Alec Harris’s remarkable materialisation and direct-voice mediumship astounded all those who had the privilege to witness it; and the world is fortunate that his wife, Louie, recorded details of her husband’s great work in a fascinating book entitled “They Walked Among Us”.
An abridged version of the manuscript was published in 1980 under the above title.
The complete and unabridged biography of the renowned materialisation medium Alec Harris has now been published for the first time.
The strength and power of Alec’s physical mediumship were universally acclaimed. One astonished sitter who attended a séance in Alec’s home in the Whitchurch area of Cardiff, which is the capital city of Wales, remarked, ‘The materialised people came out of the cabinet sometimes two or three at a time.
On that amazing night, about twenty fully materialised forms greeted us and spoke with us, quite naturally. After a while you forgot you were conversing with so-called “dead” people’.
In the mid 20th-Century, the editor of “Psychic News”, Maurice Barbanell, said of Alec’s mediumship that ‘the spirit forms not only show themselves in good red light, but they also hold sustained conversations, after having walked about ten feet from the cabinet’.
But in the early days of his spiritual awakening, Alec Harris at first refused to accept the idea that he might possess such an incredibly rare mediumistic gift: his family were Welsh Christians of the ‘dyed-in-the-wool’ kind. Born and bred in Treherbert, in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales, where Christianity was most certainly the order of the day, Alec wanted nothing to do with ‘meddling’ with the dead, or with the religion of Spiritualism.
But then his sister, Connie, died – and subsequently returned to the astonished members of her family when Alec attended a séance conducted by the remarkable Scottish physical medium Helen Duncan.
His sister’s spirit-return encouraged him to sit for the development of his own spiritual gifts, and he became one of the finest materialisation mediums to emerge from Great Britain in the 20th-Century. Strangely enough, Alec Harris’s sister Connie later made another successful spirit return in a materialised form, but this time through her own brother’s remarkable physical mediumship.
During the production of materialised spirit forms, Alec’s spirit guides usually took him into a deep-trance, and the sitters were able to clearly see him sitting on his chair (bound hand and foot) inside the ‘cabinet’ – and the whole room was bathed in good red light while the materialised people walked around the room and spoke with their loved ones.
At one memorable séance, which was attended by Sir Alexander Cannon, Sir Alex spoke to two spirit forms who were Tibetans, and these conversations were held in their native tongue, which was unknown to Alec Harris or any of the other persons present at the séance. And a certain Prof. T J Haarhoff, who was a professor of classics, conversed with a materialised spirit who spoke to him in ancient Greek.
These events signal quite clearly the genuineness of Mr Harris’s mediumship.
Like other physical mediums before him, Alec was treated abominably by hostile sceptics who simply could not admit the possibility that what they were seeing with their own eyes was genuine phenomena, and he was hurt in a séance in South Africa when a journalist grabbed an ectoplasmic spirit-form, while other members of the press set off flashlights without permission.
Alec Harris will be long remembered for the amazing phenomena that were produced through his remarkable mediumship.
Professor Haarhoff, who is mentioned in the above report, was a Professor of Classics at Witwatersrand University and one of a handful of scholars at the time who spoke ancient Greek.
When he came to Cape Town to sit with Mona van der Watt I had the opportunity to question him about his experiences with Alec Harris and he confirmed to me that he did converse with a spirit in ancient Greek and then continued his conversation through Mona’s trance mediumship.
I think that the reason we had such wonderful mediumship from Alec Harris was that it was a joint mediumship between him and his wife. He had the gift of materialisation and she had the gift of direct voice. They were told that they had to sit together or nothing would happen. Divorce, therefore, was out of the question.
Louie told me this herself while we were having tea and sandwiches after the séance.
To have the support of one’s life partner when developing must have been a great asset.
The Mediumship of Alec Harris
By Isa Gray
“It is all very well for you, who have probably never seen any spiritual manifestations, to talk as you do; but if you had seen what I have witnessed you would hold a different opinion.”– W. M. THACKERAY.
Ina picked me up in her car and we drove off to a suburb named Bramley (Johannesburg). I remember remarking to her on the way that it was interesting that so many mediums were of Celtic descent and that most of their names seemed to be Welsh, Scots or Irish.
The Anglo-Saxon races do not seem to be as gifted in psychic matters. We were both full of enthusiasm for this great venture which was about to take place, and excited that in a few hours’ time we would have learnt to understand so much of the great mystery of death.
It was a crisp, cold night. As we walked up the garden path to the house, I felt a slight touch of fear when looking at the stark trees traced against the dark sky. We rang the bell and Mr Harris opened the door for us. He gave us a friendly greeting, asking us to step into the drawing-room where some other sitters were already waiting. He was stocky and strong, with a fine face and a head of thick wavy hair. Mrs Harris chatted to us in the cosy drawing-room. I noticed her pretty face and kindly way. My immediate impression was of admiration for their obvious sincerity. I also felt happy to be there with Ina for my first experience, as she is a very well informed Spiritualist.
When all the sitters had arrived, Mrs Harris told us some facts about materialisation: of how it is a very rare form of phenomenon and how the figures build up out of ectoplasm, drawn mainly from the medium but also from the sitters. She explained that it was much easier for our guides to materialise, but if anyone had a loved one come through, they must respond warmly and not be afraid; that one never knows who will come through, and that we must not long for any particular person, as it made too many crossed thoughts if each sitter was anxious to contact some special person.
She added that this circle was protected from the other side, and that no one evil had ever come through. We all felt duly reassured, yet I think that most of us found it hard not to be a little tense with the knowledge that for the first time we would witness discarnate personalities who had transcended the grave. It is strange for anyone living in our world of calendar dates, suddenly to find that the other world is timeless. I did not realise what ineffable joy was to come to me in the next few hours. I hope that I have made it clear that materialised spirits are not ghosts, wraiths, spectres or phantoms.
Walking along the passage on our way to the little sanctuary, we passed Mr Harris in black pyjamas with the coat loose and open.
We took our seats in two rows, seven of us in the front row and the rest of them sitting close behind. There were infra-red lights above, but otherwise the room was in complete darkness. There was an electric fan, which was later turned on when the room began to get warm, as the window was closed and the door was locked. The temperature was distinctly chilly for the first part of the séance, as if a slight wind was blowing in. There were two black curtains, which met in the middle and one of these, on the right of us, fitted across the corner of the room, where Mr Harris seated himself in this corner, not many feet away from us, behind the curtain. This corner formed a ‘cabinet’, so that the ectoplasm could be concentrated better in this enclosed space.
Ina sat on the extreme right of the front row, and next to her was a Portuguese gentleman, whose mother I was told was a well-known medium in Lisbon. I sat next to the Portuguese, and on my left was Hyman Klein. Next to him was Mrs Harris, and beyond her a couple whom we did not know, who had been to these séances before. Hyman had known the Harrises for a long time and often attended their séances.
Mrs Harris said a prayer then we all said the Lord’s Prayer, and holding hands started to sing, beginning with a hymn. By his heavy and regular breathing, we could tell that Mr Harris had gone into trance. A little time passed and then we sang an old-fashioned love song, which Mrs Harris told us was the favourite of the guide who usually appeared first. She said that his name was Rohan or Rowan.
Presently we heard a man’s voice speaking to Mr Harris from behind the curtain and he answered, and then the curtains parted and Rowan came in. I was momentarily astonished and my heart thumped with excitement; and even after all I had read, and knowing of the medium’s complete integrity, I could hardly believe that I was really looking at a spirit. He was an elderly man with a neat beard, and had much dignity of bearing. He seemed to give off a quality of steadfastness and benevolence. His feet were bare. As for his long white robe, I can only describe it as like the ‘dazzling raiment’ of the Bible.
