Listen to Zerdini being interviewed on Radio.
The Mediumship of Willy Schneider
The Schneider family became interested in Spiritualism after hearing about soldiers at the nearby garrison in Braunau, experimenting with spirit communication; when the Schneider family attempted this, it was discovered that Willy, only sixteen years old at the time, was a physical medium. According to the record made by Willy’s father’s, on 17 January 1919, the boy attempted table turning and messages were conveyed in writing through a pencil fastened to the table. The communicator gave her name as Olga and from thereon, the family continued to obtain communications; this developed to the stage when the table moved without Willy having to have any physical contact with it. Further development occurred when ‘the clapping of two tiny hands was heard and finally there was a materialised hand…Willy being visible…and enjoying the fun all the time’.
In fact, his mediumistic abilities had become apparent two years earlier when, after returning from the funeral of his older brother, Willy saw the brother; when he told his parents about this, he said that they ‘laughed’. Almost apologetically, he explained, ‘I was quite young and didn’t understand what that was supposed to mean’.
In time, news of Willy’s mediumship reached those living in Braunau, and one person who became interested was Fritz Kogelnik, a retired naval commander. Believing it was nothing more than ignorant superstition, he nevertheless attended one of Willy’s séances. In this, he saw the young Willy, who ‘was a little fellow, and in sitting on the sofa, his feet did not reach the floor’, and the phenomena that the boy was able to produce: the table moved in response to questions asked and was followed by the movement of objects in the room. Gregory cites Kogelnik’s statement that he then ‘saw a very small hand, which touched and caressed mine’, and notes, ‘Kogelnik reports that he left the Schneider house that day entirely convinced that he had witnessed genuine “paranormal” phenomena’.
However, as so often happens in such cases, Kogelnik began to doubt his own senses and attended further séances: in fact he returned ‘time and time again’, but ‘his first experience was followed by hundreds of others’. In view of what he had encountered, and despite his scepticism, Kogelnik was forced to concede the phenomena were genuine. These were not only genuine, but spectacular: he recounted how on one occasion a hand ‘well visible [that] looked like that of a baby, and very well developed in every detail’, materialized and attempted to play a zither that had been left on the floor. One amusing incident that occurred was when a woman was having difficulty in trimming her hat; Olga requested the necessary implements, e.g. ribbon, needles, etc., and these were placed in front of the table in the séance room. Olga’s ‘hand drew them under the table. A few minutes later a very tastefully trimmed bonnet was returned to the surprised owner’.
The noteworthy feature was that in the Schneider séances, there was an atmosphere of enjoyment and warmth, and it is possible this assisted in the phenomena that occurred. Olga was a warm, albeit fiery character, and apparently enjoyed the gatherings: on one occasion at his own home, Kogelnik recorded how she appeared, ‘standing amongst us’ and then proceeded to dance among the sitters. He reported, ‘It was a most impressive sight…At the last note of the music, the phantom disappeared like lightning, just as it had come’.
Despite the doubts about Olga, she appeared to be a character in her own right: she requested certain music to be played, preferably of a military marching type, and before phenomena were produced, she demanded that the sitters sang a song that she liked. As Tabori humorously notes, this resulted in ‘the spectacle of philosophers and physicists, psychical researchers and eminent writers singing unharmoniously together’.
As time went on, Willy’s mediumship was becoming well-known, although the mediumship of Rudi, his younger brother, was also becoming the subject of attention. When Olga ceased to be Willy’s control and took on this role with Rudi, she was replaced by Mina, in addition to others who worked through Willy as controls, e.g. Otto. There was some experimentation with the séance room environment, i.e. changing from the use of a white light to a red one and using a dark cabinet. After events such as object movement and writing were produced by communicators, Willy developed trance through which Olga could speak directly to the sitters.
In view of what he had witnessed, Kogelnik notified Baron Schrenck-Notzing, one of most active researchers at the time, about Willy’s mediumship; Schrenck-Notzing then undertook an investigation with the young medium. After Willy finished school and an apprenticeship, he was employed by a dentist in Munich and was regularly tested there by Schrenck-Notzing in his laboratory. Over a hundred séances were conducted, many of which were attended by university professors, doctors, and other academics.
Before a séance, Willy was searched and put in luminous clothing, and during the séance itself, there was a red light that enabled the sitters to monitor his movements. Willy would sit outside the cabinet and had two persons holding each of his hands with a third sitting in front of him; they were all separated by a gauze screen from the objects that were to be moved: nonetheless, ‘the severity of the control did not prevent the phenomena’, e.g. ‘the table soon began to tilt and was then completely levitated to the height of about a foot’.
Other phenomena were noted by Schrenck-Notzing, e.g. materializations that were ‘flowing, changing and fantastic shapes’. After over fifty séances by mid-1922, Schrenck-Notzing stated, ‘No single participant noticed the slightest suspicious manipulation by the medium or anybody present and the collective impression of all witnesses can be summed up by saying that Willy Sch. could not have produced the phenomena through the known mechanical means’.
Dr Dingwall, who was present during some of the séances in Braunau, attended one in Munich in 1922, and carried out a thorough search of the séance room, and found nothing untoward; during the séance, he conducted tests to determine the force being exerted by the unseen visitors. After trying to unsuccessfully prevent a table from levitating, he held a board whereupon he reported, ‘Within a few seconds I felt sharp thumps and blows against the surface…it was if a small hand within a boxing glove were delivering the blows’. Dingwall stated that he believed the phenomena produced by both Rudi and Willy were genuine and in 1922, wrote an account in the American Society of Psychical Research’s Journal of what he had seen, and also said that accusation of fraud was untenable.
However, after this, and surely demonstrating how the process of mediums submitting to researchers can sometimes be valueless, Dingwall apparently changed his mind about what he had witnessed and seemed to think that Schrenck-Notzing might be inept, or involved in fraud himself. Despite his earlier positive statements, Gregory notes how Dingwall ‘kept alternating between the hypotheses of fraud and genuineness, and qualifying his assertions…in such a manner that no one could pin him down to anything beyond a general half-qualified irate hovering’. And yet this was the man who had written that he regarded Willy Schneider as ‘the king of the mediums’.
This is a excellent example of what often occurred in such cases: if a researcher was convinced that any supposed paranormal phenomena had to have a ‘normal’ cause, he was therefore faced with having to embark upon making extraordinary allegations and accusations; in this case, suggesting that a fellow-researcher might have been involved in fraud. At this point, those who read the account of Rudi’s Schneider’s mediumship will recognize similarities in the lives of both Schneider mediums in respect of those who investigated them.
When Thomas Mann, an author and Nobel Prize winner, attended a séance with Willy at the home of Schrenck-Notzing, he stated that in view of what he saw, the suggestion of fraud was absurd. However, by this stage, it clearly becomes evident that once Willy had placed himself in the hands of Schrenck-Notzing and others, tests were not related to survival or evidential communications, but rather, the providing of repeated performances of telekinesis.
After a disagreement with Schrenck-Notzing, Willy worked with Dr Holub in Vienna and during this time materializations were manifested in addition to the usual phenomena and levitation. However, this only lasted for a short period due to Holub’s sudden death and Willy then continued to demonstrate his abilities to various university professors. In 1924, Willy came to London with Mrs Holub and gave demonstrations to members of the SPR; some phenomena were produced, and Dingwall admitted in the SPR’s Proceedings (XXXVI), that ‘the only reasonable hypothesis which covers the facts is that some supernatural agency produced the results’.
In 1925, Harry Price attended a number of séances in Vienna with Willy, and in one of these, saw a sequence of events that convinced him that he had witnessed genuine phenomena. He had in fact seen what Willy could produce on other occasions, e.g. in Munich in 1922 and at the Schneider home; in the latter, he was accompanied by two professors and recorded how, during the séance, there were breezes, the movement of numerous objects and partial materializations. Of the séance, Price said that he and the two other witnesses, ‘agreed was the best the medium had ever given under test conditions’.
Willy visited Britain again in 1926, but his powers were clearly weaker than ever before. In 1928, Schrenck-Notzing invited a number of SPR members to Munich to observe both Willy and Rudi; while Willy’s powers had clearly diminished, there were some phenomena apparent to the observers. However, as his powers were by this time so limited, Gregory rightly asks, ‘One may well ask why, in the circumstances, Schrenck-Notzing attempted to give a demonstration’. In fact it appears that it was because he had just discovered that a medium he was to show the SPR members was actually fraudulent, and he therefore decided to use the Schneider brothers instead. In sum, mediums could be used as demonstration tools, particularly if it avoided embarrassment.
After submitting to the researchers mentioned above, and aware that his mediumistic powers were no longer present, Willy retired from this activity. Nonetheless, what is possibly relevant is Beloff’s comment that during the period, Willy became ‘bored with the endless repetitions that were demanded of him’. This observation says a great deal; as detailed in the article concerning Rudi, tremendous opportunities were surely lost through the antics of the researchers involved. It was not so much simply the factor of ‘research’ that effected the problems, but the type of researchers involved and their goal(s), that were apparently not related to the matter of survival but something quite different.
The difficulties created were primarily through a craving for repeat performances of certain phenomena that could only be fairly described as mundane, and certainly so when compared with what might have been available with a different approach. Hopefully, the obvious lesson of the Schneider brothers has been learned and will not be repeated. Time will tell…..
P. Tabori, Companions of the Unseen
J. Beloff, Parapsychology: A Concise History
THE MEDIUMSHIP OF RUDI SCHNEIDER
Rudi (Rudolf) Schneider (1908-1957) was one of the four sons in the Schneider family who demonstrated their mediumistic abilities at a young age. Although his older brothers, Willy, Hans and Karl, possessed this talent to some degree, Rudi’s mediumship, and its history, is surely the more interesting of the four. I am indebted to Anita Gregory’s, The Strange Case of Rudi Schneider for much of the detail that follows. Her interest in Rudi began after hearing Dr William Brown’s declaration regarding what had been witnessed in a séance with Rudi as the medium.
The account may begin when Kogelnik, a sceptic, saw the mediumship of Willy in the family’s hometown of Branau, Austria; he accepted this as genuine and was prompted to contact von Schrenck-Notzing, an active researcher. Willy was then tested and monitored by a number of researchers and academics, and produced physical phenomena. However, attention was directed to Rudi: this was said (although Willy’s version of events differs) to have arisen when ‘Olga’, the control, specifically requested Rudi’s presence, despite him being just eleven years old at the time. In due course, Rudi was tested by von Schrenck-Notzing and others; his mediumship was not so powerful, but unlike Willy who requested darkness (his mediumship declined during the 1920s), Rudi was content to have at least some form of lighting present in the séances. Josef Schneider, his father, made a careful record of these from 1923, in addition to those made by others who attended.
Many examples of Rudi’s mediumship can be cited; one being the séance on 8 December 1932, where a detailed record was made and is therefore suitable as an illustration. In this, three professors and two doctors were included amongst the sitters, with Rudi seated with them. After Olga made herself known, Rudi was levitated several times, being visible to those present, and this was followed by the movement of objects within the room. Gregory notes how the person designated to be the controller, i.e. the person who monitored the medium and controlled his movement during the séance, was invariably the ‘most eminent and preferably the most sceptical participant’.
The séance attended by the investigator Sudre included phenomena that resulted in him detailing: ‘I saw something appear…the impression of being a child’s hand. The hand showed itself several times…It performed various acts, sometimes spontaneously and sometimes at the demand of the sitters’. He also reported, as so often happens, how the next-world visitor chose to enliven the proceedings by throwing items at the sitters. More relevant is his observation that while this materialization was present, another object was moving elsewhere.
Shortly afterwards, there were contrasting opinions voiced by different investigators, e.g. Professors Meyer and Przibram, who were publicized as having declared the Schneider phenomena false (this announcement caused another researcher, who had accepted the phenomena as genuine, to suffer a stroke and die a matter of days later). Meyer and Przibram were challenged by others, resulting in the two accusers softening their view and saying they had only demonstrated how the phenomena might have been produced by normal means.
Due to this, von Schrenck-Notzing introduced more rigid conditions in the control of Rudi during the séances: there were to be two controllers to ensure that there was no movement by Rudi. Despite these conditions, there were cases of materialized forms, direct writing, object movement and levitation. A number of researchers became convinced of the authenticity of the phenomena (e.g. Professors Fischer and Bleuler), but there were opposing views that continued to challenge the authenticity. It is interesting to note that one sitter at Rudi’s séances in 1925 was Jung, the renowned Swiss psychologist who made the statement that many researchers might do well to consider: ‘I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud’.
Nonetheless, sitters continued to be divided into believers and sceptics; with regard to the second category, Dr. Prince who was a member of this group, held this negative conclusion, as Gregory summarizes, as ‘long as explanations in terms of fraud and conspiracy were tenable under the conditions of the sitting’. In the upshot, as long as these possibilities existed, they had to be the most likely explanation. In the case of the believers, Gregory refers to one such person who testified to seeing object movement, levitation and the materialization of a hand: this was Dr Gatterer, a Jesuit professor, and hardly someone sympathetic to mediumship. One of the difficulties that arose in Rudi’s séances was the presence of family members that led to accusations of collaboration, but at a séance held by von Schrenck-Notzing in 1926, where members of the family and circle were absent, phenomena still occurred.
Fortunately, the situation between investigators and communicators was not all one-sided: when von Schrenck-Notzing complained about the length of time before phenomena were produced and other matters about which he felt annoyed, Olga declined to ever allow any phenomena to occur when he was present and seemed to be intent on annoying him from thereafter.
In the case of the sceptical Dr Prince already referred to, he had water poured over him at one séance, and when Dr Hoppe-Moser insisted that he examine a violin that was levitating, he was then struck by it several times. Furthermore, Olga not only insisted on sitters singing, but each one giving a solo rendering. Meanwhile, matters were not altogether straightforward for Olga as, ‘Rudi was a healthy and robust youngster, more interested in cars, football and, later his sweetheart Mitzi than in psychical research’.
Von Schrenck-Notzing died in 1929, and within a month, the psychic ‘researcher’ Harry Price was on the scene. Gregory adequately sums up the character of Price: ‘He had a picture of himself as the great amateur scientist, presenting the world of learning with a new discipline….in the last resort his own part mattered more to him than the subject…he was willing to bring the edifice crashing down rather than take second place to it’. Sadly, it was with such a person that Rudi became involved. Price had in fact been involved at an earlier time in the testing of both Willy and Rudi; he was ‘fully convinced’ that Willy had genuine psychic powers and ‘much impressed’ with Rudi’s mediumship.
The first séance with Rudi, and Price controlling the proceedings, was conducted in London during April 1929; in this, there were a number of electrical circuits in place, with sitters wearing special socks and gloves to relay the charge, and several lights present to show if there were any breaks. This appeared to cause Rudi no difficulties and he succeeded in producing physical phenomena, including some degree of materialization. Phenomena occurred in other séances later that same month: ‘They were all successful, producing brilliant and varied phenomena’.
A further sequence of séances for Price took place in 1929-30 when some phenomena arose although difference of opinion continued; in 1930, Rudi then submitted to tests conducted by Dr Osty in Paris. In these, an infra-red light was installed that would activate an alarm if broken. The beam was interrupted on many occasions, but the photographs taken at this very time showed nothing whatsoever, i.e. the movement that activated the complex set-up was not visible. Despite the conditions, Rudi’s mediumship continued, e.g. in the third séance, a mist appeared, with table movement; this was in a lighted environment where those who were present could be seen. Further séances took place with extensive testing equipment and a rubber tube around Rudi’s chest to monitor his breathing and luminous tape around his clothing; Osty conceded that paranormal events were occurring through Rudi. However, amazingly, after all of this, Osty, as Gregory records, could not ‘offer any interpretation of the phenomena beyond pointing out that the oscillatory character of the “substance” could be a result of the interaction between the “substance” and the radiations manifestly harmful to it’, and the substance could be viewed as ‘a peculiarly ephemeral physiological extension of the medium’, although the events seemed to counter this hypothesis.
The rate of breathing while entranced was a further spectacle of Rudi’s mediumship; as Carrington commented: ‘The ordinary breathing rate of anyone not engaged in active exercise is about 14-26 to the minute. But when Rudi Schneider goes into trance an extraordinary thing happens. His breathing increases to 200, 250, even 300 and more respirations per minute, and he keeps this up for considerable periods of time’.
After the experiments with Osty, Rudi continued to provide demonstrations; at one, the signed statement of witnesses, including Walther, who was von Schrenck-Notzing’s personal assistant, testified to a materialization seen by several sitters, in addition to object movement. In 1932 Rudi began another series of experiments in London with Price between February and May, with Price’s equipment present to photograph the proceedings when phenomena arose. Many of the séances were unsuccessful, although a number were not, with psychic winds, object movement and forms of materialization. Despite this, the opinions of different researchers still continued to vary widely.
On 5 March 1933, an article by Price appeared in the Sunday Dispatch claiming that Rudi was a fraud. Price also produced a bulletin with photographs that included those, taken on 28 April the previous year, that showed Rudi had freed his hand when phenomena had occurred. With regard to this, Gregory deals with the matter in considerable detail, and some of the very pertinent observations that she includes are: (i) even if Rudi had been responsible for creating the phenomena on this occasion, it hardly accounted for the many others; (ii) Price’s accusation was almost a year after the actual séance and yet he had said nothing about this supposed ‘proof’ of Rudi’s fraudulent behaviour in the meantime; (iii) the incident occurred when Price was supposed to be controlling Rudi; Price blamed his failure due to severe toothache, but one wonders why, if unable to supervise effectively, he took up the role; (iv) between the time of the séance and Price’s accusation, Price continued to proclaim the genuineness of Rudi’s mediumship (e.g. saying Rudi ‘has emerged unscathed from his very strenuous ordeals’ in Empire News, 8 May 1932, and he had passed every stringent laboratory test ‘with flying colours’ in Light, 20 May 1932).
It is therefore extremely difficult to harmonize these factors. What was Price’s motive? According to Gregory, it was to harm the other researchers who had ‘taken Rudi away from him’ and refused to accept Price as the ‘ultimate and final authority’ on the subject. There were, not surprisingly, other opinions regarding the photographic ‘evidence’, e.g. that it was an accidental movement: Rudi simply reacted to the first flash exposure and the second captured his action. Gregory gives her reasons for rejecting this proposal. In the case of the photographs that Price produced to denounce Rudi, Gregory observes that there is ‘something extremely odd’ about these and supplies her reasons, in considerable detail, for such a view. She also refers to the declaration by the President of the Royal Photographic Society that the photographs are so defective they were ‘almost useless as evidence’.
Also, that after having the negative plate enlarged, a number of questions arose concerning what they showed; she goes on to report the opinion that the incriminating photograph was considered to be ‘a fake’, produced through merging another picture. Finally, she appropriately quotes Halls’s view about Price’s ‘belief he could get away with anything’.
Fraser-Harris resigned his membership of Price’s ‘National Laboratory’ in view of the report issued by Price that was said to have been made by a number of researchers; Fraser-Harris said that in fact, ‘not one of us was consulted regarding either the letter-press, or the photographs’, and added that he wished to ‘disassociate myself entirely’ from being involved.
It is worth noting that Price made several attempts to have his laboratory, that he called ‘The National Laboratory for Psychical Research’, integrated with the SPR (on the basis that he would have a prominent place in its work) that fortunately failed. Price’s personality can also be assessed by his interest in black magic and that after several failures to have the donation of his laboratory accepted by the University of London, he offered it to Hitler for his Third Reich; nonetheless, it did eventually make its way to the University of London. In sum, Price was ‘possessive, deceitful, spiteful and self-seeking’. It cannot be coincidence that Price’s accusations just happened to have appeared a short time before the results of other researchers’ tests were to be published. Price was obviously not typical of researchers, but the history of the research into Rudi’s mediumship provides an illustration of the problems that were caused through unacceptable research methods, and the unproductive chaos that ensued. For this reason, it is worthwhile considering some of the further antics and the result of research without the proficiency that is patently due.
In addition to all that has already been outlined regarding the research into Rudi Schneider’s mediumship, more examples of the inane behaviour of many of those involved can be cited, e.g. in 1935, Dr Foltz challenged Osty’s work with Rudi, saying that some of the phenomena were caused through Osty’s ‘shaky floor’. After correspondence with Herbert of the SPR, who tested the relevant equipment with a shaky table, Foltz apparently decided not to pursue his theory any further. When Besterman summarised the history of tests made on Rudi’s mediumship, he referred to the belief of Meyer and Przibram that they could reproduce Rudi’s phenomena by normal means, but despite the importance of the claim, no detailed account of the conditions was even available. There is also reference by Besterman to Rudi being exposed by a Dr Lenkei, but he noted that ‘No particulars are available’. He also related how Vinton believed the phenomena were produced through Rudi’s family, but this theory was answered by von Schrenck-Notzing, but he in turn was criticized by von Klinckowstroem. He continued by referring to another sitting in 1927, but saying this was ‘non-committal’. He then turned to the London sittings in 1929 but remarked how the electrical control used was ‘very defective’, and that some researchers had challenged this method, while some had supported it.
The following year, in a report by a number of different researchers, the pandemonium of confusion and different ideas continued: Herbert stated that there was ‘some defect in the emulsion’ in the photographic plates used, resulting in the negatives being ‘so covered with spots and blotches that it was impossible to tell if there was any image or not’. On ordering a further batch, these ‘did not arrive in time’.
In the case of the laboratory at the LSA used for a séance with Rudi, he noted that ‘it was extremely susceptible to mechanical vibration’ being close to heavy traffic, i.e. it was not really suitable. He closed his account by thanking Rudi ‘who cheerfully submitted to all our tests and who bore without complaint all the indignities of being investigated by suspicious scientists’. When Lord Rayleigh gave his account, he stated that the infra-red photographic equipment was ‘not well adapted for making records of galvanometer deflections’, adding that the arrangements for this apparatus ‘were in fact designed for… [a] quite different purpose’. He concluded by saying the research required ‘patience and perseverance’, i.e. yet more sittings with the longsuffering Rudi and/or other mediums (By this time, i.e., 1933, Rudi had been investigated during some fourteen years). When Brown made his judgement at this time, he could only say ‘the results were inconclusive’ and further research was required. In the following year, Lord Hope lamented the fact that ‘so much careful work and such a large financial outlay should have gone unrewarded by conclusive results’, and concluded by saying, ‘it is hoped that…it will be found possible to continue to experiment with him [Rudi Schneider]’,
In the light of the above, it seems apposite to consider the matter of research into physical mediumship. It may be argued that the various ‘problems’ detailed above were really unavoidable and merely the events of that period, and bear no resemblance to the situation of the present time. But the lesson to be learned is that there was such diversity of opinion – or none at all, despite the number of sittings given by Rudi to so many people in so many places over so many years. If no decision could be reached after this, surely one is justified in asking how many sittings would have been required to effect a clear decision? Would any number have achieved this? The situation was no less bizarre with experiments being carried out that were then subsequently declared to be of little or no value by other researchers because of the equipment or location used. Therefore, the researchers stumbled along and the experiments continued and invariably, a common judgement remained elusive.
