Price as the ‘ultimate and final authority’ on the subject. There were, not surprisingly, other opinions regarding the photographic ‘evidence’, e.g. that it was an accidental movement: Rudi simply reacted to the first flash exposure and the second captured his action. Gregory gives her reasons for rejecting this proposal. In the case of the photographs that Price produced to denounce Rudi, Gregory observes that there is ‘something extremely odd’ about these and supplies her reasons, in considerable detail, for such a view. She also refers to the declaration by the President of the Royal Photographic Society that the photographs are so defective they were ‘almost useless as evidence’.
Also, that after having the negative plate enlarged, a number of questions arose concerning what they showed; she goes on to report the opinion that the incriminating photograph was considered to be ‘a fake’, produced through merging another picture. Finally, she appropriately quotes Halls’s view about Price’s ‘belief he could get away with anything’.
Fraser-Harris resigned his membership of Price’s ‘National Laboratory’ in view of the report issued by Price that was said to have been made by a number of researchers; Fraser-Harris said that in fact, ‘not one of us was consulted regarding either the letter-press, or the photographs’, and added that he wished to ‘disassociate myself entirely’ from being involved.

It is worth noting that Price made several attempts to have his laboratory, that he called ‘The National Laboratory for Psychical Research’, integrated with the SPR (on the basis that he would have a prominent place in its work) that fortunately failed. Price’s personality can also be assessed by his interest in black magic and that after several failures to have the donation of his laboratory accepted by the University of London, he offered it to Hitler for his Third Reich; nonetheless, it did eventually make its way to the University of London. In sum, Price was ‘possessive, deceitful, spiteful and self-seeking’. It cannot be coincidence that Price’s accusations just happened to have appeared a short time before the results of other researchers’ tests were to be published. Price was obviously not typical of researchers, but the history of the research into Rudi’s mediumship provides an illustration of the problems that were caused through unacceptable research methods, and the unproductive chaos that ensued. For this reason, it is worthwhile considering some of the further antics and the result of research without the proficiency that is patently due.

In addition to all that has already been outlined regarding the research into Rudi Schneider’s mediumship, more examples of the inane behaviour of many of those involved can be cited, e.g. in 1935, Dr Foltz challenged Osty’s work with Rudi, saying that some of the phenomena were caused through Osty’s ‘shaky floor’. After correspondence with Herbert of the SPR, who tested the relevant equipment with a shaky table, Foltz apparently decided not to pursue his theory any further. When Besterman summarised the history of tests made on Rudi’s mediumship, he referred to the belief of Meyer and Przibram that they could reproduce Rudi’s phenomena by normal means, but despite the importance of the claim, no detailed account of the conditions was even available. There is also reference by Besterman to Rudi being exposed by a Dr Lenkei, but he noted that ‘No particulars are available’. He also related how Vinton believed the phenomena were produced through Rudi’s family, but this theory was answered by von Schrenck-Notzing, but he in turn was criticized by von Klinckowstroem. He continued by referring to another sitting in 1927, but saying this was ‘non-committal’. He then turned to the London sittings in 1929 but remarked how the electrical control used was ‘very defective’, and that some researchers had challenged this method, while some had supported it.

The following year, in a report by a number of different researchers, the pandemonium of confusion and different ideas continued: Herbert stated that there was ‘some defect in the emulsion’ in the photographic plates used, resulting in the negatives being ‘so covered with spots and blotches that it was impossible to tell if there was any image or not’. On ordering a further batch, these ‘did not arrive in time’.
In the case of the laboratory at the LSA used for a séance with Rudi, he noted that ‘it was extremely susceptible to mechanical vibration’ being close to heavy traffic, i.e. it was not really suitable. He closed his account by thanking Rudi ‘who cheerfully submitted to all our tests and who bore without complaint all the indignities of being investigated by suspicious scientists’. When Lord Rayleigh gave his account, he stated that the infra-red photographic equipment was ‘not well adapted for making records of galvanometer deflections’, adding that the arrangements for this apparatus ‘were in fact designed for… [a] quite different purpose’. He concluded by saying the research required ‘patience and perseverance’, i.e. yet more sittings with the longsuffering Rudi and/or other mediums (By this time, i.e., 1933, Rudi had been investigated during some fourteen years). When Brown made his judgement at this time, he could only say ‘the results were inconclusive’ and further research was required. In the following year, Lord Hope lamented the fact that ‘so much careful work and such a large financial outlay should have gone unrewarded by conclusive results’, and concluded by saying, ‘it is hoped that…it will be found possible to continue to experiment with him [Rudi Schneider]’,

In the light of the above, it seems apposite to consider the matter of research into physical mediumship. It may be argued that the various ‘problems’ detailed above were really unavoidable and merely the events of that period, and bear no resemblance to the situation of the present time. But the lesson to be learned is that there was such diversity of opinion – or none at all, despite the number of sittings given by Rudi to so many people in so many places over so many years. If no decision could be reached after this, surely one is justified in asking how many sittings would have been required to effect a clear decision? Would any number have achieved this? The situation was no less bizarre with experiments being carried out that were then subsequently declared to be of little or no value by other researchers because of the equipment or location used. Therefore, the researchers stumbled along and the experiments continued and invariably, a common judgement remained elusive.

It should also be borne in mind, as stated in earlier NAS Newsletters (e.g. August 1995), that research has its obvious limitations. Some people seem to believe that research and enquiry will provide ‘proof’ to the world concerning the reality of survival; with respect, I must say that I believe them to be wholly mistaken, and indeed, very naive. Whether it be philosophical argumentation, or pure science, it is fanciful to believe that it will be possible to ‘prove’ survival in the foreseeable future. As noted by dedicated and experienced researchers of earlier years, e.g. James and Barrett, decisive proof will surely be elusive and out of reach.

Nonetheless, enquiry into the subject of survival and paranormal phenomena should be welcomed and encouraged as there can indeed be valuable results from objective and properly-conducted research, e.g. further data concerning the nature of the afterlife, or effecting better communication. Psychical research, particularly that of the nineteenth century SPR provided an absolute wealth of information. But, research has to be objective, properly-conducted and productive, and its constraints have to be recognized.

