by George Cranley
This interview was videoed by Bram Rogers who preceded Leslie to the Spirit World soon after the interview.
George states that “I first sat with Leslie in 1971 and thereafter over ten years with a small group of friends, eight in number, once a month and more often if circumstances permitted. All the seances were tape recorded. Not only did he receive convincing evidence of the continuity of life, but Leslie was conscious throughout and often joined in the conversations. It all seemed so normal and natural. Since Leslie’s passing, I have had the pleasure of talking to him and Bram through the mediumship of Colin Fry who gave sittings to Leslie prior to his transition.Their voices were quite distinctive and their personalities unchanged, which is how it should be”.
Leslie may I start by asking you, when did you first sit for development?
Well, I started in the Spiritualist movement when I was 18 or 19; I sat for just on seven years with a very, very dedicated group of people. Previous to that I sat in a small group which broke up, but these things happen. People sit for a few months, nothing much happens, and they get a bit browned-off. Mrs. So-and-so is not very happy about Mrs. So-and-so. Is she in a trance or isn’t she? – you get an undercurrent. Eventually, I did get to sit with a group of very dedicated people. They had no axes to grind at all. They were quite prepared to sit for however long in the hope of receiving something. We sat for months where nothing, or hardly anything, of any consequence happened.
How many were in the circle?
Well eventually there were seven, but finding the right circle is very difficult because you get a lot of people who on the surface seem to be very keen, and they hope they may achieve or develop something. It was in this group of seven, a husband and wife and some friends who, I use this expression, had no axe to grind. They were prepared to give of themselves, and even if nothing happened, their attitude was well, look, what does it amount to? We sit together in love and harmony at peace. We shut the world out, as best we can, in the hope we may receive inspiration. If nothing of an extraordinary nature happens, we are quite happy and content to be as we are. There had been some indications, such as they were, that something was happening around me. I didn’t go into trance or anything like that in those very early days. I used to sit with the rest of them and think it was nice. I had a very poverty-stricken background. We didn’t and couldn’t afford what we then thought of as luxuries such as iced cakes. These people were in a reasonably good financial condition and everything was above my experience – their home, their way of speech and their attitude. To me they were people of a much higher stature socially. In a way, I enjoyed going there for the social side quite apart from the séances. If nothing had ever happened, the fact was that I was going to sit with these people once a week in a much better class area than that of which I was living. I lived in the worst possible poverty-stricken area in the town [St. Albans in Hertfordshire]. Anyway to cut a long winded story short, I was very, very, deeply interested in the subject.
Were they sitting for you or were you just sitting as a group?
It developed from the point of view of sitting together in love and harmony for whatever, if anything came. They began to realize, although I didn’t, that it was me that had whatever that was needed. They felt that they could develop and bring it out in some way. Eventually we did get some very strange happenings, noises which you couldn’t account for and a sort of hissing sound, I think that’s how I can put it, a sort of ‘sssssss’ sound. Then I started to go off into a trance.
How did you feel when you first went into trance? What sort of experiences did you have?
Well, I was annoyed. I mean quite frankly, they were saying to me, ‘you’ve been off’. I knew I had been off somewhere. We’d been getting this hissing sound, a sibilant sound, obviously someone trying to speak or say something.
Was this through the trumpet?
In the beginning we didn’t have a trumpet. I don’t know why we didn’t. After they had been getting this sound business, I was annoyed that they were hearing voices and I wasn’t hearing anything, so they said ‘We’ll get a trumpet made’. Eventually a trumpet was made although I don’t know what it was made of, cardboard or something. Later we got an aluminium one.
Quite a long time after that, it started to move and whizzed around the room a bit- I was scared. Actually, I was half here and half away at that period. I wasn’t too happy about it. The sitters were getting thrilled and excited about it. ‘Oh, thank you’ and ‘bless you’. Eventually after the trumpet having moved around a bit on several occasions, we got this voice, if you call it a voice. It was recognizable to a point, but it was unnatural. It didn’t sound like a real voice, but the circle was thrilled and happy and something was happening, and I thought, ‘Well, I do enjoy coming here for the tea and sandwiches!’
I realize now that you cannot command or demand anything psychic. You sit with the best of intentions hoping something may transpire. A lot of circles break up, as they did in my early time when nothing happens. I stuck it out and I was quite happy being with them. They were thrilled and I was happy, fascinated, and at the same time a bit nervous. We got eventually, the voices and Mickey came.
