Roy Brandon, a Fleet Street journalist, sat with Helen Duncan many times. This is his story. It has been said that occasionally Mrs Duncan resorted to fraud. Brandon replied that she always insisted on test conditions — and accepted any condition imposed. ‘All I can say is that if she ever attempted to cheat the result would have been utterly ludicrous, and the fraud palpable to the meanest intellect. I knew Mrs Duncan well. I was aware of all her little frailties. But I revere her memory, as I do that of Albert, the perfect guide. For through her wonderful gift, and with Albert’s aid, she brought comfort to thousands of mourners.’
THE SÉANCE WAS HELD under strict test conditions. Six female sitters accompanied Mrs Duncan to another room, where the medium completely undressed, donning light séance garments which had been inspected previously by the other sitters.
Brandon’s wife was a witness to this operation.
The first form to emerge from the cabinet was a woman — the mother of one of the sitters. Before she appeared Albert stated that she had been many years on the spirit side of life.
The materialised form then appeared and held a conversation with her daughter. At one point, referring to a relative with her on the Other Side, the mother said, ‘Two or three days ago you said you didn’t care which of us came — so I came first!’
‘Quite true’, the woman admitted.
Then a man with a white beard manifested and spoke to his daughter. The latter left her seat to examine the figure, and announced that she was perfectly satisfied.
Following this came an emotional moment, tense and dramatic. The materialised form of a dark, handsome young man came from the cabinet. At his appearance a young woman started to her feet with a half-smothered cry. ‘Mark!’ she exclaimed, in instant recognition.
The form tried to speak, but was obviously overcome with emotion. ‘I love you’, he managed to say at last, and was then drawn back into the cabinet.
‘I was afraid of that’, Albert commented. ‘This boy is a Jew. He is very emotional. I must tell you that he knew he was “dying”. Almost at the last, you took his hand and said, “Do you know me dear?”
‘That is so’, the sitter admitted.
‘He suffered with kidney trouble’, Albert informed her. ‘He became very thin, and during the last few days his feet began to swell. He had a diabetic condition.’ In response to pleadings, this spirit made two further attempts to leave the cabinet. Finally, with an effort, he stepped clear of the curtains and drew himself up to his full height.
‘Can you see me?’ he asked. Then he handed the woman a note which he had written on a pad in the cabinet. The sitter announced her complete conviction that the materialised form was Mark, her husband.
At the conclusion of the séance she said to Brandon, ‘My husband was very emotional. The personality was his undoubtedly, apart from the fact that I at once recognised his features. This is the greatest moment of my life.’
Before sending the next form out of the cabinet, Albert, the medium’s guide, addressing one of the sitters, said: ‘I have a lady here for you. She passed to our side soon after marriage.’ After volunteering other evidential details, Albert, speaking to the same sitter, added: ‘Earlier this evening I overheard your conversation in which mention was made of “cheesecloth” and “gauze”. I want you to take particular notice of the dress worn by this lady. It is certainly not cheesecloth!’
The spirit then made her appearance. Manipulating a pocket torch she directed a beam of white light over her face and dress so that she could be seen quite clearly by all the sitters. As the white light shone on her features and gown the sitters were moved to murmurs of amazement and admiration. Judged by its
sheen, the gown was of satin.
The woman addressed by Albert immediately claimed recognition and, in the course of the conversation which ensued, the spirit volunteered the statement that she was showing herself in her ‘bridal gown’. The spirit form spoke quickly and in a cultured voice. Once, in response to a remark that she was ‘looking more beautiful than ever’, she said: ‘You see, dear, I have no make-up on!’
Then an astonishing thing happened. The sitter flashed a question.
‘Have you got your baby?’ she asked
‘Yes — here with me’, was the instant reply, and the spirit form moved swiftly into the cabinet to return in a few seconds holding a baby in long clothes!
As a parting shot, when bidding adieu to her friend, the spirit said: ‘I am perfectly happy. I wouldn’t change places with you for anything!’
Among other forms to materialise were several children, one of whom a little boy named Ronnie, wrote his name on a piece of paper which he handed proudly to his mother.
Another voice was heard from within the cabinet. This spirit did not materialise, but instead used a ‘voice box’ to communicate with one of the sitters.
During the séance another of Mrs Duncan’s controls, the irrepressible Peggy, came out and sang to them. Peggy frequently appeared at these sittings. On this occasion she sang ‘Misty Island’ then, addressing Brandon she announced she would sing his favourite song, and right away obliged with ‘You Are My Heart’s Delight’.
Someone handed her a box of chocolates. Peggy ate some, then very generously suggested that the other sitters might like to join her. She insisted on them having a chocolate each.
When the power was nearly spent Albert told them that he was going to let them see the ‘voice box’ referred to above. The curtains were drawn aside to reveal Mrs Duncan, still in trance, standing erect, with ectoplasm moulded into the shape of a cone at her mouth. This ectoplasmic cone was about a foot in length, and the wide end was tilted towards the ceiling.
At a subsequent sitting, the ‘voice box’ was again shown high above and quite separate to the medium who, on this occasion, was still seated in her chair.
In all, 13 spirits materialised at this sitting.
The following is a statement by Miss Jeanette Strom, who attended the sitting:
‘I have had the most amazing experience of my life. Tonight I was privileged to see the materialised spirit form of Agnes Sakoshansky, a Russian Jewess, who came to this country when she was a very young girl. A refined, cultured young woman of rare beauty, she was a very dear friend of mine. I was in close touch
with her right up to the time of her passing, which occurred shortly after her marriage. She passed with her baby unborn.
‘Her features were so clearly defined in the white light that anyone who had known her could easily have recognised her. The charm of manner, the voice, the every gesture of the materialised form was characteristic of Agnes.
‘It was true what she said about her bridal gown. She was married in white satin. ‘Even more evidential was the incident of the child. When I spoke to her about her baby she immediately replied, “I have the baby with me”. She went straight back into the cabinet and only a second or so could have elapsed before she returned with the infant in her arms.
‘I would take my oath in a witness box that the spirit form I saw and spoke with was Agnes Sakoshansky.
(Signed) Jeanette Strom
In the long history of Spiritualism there is hardly a medium of note who has not at some time or another been accused of fraud. It is probably the easiest thing to do. Admittedly, the intricacies of mediumship are many and varied. To the uninitiated, to the hardened sceptic, to the alleged researcher who lacks understanding of this vast subject, to these people the simple and easy answer is that all mediumship is fraudulent.