Research, unlike that to which Rudi was subjected, should be as the term is defined: ‘Systematic investigation to establish facts…or to collect information’. If researchers undertake this type of work, with preconceptions or motives other than the pursuit of facts, the work inevitably has little or no value, and invariably, a negative effect. I am sometimes inclined to think that in the case of some researchers of earlier years that their activity was either more related to increasing their status, or simply an interesting pastime. In fact, as Beloff observes in the case of both von Schrenck-Notzing and Price, they ‘wisely married wealthy women, [and] were free to indulge their passion for the paranormal’. In reviewing Rudi’s case, it is an interesting point to consider that if overwhelming evidence or conclusive data had been forthcoming, a number of researchers would have had considerable difficulty knowing what to actually do with it.

Unlike so many other areas of research, in the case of mediumship, this obviously involves human beings who are entitled to consideration and respect: features that were only obvious by their absence to a significant degree in Rudi’s case. A 1932 Psychic News presented the situation, with some appropriate irony: ‘Rudi, a clean-cut Austrian boy…wondered why the “scientists” tied him up and then fastened themselves in electrically controlled mittens and foot-coverings’. While they wished to witness strange happenings, in reality, ‘To him, it was the “scientists” who were strange’.

I also do not consider it unreasonable to expect that researchers arrive at unambiguous decisions concerning their work, and be prepared to substantiate their decisions, rather than persistently taking safe refuge in remaining undecided or requesting continuous repeat performances. Furthermore, that they give due attention to the conditions of tests so they will not be later challenged by fellow researchers as so often happened in the case of Rudi Schneider. Admittedly, laboratory conditions are hardly possible, but the importance of this factor is obvious: Wiseman, when discussing the problems that arose from a certain report regarding physical phenomena, refers to the need of investigations being ‘carried out, and reported, in such a way as to minimise retrospective counter-explanation’. This does seem to be one of the principal problems that consistently appears.

Research, when carried out, should be responsible and decisive, and I can see no reason why this should not be if motives are genuine and the modus operandi adopted is that of professionals. Moreover, while physical mediumship is an easy target for parapsychologists (justifiably, in some cases), it should not be forgotten that parapsychology as well as physical mediumship has had its own renegades, e.g. Levy, Soal. It is little wonder that Carrington argued that, ‘an ideal psychic investigator is hard to find, and it is probable that such a man is born rather than made’.

There is also the salient question concerning what is actually being sought – whether the investigation is only interested in the mechanisms of the phenomena, or the psychology of those involved, or the seeking of information regarding survival. While research into categories other than survival may be interesting, it is surely research into the subject of survival that has the ultimate priority; therefore, the actual purpose of any investigation needs clarifying on all the occasions when it is proposed.

It does appear that considerable time, energy and opportunity have been wasted by well-meaning Spiritualists who have become involved in activities that really do little to assist their goals, and if anything, have a negative effect. In 1932, Boddington referred to Rudi, and the ‘verdicts’ of researchers and how they were unwilling to make any judgement, and said: ‘My complaint is that this is exactly the sum total of psychical researchers’ achievements for the past eighty years. Meantime, Spiritualists go on providing them with more and more material for criticism . . . They seem vaingloriously proud of their lame and impotent conclusions’.

I believe it unavoidable that anyone reading of Rudi’s life and mediumship, and the antics of many of the researchers involved, will form the impression that his abilities were sufficient to have possibly developed to a remarkable degree. If he had been allowed to develop his talents in the atmosphere of his home circle, rather than enduring the almost-farcical behaviour of investigators, the outcome of his young life might have been very different. It is this factor that is the truly sad part of Rudi’s story.
To conclude, Gregory says of Rudi, ‘He permitted himself to be investigated by researchers . . . and accepted whatever conditions they chose to impose . . . there is not one iota of evidence to suggest that he was ever in his life anything other than transparently honest.

Furthermore, Beloff remarks, ‘Rudi’s mediumship is now rightly considered among the best authenticated in the literature . . . he was never caught in any act of fraud’.
Despite all that he had endured, Rudi continued to demonstrate his mediumship to various researchers; also, to his neighbours in Meyer up to 1951, having moved there with his wife, Mitzi. After starting his own driving school, Rudi died suddenly in 1957, on 28 April, aged only 49. This was exactly twenty-five years to the day after the séance that led to Price’s scurrilous accusations. This may of course have been coincidence, but then again . . .

The above article was researched by David Nicholls Ph.D



Bertie Lilly Candler (2)

The mediumship of Bertie Lilly Candler

ALTHOUGH you may not believe it, Bertie Lilly Candler was afraid of the first spirit she ever saw. But this is understandable because she was only six years old at the time.

Many children who see spirit people at such an early age lose their mediumship as they grow older, but Bertie Lilly’s continued to develop until today she is the happy possessor of many phases of mental and physical mediumship.

When she was a little girl, however, she had only the clairvoyant phase and she always was frightened whenever a spirit would appear to her. She didn’t know what they were, but was old enough to realize that they were not earthly human beings. Her fear was caused more by not knowing just what she saw than by the actual sight itself. And so it is with most of us.

She was unable to get much help in understanding the visions which came to her. So for years she continued to see spirit people and to be afraid of them and what they might mean. Although of course they meant her no harm whatsoever, hers were many years of terror at the “spectres” which she saw. But she had the courage to continue her search to find out the meaning of these visions and her mediumship developed into an outstanding one.

One of the greatest experiences of Bertie Lilly’s life came when she was in her teens. She still did not know about Spiritualism and the many possibilities and useful truths which it contains. One day she saw a vision. A spirit appeared before her and began to talk to her.

“Your brother, Howard, is going to pass out on the sixth of December at 7:45 a.m. “this spirit said.

Her brother was alive and well. She couldn’t understand why these words were spoken to her. The spirit disappeared without another word.

At 7:45 on the sixth of December Howard passed away.

Three weeks later he appeared to her! And he began to speak— “Tell mother not to grieve. I am happy and living over here,” were his words.

Howard’s was the first death in her family, and of course it was a great shock. But his appearance to Bertie Lilly and the words he spoke were a comfort which gave new hope to the family. But still, it was a voice from the unknown and was not understandable.

Then Bertie Lilly went to her minister. She was a Methodist and thought that the pastor of her church might be able to help her. He gave her as liberal and understanding an answer as any orthodox minister could.

He said, “Your being a Christian girl, probably the Lord has sent His angel to guard you in the form of your brother.”

But this answer did not satisfy her. She felt there must be some further explanation of such phenomena. So she left the church and continued her search for truth in other channels. Her brother’s coming to her took away some of the fear that had been with her for so many years. He was someone she knew and could recognize and trust. She knew that he wouldn’t come to her if it was wrong or something to fear. She searched until she learned about Spiritualism and mediumship. Howard continued to come to her, and today he is her main guide.

