On May 7, 1915, Hester Travers Smith was sitting at the Ouija board with Lennox Robinson, a world-renowned Irish playwright. Both were blindfolded as the Rev. Savell Hicks sat between them and copied the letters indicated by the board’s “traveler.”
“Pray for Hugh Lane,” was the first message received. Following the prayer request, the traveler spelled out: “I am Hugh Lane, all is dark.” At that point, however, Travers Smith and Robinson were still blindfolded and had no idea as to the message. In fact, they were conversing on other matters as their hands moved rapidly. After several minutes, Hicks told Travers Smith and Robinson that it was Sir Hugh Lane coming through and that he told them he was aboard the Lusitania and had drowned.
On her way home that evening, Travers Smith had heard about the sinking of the passenger ship by a German torpedo, but she had not yet read the details, nor did she or the others know that Sir Hugh Lane was a passenger on the ship sailing from New York to England. In her 1919 book, Voices from the Void, Travers Smith states that she knew Lane and had heard that he had gone to New York, but it never occurred to her when she heard of the sinking that he was on board.
While distressed, they continued receiving messages from Lane, who told them that there was panic, the life boats were lowered, and the women went first. He went on to say that he was the last to get in an overcrowded life boat, fell over, and lost all memory until he “saw a light” at their sitting. To establish his identity, Lane gave Travers Smith an evidential message about the last time they had met and talked, although when Travers Smith asked for his cabin number on the ship as proof that it was Lane communicating, the number given to her was later discovered to be incorrect. She reasoned, however, that he was in a confused state and that it is not unusual for people to forget their cabin numbers. Nor is it unusual for boat passengers to remember where their cabin is located without memorizing the number.
“I did not suffer. I was drowned and felt nothing,” Lane further communicated that night. He also gave intimate messages for friends of his in Dublin.
Lane, 39 at the time of his death, was an art connoisseur and director of the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. He was transporting lead containers with paintings of Monet, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Titian, which were insured for $4 million and were to be displayed at the National Gallery. It was reported by survivors that Lane was seen on deck looking out to Ireland before going down to the dining saloon just before the torpedoes struck.
Lane continued to communicate at subsequent sittings. As plans were underway to erect a memorial gallery to him, he begged that Travers Smith let those behind the movement know that he did not want such a memorial. However, he was more concerned that a codicil to his will be honored. He had left his private collection of art to the National Gallery in London, but the codicil stated that they should go to the National Gallery in Dublin. Because he had not signed the codicil, the London gallery was reluctant to give them up. “Those pictures must be secured for Dublin,” Lane communicated on January 22, 1918, going on to say that he could not rest until they were.
At a sitting that September, Sir William Barrett, a distinguished British physicist and psychical researcher, was present. Prior to the sitting, Travers Smith and Barrett discussed how evidential the messages from Lane were to them, although they could understand why the public doubted. After the sitting started, a man who said he had died in Sheffield communicated first. Then, Travers Smith recalled, Robinson’s arm was seized and driven about so forcibly that the traveler fell off the table more than once. It was Lane, who was upset because of the doubts expressed relative to his communication. W. B. Yeats, the famous poet, also reported contact with Lane, his close friend, through a medium in London. He said that the medium told him that a drowned man followed him into the room and then went on to describe a scene at the bottom of the sea.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die is published by White Crow Books. His latest book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife is now available on Amazon and other online book stores.
“Deceased Art Dealer Killed on RMS Lusitania During WWI Communicates From the Afterlife” is an extract from his latest book Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I which will be published by White Crow Books in July, 2014