He said in a rather low voice: “Good evening, friends”. Mrs Harris greeted him as an old friend, and we all replied: “Good evening.” He spoke with paternal warmth that won my heart.
He came forward a step or two and told us not to be afraid, and asked us each in turn to put our hands in his. He felt to me like an ordinary earth person, only I had the impression that his hands felt a little smoother and slightly cooler. He had round his head a veil of ectoplasm, which was snow-white like the rest of his clothing. Being dressed in a long white robe made him look some-what Biblical.
He said: “Look”, and a little bit of ectoplasm floated across the room like a tiny, fleecy cloud, eventually to disperse. One is surprised at the solidity of a spirit. He went back once to the medium, telling us it was for him to be ‘recharged’, and he also held the curtain open once so that we could see the medium ‘asleep’ in his chair. He said a few more words to us, ending with: “God bless you all”, then taking his leave of us departed behind the curtain so we did not see him dematerialise.
We held hands and sang again, and not long after this appeared a most attractive young man who is called Jolkim. Apparently he is half British, half Russian, and lost his life in World War I.
He conversed with Mrs Harris and Hyman. Jolkim is so light-hearted and unpretentious that everyone finds him a delightful person. He had on a headdress of the ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ type, and one could see his features quite clearly. His tall handsome presence and youth made the ladies feel drawn to him. His eyes are gentle and humorous and his curved lips often smile: his speech is precise and well phrased. He has a slight foreign tilt to his eyes, and his features are regular. He asked Ina and me to hold his hands in turn so that we could feel his friendly strong clasp. He then said to me: “May I kiss you?” I naturally consented, and a soft cheek was placed against mine. He did the same for Ina.
He told the Portuguese gentleman that he was a medium, and chatted a bit to various people. He concluded by singing a most beautiful duet with Mrs Harris. It was so moving to hear a spirit and an earth person sing together, and his low bass notes blended with her higher voice in perfect harmony.
After the song was over, he remarked to Mrs Harris that the curtain was stiff for them to open. She replied: “I keep telling Alex to fix that curtain!” which made us all smile at the wife-like remark. He then opened one of the curtains and we could half see him as he dematerialised. It was so strange to see his head bend forward and then he slipped downwards until there was nothing left of him.
By now I was enthusiastically beginning to regain my equilibrium. I realised that most of us greatly over-estimate our powers of understanding, which is why one is so surprised to witness this great reality for the first time. We sang again, and then after a transitory pause there were three loud thumps from behind the curtain. I had heard from other people who had been to these séances that a little dwarf called Ginger came and usually did this to herald his arrival. There appeared through the parting of the two curtains a tiny figure who looked about three feet in height but probably was a few inches more. I gulped with surprise at his bizarre appearance.
He chatted away in a Cockney accent and skipped about in front of us. He had a happy, animated face, and reminded me of some jester in a Velasquez painting. He, Ginger, was going to ask the Portuguese to go up to him, but noticed that he had gone into trance, so he asked me to talk to him. I stood up and he took my two hands in his. I am very small indeed but he seemed to come up to my waist. He asked me to put my hand on his heart, which I did, and his heart was beating strongly. His cheery Cockney personality pervaded the room. He then suggested that I tweak his nose, which I did rather timidly, and he interjected with: “Give it a harder tweak from side to side.” He had a very flat nose, and told us that his nose was flat, as someone had thrown a tomato at him, but unfortunately it was still in the tin. We had a good chuckle at this. I could not see his red hair due to his ectoplasmic headdress.
Ina then got up and spoke to him and held his hands. He usually prefaces his acquaintance with new women by asking them their names and then replying what a nice name it is. As Ina is extremely tall they made a strange pair. He also asked her to feel his heartbeat. She put both hands round his chest, and told me afterwards that he had a deformed chest and was also a hunchback. Poor little Ginger could not have had such a wonderful life when on our earth, but with his courage and humour I am sure was loved by many. I told him that my husband was also called Ginger, and he said: ” ‘E must ‘ave red ‘air too.”
He made us all roar with laughter, saying: “I don’t know what you all see in Jolkim: it must be ‘is legs!” continuing with: “The trouble wiv me is I’m not properly ‘evoluted’,” which made us all yell with mirth at his use of the word ‘evolved’. As he said this – and we could see his little mouth articulating the last words—he dematerialised only a few feet away from us. It was so quick and unexpected that several of us gasped. I was just recovering from this amazing and humorous experience and we were starting to sing, when another surprising event took place.
A man appeared, as usual draped in white, and told us all to feel the ectoplasm of his sleeves. It felt fine and smooth yet slightly stiff, and rather dry and firm to the touch.
He said: “I am the healing scientist. Healing comes from our world. I will show you.” He was a grave, quiet amiable man with a rather high voice. Then, out of his chest shone a sort of oval of the most wonderful refulgent white light. It had radiations of a slightly green or blue tint. Words are inadequate in describing what we saw. We were astonished when he held up his arms and the same light sparked off the end of his fingers. He then said that he would test us all for healing powers, by our putting our hands in turn in his.
When I gave my hands to him, the white light in his chest did not expand much, but when the Portuguese did so, a large ball of light appeared at the contact, and he said to him: “You are a healer: go out into the world and heal.”
It was literally quite electrifying to see this magnificent sight. The light from his chest rose and fluctuated at the touch of the various sitters.
We all sat with heads craned forward to watch this incredible sight. When everyone had been to him, he told us that all people had a little healing in them. Our friend Lettie Klein, wife of Hyman, was sitting in the second row, and he remarked to her that her back was giving her trouble, which was true. He requested Lettie to come to him and bend over. This she did, and it was quite amazing to see his hands go up and down her back, with a white sparkling light like fireworks coming off the tips of his fingers.
He bade us all goodnight courteously and went behind the curtains to dematerialise. After this a figure walked in, and a lady in the second row whispered: “Is it a man or a woman?” The figure did not reply, but came forward with a touching dignity, and it was evident that she had heard, for she tipped her head back for the red lights to shine on her face. It was then that we saw that she was a nun, and to our astonishment we saw that she had on spectacles of ectoplasm. She approached Ina, and said in a quiet, restrained manner: “I am Sister Monica of the Sisters of Saint Clare.” Ina when a girl had been to a convent, and latterly had been told by a clairvoyant medium that she had ‘seen’ a nun with her. Sister Monica had the usual quiet bearing of a nun and the gentle softness of voice. She took Ina’s hands and talked softly to her for a few minutes. I did not try and listen, feeling that it might be personal. When she had finished speaking, she turned to us all and said: “God bless you all,” and made her slow exit.
We held hands and sung some more songs and I noticed that when we sang songs with a lilt, like ‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean’ or ‘Jingle Bells’, the sound waves seemed to help the phenomena. The next to come was a fine-looking Red Indian, with a black band round his forehead and a black feather stuck in it. He said: “I am Pathfinder,” but nothing more, and only stayed a few moments. I would gladly have seen more of him, with his long thick black plaits and copper-coloured skin.
Then arrived a weird looking man who seemed to be very serious. He opened with: “I am an Indian but not a Red Indian”, with the accent on the ‘not’. He seemed to be a Hindu with a turban on his head. He talked to a woman who was studying oriental languages. Before departing he intrigued us all no end by holding his arms in front of him and what appeared to be long black gloves up to his elbows came and went.