Bertie Lilly Candler is best known for her work as a materialization medium. She has other phases, too, trance, trumpet and independent voice. She has practiced her mediumship since 1919. She is a member of the International General Assembly of Spiritualists, and since 1927 has been pastor of the Beckoning Light Church in Miami, Florida.

When I asked her what suggestions she would offer to students who are sitting for development, she replied that, “First of all, a person seeking development should study under a good teacher.”

She feels that the guidance obtained in this way will shorten the time of development by years. She did not have the opportunity of sitting in a developing class during much of her own unfoldment period. She was forced to learn many things for herself which might have been given to her much more quickly through the experience of a competent teacher. Even after she had obtained much of her mediumship, she was so anxious for class work that she did not at all mind sitting with people who were not nearly as advanced in the work as she was. It was during this period that she sat in a class conducted by Mable Riffle, whom she considers an outstanding teacher of physical mediumship.

“But there is much more to it,” she said, “than just sitting in class.” In the first place, a person’s desire for mediumship should be activated by the right motive. Mediumship for selfish gain is as great a sin as violation of any of the Commandments. She believes that those who always try to do the right thing and live a clean life will find that a better mediumship will be their reward.

Bertie Lilly Candler is enthusiastic about the possibilities of mediumship which have not as yet been tapped. She knows, through her own experiences, that there is a great field for workers in Spiritualism; that many localities suffer from a lack of properly trained sensitives. Because of her understanding of this need, she was glad to offer her suggestions to those who are attempting to develop materialization as their phase of mediumship.

The development of trance mediumship is the first step in attaining the phase of materialization. The sitter should use the usual materialization cabinet consisting of two black curtains hung across a corner of the séance room so as to open in the center. At least one other person should be in attendance outside the cabinet. A larger group will assist in furnishing a greater power with which to produce the manifestation.

The student must sit inside the cabinet in a relaxed state, entirely unconscious of his own body or mental emotions. In entering the trance state, some of her own students have had the sensation of sinking, as though going down in water. Others seem to contract their objective consciousness within themselves, and some seem to rise above their bodies or walk out of them. You may recognize any of these sensations from your experiences in development.

“Losing yourself in trance is of prime importance to the student who is trying to develop materialization,” says Bertie Lilly Candler. The student actually must lose his own consciousness in entering the trance state. This enables the spirit operators to control the manifestation to the fullest extent.

Do not be afraid of allowing the guides to control you. The law of attraction is such that you will attract to yourself guides who are of a character and ability comparable to your own. Like attracts like, good is attracted to good and bad to bad. If you have lived so that you have attracted to yourself guides of a high standard of character, then you have nothing to fear at all. These guides return to you for the purpose of manifesting through you and helping other spirit people to do so. They are trained for it, and will see that no harm comes to you.

In entering trance, breathing is important. The breath should be even and regular, not forced in any way. A rhythmic breathing exercise should be practiced regularly. Mentally, you can direct the breath to the psychic centers of the body which correspond in location to the physical glands. The best point of concentration for this life essence of the breath is near the solar plexus region.

After you have directed the breath to this region for a few moments, then sit relaxed and await the sensations previously mentioned. A word of warning is important here. Do not overdo the exercise of directing the breath. This is nothing to play with. Though you may not realize it, you are dealing with a powerful force when you direct the psychic qualities of the air to a psychic center. If overdone, harmful and even disastrous stimulation of a psychic nature might result. It is similar to electricity. Controlled in the wires of our homes it is of much benefit to us. But, uncontrolled as in lightning, or in a short circuit, it is an agent of destruction.

Materialization of the spirit body is produced from a substance known as ectoplasm. Ectoplasm is the spiritual counterpart of protoplasm, of which your physical body is formed. Spirit operators use the ectoplasmic body of the medium, and spirit people materialize to your sight through its use. This accounts for the fact that there are times when the materialized spirit has some of the medium’s features, just as the Christ looked like the gardener to Mary when she first saw him.

The ectoplasmic body exists in the intercellular spaces of the medium’s body. In vibration it is halfway between physical and spiritual. It is physical enough to be seen by the physical eye and spiritual enough to be used by a spirit person.

The medium must project this ectoplasmic body from his own in order that its substance might be used by the spirit. It is further drawn by the magnetism of the sitters. Then the spirit is clothed with astral substance, drawn from all the physical substance in the room, such as the sitters’ clothing, furniture, flowers, and so on.

As ectoplasm is affected by the physical body of the medium, Bertie Lilly Candler recommends that every student of materialization be especially careful in caring for his body. In general, ordinary rules of diet should be followed. However, she believes that those foods which partake less of a physical nature are most beneficial. Of course this should not be carried to extremes so that loss of physical energy results.

A materialization medium needs a great deal of energy. The drain and strain on his body is unusually high. Mediums of this type have been placed on scales and their weight checked while a spirit is manifesting through their mediumship. They have become lighter by as much as twenty-five pounds  taking substance of this weight from the medium cannot help but cause much strain and loss of energy.

Proper exercise also is necessary. Bertie Lilly likes to play golf. There are several reasons for her preference for this kind of exercise besides pure enjoyment of the game and the physical exercise it affords. In the first place it takes you out of doors where you can breathe the purest of air. Taking in this air helps to fill your body with all the psychic energy which the air contains. And then it brings you in close contact with the ground, from which you can assimilate a certain type of magnetism helpful to the manifestation of materialization. The taking in of these substances is done without conscious effort on your part. The body simply recharges itself when coming in contact with them.

Bertie Lilly Candler first became interested in Spiritualism in 1918. She was living in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the time. One night her sister-in-law appeared to her in a vision. The sister-in-law was living in the Deep South, and Bertie Lilly did not even know she had been ill.

She later learned that the sister-in-law had passed away on the afternoon of the same day she appeared in the vision. Just before her passing she spoke to those who had gathered about her bedside.

“I want to see Bertie Lilly,” was the last sentence she spoke on this earth!

It was at this time that Spiritualism first offered itself as a possible explanation for all the visions and voices she had seen and heard. She became vitally interested in the movement, began attending services and séances, and then sat in a home developing circle. The third time this circle met, she went into a trance. This was something new to her, different than the other manifestations which she previously had, and she continued her investigation and development, it seems as though she was destined to become a materialization medium for she would not stop her search for an understanding of the phenomena.

It was just a year later, in 1919, that she began her public career. She worried lest people would not believe the things which she told them she saw but when they did believe, and recognized the messages which she gave to them, she was thrilled. And who wouldn’t be?

