A Personal Experience of Materialization
By Roy Dixon-Smith
Materialization is a wonderful display of concentrated group-mind power, in that the whole period of growth from the conception to maturity of the physical body is represented and condensed into a moment or two; miraculous as it may seem to be, it is only the bodybuilding property of the group mind, incorporated in every individual psyche, set automatically in rapid motion by its association with responsive ultra-physical protoplasmic matter.
My own experiences now follow.
As the result of a letter from me appealing for experience of genuine materialization that was published in the Psychic News of 10th July, 1948, I made the acquaintance of a Mr and Mrs Patterson of Buckie. They said that a professional materialization medium, well known in Spiritualistic circles and whom I shall call Mrs ‘D’, was visiting their home for the week-end 31st July to 1st August, and they invited me to stay with them. To show that their motives were purely altruistic, I would add that I was accommodated in their home, given generous and free hospitality, and even my offer to pay my fair share of the medium’s fees was refused. The notes from which the account is composed were made immediately after each sitting, and were supplemented by notes made independently by Mrs Patterson and a Miss Cronjé who, being present throughout, witnessed all the phenomena described. It was Miss Cronjé who answered my letter and arranged my introduction to the Pattersons, and so I have her to thank primarily for my experiences at Buckie.
Saturday, 31st July.
The weather was very hot, to the great discomfort of the medium, but she was in a home that she liked visiting and so the conditions were mentally harmonious. I had plenty of time to get to know her before the séance opened, and I succeeded in establishing cordial relations between us, which has an important bearing on séance results as every investigator should know. For obvious reasons, I shall have to bring out the very great contrast between her appearance and that of Betty (my “dead” wife), and so I apologize for the personal remarks involved.
Mrs. ‘D’ is extremely stout, her features in no way resemble Betty’s, her hands accord with her build and with one who has had to work with them, her hair is of a different colour, texture, and quantity, she is some three or four inches shorter; her age is around the fifty mark. Her voice is rather deep and her accent broadly Scottish. It would, in fact, be impossible to imagine a greater contrast in personal appearance and characteristics than that existing between Mrs ‘D’ and Betty.
Even if Betty herself had been available as a model, the greatest make-up expert with every convenience and material and device at his disposal, including dim lighting and cheesecloth draperies, could not have produced the least resemblance between them; moreover, could any character actress ever born play the part of someone entirely unknown to her with such skill as to deceive the individual’s own husband? I needed, therefore, no tests and no gadgets to protect myself from deception through impersonation, and was quite content to rely on my normal powers of recognition of Betty, should she appear, just as anyone would be who anticipated meeting a close relation or friend in person.
My host and hostess, Mr and Mrs Patterson, are now included amongst my personal friends. I have visited them on a number of occasions since that about to be described, and I know them thoroughly for what they are. They are in no way interested in Mrs ‘D’s’ professional career, but genuine friendly folk who sought only to help me to get the experience I asked for and got. Having two ‘dead’ children of their own, they are just as anxious as I am to avoid any fraud or deception. The others present were all members of the Patterson’s home circle and people of exactly the same mentality. The medium was alone, and thus had no accomplices to help her. The house is a typical smallish modern one, as devoid of trapdoors and sliding panels, subterranean passages, and so forth, as are all its type. The black curtains used were plain cloth ones belonging to Mrs Patterson and I helped her hang them up.
I had taken out with me a dark red rose from my garden, and Betty’s wedding-ring. A few months previously, I had had a Dee pearl in a clasp setting added to the ring, which thus entirely removed its resemblance to a wedding-ring. Mrs Patterson put the rose in a vase amongst other flowers, and the medium’s attention was not directed to it.
Just before the séance commenced, Mrs Patterson took the rose out of the vase and placed it on the edge of the sideboard adjacent to the curtain. The sitters, all old personal and local friends of the Pattersons, took their places, two standing behind the chairs as indicated. I was given chair number one in the hope that any visitor for me would appear through the right edge of the curtain and thus be very close to me. Mr Patterson locked the door and put the key on the sideboard in full view of us all. The other door was shut and I jammed my chair up against it. The medium took her seat and drew the black curtains together, and someone then switched on the red lamp and switched off the others.
