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The Mystery of the Buried Crosses

Posted on 27 August 2013, 11:38

When asked not long ago to name what I thought to be the most intriguing book in the annals of psychical research, I narrowed it down to three stories: Psychic Adventures in New York, The Case of Patience Worth, and The Mystery of the Buried Crosses, not necessarily in that order.  The first book was discussed in this blog in my April 22 post, while the Patience Worth story was posted on June 17.  Therefore, it’s time to discuss the buried crosses.

In his 1939 book, The Mystery of the Buried Crosses, Pulitzer Prize winning author Hamlin Garland (1860-1940),told of some 1,500 buried crosses and other Indian artifacts dug up at various sites in Southern California and Mexico by Gregory and Violet Parent at the direction of spirits through the mediumship of Violet Parent.  After their deaths the artifacts were given to Garland by a relative of the Parents.

In addition to the artifacts, Garland was given 22 notebooks belonging to the Parents. They indicated that there were more artifacts to be found. Garland set out to find them and solicited the help of Sophia Williams, (below) a direct-voice medium from Chicago.    Unlike most direct-voice mediums, however, Williams did not require darkness and did not go into a trance. 

She would place the larger end of a megaphone against her breast while Garland would listen for voices at the smaller end and relay them to a stenographer.  In his very first “sitting” with Williams, Garland was greeted by one of his oldest friends, Henry B. Fuller, who had helped him research cases of mediumship when he was alive.  Always on the lookout for fraud, Garland wondered if Williams had read of Fuller in his 1936 book, Forty Years of Psychic Research. A few minutes later, another voice was heard.  The spirit identified himself as Lorado, his wife’s brother, who had died the prior year.


Garland noted that Fuller called him by his last name, while Lorado addressed him by his first name, exactly as they had done when they were alive.  He further noted that the voices, which were high in vibration, sometimes seemed to be coming from the megaphone and at other times from the air above the medium’s head.

The most convincing evidence came when a voice addressed Garland’s stenographer, Gaylord Beaman.  “Gay, this is Harry,” the voice was heard.  When asked for a last name, “Friedlander” was given.  The astonished Beaman explained to Garland that Harry Friedlander was a friend who died in a plane crash in San Francisco Bay.  The spirit then gave some details concerning the crash.  Garland was certain that Williams knew nothing of Beaman and could not have researched this information beforehand. 

Two days later, the second sitting took place.  Garland first heard a voice say, “This is Turck, Dr. Turck.”  Turck went on to tell Garland that he (Turck) was an “old fool” for having called Garland’s psychical research so much “humbuggery” when he was alive.  Here again, Garland concluded that the medium could have known nothing about Turck’s attitude, which had been expressed at a luncheon.

When the voice changed, Garland asked the speaker to identify himself. “Doyle,” the voice replied.  It was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, another psychical researcher known to Garland when he was alive.  Doyle said that Sir William Crookes and Dr. Gustave Geley, two more famous psychical researchers who had died, were there with him.  They all spoke and said they were there to help Garland communicate with their side of the veil.  Geley began speaking in French until Garland told him that he was not fluent in French. Geley then switched to English.  Professor William James also spoke, but Garland was unable to understand what James was saying.

More spirits came, including one who identified himself as Harry Carr, another of Beaman’s friends. Carr asked Beaman to contact his friend Lee Shippey to see if his manuscript might now be published. Here again, this was highly evidential as the names and information were well beyond the scope of research.

Garland’s old friend, Burton Babcock, then communicated. Garland described Babcock’s speech as “hesitating and incoherent,” which was characteristic of him when he was alive. Rudyard Kipling broke in at one point, speaking Gaelic before switching to English with an Irish brogue.  William Stead also came through and confirmed that the photo in Mrs. Parents’ album was genuine, commenting that he used to wear the cloak that Garland thought looked “absurd.”

Indeed, it appeared that a whole group of people, including some very famous ones, had gathered on the other side to avail themselves of Williams’s mediumship.  Some spirits unrelated to Garland’s search spoke at times.  One identified herself as Leila McKee, an old Wisconsin acquaintance. Another Wisconsin acquaintance, Wendell McIldowney, also came through.  While Garland had by this time concluded that Williams was not a charlatan, he knew he had to be ready for claims by skeptics that Williams had done some research before meeting him.  It would have been virtually impossible, he concluded, for any researcher to turn up either of these names from his past. 

