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Adela Rogers St. Johns , A Famous Journalist, Explored Mediumship

Posted on 21 May 2018, 8:29

Grieving the World War II death of her son Bill, Adela Rogers St. Johns (1894-1988), a renowned American journalist and screenwriter, contacted Eileen Garrett, the most famous medium of the day, not telling her why she wanted to meet with her.  Shortly after the grieving mother entered Garrett’s Manhattan apartment, the medium said, “Well, here’s Bill.”  As far as St. Johns (below) knew, Garrett did not know she had a son named Bill.  Clairvoyantly looking high up at the otherwise invisible figure of Bill, Garrett said he appeared to be wearing a British uniform.  In fact, Bill, who stood 6-7, was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he joined before the United States entered the war.


St. Johns told of her experiences with Garrett in her book, No Goodbyes, published in 1981.  She stated that Garrett probably had the most “commanding presence” she had ever encountered in a woman.  And, she had known many dynamic women, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Wallis Simpson, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Jeane Dixon, Ethel Barrymore, and Gloria Swanson, to name just some.
Through Garrett, Bill asked his mother to stop grieving for him so that he could get on with his life.  “Pray for me, Mama.  Pray for all of us here.  It helps us advance,” Garrett transmitted.  St. Johns noted that Bill was the only one of her children who called her “Mama.” A debunker would say that Garrett had prior information, but St. Johns did not think so.

Before St. Johns left Garrett’s apartment, Garrett (below) told her that the person waiting downstairs in the lobby for her had mediumistic abilities and could further contact Bill for her, if necessary.  In fact, St. Johns’ adult daughter, Elaine St. Johns, was waiting in the lobby, but she did not know how Garrett knew that, nor did St. Johns have any idea that her daughter had such a gift.  Elaine, also ignorant of her ability, was brought upstairs to meet Garrett, who explained automatic writing to her.  She further mentioned that it was Bill who told her that his sister had the faculty for automatic writing.


Until her visit with Garrett, St. Johns’ interest in psychic matters had been casual.  She recalled that when Elaine was only four years old she shocked her by telling her that Ross wanted her (St. Johns) to tell his mother that he can’t come to the attic.  Ross was identified as Ross Snyder, the son of the mayor of Los Angeles, where St. Johns lived and worked at the time.  He had been killed on a World War I battlefield.  Although Elaine had never met Ross, she provided other evidential information about him, and St. Johns felt compelled to invite Mrs. Snyder to tea and tell her about the messages. 

Upon hearing of her son’s message concerning the attic, Mrs. Snyder fainted.  When she came to, she explained to St. Johns that she had for months kept Ross’s room as he had left it before he entered the Army.  However, his belonging were eventually moved to the attic and she would go in secrecy to try to get a message from Ross. She told nobody, not even her husband, about her attempts to communicate with Ross.

There had been no other indication over the next 20 years that Elaine had any kind of psychic ability, and Elaine was somewhat reluctant to give automatic writing a try. However, at her mother’s insistence, Elaine made an attempt, failing several times before finally establishing contact with her brother.  Concerned that she was imagining the responses, Elaine asked for something evidential.  The pencil wrote, “The lady in the picture is my bombardier’s mother.”  Neither Elaine nor her mother knew what picture Bill was referring to.  Some days later, St. Johns received a letter from Bill’s commanding officer, explaining how Bill kept his damaged plane flying while ordering his crew to bail out before crashing into some farm land. She also received a letter with a photo from Bill’s navigator.  It was of Bill’s flag-draped casket with his crew standing around at attention.  There was also an attractive matronly woman in the photo.  St. Johns wrote to the navigator to thank him and request the identity of the woman in the photo.  The navigator wrote back that it was the bombardier’s mother.

Word of Elaine’s gift got around.  One day, a German refugee, who had been a writer in her homeland, approached St. Johns at a press club meeting in New York and asked her if Elaine might be able to get a message from her deceased husband, who had been a successful surgeon.  The request was passed on to Elaine, who, with pencil in hand, gave Bill the man’s name and asked her brother if he could contact the man and get a message from him for his wife. Shortly thereafter, the pencil took off, writing page after page, initially in English but then in German, complete with umlaut marks over certain vowels.  “Bela, my madonna, I made such a mistake,” the writing began.  When St. Johns passed the writing on to the grieving widow, she was informed that her husband had frequently referred to her as his Madonna, and had committed suicide.

