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When the “Dead” are Alive

Posted on 28 May 2018, 9:34

In the history of mediumship there have been cases in which the “spirit” communicating through the medium turned out to be still alive in the flesh.  Such discoveries provided good laughs for the self-righteous debunkers, who accepted it as clear-cut evidence that the medium was a fraud.  The possibility that telepathy can take place between living humans or that mediums can pick up messages from other living humans does not seem to have been given any consideration by the militant “skeptics.”

John Edmonds, chief justice of the New York State Supreme Court and one of the first psychical researchers, told of an old friend – one he had not heard from in 15 years – communicating with him through the trance mediumship of his (Edmonds’) daughter, Laura.  Edmonds assumed that his old friend was dead, but was surprised to learn later that he was still among the living.  “I have known since then many similar manifestations,” Edmonds wrote, “so that I can no longer doubt the fact that at times our communications are from the spirits of the living as well as the dead.” 

As mentioned in the last blog post here, Eddie Rickenbacker, (below) a highly decorated World War I fighter pilot, was working for the Secretary of War during WWII when a plane on which he was a passenger went down in the Pacific Ocean.  Indications were that nobody survived.  However, two weeks after the plane’s disappearance, medium Eileen Garrett received a telepathic 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.”  Although Garrett didn’t know who the message was from, she knew an Adela – Adela St. Johns, a renowned journalist – and passed the message on to her, mentioning that she could tell that the person who sent the message was alive.  The message made perfect sense to St. Johns, Rickenbacker’s friend, who recalled having to walk two miles as a result of the taxi ride with Rickenbacker.  A week or so later, Rickenbacker and six others were found alive in a life raft.  After returning to New York, Rickenbacker told St. Johns that he didn’t know who Eileen Garrett was, but he did admit to thinking about the taxi incident while adrift.


Beatrice Gibbes, a researcher who dedicated much of her life to observing and assisting Geraldine Cummins, a famous Irish automatic writing medium, reported on a case involving Mrs. Napier Webb, an old friend of Miss Cummins’ in a 1945 issue of Light magazine.  Webb was seriously injured in a hunting accident during March 1944.  Brain surgery was performed during May and it was considered doubtful that she would survive it.  On the evening of May 25, Gibbes and Cummins were supposed to go to tea and then a film in London, but Cummins had a sudden urge to write.  After Cummins was seated and went into a trance with pen in hand, Astor, her spirit control, communicated that a strange woman was close by but he didn’t know what she wanted.  Before Gibbes, who was seated at the table, could finish telling Astor to ask her who she was and what she wanted, the pen appeared to be seized and wrote “Tid Webb.”  Tid was the pet name of Mrs. Webb.  She wrote:  “My dear Geraldine.  It is strange how my thoughts have gone out to you in this dreadful time.  I am in two worlds.  I am not dead but I may be soon.  I can’t talk to anyone.  I want to tell them things: how I was with B___ (her son killed in Hong Kong early in the war).  He took me into a world so brilliant I can’t describe it.  This is just a little visit to beg you, if you go over to Ireland, not to lose sight of my darling…(her only daughter).  The boys are all right but she is so young…The doctor has been here and I could see that he still thinks I have a little chance – that I may struggle back, and I want to so much, perhaps I shall.  If I don’t recover, promise me you will do as I ask.”

Gibbes replied to Webb, explaining that Cummins was in a trance but that she would inform of her of the request as soon as she was fully conscious.  Webb replied:  “Oh, Miss Gibbes.  Of course I see you now.  Thank you so much.  Now that queer cord is beginning to pull at me.” Gibbes asked her if she was in a coma at the time. “I saw my body lying there and I am still bound to it by a silvery cord – a bit frayed, you know,” Webb responded.
Astor took back control and told Gibbes that he did not think that the woman had passed over because he could see the cord of life still there. But he could tell that she was in and out of her body.  A mutual friend later wrote to Cummins and said that Mrs. Webb was still alive but that she appeared to be “half or more than half with the others, and only comes back with an effort when one comes in and speaks.”  She died about three months after the sitting.

Similarly, trance medium and clairvoyant Gladys Osborne Leonard reported seeing and communicating with her husband’s spirit body before he actually died.  With a nurse watching over her husband, who had been very ill for a number of days but seemed to be improving, Mrs. Leonard took a walk on the beach outside of their cottage.  She became aware of a vague, shadowy form walking next to her and talking to her.  “Don’t worry, little woman, don’t worry,” her husband told her. Thinking he might have died, Leonard raced home and found her husband in a deep sleep.  When he awoke he told her that he had been out on the seafront and was talking to people, although he did not remember talking to Gladys.  “This experience made me quite certain that my husband’s soul body was loosening its hold on the physical counterpart in spite of the recent improvement in his condition.