Shortly after he had gone, there were some psychic lights up in the curtains, and then some ectoplasm, which showed as quite a long vertical shape of filmy substance against the curtains. There materialised a man who seemed to form from ectoplasmic ‘clouds’, slowly descending. I could not gather who he was, but he had a high white cap as a chef wears with a narrow black band round it. This hat made him look even taller than he was. He came only briefly, and spoke to the married couple in our front row. Hyman also had a short visit from his guide Shalom.
After this we sang some more songs and wondered if any others would come, as there was rather a long pause. Some minutes later, a very tall man draped in white appeared and, unlike the others, stood silently at the curtains. He had a very bright psychic light from his waist, shining up into his face, that unearthly light which is so hard to describe. He stood opposite me, and Mrs Harris said: “He is for you, Mrs Gray, they always stand opposite the person they want.” I went up to him, somewhat in awe of his silent presence, and felt two friendly hands grasp mine and draw me nearer to him.
He said: “I always call you the small one or the little one.” I was very taken aback, as I felt it so extraordinary that this stranger knew me so well. He was so tall that the bright light ended just before his eyes, so I could not check their colour, but I could see his long classical features as clearly as if it were daylight. Being extremely small, I was told by Ina afterwards that my head was at an angle of 90 degrees to be able to see his face. He told me that he was often with me and that I would probably never ‘see’ him, but that he hoped that I would sometimes feel his presence. Never have I experienced such comfort and goodness as emanated from this man.
He said that he was replacing a man who had tried to materialise, but who was unable to do so as conditions were difficult on their side, partly due to an emotional spirit woman crying. I thanked him and said: “Please could you tell me your name?” He paused for a moment and I could see that he did not want to give it, but also did not want to hurt me. He smiled and said: “What is there in a name after all?” Then he added: “Now you give me a name.” Looking up at his beautiful face and his noble presence, and feeling such tremendous comfort from his friendly handclasp, and remembering the days of chivalry, I said: “I shall always remember you as the White Knight.”
He laughed spontaneously and replied: “That’s a lovely name; I do like that, thank you.” This highly evolved spirit guide’s touch seemed to charge me with vitality. It pleased me the way he accented the word ‘lovely’ and squeezed my hands on saying it.
He then let go of my hands, so I knew that he was going to dematerialise. I thanked him from the bottom of my heart for coming to me, and I returned to my chair. He appeared to be neither young nor old. I can still recollect this very cultured English voice, just as if we had known each other on earth, in fact more so.
Presently came the slightly lisping voice of Christopher – I had been told that he was a schoolmaster when on earth – speaking in trance voice through Mr Harris, saying: “This is Christopher, Mrs Harris. I am sorry, but although we have a lot of scientists over here working on it, they cannot keep the power going, but we will give you some transfiguration.”
A few moments later, the two black curtains parted. What was so incredible to us was that they stayed open on their own, draped like two cinema curtains, yet with no support. We saw Mr Harris ‘asleep’ in his chair. From the region of his chest, where his pyjamas were open, there came a long ‘rod’ of ectoplasm, thin-looking and strongly white. It turned into a thick, blobby shape about five feet away from him. Little bits would break off and float about then return to the main piece. This lasted for some minutes then vanished.
Shortly after, in the stillness that followed, we saw a very bright psychic light on the medium’s face etching his features sharply. In this light we saw a woman’s face superimposed on his. The impression gained was that it was similar to when one takes two photographs on one exposure.
Then came two men’s faces, one after the other, but none of us recognised them. Immediately after this came Christopher’s voice saying: “Goodnight everybody, that is all.”
The curtains dropped on their own, Mrs Harris said the closing prayer; someone unlocked the door and put on the hall light. We left the sanctuary dark for Mr Harris to come round in his own time, and we all trooped into the drawing-room.
At first our amazement was too great for anyone to speak, and we stood staring at each other. Then it burst out like a flood with everyone talking loudly. We sat down and refreshed ourselves with tea, sandwiches and biscuits.
Mrs Harris produced two portraits in oils painted by her husband. They were of Jolkim and Ginger. It struck me as so strange that he had never seen them with his eyes but only through his mind. The medium dressed and entered after about twenty minutes and had a cup of tea and a cigarette. I felt like asking him questions, but refrained, as he looked tired.
I thought of the thousands of people who must have pestered him. I also thought that if anyone had any doubts as to the genuineness of the phenomena, their doubts must have been dispelled, seeing that we saw the medium sitting in his chair in trance and the spirit also present. Only that day he had had a letter from some Swedish scientists who wanted to investigate his great and strange powers.
Before leaving, I asked Mrs Harris if the White Knight had ever been before. She replied in the negative, saying that she felt he was a very highly evolved spirit. I felt so grateful to the spirits for appearing with their irrefutable evidence, and radiating loving kindness.
We bade these two friendly people good-bye and thanked them for the wonderful evening and told them that we felt our lives could never be the same after this great experience. I felt that my entire sense of perspective had to be altered. It certainly broadens one’s horizons. One cannot be lonely in the hours of darkness when one knows that kindly spirits are with one. Whilst driving home, with the cold night air biting into us, Ina and I both felt a feeling of intense elation. We talked over each incident in detail with great happiness and joy. When one has met these beings from the higher side of life, one cannot fear the life, which is to come, on the other side.
A Christmas Tree Circle taken from Chapter 12:
When Christmas came around each year we held our Christmas circles. One year we were asked to give a circle at a place approximately a hundred miles away from Johannesburg. We agreed to the request provided those attending the séance brought the toys to decorate the tree, which after the Spirit children had their fun playing with them, would be distributed among underprivileged children, bringing to them all the love which the Spirits had instilled into the toys during the circle.
There were present fifty sitters, doctors, lawyers, and many well known people of the district, and a great number of lovely toys were provided. The little Spirit children of all ages had a wonderful time playing with them excitedly around the tree. I had stipulated that no toy guns were to be among the toys as the bangs caused by these could distress the medium.
At some stage during the proceedings I could feel someone fiddling under my chair, and when I enquired, “What are you doing under there?” The red light of a torch flashed on to reveal Ginger in the process of extracting a toy gun from under my seat. Where it had come from I have no idea for it was not there when we prepared the room. But there it was, and Ginger ran around having enormous fun firing the gun and shining the red torch alternately. In the dull red beam of light from the torch we could see six or seven little Spirit children around the tree, all busily and noisily blowing bugles, beating drums, playing mouth organs, winding up or pushing along whining mechanical toy trucks and cars, or pulling crackers and throwing streamers. Besides the unknown Spirit children, quite a few loved ones also materialised or spoke through the trumpet or cone.
Suddenly a small voice piped up right beside me. “I want to speak to my Mummy and Daddy,” it said. “Darling,” I replied, “you know where they are, you can see them plainly, can’t you?” A moment’s pause followed, then the child whispered, “Yes.” “Well then, dear,” I said, “you go over and speak to them. It will make them very happy.”
I saw the trumpet float over to the other side of the room and come to rest in front of a man and woman. We could then hear the same little voice pleading; “Please Daddy you must not cry any more. I am all right now.” There was an audible intake of breath from the man; it could have been a sob. “Oh please, Daddy, don’t cry,” went on the little child, “I am here beside you.” The child had now materialised beside his parents. “Feel my head and face Daddy; it is quite better now.”
The man put out his hand and felt the tiny head, and then the face. He said something to the child which was inaudible to the rest of us in a voice choked with emotion, and I knew that he was quietly crying. “Don’t cry any more Daddy. I want you to be happy,” pleaded the little one again, and then the child was gone. It was a heart-rending incident always to be remembered.