After a minute or two, a male voice (referred to hereafter as ‘the guide’) addressed the circle and introduced the figures before they emerged from behind the curtains. All the figures were swathed from head to foot in what looked like white muslin robes with cowls, the faces and hands being dimly visible and the features barely distinguishable in the feeble light. These draperies were opaque and not self-luminous, and I saw the shadow of my head cast on them whenever I bent to my left and thereby intercepted the light from the red lamp.
The first few visitors were for other sitters. They spoke clearly, naturally, and intelligently, and were apparently recognized; each only lasted for about a minute, sinking swiftly to the floor as he or she withdrew within the curtains. The guide then said, “I have a lady here. Will the gentleman by the door please call her out’; so I said, “Please come out”.
A tall slim figure thereupon emerged from the left edge of the curtains, stretched out a hand, picked up my rose, crossed the floor to my chair, walking outside the curtains and in full view of the circle, and threw the rose on my lap. I stood up to peer into the face dimly seen in the enveloping ‘cowl’, whereupon Mrs Patterson exclaimed, “Don’t touch her!”
The figure at once drew back towards the curtains and said in a voice and accent exactly resembling Betty’s, “He won’t do that. He knows better.” There was a momentary pause, and the figure then said, “I want to show you this.”
A hand which we all saw to be long and slim was then put up to the head, the white material pushed back from the forehead, and a mass of black hair revealed. The figure, whose appearance I estimate to have lasted about a minute, then seemed to vanish through the floor.
A number of other figures of various types and sizes, about a dozen in all, made similar appearances; I cannot, of course, comment on the evidence of identity they furnished.
The height and slimness of the figure and the nature of the hand could not by any stretch of imagination be reconciled with Mrs ‘D’s’. There was nothing, of course, to prove that the hair was or was not a wig that the medium had concealed about her person; so, not having been able to recognize my visitor’s face, I was not convinced that it was Betty.
A very old lady, said to be the grandmother of one of the sitters, appeared from the right edge of the curtain within a few inches from me, and I had a clear close-up view of her wrinkled face and small shrunken figure that again were very different from the medium’s. Earlier in the proceedings, the guide had asked if anyone had a torch; unfortunately no torch was available.
After the séance was over, the normal lights on, and the medium restored to full consciousness, she said to me as I stood close to her by the fireplace, “Did your wife have long slim tapering fingers with oval almond-shaped nails?” I replied in the affirmative, and Mrs ‘D’ continued with a perfect detailed description of Betty’s distinctive hands, one of which she said she saw clairvoyantly on my shoulder.
Sunday 1st August
A sea mist had rolled up overnight which reduced the temperature and improved Mrs ‘D’s’ temperamental and physical conditions. The séance room was arranged as before, and I was given a chair in the centre of the circle. I had in my pocket, unknown to anyone, the wedding ring with the pearl. After the medium was seated the black curtains drawn together, and the room illuminated only by the red lamp, I rose from my chair and placed the ring silently on the edge of the sideboard where the rose had previously been. No one could see what I had put there, but all, except the medium, had watched my actions. Next to the ring was a hand-torch which had been procured earlier in the day by disturbing the Sabbath rest of a local shopkeeper.
As soon as the guide had spoken, one of the sitters asked him to show himself beside the medium. The guide then said, “Stand up, Mrs ‘D’,” at the same time pulling the curtains aside. We all saw him, an enormous white figure apparently about seven feet tall standing beside the medium in her black dress. Thoughts of broomstick and cheesecloth no doubt will enter some readers’ minds; the guide, however, looked perfectly human and Mrs ‘D’, I am sure, could not have concealed on her person a broomstick plus the other properties required to make such a realistic guy. I can vouch for the fact that the curtains had no pockets in them and that there was nothing behind them save Mrs ‘D’ and her chair. In any case, such musings are valueless in the light of what followed, and I only mentioned them to show that I had not got my mouth wide open and my wits closed by wishful thinking.