Aside from her golf, her only other hobby is in doing charitable work. She realizes that everyone has not had the same opportunities here on earth, and that others have not been able to take advantage of the opportunities they did have. So she tries to make it all up to them somehow. She looks back to the time when she knew nothing at all about Spiritualism and sees the difficulties and problems which were in her mind. When she can help another to solve his problems she is happy.

After twenty-seven years of constant work in Spiritualism you would think that a person would take it more or less for granted. But Bertie Lilly Candler is just as enthused about the movement and the manifestations today as she was back in 1919 when she gave her first public demonstration.

To her, Spiritualism means more than just the manifestations of spirit people. There is a deeper side to the religion than just the proof of immortality. She feels that many of the teachings should be broadcast to the world in such fashion as to make it impossible for the world to ignore them.

The teachings of the Master, in her opinion, are the basis upon which every student should build his life. She says that one of the greatest helps to mediumship is in living in accordance with the principles which he brought to earth. The rendering of service to others helps build in every person a philosophy which will stand him in good stead when practicing his mediumship. The practice of mediumship is not entirely a bed of roses for anyone, no matter how gifted he may be. This fact is easily seen in the example which the Master set for us so many years ago. It was the philosophy which his service to others brought to him that sustained him when in need.

She also believes that every medium should always be trying to perfect his mediumship to a greater degree. He should constantly strive to reach out for the highest and best that is obtainable.

She believes there are many master souls who are anxious for instruments through which they might manifest to people of earth. They are looking for instruments of high purpose and character. They have great truths which will be of unbounded help to mankind, but those truths will remain untold until the development of psychic ability reaches that high standard upon which they can be brought through.

Perhaps you will be one of those given the opportunity to serve in this way.

Interview conducted by Robert G. Chaney





Gladys Mallaburn

The mediumship of Gladys Mallaburn

by Maurice Barbanell (founder editor of Psychic News)

I went to a small village near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, to a home circle and to a séance, one which lasted five hours. During that time seven spirit forms, three male and four female, materialised.

There were also eight spirit communications in the direct voice, six from males and two from females, each different and with individual characteristics.

The medium was Mrs. Gladys Mallaburn, of whom I had heard such splendid testimonies that I sought an invitation to one of her séances. The results exceeded my expectations. They would defy materialistic explanations by any honest sceptic.

The dexterity with which the illuminated trumpet used for voice communications zoomed at great speed around the room without fumbling or hitting anybody was evidence of unerring accuracy by the spirit operators. Yet frequently it was suspended in mid-air when communicators spoke through it.

The only sound that came from the medium was at the beginning. We heard her stertorous breathing, a preliminary presumably to her going into trance.

One of the first to materialise was John, the medium’s husband. He had become a regular spirit visitor since his passing, a few months earlier, when he appeared at one of his wife’s séances before his body had been located. John, a chief officer, met his earthly end when he tried to rescue an engineer who was drowning.

At this séance he went to his teenage daughter, Rosemary, and expressed regret for the act of abortive rescue that led to his premature passing. ‘If only I hadn’t taken that risk,’ he said. Once again I was impressed with the naturalness with which Rosemary accepted her father’s spirit return.

At this séance there was profuse evidence of identity from communicators. One of the first to speak was a man who said, ‘Death is the greatest adventure of my life!’ He gave his name as Flight-Sergeant Navigator Leslie Hodgson. This war victim ‘killed’ in combat, addressed his mother, then living in the same village. He described how his spirit body left the aeroplane before it crashed to the ground.

As proof of his nearness, he told his mother details of happenings with which she was involved during the past few days, all of which she confirmed.

What I wish to stress is that Hodgson’s was clearly a masculine voice.

The medium’s spirit controls proved they were ‘old hands’ by the expert way they manipulated the trumpet, speaking through it and later materialising.

They also showed a splendid understanding of séance conditions when they ‘raised the vibrations’ with humour and repartee to enable the best psychic results to be obtained.

This was especially noticeable with Violet, a young Negress, whose features were clearly visible when later she materialized –  all three feet of her! She had the score of sitters in laughter with her delightful ‘scrambled’ English and her childish but nevertheless evidential observations. She demonstrated supernormal powers by accurately describing my London home in detail though, of course, the medium had never visited it. This was the first time that Gladys Mallaburn and I had met.

One spirit communicator was Billy Curran, the son of two well-known Yorkshire Spiritualists who frequently attended the circle. What struck me was the seeming normality of the conversation between the ‘dead’ boy and his parents. Here, once again, was a demonstration of the simple but vital fact that love can be stronger than death.

I was pleasantly surprised when the trumpet moved towards me and I was welcomed by the spirit voice of a communicator giving his name as Tom Best.

I had known him as an outstanding Spiritualist personality in the North of England. Like some of the best evidence, which cannot be printed, he furnished information concerning domestic details which were known to me.

Tom was in splendid form, especially with one comment, ‘Elliott gave me a good funeral!’ This referred to the Spiritualist minister who had conducted his funeral service. Best quipped, ‘I didn’t know I was half as good!’

Then it was the turn of another spirit control, a former local miner, who spoke in the ‘Geordie’ dialect and whose idiom would be appreciated only by natives. I noticed at this stage how the temperature suddenly dropped, a familiar happening at this type of séance, as if a heater had been switched off.

Another curious phenomenon was the occasional scent of perfume. Violet said that she was responsible for producing it. There was no doubt about its reality, for she smothered all the sitters with the perfume. One drop got into my eye and made it smart.

Among the figures to materialise was my old friend, Helen Duncan, who greeted me enthusiastically. She had been a famous materialisation medium whose séances I attended at least thirty times. When she spoke her voice was characteristic. Once again I have to state that her message to me, though evidential, was of a private nature and cannot be printed.

Then came the climax, the materialisation of the Arabian guide who is in charge of all the phenomena. Using an illuminated plaque, on which there was his portrait, he showed himself in turn to each sitter. His dark-skinned features were clearly visible. His undoubtedly male voice came in loud tones, but with a foreign accent. He went to the improvised cabinet, a curtained-off recess, and brought the entranced medium in front of it so that we could clearly see the two of them side by side.

I had evidence of the ‘solidity’ of one materialisation, a woman, who firmly gripped my chin. Her hand was warm, solid and normally constructed. I noticed her delicate fingers. There was nothing ghostly about them.