It should also be borne in mind, as stated in earlier NAS Newsletters (e.g. August 1995), that research has its obvious limitations. Some people seem to believe that research and enquiry will provide ‘proof’ to the world concerning the reality of survival; with respect, I must say that I believe them to be wholly mistaken, and indeed, very naive. Whether it be philosophical argumentation, or pure science, it is fanciful to believe that it will be possible to ‘prove’ survival in the foreseeable future. As noted by dedicated and experienced researchers of earlier years, e.g. James and Barrett, decisive proof will surely be elusive and out of reach.
Nonetheless, enquiry into the subject of survival and paranormal phenomena should be welcomed and encouraged as there can indeed be valuable results from objective and properly-conducted research, e.g. further data concerning the nature of the afterlife, or effecting better communication. Psychical research, particularly that of the nineteenth century SPR provided an absolute wealth of information. But, research has to be objective, properly-conducted and productive, and its constraints have to be recognized.
Research, unlike that to which Rudi was subjected, should be as the term is defined: ‘Systematic investigation to establish facts…or to collect information’. If researchers undertake this type of work, with preconceptions or motives other than the pursuit of facts, the work inevitably has little or no value, and invariably, a negative effect. I am sometimes inclined to think that in the case of some researchers of earlier years that their activity was either more related to increasing their status, or simply an interesting pastime. In fact, as Beloff observes in the case of both von Schrenck-Notzing and Price, they ‘wisely married wealthy women, [and] were free to indulge their passion for the paranormal’. In reviewing Rudi’s case, it is an interesting point to consider that if overwhelming evidence or conclusive data had been forthcoming, a number of researchers would have had considerable difficulty knowing what to actually do with it.
Unlike so many other areas of research, in the case of mediumship, this obviously involves human beings who are entitled to consideration and respect: features that were only obvious by their absence to a significant degree in Rudi’s case. A 1932 Psychic News presented the situation, with some appropriate irony: ‘Rudi, a clean-cut Austrian boy…wondered why the “scientists” tied him up and then fastened themselves in electrically controlled mittens and foot-coverings’. While they wished to witness strange happenings, in reality, ‘To him, it was the “scientists” who were strange’.
I also do not consider it unreasonable to expect that researchers arrive at unambiguous decisions concerning their work, and be prepared to substantiate their decisions, rather than persistently taking safe refuge in remaining undecided or requesting continuous repeat performances. Furthermore, that they give due attention to the conditions of tests so they will not be later challenged by fellow researchers as so often happened in the case of Rudi Schneider. Admittedly, laboratory conditions are hardly possible, but the importance of this factor is obvious: Wiseman, when discussing the problems that arose from a certain report regarding physical phenomena, refers to the need of investigations being ‘carried out, and reported, in such a way as to minimise retrospective counter-explanation’. This does seem to be one of the principal problems that consistently appears.
Research, when carried out, should be responsible and decisive, and I can see no reason why this should not be if motives are genuine and the modus operandi adopted is that of professionals. Moreover, while physical mediumship is an easy target for parapsychologists (justifiably, in some cases), it should not be forgotten that parapsychology as well as physical mediumship has had its own renegades, e.g. Levy, Soal. It is little wonder that Carrington argued that, ‘an ideal psychic investigator is hard to find, and it is probable that such a man is born rather than made’.
There is also the salient question concerning what is actually being sought – whether the investigation is only interested in the mechanisms of the phenomena, or the psychology of those involved, or the seeking of information regarding survival. While research into categories other than survival may be interesting, it is surely research into the subject of survival that has the ultimate priority; therefore, the actual purpose of any investigation needs clarifying on all the occasions when it is proposed.
It does appear that considerable time, energy and opportunity have been wasted by well-meaning Spiritualists who have become involved in activities that really do little to assist their goals, and if anything, have a negative effect. In 1932, Boddington referred to Rudi, and the ‘verdicts’ of researchers and how they were unwilling to make any judgement, and said: ‘My complaint is that this is exactly the sum total of psychical researchers’ achievements for the past eighty years. Meantime, Spiritualists go on providing them with more and more material for criticism . . . They seem vaingloriously proud of their lame and impotent conclusions’.
I believe it unavoidable that anyone reading of Rudi’s life and mediumship, and the antics of many of the researchers involved, will form the impression that his abilities were sufficient to have possibly developed to a remarkable degree. If he had been allowed to develop his talents in the atmosphere of his home circle, rather than enduring the almost-farcical behaviour of investigators, the outcome of his young life might have been very different. It is this factor that is the truly sad part of Rudi’s story.
To conclude, Gregory says of Rudi, ‘He permitted himself to be investigated by researchers . . . and accepted whatever conditions they chose to impose . . . there is not one iota of evidence to suggest that he was ever in his life anything other than transparently honest.
Furthermore, Beloff remarks, ‘Rudi’s mediumship is now rightly considered among the best authenticated in the literature . . . he was never caught in any act of fraud’.
Despite all that he had endured, Rudi continued to demonstrate his mediumship to various researchers; also, to his neighbours in Meyer up to 1951, having moved there with his wife, Mitzi. After starting his own driving school, Rudi died suddenly in 1957, on 28 April, aged only 49. This was exactly twenty-five years to the day after the séance that led to Price’s scurrilous accusations. This may of course have been coincidence, but then again . . .
The above article was researched by David Nicholls Ph.D
What Grandad Did In The Dark
by Chris Eldon Lee, BBC Producer
Like many of the more successful BBC Radio 4 programmes, this one about the life work of the pioneering Spiritualist, Noah Zerdin, broadcast in January 2002, happened completely by chance.(listen to the programme here What Grandad did in the Dark)
IN EARLY 1999 I was sent by BBC Radio Shropshire to interview Ruth for the Millennium Oral History Project “The Century Speaks”.
Ruth is a circle-dancing massage therapist, in her mid fifties and of the Jewish faith. There aren’t many like her in Shropshire, so it was thought she would be an interestingly different contributor to the series.
Before the interview began I was obliged to ask census-like questions such as father’s name. Now I’d never heard of Noah Zerdin (who’d died in 1972) but I did have a residual interest in Spiritualism and was intrigued to hear Ruth describe how her father before the war had attempted to prove beyond reasonable doubt that life-after-death really did exist.
Ruth related the story of how Noah and his first wide Bertha had agreed that whoever died first should try to contact the surviving spouse. Little did they realise that Bertha would die in a fire at Noah’s Oxford Street furrier’s business shortly afterwards . . . in the spring of 1927.
Seemingly, Bertha eventually contacted Noah via a private home circle . . . and Noah decided to share this ‘proof’ with as many people as possible. So in the early 30s he conducted what he called “The Great Experiments” . . . a series of annual mass public direct voice séances in major London Halls.
Ruth paused in her story and I must have said something along the lines of “what a pity the voices heard at the séances weren’t recorded.” “Oh, but they were,” said Ruth.
“Then,” I blundered on, “what a pity the recordings don’t still exist”. “Oh, but they do,” came the reply. “At least, there’s a batch of 78 rpm acetate records in my older brother’s garage. But we’ve never listened to them.”
Ruth’s half-brother is Dan Zerdin, born to Noah and Bertha shortly before she died. Noah later married Bertha’s younger sister and they produced Ruth.
We discovered that the records really did exist in Dan’s South London garage, together with boxes of Noah’s written records. They were hidden behind a pile of his mother’s piano music and stored side by side without the protection of record sleeves in a pre-war paper carrier bag.
But what was on them and would they still play?
We engaged the expert assistance of a sound archive rescue specialist, Phil Farlow, who gingerly examined the flaking discs and decided how best to extract the audio signal from their grooves without destroying them in the process.
The material that emerged during that morning session in Phil’s studio was quite amazing. Noah had not only taken the trouble to record his own heavy Russian voice describing how the public demonstration at The Aeolian Hall in 1934 had been conducted and recorded, he’d also interviewed the direct voice medium Mrs Mollie Perriman who described the sensations she experienced whilst the apparently discarnate voices spoke. “It was like having a tooth drawn out of your larynx,” she said.
Then came what appeared to be edited highlights of a number of messages purporting to be relayed directly by the dead to the living, sitting in the hall.
Many of the voices were remarkably clear and even the kerfuffle of the audience reaction could be heard.
The communications were of two types. Personal messages from loved one to loved one; and short lectures on spiritual philosophy, Christianity, and survival beyond physical death.
There were other recordings of what seemed to be of home circle séances, most arresting of which was a voice calling out “Noah, this is Bertha. I love you Noah. I can hear you.” It wasn’t clear if this was the ‘first’ contact that led to the experiments, or a later incidence.
Dan Zerdin was clearly very excited by what he heard, especially when it became clear he was hearing his late parents. I wondered how the sound engineer Phil was taking it all.
But he revealed himself to have been a Spiritualist all along and was impressed by the surprisingly high technical quality of the recordings and the content of the messages. He managed to rescue about an hour’s worth of audio.
The job of a BBC producer is to remain sceptical at all times. I also had to convince Radio 4 that there was a potentially remarkable programme here that could tell the tale of Noah’s quest without passing judgement. So we submitted the idea and waited.
The plan was that it would be Noah’s three granddaughters who made the programme. Judith, Naomi and Tanya — all in their early twenties — never knew their grandfather. They’d obviously picked up some vague sense of his spiritual interests but had only a scant knowledge of his life-story.
Having aroused their interest, we now had to keep them in the dark until Radio 4 commissioned the programme, agreed a budget, and work could begin. This they did in January 2001.
At this point Dan got rather cold feet for a short while. What would the publicity do to his private family life? Would Noah want such attention drawn to him?
In response, the granddaughters logged onto the Internet. Why I hadn’t thought of this before can only be put down to my age. “Noah + Zerdin” was typed in . . . and up came the website for The Noah’s Ark Society.
As they scrolled their way past the society’s fiery logo, they were amazed. Grandad had apparently already been in touch from the “other side” and was carrying on his work after his own death. He clearly had no qualms, so neither should the living Zerdins.
Whilst the rescued 78rpm audio was further processed for broadcast, George Cranley of The Noah’s Ark Society was sent an e-mail.
Yes, he had personally heard a voice claiming to be Noah speak at a circle just a handful of years ago. And yes, it might be possible to arrange for the granddaughters to attempt to speak to their Grandad – and for us to record the session.
After much consulting of many diaries, a sitting was planned with the direct voice medium Cohn Fry in his séance room at Hayward’s Heath in Sussex. As we made the booking we had no idea how significant that date would be. September 11th, 2001.
I began my drive down the motorway from Shropshire to Sussex just as the first plane hit the World Trade Centre. I drove in a daze as my BBC Radio colleagues boldly tried to convey the horror of that afternoon.
I also wondered how that night’s séance would go. Would we all feel too distracted to sit? Would the “other side” be too busy with the aftermath to put in an appearance?
Colin Fry’s welcome restored a sense of normality. With ponytail and earring he wasn’t quite what I’d expected of a medium, but he had a no-nonsense, un-spooky approach to the job in hand, I placed my equipment as best I could. How do you point a microphone at a voice that’s supposed to come out of thin air?
As we sat down, the circle was made up of Colin Fry, George Cranley, 5 members of the Zerdin family, myself and a second independent radio producer.
Three voices were heard in succession. The first – apparently a child – announced himself as ‘Charlie’.
He chatted inconsequentially for about 30 minutes and then gave way to a much older voice, which Ruth recognised as that of Leslie Flint, a medium she had sat with the day after her wedding.
‘Leslie’ said he recognised the presence of members of the family of the man who was so influential in his own life. Ruth then asked if he remembered the year of her wedding. The voice said 1971. It was in fact 1972. ‘Leslie’ described how Noah’s work “had enabled spirit to touch the lives of thousands of people” and how he was “nobody’s fool”.
Then, desperately faintly, we heard another voice say “Daniel. Hello my boy. My name is Noah Zerdin. Why haven’t you sorted these things out before? What is contained in my boxes is so badly needed by your side now. Now you have opened the box it is like opening Pandora’s Box”.
The voice went on to explain that the Great Experiments were not his own idea. He was instructed to conduct them through Mollie Perriman’s mediumship.
In all ‘Noah’ spoke faintly for about 40 minutes. Afterwards the family seemed to have mixed feelings. A great many of the things said rang very true, but specific questions aimed at soliciting firm evidence were dodged by the voice – which didn’t sound at all Russian.
But ‘Noah’ did say he must “practise this communication” and hoped they might “reconvene”. In the most touching moment he told his granddaughters “how lovely you look” and “perhaps you might be brave enough to say ‘hello grandpapa’.”
As we finally put the programme together, the girls were suitably self- searching and sceptical.
Judith, a budding journalist, remained not entirely convinced.
Naomi felt she was surer now of the afterlife than she had been at the beginning.
Tanya said she now had a strong inner belief and was no longer afraid.
Tongue in cheek I had asked ‘Noah’ if our radio programme would change anything.
Equally tongue in cheek came the reply “it will cause a small bruise”.
THE CENTENARY CELEBRATION OF MODERN SPIRITUALISM
Royal Albert Hall, London, March 31st, 1948
Demonstration by Helen Hughes
At the Great Centenary Celebration in the Royal Albert Hail the first medium to demonstrate the truth of survival and communication with spirits was Mrs. Helen Hughes, the celebrated North Country medium.
Mrs.Hughes began her demonstration by asking for someone named Mrs Wilcox. After a lady had responded, she described to her a boy named Tony. This was accepted.
The name Hobbs was then given as the surname, with the request that birthday greetings should be conveyed to his family.
To another person in the hall Mrs Hughes described an old gentleman, and with him Jimmy Brown. “I’ve got to tell you,’said the medium, “that he has found out all about George who, when in the body, was a bit of a mystery. He was at your home on Sunday and heard all the good things you were saying about him, (Yes) but he says he was not as good as all that. He wouldn’t change places with any of you. I get the name Alma.’’ (That is my name). ‘‘Do you know Doris?’’ (My sister) ‘‘Have you been laying down the law to Arnold?” (Yes) “He says you had a dickens of a time, but don’t be so dogmatic; Arnold will come to it eventually. Have you been trying to convince him?”(Yes, rather) ‘‘Arnold will come to an understanding shortly, take your time.’’
“I have a boy here named Ian Moore,” said the medium to a lady in another part of the hall. (Accepted). “He has never communicated before has he?” (No) “Do you know Digby, a young boy, he’s with David?” (Yes). “Reginald has come with Mary Rankin,” said Mrs. Hughes pointing to a lady in the hall. “This young man was shot through the hip.” This was not immediately accepted. Then Mrs. Hughes said, “Have you lived in India?” (Yes.) “Mary Rankin knows you, she is talking about India.” (I can place her.) “You have always studied the occult.” (Yes.)
“Mary Rankin met you in India. Did you stay in Calcutta?” (Yes.) ‘‘Well she is here with you now in London.”
To another recipient Mrs. Hughes gave the name, Duke, which was recognized. “Michael is
with him” (My son) “They are both R.A.F. boys and have come together.’’ (Yes.) “There is a boy with Michael named John, he knows you, he crashed over Essen, Germany; he is now saluting and saving, ‘All is well with the boys you loved’.”
“I would like to coma to the gentleman with his hands over his face,” Helen said as he pointed to
one of the galleries.
“I have to give you the name Tony, a boy killed in the American Army.” (Accepted) ‘‘He is so glad to see you here, Mary is here too, she is of the Catholic faith.’’ (Yes, that’s right.) “She tells me she will help you till you meet again.”
Further messages were given and accepted.
Demonstration by Estelle Roberts
Mrs Estelle Roberts commenced her demonstration by trying to contact a person in the very top gallery of the Royal Albert Hall, but after giving some evidence of the return of a spirit, it became clear that the difficulties of speaking to the recipient, at so great a distance made it impossible to continue further.
Turning to a lady in one of the galleries on the immediate right hand of the stage, she gave the name of Taylor. Mrs. Roberts made a very fruitful contact, and was able to convey a considerable amount of acceptable evidence of spirit return.
“Do you know George?” (Yes) ‘‘William?” (Mother’s brother.) “Jimmy?” (Yes.) “He speaks of Emily.” (Yes, my mother-in-law.)
“Elizabeth?” (Yes.) “Ann” (Yes.) “Fred”. (Yes.) “Jane-Jenny-cousin of mother? ‘ (Yes) “Arthur is with them. “(Arthur who?) – “Just a, moment, I will ask him for his surname – Arthur Mitchell.’’ (Yes.) ‘‘He reminds you of an anniversary just now.’’ (Yes, my wedding.) ‘‘I now get Flora Annie Williams, you called her Aunt Flossie when a young girl.’’ (Correct)
‘‘I now receive the name of a gentleman Geoffrey Scott;you used to call him Scottie; he had auburn hair and a freckled face; you have a photo of him with Teddy, they are leaning over their bicycles.’’
Mrs. Roberts then gave several anniversary dates. “There is one on April 12th,” she said. (Yes my sister).
“She hasn’t forgotten. The 14th June?” (Mother’s birthday) “16th October?” (Anniversary of my father’s passing). “2nd December? ‘‘ (Father’s birthday.) “All convey their love to you.”
“I don’t know you, do I?” (No, not at all.)
“I want someone named Mrs Andrew,” said Mrs Roberts facing the body of the hall. A lady responded.
“Your husband is here, and is calling Mary.” (Yes) ‘‘He on the platform and I have never seen anyone so excited before. Has he recently,passed over, about four or five months ago?” (Yes, only six weeks)
“He has met John – known as Jack.” (Yes.) “He says that the pain that he endured in the physical body has all gone, he can now walk about everywhere. ‘Give my love to the boys’, he calls. He will be with you on the anniversary in June.” (Yes.)
“As soon as it is possible he will help to adjust your physical condition especially your arms, legs, and feet.” (That’s true)
“I do not know you, do I?” (No.)
Mrs Roberts gave several more messages which were accepted.
In a dynamic speech, speaking of the work of those celebrated mediums, Mrs Estelle Roberts and Mrs Helen Hughes, Hannen Swaffer said that he had spoken with them in town after town, and had challenged the representatives of the press to interview the recipients of the messages, follow them to their homes, and try to disprove one message.
The challenge had never been accepted.
But suppose we had had fifty Estelle Roberts’ and fifty Helen Hughes’, we could have proved our case triumphantly over the whole of Britain.
Note by Zerdini:
This is the type of demonstration which convinced me of the truth of Spiritualism when I began my investigation fifty years ago. I have been privileged to witness and sit with some of the finest mediums, mental and physical during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Cleric convinced by Bishop’s spirit return
A retired Congregational minister, whose obituary notice PN (Jan 1972) received last week, obtained irrefutable Survival evidence from famous medium Helen Hughes.
He is the Rev George Sharp, 64, of Chesterfield, Derbys, who often shared Spiritualist platforms with Helen.
At one he told the remarkable story of how a bishop’s spirit return convinced him.
At a sitting with Helen his grandfather communicated. He was followed by an entity who said he had been the Bishop of Auckland and had met Sharp’s grandfather in New Zealand.
He never visited that country,” was Sharp’s retort. The “dead” bishop insisted they had met there.
“I gave him a Bible,” he added. “On the fly-leaf I wrote, ‘To Robert, my friend, from the Bishop of Auckland.’”
This began Sharp’s quest to check the spirit statement.
Three close relatives denied that Robert had ever been to New Zealand.
Finally Sharp questioned his 94-year-old grandmother. “Who told you?” she asked.
Without disclosing the reason, Sharp pressed the question. Robert’s widow then admitted that early in their marriage her husband went into exile in New Zealand after an unfortunate episode.
“He would never have come back to me,” she said, “had it not been for a man of your cloth.”
She told Sharp to fetch a parcel from an old chest in her bedroom. He opened it to find a Bible.
On the fly-leaf was the exact inscription given through Helen’s mediumship.
Sharp told PN at the time the Bishop of Auckland was one of his spirit helpers.
Helen Hughes was a superb medium who conducted countless propaganda meetings around the British Isles, in modern times when mediumship was still subject to the antiquated and outdated Witchcraft and Vagrancy Act (formed in 1735).
Helen Hughes was a dedicated Spiritualist whose public mediumship and private séances – during which she was often directly entranced by her sitters’ loved ones – greatly impressed countless thousands of people. Her work was recognised to be of the highest calibre, and the genuineness of her gifts was never disputed.
Verbatim records of her spirit messages make astonishing reading. Along with Estelle Roberts and a few other notable mediums of the late twentieth century (such as the trance medium Lillian Bailey) she commanded the stage at large halls and conference centres across the length and breadth of the UK, and her survival evidence was startlingly accurate.
Maurice Barbanell, Editor of the popular newspaper, Psychic News, wrote that the spirit people who communicated with Helen Hughes often referred to her as “Helen the Beloved”.
Helen possessed great charisma, and her psychic abilities were remarkably well-developed: Mrs Hughes was a Clairaudient (i.e. she could hear spirit voices).
Helen’s mediumship was considered instrumental in the UK government’s banishing of the old 1735 Witchcraft and Vagrancy Act, and in its replacing of it in 1951 by the Fraudulent Mediums Act, which at least recognised the existence of genuine mediumship.
Of her clairaudient abilities and her contact with the spirit people, Helen said, ‘I hear quite naturally, as though I were using the ordinary ear. The voices sound quite normal. I can tell if it is the voice of a man, woman, or child – or if it is a loud voice or a quiet one. Listening to the voices enables me to give the names, facts and details that provide the evidence.’
The medium heard her spirit voices ‘in my ears, or in the region of my solar-plexus…and they vary in clarity.’
Here are some verbatim snippets of Helen Hughes’s remarkable clairaudiently-received spirit messages, which she delivered in the late 1930s:
Pointing to a woman in the auditorium, Helen began:
Helen: Is your name Nellie?
Helen: Well, then, you knew a Mr Bramwell; and I have to tell you that Mr Bramwell is here and he’s brought Harry and Mrs Wilson. She says she’s all right now, and thanks you for what you did for her. She suffered from a weak heart. She tells me that your name is Boynton.
For another recipient, Helen Hughes received a message “from someone called Eva, who was a musician.” She then singled out a woman in the crowd and added: “You are Eva’s mother. She played the piano; and she had a companion, Elsie, who has also passed over. Her full name is Eva Huxley.”
Helen: (pointing to a woman in the circle) There is a Mrs Richardson in the gallery. I get the name Jimmie Richardson. He worked in an office by himself. He brings Robert and Lizzie, and also Mary Bewick. He tells me that your godmother was Mary McIntyre, and that she was in some way connected with an off-licence for the sale of beer when you were fourteen to seventeen years of age.