Afterwards I heard from this man the tragic story. He had gone into his car one morning before work, unaware that the little fellow had followed him to the garage. He had reversed out of the garage, running the vehicle over the child who could not be seen from his position in the driving seat, and his little son was crushed to death. Terrible injuries had been inflicted on the little boy’s head and face, and the horror of these, and the fact that he had caused them, had remained to torment the poor father night and day until he was but a shadow of his former self through his unbearable guilt and grief.
As he spoke to me he actually smiled and said that he felt better than he had done since the accident. Speaking to his little son had been the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to him and he felt that this would help him to face up to life again. The incident was all the more convincing because we knew nothing of this tragedy.
In this extract Louie writes about her guide White Wing:
White Wing, aware of my fears, always materialised early in the circle. He would stand towering above us, his feathered headdress almost level with the top of the cabinet; a tall magnificent figure draped in white ectoplasmic robes. Slowly he would turn from side to side, then completely around, so that all could see that he was fully formed in every detail. Then he would put out his arms to me saying, “Come, Faithful!”
As I stood in front of him I barely reached up to his chest, so tall was he. I could so clearly discern his Red Indian features as I gazed up into his face, the high cheek bones in a lean face clean-cut jaw, and prominent aquiline nose, altogether a strong face. Then he would turn me around to face the sitters.
As I stood there with my back to him, he would raise both his arms high so that the folds of his robe would hang from his arms like two huge white wings. Then he would enfold me, so that only my head could be seen against his chest above the folds and drapes of his white robe, his own dark magnificent head above mine, surmounted by the impressive Indian Chieftain’s headdress with feathers trailing down his back to the floor.
I cannot put into words my feelings at these times. I felt inexpressibly close to this Guide of mine, and trusted in him implicitly as he said in his deep and resonant voice, “Faithful, White Wing here to help you.”
Through the years he remained a pillar of strength to me, always imparting sound advice. He always urged us to reach for the highest, to strive to develop our spiritual rather than our psychic gifts.
To illustrate the meaning of this entreaty, I remember how he uttered these memorable words: “White Wing say the ‘phenomena’ of what you call Spiritualism is the ‘Door’: the ‘philosophy’ is the ‘Hall’: but we want you to come into the ‘Dining Room’ and partake of the ‘Food’ the Great White Spirit has prepared for you. So many people are content to remain at the ‘Door’. The Master Jesus attracted multitudes by performing miracles, but when they were gathered around Him He preached to them of Spirit. So we come to demonstrate phenomena, but we expect you to go forward, to search, to learn more of the Great White Spirit.”
Materialisation and medium seen together.
“On four occasions we saw a form outside the cabinet and the medium inside at the same time.” reports H. B. Gill, of London Road, Portsmouth, describing a séance with Alec Harris, the remarkable South Wales materialisation medium.
The first to materialise was an entity known as “the chemist”, who shook hands with all the sitters in the front row, then returned to the cabinet and asked a person to draw the curtain aside so that the medium could be seen in his chair.
One unexpected materialisation was an airman, whose left arm was missing and the side of his face mutilated. With emotion he said, “Look what they have done to me.”
A sitter, an Air Force officer, went over to him, examined the materialised form and confirmed the arm was missing.
The form returned to the cabinet and later came out smiling, showing both arms, with his face in perfect shape.
Then the sitters watched while outside the cabinet a mass of ectoplasm slowly built up into the form of a man, who said he was a guide to one of the visitors.
Later a woman’s spirit form, which stayed away from the cabinet too long, was seen slowly to sink to the floor until, by the time she reached the cabinet, only a small portion of ectoplasm was visible.
Gill, at sittings with three mediums, had been told that from the Other Side an Egyptian would shortly be associated with him for healing. He materialised and conversed with Gill.
Later “the chemist” showed himself again, walked to the opposite end of the room, sat in a chair and held a conversation with a sitter.
“One of the chief characteristics of these séances is that you can actually feel the materialised forms and hold quite intelligent conversations them,” says Gill.
Conjurer testifies to materialisation
A conjurer, who went as a sceptic to an Alec Harris séance in Cardiff, saw his father, brother and son materialise.
A.G. Fletcher-Desborough described his “unique” experience in Liverpool Evening Express.
“I examined the cabinet which he used. Having been on the stage as an illusionist and magician, I knew exactly where to look for such things as panel and floor escapes, and ceiling and wall slides.
“I was satisfied nothing could make an exit or an entrance in any way. There was no chance for deception.”
A short stout man materialised from the cabinet, walked straight to him and mumbled the sitter’s name, Bertie. “It was my father and, in his mumbling way of speaking, gave my family pet name used by my parents. No one but the family knew it.”
He was followed by a young man who hobbled, grasped the sitter’s hand and said: “Bertie! I am your brother Walter.” This brother, the conjurer explained, had his left ankle shot away in the Boer War.
“No one there knew I had a brother. So who learnt his name and that he hobbled when walking in life? There certainly could have been no deception in this case.”
Then from the cabinet walked a stiff upright young fellow. Like the others he came towards the conjurer. Then he swerved and throwing out his arms, “embraced my wife saying in a very pathetic voice, ‘Mother, Mother, I’m your son, Ronnie’”
This was their third son, born under fire during the Sinn Fein rising in 1916, and captured in Singapore Harbour by the Japs and beheaded.
“He turned to me after embracing his mother and put his head against mine. I recognised his voice.” No one among the sitters or the medium knew the intimate characteristics of those who materialised.
“Why all these manifestations on my behalf?
“Because I was an unbeliever.”
From a Two Worlds reporter. May 16, 1959:
“A university graduate, who has done four years in medical school, describes in a South African newspaper how he examined materialised spirit forms and even felt their heartbeats.
“He is Douglas Baker, B.A., of the University of Cape Town . . .
“Louie Harris recalled, as Baker stated, how he was brought to the séance by a Johannesburg doctor, a convinced Spiritualist who is one of their friends. Baker said that a score of other sitters were present when he witnessed these materialisations. …
“Baker testified that the materialisations had ‘weight’, could be embraced, had pulse beats, breathed, had intelligence of their own and personalities.
“Several, he says, occupied the room at the same time. In three hours, thirty different forms materialised and disappeared. ‘Some stayed as long as twenty minutes, answered questions and submitted to examination.’ Their bones could be felt. They appeared normal in most ways except that they lacked colouring …
“They were all draped in what Baker calls ‘Arabian garments’.
This, however, was the usual ectoplasmic covering. He says their bare feet were visible.
“They did not object to my examination. I felt the pulse of several. Their hearts were beating at about seventy-two to the minute. There was hair on the backs of their hands. One old woman had hardened veins on the backs of her hands.”
Psychic News, August 20, 1960, tells us:
“Hearing a medical man testify in a public lecture to the reality of materialisations
was too much for a retired colonel, who was heard to say: ‘What rubbish! Charlatan! The man should be horse-whipped!’
“The lecturer was Douglas Baker, a medical graduate, who edits ‘Aquarius Rising’, which spreads a knowledge of psychic and allied subjects in South Africa.
“Baker reminds his readers that he has been trained scientifically in the rationale of what a human body is composed of and how it works. As quickly as these forms solidified from ‘nothingness’, they disintegrated while they spoke. Here, he says, was a challenge to the physiology he was taught in medical schools, that the human skeleton takes 22 years to materialise more or less completely.”
Donald Maclean gives the following account in Psychic News,
February 13, 1965:
“A small séance room in Johannesburg provided its sitters with one of the most instructive demonstrations of Survival ever produced. The curtains of the cabinet were drawn back to show Alec Harris in trance, with ectoplasm flowing from him.