Still another interesting experience involved Billy deBeck, the artist who created the “Barney Google” cartoon.  After deBeck’s death from cancer, his wife Mary was heartbroken.  While having lunch with Mary, St. Johns told her friend about Elaine’s ability.  When Elaine was asked to see if she could get a message from Billy, the pencil didn’t write.  Instead, it began to sketch.  It was a drawing of a woman walking a dog on a leash.  However, the woman had no feet. When the experience was related to Mary deBeck, she excitedly explained that Billy had some kind of mental block against drawing feet and would always have an assistant draw the feet of his cartoon characters.
When Mac, Elaine’s adopted brother, heard of her automatic writing, he called it all nonsense and demanded that Bill, his best friend as well as his older brother, give him some evidence.  Elaine sat down at the table with pencil and received a lot of gibberish.  Elaine sensed that Bill was laughing, after which Bill asked Mac to put out his hands.  Mac did so and watched his fingers curl up into a fist and then begin to shake, all outside of his control.  It was apparently enough to convince Mac that Bill was there. 

After marrying Paul Gallico, a famous writer, Elaine and her husband traveled in Europe. They struggled with language differences in every country, except Germany.  Somehow Elaine communicated fluently in German, although she didn’t realize she was hearing or speaking German until her husband commented on it and asked why she had never told him that she spoke German.  She informed him that she wasn’t aware she could speak or understand German.  It all seemed like English to her. Upon leaving Germany, she could no longer speak or understand the language. 

St. Johns also recalled a strange communication coming to her through Eileen Garrett from Eddie Rickenbacker, a highly decorated World War I fighter pilot.  When in New York City, she and Rickenbacker frequently dined together and attended various functions.  On one occasion, as they were on their way to a hotel in a taxi, Rickenbacker told the taxi driver to stop and let them out, that they would walk the last two miles to the hotel.  The long walk angered St. Johns and she made no secret of it.  Some time later, after the start of World War II, Rickenbacker was doing defense work for the Secretary of War when the plane he was a passenger on went down in the Pacific. Indications were that nobody survived the crash.

Two weeks after the plane’s disappearance, St. Johns received a telephone call from Garrett, telling her that she received a message that read, “Tell Adela I’m sorry I made her get out of the taxi and walk – but I’d do the same thing all over again.”  Garrett said she did not know who the message was from, but she was sure the person is alive. After 23 days in a life raft, Rickenbacker and six others were found alive.  When St. Johns next saw him she asked him about the message.  He said he didn’t even know who Eileen Garrett was, although he recalled thinking about the taxi incident and how annoyed St. Johns had been while adrift in the ocean.

“It is understandable, I suppose, that there should be so many skeptics,” St. Johns concludes the book.  “We live in an age when people question everything.  Often, however, people are unwilling to accept the answers.  This is particularly true in the area of psychic experience, especially with the experience of contact with someone we regard as dead.  Most people believe that there is an existence of some kind after death, but the confusion sets in when they try to define that existence and its relationship, if any, with those of us who are living. Either people become too simplistic or too mystical, and one result of this can be doubt.” 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post: June 4


I have always loved Adela Rogers St Johns and this book was fabulous when I first read it in the 1980’s. My mother and I both read the book.  My mother and I had had many uncanny things happen to us that were very similar. Some time later, My mother and I were on a vacation up the coast and stopped to have lunch and somehow got on the subject of this book. It was August 10, 1988. I mentioned that I thought Adela Rogers St Johns may have lived in the same city where we were dining. We spent a few minutes taking about the book and it’s impact on us. My mother mentioned some of her other books and what a gifted writer St Johns was. Then we continues our drive up the coast to Hearst castle. The next day we read I. The paper that Adela Rogers St Johns had passed away the day before at the age of 94, in the town where we were dining. Just seemed strange to us that we would bring her up out of the blue.