Recipient: Quite right!
In a private consultation which was attended by a Mr Hogg and his family, all of whom were perfect strangers to the medium, Helen Hughes delivered the following clairaudiently-received information:
Pointing to Mr Hogg she said, ‘There is a young airman here. You are his Dad.’ Turning to Mr Hogg’s son-in-law she added, ‘This boy calls you Ian: and he calls himself Douglas.’ And to the two girls who were present she announced, ‘And you are his sisters, Isobel and Mary.’
Each name and tie-of-relationship was perfectly correct.
Helen Hughes passed in 1967 aged 74.
Suggested reading: The Mediumship of Helen Hughes by Bernard Upton) (Spiritualist Press Ltd, 1945.
A PRIVATE HOME CIRCLE
by Maurice Barbanell
When I come to describe the home circle I visited, I must refrain from giving the medium’s name, or any indication of where he and his wife live, except to say that it is in the Home Counties. The nature of his occupation makes it essential for him to shun publicity. Not only is this man a remarkable medium for direct voice and materialisation, but he is also one of the most brilliant clairvoyants I have met in my long experience.
Among the spirit communicators were people I had known very well and so was able to identify their voices and to understand their references which were sometimes of a private nature. Thus I clearly identified the voice of Harry Boddington, a veteran Spiritualist pioneer, who had passed on less than a year earlier. Similarly I recognised the tones of Jack Webber who in his day had been an outstanding physical medium. And there was a communication from a former member of my staff who gave her full name. Another dramatic happening was the return of a man who had recently committed suicide. He too gave his full name.
Boddington’s was a short but evidential communication. In a clear voice, through the luminous trumpet poised in mid-air, he greeted me and recalled the comment I made when last we met. This was that he was looking younger despite his advancing age. I had jokingly referred to him as Spiritualism’s ‘Peter Pan’. An indication of the wonders of spirit life was indicated by his statement, ‘I thought I knew everything. . .’ He followed by telling how much he was learning. This, mark you, came from a man who had devoted over half a century to spreading our truths and whose book, The University of Spiritualism, is rightly regarded as a classic dealing with every phase of this subject.
The séance began with one of the most remarkable demonstrations of ectoplasm I have ever seen. The third member of the circle is an electrician. Some time earlier, he had wondered what the effect of introducing an ultra-violet lamp into the séance room would be. They experimented, with heartening results.
It enabled me to see that two kinds of ectoplasm are used, one coloured white and the other brown. The white strip streamed from the medium’s nose and the brown strip from one ear – later there were two brown strips, one from each ear. Yet when the red lamp was switched on, only one colour, a whitish hue, was visible in all the strips. The brown ectoplasm, I was told, was of a ‘lower vibration’. It was composed out of the material in the room, furnishings, carpets, curtains, etc. The white ectoplasm came from the medium’s body.
The entranced medium was brought round the circle to each member in turn. We clearly saw the ectoplasm streaming from his nostrils and were invited to examine and handle it. It was bone dry and felt like fine cloth. Later we were allowed to see it form a rod, attached to the trumpet, to enable it to move.
In some photographs, taken with a white flashlight, during the years, spirit faces are seen to have been built up in this ectoplasm. There are two pictures of levitation, one showing a stool off the ground, and the other a chair almost touching the ceiling.
The séance that night was perfectly organised. The medium’s wife played the piano throughout to produce the vibrations necessary for the spirit voices. She stopped only when there was a communication. The guide in charge of this part of the séance is Robbie, a sixteen-year-old relative of the medium’s wife. Robbie always spoke in between each communicator, indicated who was coming and for whom the communication was intended. Occasionally, when the communication had ended he added evidential details.
A suicide addressed two friends of mine. This communicator, I learned, is the husband of their daily help. With a marked Cockney dialect, he thanked them for their help, saying that, as a result, ‘I can see the light.’ Expressing regrets for all the trouble he had caused, he said: ‘I was silly. . . I should not have done it.’
Robbie indicated that the next spirit speaker, who was named, ‘a little lady’ – an accurate description – was for my wife. ‘She has not been over here very long,’ he said. ‘Her passing was caused by a very bad internal condition.’ This was true – it was cancer.
Because it was her first return in the direct voice – I believe it is equivalent to dying all over again – it obviously entailed a great effort. She was almost overcome with emotion. My two friends to whom the suicide returned – they are frequent sitters – say they clearly heard her repeat her Christian name, but my wife and I missed that and heard only the surname, an unusual one. She did not stay very long. She gave a message for a member of her family, whom she named, and expressed gratitude for the help given her.
There were short but clear communications from some guides of the sitters. Then came Jack Webber – he had been a famous physical medium, who announced himself, by name. It is many years since I sat in his séances. He gave me two messages for his great friend, Harry Edwards, the celebrated spirit healer, who originally sponsored his mediumship when he came to London.
Jack mentioned that his own guide, Reuben, whose singing was always a joy, sometimes came to these séances. He followed Webber and sang, in his musical voice, one verse of ‘Lead Kindly Light’.
Finally the trumpet moved over to the medium’s wife at the piano. It was obviously an experienced communicator, who was able to whisper into the recipient’s ear, so that others could not hear, all she wanted to say. Later she told me it was her mother.
I was intrigued, during the séance, by the supernormal behaviour of a luminous tambourine. This, suspended in mid-air, whirled rapidly round and round. Another striking feature was the playing, by an invisible hand, of a luminous miniature xylophone in tune with our hymn-singing.
I asked the medium to tell me how he discovered his psychic gifts. It all began just under a score of years earlier when at 9 p.m., one September night, he saw what he thought was a radiantly white-dressed figure of a nurse walking in the rain. She approached him as he was cycling home. After she had passed him he was struck by her supernormal appearance. He turned round to overtake her – but she had vanished.
Determined to solve the mystery, he went to a Spiritualist church where they were having an open circle. The visiting medium told him about his own latent psychic gifts. He determined to develop them, with the wonderful results that I had seen.
As an example of this medium’s remarkable clairvoyance I quote an incident which happened when he and his wife visited my London flat. He turned to one of my friends and asked, ‘Is there a Vale Court not far away in Maida Vale?’ Told the answer was ‘yes’, he said there was a spirit communicator giving the name Nathaniel Nathan. With him there was somebody named Phillips. These names were known only to my friend and the address was correct. When he made inquiries, he discovered that Nathaniel Nathan had passed on only three weeks earlier. Phillips was a relative.
One of the members of my own home circle is Vernon Moore, a former Methodist missionary and now a business executive in a leading industrial company. He has frequently attended this medium’s séances. On more than one occasion he has been asked by an unknown communicator to comfort a loved one left behind. Whenever this has happened the communicator has not only given the full name but the complete address where his close relative was to be found.
Vernon was also involved in another remarkable happening. At one of this medium’s séances a strong voice announced through the trumpet that his name was Roderick McDonald. He said that he was interested in some work that Vernon was doing. The name was unknown to my friend, so he asked for more information.
The communicator said that he had been a missionary and a doctor of medicine whose earthly career had ended some 46 years earlier by being murdered in Canton, China. Vernon experienced some difficulty in trying to confirm these statements. Finally he contacted the missionary society and the relatives mentioned by the communicator.
The society kindly offered to search through the records for the early part of the century. The result was corroboration that Roderick McDonald was a missionary in China. He had been a doctor of medicine and was murdered in Canton. The only variation was a difference of a year in the date of his passing.
by John Butler
Now the direct voice is obviously the most interesting and most evidential of all forms of mediumship.
Comparatively few home circles, however, seriously sit for it – the reason being that development requires patience, it frequently being said that six or seven years is required before the voice is obtained.
In my opinion and experience this is incorrect. If all the rules are scrupulously observed, direct voice should start within six months, and subsidiary phenomena such as spirit lights and movement of the trumpet should be experienced long before that. Where circles do not develop direct voice for several years it will generally be found that one or other of the rules is being neglected. Assuming then that you wish to start a home circle for the direct voice, here is the way you should set about it.
First you must get together a number of sitters – not less than five nor more than nine. It is not essential that you keep strictly to these figures but they are the ones generally recommended. Where you have fewer than five sitters there is generally not enough “power” or psychic force unless one of the sitters proves to be an exceptional medium. Where you have more than nine sitters you increase the chances of absenteeism, which is fatal to development. Once you have decided on your circle of sitters do not vary it.
Having got your circle you must then decide at whose home you will meet. Once decided, this also must not vary.
The room selected for sittings should be preferably small, with few furnishings. It must be able to be rendered absolutely pitch-dark without a chink of light. Because of this necessity for absolute darkness there must be some means of heating it in the winter other than by coal fire or stove. Either hot-water pipes or totally enclosed electric resistances are suitable. The latter are comparatively cheap to buy and current consumption is not excessive. The heating of the room may seem a small point, but in practice it will be found that for six months in the year it makes the difference between comfort and discomfort.
Moreover the incidence of phenomena frequently decreases the temperature of the room, making a cold room noticeably colder. You should therefore decide on some form of heating and have that installed before the series of sittings commences. Many circles have broken up because the question of heating was neglected.
You have now chosen the members of your circle, the rendezvous, the day and time of meeting, the room and the heating of the room. Remember that the blackout must be complete and absolute, especially in the beginning stages.
The members of the circle should sit in a circle, preferably alternately male and female. In the centre of the circle should be placed, on a small table or on a board, the trumpet. The trumpet is merely a kind of megaphone without handle or lip. It may be made of aluminium, celluloid, plastic, cardboard, leather, or practically any light material. It is not used by the spirit operators as we use a megaphone – to amplify sound – but rather as a means of concentrating “power.” It should be dotted slightly in one or two places with luminous paint so that when it is lifted in the air the sitters will be able to know.
In some circles the sitters all join hands, but personally I do not favour this. The object is twofold – first as a kind of mutual check on each other, and second because it is supposed to assist in generating “power.”
In practice it will be found fatiguing and unnecessary. A better check on the sitters is to fill the floor-space with bowls of water and vases of flowers, so that movement is impossible.
The sitting should open with a prayer, oral or mental as you prefer. Many people are shy of public praying and, moreover, public prayer has a tendency to become more or less a formula and to lack sincerity. For my own part therefore I recommend a minute of silent prayer. But why pray at all, you may ask – after all, it is not a religious service.
Silent prayer or aspiration is recommended for exactly the same reason that you are recommended, if you wish to hear a particular radio programme, to turn the dial on your set until you are tuned in to that programme. If you just switch on your set without dialling you must take whatever programme it happens to be attuned to.
Since that is the one thing which we wish to avoid in attempting to contact the next world, it is strongly recommended that the members of the circle, each in his or her own fashion, express the desire to make only helpful contacts and to avoid all harmful ones.
And that, whether you like it or not, is prayer. To whom you should direct your prayer is a matter entirely for your own deciding.
Immediately after the opening prayer there should be music – either quiet singing in unison or gramophone music. Radio music is seldom suitable since it generally consists of jive or swing, and in any case is generally interspersed with talks or remarks. The type of music used should be soothing and restful, the object being to harmonise as far as possible the emotions of the sitters. For this reason, and not because it happens to have a religious connection, hymn music is exceptionally good provided it is not allowed to deteriorate into a slow-movement drawl.
The atmosphere you are aiming to produce should be harmonious, soothing, smooth and yet alert. For this reason music or singing should occur at frequent intervals through the sitting.
The sitting itself should last exactly an hour, and should end, as it began, with a prayer. A definite break at the end of a sitting is essential.
Never, never omit it.
Now I have known many circles observe all these rules and yet fail to get results, and so eventually break up. It is because they have not observed the last and most important rule of all – be harmonious. Harmony amongst the sitters is the one condition that brings speedy results.
In our own home circle we got very speedy results because we purposely set out to cultivate harmony among the sitters. We saw little of each other immediately before the sitting so that no controversial conversation might take place. We did not permit criticism of anybody or anything. We consciously tried to see the best in each other, and avoided being irritated by mannerisms. We became, if you like, a mutual admiration society, but we preserved harmony. There was not a shred of malice or unkindness or envy or jealousy, or even questioning amongst the whole lot of us. Tolerance and harmony reigned supreme.
The controls or operators on the other side of life who are responsible for bringing about the phenomena necessary in a direct-voice circle cannot even begin their work until complete harmony is established.
If they see a sincere and earnest effort on the part of the sitters to produce this state of harmony, they will do their utmost to help. But if they see little progress towards this end they soon cease to co-operate.
Remember it has taken them years to study and master this wonderful phenomenon, and until they have satisfied themselves that the sitters are of the class that will persevere, that they are earnest, with no selfish end in view, and that they are willing to exercise control of themselves and make whatever sacrifices are necessary to produce the results, the spirit controls are not likely to waste their time and efforts.
I will summarise the rules as follows:
1. Decide what form of mediumship you wish to develop (in this case it is the direct voice), and do not allow members to give rein to any other such as clairvoyance or trance. This rule is a MUST. The only exception is when you are instructed to do so by the spirit operators, who may wish to give instructions through some member from time to time.
2. Choose your place of meeting and stick to it. To alter your meeting-room from time to time is fatal. Even experienced voice circles sometimes have a setback if circumstances force them to change their rendezvous.
3. Choose your sitters with care, and keep strictly to the rule, MEMBERS ONLY. Never invite non-members whilst the circle is developing—not even experienced mediums. If you want to consult an experienced medium, do so by visiting the medium, not by having the medium with you. And let even that be very exceptional.
4. Be regular. Nothing whatever should be allowed to interfere with the regularity of the sittings, save only ill health and summer holidays. This point should be kept very much in mind when selecting the original members of the circle. If ill health is likely to make them frequent absentees or if business is likely to keep them from attending from time to time (a doctor in general practice, for instance) your circle will suffer grave delays in development.
The sitters must be sufficiently interested and eager to be ready to make considerable personal sacrifices in order to keep up regular attendance.
Remember the spirit chemists are using ectoplasm drawn from every sitter.
If, therefore, from week to week one or other of the sitters is absent then one or other of the ingredients will be absent.
But in the event of unavoidable absence on the part of a member see to it that his or her chair is placed in position just the same.
5. Be punctual. Lack of punctuality indicates lack of interest on the part of the sitters. If it is a rush for any sitter to arrive on time, then alter the time of your sitting accordingly. Punctuality should be meticulously observed both in starting and finishing.
6. Try to avoid a heavy meal within two or three hours before sitting, and try too to avoid smoking for about half an hour beforehand. Light meals may be taken, and a glass of water immediately before the sitting is sometimes recommended.
7. Be comfortable. Sit with knees uncrossed, feet apart, with a hand resting on each knee, preferably with palms upwards. Inconvenience through either heat or cold will retard progress. It is sometimes recommended that sitters should dip their fingertips in a bowl of water and leave them wet just before sitting, as this is said to facilitate the flow of “power.” The bowl of water should then be placed in the circle.
8. The blackout must be complete and absolute. Even light coming through a keyhole has been known to interfere with phenomena. Later, permission may be given by the spirit controls for the use of a red lamp or some other form of lighting, but during development absolute darkness is essential.
9. Place the aluminium trumpet in the centre of the circle, preferably standing on wood such as a small table or a piece of three-ply. Either mark with a pencil the exact place of the trumpet, or else attach to the base of the trumpet a small tab which is so placed as to cover a marked spot or button. The object of this is so as to be able to observe after the sitting whether the trumpet has moved or not. It encourages the sitters and improves their morale when they find, after six or eight sittings, that the trumpet has actually moved even though only an inch or two. It is generally recommended to run water through the trumpet just before sitting.
10. Open with a prayer, oral or mental. Then let there be singing, preferably a hymn or some soothing melody. After two or three melodies there should be two minutes’ (not more) complete silence. Follow with more singing or music from time to time. Light conversation, if not controversial, is good. You should aim at inducing a perfectly natural and happy atmosphere, with laughter and conversation and anything that makes for harmony.
But levity and arguments are fatal. Remember that you have asked clever and earnest spirits on the other side to co-operate with you in forming a link, that they have to work hard and patiently, and that all they ask of you is to provide the correct conditions.
11. Cultivate harmony amongst the sitters. I have already stressed this point. It is the most important of all. Everyone has failings, but it is essential that the members of the circle should make allowance for each other. A spirit of tolerance, of understanding, of give and take, of camaraderie, of complete unanimity must grow up in the circle. If any member offends against this rule, get rid of him or her quickly, and start all over again. It will prove to be much better in the long run.
In our own home circle, when we first started, we had some sorting out to do. My notes show that we had eleven preliminary sittings, due to sorting out sitters who didn’t observe the rules as strictly as we wished. On the twelfth sitting we started all over again, replacing rejected sitters with ones more suitable.
Our strictness was well repaid. After we had started all over again, at our fifth sitting my notes show that the trumpets (we had two of them) were lifted on three occasions two or three feet from the floor. There was not, however, sufficient “power” to hold them long in the air.
Imagine, if you can, the thrill we had at this result and how encouraged we were to continue with our investigations. After that we had no difficulty in getting all the sitters to observe all the rules.
12. Close with a prayer. Even if you have had no results remember that the spirit operators have been working during the whole of the hour that you have been sitting. Show your appreciation by thanking them. It is only courtesy to do so. Assure them that you will continue to give them the best conditions according to your abilities and knowledge. Leave the circle with thoughts of gratitude, and full of hope for the next sitting. Tenacity and patience will receive their reward.
And no one can really describe what a reward it is when the first faint whispers come from spirits in the next world. Even when you have yourself experienced it you will still scarcely credit it.
You will have been granted a great blessing; receive it with gratitude and humility. And have the courage to spread the knowledge so that others too may gain comfort and solace.
The mediumship of Bertie Lilly Candler
ALTHOUGH you may not believe it, Bertie Lilly Candler was afraid of the first spirit she ever saw. But this is understandable because she was only six years old at the time.
Many children who see spirit people at such an early age lose their mediumship as they grow older, but Bertie Lilly’s continued to develop until today she is the happy possessor of many phases of mental and physical mediumship.
When she was a little girl, however, she had only the clairvoyant phase and she always was frightened whenever a spirit would appear to her. She didn’t know what they were, but was old enough to realize that they were not earthly human beings. Her fear was caused more by not knowing just what she saw than by the actual sight itself. And so it is with most of us.
She was unable to get much help in understanding the visions which came to her. So for years she continued to see spirit people and to be afraid of them and what they might mean. Although of course they meant her no harm whatsoever, hers were many years of terror at the “spectres” which she saw. But she had the courage to continue her search to find out the meaning of these visions and her mediumship developed into an outstanding one.
One of the greatest experiences of Bertie Lilly’s life came when she was in her teens. She still did not know about Spiritualism and the many possibilities and useful truths which it contains. One day she saw a vision. A spirit appeared before her and began to talk to her.
“Your brother, Howard, is going to pass out on the sixth of December at 7:45 a.m. “this spirit said.
Her brother was alive and well. She couldn’t understand why these words were spoken to her. The spirit disappeared without another word.
At 7:45 on the sixth of December Howard passed away.
Three weeks later he appeared to her! And he began to speak— “Tell mother not to grieve. I am happy and living over here,” were his words.
Howard’s was the first death in her family, and of course it was a great shock. But his appearance to Bertie Lilly and the words he spoke were a comfort which gave new hope to the family. But still, it was a voice from the unknown and was not understandable.
Then Bertie Lilly went to her minister. She was a Methodist and thought that the pastor of her church might be able to help her. He gave her as liberal and understanding an answer as any orthodox minister could.
He said, “Your being a Christian girl, probably the Lord has sent His angel to guard you in the form of your brother.”
But this answer did not satisfy her. She felt there must be some further explanation of such phenomena. So she left the church and continued her search for truth in other channels. Her brother’s coming to her took away some of the fear that had been with her for so many years. He was someone she knew and could recognize and trust. She knew that he wouldn’t come to her if it was wrong or something to fear. She searched until she learned about Spiritualism and mediumship. Howard continued to come to her, and today he is her main guide.
Bertie Lilly Candler is best known for her work as a materialization medium. She has other phases, too, trance, trumpet and independent voice. She has practiced her mediumship since 1919. She is a member of the International General Assembly of Spiritualists, and since 1927 has been pastor of the Beckoning Light Church in Miami, Florida.
When I asked her what suggestions she would offer to students who are sitting for development, she replied that, “First of all, a person seeking development should study under a good teacher.”
She feels that the guidance obtained in this way will shorten the time of development by years. She did not have the opportunity of sitting in a developing class during much of her own unfoldment period. She was forced to learn many things for herself which might have been given to her much more quickly through the experience of a competent teacher. Even after she had obtained much of her mediumship, she was so anxious for class work that she did not at all mind sitting with people who were not nearly as advanced in the work as she was. It was during this period that she sat in a class conducted by Mable Riffle, whom she considers an outstanding teacher of physical mediumship.
“But there is much more to it,” she said, “than just sitting in class.” In the first place, a person’s desire for mediumship should be activated by the right motive. Mediumship for selfish gain is as great a sin as violation of any of the Commandments. She believes that those who always try to do the right thing and live a clean life will find that a better mediumship will be their reward.
Bertie Lilly Candler is enthusiastic about the possibilities of mediumship which have not as yet been tapped. She knows, through her own experiences, that there is a great field for workers in Spiritualism; that many localities suffer from a lack of properly trained sensitives. Because of her understanding of this need, she was glad to offer her suggestions to those who are attempting to develop materialization as their phase of mediumship.
The development of trance mediumship is the first step in attaining the phase of materialization. The sitter should use the usual materialization cabinet consisting of two black curtains hung across a corner of the séance room so as to open in the center. At least one other person should be in attendance outside the cabinet. A larger group will assist in furnishing a greater power with which to produce the manifestation.
The student must sit inside the cabinet in a relaxed state, entirely unconscious of his own body or mental emotions. In entering the trance state, some of her own students have had the sensation of sinking, as though going down in water. Others seem to contract their objective consciousness within themselves, and some seem to rise above their bodies or walk out of them. You may recognize any of these sensations from your experiences in development.
“Losing yourself in trance is of prime importance to the student who is trying to develop materialization,” says Bertie Lilly Candler. The student actually must lose his own consciousness in entering the trance state. This enables the spirit operators to control the manifestation to the fullest extent.
Do not be afraid of allowing the guides to control you. The law of attraction is such that you will attract to yourself guides who are of a character and ability comparable to your own. Like attracts like, good is attracted to good and bad to bad. If you have lived so that you have attracted to yourself guides of a high standard of character, then you have nothing to fear at all. These guides return to you for the purpose of manifesting through you and helping other spirit people to do so. They are trained for it, and will see that no harm comes to you.
In entering trance, breathing is important. The breath should be even and regular, not forced in any way. A rhythmic breathing exercise should be practiced regularly. Mentally, you can direct the breath to the psychic centers of the body which correspond in location to the physical glands. The best point of concentration for this life essence of the breath is near the solar plexus region.