I observed that the materializations – one was a former archdeacon – varied in height, build and size. Violet showed herself in party dress because of the approach of Christmas. Her ectoplasmic robing was clearly discernible, as was that of the Arabian guide.

While the direct voice part of the séance was held in darkness, for the materialisations a shaded red light was used. Though, throughout the séance, Violet had joked, she ended on a serious note. ‘The sweetest song in all the world,’ she said, ‘is that THERE IS NO DEATH.’ This was a refrain that I have heard countless times.

I managed to persuade Mrs. Mallaburn to come to London and give a séance for a group specially invited by me. As many were well-known Spiritualists, it was not surprising that the communicators included two former mediums and four people who had been keen exponents of psychic truths. Some of these communicators, seemingly because they knew the ropes, introduced subtle references as evidence of identity.

Originally I had intended this to be a small circle, but the number grew until there were more than a score present. An improvised cabinet was arranged and an attempt made to black out light from the windows and door, but even so there were faint streaks visible during the whole séance.

The conditions were not ideal for the type of psychic phenomena produced by this medium because it was a day of unexpected sunshine, though late in September. Frequently during the proceedings the medium’s chief guide explained that the ectoplasm was almost melting. Yet such was the efficacy of the spirit operators that the séance lasted four hours, with one of the most spectacular results coming right at the end.

Mostly the communications came through a trumpet, but several spoke in the independent direct voice. The variety of these voices was outstanding. The movements of the trumpet were fascinating to watch and were in themselves evidence of supernormal activity. Never once did it fumble or bump into any sitter as we watched its gyrations, made visible by the coating of luminous paint.

Each communicator revealed individual characteristics. The first to speak was the medium’s chief guide who welcomed us from within the cabinet. He was an individual of dignified mien, obviously a highly evolved entity who was doing his utmost to demonstrate the reality of the spirit world in which he now lived. I thought that his parable on life here and hereafter was very impressive.

Violet, the young Negress, was in complete contrast with her pert humour, her mispronunciations and her sallies.

Next, through the trumpet, we heard a male voice giving the name ‘Hitchcock, Percy’. The séance was being held in a room of the headquarters of the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain, an organisation of which he had been its president. With a short message urging his hearers to continue the work to which he had dedicated his earthly life for so many years, he seized the chance of addressing some of his colleagues in the room.

Now we heard the words: ‘Austin – Herald – reporter.’ I knew who it was at once, for I had heard him communicate before. This was many years earlier at an Estelle Roberts voice séance when Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding was present.

A. B. Austin was a Daily Herald war correspondent who was killed in Italy. When he communicated, Dowding immediately recalled him, saying, ‘He was on my staff at Fighter Command and he was a fine officer.’

This time I thought Austin returned because I had invited to be present a journalist who worked in the same building as he had and who was attached to a companion publication. Austin mentioned, ‘I have ‘Cat’s Eye’ with me.’ This was another reference to an Estelle Roberts voice séance at which ‘Cat’s-Eye’ Stevens, one of the famous Battle of Britain fighter pilots, had returned and spoken to his wife.

Plaintively I heard Austin ask, ‘Oh, God, why do they always have to kill?’ There was silence and then followed: ‘I’m still alive and kicking. They can’t keep a good man down, and I’m still reporting.’

He sent greetings to Lord Dowding, his old Chief, and to Lady Dowding. His final words were, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’

He was followed by a woman whose voice was clearly audible through the trumpet which moved to Sydney Richardson, a splendid spiritual healer. ‘My husband Syd,’ she said. Then clearly I heard the sound of a kiss coming through the trumpet.

Her next words showed that no sex jealousy continues beyond the grave, for she sent ‘my love to Ursula’. This is Sydney’s second wife, Ursula Roberts. ‘She is so good,’ said the spirit speaker to her husband, ‘and you have much to be thankful for.’ There was a cryptic message, ‘The wheels do go round,’ which Sydney understood. Then came: ‘It is so nice to hear your voice. Thank you for all the happiness we had. Tell Ursula I have brought her mother.’

Helen Duncan communicated again to me. I knew it was she the moment I heard the voice say, ‘Nellie’, followed by a mention of her husband’s nickname. Hers was a long, sustained, fluent communication. She referred feelingly to her last séance, broken up by police, followed by her passing a few weeks later. ‘I was black and blue all over,’ she said.

There was a reference to the unjust sentence she served in prison when she was convicted during the war, under the now repealed Witchcraft Act, a scandal which so enraged Spiritualists that it led to our campaign which brought us legal and religious freedom. ‘Those mailbags!’ she said, referring to her prison work.

Nellie spoke sympathetically of the companion who, because she had accompanied her, had also been sent to prison as an accessory, and the dreadful time this woman had in gaol. ‘I was one of the lucky ones,’ said Nellie. ‘They feared I was dying, so they put me into hospital.’

Then her mood altered as she laughingly exclaimed, ‘Fancy, I’m an angel now!’ Again came a change of mood as she earnestly exhorted us to guard mediums, our most priceless possessions, and promised to help Gladys Mallaburn in her labours.

Once again the trumpet moved from the ground and was suspended in mid-air as a voice declaimed: ‘When I go down to the grave, I can say like many others, “I have finished my day’s work”; but I cannot say, “I have finished my life.” My day’s work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes on the twilight; it opens on the dawn.’

‘That is a quotation from Victor Hugo,’ I said. ‘It was frequently recited by an old friend of mine.’ The voice replied, giving the name of this old friend, ‘Walter Oaten’. Deliberately he had mentioned only his second Christian name, one that I had never heard this editorial predecessor of mine use in my presence. So that there should be no doubt of his identity, he added, ‘Ernest.’

After revealing by his words an intimate knowledge of matters in the Two Worlds office, he said, ‘Amy is all right.’ This I was glad to learn, for it was some time since I had heard from his wife. ‘I’m sorry I had to leave her in the eventide of life,’ he said. ‘I’ll make it up to her when we meet.’

‘This is true,’ he said, adding, ‘I haven’t my stick now.’ His old friends will recall the stick he used because of his limp. Ernest ended his communication with the plea, ‘Don’t overwork your mediums.’

Violet provided a welcome relief from the heat by drenching sitters with perfume which smelled like the flower of her name. She announced that she was going to bring some flowers. Soon we were strewn with flowers which later proved to be chrysanthemums.

A deep masculine voice announced itself: ‘John Mallaburn, late of – ’ naming his house and the village where it stood. This, of course, was the medium’s husband, who was by now a regular communicator. John sent his love to ‘my favourite blonde’, his 13-year-old daughter, who always sits in the home circle.