The great German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe reported that while he was walking with a friend one day, he was halted by an apparition of another friend, Frederick, who was believed to be in another city at the time.  When Goethe started speaking to Frederick, the friend walking with Goethe, thought he had gone mad, as he saw nothing.  When Frederick vanished, Goethe wondered if his friend had died.  Upon arriving home, Goethe discovered that Frederick was there, having a little earlier arrived in Weimar from his town, and then having gone to sleep in an arm chair while waiting for Goethe to arrive home.  Frederic then related a dream he had had while sleeping in the arm chair. He encountered Goethe and described the scene and words used by Goethe when Goethe saw him.

Prior to his death in the Titanic disaster of 1912, William T. Stead, (below) a British journalist, learned to do automatic writing, receiving many messages from an old acquaintance, Julia Ames.  Curious as to how Julia could write with his hand, Stead requested an explanation. “She told him that his mind was not “trammeled by the limitations of matter” and thus he was a good “instrument.”  She further told him that he could also receive messages from his friends still alive in the earth realm in much the same way.  “All minds are in contact with each other throughout the whole universe,” Julia explained, “and you can always speak and address any person’s mind wherever that person may be, if you more or less know that person.”  She added that “your real self, what you would call your Ego, sits behind both your physical senses and your mind, using either as it pleases.”


Stead decided to experiment by asking a lady in Gloucestershire to sit at 10:30 a.m. and try to make something known to him in London.  They were to immediately post a letter to each other, she telling him what she was trying to communicate and he telling her what he received.  Upon receiving the woman’s letter, Stead was disappointed, noting that he had captured only one of seven distinct statements.  But a few days later, he received another letter from the woman stating, “This is more wonderful than anything.  You know that you have scarcely written anything that I willed you to write, but you have written nearly everything that kept bobbing into my mind without my will at all.  When I was saying to myself, ‘I want to tell you so and so,’ it kept coming into my mind, ‘tell him so and so,’ and I thought,  ‘No, that is of no interest to him,’ or ‘that will only trouble him,’ and you have got all the things written down in London that kept coming as it were spontaneously into my mind at Gloucestershire at the time that I was willing to write another set of things.” 

The spirit “control” for another medium told Stead that he had a “very loose soul.”  When Stead asked what that meant, it was explained to him that his soul is very loosely connected to his body and thus he was “able to allow other minds to be hitched on” to his hand.  Those whose souls are closely knit, he was further informed, are not able to be used in that way.

Back to the Rickenbacker case, one might wonder why the message came through to Garrett that Rickenbacker was sorry about the taxi incident when he later told St. Johns that he recalled laughing about it and said that he would do it again.  One might surmise that Rickenbacker’s “higher self” was in fact sorry but his ego got in the way of admitting it.  It was his “higher self” – his “spirit” – that somehow found Garrett and communicated, not his “lower self.” 

All that is no doubt too much for the militant skeptics to absorb in their tightly knit souls, but there is much more evidence, including some more recent in the area of out-of-body experiences, lending itself to such an explanation. 

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 18  


Spirits acknowledge this phenomenon and have had experiences with it.

Allan Kardec’s “The Mediums’ Book” addresses this in Part Two, Chapter XXV, item 284.  See section below, questions regarding evoking spirits via mediumship and responses by the superior spirits.

284 - Evocation of Living Spirits
37.  Is the Incarnation of a spirit an absolute obstacle to his evocation?
“No, but it is necessary that the state of his body, at the moment of evocation, should be such as to allow his spirit to disengage itself immediately.  An incarnated spirit comes all the more easily in proportion to the elevation of the world in which he is living, because the body is less material in the higher worlds.”

38. Can we evoke the spirit of a person now living in our world?
“Yes; just as you can evoke a spirit incarnated in some other world. The spirit of a person living in your world can also, in his moments of liberty render himself visible to you without evocation; that depends on the the degree of his sympathy with the parties to whom he manifests himself.”

39.  In what state is a person’s body when his spirit answers to an evocation? 
“It is asleep or dozing; it is then that the spirit is freest.”

Could the body awake during the absence of the spirit?
“No; if something were about to waken the body, which is the spirit’s home during his earthly life, he would be forced to return to it; if, at that moment, he were conversing with you, he would suddenly leave you, telling you, perhaps, why he did so.”

40. How is the spirit, when absent from the body, informed of the necessity of returning to it?
“The spirit of a living body is never completely separated from the latter; however far off he may go, he is always attached to it by a fluidic thread, or link, which serves to recall him to his body when necessary; this thread, or link, is not broken until the moment of death.”