After you have directed the breath to this region for a few moments, then sit relaxed and await the sensations previously mentioned. A word of warning is important here. Do not overdo the exercise of directing the breath. This is nothing to play with. Though you may not realize it, you are dealing with a powerful force when you direct the psychic qualities of the air to a psychic center. If overdone, harmful and even disastrous stimulation of a psychic nature might result. It is similar to electricity. Controlled in the wires of our homes it is of much benefit to us. But, uncontrolled as in lightning, or in a short circuit, it is an agent of destruction.
Materialization of the spirit body is produced from a substance known as ectoplasm. Ectoplasm is the spiritual counterpart of protoplasm, of which your physical body is formed. Spirit operators use the ectoplasmic body of the medium, and spirit people materialize to your sight through its use. This accounts for the fact that there are times when the materialized spirit has some of the medium’s features, just as the Christ looked like the gardener to Mary when she first saw him.
The ectoplasmic body exists in the intercellular spaces of the medium’s body. In vibration it is halfway between physical and spiritual. It is physical enough to be seen by the physical eye and spiritual enough to be used by a spirit person.
The medium must project this ectoplasmic body from his own in order that its substance might be used by the spirit. It is further drawn by the magnetism of the sitters. Then the spirit is clothed with astral substance, drawn from all the physical substance in the room, such as the sitters’ clothing, furniture, flowers, and so on.
As ectoplasm is affected by the physical body of the medium, Bertie Lilly Candler recommends that every student of materialization be especially careful in caring for his body. In general, ordinary rules of diet should be followed. However, she believes that those foods which partake less of a physical nature are most beneficial. Of course this should not be carried to extremes so that loss of physical energy results.
A materialization medium needs a great deal of energy. The drain and strain on his body is unusually high. Mediums of this type have been placed on scales and their weight checked while a spirit is manifesting through their mediumship. They have become lighter by as much as twenty-five pounds taking substance of this weight from the medium cannot help but cause much strain and loss of energy.
Proper exercise also is necessary. Bertie Lilly likes to play golf. There are several reasons for her preference for this kind of exercise besides pure enjoyment of the game and the physical exercise it affords. In the first place it takes you out of doors where you can breathe the purest of air. Taking in this air helps to fill your body with all the psychic energy which the air contains. And then it brings you in close contact with the ground, from which you can assimilate a certain type of magnetism helpful to the manifestation of materialization. The taking in of these substances is done without conscious effort on your part. The body simply recharges itself when coming in contact with them.
Bertie Lilly Candler first became interested in Spiritualism in 1918. She was living in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the time. One night her sister-in-law appeared to her in a vision. The sister-in-law was living in the Deep South, and Bertie Lilly did not even know she had been ill.
She later learned that the sister-in-law had passed away on the afternoon of the same day she appeared in the vision. Just before her passing she spoke to those who had gathered about her bedside.
“I want to see Bertie Lilly,” was the last sentence she spoke on this earth!
It was at this time that Spiritualism first offered itself as a possible explanation for all the visions and voices she had seen and heard. She became vitally interested in the movement, began attending services and séances, and then sat in a home developing circle. The third time this circle met, she went into a trance. This was something new to her, different than the other manifestations which she previously had, and she continued her investigation and development, it seems as though she was destined to become a materialization medium for she would not stop her search for an understanding of the phenomena.
It was just a year later, in 1919, that she began her public career. She worried lest people would not believe the things which she told them she saw but when they did believe, and recognized the messages which she gave to them, she was thrilled. And who wouldn’t be?
Aside from her golf, her only other hobby is in doing charitable work. She realizes that everyone has not had the same opportunities here on earth, and that others have not been able to take advantage of the opportunities they did have. So she tries to make it all up to them somehow. She looks back to the time when she knew nothing at all about Spiritualism and sees the difficulties and problems which were in her mind. When she can help another to solve his problems she is happy.
After twenty-seven years of constant work in Spiritualism you would think that a person would take it more or less for granted. But Bertie Lilly Candler is just as enthused about the movement and the manifestations today as she was back in 1919 when she gave her first public demonstration.
To her, Spiritualism means more than just the manifestations of spirit people. There is a deeper side to the religion than just the proof of immortality. She feels that many of the teachings should be broadcast to the world in such fashion as to make it impossible for the world to ignore them.
The teachings of the Master, in her opinion, are the basis upon which every student should build his life. She says that one of the greatest helps to mediumship is in living in accordance with the principles which he brought to earth. The rendering of service to others helps build in every person a philosophy which will stand him in good stead when practicing his mediumship. The practice of mediumship is not entirely a bed of roses for anyone, no matter how gifted he may be. This fact is easily seen in the example which the Master set for us so many years ago. It was the philosophy which his service to others brought to him that sustained him when in need.
She also believes that every medium should always be trying to perfect his mediumship to a greater degree. He should constantly strive to reach out for the highest and best that is obtainable.
She believes there are many master souls who are anxious for instruments through which they might manifest to people of earth. They are looking for instruments of high purpose and character. They have great truths which will be of unbounded help to mankind, but those truths will remain untold until the development of psychic ability reaches that high standard upon which they can be brought through.
Perhaps you will be one of those given the opportunity to serve in this way.
Interview conducted by Robert G. Chaney
The Barham Conspiracy
In late November 1941 the British battleship HMS Barham was attacked and sunk by a U-boat off the coast of Egypt. In March of 1944 Mrs. Helen Duncan, a well-known Scottish spiritualist and medium, went on trial in London’s Old Bailey for conspiracy to violate the 1735 Witchcraft Act.
In the intervening years these two seemingly disparate events became woven together in a complicated wartime tale of naval disaster, government cover-up, a drowned sailor purportedly speaking from a watery grave, and a modern-day witch trial that Winston Churchill described as “absolute tomfoolery.”
An Afternoon Tragedy
On the afternoon of November 25, 1941 Barham and two other battleships of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet cruised off the Egyptian coast of Cyrenaica to provide distant cover for an attack on Italian convoys. Though constantly zigzagging and screened by eight destroyers, the battleships sailed into peril. Undetected beneath the calm water, Kplt. Hans-Diedrich Von Tiesenhausen manoeuvred his U-331 inside the British destroyers and launched four torpedoes at a battleship looming in his periscope.
The 31,000 ton Barham stood no chance when three of the torpedoes exploded against her port side. Obscured by enormous spouts of water, the stricken warship lost all electrical power and began listing heavily; a scene recorded by a cameraman aboard the nearby battleship HMS Valiant. Still plowing forward into the sea, Barham rolled onto her beam ends and blew up in a tremendous magazine explosion just four minutes after the first torpedo struck. The blast flung men and debris hundreds of feet into the air, leaving behind stunned survivors churning in a thick oil slick. 861 sailors and officers lost their lives in the disaster, while 395 were rescued.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, Adm. Sir Andrew Cunningham, was having tea aboard his flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth when he heard the roar of the torpedo detonations. Cunningham rushed to the deck to witness Barham’s final moments, a sight he recorded in his autobiography as “a horrible and awe-inspiring spectacle when one realized what it meant.”
Kplt. Von Tiesenhausen, however, could hardly savour his success. The ejection of the torpedoes compromised U-331’s buoyancy and caused the periscope and conning tower of the Type VIIC boat to broach the surface just 150 yards from the now provoked Valiant. The battleship heeled over to ram the U-boat as its starboard pom-pom guns fired 19 rounds that, due to the submarine’s proximity, flew harmlessly overhead. To save his boat, Von Tiesenhausen ordered a crash dive that took the submarine to a depth of 265 meters, over a hundred meters below its maximum safety depth. The proximity of Barham’s swimming survivors prevented the destroyers from attacking with depth charges, allowing U-331 to slowly escape to the north.
The chaotic aftermath, however, also prevented Von Tiesenhausen from knowing the outcome of his attack. The rapid torpedo explosions were audible inside the submarine, but he had no knowledge of the Barham’s fate. He later radioed his superiors that he had torpedoed a battleship with unknown results, a message intercepted by British code-breakers. His official report on December 3 made the modest claim of one torpedo hit on an unknown British battleship.
The Admiralty Reversal
Since the sinking of the battleship HMS Royal Oak in October 1939, also by a daring U-boat commander, the Admiralty established the policy of immediately announcing all major warship losses. When the German battleship Bismarck blew up HMS Hood in the Denmark Strait in May 1941 the government sombrely broadcast the loss of the famous battlecruiser on the same day it was sunk.
But when the British realized the Germans remained unaware of Barham’s destruction, they quickly reversed this policy. Royal Navy naval forces in the Atlantic and Mediterranean were already under strength, and although they did not know it, new disasters lurked on the horizon. In less than a month the two remaining battleships in the Eastern Mediterranean, Queen Elizabeth and Valiant, would be mined and severely damaged in Alexandria harbour by Italian “human torpedoes.” Their long-term repairs would leave the Royal Navy incapable of intervening during a crucial Axis build-up in the Desert War. And three days after Barham’s loss, HMS Prince of Wales would meet HMS Repulse in the Indian Ocean before proceeding to Singapore on their fateful mission to deter an increasingly belligerent Japan. Both warships would be sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers within two weeks. It was what the London newspaper The Daily Express later called “the blackest fortnight in Britain’s naval history in world wars.”
Realizing an opportunity to mislead their enemies and protect home-front morale, the Admiralty censored Barham’s sinking. News of the loss of one of the Royal Navy’s fifteen remaining capital ships was confined to the chambers Admiralty and White Hall – or so they believed.
A Summoned Sailor
Helen Duncan did not fit the subversive type. Born in 1897 in Scotland, she married a struggling cabinet-maker and had six children, losing six others as infants. Duncan, who weighed 300 pounds and was plagued by constant poor health, gained notoriety in the UK during the 1930s and 40’s for her séances. Her particular skill involved “materialization,” a process in which streams of ectoplasm would issue from her mouth and take on forms of the dead. Sceptics called her a fraud, claiming she regurgitated cheesecloth to simulate the ectoplasm. In the early 1930s she was put on trial in Scotland and fined for falsely claiming to communicate with dead spirits.
Despite her court appearance, Duncan remained a popular spiritualist and much sought-after medium during the war. She organized frequent séances for people seeking to communicate with deceased relatives. During one séance held shortly after the Barham’s loss in late 1941 she reportedly summoned the spirit of a sailor who announced, “My ship is sunk” to the astonished audience. The sailor reportedly wore a Royal Navy hatband with the name “HMS Barham.” This episode occurred while Barham’s loss remained a heavily guarded secret. When news of the event reached the Admiralty, they feared Duncan’s séances would unravel their extensive measures of concealment.
On November 27, two days after Barham’s loss, Winston Churchill telegrammed Australian Prime Minister John Curtain to describe the objectives of the censorship campaign: “This [the loss of Barham] is being kept strictly secret at present as the enemy do not seem to know, and the event would only encourage Japan.” Under the strain of two years of constant war, the embattled leaders of Britain grasped every advantage they could.
Many steps, both elaborate and subtle, were taken to prevent the truth from reaching the public or the Axis powers. One extraordinary measure included the printing and mailing of Christmas and New Year’s cards for the crew of the sunken battleship, even those who had perished. Admiralty officials realized that withholding the cards would have raised suspicions about the Barham’s status.
More traditional forms of deception were employed as well. On January 8, 1942 Adm. Cunningham reassured the readers of the Glasgow Herald with an article headlined “All’s well with the Navy in the Mediterranean.” Although Cunningham admitted his forces “had to fight and win against some pretty long odds at times,” his upbeat appraisal hardly reflected the actual situation of three British battleships in the Mediterranean sunk or disabled in as many months.
The censorship campaign also extended to the Admiralty’s monthly “Naval Supply and Production” statistics. These documents charted the number and types of British warships ordered, launched, damaged and destroyed for each month during the war. The supply and production records for November 1941 failed to register the loss of the battleship Barham, although the December 1941 statistics accounted for the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse in the South China Sea. Since these documents were circulated throughout the Admiralty, all traces of the Barham’s loss had to be removed.
After a delay of several weeks, the War Office decided to alert the next of kin of Barham’s dead, but they added a special request for secrecy. The notification letters included a warning not to discuss the loss of the ship with anyone but close relatives, stating it was “most essential that information of the event which led to the loss of your husband’s life should not find its way to the enemy until such time as it is announced officially…” The wives and families receiving these letters were undoubtedly devastated by their grief yet were prevented from making any public announcement of their loss.
Since the sinking of Barham occurred in the late afternoon with many other warships present, it was one of the best-recorded and investigated naval disasters of the war. A Reuters correspondent who witnessed the torpedoing and explosion later wrote, “It was something like one sees on film.” His analogy proved prescient when it was revealed that a Gaumont-British cameraman named John Turner filmed the last minutes of Barham. The navy impounded the footage shortly after the sinking, holding it until 1945.Today, Turner’s film of the stricken battleship keeling over and exploding comprise one of the most compelling short movies of the war.
Only when the German High Command guessed at Barham’s loss in late January 1942 did the British government acknowledge the truth. The Admiralty informed the press on January 27, 1942 and explained their rationale for withholding the news. By then, with crushing Allied defeats mounting in the new Pacific war, newspapers wrote little about the torpedoed battleship or the censorship. The January 28, 1942 edition of the Glasgow Herald resembled most newspapers when it accepted the Admiralty’s decision to censor the loss, writing “it was important to make certain disposition before the loss of this ship was made public.” When the news of the Barham’s sinking was confirmed in Germany, Kplt. Von Tiesenhausen received the award of a Knight’s Cross.
A Modern Witchcraft Trial
Helen Duncan was not arrested in the aftermath of the Barham incident, and she continued to organize séances throughout the country. But authorities watched her more closely. In 1942 Duncan began to lead spiritualist demonstrations in Portsmouth, a naval town on England’s southern coast. She was conducting a séance in Portsmouth on January 19, 1944 when suddenly a whistle blew and a participant rushed forward to grab the floating ectoplasm. Others in the audience turned on the lights and ushered in the police. Undercover naval and police officers had infiltrated the meeting, and Duncan and three other shocked participants were arrested and charged with vagrancy before the Portsmouth magistrates.
Higher authorities intervened, however, and the police transported Duncan to London to face charges from the Director of Public Prosecutions. The more serious accusation of conspiracy, punishable by death in wartime, replaced her original infraction. Finally, the prosecutors decided to charge her with violating the 1735 Witchcraft Act, a law originally passed during the reign of King George II that had lain dormant for a hundred years.
Duncan’s trial at London’s Old Bailey court began on March 23, 1944 and lasted a week. It was a tabloid trial, attracting widespread coverage in the newspapers for its characters and accusations quite unusual for a 20th century court. The undercover agents who broke up the Portsmouth séance testified against Duncan, and the chief of the Portsmouth police called her “an unmitigated humbug and pest.” The prosecutors introduced evidence that Duncan revealed the loss of Barham in 1941 while it remained an Admiralty secret. For her defence the jury heard from 19 witnesses who testified that Duncan had summoned the spirits of their dead relatives and friends. The defence team also proposed that Duncan hold a séance in the courtroom, but the prosecution, realizing the mockery that could result from the stunt, refused their offer.
Despite her surprisingly strong defence, a jury found Duncan and her associates guilty of a conspiracy to violate the Witchcraft Act and a judge sentenced her to nine months in London’s Holloway women’s prison. In a surprising move she was denied the right of appeal to the House of Lords, a common appeals practice. It has been suggested that Duncan’s prosecution was motivated by concern that her Portsmouth séances would reveal the timing of the approaching D-Day invasion. The government considered her inexplicable knowledge of Barham’s sinking as evidence to the danger she posed to wartime secrets. Yet to many observers, sending an uneducated and invalid witch to jail seemed an odd pursuit for a nation finally turning the corner of a terrible war.
The efforts to convict Helen Duncan did not please everyone in the government. Most notably, the witchcraft trial caused Winston Churchill to write to his Home Secretary to criticize the resources wasted on a prosecution he described as “absolute tomfoolery to the detriment of the necessary work of the court.” Modern-day defenders of Helen Duncan claim that Churchill held spiritualist sympathies, and it was his second government that eventually repealed the ancient Witchcraft Act in 1951, replacing it with the Fraudulent Mediums Act. However, it is equally likely that Churchill considered the trial a distraction from the war effort, and an embarrassment to his government.
Legacies of the Loss
The entwined legacies of the Barham and Helen Duncan keep this story very much alive in the UK. An official memorial to the battleship lies in one of the country’s most sacred places, Westminster Abbey. Tall gold candlesticks flank the entrance to the choir, placed there in February 1943 during an official dedication. The Abbey hosts a service of remembrance on the second to last Saturday in November when survivors and their families can view a special book of remembrance.
Although Duncan died almost fifty years ago in 1956, the story of her trial and imprisonment continues to inspire her admirers on both sides of the Atlantic to win her a post-humus pardon. In 1997 a spiritualist fellowship presented a bust of Helen Duncan to Callander, Scotland, the town of her birth. Council officials attempted to display the bust in the town’s Rob Roy Visitors Centre, located in a former church, but some locals objected to Duncan’s spiritualist past. Currently, a bronze cast of the bust is displayed at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, which also stores the original copy in its basement.
In 1957 a group of Barham veterans founded the HMS Barham Survivors Association. Every May the few remaining survivors and their relatives hold a reunion dinner in Portsmouth where they toast the memory of the ship and those that died. One surprising attendee at early reunions of the Barham Association was U-331 commander Hans-Diedrich Von Tiesenhausen, who survived the war as a prisoner and lived until his death in 2000 in western Canada working as an interior decorator and painting many of his war memories.
Al Collier, a Little Rock, Arkansas resident and expert in Helen Duncan’s story, interviewed the elderly Tiesenhausen in January 1998 with help from the former submariner’s wife. According to Collier, Tiesenhausen expressed dismay at the story of Helen Duncan and her witchcraft trial. “No government,” he reportedly said, “should be allowed to treat a poor woman so terribly.” If some of the Barham’s surviving sailors can accept the U-boat captain who sank their battleship, perhaps the British government will pardon a witch who guessed at too many wartime secrets.
This article first appeared in the December 2004 issue of World War II magazine.
See also “The Helen Duncan Case” by Hannen Swaffer.
The mediumship of Gladys Mallaburn
by Maurice Barbanell (founder editor of Psychic News)
I went to a small village near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, to a home circle and to a séance, one which lasted five hours. During that time seven spirit forms, three male and four female, materialised.
There were also eight spirit communications in the direct voice, six from males and two from females, each different and with individual characteristics.
The medium was Mrs. Gladys Mallaburn, of whom I had heard such splendid testimonies that I sought an invitation to one of her séances. The results exceeded my expectations. They would defy materialistic explanations by any honest sceptic.
The dexterity with which the illuminated trumpet used for voice communications zoomed at great speed around the room without fumbling or hitting anybody was evidence of unerring accuracy by the spirit operators. Yet frequently it was suspended in mid-air when communicators spoke through it.
The only sound that came from the medium was at the beginning. We heard her stertorous breathing, a preliminary presumably to her going into trance.
One of the first to materialise was John, the medium’s husband. He had become a regular spirit visitor since his passing, a few months earlier, when he appeared at one of his wife’s séances before his body had been located. John, a chief officer, met his earthly end when he tried to rescue an engineer who was drowning.
At this séance he went to his teenage daughter, Rosemary, and expressed regret for the act of abortive rescue that led to his premature passing. ‘If only I hadn’t taken that risk,’ he said. Once again I was impressed with the naturalness with which Rosemary accepted her father’s spirit return.
At this séance there was profuse evidence of identity from communicators. One of the first to speak was a man who said, ‘Death is the greatest adventure of my life!’ He gave his name as Flight-Sergeant Navigator Leslie Hodgson. This war victim ‘killed’ in combat, addressed his mother, then living in the same village. He described how his spirit body left the aeroplane before it crashed to the ground.
As proof of his nearness, he told his mother details of happenings with which she was involved during the past few days, all of which she confirmed.
What I wish to stress is that Hodgson’s was clearly a masculine voice.
The medium’s spirit controls proved they were ‘old hands’ by the expert way they manipulated the trumpet, speaking through it and later materialising.
They also showed a splendid understanding of séance conditions when they ‘raised the vibrations’ with humour and repartee to enable the best psychic results to be obtained.
This was especially noticeable with Violet, a young Negress, whose features were clearly visible when later she materialized – all three feet of her! She had the score of sitters in laughter with her delightful ‘scrambled’ English and her childish but nevertheless evidential observations. She demonstrated supernormal powers by accurately describing my London home in detail though, of course, the medium had never visited it. This was the first time that Gladys Mallaburn and I had met.
One spirit communicator was Billy Curran, the son of two well-known Yorkshire Spiritualists who frequently attended the circle. What struck me was the seeming normality of the conversation between the ‘dead’ boy and his parents. Here, once again, was a demonstration of the simple but vital fact that love can be stronger than death.
I was pleasantly surprised when the trumpet moved towards me and I was welcomed by the spirit voice of a communicator giving his name as Tom Best.
I had known him as an outstanding Spiritualist personality in the North of England. Like some of the best evidence, which cannot be printed, he furnished information concerning domestic details which were known to me.
Tom was in splendid form, especially with one comment, ‘Elliott gave me a good funeral!’ This referred to the Spiritualist minister who had conducted his funeral service. Best quipped, ‘I didn’t know I was half as good!’
Then it was the turn of another spirit control, a former local miner, who spoke in the ‘Geordie’ dialect and whose idiom would be appreciated only by natives. I noticed at this stage how the temperature suddenly dropped, a familiar happening at this type of séance, as if a heater had been switched off.
Another curious phenomenon was the occasional scent of perfume. Violet said that she was responsible for producing it. There was no doubt about its reality, for she smothered all the sitters with the perfume. One drop got into my eye and made it smart.
Among the figures to materialise was my old friend, Helen Duncan, who greeted me enthusiastically. She had been a famous materialisation medium whose séances I attended at least thirty times. When she spoke her voice was characteristic. Once again I have to state that her message to me, though evidential, was of a private nature and cannot be printed.
Then came the climax, the materialisation of the Arabian guide who is in charge of all the phenomena. Using an illuminated plaque, on which there was his portrait, he showed himself in turn to each sitter. His dark-skinned features were clearly visible. His undoubtedly male voice came in loud tones, but with a foreign accent. He went to the improvised cabinet, a curtained-off recess, and brought the entranced medium in front of it so that we could clearly see the two of them side by side.
I had evidence of the ‘solidity’ of one materialisation, a woman, who firmly gripped my chin. Her hand was warm, solid and normally constructed. I noticed her delicate fingers. There was nothing ghostly about them.