How long before the voices came – months or years?
It must have been just on seven years. Mickey and other people came. Of course, you know my interest was Valentino. It was through him and my interest in him, that I started to go into Spiritualism at all. His wife wrote a book, after his passing in 1926, in which she gave half of the book to messages she had received from him since his passing. I didn’t know, but it came to light, that Valentino had been deeply involved in psychics and Spiritualism, and used to attend séances when he was able. In particular he used to sit with a medium in New York.
I thought if someone like that, and his wife who was obviously a very brilliant woman, could be convinced of psychics and life after death and communication, I’d like to know more about it. I started getting messages in the direct voice purporting, and I use the word ‘Purporting’, to be Valentino. I accepted, but was not sure about it. Previous to that I’d had a letter from Germany, I’d never been outside of England and I didn’t know anyone in Germany. I got this letter when I came home from work one day, and my Grandmother, with whom I was living in this terrible area said. “Ere, there’s a letter for you up on the mantelpiece”. I said, “A letter for me?” I’d never received a letter in my life!
It was from some woman in Germany giving her name and everything and saying she held a regular weekly séance in Munich. A message had been received from Valentino asking her to write to me because I had a work to do for humanity. Well, I read this, and was absolutely overwhelmed. How could this woman, whom I had never known or heard of in my life, living in Germany, get my address and write to me telling me she had been in touch with Valentino? That was really the beginning of it all. That really got me moving.
Leslie, did you believe it was Valentino communicating?
I couldn’t believe it was Valentino. It was marvellous really, but I thought, “Why Me?” I had never met the man although I had admired him like millions of people did, they adored the man. I couldn’t take it in. I was overwhelmed by it. Anyway, I continued sitting with these people. A medium who was living in Watford, near St. Albans, with whom I’d had some sittings, also said that I had work to do, etc., and I thought, ‘well yes, I keep hearing this’. Eventually, the medium moved away from the area but by then I had developed clairvoyance to some extent and also got to know people who went to a little Spiritualist Church. When he left the church they asked me if I would take over the running of it.
The responsibility of taking over a church, such as it was, which seated about a hundred-odd people frightened me but nevertheless, I took it over. By this time I was beginning to develop. The circle said ‘Leslie, why don’t you give some séances’. I said “Well, I don’t know that one can do that in a public way.” With direct voice or physical mediumship you never know whether it is going to happen or not. It only needs one person who doesn’t understand the subject to do something stupid and it could endanger my health. They said “You must have more faith!”
When did you first meet Noah Zerdin?
I started to do occasional public direct voice séances or physical circles and they went very well, much to my amazement. Sometimes it was staggering! That was how I first met Noah Zerdin. He came over to Watford and joined a séance. I had never heard of him as this was long before his work or his name was well known. His wife, who unknown to me, had been tragically killed in a fire, came through. From that moment on he was totally overwhelmed and he got to the point where he wanted to attend regularly with me. I remember him especially because of the extraordinary nature of his sittings in those early days.
One day who should come to a séance but Maurice Barbanell, whom I had never met. It was about a year after he had started doing the “Psychic News”. Noah Zerdin had talked him into coming to Watford unannounced to sit with me. I can’t remember if he had a communication.
What led you to give public direct voice demonstrations?
Noah Zerdin said he wanted me to go and spend weekends at his family home and try experimental séances. He had this bee in his bonnet about shutting me in a cupboard. I thought %*^%$ that! Sitting in a strange house with people you’ve only just got to know who want to shut you up in a box-like arrangement was something else.
The whole idea was that if one could get the voices that way then on a stage you could have a covered-in part of where the medium could sit and the whole of the theatre could be in full light. He wanted to bring physical mediumship and direct voice to the public in an open theatre of about 1000 or so people. Everybody could then hear everything that took place unlike a private séance where only half a dozen or so could hear.
I played along with him on that. It would be interesting I thought. The understanding was that under no circumstances were we to have microphones in the cabinet because people would think that something had been rigged. I demonstrated in this way in the years that followed, at the Scala Theatre, the Kingsway Hall, and in Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. We never allowed microphones in the cabinet. The Tannoy people installed everything. They stood in front of the audiences and assured them that there were no microphones hidden in the cabinet. The extraordinary thing was the voices were clear even though the microphones were up to two feet away from the cabinet.