“Out of this ectoplasm, on each side of him, a spirit child began to materialise. Watching the fascinating spectacle in the light of three red bulbs, sitters saw the children grow in size and then diminish, as ectoplasm flowed to and from the medium. . . .
“Equally startling at the Harris materialisation circle was a healing guide who walked into the circle with a bright green-yellow sphere shining in front of him. This was a ‘healometer’.
The guide held sitters’ hands, and their potential healing power was measured by the intensity of the light.”
This last and most interesting account was in Psychic News,
June 5, 1965: as told to one of the reporters.
“To see his guide materialise was ‘the finest sight I have ever witnessed,’ Douglas
Johnson, the famous medium, told me last week.
“It was the unforgettable climax of his South African tour. As he volunteered to Alec Harris at the end of a two-and-a-half-hour materialisation séance, ‘It was worth coming all these thousands of miles for this evening alone.’
“For Johnson that memorable evening was the personal highlight of a triumphal three-month tour of South Africa’s major cities. It fulfilled two long-cherished dreams: a sitting with the world-famed, Welsh-born medium, and the joy of shaking hands and talking face-to-face with his own Chinese guide, Chang.
“Not normally fond of superlatives, Johnson, fit and deeply sun-tanned, told me: ‘It was really terrific. There must have been at least a dozen materialisations. Some materialised twice.’
“ ‘I sat in the centre of the circle, within three feet of the medium. He could be seen entranced in the cabinet as each spirit entity walked out of it to greet members of the circle in the small room well lit by red light. They held up their faces towards the light to allow us to see them clearly.. ..’
“ ‘Then the curtains parted and there was the enormous figure of a North American Indian guide. He was magnificent.’
“This guide materialised in Indian robes and full feathered headdress. Johnson could hardly believe his eyes as the majestic figure walked forward from the cabinet to shake hands and chat with members of the circle.
“ ‘It was really terrific,’ he repeated, ‘as one materialisation followed almost on the heels of the previous one.’ He counted at least twelve full materialisations ranging in size from men of over six feet to a young Cockney boy. …
“His first surprise came when a woman sitting next to him was kissed and held in the arms of her ‘dead’ doctor-husband. Then he turned to Johnson, greeted him with a ‘How do you do?’ shook hands and thanked him for having helped his wife when she had earlier sittings in England. Johnson told me, ‘His handshake was warm and living.’
“Another poignant episode occurred when the more than six-foot son of a Jewish couple materialised. He greeted, embraced and chatted to his parents. Later they told Johnson that this son had been killed in his early twenties in an accident in Switzerland. . . .
“Next came Johnson’s supreme séance experience. After an announcement that there was ‘somebody for the guest visitor from England’, the cabinet curtains again parted.
“ ‘There was a small, smiling Chinese figure. He asked me to stand up and I held his hands. Then he talked to me, telling me I was doing very good work out there. He knew I was very tired.
He assured me he would not let me become ill, but would see I was able to finish the tour.’
“Johnson easily recognised his guide because he has clairvoyantly ‘seen’ Chang from time to time… .
“Johnson, who has attended materialisation sittings with other mediums, said his South African séance with Harris was quite the best.
“He awards South African sitters top marks for their keenness and sincerity. ‘They are genuinely interested in Survival. . . .’
“He was also pleasantly surprised to find that interest was equally keen among the young people—a higher percentage than in England. Their numbers include medical students.”
The following is taken from the booklet,’Materialisation’, by
“One or two supremely interesting examples standout in my memory from the many séances it has been my privilege to attend over the years. At one memorable sitting with Alec Harris there were with me Ernest Oaten, John Stewart and Ernest Thompson. During the proceedings a little stocky figure came out of the cabinet, and stood by Ernest Thompson who was a heavy man, fourteen stone. This little stocky figure proceeded to lift Ernest right off the floor. I myself was so fascinated I went down on my knees in order to watch the play of the muscles in the calves of his legs. As a physiotherapist I know something about muscles. At the same time the Austrian scientist in charge of the proceedings invited another member of the group to reach out and ascertain that the medium was still in his chair.”
Mr Dawson continues, saying: “The more I learn of these matters, the more vital it seems that a greater knowledge of the subject should be acquired and then we shall not be too hasty in our judgment. I do feel that it is dangerous to take the ignorant and uninitiated into the séance room. . ..
“On one occasion at Whitchurch, Cardiff, South Wales, sitting with the well-known medium. Alee Harris (who now resides in Johannesburg, South Africa), I witnessed a remarkable phase of this type of phenomena, and this was under the most stringent conditions imposed by the examining panel of observers. The curtains of the medium’s cabinet suddenly swung wide open and we observed the medium slumped in his chair in deep-trance-indicated by certain signs known to the trained symptomatologist, one of whom was present.
The ectoplasmic form of the guide (Austrian scientist in Earth life) was visible to all of us. (Three red lights of 75 wattage.)
As we watched we saw the ectoplasm begin to emerge slowly from the medium’s mouth, nose and ears, it rolled down his body on to the floor where it coiled itself into a sizeable mass and from the centre of this mass, it began to rise, just as if someone was pushing it upwards, it took the form of a little black boy (here I should mention that the mass as it first emerged was black in colour with white streaks in it). The figure finally presented itself perfectly, above the waist line, the eyes, squat nose and teeth when it smiled was perfect. After a short space of time it began to dissolve before our eyes, and slowly like a thick black snake it climbed back over the body of the medium and was absorbed through the same orifices of the body. There was a kind of phosphorescent light during the whole time, which rose and fell in intensity. This was indeed a most amazing night.”
Here is another most interesting account, also by Mr Dawson:
“Another example of the evidential return of a Spirit friend was recorded at one of Harris’s séances at which certain members of the National Council were present; amongst them was Mr Wilfrid Ely, B.Sc., M.S.N.U., and a Minister of the Union.
During the séance, many figures appeared and one gave outstanding evidence to Mr Ely. The Spirit who appeared and walked up to Mr Ely gave him the Sioux Indian salute and spoke to him. Then taking Mr Ely’s hand and placing it upon the nose of the spirit-form, smiled.
Mr Ely immediately recognised his brother who passed as a result of wounds received in the 1914-18 war, for his brother had received an injury earlier in life which had disfigured the nose.
Mr Ely was profoundly moved, and was full of joy and emotion: and then confided to his colleagues on the Council the striking information that his father was a full-blooded Sioux Indian. This was a remarkable piece of evidence, as Mr Ely had not disclosed his father’s nationality. The name of the brother who appeared was John Henry Ely.”
By Norman Blunsdon, Psychic News, January 31, 1959:
“C. K. Shaw, well-known Two Worlds contributor, left his ‘Corner’ temporarily last week to enter the witness box and be grilled by the ‘counsel’ Eric W. Stuart at the Marylebone Spiritualist Association. (now the SAGB)
“Asked the best form of mediumship for proving Survival he was most emphatic. ‘Materialisation,’ he replied. He recounted details of an Alee Harris séance.
“ ‘I was unknown to all present and had not expected anyone to materialise for me. My sister appeared. I looked into her face and eyes. It was my sister. I said, ‘Hallo Maud, what are you doing here?’
“ ‘I am making ectoplasmic rods.’
“ ‘You don’t know anything about ectoplasm,’ he said. ‘If it is true, bring me one rod.’
“His sister disappeared and then returned with a large ectoplasmic rod.
“ ‘Can I hold it?’ Shaw asked.
‘Yes,’ she said.