I observed that the materializations – one was a former archdeacon – varied in height, build and size. Violet showed herself in party dress because of the approach of Christmas. Her ectoplasmic robing was clearly discernible, as was that of the Arabian guide.
While the direct voice part of the séance was held in darkness, for the materialisations a shaded red light was used. Though, throughout the séance, Violet had joked, she ended on a serious note. ‘The sweetest song in all the world,’ she said, ‘is that THERE IS NO DEATH.’ This was a refrain that I have heard countless times.
I managed to persuade Mrs. Mallaburn to come to London and give a séance for a group specially invited by me. As many were well-known Spiritualists, it was not surprising that the communicators included two former mediums and four people who had been keen exponents of psychic truths. Some of these communicators, seemingly because they knew the ropes, introduced subtle references as evidence of identity.
Originally I had intended this to be a small circle, but the number grew until there were more than a score present. An improvised cabinet was arranged and an attempt made to black out light from the windows and door, but even so there were faint streaks visible during the whole séance.
The conditions were not ideal for the type of psychic phenomena produced by this medium because it was a day of unexpected sunshine, though late in September. Frequently during the proceedings the medium’s chief guide explained that the ectoplasm was almost melting. Yet such was the efficacy of the spirit operators that the séance lasted four hours, with one of the most spectacular results coming right at the end.
Mostly the communications came through a trumpet, but several spoke in the independent direct voice. The variety of these voices was outstanding. The movements of the trumpet were fascinating to watch and were in themselves evidence of supernormal activity. Never once did it fumble or bump into any sitter as we watched its gyrations, made visible by the coating of luminous paint.
Each communicator revealed individual characteristics. The first to speak was the medium’s chief guide who welcomed us from within the cabinet. He was an individual of dignified mien, obviously a highly evolved entity who was doing his utmost to demonstrate the reality of the spirit world in which he now lived. I thought that his parable on life here and hereafter was very impressive.
Violet, the young Negress, was in complete contrast with her pert humour, her mispronunciations and her sallies.
Next, through the trumpet, we heard a male voice giving the name ‘Hitchcock, Percy’. The séance was being held in a room of the headquarters of the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain, an organisation of which he had been its president. With a short message urging his hearers to continue the work to which he had dedicated his earthly life for so many years, he seized the chance of addressing some of his colleagues in the room.
Now we heard the words: ‘Austin – Herald – reporter.’ I knew who it was at once, for I had heard him communicate before. This was many years earlier at an Estelle Roberts voice séance when Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding was present.
A. B. Austin was a Daily Herald war correspondent who was killed in Italy. When he communicated, Dowding immediately recalled him, saying, ‘He was on my staff at Fighter Command and he was a fine officer.’
This time I thought Austin returned because I had invited to be present a journalist who worked in the same building as he had and who was attached to a companion publication. Austin mentioned, ‘I have ‘Cat’s Eye’ with me.’ This was another reference to an Estelle Roberts voice séance at which ‘Cat’s-Eye’ Stevens, one of the famous Battle of Britain fighter pilots, had returned and spoken to his wife.
Plaintively I heard Austin ask, ‘Oh, God, why do they always have to kill?’ There was silence and then followed: ‘I’m still alive and kicking. They can’t keep a good man down, and I’m still reporting.’
He sent greetings to Lord Dowding, his old Chief, and to Lady Dowding. His final words were, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’
He was followed by a woman whose voice was clearly audible through the trumpet which moved to Sydney Richardson, a splendid spiritual healer. ‘My husband Syd,’ she said. Then clearly I heard the sound of a kiss coming through the trumpet.
Her next words showed that no sex jealousy continues beyond the grave, for she sent ‘my love to Ursula’. This is Sydney’s second wife, Ursula Roberts. ‘She is so good,’ said the spirit speaker to her husband, ‘and you have much to be thankful for.’ There was a cryptic message, ‘The wheels do go round,’ which Sydney understood. Then came: ‘It is so nice to hear your voice. Thank you for all the happiness we had. Tell Ursula I have brought her mother.’
Helen Duncan communicated again to me. I knew it was she the moment I heard the voice say, ‘Nellie’, followed by a mention of her husband’s nickname. Hers was a long, sustained, fluent communication. She referred feelingly to her last séance, broken up by police, followed by her passing a few weeks later. ‘I was black and blue all over,’ she said.
There was a reference to the unjust sentence she served in prison when she was convicted during the war, under the now repealed Witchcraft Act, a scandal which so enraged Spiritualists that it led to our campaign which brought us legal and religious freedom. ‘Those mailbags!’ she said, referring to her prison work.
Nellie spoke sympathetically of the companion who, because she had accompanied her, had also been sent to prison as an accessory, and the dreadful time this woman had in gaol. ‘I was one of the lucky ones,’ said Nellie. ‘They feared I was dying, so they put me into hospital.’
Then her mood altered as she laughingly exclaimed, ‘Fancy, I’m an angel now!’ Again came a change of mood as she earnestly exhorted us to guard mediums, our most priceless possessions, and promised to help Gladys Mallaburn in her labours.
Once again the trumpet moved from the ground and was suspended in mid-air as a voice declaimed: ‘When I go down to the grave, I can say like many others, “I have finished my day’s work”; but I cannot say, “I have finished my life.” My day’s work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes on the twilight; it opens on the dawn.’
‘That is a quotation from Victor Hugo,’ I said. ‘It was frequently recited by an old friend of mine.’ The voice replied, giving the name of this old friend, ‘Walter Oaten’. Deliberately he had mentioned only his second Christian name, one that I had never heard this editorial predecessor of mine use in my presence. So that there should be no doubt of his identity, he added, ‘Ernest.’
After revealing by his words an intimate knowledge of matters in the Two Worlds office, he said, ‘Amy is all right.’ This I was glad to learn, for it was some time since I had heard from his wife. ‘I’m sorry I had to leave her in the eventide of life,’ he said. ‘I’ll make it up to her when we meet.’
‘This is true,’ he said, adding, ‘I haven’t my stick now.’ His old friends will recall the stick he used because of his limp. Ernest ended his communication with the plea, ‘Don’t overwork your mediums.’
Violet provided a welcome relief from the heat by drenching sitters with perfume which smelled like the flower of her name. She announced that she was going to bring some flowers. Soon we were strewn with flowers which later proved to be chrysanthemums.
A deep masculine voice announced itself: ‘John Mallaburn, late of – ’ naming his house and the village where it stood. This, of course, was the medium’s husband, who was by now a regular communicator. John sent his love to ‘my favourite blonde’, his 13-year-old daughter, who always sits in the home circle.
There was a homely touch as he asked his entranced wife to be told later that, though their dog was fretting at home, he was keeping an eye on their beloved animal.
He announced that he was bringing some apports, a score of sea-shells later taken away by sitters as souvenirs. Through other mediums I have had many apports. This word, derived from the French apporter (‘to bring’), refers to gifts brought supernormally at séances.
A completely different voice came next, one which spoke in soft, modulated accents, and said its owner had served in the R.A.F. He made a beeline for my wife, who was close to the cabinet, allowing her to feel his materialised hand, covered with ectoplasm, which frequently billowed from the cabinet over her. His contribution was the recitation, seemingly impromptu, of a long poem on Survival.
He was responsible for an ingenious communication. ‘The Hawk is here,’ he said, which Ralph Rossiter, the Spiritualist Association’s secretary, understood, even before the communicator added, ‘Black Hawk. . . his name is Powell. .. . This is my beloved son…’
Ralph, of course, will never forget old Evan Powell, that wonderful physical medium, whose guide, Black Hawk, was responsible for virtually saving his life when it seemed that he was condemned to suffer from tuberculosis. The phrase, ‘My beloved son,’ was one that Evan always used in referring to him. I could not follow, until Ralph explained it later to me, Powell’s statement, ‘I have met Holmes.’ Evan was a great friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
After one of their many sittings, Doyle announced he was killing off Sherlock Holmes – public clamour later prevented this slaying – to devote the rest of his days to espousing Spiritualism. Jokingly Powell often said, ‘I was responsible for murdering Holmes.’
Once again I heard the spirit control with his ‘Geordie’ dialect that you could have almost cut with a knife. I had to ask some of the regular circle members – six of them were present – to interpret what he said. His voice was high-pitched and he was always in character.
Another regular visitor followed, May, a Cockney flower seller, so proud of her hair that she went all round the circle trailing it over the sitters.
Finally the chief guide said he would try the experiment of an infra-red photograph being taken, but he could not promise success because of the heat.
Some of us were asked to leave our seats, unlink hands and to stand or kneel in front of the cabinet. We could hear his deep voice urging the medium to stand up. Icy cold breezes came from the cabinet, with constant billowings of ectoplasm He gave the signal for the photograph to be taken. Alas, it was not a success, for all it revealed was a large rectangle of ectoplasm above which is part of a draped face.
Nevertheless, this guide provided a striking demonstration by coming out of the cabinet.
There he stood, dressed from head to foot in snow-white ectoplasm, illumined by a soft light which flickered, he said, in tune with the medium’s heart-beat. This, he explained, was his ‘soul light’. He did not venture far from the cabinet, but some of those closest to him were able to make out his dusky features.
Even this did not conclude the séance, as some thought, for Violet made a final appearance, saying we could not close until we sang her favourite song, in which she joined. I found it an impressive séance, interspersed as it was with evidence of a private nature.
Gladys Mallaburn at the end of four hours was a limp figure. The next day, however, she was as right as rain.
The mediumship of Lula Taber
by Coleen Owen Britt
Materialization is a scientific phenomenon which gives the thinking individual the factual basis for a livable and believable religion. Materialization gives absolute proof of life after what we call death.
Spiritualism, through materialization and direct voice and trumpet séances, is a religion which invites each one of us to see and believe, rather than to believe blindly. Reasonable and believable religious truths are what people today need, but have been unable to find. The truths have been there all of the time but due to superstition and the lack of proper understanding, these truths have not reached the majority of the people. From the experiences of my husband and myself we know the above statement to be fact.
We were raised in a church environment, each taking an active part for years. We did so for the same reason that thousands of others did; because we had been taught that it was the proper thing to do.
However, also like thousands of others, we did not get the uplift or help that one should get from his religion.
Because some conscientious, or ambitious, minister gave beautiful rose-colored pictures of heaven—if we were good, and dark painful stories of hell—if we were bad, the thought of religion did not seem to impress us definitely. In our hearts we did not believe the Bible as usually presented, and after due investigation we found out that there were many more individuals who felt just as we did.
We felt a need for religion, but religion as we could find it in no way satisfied that need.
Religion as it has been, and is, widely preached, is no comfort at the time of the death of our loved ones, at the very time we need its comfort most. It takes us to the grave where we are forced to say farewell in the deepest despair with no hope of ever seeing or hearing the one we love again.
How different the change we call death becomes, through Spiritualism. We know that our loved ones are not dead but have only left the physical body, and that they in their spiritual body are now free to advance to unbounded heights, no longer hindered by the ills and pains and the grief of earth life.
Spiritualists not only believe this, they know it is true.
MY SON LIVES!
When Byron went over to spirit side of life, at the age of sixteen, I almost went insane. I became an atheist. I searched but could find no source of comfort. A week after his passing his father and I were riding over a quiet road in the Ozarks when to our ears came clearly the sound of the Morse code.
We were both startled and my husband stopped the car so that we could be sure as to whether or not we were really hearing something. The code continued for what seemed several minutes, after which we drove on, wondering.
Byron was an amateur radio operator and we talked over the fact that the code he was always sending sounded just like what we had heard. However, we soon cast the incident aside as a product of our imagination yet in my heart I knew it was real.
A year later, in despair, I consulted a medium. She was kind and sympathetic, and told me of a materializing medium, Rev. Lula Taber, of St. Louis, Missouri, who was to be in our city soon. Paul and I talked it over and decided to attend a séance. We were not believers but we were seekers after truth.
We knew no one in the group which gathered that evening. We had made no appointment. We had told no one we were going to attend. There were sixteen men and women gathered in a semicircle in front of the medium, who sat behind lightweight black curtains during the séance.
Before going behind the curtain she explained briefly about the phenomena. The lights were dimmed to a dull red glow. We all joined in repeating the Lord’s Prayer and in singing a few songs. In a few minutes a pretty little girl stepped out from between the curtains and told us that her name was Star Bright, the medium’s guide, and that she would do her best to have a good meeting for us.
Numerous spirit folks appeared and talked that night, but when Byron, our son, came to us, said his name, kissed us and said that he was happy, we felt the first mental relief we had experienced since he passed from earth life. Most of my time had been spent in tears and morbid existence; now I could even sing songs, and that was something I had never been able to do since I last sang them with him. We attended practically all of the séances which Mrs Taber held.
After seeing Byron many times, and hearing him many more times in trumpet séances, I am convinced that the only grief one should experience at the passing of a loved one is loneliness. There should be no sorrow for the one who has passed to spirit side for there they can be far happier than they ever could be here.
They can do many more things, go many more places, and live a more interesting and satisfying life than we.
Byron, and many others, tell us of so many wonderful things that we are anxious to try the experience ourselves.
Byron has played the violin for us many times. At another time he sang me a Mother song unlike any I have ever heard. I do wish that I could have remembered the words. At a later meeting I asked him about repeating it but he said that he had just made up the song as he sung it and that he did not remember just what the words were. Recently he told us of his sweetheart Margaret. She has talked to us now, calling us mother and father. He says that she is blond, dances and sings beautifully, and that they do many interesting things together.
One of Byron’s materializations especially impressed us. He came very close, tipped his head over toward us and said, “Put your hand on my head and feel my hair.” We both did. It was combed straight back neat and shiny as he has always worn it. His head was firm and the hair felt and looked as natural as yours or mine. He stayed with us several minutes, touched everyone in the room and talked in his naturally pleasing manner.
One should never touch the materialized forms unless they say that you may, but Byron has touched us and asked that we touch him, many, many times. He always acts so happy when he has materialized plainly and completely. When we talked with him concerning the code we had heard months before, he said, “Well Mother, you were convinced but Daddy wasn’t.”
I could write for hours about the wonderful comforts and the interesting experiences found through a study of Spiritualism. Since meeting Mrs Taber we have found her to be not only a wonderful medium, but also a lovable lady, and a devoted mother. This article has been written because of our feeling of thankfulness to Rev. Tabor for bringing back our son to us, and for making it possible for us to again find some satisfaction in living.
Byron has told us that in spirit we advance by our own merits. What fairer method could we earth folk desire? What more wonderful fact need one know as an incentive to live one’s best?
WORDS FROM BEYOND
On the 27th of May, 1940, Rev. Lula Taber came to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to hold a series of materialization and trumpet séances, several of which my husband and myself attended. On the first night Byron appeared in person, announced himself as “Byron”, kissed us, touched his face to ours, and talked some.
At each séance he appeared more plainly to us and our visits became natural and satisfying. We always disliked saying goodnight and it was very difficult to say goodbye the last night of the séances, when the Tabers had to return to their home in St. Louis.
To realize that one’s child, whom his parents never expected to contact again, is very much alive, very interested in his work, very capable, and very happy in his daily experiences, is about the greatest blessing that could come to one.
Proof of life hereafter is the one thing that makes life here endurable and at all satisfying. For that reason we do wish that each and every one could have the experience of seeing and visiting with their loved ones in the Spirit World.
Heaven is not very appealing when one thinks of it in the usual light, as for instance, one’s sitting on a golden throne for eternity, but when one realizes that those in Spirit live a life similar in many ways to ours but without the pain and grief of a physical body, then our greatest wish is fulfilled. That death, as we call it, is not being put in a grave but is a sort of sleep from which we waken into a much finer existence than this, is the realization that we humans want, and can understand, and can believe, and can work for, tirelessly.
For the materialization the medium sat in one corner of the room, in a common chair, behind light-weight black curtains. Nothing was behind the curtain but the medium, in her black slip, and the chair on which she sat. She had removed her clothing and had given it to one of us to lay away. The floor and walls were of cement, the ceiling of wood.
There was no window. I was in the curtained space with her many times so I relate from personal experience. I will mention here that due to some glandular trouble Mrs Faber weighs about three hundred pounds. I mention this to you as proof that she could not possibly impersonate the average-sized person, not to mention the tiny children who appeared at different times.
Those attending the séance sit in chairs in front of the curtains, usually in a semi-circle and about eight feet distance. There is no ‘equipment’. The only light is a subdued red light, all others being turned out after a short visit by those present. At this time one may ask questions if he so desires. The meeting is begun by repeating the Lord’s Prayer, then several songs are sung.
Usually about five minutes elapse before Mrs Taber’s guide, Star Bright, appears and announces that “my medie” is under control, and that she will do her best to bring everyone’s loved ones to them. Soon the spirit folks enter, usually one at a time, and advance toward the person whom they wish to contact, calling the person’s name or else their own names. At first the spirit friends seem to be in a filmy white covering which obscures their whole body, then they push this covering of ectoplasm back and stand revealed as we remember them.
The hair, the features, the hands and oftentimes books, crosses, flowers, or whatever they might be carrying, all become evident. One’s desire is to hug the dear one close, but it is injurious to the medium and also to the one doing the touching, at times. If they tell us we may touch them then it is permissible to do so. They can, and often do, touch us, kiss us, and put their arms around us, in a very delightful manner.
Their touch is soft like that of a baby’s skin, yet very definitely firm. Their voices are usually clear and typical of the individuals as we remember them. Everyone in the room sees each spirit person as he stands or walks in the circle, and each voice is heard by all. Sometimes the spirit folks return to behind the curtain before they dematerialize but often they disappear from our sight right where they have been standing.
Many interesting statements were made by those with whom we visited. Byron made the following ones: “I am happy here. We can do anything here that you do there only we do not sit down to the table for meals. We take food but I do not know how to explain it to you. There are no toilets here, either. The spirit body is much nicer than the physical one. Yes, I go to classes now. I do not care for chemistry though. I am specializing in radio.”
In reply to my question as to whether or not they had vacations, he said, “We can take vacations if we want to but we do not need to because we never get tired. That is, not tired as you think of it, but we do rest.
We have beautiful places to rest.” Byron says that he is often with us and sees us, but that we just cannot see him. He said that he moved papers once in awhile but that we did not seem to notice. He told me on one occasion that he liked the new shoes which I was wearing. I did have on new shoes but it had rained and I had been in the mud with them so the medium, nor anyone else, could have told that they were new.
One evening I told Byron that I had applied for a job that day. He replied, ‘‘Mother, you didn’t, because I was with you all day today.’’ I was certain that I had so I said, “Yes I did, son.” He replied, “No. That must have been some time yesterday.” After thinking it over I realized that he was right, because I actually had written and mailed the application the previous evening.
At a private trumpet séance, that is, just Mrs. Taber and myself, Byron told me that he would play for me later. After a while a violin began to play “Ah Sweet Mystery of Life” and played it all of the way through, very beautifully. When the piece was finished Byron said “What do you think of that, Mother?” Then he told me that he and the son of the family upstairs had played a duet.
Later the mother told me that her son would be about Byron’s age and that he had passed on prematurely. When I told Byron that I was very much surprised to hear him play the violin he said, “Well, I am just learning, really. You know I always did want to play one only I just thought I couldn’t.” While here he had often expressed a desire to play a violin but always thought it would be very hard to learn. He became interested in the electric Hawaiian guitar, purchased one, and was learning to play it very well.
Shortly after he had played the violin for me a lady announced herself to me as Grace Edwards, saying she was Byron’s music teacher. She said, “I have never had a more studious and conscientious student than Byron.” I asked if Byron still played the guitar and she said “Yes, but he seemed to lose interest in it when he found that he could play the violin.”
So many interesting visits were enjoyed by Paul and myself that I cannot here relate them all, so I shall limit my record to the most specific and pertinent incidents. Numerous relatives and friends talked to us.
Many of these we recognized, many we have been able to find out about through letters and some we have been unable to place definitely. Many of them talk to us only once; many talk again and again.
They are all very interesting and have very definite and individual ideas.
It is very interesting when they tell us some item by which we can check, and they always seem anxious to do so, in their own unique way. For instance, my grandfather on my mother’s side told me that he had some fingers off of one band. He said that they had been cut off with a scythe while he was cutting grain. I never saw my grandfather and knew very little about him as he passed on before I was born. I had never heard anyone mention that he did not have all of his fingers so I was curious about the truth of the information. Since that time I have talked with an elderly lady who was a friend of my mother and she told me that my grandfather did have some fingers missing. She said she did not know how he lost them but it could easily have been as he said because the scythe was used a great deal at that time.
Paul talked with a good friend of his who mentioned his wife by name and talked about affairs, financial and social, in a very comprehensive and positive manner. When Paul asked him if he wanted him to tell any of his folks he said, “Well, you know them. They wouldn’t understand so it would not do any good. I would like to talk to Ruby sometime, though.” Ruby is his wife. Her name had not been previously mentioned.
My father came to me through the trumpet for the first time, announcing himself as “John.” I could not think of anyone whom I knew as John but the large end of the trumpet continued to bump gently against a cameo pin which I was wearing so I was convinced that the message was for me.
Finally I thought of my father’s name as being John so I said, “Is this you, Dad?” He replied at once, “Sure it is.” I replied that I had not expected him to call himself John. He then said, “Byron said I should call myself John instead of Grandpa.” My father always called himself Grandpa to Byron.
A friend appeared to me in materialization but was not strong enough to talk. She came again in a few days and this time she said, “Frances. Tell Sandy that I am all right.” Frances had only been on Spirit side about two months and had never materialized before so did not know just how it was done. She could not have said anything that would have been of more proof to me than the things she did say, however. Sandy is her husband’s nickname.
She said, too, that she wanted me to have her pink dress. I still have the pink dress and cherish it deeply. You see, she stayed with me when she was sick. She had a very serious operation and she realized she could never be well again. The day she was leaving for her home she came out where I was, carrying a very pretty pink silk night dress. She said, “Coleen, I can never hope to repay you for the many nice things you have done for me, but I do want you to have my pretty pink night dress.”
Needless to say, how thankful I am for that conversation. Frances and I had often talked over the possibility of life after death. She believed in it much more than I at that time, but she did not think that contact could be made with another world anymore than I did.
Monday, August 4th, 1941. Materialization — Medium Lula Taber.
There were over twenty persons present at this meeting, among whom were Mr and Mrs Ralph Pressing, publishers of Psychic Observer. They were interested in seeing Byron’s violin and in hearing his music so we were very pleased when he materialized and played.
When he had finished he held his violin out at arms length and asked the Pressings if they could see it well. Mrs Pressing then stepped up to the cabinet and talked with him.
The following is an excerpt from the November 10th issue of Psychic Observer wherein Grace P. Schafer, feature writer for the Observer, wrote an article on “The Mediumship of Rev. Lula Taber.”