After a few visitors had come and gone, the guide asked the sitters to sing, “I’ll Walk Beside You” which, as the reader now knows, is Betty’s ‘signature tune’. At the close of the song, the same slim figure as before emerged from the left edge of the curtain, groped for the ring and, in doing so, knocked the torch off the sideboard on to the floor. This seemed to agitate the figure, and she exclaimed in the same familiar voice and accent, “I can’t get it”.
I rose up to help her, but Mrs Patterson, who was nearer the sideboard, anticipated me, put her hand on the spot, felt the ring, and handed it to the figure. The figure, whom in view of the proof to come I shall now call ‘Betty’, said: “Thank you. It’s my wedding-ring.”
She stepped across to me outside the curtains and in full view of all the sitters as before. I was still standing up, and I put out my left hand palm upwards to receive the ring. Sensing her agitation I told her to keep calm, and she replied, “I’m all right”. She then slipped the ring on to my little finger, and it went down as far as the first joint, being too small to go any farther. I felt the touch of her fingers as she put it on, and they were warm and seemed as normal in all respects as any physical ones.
“Don’t give it to our daughter until she is seventeen or eighteen or she won’t know the value of it,” said Betty to me.
Thereupon she withdrew within the curtains saying, ‘I want to show you my face. Stay where you are.”
In the meanwhile, the sitter by the sideboard had picked up the torch, and the guide, extending his hand from the left edge of the curtain, said ‘‘Give me the torch,’’ and took it from the hand of the sitter.
When Betty and the guide were inside the ‘cabinet’, the guide said to her, “Do you mind if I do something to you? I’m going to turn on this light. Don’t be afraid. It won’t burn you. You’ll he quite safe.”
The voice of Betty then replied, eagerly and emotionally, ‘You can do anything you like. I don’t mind what you do so long as Roy sees my face.”
The light of the torch then appeared behind the curtains and Betty, emerging from the centre with the torch in her left hand, shone it for about fifteen seconds full on and close up to her face. It was a new and powerful torch and her face was brilliantly illuminated. I was standing up within a few inches of Betty’s form, and I peered closely into her face which was on a level with my own. My critical faculties dominated my emotion as I took in every detail of the features; yet it was not till the following day that the full wonder and joy of this experience came over me.
The white muslin-like ectoplasm covered her head, extending well down the forehead and just clear of the eyes which were closed against the glare of the torch. It was draped round her face, over her ears, and round her neck just under the chin. Her complexion was clear and smooth like a young girl’s, the cheeks pink-tinted as if well made-up and the lips red. Her nose and mouth were exactly the same as her late earthly ones and totally unlike the medium’s. Her lips were closed and she had a half-smile and a characteristic expression. Her head was held slightly back and the exposed chin was clean cut, not double like the medium’s; to me it seemed to be rather too square, a point that will be cleared up below. The guide from behind the curtain drew special attention to this point, asking the sitters to “note the squareness of the chin”, so different from that of the medium, thus emphasizing what at first I thought to be a fault in the materialization but which, in reality, was a fault of my own memory. With the reservation of the moulding of the chin, I declared at the close of the séance my recognition of Betty’s face.
Having shown me her face, Betty lowered the torch and withdrew within the curtains, at the same time raising her right arm and extending the fingers of her right hand.
“Look! Do you see this?” she exclaimed.
For a few seconds the slim arm and hand, so utterly unlike Mrs ‘D’s’ and exactly like Betty’s, remained outside the curtains and were clearly visible to the whole circle as they stood out in perfect silhouette against the black background. She then vanished downwards in full view of us all, sinking apparently through the floor, and the torch went out and was heard to fall with a crash on the ground.