There was a homely touch as he asked his entranced wife to be told later that, though their dog was fretting at home, he was keeping an eye on their beloved animal.
He announced that he was bringing some apports, a score of sea-shells later taken away by sitters as souvenirs. Through other mediums I have had many apports. This word, derived from the French apporter (‘to bring’), refers to gifts brought supernormally at séances.

A completely different voice came next, one which spoke in soft, modulated accents, and said its owner had served in the R.A.F. He made a beeline for my wife, who was close to the cabinet, allowing her to feel his materialised hand, covered with ectoplasm, which frequently billowed from the cabinet over her. His contribution was the recitation, seemingly impromptu, of a long poem on Survival.

He was responsible for an ingenious communication. ‘The Hawk is here,’ he said, which Ralph Rossiter, the Spiritualist Association’s secretary, understood, even before the communicator added, ‘Black Hawk. . . his name is Powell. .. . This is my beloved son…’

Ralph, of course, will never forget old Evan Powell, that wonderful physical medium, whose guide, Black Hawk, was responsible for virtually saving his life when it seemed that he was condemned to suffer from tuberculosis. The phrase, ‘My beloved son,’ was one that Evan always used in referring to him. I could not follow, until Ralph explained it later to me, Powell’s statement, ‘I have met Holmes.’ Evan was a great friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

After one of their many sittings, Doyle announced he was killing off Sherlock Holmes – public clamour later prevented this slaying – to devote the rest of his days to espousing Spiritualism. Jokingly Powell often said, ‘I was responsible for murdering Holmes.’

Once again I heard the spirit control with his ‘Geordie’ dialect that you could have almost cut with a knife. I had to ask some of the regular circle members – six of them were present – to interpret what he said. His voice was high-pitched and he was always in character.

Another regular visitor followed, May, a Cockney flower seller, so proud of her hair that she went all round the circle trailing it over the sitters.

Finally the chief guide said he would try the experiment of an infra-red photograph being taken, but he could not promise success because of the heat.

Some of us were asked to leave our seats, unlink hands and to stand or kneel in front of the cabinet. We could hear his deep voice urging the medium to stand up. Icy cold breezes came from the cabinet, with constant billowings of ectoplasm He gave the signal for the photograph to be taken. Alas, it was not a success, for all it revealed was a large rectangle of ectoplasm above which is part of a draped face.

Nevertheless, this guide provided a striking demonstration by coming out of the cabinet.

There he stood, dressed from head to foot in snow-white ectoplasm, illumined by a soft light which flickered, he said, in tune with the medium’s heart-beat. This, he explained, was his ‘soul light’. He did not venture far from the cabinet, but some of those closest to him were able to make out his dusky features.

Even this did not conclude the séance, as some thought, for Violet made a final appearance, saying we could not close until we sang her favourite song, in which she joined. I found it an impressive séance, interspersed as it was with evidence of a private nature.

Gladys Mallaburn at the end of four hours was a limp figure. The next day, however, she was as right as rain.


Lula Taber

The mediumship of Lula Taber

by Coleen Owen Britt

Materialization is  a scientific phenomenon which gives the thinking individual the factual basis for a livable and believable religion. Materialization gives absolute proof of life after what we call death.

Spiritualism, through materialization and direct voice and trumpet séances, is a religion which invites each one of us to see and believe, rather than to believe blindly. Reasonable and believable religious truths are what people today need, but have been unable to find. The truths have been there all of the time but due to superstition and the lack of proper understanding, these truths have not reached the majority of the people. From the experiences of my husband and myself we know the above statement to be fact.

We were raised in a church environment, each taking an active part for years. We did so for the same reason that thousands of others did; because we had been taught that it was the proper thing to do.

However, also like thousands of others, we did not get the uplift or help that one should get from his religion.

Because some conscientious, or ambitious, minister gave beautiful rose-colored pictures of heaven—if we were good, and dark painful stories of hell—if we were bad, the thought of religion did not seem to impress us definitely. In our hearts we did not believe the Bible as usually presented, and after due investigation we found out that there were many more individuals who felt just as we did.

We felt a need for religion, but religion as we could find it in no way satisfied that need.

Religion as it has been, and is, widely preached, is no comfort at the time of the death of our loved ones, at the very time we need its comfort most. It takes us to the grave where we are forced to say farewell in the deepest despair with no hope of ever seeing or hearing the one we love again.

How different the change we call death becomes, through Spiritualism. We know that our loved ones are not dead but have only left the physical body, and that they in their spiritual body are now free to advance to unbounded heights, no longer hindered by the ills and pains and the grief of earth life.

Spiritualists not only believe this, they know it is true.


When Byron went over to spirit side of life, at the age of sixteen, I almost went insane. I became an atheist. I searched but could find no source of comfort. A week after his passing his father and I were riding over a quiet road in the Ozarks when to our ears came clearly the sound of the Morse code.

We were both startled and my husband stopped the car so that we could be sure as to whether or not we were really hearing something. The code continued for what seemed several minutes, after which we drove on, wondering.

Byron was an amateur radio operator and we talked over the fact that the code he was always sending sounded just like what we had heard. However, we soon cast the incident aside as a product of our imagination yet in my heart I knew it was real.

A year later, in despair, I consulted a medium. She was kind and sympathetic, and told me of a materializing medium, Rev. Lula Taber, of St. Louis, Missouri, who was to be in our city soon. Paul and I talked it over and decided to attend a séance. We were not believers but we were seekers after truth.

We knew no one in the group which gathered that evening. We had made no appointment. We had told no one we were going to attend. There were sixteen men and women gathered in a semicircle in front of the medium, who sat behind lightweight black curtains during the séance.

Before going behind the curtain she explained briefly about the phenomena. The lights were dimmed to a dull red glow. We all joined in repeating the Lord’s Prayer and in singing a few songs. In a few minutes a pretty little girl stepped out from between the curtains and told us that her name was Star Bright, the medium’s guide, and that she would do her best to have a good meeting for us.

Numerous spirit folks appeared and talked that night, but when Byron, our son, came to us, said his name, kissed us and said that he was happy, we felt the first mental relief we had experienced since he passed from earth life. Most of my time had been spent in tears and morbid existence; now I could even sing songs, and that was something I had never been able to do since I last sang them with him. We attended practically all of the séances which Mrs Taber held.