Quote, – “What I like about Mrs Taber’s materializations is: there is no question about the spirits who come through. When they make an entree they announce their full names and the names of the ones they have come to visit. I was deeply impressed by the spirit who announced his name, ‘Byron Britt.’ He called for his parents. They asked him if he could play something on the violin for them. Before our eyes we saw the form of a violin and bow assemble. As the bow was drawn across the gauze-like strings, we heard music . . . violin music . . . only sweeter . . . more heavenly than an earthly instrument could produce. The selection played was ‘Sweet Mystery of Life.’ How appropriate!”
An interesting incident was when a soldier materialized to Mr Morris, gave a military salute, and said, “Major, I salute you. I am Harry Atkins. I served under you.” Mr. Morris saluted in return, saying, “I remember you well.” Later he told us that Mr. Atkins had been killed in France during the First World War.
At this same séance Mr J. Langworthy Taylor, Professor-Emeritus of the University of Nebraska, materialized and talked with Altinas Tullis, Instructor in Chorus at the University of Nebraska. He said, “Tell all the world we do not die. There is no death, only life. I want everyone to know that I am learning all about this thing called spirit return and it’s true, true, TRUE.”
When the Pressings heard Mr Taylor give his name they were surprised and pleased, saying that they had traveled abroad together some years ago. They, too, had an interesting visit with their old friend.
These materializations are interesting to study. As we have been discussing recently, the powers of thought and emotion are multiplied many times over in the spirit worlds, to create the substance and environment over there.
Mrs Britt writes: “The seances were held in our home here in Omaha, and at three different homes in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was privileged to be cabinet attendant at all of these materializations. I am always happy to help. Being near the curtain I can always see and hear all that is said and done by the spirit friends, at a closer range than is possible for those sitting in the circle. I am thankful for this as I feel that it makes my reports absolutely accurate, as each incident I mention is a personal experience.”
During his short stay here Byron really knew and lived life at its best. He never showed much interest in religion. He had listened to sermons from the time he was a little fellow, but as he grew older and learned to think for himself he decided the ministers themselves did not really believe all the things they said from the pulpit. He felt there was a world of truth somewhere, and he wanted to dig down and find it. He believed that sound waves would eventually be controlled to the extent that vibrations which are not recognized now, would be interpreted by man, and thus open the door to understanding.
Byron became ill with influenza about three weeks ago. After a relapse he was unable to recover. He passed peacefully away at 2:45 Thursday morning, March 30th, 1939, at his home in Alliance, Nebraska. His age was sixteen years, nine months, and seven days. At the time of his passing he was a Sophomore in Alliance High School. He was a member of the Sons of the Legionnaires and of the American Radio Association.
The Mediumship of Effie Moss
By Dr John King
The reader, while perusing the narration of the facts herein recorded, will have his or her own theory or hypothesis to account for the phenomena in individual cases. Whatever hypothesis may be adopted, it would seem that it must be one, which, while impervious to the shafts of criticism, will account for the existence of some natural law, not fully comprehended, though possibly conjectured. The phenomena continue to present here and there, and intelligent inquiring minds will continue to desire to solve the problem, which will account for them, and lay bare the truth.
After all who wished to do so had examined the window, ceiling, floor, walls, and curtains constituting the improvised cabinet without contents, except one plain wooden chair for the medium, they assumed a position in the horseshoe circle, as already explained in detail.
The medium, who was dressed in a plain dark dress, without anything superfluous on the outside, next raised from a seat in the circle, adjoining the cabinet space, where she had been constantly under the close scrutiny of every sitter from the first opportunity she gave them, until she stepped inside the cabinet which I have described in detail, and took her seat on the plain wooden chair, at the north end of the cabinet space.
All being seated, the conductor pulled down the curtains, and took his seat in the circle. Those present then joined in singing familiar hymns, and shortly after the manifestations began. It is not my purpose to refer to all the manifestations, but to such only as made a marked impression on my mind.
A few apparently human forms appeared, one at a time at the opening of the curtains, and were presently recognized by one or another of the sitters, as purporting to be that of near relatives or friends; and would engage in conversation in some instances in a whisper, in others audible to all present. Some of these advanced either alone, or by the hand of someone from the circle, out in the room and up to individual sitters, myself among the number.
(1) In one instance what appeared to be a brisk young girl, who came out of the cabinet, called one of the little girl sitters from the circle, and standing adjacent to where I sat, asked me to examine the little girl’s hair and face, which I did. The former (the girl from the cabinet) then asked me to take her own hand, in mine, which I likewise did, after which she placed my hand upon her head and asked me to examine the hair, which I found to be long, black, coarse in fibre and the quantity abundant.
This apparition, materialized form, or actual human girl, whichever she was, claimed to be the spirit of an Indian girl. She next permitted me to feel her feet, which were encased in a pair of moccasins; and while I was observing her stature, features, eyes and mouth, she chatted pleasantly; and gave all present an evidence of her agility, by running and jumping upon the floor, finishing by asking me if I thought the big medium could make herself up like a little Indian girl, with small hands and feet like those I felt. I had to admit my disbelief in the possibility of the large and heavy medium diminishing her size and weight in that manner, or to such a degree. This form disappeared by way of the cabinet.
(2) Another manifestation or apparition was that of a little girl dressed in white, at the opening of the curtains, who wanted to know if the sitters thought she was the medium, when almost immediately the medium appeared at her side, having the same appearance she had when first entering the cabinet, and the two stood side by side before the curtains, the medium being apparently in a trance state. This little girl in white retired into the cabinet, as did the medium also. We were informed that the medium claimed that this was Lily, one of her band of spirits that helped to build up the so-called materialized forms.
This same little cabinet spirit Lily, pretty as a Christmas doll, said to me in the presence and hearing of all the sitters in that séance: ‘Dr. King, when Mrs. Moss passes over to spirit side of life, then I’ll come and join your band.’
(3)Another manifestation of peculiar interest was the appearance of a form, which was recognized by sitters as a perfect duplication in physique and manner of speech, of a well-known citizen, who had passed out of the body after having been for some time an editor of a farmers’ paper published in the same city of London, Ontario.
I was invited to approach the cabinet, but I did not recognize the form or features, for I had never seen or known the said editor in the physical life; and consequently would not recognize this materialized representation of him; but he claimed brotherhood and designated my status in the brotherhood. I had not made myself known fraternally to any one present, nor had I any insignia or symbols, or anything about me to indicate that I was a fraternity man or brother.
In response to his invitation I entered with him into the cabinet, and to my astonishment he did certainly prove himself a brother. I may add that while this testing and proving was in process in the cabinet with curtains closed, I could see the medium seated on the chair, her eyes closed, and apparently in a deep trance state, as was her usual condition during a séance. The form, which proved itself to be a brother, was surrounded by a certain degree of illumination, which made the cabinet as well as the form of the medium, distinctly visible to me. Coming to the outside of the cabinet again with me, this form’s grip was strong, substantial, and real, yet seemed to melt away while still I held it, and after first taking three irregular steps from the cabinet, gradually dissolved from view as white or greyish smoke or vapour, entering the carpet at that point.
(4) Another manifestation alleged to be that of a minister, having a portly and easily recognized form, was claimed by several of those who knew him in the physical form, to be a preacher who formerly preached in South London Methodist church. The form appeared in the black clothing, as was the custom of the minister in the physical form, and addressed those present in a manner familiar to those who had listened to his pulpit utterances; but added that had he known what he now knew he would have been enabled to teach and preach with a much clearer knowledge of the truth. I was privileged to take the ghost’s hand and look well into his countenance, and witness the movement of his lips and of his eyes, and hear the breath movements of his speech. He disappeared by way of the cabinet from which he came.
(5) Another of the many manifestations at this séance was that of an alleged actress, suitably clad in garments of a creamy white colour, who claimed to have passed out of the physical form in Brooklyn one hour after completing her part in an act or play at the theatre. Her stature was taller than that of the medium and much more spare. Her voice was strong and sweet. She addressed those present for several minutes, exhorting them to a proper life and good deeds for humanity.
After concluding her address she favoured the company by singing in a magnificent manner a song that would have required great natural capability, and much culture for so fine a rendition, on the part of a human singer. Had the window been open, the singing could have been heard easily a block away. I was also permitted to approach this manifestation, and shake hands with it, and saw its features most distinctly. This form disappeared into the cabinet from which it had made its first appearance.
(6) During one portion of the séance, when all was quiet, the room hitherto dimly lit suddenly became darker. Almost immediately after, within the circle of the sitters, and about one yard from my chair, I noticed a light upon the carpet, phosphorescent in appearance, about the size of a 25-cent piece or English shilling, which soon became more extensive, and apparently rose as a vapour from which evolved curling flame like white and purple light, until suddenly it took on tangible form, and developed what all the sitters agreed upon, as being beyond doubt a beautiful young woman, clad in draperies of creamy white, bearing supported or suspended above her head a purple ball of light, which, however, seemed physically separate from any connection with the head; and which illumined the entire room, and simultaneously the air was impregnated with door of a most delicate and agreeable perfume, resembling nothing I had ever before inhaled. All over the draperies and coverings of this apparition were small star-spangles as if they were most brilliant electric starlights. This manifestation differed in appearance from the others preceding, inasmuch as they had a substantial, everyday, solid, lifelike physical body and raiment, such as we are accustomed to look upon in our everyday experience; while this female materialization, perfect in physical form, seemed attired in vestures and draperies most unusual, but in themselves beautiful and well adapted in their application, giving an angelic cast to the entire figure.
She took my hand as if for salutation, held it firmly as if for support, for perhaps half a minute, and apparently until fully materialized, and explained that she had the power to appropriate material from the medium, and from my own and other sitters’ composition, to form a body to occupy; and by aid of other spirits likewise formed the vestures, and draperies worn, of thought creation from particles of matter in textures in the room, and also from the air. The hand appeared natural to the sight, and the touch or grip revealed feeling, solidity, and motion. Her stay was brief, and her departure was as if she had dissolved into mist or white smoke, and was drawn downwards and absorbed into the carpet. This particular form, materialization, or apparition neither entered nor approached the cabinet. Some of the more experienced sitters explained that this form was that of an advanced spirit, and one long since passed to spirit life; but none there were who claimed to have ever seen her before; nor did she give any indication at this sitting as to her human personality or her angelic home. (This was Egyptia, my alleged guardian spirit, as I subsequently learned from her.)
I may here remark that I shook hands and conversed with the majority of the forms appearing at this séance, listened to the messages conveyed to individual friends in the room, or to the more general exhortations and advice regarding the real objects and purposes of life. All this to me was passing strange, and unaccountable on ordinary or natural lines of investigation, as I shall attempt to show in discussing the various hypotheses.
PHENOMENA EVIDENTIAL IN CHARACTER TO ME
(7) The event in this séance and in a subsequent one, of the deepest personal interest to me, as affording not only more support, but in my judgment the strongest evidential support of the spiritual hypothesis, as contrasted with any other hypothesis that I have considered or that can be offered, I shall now describe. I have said this case engaged my deepest interest; but I may add that the most conclusively convincing tests possible were presented to my judgment, as I shall presently show.
Among the forms to appear at the parting of the curtains of the improvised cabinet, was that of an apparently old lady, above medium height, build and weight, slightly bent forward, whose hair was silvery white, whose face was directed towards myself, to whom she seemed to beckon, but in no single particular resembling the medium. Several remarked to me, ‘You are wanted, Doctor’, and I arose and advanced close to the form, my face being within a few inches of the face presented, which appeared illuminated so clearly and distinctly that I could see individual hairs hanging across the temple.
I beheld the form and features, the perfect physical resemblance, and physiognomy of my own mother, who passed out of the physical life, as the result of an accident in my own and her own home, some nine years previously. So natural, so human and life-like was the apparition that it formed a perfect duplicate of my mother—as perfect a view as her mirrored reflection in life, while it possessed tangibility, solidity, weight, moved the eyes as if looking into mine, grasped my hand as really as ever it was grasped, and used the mouth to speak and I heard her breathe. I stood a few moments to test myself, as to whether I was awake or dreaming, or in a hypnotized state.
Up to this point, though I had recognized what I have stated, I had said nothing. I then spoke aloud in the hearing of all present and said ‘Who is this?’ The form then stepped forward from the cabinet and in a similar characteristic and affectionate manner to that of my mother when in my home said, so that all present could hear what she said, ‘My dear boy, do you recognize me?’ I replied by asking, ‘Is this the one I am thinking of?’
The apparition before me said: ‘Yes, I am still alive, and am pleased to see you here, and I bring you proof of my existence.’ The form patted me on my cheek, kissed me, and said, ‘Your Pa is here with me. He only recently came to me out of the body, and was extremely weak.’
The form then explained that he, the father, was not yet able to gather the forces necessary to manifest himself, but would do so at another séance if I would remain. All this was heard by the others present, as all assented when asked if they heard distinctly.
I, at this point, explained to the sitters in this séance, that my mother passed out of the physical between eight and nine years previously, while my father had only passed out about two months anterior to this occasion; and as I was a stranger to them all, as well as to the medium, with the single exception of the gentleman in whose house we were meeting—that of Mr MacRoberts (and I had only twice before met him, many miles from my home)—and, therefore, all were ignorant of the dates of death of my mother and father, and of any other data concerning them.
The materialized manifestation claiming to be that of my mother, also spoke to me in a whisper, and the utterances were those peculiarly characteristic of my mother, and such as no other human being could imitate or know and use them. She took my hand, stepped out into the circle, and was seen and heard by all therein, and spoken with by several. As one or two among the many evidential tests of personal physical identity, or duplication thereof, I give the following:
My mother had for many years carried the evidence of rheumatic arthritis in the lower two rows of the joints of her fingers on both hands, they being, as she used to term them, hickory-nut joints, and her habit was, when not specially using her hands, or when she had company or went out, to wear thin silk gloves or mitts over them, a size or two larger than would otherwise be necessary, on account of large joints, to prevent their being noticeable by others. My mother was also accustomed to wear about the shoulders a light comforter or shawl of old-fashioned pattern and size, to prevent chills from the draughts, she claimed.
On this occasion, exact duplications of the old-fashioned silk gloves and shawl were worn by this manifestation, apparently as real as I had ever seen them, and further, and even yet more conclusively convincing, myself and others looked for the hickory-nut jointed fingers, and sure enough the evidence was convincing, tested by sight and touch of more than one-half of the sitters present. Corroborative inspection likewise demonstrated the existence in the eye of a brown spot on the white of the globe of the left eye; and a cluster or cord of silvery hair hanging over the left temple to the left ear, from the upper part of the forehead of the demonstrating apparition, which stood before us and talked with us. Both of these latter features were distinctly noticeable, and had in my mother’s life-time been examined and commented upon, by those who knew her, and to myself they were in this instance a perfect duplication or reflection in the animated apparition which I am now describing.
As the manifestation was about to go it gave me a parting kiss, and said ‘Goodbye’ in a precisely similar manner to that which my mother always adopted, when we parted with each other during her physical existence.
The mediumship of Keith Milton Rhinehart
Keith Milton Rhinehart was born April 1, 1936, in Nunn, Colorado, and probably became one of the youngest practicing mediums in the history of mediumship. The first indication of his future powers occurred he was about five years and his parents were divorced: Although little note was taken of them at the time, except wonderment and curiosity, poltergeist manifestations occurred in his home then. An occasional picture fell from the wall and rappings were heard here and there when no-one was around.
When Keith was ten years old and living with his mother, Mrs Val Rhinehart, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, she took a trip to San Francisco without him. There she happened to meet a woman named Lillian Laneville, who was planning to attend a meeting, at Florence Becker’s Spiritualist Church. Keith’s mother was asked to accompany her, and she did on the spur of the moment. When her time came for a message, Mrs. Becker began to sing, ‘Why, oh why, oh why-o, did I ever leave Wyoming?’ Then she told Mrs Rhinehart that she had a young son at home who would, one day, become a famous medium. This story, incidentally, has been confirmed independently by Lillian Laneville.
When Mrs. Rhinehart returned home she did not mention the prophecy to her son, but she told him how the medium had identified her as coming from Wyoming. The boy scoffed. You must have written your address down somewhere there and forgotten it. He was already interested in the subject of psychical research and had read a good bit about it, but he was highly critical of any of the phenomena about which he had read. In junior high school he wrote an article on the subject for his school paper, of which he was an editor.
When Keith was twelve he began delivering a morning newspaper, and he well remembers the days when he had to traverse his route in twenty below zero weather. It was his habit each morning before starting out with his papers to glance at the personal column. Once he found an announcement there that a medium wanted a group of people to start a development class with her.
I had read about this subject since I was just a little boy, Rhinehart says. It always fascinated me. I went to this class just to see if what I’d heard about such phenomena was really true. His interest captured by the activities of the group, he attended every week after that.
When Keith Rhinehart was fourteen years old, a visiting medium came to Cheyenne and gave billet readings without charge. The boy attended, and being so critical, he was the one who offered to put the tape over the medium’s eyes. On his billet, he says, he merely asked for a message, and signed the initials K.M.R. When his turn came for a reading, he heard the words, Keith Milton Rhinehart, you are not going into science or radio as you plan but will end up a medium and will be world famous.
I stood right up in the meeting and denied that, Rhinehart recalls. I told him he was definitely wrong about me. But the message continued: Your main spirit guide will be Dr. Robert John Kensington, and you will go into trance within a year.
Although he did not believe this, Keith continued meeting with the development class, and one night he became so bored that he fell asleep. When he awoke later in the evening, he says, I was told that I had been in trance and that objects in the room had moved about in the air and deceased relatives of people present had spoken through me. After this initial experience, he went into trance every week, and his development proceeded at a fast pace.
Toward the end of that year a Spiritualist minister from Tacoma, Washington, visited in Cheyenne. Impressed with the potentialities of the young boy who was developing mediumship, she invited him to come to visit her when he could. And so he did, during the summer between his junior and senior years of high school. He held some séances there which were so successful that he was ordained as a minister at that time. Naturally, when he returned home, he kept his new status from his school friends for fear of their scorn, but he remembered the State of Washington most favourably because the hay fever from which he usually suffered did not bother him there.
When Keith graduated from high school, he had the opportunity for scholarships to four colleges, but he passed them up in favour of the University of Washington because of its climate. By the end of his first year in college, however, his mediumship had developed so strongly that his guides insisted he start a church of his own. Because he was only nineteen, others formed a corporation for him, and the Aquarian Foundation was established.
Susy Smith personally spent some three months in Seattle in the fall of 1965 attending meetings, church services, and development classes at the Aquarian Foundation. “For a time I was allowed during séances to put the medium under test conditions, and in the strictest sense of the word and limiting myself only to those meetings that were carefully controlled, I must say that I observed several phenomena that I cannot account for by normal means.
“Because physical mediumship is the most difficult of all to investigate, for so much of it is alleged to require darkness, one begins to feel that the importance of human character should enter into his evaluation of a medium and his associates. That is why I was glad of the opportunity to spend time at the Aquarian Foundation and get to know not only Keith Rhinehart but the people closely involved with him. I liked these people, and learned that many of them were still highly critical in their observations, while at the same time loving and wanting to protect their medium.
“I felt in Keith Rhinehart a sense of integrity and pride in his mediumship; I watched members of his development groups grow in their own mediumistic powers, and saw their joy in their achievements and the pleasure their friends took in their accomplishments. I began to be aware that in order to account by normal means for some of the phenomena which occurred in the dark there, one would have to presuppose the collaboration of certain members of the foundation. But as I got to know these members it was difficult to believe them capable of any kind of fraudulent collusion with a medium.
Still, in order to maintain the strictest objectivity, I can only report, as in any way conclusive to me, a few incidents that occurred in the light under strictly controlled conditions. The Sunday morning billet services give the best evidence I encountered of something paranormal, however it be explained. At these Keith goes into trance and then Dr. Kensington purports to speak through him. He asks that a stranger or skeptic in the audience come up to blindfold the medium. First the eyes are carefully wiped so that one can be sure there is no oil or grease on them that might allow the bandage to slip so that a peep hole could be devised. Then wide adhesive tape is applied flat across the eyes and temples, usually so tightly pressed down that it removes some of the medium’s eyelashes when it is peeled off afterward. In fact, among my souvenirs of my visit to Seattle I have a few strips of adhesive tape with the medium’s eyelashes on them, retrieved after message services for any evidence of oil on them. Incidentally, I have also taped my own eyes with the adhesive from Keith’s roll, and I know that it is impossible to see out when the tape is applied as it is done at the Aquarian Foundation. After the eyes are taped, with the adhesive carefully flattened and pushed down all around the eyes, a large white bandage is tied around the head. Then a box is placed in front of the medium, containing the billets that have been written and signed by members of the audience.
Dr. Kensington frequently begins giving a message even before reaching for a billet from the box. Then, as he talks, the blindfolded figure fumbles around in the box and pulls out a card. He usually twists this in his hands as he talks, and when his message is finished he passes it to a monitor, who returns it to the person who signed the billet. It is invariably the correct card for the person!—even when, as I once observed, the message was written with a mechanical pencil that contained no lead, and that had barely made a few indentations on the card. Week after week, cards are returned to visitors, strangers, and regular members of the congregation alike, and little gasps can be heard as they identify their own come back to them.
One Sunday Dr. Kensington called for a certain person, who answered from the audience. He gave her several names and messages which she identified. Then he asked her if she had ever been to a service in that church before, and she admitted that she was a complete stranger. Then, and only then, he reached into the billet box and pulled out a card which was handed to her and she identified as her own.
One Sunday a man who admitted that it was only his second Sunday at the services was asked to stand up. He was then told that Anna, his wife, was asking for Steve and, that she loved him. She was reported to say that a candle must be lighted for her at the table on Christmas, because she would be there. Then Dr. Kensington began to describe a dress, with red flowers and green leaves and dashes of yellow in it. The man by this time was standing there shedding tears, for he was told that he had very recently had this dress out because it was a favorite of his wife’s, and that he had been sitting and holding it and crying. After the service I asked this man what his message had been, wondering just how much he had given away by his question. He showed me the card that had been returned to him. It read, To Anna, please talk to me, I love you. It was signed merely, Steve. He told me that his wife had died just a few weeks earlier, and that the night before he had taken out his favorite dress of hers (which answered the medium’s description) and had sat and held it and cried over it. Needless to say, he had not told anyone of this.
When I was in Seattle, most of Keith Rhinehart’s physical phenomena were direct voices, apports, and things of that nature. An apport is an object which appears after having ostensibly been dematerialized from somewhere else and then rematerialized in the séance room. They are said to come from sunken ships, old ruins, large factories with such vast quantities of small, inexpensive objects that a few would never be missed, or somewhere of like nature. The alleged spirits seem to be very careful to do nothing really dishonest in the securing of apports. This is why, it is said, that the amounts of green folding money a medium would appreciate having apported to him never appear. The first apport séance I attended at the Aquarian Foundation was exciting and strange. I enjoyed it, but gave it no evidential value, as it was held in abysmal darkness. Although two dozen white carnations dropped neatly into my arms where I was sitting in the third row, and red rosebuds were handed to me inside a trumpet, I could not give them too much significance. I had not examined the stage beforehand to see if anything was hidden there, and I did not know whether or not a confederate in the audience might have brought them in. I found the experience highly entertaining, but not conclusive in any way.