When I got back to Aberdeen, still slightly dissatisfied in my meticulous mind with the single item of the moulding of the chin, I consulted a photograph album and saw from numerous photos of Betty that her chin was square rather than oval, and that the materialized chin was thus quite true to type. I selected one large Polyphoto in which her lips were similarly closed, the same half-smile appeared, and the expression exactly tallied with that seen at the séance. I then draped a white handkerchief round the face to represent the ectoplasm and put my finger-tips on the eyes to give the effect of their being closed; thereupon I saw the identical counterpart of the materialized face, and so full satisfaction came at last.
In order to realize what a disguise these ectoplasmic wrappings can be, I suggest that the reader carries out the following little experiment. Ask someone with ordinary features whom you know very well to reproduce with a white cloth or towel the effects described above, and then in a dark room to shine a torch for fifteen seconds on his or her face with the eyes shut. Then follow up with a test like mine on a photograph of your friend. The results will speak for themselves.
As regards the other materialized forms that appeared at these two séances, they varied in size from the gigantic guide to a little child of about two years old, the identified daughter of my hostess, who showed her tiny hands in all their perfection of form and sang a nursery song in a baby voice. Forms great and small, young and old, male and female, showed their varied and appropriate physical features and personal characteristics, and also satisfied their friends in the circle of their identities through their conversations.
In the séance just described, most of the visitors, perhaps taking their cue from Betty, made a point of displaying their widely differing hands. In every case and in all respects the materialized individuals were perfectly natural. All the voices sounded characteristic and came out of the individual’s own mouths as evidenced by their movements about the room. They walked in the usual way, laughed and chatted like the ordinary people they were; there was nothing in the least eerie about them, and I felt no touch of nervousness nor even strangeness whatsoever. The complete normality of the whole proceedings was, to me, one of its most marked features – it was just a gathering of friends in which the draperies worn by the visitors was the only incongruity. As regards the latter, in rare cases of materialization where conditions are ideal, all the ectoplasm is used up in the figure and its hair and replicas of ordinary earthly clothes are worn, and thus recognition is greatly facilitated (see There Is No Death, by Florence Marryat).
The love that prompted Betty’s disregard of the possible painful effects of the bright light on the ectoplasm will always stand out in my mind; for there was real danger of pain, since materialized people while in their temporary physical bodies can feel pain and experience all their former earthly reactions to physical effects and the anticipation thereof.
Speech combined with materialization is very rarely possible, since the ‘power’ is generally used up in the forming of the figure; that is why materialized people can say so little, and the more they talk the shorter the time their forms can last.
I have given you all the facts in all their detailed truthfulness. I can see no possible loophole for faking in the proceedings described, for this to my mind would entail a performance far more marvellous than true materialization itself. The individual who, after experiences such as these and those that follow, still declares that survival is unproved, will never be convinced this side of death, and it is futile to argue with him.
About this time I received another letter in response to my insertion in the Psychic News. It was from a Mr Shipman in a town in Yorkshire, who said that they had full materializations in their own home circle which consisted of relatives and close friends of whom one was the medium and a non-professional; that there was thus no question of fees or any expenses whatsoever and that I would be welcome to attend one of their séances. As I had decided to go to London for the early part of October, 1 replied accepting their very kind invitation, and arranged to break the return journey and to visit them on 9th October.
I had a private sitting with Mr Flint, the direct voice medium, on 5th October. Conditions were not very good and Betty’s voice was an intermittent barely audible whisper. She introduced, unprompted, a reference to her materialization, and I then produced from my pocket the wedding-ring with the pearl and held it up in the pitch dark, asking her if she saw what I had in my hand. She replied that she couldn’t quite distinguish it. I then asked her for some details about her materialization, and the following conversation ensued:
BETTY: You saw me in the light.
SELF: Yes, but what light?
BETTY: A bright light.
SELF: Yes, but what sort of light?
BETTY: A torch. I held it in my hand and showed you my face.
SELF: Quite correct, and you did something else that concerns something I am holding in my hand. What is it?
BETTY: It’s something I used to wear. I was wearing it at my death. I asked you to wear it.