Did Noah Zerdin always go with you to these public meetings?
In the early years, yes. There were occasions when other organizations asked me if I would do a demonstration. These were separate from Noah’s Link of Home Circles. In those days everything that was done was organized by reputable Spiritualist societies to try to give conviction of life after death to suffering humanity. Not like today which is now big business where people are more concerned about their name in the paper and making as much money as they can. The people I worked with, thank God, were genuine, sincere, deeply involved and anxious to help comfort humanity.
All those meeting that we did – I know prices are different today – but when you think that they would hire the Kingsway Hall or the Scala Theatre, they had to advertise of course, they also had an organist and yet they did it for almost nothing. There was no money made. I didn’t get any fees. I was never paid a fee. We did it because we wanted to help and comfort and uplift mankind. The financial side had to be assured, obviously there were some people who made a donation towards the expenses but I never, ever, received a fee.
I was asked by different Spiritualist organizations if I would help the Societies because things were difficult financially. Not like today. You read in the “Psychic News”, for an evening of clairvoyance at the local church, they charge #2 – #3 – #5. We didn’t look at it, we didn’t think of it, in that way. Finance was not the vitally important thing it is today. Today it is big business. I am ashamed to be a Spiritualist today, to some extent, when I’m lumped together with some of these people. To me, they are not presenting Spiritualism in a way which commands respect.
What do you think of the Spiritualist movement today?
I think the movement has gone downhill. I was brought up with people who hadn’t got two ha’pennies to rub together; they didn’t really make any money. They had to give few private sittings to help out, that’s true enough, but today it’s different. I have to admit perhaps I am prejudiced by all those people I knew, people no one had ever heard of, who worked in their local churches and were sometimes quite excellent. They weren’t seeking a name or a lot of credit or a write-up in the “Psychic News”. Today they’re like pop stars. This is the way I feel about it. I think they are letting the movement down.”
In the old days Maurice Barbanell didn’t just print anything in the “Psychic News”. He was a bit of a task master. He would make sure what he was printing was fact. He wasn’t always happy about me but that didn’t worry me because I respected him. He wouldn’t just publish something in the “Psychic News” because a medium wrote in and said what a wonderful demonstration they had given. He’d want to know, he would want to be there and witness it himself. Now mediums write books, some being sheer rubbish and imagination.
Do you think that the hectic pace of life today is putting pressure on mediums to perform?
In the old days if you couldn’t produce it, you didn’t do it. I remember Estelle Roberts opening a church, which was an important time for that little organization. She volunteered to give a demonstration of clairvoyance free of charge to help them out.
She couldn’t get anything. She had to admit it and said “I’m awfully sorry friends, I’d love to help you, that’s why I’m here, but I’m not getting anything”. That’s what mediums should do and not give a substandard performance by fabricating messages or padding them out.
I have seen the great days where ordinary working-class people did wonderful work. I have also seen people like Lord Dowding and Shaw Desmond and a lot of the well known personalities take a theatre for an evening. They would give a short talk beforehand about the movement and to try and explain and help people to realize the greater purpose behind the séance which I gave.
Now, nobody bothers about spirituality and what is behind it. Not only the personal messages which are wonderful to get and what we need – you’ve got to have conviction and evidence – but the spiritual side. We used to get some wonderful communications through trance mediums such as Horace Hambling. It was a joy and a pleasure to go. You were being spiritually uplifted.
Leslie, what is your answer to people who say physical mediumship is a low form of mediumship?
I can understand, in a way, why they say that. The point is, if you want real conviction of life after death, physical mediumship is the answer. I am not saying you won’t get it through mental mediumship. A lot of wonderful things have been achieved through clairvoyance and trance mediums. All the different aspects of the subject are vital to the cause.
In a physical circle, if you are fortunate to sit in one where it is obvious that everyone is genuine and sincere and they are not doing it to make money or get publicity, you may get that direct communication from someone you have known and loved. You might get a message from a certain person giving information and you haven’t a clue what it’s all about. Later, you may be able to find out that the person did exist and that what they said was correct.
Evidence is always a personal thing. In the majority of cases, the best evidence is from someone you have known and loved. You may have made some pact with them. I’ve known of cases where a person said ‘If I can ever get through, if there is any truth in all this, I will say so-and-so’. I have known that to happen. Then again you will get critics who will say ‘Well of course you knew all that. You had it in your mind. Maybe they were able to pick up your thoughts’. All communication is a mental process whatever form it takes.