“ ‘It was solid to the touch,’ Shaw stated. ‘I tapped the fireplace and wall; it made a rapping noise. I examined the texture; it was like fine muslin!’ “
Psychic News, November 24, 1962, gives the following account:
“When a fortnight ago, we referred to anti-Spiritualist comments made by Sir Shane Leslie in The Tablet, a Roman Catholic journal, we stated that there seemed good ground for a debate between father and son.
The son, Desmond Leslie, of flying-saucers fame, we added, had been to séances where he had communications from the ‘dead’. This has brought the following letter from him.
“ ‘It is true that I have been to a number of séances, good and bad. Perhaps the most impressive were those given by the Alee Harris circle in Cardiff where full materialisations took place, sometimes two at once. The materialised beings could talk, sing and answer questions.
“ ‘They might for all the world have been a group of actors draped in cheesecloth except that (when we were allowed to touch them) their flesh was cold like the furniture in the room, and one of them dematerialised before our eyes.’
“ ‘Only one question remained unanswered—were they the actual spirits of departed men and women or were they manufactured by the fantastic power of the subconscious utilising a principle we know nothing about?’
“ ‘There seems no sure way of determining which. The evidence they gave was very impressive. One of them knew details of my life to which no one in the room could have had access, but it was still possible that these details originated in my own sub-conscious mind. . . .’”
Mr Leslie goes on to tell us: “ ‘Possibly the most valuable thing that happened during the Harris demonstrations was the dematerialisation of the medium himself. For about twenty minutes, he existed somewhere without a physical body, thus proving for the first time the existence of a soul. Had he been only a body he would surely have been dead when he was put together again. That, I think, was the most important demonstration of
Here is the account of an outstanding séance written by a friend of mine, Reg Britten, for Psychic News, June 27, 1964
“It was in 1945 that I had the honour of meeting Alee Harris, whom I found to be a gifted amateur materialisation medium. His ordinary occupation was a painter-foreman employed by the Ministry of Works in Cardiff.
“During the period when I was stationed locally in the R.A.F. I attended six of his séances. We were able to increase the power of the usual red light considerably, until it was sufficiently bright to enable us to see quite clearly.
Also we were able to see the medium clearly in his cabinet if the curtains were drawn back.
“The materialisations were every bit as solid as were the sitters.
In one instance, when I was kissed on the lips by my mother’s materialised form, I could distinctly feel her warm breath on my face. On other occasions I had the opportunity of shaking hands with the forms. Their hands were warm and life-like. They gave as firm a grip as anyone in the room would have done.
“Solid and life-like as were these materialisations, they were frequently seen to dematerialise when the power was exhausted.
This process often took place in the middle of the room and quite a distance from the cabinet.
“On these occasions the form was seen to sink into the floor. The features would seem to melt and run as if they were wax before a fire. Quite often nothing of the form would remain except a small piece of white ectoplasm on the floor. It would then either be whisked into the cabinet along the floor or vanish as one watched.
“On one memorable occasion a form actually built up out of the floor within a couple of feet of where I was seated. I was able to watch the whole process of materialisation. My attention was drawn to what appeared to be a dazzling white handkerchief on the floor in front of me.
“Within seconds this piece of ectoplasm rose quickly from the floor as if there was a stick under it pushing it up, although the whole time the material seemed to grow in height, so that the edge of the ectoplasm was always touching the floor. When it reached about four feet it could be seen to have a head on top of it, but a ‘dead’ face with eyes closed and very pale.
“Within the next couple of seconds it ceased to increase in height. The face took on the appearance of a bronzed skin with an aquiline nose and high cheek bones. The eyes opened to reveal a Red Indian with two black pigtails, a band round his hair with a single feather, another band above the elbow, and wearing grey trousers.
“He did not speak, but walked round the room and showed his features to all present, even stepping over the sitters’ feet as he passed into the second row so that all might have a closer view of him.
“On another occasion a materialisation left the cabinet curtains drawn apart. We were patiently awaiting the next form to build up and were watching the medium sitting slumped in his chair, so that we would not miss seeing a form build up in the cabinet.
“Our surprise was intense when we all realised that the medium’s chair was empty. Nobody actually saw him vanish, as we established when we discussed it after the sitting. One moment we all saw him, and the next his chair was empty.
“We sat and watched for about four or five minutes without anything happening. Then we all saw what appeared to be a grey cloud form at the top of the cabinet. This cloud sank slowly downwards until it almost reached the chair, when it seemed to swirl around the chair. And there was Alee Harris sitting in his chair head sunk on his chest, and breathing heavily.
“We were all a little dumbfounded at the end of the séance, but the medium’s wife seemed to take it as a matter of course.
Her only remark when we discussed it was: ‘Now you know why we don’t talk about this outside. They would say we were mad!’”
Zerdini reports on his sitting with Alec Harris:
I met Alec Harris through a friend of my mother. She was a lifelong Spiritualist and on a visit to Cape Town, knowing of my burgeoning interest in Spiritualism, asked if I would like to sit in a materialisation circle.
A regular sitter in Alec Harris’ circle she told me that her husband had, on one occasion, materialised in his Royal Marines uniform, walked out of the cabinet, kissed her and called by a pet name that was not known even to their children. Naturally I was very excited at the prospect, particularly as I had read many dramatic accounts of his mediumship in Two Worlds and Psychic News.
One Friday morning I received a telegram which simply said: ‘Séance tomorrow night. Can you come?’ I wired back that I was on my way, went down to the airport at Cape Town with my whole month’s wages, bought a ticket and flew to Johannesburg, a thousand miles away.
I arrived three hours later and stayed in a hotel overnight. Next day, my friend took me along to a modest house where I was introduced to the medium, Alec Harris, and his wife Louie. A small bedroom, part of which had been curtained off to provide a cabinet, was used as the séance room. There were eight of us, four in the front row and four immediately behind. I was invited to sit next to the medium’s wife, directly in front of the opening in the curtains.
Louie led the singing, which went on for about twenty minutes. I was beginning to feel a bit restless when, all of a sudden, I heard a voice from behind the curtain. ‘That’s Alec’s guide, Christopher’, said Louie. ‘He speaks with a lisp’.
The curtains parted as if drawn by unseen hands and there stood, what looked to me, a vague white outline
next to the medium. There ‘that’s Alec’s mother’, said Louie. ‘She comes quite often now that Alec is getting older’.
The room was lit by a number of red bulbs. No dimmer switches were used, which made it very easy to distinguish everything quite clearly. Suddenly, after more singing, there appeared from the side, not the front, of the curtains, a Red Indian. He stood in front of my friend. ‘Greetings, Black Feather’, she said. He was her guide and regularly materialised whenever she was present.
After exchanging a few words he turned towards me and said, ‘Will the young man from Cape Town come forward?’
Before the séance, Louie told us not to touch the materialisations unless invited to do so, as it could harm the medium.
I stood up and walked over to him. He was bare from the waist upwards, with one black feather in a band round the back of his head; the lower half of his body was just draped in ectoplasm. ‘Feel my skin’, said the figure. He was very tall, well over six feet, far taller than Alec Harris.
I had to stretch up to touch the side of his face. Copper-coloured, the skin had a leathery feel about it. Then he said, ‘Feel my chest’. I did as requested and noted the chest was quite solid.
‘Hit me on the chest’, he said. ‘Are you sure?’ I asked. ‘Yes’, he replied. I did. ‘Harder!’ he said. Using the palm of my hand, I hit him on the chest. He never flinched and again said, ‘Harder’. Summoning up all the energy I could muster I hit him on the chest. My hand just bounced off. The figure turned to me with a half-smile on his face and said, ‘You may sit down now’. I sat down absolutely staggered, thoughts flashing through my mind. How did he do it? Was there a trapdoor in the floor? Was it Alec Harris on stilts?