The next apport séance that was scheduled was therefore planned to give me the maximum of assurance. Keith himself suggested that the lights be left on. This is not often done because it is said to be extremely hard on this medium to produce ectoplasm in the light-even though he is inside of his cabinet at the time. After the séance, he was reported to have been ill for several days, and a few members of his congregation were furious at me for trying to kill their beloved medium. I don’t take this too lightly because, frankly, I have never been a physical medium and I don’t know what bodily conditions are involved. I do know better than to scoff completely; far too many investigators more critical and more scientifically oriented than I have observed physical phenomena they couldn’t account for.
However, as I said, the suggestion that this session be held in the light was made by Rhinehart himself, and I cannot but give him credit for it. Before the meeting I was given the opportunity to examine the entire room, particularly the stage area, to make sure that no objects were hidden there. There was no basement under that part of the building, as I knew from personal inspection. The floor was covered with wall-to-wall carpeting, which was fastened tight to the stripping along the wall, and the chair in which the medium sat would have to be moved in order to pull it back. The walls were of plaster, with no recesses or indentations where anything could be hidden. I almost took the medium’s chair apart, but found no trick arms that would come loose, no false bottom of any kind, no hollow legs or arms.
The medium’s cabinet was in the outside corner of the room, which was at the outside corner of the building, almost against the street. Keith’s cabinet was composed of two purple velvet curtains that were pulled out on a rack from the wall to make a square in the corner of the room. The top is about two feet down from the ceiling.
After my examination of the room, I asked two men from the audience to come up and search Keith. One was Clyde Beck, who has been a member of the American Society for Psychical Research for some years. The other was a man who had never attended a séance before and did not believe any mediums were genuine. They stripped him of all his clothing and examined him carefully. (Of course, there was no way to give him an internal examination to make sure that he had nothing hidden within his body, but the nature of the apports themselves would seem to preclude that.)
Keith then resumed his shorts and shirt, and I entered the cabinet and tied him securely to his chair with a heavy cord that frayed if one were to attempt to loosen it. His wrists and bare feet were tied so tightly that afterward there were deep red grooves in them.
Now, in order that his audience will not think that he is practicing ventriloquism when the voices are heard, Rhinehart always has his mouth filled with water and then taped shut before going into trance. After the séance is over he spits out the water to indicate that he has held it in his mouth all the time. On this occasion I gave him milk instead of water, which he still retained when the session was over. I placed a wide strip of adhesive tape across his mouth and made marks on it extending out onto his skin so that if the tape were removed it would be evident. This is also part of his usual procedure.
I have learned from experimenting, however, that it is possible to loosen the center of the tape and talk without disturbing the correlation of the markings; I also know that one can do a little talking with water or milk in his mouth, and that it is possible for some persons to swallow a fluid which they later can regurgitate. I am not sure whether it would be possible under these conditions for a variety of voices to be produced, ranging from very deep, sonorous tones, to children’s prattle, to a beautiful tenor voice singing, when the medium’s natural voice is a mediocre baritone. I don’t know either whether conversation can be sustained for hours on end under these conditions, as I have heard it at the Seattle séances.
The room itself on this afternoon was illuminated by several ceiling lights and visibility was excellent. I sat in the second row of the audience, the front row of seats being vacant, and watched everything that occurred. What did occur, in the light, with the medium bound and gagged, were apports. Susan, the cabinet guide—the little spirit entity who acts as master of ceremonies—called out the name of each person in the audience in turn. Then she passed each person’s apport under the cabinet curtain for him, talking as she did so about where it had come from, what it was, or why it was particularly appropriate for that individual. I observed each object land outside of the cabinet before it was picked up.
On that Sunday afternoon, in the light, with the medium gagged and tied up, some fifty apports were dropped out of the cabinet, varying in size from tiny plastic disks and inexpensive items of jewelry and scarabs, to a Mayan or Aztec relic of stone about two inches high, a plain oval rock almost two inches long, a jagged-edged arrowhead three inches long, and several smaller arrowheads. My particular present was a bronze Roman coin from about the second century A.D.
My own testimony about Keith Rhinehart’s apports is enhanced, it seems to me, by a color movie taken in the brightly lighted church one Sunday before I arrived in Seattle. In it the medium is seen spewing from his mouth quantities of small objects as he did in the Japanese séance. The most curious thing about this film, however, is that apports are seen in his ears. I have talked to men, whose powers of observation seem perfectly reliable, who were standing right beside the medium at the time. They saw that he was not by any kind of sleight of hand sticking those black stones in his ears, but that the stones seemed to arrive as bulges in his neck, which then inwardly popped up into his ears one by one and were removed as they appeared.
This movie was made by amateurs and is not too good. By itself it is not conclusive evidence. Neither is the testimony of witnesses, when taken alone. But taking everything in aggregate, and with the testimony of the Japanese scientists to back up other statements, it seems to me that we have here one of the best possible cases for honest physical mediumship.
Although it is usually thought that good physical mediums are things of the past Keith Milton Rhinehart of Seattle, Washington has produced phenomena under controlled conditions which deeply impressed scientists in Japan. Physicists and chemists from faculties of the universities of Tokyo and Osaka and from electro-technical laboratories publicly expressed their surprise in films that have been televised in Japan and the United States.
Rhinehart’s manifestations in Japan occurred during a time when he was securely locked in a specially constructed chair, so designed that if the occupant so much as moved an inch it would be recorded. Before being placed into the chair Rhinehart had been stripped and thoroughly examined, then given a simple dark kimona to wear. He was also carefully weighed, and measured, his blood pressure taken, his urine analyzed and many other tests made. (These tests were repeated after the séance, and the results have been published; indicating that amazing physiological changes occur during mediumship.) Rhinehart was then placed into the chair and tied securely. Both of his arms lay in wooden enclosures from which he could not move them without having his motions recorded. The chair arms were studded with small buttons connected to red lights, and if his arms were raised off the buttons, the red lights would flash on. There was also an automatic weighing device fitted into the chair, which had been especially constructed by scientists for the visit of this prominent American medium. The weighing device was wired to an electrical graph-chart that recorded any of his movements.
Under these test conditions many physical phenomena showing ectoplasm in various forms were produced under white light and photographed with still and movie cameras. Ectoplasm, a substance that comes from the body of a medium during trance, is quite often invisible. When it can be seen it looks like a milky-white substance of nebulous form and consistency. It has been analyzed in a laboratory and has been found to contain human cells as well as another substance that has not yet been identified. During the Japanese tests ectoplasm flowed from Rhinehart’s nose, ears, throat, and solar plexus, levitating trumpets and producing partial materializations. Some of the phenomena were photographed on infrared motion picture film, later televised in Japan.
One sequence revealed an ectoplasmic-mass flowing from the entranced medium downward, then up over the edge of a nearby table. In the picture it appeared to be a long, thick swan’s neck. The end of the mass, looking like the swan’s beak, actually, consisted of two finger-like protuberances, known as pseudopods, which grasped a pencil and drew with it on a sheet of paper. The drawing afterwards found to be a face, recognized by Mr. Mikami, the leader of a religious group, attending the séance, as the alleged face of his spirit guide. In a second picture, taken a short time after the first, so much ectoplasm had come out that it had covered the entire body of the medium.
At other séances, arranged under controlled conditions in Tokyo and Kyoto during the medium’s visit to Japan in 1958, materialized spirits appeared: One was recognized as the deceased father of Professor Iki Goto, D.E., of Tokyo University an investigator at the séance. The spirit walked out of the cabinet down the room, turned around, and walked slowly back into the cabinet. A cabinet, of course is the dark, enclosed area in which the medium frequently sits in order, it is claimed to build power and to allow the ectoplasm a controlled area in which to form.
Some fifteen minutes later, the spirit appeared again. This time he had his sleeves rolled up and showed a scar he had received while in his earth life. This phenomenon, illuminated by white light was witnessed by some three hundred sitters who marveled and wondered, according to the widow of the late Wasaburo Asano, founder of modern psychical research in Japan and first president the Japanese Psychic Science Association.
Just before the end of the séance, Mrs. Asana reports, the guide requested that a basin be put near the medium, ready for him, when he was taken from the trance state. As soon as this was done the medium tore off the adhesive plaster that bound his mouth spat out hundreds of polished agates in rapid succession. After this more agates came from the trumpet that was poked through the cabinet curtain. There were a total of 720 pieces of agate which were later examined by Kenichi Ikeda, a jeweler who valued them at more than five hundred yen apiece.
Keith Milton Rhinehart’s trip around the world was his second world tour, and had been given to the young medium by his church, the Aquarian Foundation, as a coming-of-age present.
Rhinehart in Egypt
By Dr Aly Rady
After I returned to Egypt from England in 1957, Mr. Abu Alkeir, who was at that time the leading Spiritualist in Egypt, asked me to go to Alexandria to meet an American medium, the Reverend Keith Milton Rhinehart. A sitting was arranged with him there, at the home of a Spiritualist of Greek origin, Mr. George Kitroff, and was to be held on the evening of 23rd November, 1957.
Blindfolded, the medium asked the sitters to put in front of him their questions to their spirit friends, written on small pieces of paper, and so I wrote two words on my piece of paper, these being my own name, and that of my mother.
When he began to demonstrate, you could see one of the pieces of paper jumping by itself to his finger-tips. And then he began to answer the questions, either by writing, or by speaking. This went on for some time, but suddenly, heard a click, like an electrical discharge, behind my ear, and about six feet high. Immediately after this, the medium wrote on a piece of paper, and threw it onto the floor.
A young chap picked it up, exclaiming “It is written in Arabic. Knowing that all the other sitters were Greek, I asked him if I could see it. When he handed it to me, I realised that it was addressed to me: ‘My son, Aly Rady , and the signature was Amouna Rady’. I was quite astonished. The handwriting was very similar to hers! Add to this the fact that the medium had never been to Egypt before, and does not himself know a single word of Arabic. He was only 21 years old at that time! After this, he began to give me a long, oral message from my mother, describing all my troubles, just as if she were living with me at home!
Following this, he proceeded to demonstrate Direct Voice. The three-piece trumpet was raised in the air in full light! Then spirit personalities started to talk to their relatives, who were really, and obviously excited at the conversations they were holding.
On the second evening, Rhinehart was in Cairo, where we arranged for him a big meeting at the Medical Doctors Association. Amongst the people who were invited by Abu Alkeir were ministers, ex-pashas, doctors and judges, etc. I was asked to introduce the medium to the audience and to act as interpreter. He demonstrated exactly the same things as on the previous night, as well as materialisation!
The medium sat behind a small black curtain as usual, and the trumpet rose above it in the full light. Before he entered the cabinet, Rhinehart filled his mouth with water, and the mouth was then sealed with gummed tape. I was one of those who shared in this operation, and then put my signature on his cheek.
When the trumpet rose up into the air without any seen force, Susan, the medium’s doorkeeper, began to speak through it. First of all, she asked somebody at the back of the hall to stop waving his hand from side to side. I looked back, and noticed a man waving his newspaper in front of his face because of the hot weather. Nobody could possibly imagine how the medium, fixed into his chair behind the black curtain, might have seen through the curtain, and through the audience to have known about that. He certainly couldn’t have heard any movement at the back of such a big hall!
According to Susan, Sir William Crookes was telling her that this night would be a milestone in the history of Spiritualism in Egypt.
Katie King then said that she would materialise. Soon, light ectoplasm began to form on the top of the curtain, behind which the medium could be partially seen. And we soon saw her shoulders and her head, covered with a white shawl, similar to the traditional picture, which was taken of her, arm in arm with Sir William Crookes, in 1874, through the mediumship of Florence Cook. I saw her very clearly as she moved from side to side right next to me, in the dim light.
After that materialisation was dissolved away, the guide, Susan came again. “Gabriel is here”, she said. “Who is Gabriel”, I asked, and was stunned by the reply – “Gabriel, who brought the Koran to Muhamed, and he blesses this meeting”. Obviously she meant the Archangel Gabriel, who was God’s messenger to all the prophets. I would like to testify here that I never saw another materialisation, or heard about the presence of an Angel in any other sitting, before or after that day.
Messages were now given loudly through the trumpet, in different languages, including German, Swedish, Arabic and English. At the time, I wrote notes down of all the messages, and afterwards, when I made enquiries, I found them all to be 100 per cent correct!
As the trumpet was pointing to a lady sitting nearby, she was being addressed affectionately in German by the voice of another lady in spirit. On hearing the message, the recipient had tears in her eyes as she answered the communicator. After the sitting, I discovered that she was a German lady, married to an Egyptian, and the spirit speaking to her was her mother.
Another message came for a friend of mine, Mr. H. A., who had to be present. The spirit communicator who came for him was his son, who correctly gave his name. He sent his father an encouraging message, and told him to take care of himself. He stated that he was now part of a group of spirits whose aim was to prevent accidents. After the sitting, this friend told me that his son was killed as a youngster when a slab of wood fell on his head in the street.
The omen that this spirit predicted for his father came true after some years, when he was given promotion in his office, and his financial difficulties were removed. Also, I knew that the father had trouble with his intestines at that time. Afterwards he developed cancer and was sick for some years until he died 12 years after this message.
Whilst blindfolded, the medium gave written messages to many members of the audience, and I collected some of them. They were similar to the one I received in Arabic, the last evening in Alexandria, and testimonies from the recipients later showed them all to be correct.
After the Rhinehart sittings in Egypt in 1957, I wrote a book, in Arabic, called ‘A Miracle in Egypt’, which recorded Rhinehart’s work during that visit. Some years later, at the request of Mr. Rhinehart himself, it was translated into English.
The glorious work of the Rev. Keith Milton Rhinehart, and his superb demonstrations of physical phenomena, affected me very deeply. It gave me the motive to begin a new campaign to spread this wonderful truth in Egypt. I began to establish the Pyramids Spiritual Association (PSA for short), which was opened on the 5th April, 1958 – just four months after Rhinehart’s visit to Egypt.
He visited forty countries and held séances under test conditions in many of them, including England, India, and the Union of South Africa.
One of the most extraordinary séances of all time took place in Johannesburg, South Africa.
It was a joint séance at which two powerful physical mediums, Alec Harris and Keith Rhinehart, were linked by a broad stream of ectoplasm, and ten figures materialised.
The séance was given by Harris in return for one of Rhinehart’s he attended in company with nearly 50 others, which went on for four hours!
Here he heard pure, fluent Zulu spoken to a native servant of the house by his “dead” father, through Rhinehart’s direct-voice mediumship.
Nearly every sitter received a personal message.
The messages to Mr and Mrs Alec Harris included one from her mother, who gave both her Christian and surnames.
At the Harris séance, possibly unique of its kind, Rhinehart, the American medium who is on a round-the-world tour, sat with a dozen others and watched several figures materialise, including a spirit guide of his whom he recognised and conversed with.
This amazing figure had a spirit light glowing inside his ectoplasmic head, and shining through the eye sockets!
Then a tall materialised spirit figure, known as the “scientist”, appeared bathed in a strong bluish light, put his hands on Rhinehart’s solar plexus and drew forth a long stream of ectoplasm.
This he stretched and broadened as he walked backwards to Harris, to whose body he joined it.
He next took a section of the ectoplasm to a sitter and told him he was going to give him healing.
Mrs V. Carleton Jones, who was present, says that the “scientist” fed the ectoplasm into the patient’s solar plexus drawing it as he did so from Rhinehart, via Harris.
It was a living force seen by all present, and it broadened and moved in a most amazing way.
Then, in a flash, it was gone!
A further magnificent materialisation occurred when a leading guide of the Harris circle appeared with his whole torso transparent and showing a glowing light within.
His arms were solid and his ectoplasmic draperies hid his lower limbs, but his body was just a shell, with a pulsating light coming and going in a fantastic manner.
Everything that took place was clearly seen in the light of three red bulbs.
Mrs Carleton-Jones said that this séance seemed to dispel the theory that two physical mediums cannot sit in the same circle without cancelling each other’s power.
“To me, this was among the most wonderful experiences I have ever been privileged to witness.”
She has attended scores of voice and materialisation séances.
Mrs Carleton Jones describes Rhinehart’s public sittings in Johannesburg as a highlight in the psychic history of that city.
At his voice séance, half a dozen sitters received apports in the form of small hand-painted cards, each with a different subject.
Each came one at a time, through the floating trumpet.
Recipients were asked to feel inside the trumpet and announced that it was empty.
A rattling sound was next heard.
The sitter then said that a card had materialised inside the trumpet.
NOTE by ZERDINI:
When I visited the Japan Psychic Science Association in 1995 I was shown the film of Rhinehart’s séances. It is kept under secure conditions together with many valuable and out-of-print Spiritualist books in English and Japanese.
I am aware of the articles and claims written about Rhinehart nevertheless he was an outstanding physical medium at the age of twenty-one when he went on his world tour.
I was in South Africa when he visited that country.
He came to Cape Town and gave a brilliant demonstration of clairvoyance.
In the audience were Mona van der Watt and her husband, Eben.
Rhinehart singled her out and, amongst other good evidence, gave her the names of some of her guides which were all correct.
She had no doubt that he had a genuine gift.
His joint demonstration with Alec Harris is certainly one of the most astonishing demonstrations of physical mediumship ever seen.
I know that Barbanell organised meetings in London for Rhinehart and also wrote very favourably about him.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility, as a young man surrounded by sycophants constantly praising his abilities, that he started to believe the stories about him.
He visited 40 countries and lectured and held séances in over half of them.
He was the first visiting medium to demonstrate psychic phenomena in Turkey.
After his first séance there which was printed on the front page of an Istanbul newspaper over 600 Moslems arrived for the second séance.
Spirit communicators managed to speak in their native tongues and give their native names.
After leaving South Africa he visited India then went on to Japan.
In March 1958 he returned to America after visiting Honolulu.
Keith Milton Rhinehart died April 30, 1999.
THE SUNFLOWER CLASS
With materialization medium, J. B. Jonson
John S. King, M.D.
Founder and President of the Canadian Society of Psychical Research
THE fourth séance of the series of seven, and the second J. B. Jonson séance, is the only one of the entire November series, which embraces a record of all the materializations presenting during the séance; and is likewise exceptional, in that it is the only one of any series up to date, in which the full record is reproduced in the publication; and the entire stenographic report of what each and every one presenting said; also the stenographer’s description of their appearance and acts, as well as each event of sufficient interest to be described. I had several reasons for having not only a full report of everything of interest, but for making sure of its being an accurate report in every particular. I had been assured by Hypatia in Detroit, that a grand surprise would await me at this séance (November 15, 1911); and it occurred to me that if I made the record, it would not be a stenographic one, nor would I be able to concentrate my attention upon the presenting surprise; and the individual incidents connected with each and every one of the psychical phenomena under observation; and at the same time take notes or make a full report, and do justice either to myself or to the report. Further, I desired the report to be absolutely and verbally perfect, as only a stenographer’s report could be; and my own would not be a stenographer’s report.
Lastly I desired to place myself beyond the possibility of being to any extent chargeable with interested motives, on account of what was promised, or influenced by selfish reason, or excited by what presented itself to my senses and mind; or having my personal judgment warped, so as to influence the description I might subsequently give to others as evidential matter; and to make it obvious that I could not possibly write up the matter to suit myself, or to give color to the possibilities or probabilities, which might be presumed to harmonize with my opinions, hopes or conviction In fact my wishes were no less my soul’s desire, to demonstrate a truth, for I did indeed most heartily and sincerely desire that some one, possibly a member of this select group of psychical researchers, or some one employed by the class, would make for me a true and full report of the, in this instance, séance as a whole, for me to have and to hold as evidence of what occurred outside of my own written or spoken description. I had not been at the séance many minutes, before I found that the secretary of the club or class was making a stenographic report for the class. When opportunity presented I bespoke a copy of the record, and secured the promise of it, and later obtained possession of it, and thus my wishes, my soul’s desire, my true prayer for a full report–and the said report to bear the declaration, and sworn statements of the stenographer who made it, as to all the matter, including that which pertains to my guide and loved ones, as evidential records was truly answered. Those present never saw me before. I had only a few minutes previously been introduced to them as the official representative of the Canadian Society for Psychical Research, and as such was admitted as the first individual not a member, who was permitted the privilege of being present at a séance with this class of investigators, which favor is hereby acknowledged. I attach the record as embracing all the main features, and being absolutely independent of even a suggestion on my part.
THE OFFICIAL STENOGRAPHER’S SWORN RECORD
The seventh meeting of the Sunflower Class was a notable one, being honoured by the presence of Dr. John S. King of Toronto, Canada, who is President of the Canadian Society for Psychical Research, with a charter from the Government. This gentleman’s long experience in the work, and high development, were a source of great benefit to the class, and productive of marvellously beautiful materializations most thoroughly appreciated by the Circle. We wish to thank Dr. King for his words, attesting to personal experiences so convincing as to impress more deeply on our hearts and minds the wonderful possibilities of this great work, stimulating us to strive together to the attaining of results with ever-increasing earnestness and harmonious co-operation.
The materializations recorded for this meeting are as follows:
A Mrs Moore’s son, a boy of sixteen, who has been in spirit-land for one year. The date being that of his birthday, Mrs Moore had provided beautiful chrysanthemums to be given to each materialization in honour of the occasion. John materialized most beautifully and strong, building up in sight of all, attired in his vesture, having on earth been a member of the Trinity Choir. Seeing that his mother held a large bouquet to give to him, he entered the cabinet, dematerialized the book, which he held, and returned to receive the flowers. Walking beside Mrs Jonson, John went from one end of the circle to the other, carrying the flowers, thanking one and all for their words of greeting on this his birthday.
Returning to his mother, he told her to be patient, and that it would not be long before she would be able to walk. Going to the cabinet for more strength, John returned, stopping on his way to take a flower from the case and handing it to Sister Martha, the beautiful white sister who materialized with him. Standing beside his mother, John said:
“Now don’t sigh, mother dear, nor be sad. It would be much worse if you could not see me at all, but had to feel that I was lying in that cold ground.”
Meanwhile Sister Martha was drawing strength from the medium toward John with indescribably graceful movements of her hands.
John continued: “I have to go now. Please don’t feel lonely any more, will you, because I am with you?”
Kissing his mother and little cousin goodbye, John retreated toward the cabinet, holding in his hand the large bouquet of chrysanthemums, and dematerialized both himself and the flowers, outside of the cabinet, in full view of the class.