After seeing Byron many times, and hearing him many more times in trumpet séances, I am convinced that the only grief one should experience at the passing of a loved one is loneliness. There should be no sorrow for the one who has passed to spirit side for there they can be far happier than they ever could be here.

They can do many more things, go many more places, and live a more interesting and satisfying life than we.

Byron, and many others, tell us of so many wonderful things that we are anxious to try the experience ourselves.

Byron has played the violin for us many times. At another time he sang me a Mother song unlike any I have ever heard. I do wish that I could have remembered the words. At a later meeting I asked him about repeating it but he said that he had just made up the song as he sung it and that he did not remember just what the words were. Recently he told us of his sweetheart Margaret. She has talked to us now, calling us mother and father. He says that she is blond, dances and sings beautifully, and that they do many interesting things together.

One of Byron’s materializations especially impressed us. He came very close, tipped his head over toward us and said, “Put your hand on my head and feel my hair.” We both did. It was combed straight back neat and shiny as he has always worn it. His head was firm and the hair felt and looked as natural as yours or mine. He stayed with us several minutes, touched everyone in the room and talked in his naturally pleasing manner.

One should never touch the materialized forms unless they say that you may, but Byron has touched us and asked that we touch him, many, many times. He always acts so happy when he has materialized plainly and completely. When we talked with him concerning the code we had heard months before, he said, “Well Mother, you were convinced but Daddy wasn’t.”

I could write for hours about the wonderful comforts and the interesting experiences found through a study of Spiritualism. Since meeting Mrs Taber we have found her to be not only a wonderful medium, but also a lovable lady, and a devoted mother. This article has been written because of our feeling of thankfulness to Rev. Tabor for bringing back our son to us, and for making it possible for us to again find some satisfaction in living.

Byron has told us that in spirit we advance by our own merits. What fairer method could we earth folk desire? What more wonderful fact need one know as an incentive to live one’s best?


On the 27th of May, 1940, Rev. Lula Taber came to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to hold a series of materialization and trumpet séances, several of which my husband and myself attended. On the first night Byron appeared in person, announced himself as “Byron”, kissed us, touched his face to ours, and talked some.

At each séance he appeared more plainly to us and our visits became natural and satisfying. We always disliked saying goodnight and it was very difficult to say goodbye the last night of the séances, when the Tabers had to return to their home in St. Louis.

To realize that one’s child, whom his parents never expected to contact again, is very much alive, very interested in his work, very capable, and very happy in his daily experiences, is about the greatest blessing that could come to one.

Proof of life hereafter is the one thing that makes life here endurable and at all satisfying. For that reason we do wish that each and every one could have the experience of seeing and visiting with their loved ones in the Spirit World.

Heaven is not very appealing when one thinks of it in the usual light, as for instance, one’s sitting on a golden throne for eternity, but when one realizes that those in Spirit live a life similar in many ways to ours but without the pain and grief of a physical body, then our greatest wish is fulfilled. That death, as we call it, is not being put in a grave but is a sort of sleep from which we waken into a much finer existence than this, is the realization that we humans want, and can understand, and can believe, and can work for, tirelessly.

For the materialization the medium sat in one corner of the room, in a common chair, behind light-weight black curtains. Nothing was behind the curtain but the medium, in her black slip, and the chair on which she sat. She had removed her clothing and had given it to one of us to lay away. The floor and walls were of cement, the ceiling of wood.

There was no window. I was in the curtained space with her many times so I relate from personal experience. I will mention here that due to some glandular trouble Mrs Faber weighs about three hundred pounds. I mention this to you as proof that she could not possibly impersonate the average-sized person, not to mention the tiny children who appeared at different times.

Those attending the séance sit in chairs in front of the curtains, usually in a semi-circle and about eight feet distance. There is no ‘equipment’. The only light is a subdued red light, all others being turned out after a short visit by those present. At this time one may ask questions if he so desires. The meeting is begun by repeating the Lord’s Prayer, then several songs are sung.

Usually about five minutes elapse before Mrs Taber’s guide, Star Bright, appears and announces that “my medie” is under control, and that she will do her best to bring everyone’s loved ones to them. Soon the spirit folks enter, usually one at a time, and advance toward the person whom they wish to contact, calling the person’s name or else their own names. At first the spirit friends seem to be in a filmy white covering which obscures their whole body, then they push this covering of ectoplasm back and stand revealed as we remember them.

The hair, the features, the hands and oftentimes books, crosses, flowers, or whatever they might be carrying, all become evident. One’s desire is to hug the dear one close, but it is injurious to the medium and also to the one doing the touching, at times. If they tell us we may touch them then it is permissible to do so. They can, and often do, touch us, kiss us, and put their arms around us, in a very delightful manner.

Their touch is soft like that of a baby’s skin, yet very definitely firm. Their voices are usually clear and typical of the individuals as we remember them. Everyone in the room sees each spirit person as he stands or walks in the circle, and each voice is heard by all. Sometimes the spirit folks return to behind the curtain before they dematerialize but often they disappear from our sight right where they have been standing.

Many interesting statements were made by those with whom we visited. Byron made the following ones: “I am happy here. We can do anything here that you do there only we do not sit down to the table for meals. We take food but I do not know how to explain it to you. There are no toilets here, either. The spirit body is much nicer than the physical one. Yes, I go to classes now. I do not care for chemistry though. I am specializing in radio.”

In reply to my question as to whether or not they had vacations, he said, “We can take vacations if we want to but we do not need to because we never get tired. That is, not tired as you think of it, but we do rest.

We have beautiful places to rest.” Byron says that he is often with us and sees us, but that we just cannot see him. He said that he moved papers once in awhile but that we did not seem to notice. He told me on one occasion that he liked the new shoes which I was wearing. I did have on new shoes but it had rained and I had been in the mud with them so the medium, nor anyone else, could have told that they were new.

One evening I told Byron that I had applied for a job that day. He replied, ‘‘Mother, you didn’t, because I was with you all day today.’’ I was certain that I had so I said, “Yes I did, son.” He replied, “No. That must have been some time yesterday.” After thinking it over I realized that he was right, because I actually had written and mailed the application the previous evening.

At a private trumpet séance, that is, just Mrs. Taber and myself, Byron told me that he would play for me later. After a while a violin began to play “Ah Sweet Mystery of Life” and played it all of the way through, very beautifully. When the piece was finished Byron said “What do you think of that, Mother?” Then he told me that he and the son of the family upstairs had played a duet.