Evidence is something of such a personal nature that you can’t lay down hard and fast rules. You asked me about direct voice or physical mediumship. Of course it is the most evidential and striking because it’s much more likely to be of a nature which you can’t fake. There have been fake mediums. Let’s face it.
Surely if they are fakes then they can’t be mediums?
William Roy, who I think, in the beginning did have a genuine mediumship, realized he couldn’t always produce phenomena and started faking it. Some of the things he got in the early stages were obviously genuine.
The tragedy of physical, indeed all, mediumship is you can’t guarantee anything. No medium can guarantee anything. No medium can guarantee anything and no two séances are the same. Many a genuine, sincere person has gone to a Spiritualist Church in the hope that maybe there’s something in it and that may be helped, uplifted and encouraged. They’ve gone once and they’ve never put their foot in a Spiritualist Church again because the programme has been so awful.
When one talks about this whole subject, one has to realize that possibly it was never intended to be demonstrated in a public way. The whole thing is so personal, fundamentally. The person who is searching for truth and hoping for comfort and upliftment is very unlikely to get it in the theatre or cinema or in a public place. Mediumship, by its very nature, is a very personal thing. That’s why a group of people-dedicated, sincere, searching for truth, sitting together regularly over a period of time – will eventually achieve something of value. You have got to realize there’s no guarantee that it will work or will happen.
I once took a very big meeting at the Kingsway Hall and I had done quite a lot of meetings up to that point. They had all been successful, some more so than others. On this occasion I collapsed in the cabinet. Fortunately, Joseph Benjamin who was in the audience, took over and gave a demonstration of clairvoyance while I was carried out.
Did you feel any different giving large public demonstrations as opposed to small groups?
There is always a certain amount of apprehension at any time when you hold a séance. The onus is on you, not that you can do anything about it. I was a little apprehensive at times, especially when going to Manchester or some other big hall where the conditions were unknown. I suppose it varied according to how one was feeling at that particular time, but I had in my innermost self, tremendous faith in the ‘Other Side’. I knew they couldn’t work miracles, although they seemed like miracles to some, and there would be times where they couldn’t achieve what they wanted.
Psychism, spiritualism, mediumship is not necessarily something one should assume should happen when you think it should happen. The best séances are those that happen spontaneously or without any sort of realization that it’s going to be. You cannot command or demand. It may, sometimes, happen with great success, and at other times – nothing. There have been moments when I have thought so-and-so is coming up to me for a sitting, perhaps a very famous person who I would like to meet anyway. I would pray within myself that it would be a great success and it turned out to be a flop. You never know what is going to happen. These people who produce things on demand, like rabbits out of hats, I’ve no time for.
Leslie what is your view on the resurgence of physical mediumship today?
There should be, and there is, a great deal of general interest in the physical side of psychic phenomena. It is the most convincing form of phenomena, under the right conditions.
Did you ever have any form of physical manifestation in your séances?
They started that with me halfway through my development. We were having wonderful success with the voices. All manner and kinds of communication took place for all sorts of people from all walks of life, and that was fabulous.
Then, they started to experiment with ectoplasm forms. I can’t say they were complete forms because they were not. There were obviously attempts being made to build up and it scared the living daylights out of me. I didn’t like it, I didn’t want it, I resisted it. Not only did I respond in that way, but one or two of the sitters weren’t too happy about it either. I suppose, in a kind of way, I got to the point where I accepted the voices, and everybody else accepted them. They were uplifting, they were comforting, they were helpful and they were doing wonderful work. When you see something happening that is, well, not exactly frightening but…
I remember we were sitting there one night and we saw this hand materialize. I didn’t want it to come near me, that was my reaction to it, so I killed it in a way. I was happy with the voices, to me, that was intelligent. It was something that proved and gave comfort. With this other business [manifestations] it was…I don’t know… there was an awful smell.
When the voices began were you in trance?
Well, I used to go in and out of trace for a time. I used to get irritated sometimes when people would say [we had no recordings in those days] ‘Oh, we got so-and-so today’. I thought,’ That’s all very well for you’. There were times when I was out and times when I wasn’t, it varied. In the early stages, I’d drift off but I could sometimes hear slightly. It’s when you are not fully out, it’s when you’re halfway there, that you get a bit edgy. It got very irritating when people said, ‘you know we had this that and the other’. I thought well I got *%$@ all.