Mrs Russell’s sister. This materialization is a beautiful young woman who comes each week to talk to her sister, often giving important advice. At the close of the conversation Florence dematerialized with her flower from the birthday bouquet.
This is always a beautifully strong materialization, being Mrs Jonson’s spirit guide. As is usual with her, Viola had a bright word for each member. Answering the general greeting she said gaily: “I’se right here.” To Mrs Moore: “Hello Auntie Moore”, Told Mr Robleto that he was too sober tonight. Accepted her birthday flower saying: “Sorry Auntie Cleary is not here”, a facetious remark that she seldom forgets, appearing to ignore the member’s invariable presence. Going toward Mrs Cleary, Viola held her dress in position to catch the candy that Mrs Cleary had brought for her. Inquired about Mr Eyster as Secretary No. 2 and instructed the secretary to put a long line for him way across the page for being absent. Standing in the middle of the floor Viola said: “Now I cannot go until you all laugh and talk at once and give me a little brightness. We must have conditions, you know.”
Dematerializing outside the cabinet, Viola added as she was disappearing, “Now don’t all get sober the minute I quit talking.”
Grey Feather, who had kept his medium outside of the cabinet with the class to show that he could bring the materialization in that way, was magnetizing some cards for members, and the sparks radiated from them in a remarkable manner.
This materialization is a most beautiful young girl of about sixteen, and is a guide of Mrs Cleary’s. She always brings brightness into the circle, and has a merry word for all. Receiving her birthday flower and thanking Mrs Moore prettily for same, she went over to Grey Feather and held the flower under his nose, much to his disgust.
Mr Cleary’s guide. This is always a beautiful materialization of a young woman, and Mr Cleary has received many convincing proofs of her power to assist him. Celia gracefully acknowledged an introduction to Dr. King, and walking toward the flowers, evidently admiring them, remarked that flowers gave beautiful conditions. After a private conversation with Mr and Mrs Cleary in the cabinet, Celia dematerialized visibly to the class.
Inez reappeared and took Grey Feather into the cabinet. Returning, Inez let each member smell her flower, remarking: “They don’t smell very good, but, oh, aren’t they beautiful?”
Coming to Dr. King, Inez let him feel her beautiful hair.
Dancing merrily toward the cabinet Inez also dematerialized visibly.
A young woman materialization who is a guide for Mrs Russell. She says her name is Clara Navarre, and her home on earth was in Philadelphia. Also that she is in the fourth sphere and soon to progress to the fifth. That she will tell Mrs Russell when the time of her progression comes. Asked if she wore a white veil because of the sphere in which she existed, she replied
No, we garb ourselves in white because it is symbolical of purity.
8 DR. SHARP.
A wonderful materialization of a spirit guide of Mrs Etta Wriedt of Detroit, and a man whose venerable and striking appearance commanded the most profound respect. Responding to Dr. King, Dr. Sharp said:
“Yes, I told you I would come. I told you at Sister Wriedt’s in Detroit I would be here. Yes, you may tell them who I am.”
Having told Dr. King at Detroit that he would place his hand on his, Dr. King’s, head, when he visited Toledo, he also fulfilled that promise, saying: “I am a friend to all who are friends of the Cause.” With the words: “Here is your surprise, this imposing spirit dematerialized. (Fulfilment complete.)
Dr. King’s high spirit guide, who alleges she is the daughter of Theon, next walked out of the cabinet into full view of all present. Words are hardly adequate to describe in a fitting manner this beautiful materialization. Tall and queenly with brilliant jewels scintillating at every movement, Hypatia was glorious to behold.
She said to Dr. King: “This is the rose you gave me nearly two years ago, do you remember? and here is another. This is the white ribbon and this is the blue. The conditions here tonight are glorious. How beautiful that this was all prepared ahead of time for you all. I am going now, but I will try to return. Just sit down.”
Requested by Mrs Jonson to take the birthday flower to Dr. Sharp Hypatia graciously accepted her own flower and the one for Dr. Sharp. While waiting for Hypatia to return, Dr. King spoke most beautifully of the wonderful qualities of his queenly guide, saying he had always found her the soul of loyalty and truth. That she helps his wife on the other side, making her rapid progression possible. Also told the class of Hypatia’s promise to bring to him on this occasion his wife’s first-born child, who passed out at birth, and who had now grown to be a beautiful young woman. When Dr. King had finished speaking, Hypatia reappeared and said:
“I would do much more tonight but it takes so much power from the medium, and there are so many yet to come that it would not be right for me to do so, therefore I will bid you good night.”
Bowing gracefully to all, this radiant spirit dematerialized outside the cabinet.
10 MAY DONNA.
The promise of Hypatia was fulfilled and Dr. King saw before him his spirit daughter, who spoke beautifully as follows: “Papa, 0 Papa, I love you. I came the other evening. Yes, I am going to tell you my name. I want to be near to both you and Mamma; so they call me May Donna. The May is for Mamma and the Donna is for you.” Asked to spell the name, May Donna did so distinctly. She continued: “You must never feel sad, dear papa, for you never shall be alone, so you must not feel so lonesome. You will be, oh, so happy when mamma and I take you with us. Don’t forget, papa, to tell all the dear ones that I came.”
May Donna accepted a flower from her father, and also took the birthday flower from Mrs Moore, saying:
“Be sure and tell grandma that I came. Good night, papa, dear, dear papa.”
With these loving words this lovely spirit dematerialized in view of the class.
11 MRS JOHN S. KING
(Known in the Records as May).
Beautiful and strong, and so convincingly natural as to overcome a strong man’s self-control, Dr. King’s wife stood materialized before him, speaking the following comforting words: “Don’t cry, dear Johnnie. My dear, this life is beautiful, all brightness and joy. Oh, dear one, I love you so, and the love we feel on earth only grows stronger and more beautiful on our side.
“Do just as I said about my things. It is not necessary to repeat that. About my jewels, I want them left where they are in the safety deposit vault in the bank, I don’t want them given away for a very long time, then I will instruct you about what I want done with them. The single diamond, I want you as soon as you go home, to have set as a scarf pin. Be careful and watch where you take it, do you understand? and when you wear it, it will make it easier for me to come near to you.
“Oh, my dear Johnnie, I wish I could stand here and talk to you, but I cannot, but as many times as I come it will give me more strength. Oh, Johnnie dear, I feel my strength going. You know I could not speak when I passed out. I want to materialize to you more often, dear Johnnie.”
Being asked what pet names she called Dr. King besides ‘Dear Johnnie’, she replied by mentioning all the terms of endearment, which she had been accustomed to use to her husband.
Resuming the conversation, Mrs King said: “You were not with me when I passed out, Johnnie dear, but I could not have spoken to you if you had been there, but now, dear Johnnie, we will make up for lost time. I feel my strength leaving me, and I must say good night, my dear, dear Johnnie, I love you so much.”
12 CONSTANCE EYSTER.
A beautiful materialization of a child who passed out at the age of eight years and has been in spirit world a year and a month. Asked by her mother how she ever managed to get through when there were so many great spirits there, she replied: “Well, you see, mamma, they sang a little baby song and I just popped right in on it.”
Being told why her papa was not present, she replied, sympathetically, “Oh, poor daddy. You tell daddy that I am going to help him and Chrystal is going to help him, and we will make him feel all right again. And don’t feel sad so much, mamma dear, because I am, oh, so happy, and I love you and daddy more than you know that I can love you. Chrystal is going to talk to you, mamma dear, and now I must go. Please say good night to daddy for me, and good night, mamma dear. I love you so much.”
Mr Eyster’s beautiful spirit guide, who always materializes with strength and power. Giving a message to be taken to Mr Eyster, she said: “Tell the dear one to push ahead in that matter. He must get hold of that. If he has to work day and night, he must find a way, for in it lies an end to all worry for you both. I see ahead to great things for you both.”
With a few words of further advice this powerful spirit dematerialized outside of the cabinet, her silver crown resting on the floor for an instant before disappearing.
14 MR STACK.
This is a materialization of Mrs Cleary’s father, who is always convincingly natural to all who knew him in life, even to speaking with a rich brogue. When someone said it was Mr Stack, he replied: “Sure it is, but I waited too long to come. Sure I am happy.”
Being offered the birthday flower he took same with the pleased remark, “Of course I’ll take it.” Mr Stack also dematerialized visibly with his flower.
A beautiful materialization of a young girl, who is a guide for Mrs Jonson. She seemed delighted with her birthday flower, and went from one member of the class to the other showing it, dematerializing with it in her hand.
16 MRS MOORE’S FATHER.
This gentleman materialized very distinctly, and accepted his flower from his little grandchild, who was present, and kissing her good-bye, the little girl afterwards remarking that Grandpa’s whiskers tickled her mouth.
Mr Robleto’s beautiful guide, who by referring to certain happenings gave him positive proof that she is always with him. Sent a message of love to his family, and promised to give him proof of her presence at a future time by touching him on the head. Taking Mr Robleto by the hands Mary led him with her to the cabinet, where, after a short conversation, she dematerialized visibly.
This materialization is the young son of Mrs Russell. He is always a beautifully strong spirit, and talked for some time with his mother, also walking toward Dr. King for an introduction, and expressing his pleasure in meeting the gentleman.
A beautiful materialization of Mrs Moore’s sister, who stood during the materialization of Albert and admired the flowers, removing from the vase the one of her choice. She also told Mrs Moore to be prepared for the passing out of her sister, which lies in the near future. Saying good-bye to her little niece, Minnie and Albert dematerialized almost simultaneously.
This closed one of the most beautiful and satisfactory Circles ever held by the Sunflower Class.
(Sgd.) Katherine M. Eyster, SEC. State of Ohio,
Readers will, in the foregoing séance, find fulfilment of predictions made in the Detroit trumpet séances, with addition of more new evidence.
Dr. Sharp, guide of Etta Wriedt, was present as promised, materialized, placed his hand on my head, and contributed to my surprise.
Hypatia brought May and our daughter to the séance so they could both materialize and talk with me; handed to me the two roses May and I gave her, when May was in earth life, nearly two years before this, thus completing a test of her (Hypatia’s) capacity, which she had promised. This is referred to at length elsewhere. She also fulfilled her promise to bring my angel daughter to materialize and talk with me.
May Donna fulfilled her promise to tell me the name the angels gave to her.
May fulfilled each promise made at Detroit. She also gave evidence that she, was with me and knew what articles were in the safety-deposit vault, which I only placed there on Friday, as I left home the next day, and no living person save myself knew what I had placed there, or when. She also gave in response to a request of a lady present, all the pet names I called her by when in our home, and did so correctly. JSK.
by Hannen Swaffer
In the fifth year of our war for freedom! – Orthodoxy was to arrest Helen Duncan, our best materialising medium, after submitting her to a physical examination that was indecent, refuse her a doctor until morning, ill with diabetes and suffering with shock though she was – and to invoke the Witchcraft Act of 1735. Orthodoxy was back to broomsticks!
While she was giving a séance at Portsmouth, a whistle was blown. Policemen rushed into the room, took part in a sort of Rugby scrum, and, because they could not find the white “sheet “- that is what they called the ectoplasm the medium had exuded – were childish enough to believe that she had swallowed it, or else that the sitters, who demanded in vain that they should be searched, had secreted it on their persons.
Baron Schrenck-Notzing, who spent many years on psychical research, had analysed ectoplasm. Dr. W. J. Crawford, of Queen’s University, Belfast, had weighed it, traced its flow – and even certified that one medium, while exuding it, lost 54 lbs. of weight!
Thousands of Spiritualists all over the globe knew it to be living matter, out of which they had seen built up solid spirit forms that walked about the room, talked with their earth relatives, had been photographed – Sir William Crookes took lots of photographs of a materialised “Katie King” which a member of his family destroyed after his funeral, although some of the pictures still survive – and played musical instruments.
But the Portsmouth police said it was a sheet! More, the Public Prosecutor’s department bought cheesecloth – and just because Harry Price, who had apparently forgotten that he once brought me a piece of ectoplasm which he said was cut from Mrs. Duncan’s body and which he had analysed, declared that her materialisations were cheesecloth which she had regurgitated.
So cheese-cloth, bought by Whitehall for Helen Duncan’s trial at the Old Bailey, was actually held up by Treasury counsel before every defence witness, each of whom was asked in turn, “Isn’t this what you saw?” Yes, this took place in 1944!
Did the Treasury, the Public Prosecutor, or the Home Office underling who afterwards boasted of his cleverness in remembering the Witchcraft Act know that this Duncan prosecution would put every Spiritualist, every medium, and every psychical researcher in Britain in perpetual jeopardy? Someone must have known.
This is no attack on Spiritualism,” said Treasury counsel, time after time. The Recorder of London, who tried the case, stressed the same thing.
But the truth is that, since Helen Duncan’s conviction proved that mediumship of any kind is, in law, “a pretence at conjuring up spirits of dead persons,” public trance has been barred, in Altrincham, in a municipal hall – in case the town council were guilty of conspiracy! More, free speech on the subject is so barred that, when I wanted to address a meeting of protest in Altrincham, I had to do so in Sale, a neighbouring borough. No local minister who was approached would lend his chapel! “It is contrary to the teaching of our religion,” they said – or else dodged it.
When questions were asked about this in Parliament, the Home Secretary was truculent and defiant. When he said that it had been arranged that an address was to be given “by the spirit of a dead man,” and that a collection would be taken, M.P.s roared with laughter.
Little did they know, but the Duncan case had caused such a scare about the Witchcraft Act that two printers who had read about the illegality of mediumship were afraid to print a pamphlet dealing with the subject and planned for distribution in the Commons. One suddenly got cold feet even after he had set up the type.
You saw, no doubt, many comic headlines in the newspapers during the Duncan case. You did not know that it might be destined to rank, one day, with the trial of Socrates, who was condemned to death because he said he had a spirit guide, and with the conviction of Joan of Arc because she obeyed spirit voices, that, remembering Helen Duncan’s conviction, Spiritualists recalled Rome’s threat to torture Galileo, whom it forced to recant, because he said the sun did not move round the earth.
The fact that Helen Duncan is a fat Scotswoman of working-class origin and with a desire to earn more money as a medium than we thought wise for her, does not affect the issue. She had demonstrated to countless numbers of people all over the land that it was possible for the spirits of the dead to materialise, that they need not rely on so-called “resurrection” because of an unproved, and contradictory, story of how Jesus returned from the grave, but that they could test it for themselves.
No fewer than 300 of these were prepared to give evidence at the Old Bailey trial. Actually, 40 of them did so. They included people belonging to all the Services, and various learned professions – a medical officer, a lawyer, one of the best-known Scottish journalists, a sanitary inspector, an electrical draughtsman, and a Church of England clergyman.
For three days, these described how full materialisations of relatives and friends had taken place at Helen Duncan séances, and that they were satisfied about the genuineness of her powers.
Yet, time after time, Treasury counsel held up the cheesecloth or butter-muslin, as some called it, and said, “Wasn’t it like this?
Then I arrived in the witness-box. You must realise that I had nothing to gain, but, although one of the most famous journalists in the country, I was risking obloquy and scorn. Yet Truth is Truth, and you have to stand for it.
“You are also, I believe, a dramatic critic,” said C. E. Loseby, counsel for the defence.
“I was, unfortunately,” I replied.
“Unfortunate for whom?” asked the Recorder.
“For me, my Lord,” I said. “I had to sit through it.”
I did not know until I turned him up in “Who’s Who” that he had once been a playwright of sorts, part author of “Rebel Maid.” You can guess what authors of humorous musical plays think of me!
Well, I told the Court that for over 20 years I had investigated psychic phenomena of every kind and type, and in many countries, and that the purpose of my investigation was: “It is my duty to tell people the truth about the survival of their beloved dead.” Then, saying how I had sat perhaps half a dozen times with Mrs. Duncan under test conditions, I explained to legal high-ups who thought ectoplasm was a piece of cheesecloth that it was exuded from mediums through the mucous membranes, the solar plexus, the ears and the nostrils, that it appeared to be a living substance, that I had seen it perhaps 50 times and that, in the case of Helen Duncan, it resembled “living snow.”
“When was the last time?” the Recorder asked.
“Since this case was sent for trial,” I replied.
The point of this was that, between Portsmouth and the Old Bailey, we had made a rigid test of Helen Duncan’s powers and that the results were so extraordinary that C. E. Loseby, who was present, said at the end, “I am so impressed that I will tell the Court I am willing to allow the medium to demonstrate her powers in open court, and in broad daylight.”
Yet the Recorder decided that all evidence about this test must be ruled out “since it would be under a cloud.”
Before this test sitting, two women took Mrs. Duncan into a room, stripped her stark naked, dressed her only in a loose black garment – the reason for this was that the ectoplasm was white – and then brought her, in our sight, into the séance room. There she went into a trance in a red light in which we could see everything that happened.
Albert, her guide, began: “Something has been said about a sheet. I will show it to you.” Immediately we saw a large mass of ectoplasm, probably eight feet long and six feet wide. This was what the police had called a sheet!
Then, to prove the genuineness of the ectoplasm, the medium moved half across the room, the living substance becoming a sort of rope which lengthened as she moved further away.
Yet all this was ruled out, as, later, was every scrap of evidence sworn to by witnesses who had sat with Mrs. Duncan all over the country. Nor was she allowed to give a test in court. “That would be in the nature of a trial by ordeal,” said the Recorder.
Surely if a woman who is accused of “a pretence at conjuring up the spirits of dead persons” offers to produce them in open court – well, what more can she do? But even if she did so, she would still be guilty under the law of Britain.
“Could the ectoplasm be mistaken for butter-muslin?” Loseby asked me.
“Anyone who described it as butter-muslin would be a child,” I replied. “Besides, under red light, butter- muslin would turn yellow or pink. How could a red light make that kind of material take on a living whiteness?
Then I had to explain to a Recorder ignorant of ectoplasm, how it reacted to light, how the actinic qualities of light which retard photographic processes also affect ectoplasm. More, I had to tell how, the first time I sat with Mrs. Duncan, someone foolishly shone a light on the medium with the result that the séance had to be stopped and that then we discovered the medium was bleeding furiously at the nose.
I also produced a document signed by four magicians after I had taken them along to test Mrs. Duncan. They had tied her up with 40 yards of sash-cord, they said in their agreed statement, handcuffed her, and tied her two thumbs so close together with thick thread that it cut into the flesh. Although it had taken eight minutes for Will Goldston, a professional magician, to tie up the medium, her guide freed her from the cord, the thread and the handcuffs in three minutes.
As a dramatic critic I ridiculed, in the witness-box, the idea that Mrs. Duncan could impersonate Albert, her guide.
Yet, in his summing-up, the only thing said by the Recorder about my evidence was: “All that Mr Swaffer said was to contradict some of the others, not altogether to be wondered at.”
I did not contradict any of the others, for I was talking of séances at which they had not been present, and they were talking of sittings which I had not attended.
Besides, the Recorder seemed to have forgotten that I so smashed the case for the cheesecloth theory that never again, after I left the box, was it held up or referred to.
I remembered how I could have killed the regurgitation theory, had the evidence been allowed, by producing a doctor’s certificate that Mrs. Duncan had a normal stomach and so could not regurgitate, and also X-Ray photographs proving that her stomach was normal. These, I held up in vain. These were not “evidence.”
Then, Treasury counsel, jumping at my remark that I had seen every possible test applied to Helen Duncan, asked if we had applied the electrical controls used by Harry Price when Rudi Schneider, the Austrian medium, came to London.
Treasury counsel did not know, but I was present the first time that test was applied, I sat with Sir James Dunn and Lord Charles Hope, in Harry Price’s laboratory, where the so-called electrical test was used – and I said so.
When counsel tried to force the point that this was the kind of test he had been hinting at all the time, I replied that it was not a real test and that, on the occasion I referred to, I was compelled to point out to the psychical researchers how silly it was. For instance,” I said, “Price’s secretary was walking about the room.”
“Was she covered with phosphorus?” asked counsel.
“No, she was not,” I said.
Then, when the Crown asked whether Mrs. Duncan had ever been tested with a coloured pill – this would prove regurgitation if it occurred – I said “Yes, we tried even that.”
You can scarce believe it, but, only a few months after the King had asked all the nation to pray, Treasury counsel, referring to the fact that séances are often opened with prayer, asked: “Would not prayer make the sitters more receptive?”
“Would prayer make people receptive to the sight of a bus?” I jeered.
“Besides, many people are Agnostics. Sometimes this court opens with prayer.”
Why, even the House of Commons opens with prayer. Does that make Winston Churchill credulous?
Well, we came back to the cheesecloth. This, I explained, would be merely a soggy and stained mess if brought up from the stomach.
May I try to swallow the cheesecloth?” I sneered, wishing to show that it could not be done; for it was hard and stiff.
“We will not reduce the Court to the level of an exhibition,” said the Recorder, reprovingly.
“Why have you got it here?” I asked counsel. “We tried to get Harry Price to try to swallow it. Never have I heard such nonsense – until Price invented this new lunacy of the cheesecloth. It is all a silly invention of his.”
That ended the cheesecloth bunk!
Counsel, coming back to Mrs. Duncan’s nose-bleeding, then asked, “Did you examine her nose?”
“I looked at it,” I said. “What else does one do but look at a nose which is bleeding? Besides, I am a trained observer. My word is taken when I report other things.”
“Aren’t you a Spiritualist with fixed opinions?” said counsel, suggesting, 1 suppose, I would defend any psychic fraud.
Yes,” I replied. “My opinions are fixed because they are based on evidence which is incontrovertible.”
“When you were a dramatic critic,” pressed counsel, “did other critics agree with you?”
“Criticism is not a matter of fact,” I retorted, “but a matter of opinion.’’
Then counsel sat down, looking tired. And I stamped out of the court.
Well, having been refused a chance to demonstrate her powers in court, Mrs. Duncan was sent to prison for nine months; the Court of Appeal refused to reverse the judgment; and then the Attorney-General denied us leave to take the case to the House of Lords, saying, “ it is not a matter of sufficient public importance.”
Shortly afterwards, General Eisenhower promised the people of Germany that they would have religious freedom. But we Spiritualists have not got it!
Why, at Redhill, nine months after the Duncan case, the police banned mediumship in the borough!
A few weeks later, I met Herbert Morrison (Home Secretary) in the Ivy Restaurant. We had a friendly argument about my various criticisms of him. Then, at the end, he said, with a grin, “Well, I’ll see you on the Other Side.”
“Herbert,” I replied, “you are on the other side.”
Since then Morrison has changed his mind. A deputation of M.P.’s led by Clement Davies, who spoke for all the Liberal Party, went to see him to explain the disabilities suffered by Spiritualists.
In consequence, Morrison went so far as to say – and this was only a few weeks after he denied that we suffered any – that he understood our grievances, and that it should not be found impossible, when Parliament had time, to get through a non-controversial Bill guaranteeing Spiritualists their religious freedom.