Jacquie, Fri 6 Sep, 10:42


Given that our minds seem to be somehow connected or at least able in circumstances to connect, this suggests that both super psi and survival of consciousness after physical death might be happening.

Jon, Thu 24 May, 16:46

Thank you for retrieving the book and looking into the sentiment behind the communication.  Yes, it makes sense that it could have been a subliminal / higher-self message from Rickenbaker that he was not aware of consciously, also the medium may have picked up the distressing message for St John and attached meaning to it.  Both in my opinion are possible though the first explanation is more interesting.  In any case it is also interesting that Garrett only picked up on the communication intended for St John.  No doubt a man contemplating death thinks through many issues and regrets.  However, Garrett seems to have only picked-up what was relevant to her friend / client unless the rest of the communication was omitted by St John.

I look forward to your next blog on the living-to-living communication and any patterns and theories that may be gleaned.  It sounds like much of these communications may not be consciously intended by the communicator - possibly because we do not assume such ways of communication are available to us.  I wonder also if there may be some literature available perhaps on tribal cultures (Indian Americans) that may have used telepathy with greater intention. 

Finally, I think that living-to-living telepathy gives more credence to the deceased-to-living communication.  The mechanism is demonstrated.  Many thanks.

Maryam, Thu 24 May, 10:23

Maryam and Tricia,

I retrieved my book and reread the part about Rickenbacker’s message.  While adrift in the life raft for 23 days, he did recall thinking about the taxi incident with Adela St. Johns, recalling how annoyed she was at having to walk two miles. He didn’t know who Eileen Garrett was and gave no indication that he was sorry about it.  So, it is a valid question as to why the message came through that he was sorry.  My guess is that his “higher self” was sorry about it, although his ego may not have been.  It was his “higher self” that communicated the message, not his “lower self.”  I realize that militant skeptics would laugh at that explanation, but how does one explain Garrett getting the message at all? She didn’t even realize it was from Rickenbacker.  She thought it might be from St. Johns’ son, who had previously communicated through her with his mother. 

My next blog post on June 4 will further discuss living-to-living communication.

Michael Tymn, Wed 23 May, 23:58

Yes, Michael…always fatal to lend a book to someone. smile

Tricia, Wed 23 May, 11:35

Thank you Michael,  for jogging my memory I am familiar with a couple of these cases of living communicators. It would be very interesting to see a blog on the subject and what the commonalities might be.  I was interested to find out recently that one of the strongest cases for communication from living (Gordon Davis reported by Soal 1925) has been dismissed as it appears that Soal had doctored some ESP reports which put his work under suspicion.

“I don’t know where you got it that Rickenbacker did not mean to say he was sorry”.  I just inferred this from the text as Rickenbacker did not seem to be apologetic when he was thinking of the incident ... maybe I have inferred incorrectly.  And I hope you get your book back!

Maryam, Tue 22 May, 22:15


I know of at least a half-dozen other living-to-living telepathic communication. The problem is remembering the references.  If I can find them, I will devote a future blog post to the subject.  I know Kluski had several, William Stead one, Geraldine Cummins one, and Judge Edmonds also reported on it. 

I don’t know where you got it that Rickenbacker did not mean to say he was sorry.  I will have to reread that part, but someone borrowed my book.

Michael Tymn, Tue 22 May, 19:00

What explanation can we have for the fact that the living Rickenbacker seemingly not only communicated his thoughts but put it into a specific form of request ” Tell Adela I’m sorry ...”.  It appears he did not mean to say he was sorry from his communications afterwards, so why did Garret receive it that way?  Any thoughts on that would be appreciated.  Also any similar examples of communications from the living would also be very helpful.  Many thanks.

Maryam, Tue 22 May, 10:11

Another brick in the wall of evidence supporting a survival hypothesis. I love the last sentence. So true. Some people like to add mysticism and ‘spirituality’ to the mix I prefer evidence.

Tricia, Mon 21 May, 09:28

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Facing the Final Choice by Michael Grosso – The editor of my first book suggested I call it The Final Choice (1985). I thought the title was overdramatic and a bit grandiose. I did in part write the book in response to what seemed like the growing threat of nuclear war. Read here
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