Later the mother told me that her son would be about Byron’s age and that he had passed on prematurely. When I told Byron that I was very much surprised to hear him play the violin he said, “Well, I am just learning, really. You know I always did want to play one only I just thought I couldn’t.” While here he had often expressed a desire to play a violin but always thought it would be very hard to learn. He became interested in the electric Hawaiian guitar, purchased one, and was learning to play it very well.

Shortly after he had played the violin for me a lady announced herself to me as Grace Edwards, saying she was Byron’s music teacher. She said, “I have never had a more studious and conscientious student than Byron.” I asked if Byron still played the guitar and she said “Yes, but he seemed to lose interest in it when he found that he could play the violin.”

So many interesting visits were enjoyed by Paul and myself that I cannot here relate them all, so I shall limit my record to the most specific and pertinent incidents. Numerous relatives and friends talked to us.

Many of these we recognized, many we have been able to find out about through letters and some we have been unable to place definitely. Many of them talk to us only once; many talk again and again.

They are all very interesting and have very definite and individual ideas.

It is very interesting when they tell us some item by which we can check, and they always seem anxious to do so, in their own unique way. For instance, my grandfather on my mother’s side told me that he had some fingers off of one band. He said that they had been cut off with a scythe while he was cutting grain. I never saw my grandfather and knew very little about him as he passed on before I was born. I had never heard anyone mention that he did not have all of his fingers so I was curious about the truth of the information. Since that time I have talked with an elderly lady who was a friend of my mother and she told me that my grandfather did have some fingers missing. She said she did not know how he lost them but it could easily have been as he said because the scythe was used a great deal at that time.

Paul talked with a good friend of his who mentioned his wife by name and talked about affairs, financial and social, in a very comprehensive and positive manner. When Paul asked him if he wanted him to tell any of his folks he said, “Well, you know them. They wouldn’t understand so it would not do any good. I would like to talk to Ruby sometime, though.” Ruby is his wife. Her name had not been previously mentioned.

My father came to me through the trumpet for the first time, announcing himself as “John.” I could not think of anyone whom I knew as John but the large end of the trumpet continued to bump gently against a cameo pin which I was wearing so I was convinced that the message was for me.
Finally I thought of my father’s name as being John so I said, “Is this you, Dad?” He replied at once, “Sure it is.” I replied that I had not expected him to call himself John. He then said, “Byron said I should call myself John instead of Grandpa.” My father always called himself Grandpa to Byron.

A friend appeared to me in materialization but was not strong enough to talk. She came again in a few days and this time she said, “Frances. Tell Sandy that I am all right.” Frances had only been on Spirit side about two months and had never materialized before so did not know just how it was done. She could not have said anything that would have been of more proof to me than the things she did say, however. Sandy is her husband’s nickname.

She said, too, that she wanted me to have her pink dress. I still have the pink dress and cherish it deeply. You see, she stayed with me when she was sick. She had a very serious operation and she realized she could never be well again. The day she was leaving for her home she came out where I was, carrying a very pretty pink silk night dress. She said, “Coleen, I can never hope to repay you for the many nice things you have done for me, but I do want you to have my pretty pink night dress.”

Needless to say, how thankful I am for that conversation. Frances and I had often talked over the possibility of life after death. She believed in it much more than I at that time, but she did not think that contact could be made with another world anymore than I did.

Monday, August 4th, 1941. Materialization — Medium Lula Taber.

There were over twenty persons present at this meeting, among whom were Mr and Mrs Ralph Pressing, publishers of Psychic Observer. They were interested in seeing Byron’s violin and in hearing his music so we were very pleased when he materialized and played.

When he had finished he held his violin out at arms length and asked the Pressings if they could see it well. Mrs Pressing then stepped up to the cabinet and talked with him.

The following is an excerpt from the November 10th issue of Psychic Observer wherein Grace P. Schafer, feature writer for the Observer, wrote an article on “The Mediumship of Rev. Lula Taber.”

Quote, – “What I like about Mrs Taber’s materializations is: there is no question about the spirits who come through. When they make an entree they announce their full names and the names of the ones they have come to visit. I was deeply impressed by the spirit who announced his name, ‘Byron Britt.’ He called for his parents. They asked him if he could play something on the violin for them. Before our eyes we saw the form of a violin and bow assemble. As the bow was drawn across the gauze-like strings, we heard music . . . violin music . . . only sweeter . . . more heavenly than an earthly instrument could produce. The selection played was ‘Sweet Mystery of Life.’  How appropriate!”

An interesting incident was when a soldier materialized to Mr Morris, gave a military salute, and said, “Major, I salute you. I am Harry Atkins. I served under you.” Mr. Morris saluted in return, saying, “I remember you well.” Later he told us that Mr. Atkins had been killed in France during the First World War.

At this same séance Mr J. Langworthy Taylor, Professor-Emeritus of the University of Nebraska, materialized and talked with Altinas Tullis, Instructor in Chorus at the University of Nebraska. He said, “Tell all the world we do not die. There is no death, only life. I want everyone to know that I am learning all about this thing called spirit return and it’s true, true, TRUE.”

When the Pressings heard Mr Taylor give his name they were surprised and pleased, saying that they had traveled abroad together some years ago. They, too, had an interesting visit with their old friend.

These materializations are interesting to study. As we have been discussing recently, the powers of thought and emotion are multiplied many times over in the spirit worlds, to create the substance and environment over there.

Mrs Britt writes: “The seances were held in our home here in Omaha, and at three different homes in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was privileged to be cabinet attendant at all of these materializations. I am always happy to help. Being near the curtain I can always see and hear all that is said and done by the spirit friends, at a closer range than is possible for those sitting in the circle. I am thankful for this as I feel that it makes my reports absolutely accurate, as each incident I mention is a personal experience.”

During his short stay here Byron really knew and lived life at its best. He never showed much interest in religion. He had listened to sermons from the time he was a little fellow, but as he grew older and learned to think for himself he decided the ministers themselves did not really believe all the things they said from the pulpit. He felt there was a world of truth somewhere, and he wanted to dig down and find it. He believed that sound waves would eventually be controlled to the extent that vibrations which are not recognized now, would be interpreted by man, and thus open the door to understanding.

Byron became ill with influenza about three weeks ago. After a relapse he was unable to recover. He passed peacefully away at 2:45 Thursday morning, March 30th, 1939, at his home in Alliance, Nebraska. His age was sixteen years, nine months, and seven days. At the time of his passing he was a Sophomore in Alliance High School. He was a member of the Sons of the Legionnaires and of the American Radio Association.