SELF: Quite right, except that you didn’t ask me to wear this one, Betty, because I couldn’t. Can you tell me what it is? Try and remember because it is an outstanding item and you couldn’t have forgotten it.
BETTY: It’s a ring.
SELF: Good, but with what special significance?
BETTY: It’s my wedding-ring. I put it on your finger.
SELF: Very good, Betty. I’ve got it at last. Why is your memory so bad?
BETTY: It’s not my memory, but these questions start the medium guessing and so it makes my mind all confused.
I should mention that the medium was not in trance and so was listening. The conversation included other matters not connected with the materialization that were quite unknown to the medium and were volunteered spontaneously. She discussed the photographs published in this book and approved strongly of their inclusion, adding quite correctly, that I had hesitated about it. She also described them both accurately, showing a knowledge that mine was taken in uniform.
On the afternoon of 9th October I was met at the station by Mr Shipman. He took me in his car to his home where I found that a bedroom had been placed at my disposal, and I was entertained freely and most hospitably for the weekend.
They knew nothing whatever about me and had never heard of me (and vice-versa) until after my letter had appeared in the paper. The house was of the same general type as the one at Buckie, my host and his friends likewise business and professional people of the same outlook and social background. The circle whom I met that evening consisted of Mr and Mrs Shipman, the parents of Mrs Shipman, Mrs Harrison the medium, who is an intimate friend of the Shipmans and a short and somewhat plump middle-aged lady bearing not the least resemblance to Betty, her son and daughter-in-law, and a well-known local doctor. I mention all these details to show how utterly preposterous and ridiculous would be any suggestion of fraud, even had it been possible to produce thereby the results described.
My letter in the Psychic News said that I wanted these experiences to include in a book, and thus that anyone who might give them to me would, in a way, probably be rendering a public service; and that is why they answered my plea, but they insisted, quite naturally, on my not disclosing their address to avoid being pestered by curiosity-mongers and others. For evidential reasons I revealed no details of my private life before the séance was over, and for the same reason they would have refused to have listened to them, since they were just as anxious as I for genuine evidence.
The room in which the séance was held is much the same as the one at Buckie except that there is only one door, that being in the same relative position to the ‘cabinet’ and sitters as the window is in the Buckie house, while the mantelpiece is alongside and on the right of the corner that contained the cabinet. The cabinet in this case consisted of a single black curtain which I helped to hang up myself across the corner of the room; it enclosed a space barely big enough to hold the medium on her chair. The light during the séance was a bright red electric light bulb in a bowl suspended from the centre of the ceiling. The room throughout the materializations was thus brightly illuminated and the forms and their faces clearly seen. The circle of chairs was arranged close up to and blocking the door, and thus a little farther from the cabinet than at Buckie. The door was locked and the séance then commenced
The first phase was ‘direct voice’ in the dark through a luminous-banded trumpet (better called megaphone) which darted about the room, sometimes high in the air, and often accompanying the singing like a conductor’s baton. The trumpet hovered in front of the sitter to be addressed, and the voices came through, all being quite loud but some difficult to understand while others were perfectly clear. The circle guide, speaking through the trumpet, then gave an excellent description of Betty, remarking on her height, slimness, and beauty; all being facts unknown to anyone present except myself. Betty then attempted to speak to me; after prolonged and seemingly painful effort and a few exclamations to the effect that she couldn’t do it, she managed to say, “I am your Betty”.
During this phase, large pink carnations were apported into the room, one being dropped on each sitter’s lap including mine. They were quite fresh and moist as if with dew. There were no flowers of this type previously in the room, or, so my host told me, anywhere else in the house. The medium all the while had been sitting with the rest of us in the circle and was not in trance.
At the close of this phase, which seemed to me to last about a quarter of an hour, the red light was switched on, the medium took her seat behind the curtain, and the materializations commenced, of which there were about half a dozen in all.