Have you ever had any information yourself through Direct Voice for your own personal use of development?
Yes, but I never had a great deal of personal things. Many years ago, an American came over from San Francisco. He contacted me, saying that he would like to have a séance with me, having heard about me through some American friends. His wife communicated. He had a number of séances with me and stayed on in England because of the séances.
After my wife died, he wanted me to give up everything and go and live in San Francisco. He was a multimillionaire. He wanted to build a church and hold séances and meetings there. He said he would finance everything and when he died he would leave everything for me, because I had given him new heart, new hope and he knew all was well with his wife, etc.
Were you tempted?
It was a great temptation. I had my regular weekly circle at that time and I asked whether I should accept an offer that had been made to me- I didn’t say what it was. Anyway, we got a message saying ‘under no circumstances was I to go to America, that my work was here in England, and not to worry’ or words to that effect.
I thought it was a marvellous opportunity to go and live in America and to have everything I needed. No headaches, no worries about finance or old age. I was furious because I had obviously turned down what was a wonderful opportunity. It was quite genuine. I thought ‘well they said no, I had better not go’. I stayed on and got up in all the various things that have happened over the years, good, bad, and indifferent, but I have no cause for complaint.
The Other Side have been marvellous. I’m not saying they had to do, or did do everything. Of course they didn’t. They did what they had to do as best they could. I remember Mickey [the guide] saying once – it must be at least 30 years ago- you play ball with me, mate, I’ll play ball with you’. How true that has been! You play ball with them, to the best of their ability, and they will do everything to help you. The medium is merely the vehicle, and the less the medium is involved the better it will be and more likely it is that the mediumship will open up and expand.
Leslie what role does the conscious mind play in physical mediumship?
That will vary.
Depending on what?
Depending on all sorts of factors.
Do you think that if you, for example, were desperate to help somebody, that it would influence the communication?
Only in as much as you are anxious from within your innermost self they will be successful. You know very well that there is nothing you can do about it. The less you know your sitter the better it is. I’ve learned from other mediums, although they don’t like admitting it, that they pick up things from the answers a member of the audience gives and then they add to it and extend it.
Being a good sitter is an art in itself. You should be able to sit with an open mind and an open heart, willing to receive whatever it is that may be of value or help, but not to suggest things to the medium and not to put things in their way from which they can build. I think a lot of mediums, unconsciously maybe, do build up and add to a message. A medium is a sensitized person and will pick up from all manner of conditions and sources. In a circle, you just sit there and say ‘Here I am for the next hour or whatever. If I can be of any help or service, okay’. It isn’t what you can do, but what the Other Side can do through you. You’ve got to be like a sponge, you’ve got to absorb. I remember Mickey saying once to me, in answer to that question, that if you had been in trance they would have preferred it, rather than you had been conscious. It made it more difficult for them.
You have to see it from different angles. I think being in trance, knowing nothing, is much the best thing in more ways than one. The point is, that if you’re conscious of what is going on, you could, unconsciously perhaps, infiltrate or in some way affect the communication. If you accept the premise that all communication is a mental process and the medium is aware and conscious, he could infiltrate the message.
A lot of mediums get messages which fundamentally are marvellous but by putting their own interpretation on what they receive and perhaps getting a sentence wrong they could transform the meaning intended by a communicator. I agree that being in trance is probably the best thing, but again, from the sitters’ point of view, if the medium is conscious and a voice is talking and the medium is talking from time to time and sometimes butts in on what is being said, they say it couldn’t have been ventriloquism.
[I can recall a number of occasions when a voice was speaking yet Leslie could be heard coughing or sneezing or sucking a sweet. Also ventriloquism cannot work in the dark! – George Cranley]
We have to realize that we had a great responsibility placed on our shoulders. We have to treat mediumship with respect and we have to do it in the best possible way we can, to give people that realization we are genuinely, sincerely anxious to uplift and comfort them. I believe we must present this in a way that will command respect.
One final question – You’ve spent a great portion of your life literally in the dark, how do you feel about it now?
There is only one answer, and that is my life, which has been given to help humanity, to give comfort from the point of view that death is not the end, that the person they’ve known and loved still exists and at times is able to come near them, and that one day they will meet again on the Other Side of life, then all the sitting in the dark is unimportant.