As he walked back behind the curtains, simultaneously, the curtains parted in the front and a young woman came out and stood in front of me holding a little baby in her arms. One of the sitters recognised her and explained afterwards that she had died while giving birth. Both mother and baby had passed together.
During the course of the séance, which lasted around three hours, about fourteen people materialised.
One I found particularly interesting was a figure which appeared half in shadow and draped in ectoplasm. Only half the face was visible: he didn’t speak. I heard crying behind me. One of the ladies asked, ‘Is that you Uncle Arthur?’ The figure just nodded. I remember thinking ‘why doesn’t he speak?’
After the séance, I was told that Uncle Arthur had died from a particularly nasty type of cancer. Half his face had been eaten away so he was unable to speak before he died.
Every circle seems to have a child guide whose job it is to lighten the proceedings when things become too emotional. Theirs was no exception. A little Cockney boy named Ginger materialised and said to me, ‘Feel my nose’. I bent down to touch his nose which felt as though it had been squashed.
‘I was hit by a tomato’, he said, ‘in a can!’ This was followed by peals of laughter which immediately lightened the tension in the room.
Ginger then walked round greeting all the sitters, returned to the cabinet and disappeared. As he walked, I noticed a trail of ectoplasm behind him which flowed under the curtains and back towards the medium.
The most fascinating part for me was when a guide dressed in the most beautiful white robes walked out of the cabinet and said, ‘The young man from Cape Town, come forward’.
I did … and found myself literally looking straight into his eyes. I asked who he was.
‘I am one of your guides’, came the reply. He told me his name and the area he came from.
I asked if I might touch his robes, but he said, ‘Please don’t, but I will show you something’.
He then fully extended his arms so I could see the whole of the spirit drapery. Neither his face nor neck was covered with any sort of ectoplasm.
I stood there thinking, ‘How can I touch you?’ so I said, ‘May I touch your hands?’ He said, ‘Yes’ and held them out. I took them in mine and thought to myself, ‘Now I’ve got hold of you, I’m not going to let go until I’ve got to the bottom of this’.
I was determined that, whoever he was, he wasn’t going to get away from me!
We chatted for 10 to 15 minutes about my future spiritual work. I particularly remember him saying, ‘You and I will work together and one day you will speak before thousands of people’.
I thought how ridiculous that was as I couldn’t speak before half a dozen never mind thousands.
However, I have since spoken to hundreds of people at a time in different countries around the world including the USA, Sweden, Iceland, Australia and Japan. The big moment came when I had to address two thousand three hundred people at a fundraising event for the Noah’s Ark Society.
Much of what he said seemed impossible at the time, but it has all been fulfilled.
Suddenly he said, ‘I have to go now’, so I thanked him for coming, but still held onto his hands. Something made me look down at his feet. As I did so I saw the bottom half of his body dissolving away, but his hands were still solid. Then his hands melted away between my fingers yet my hands were still closed.
The last thing I saw was his head slowly sinking to the floor saying, ‘I am going now’, disappearing under the curtains like a streak of light.
At the very end of the séance the curtains parted. Christopher said, ‘We have no more power left’.
As he spoke, from the medium’s solar plexus came two great clouds of ectoplasm to the left and to the right. In the ectoplasm appeared literally hundreds of miniature faces. The guide said these were some of the people who had been present, but unable to get through.
What was very noticeable during the séance was the earthy smell unlike anything I had smelt before or, indeed, since. I wouldn’t describe it as pleasant, but I had a headache for about three days afterwards. Louie described it as the ‘power’ which had been drawn from the sitters.
Alec Harris passed to the Spirit World on February 12th 1974. The full story of Alec Harris and the development of his mediumship is told in They Walked Among Us by Louie Harris. It has recently been updated and called “Alec Harris: The Full Story of His Remarkable Physical Mediumship”
Some weeks after the séance described above, the friend who had invited me decided to visit Cape Town. I arranged for a small group of friends to join us for a sitting with the guides of Mona van der Watt.
Mona’s Red Indian guide came to my friend and without any preliminaries described the presence of Black Feather exactly as I had seen him saying, ‘I greet my Indian brother’.
Alec Harris first returned to me through Joe Benjamin at an Alliance Hall meeting and has, together with his wife Louie and three of their guides, continued to make his presence known through the brilliant Stoke-on-Trent medium, Gerard Smith.
Alec has also returned at a physical séance with Colin Fry and spoken in the direct voice.
While I Remember by Ivy Northage
A sitting with Alec Harris in Cardiff
It was on a tour in Wales that I was privileged to attend the most extraordinary demonstration of physical phenomena I have ever witnessed. I had an engagement in Cardiff and my host invited me afterwards to go with him and his wife to a materialisation séance with Alec Harris, later an extremely famous materialisation medium but then practically unknown. He was also most reluctant about his extraordinary gift. If I remember rightly, he was an engineer in normal life. His wife played the violin in a theatre orchestra so it was not until she returned after the evening performance that the séances could start. These took place in a small upstairs room in which a cabinet had been arranged by hanging blackout curtains across one corner. In contrast to those of Helen Duncan, these curtains remained open and the medium was fully visible the whole time. Like her, he was stripped and searched beforehand and came back in a very loose tunic and trousers of blackout material. I sat with my host and Mrs Harris, beside me their son David, aged about twelve. Across the room were three rows of sitters, perhaps some twenty people in all. A central red light provided illumination.
It was customary for the séances to start with a solo from David. In his very beautiful choirboy’s voice he sang The Lord is My Shepherd. Meanwhile, fully visible to us all, Alec went into trance and just as the glorious notes of the last verse died away, the curtains billowed very slightly, as if stirred by a breeze.
With Helen Duncan, materialisations came gradually. You could see the flow of the ectoplasm; it came out in a ribbon before expanding into a form. With Alec it was different. There was just a slight tremor of the curtains and there before your eyes was a form. One moment there was nothing and the next moment he was there, and we could still see Alec sitting in the cabinet, apparently quite unchanged. The materialised figure, Alec’s guide, whose name also was David, had a long grey beard. He stepped out and in a very Welsh voice thanked little David for his singing which, he said, had done much to build up the power, before very courteously greeting everyone. Then, before addressing me directly, he asked the sitters across the room if they would excuse him for a moment.
‘Your spirit friends are extremely pleased that you are here this evening,’ he said, turning to me, ‘but they do not intend to manifest for you. There are so many here who need the consolation of conviction of survival, but you have no such need. I have been asked to give you their love, to say that they are participating this evening, helping in any way they can, and that they are most grateful for the opportunities you afford them to bring comfort and enlightenment to the bereaved.’ Then he turned to Mrs Harris. ‘May I, madam, have your permission to take one of these roses out of your vase and, on behalf of her spirit friends, give this to this lady?’ As he handed me the flower I took it by the stem.
As I have explained, I cannot bear to be touched in these situations and with my mind I made my usual plea, whereupon the figure said, ‘My dear, would you shake hands with me?’ Thus forewarned I felt no reluctance to take his hand. To my astonishment it was the tiny hand of a child of five. In my mind – I said nothing out loud — but in my mind I said to myself, ‘This is a child’s hand.’ Instantly he smiled and said, ‘Nobody wants to see hands, it is faces they are interested in, and if we make the hands a little smaller it conserves the power for that more important feature.’ Then, giving a little chuckle, he moved from me and addressed the rows of sitters across the room. ‘I am now going to send those loved ones to you who will try to manifest tonight. It is most important that you answer, because your contact is the supporting rod of energy that will maintain the materialised form.’