Remark: This fluidic link has often been seen by clairvoyant mediums.  It is a sort of phosphorescent trail between the body and the spirit; when the latter is away from the body, this trail seems to disappear in space.  Spirits say it is by means of this trail that they distinguish those who are incarnated from those who are disincarnated.”

Yvonne Limoges, Wed 6 Jun, 22:09

I noted with interest your recent reference to the Rickenbacker incident, how his “higher self” had communicated with another, even without the former’s knowledge; also important, the statement by the psychic lady, “All minds in the universe are connected.”

Recently, I came across some supporting evidence for this phenomena. I’ve been reading Goswami’s “Creative Evolution,” how quantum mechanics is involved in the process.

In the book (page 41), he speaks of the Grinberg experiment concerning the “oneness of our consciousness, that consciousness is nonlocal.” (“Local” in this context means the separateness of objects in the universe, i.e., “I am here [‘local’], the other object is over there.” “Nonlocal” means ubiquitous or all-pervasive.)

In the experiment, two people meditate together for 20 minutes with the intention of nonlocal connection. After the 20 minutes, they are separated and put in Faraday cages (enclosures impervious to electromagnetic signals). The separated two are connected to EEG machines which record brainwaves. One of the subjects is shown a series of light flashes, inducing electrical activity in the brain. The other person, who has not been subjected to the light flashes, nevertheless, shows a similar EEG readout. Goswami says: “If electrical potential can be transferred from one brain to another without any signal, a nonlocal connection must exist between them. This nonlocal connection is their unitive quantum consciousness.”

Goswami also discusses the “Schrodinger cat” experiment, with a variation (pages 38, 39). What if two people open the box at the same time? – one a cat-lover, the other not liking cats. Which observer “collapses the wave form,” who decides whether the cat lives or dies? Goswami says that it’s the “higher self” not the “little me” ego that creates reality and collapses the quantum waves into particles. Goswami quotes Erwin Schrodinger, from his book, “What Is Life?” (1944): “Consciousness is a singular for which there is no plural.” Goswami adds: “Our ego is an illusory, separate individuality that arises because of the identification of consciousness with the brain and subsequent conditioning.”

I thought you might like to see this as strong supporting evidence for the “nonlocal” examples you gave in your writing.

Wayne Becker, Tue 5 Jun, 22:23


I agree that this is an area that needs study.  Maybe it has been studied and I’m not aware of it.  I vaguely recall reading of some anecdotal cases similar to the Rickenbacker story, but I did not document them and don’t remember where I read them. 

Thanks also to Karen and Amos for their comments.

Michael Tymn, Tue 5 Jun, 20:10


Thank you for mentioning living out-of-body experiences. It should also be noted that some projection cases have given an alternative view to our personal “state” after bodily death, one that could be considered to be at oďds with mediumship views.

Chad W Luter, Tue 5 Jun, 18:02

Thank you Michael for bringing together these cases of communication with the living.  I wonder how interesting it would be if experiments could be conducted between lucid dreamers and mediums.  If the lucid dreamers in dream state intentionally communicate with the mediums and convey messages it could have so many implications and applications.  I wonder whether anyone knows of any cases where this has been done.  As far as I know the Dream Lab experiments did not go this far. 

Also Amos, I think that the point of the last remark regarding Rickenbacker’s case is not so much about his chauvinistic attitude, but that he did not recognise that in his non-intentional telepathic state, he was communicating from a more loving and empathetic place than he would from his normal waking self.  It’s an interesting hypothesis Michael.  Thank you for posting.

Maryam, Mon 4 Jun, 00:47

I love the stories that have the silver cord in them “Now that queer cord is beginning to pull at me.” Gibbes asked her if she was in a coma at the time. “I saw my body lying there and I am still bound to it by a silvery cord – a bit frayed, you know,” Webb responded.
Astor took back control and told Gibbes that he did not think that the woman had passed over because he could see the cord of life still there. But he could tell that she was in and out of her body.”  Thanks for sending.  Karen

Karen Herrick PhD, Tue 29 May, 16:27

I think Rickenbacker’s comments about his walk with Adela Rogers St. Johns is typically male.  I can see how a virile military man might get some fun out of making a sophisticated upper-class high society lady walk with him a few blocks in her ‘haute couture’ togs.  Most men would think that was funny, picturing this sophisticate wobbling along in her high heels but upon reflection he might really feel sorry that he put the woman through the walk especially if he knew that it angered her.  In all honesty Rickenbacker acknowledged his lack of sensitivity in the matter saying that he would probably do it again. (Obviously now that he knew that the walk offended her, probably he would not do it again.)

I don’t think too much should be made of this. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 28 May, 22:03

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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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