I was introduced to each one of them in turn, all being deceased friends and close relatives of the sitters and thus thoroughly well known to them. I rose from my chair, walked up to them and shook them by the hand, and we made conventional remarks to each other just exactly as everyone does when first meeting a stranger. They were swathed in white muslin-like draperies and cowls that were the exact replicas of those worn by the forms in the Buckie séance. They were solid, natural and, except for their apparel, exactly like ordinary living people. In fact, had everyone been dressed similarly, it would have been quite impossible to distinguish these materialized forms from the rest of the company. Their hands felt perfectly natural and life-like in every respect and their handgrips were very firm. They smiled, laughed, and chatted to me and the others; all their features, complexions, and expressions being perfectly clear in that ample light.
I repeat (and surely I cannot be more explicit) they were exactly like you or me in muslin draperies, and they behaved as we would behave if we dropped in amongst a circle of friends and relations plus one stranger for a few minutes’ visit, and they were welcomed accordingly and just as naturally and unemotionally as we would be. There were mutual cheery good-byes as they departed, sinking apparently through the floor in precisely the same manner as the forms at Buckie.
My introduction to the first of them was “Come and meet Aunt Gladys” (the sister of the medium), and she was most charming and vivacious as she offered me her hand and smiled and chatted to me. Then came ‘Grannie’, and as I was presented to her the doctor said to me “Feel her pulse”. The old lady chuckled, extended her arm, made some humorous remark about ‘mucking her about’ or something to that effect, and I pressed my fingers into her wrist. All the sinews were there and the wrist felt and looked absolutely natural; the beat of the pulse was strong and regular.
“Now feel her feet,” said the doctor; and I bent down and felt the foot that the laughing old lady extended from her long draperies. It felt rather spongy or woolly and was apparently about to dissolve, for just after that the old lady bade us farewell and vanished.
Then came a man with a twisted face drawn down rather grotesquely on the right side, as a consequence of which he could only mumble incoherently. I was introduced to him by name, and as I shook his hand my host explained, “He always comes like this. He died of a stroke”.
I cannot remember the next two or three visitors very clearly, but what I have said of the others applies equally to them; and by then the slight feeling of oddity at this amazing experience had left me, for it was all so absolutely natural. They all differed drastically in face, figure, voice, and mannerism, and in every case their eyes were open; while, of course, the movements of their features as they laughed and talked by itself disposes of the suggestion of a set of masks, should the most unreasonable of sceptics have such an idea in mind, and should he also have such a strange opinion of human nature as to imagine that anyone would lavish free hospitality on a stranger for the sole satisfaction of tricking him.
The guide then announced the coming of Betty and asked us to sing one of her favourite songs. We sang “I’ll Walk Beside You”, in the middle of which a tall slim figure emerged from the curtain and stood silently in view.
I rose from my chair and walked up to the figure, taking the extended hand in mine. I examined the hand, and it was just like Betty’s and quite unlike the medium’s. I stared into the face, and recognized my wife. We spoke to each other, though what we said I cannot remember, for I was deeply stirred and so was she and her voice was incoherent with emotion.
“Can he kiss you?” someone asked, and Betty murmured, “Yes”. I then kissed her on the lips which were warm, soft, and natural.
Thereupon she bent her head and commenced to weep, and in a moment or two she sank. I watched her form right down to the level of the floor at my feet where it dissolved, the last wisp of it being drawn within the cabinet.
After I had resumed my seat, there was a pause, perhaps to allow me to recover some of my lost composure; and then the circle guide announced another visitor for me, giving the name “John Fletcher”, and saying that he was a clergyman who had been helping to inspire my book. A tall black-bearded figure then appeared, and when I reached him he gave my hand a very powerful hearty grip, expressed his delight at this meeting between us and my realization at last of his own reality, discussed the book with me, declared that the work was now complete, bade me a cordial farewell, and vanished in the usual manner.
If I once doubted the existence of guides, how can I do so now?
I have told my tale baldly, without any dramatizing or sentimental frills; it must surely be a pathetically warped mind which cannot supply such omissions from its own imagination.