Alec’s guide was very much more informative than Albert and there was not that slight feeling of being patronised. I never felt comfortable with Albert but David took time to explain the procedure; he made you really glad to be there and anxious to help in any way he could. Now he explained, ‘Before we begin these proceedings we need to lighten the atmosphere. My hostess is a musician but she has already been working this evening at the theatre. We have our own methods of lightening the atmosphere, which is all that music does; it breaks down the tension inevitably arising when people are in an unknown situation. I shall depart and a little light-hearted creature will take my place.’
There was something like a flash, a “whoosh…” into the curtain and, before we had time to realise it, David was no longer there and in his place was a little girl. She was fully formed, with dark skin and a mass of curly black hair, clothed not in loose draperies but in a whitish-pink dress with a frill on the skirt, which came just to her knees. Nothing could have been more different from the materialised form of Alec’s guide than this little girl perched on the lap of the medium, whom we could see quite clearly sitting with his head down and his arms loosely folded as if asleep.
‘I love him very much,’ she said and gave him a kiss but with no response from him; he was quite unaware. ‘I know he is asleep,’ she went on, ‘but his other bit — his spirit bit — he’ knows I have kissed him.’ Then she explained, ‘I am here to tell you who is coming. David tells me what to do but I am the conductor.’ And she threw back her head importantly, shaking her mop of curly hair. She had the most lovely eyes and very dainty features.
‘You won’t see me,’ she continued. ‘You will only hear my voice because you people want to see bodies, and if they have bodies I can’t have mine, but I will tell you what to do. The first person who wants to come is another little girl.’
With that, Topsy was gone and we heard her voice asking if there was someone who had a little girl called Dorothy. ‘Speak up,’ she said. ‘This is where you must speak up.’ From towards the back of the room a voice acknowledged a daughter named Dorothy. ‘Go on, Dolly,’ we heard Topsy’s voice, ‘your mother is here.’ And there before us was a white child with her hair done in ringlets and wearing a very ordinary child’s dress and white socks and shoes. She greeted her mother and we heard Topsy’s voice, ‘Come on, answer her, answer her.’ The mother, quite overwhelmed and speechless with emotion, at last managed, ‘Oh, Dorothy, it’s lovely to see you!’
‘Look!’ said this lovely little being, pointing to her ringlets. ‘I don’t have to have these tied up in rags, hurting and pulling my hair. They come like this.’ Both parents were in tears. It was these trivial but evidential details which carried conviction, as when an older man who had been killed in an accident materialised in overalls and we could even see the dust on them.
All this time we did not see Topsy but heard her voice. Then followed the most spectacular episode I have ever experienced in my life. Topsy started by asking, ‘Who is it here who does a lot of what they call healing?’ Three of the sitters spoke up.
‘Well, I don’t know,’ said Topsy. ‘I don’t know which one of you he wants, but there is a great, big Indian here — oh, he is a big man, so you will really have to help with this. All you people who are healers, just think about healing and send your thoughts to help him make up the extra body.
’ To the stunned amazement of us all, suddenly before us was a North American Indian at least seven feet tall, olive- skinned with sharply defined features, beaked nose and very firm mouth, clothed in a white leather suit with fringed edges. Two enormous plaits of hair hung down in front of him. We were all dumbstruck. He stood looking around him in a very imperious way. ‘He wants to find his medium,’ we heard Topsy say. Someone asked his name, at which Topsy apparently experienced difficulty because she did not reply. Several people then asked the same at which the Indian figure jumped up and down with frustration and then appeared to mutter something which nobody could understand. An impasse seemed to have been reached when suddenly he turned to the mantlepiece where a carafe of water and a glass had been placed. He carefully poured the water into the glass, then turning back, he gently poured the water onto the floor. ‘Ah!’ exclaimed a lady sitting directly in front of him, ‘You are Running Water,’ whereupon he bent and embraced the lady.
Now this episode raises all sorts of questions, not least, why did he not know her? As far as I can understand, those in spirit do not identify the physical body because their awareness is of the spirit. As soon as the healer acknowledged him he focussed on her spirit and so was able to recognise her. He then held out his plaits and we heard Topsy say that he wanted those in the back row to take hold of them. To our amazement, they stretched across to where two sitters in the back row picked up the ends, and he ran his hands along them. Then, through Topsy, he said he wanted by this to convey to his medium the power he was directing to her, and he gave some instructions for a particular case she was trying to help.
Then, again with the same suddenness, he was no longer there. In his place was a rather hunched old lady. All this time, Alec continued to be visible in his cubicle; we could see that he had not moved. She had a wrinkled face with deep lines down from the mouth suggesting a bad temper. In a very querulous voice with a strong Welsh accent, she said, ‘My daughter is here.’ As a voice answered her, this old lady trod in the water which Running Water had poured on the floor. I think it’s disgusting,’ she remarked, looking down at this. ‘People are so slovenly. Why don’t they wipe up these messes?’ As the embarrassed daughter tried to explain, her mother interrupted. ‘I don’t care who it was, they shouldn’t have left it like this.’
The daughter tried again. ‘I’m so pleased to see you, mother.’
‘Are you?’ demanded the old lady crossly, and went on to criticise her daughter for all the things she was doing wrongly at home. It became very clear to us all that just being in the spirit world and not in a physical body did not, in itself, improve the character.
It was about eleven o’clock when the séance actually started. The materialisations continued, all with personal evidential details, until two o’clock in the morning, everyone staggered by the wonder of it all. Alec’s guide, David, had exuded a special quality, making us feel that we were indeed loved.
It was July. The house, some way out of Cardiff, stood on a hill overlooking the town; in the distance we could see the surrounding hills. I looked up at the sky and it seemed that literally millions of stars were shining down on me. I stood there quietly for a while, wrapped in the wonder of it all, and it came to me how difficult — how impossible — it must be for people to believe such things could really happen. I had only just come from witnessing them, but even I could hardly believe that they had actually taken place.
I realised now more clearly what Chan had meant when he said I needed to understand the difficulty people had when they started to investigate and how important it was for me to be able to say that I knew these things were true, that I had seen them for myself.
I was still holding the rose that David had picked out of a vase and given to me. I treasured this, of course I did, but with no idea then of the extraordinary sequel. Carefully wrapped in damp tissue, I took it home and put it in water. When the mass of violets materialised at the end of an evening in the Hodges’ circle in Brighton, we each took some home. Mine had lasted for a few days, as any violets would, so every day I expected the rose to show signs of fading. Days went by, then weeks. Each morning I looked at it in amazement. That flower lasted for three months with no sign of withering or decay until, one morning in September, I came down and there was no flower. No dead leaves or dead bloom, no stem — nothing in the clear water but around the base of the vase was a circle of ash, like cigarette ash.
I can only think that when Alec’s guide held it in his hands before presenting it to me he impregnated it with some sort of spiritual energy, and that because of the faster frequency of that energy it did not go through the stages of physical decay but turned immediately to dust — the cancellation of the physical level. Whenever I am feeling a bit down or uncertain, wondering at some low moment whether I might not be deluding myself, I go back to that memorable night. With all due respect to Helen Duncan and the others who played their part in my education, for me, that night with Alec Harris was the crown of everything that was convincing.
‘Alec Harris – The full story of his remarkable physical mediumship’ (253 pages) is available from Amazon by post priced at £9.99, plus £2.40 postage and packing UK, £3.25 Europe and £5.55 rest of the world.
This book is ‘highly-recommended’ reading.