Still, Garland wondered if Williams was somehow unknowingly tapping into his subconscious.  However, his subconscious could not possibly be involved in directing Williams to uncover additional crosses or other artifacts.  If the spirits could help him uncover more artifacts, that would, Garland reasoned, be solid proof of the existence of a spirit world and, concomitantly, life after death. 

Conan Doyle brought George Parker Winship, an ethnologist when he was alive, to comment on the crosses.  Winship explained that some of them were from Central America – from Yucatan and Guatemala – and preceded Christianity.  It was further explained that the Indians brought them from those countries during the 16th Century when the invading Spaniards forced them to move to California

When a voice clearly announced, “This is Father (Junipero) Serra,” Garland was astounded and wondered if his mind were playing tricks on him.  He was also surprised that Serra spoke English, as one reference indicated he did not.  Serra told him that the book was wrong and that there was only one language on his side.  He further told Garland that the crosses were of pagan origin and that the Indians buried them in ceremonies to appease their gods.  He added that he prohibited such pagan worship but was unable to control the wild Indians.

At the direction of Serra and other “Invisibles” who spoke through the medium’s megaphone, Garland and Williams traveled hundreds of miles through southern and central California and Mexico searching for more artifacts. They were often accompanied by relatives or friends to help them in the search and in the digging. The spirits would tell them where to go, where to stop, which direction to walk, and then where to dig.  They found 16 artifacts, similar in substance and design to those collected by the Parents, in 10 widely separated locations.

Some were in deep gullies, others high on cactus-covered hills far from the highway.  One was hidden in a ledge of sandstone behind a wall of cactus plants which Garland had to chop away before finding it.  For the skeptic who might have claimed that Williams went all over the state planting the artifacts for Garland to find, Garland wrote that this would have been an impossible task.  Moreover, it was clear that the grounds covering the artifacts, some buried more than two-feet deep, had not been disturbed for many years.  It was equally clear that Williams had neither the time nor the motive to carry out such a hoax.

Garland (below) had ended his 1936 book still a little skeptical when it came to psychic phenomena, although his skepticism had to do more with whether it was proof of life after death rather than whether it was supernatural.  Although he could not bring himself to state it in so many words, he appears to have finished his 1939 book on the buried crosses as a believer in life after death.  How many readers of his book were convinced is unknown.  The story probably exceeded the “boggle threshold” of the average reader and was looked upon as nothing more than a work of science fiction.


As for the crosses and other artifacts, 12 of the 16 found by Garland are now on display at the West Salem Historical Society Museum in Wisconsin. It is unknown what happened to the other four.  The original 1,500 or so were apparently donated by Garland to the Museum of the American West in Los Angeles in 1939, but they are no longer in the museum’s inventory and nobody seems to know what happened to them.


A few years ago, Lisette Coly, the granddaughter of renowned trance medium Eileen Garrett (1893-1970) and executive director of the Parapsychology Foundation, discovered 27 of the original 1,500 in a box in her basement, having been sent to her grandmother in 1966 by the son of the publisher of Garland’s book.  The box was marked “Hamlin Garland.”  The whereabouts of the other 1400-plus artifacts is unknown.  Perhaps, they, too, are stored in a basement somewhere and will turn up at a garage sale or flea market.

There is so much more to this story. For those interested in reading it, Garland’s book The Mystery of the Buried Crosses has recently been republished by White Crow Books

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. 

Paperback               Kindle

Next blog post: Sept. 23. 


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Things You Can do When You’re Dead!

Posted on 12 August 2013, 9:30

The crash of the British airship R-101 in 1930 gave rise to one of the most intriguing cases in the annals of psychical research.  Tricia J. Robertson discusses this case in her recently-released book, Things you can do when you’re dead, subtitled “True Accounts of After-Death Communication.”

r 101

The giant dirigible was the largest airship ever built.  It departed Cardington in England on October 4 with 54 passengers and crew, headed for Karachi, then part of British India.  As a result of high winds, it crashed near Beauvais, France, just north of Paris, early the next morning, killing 48 of the passengers.

Through the mediumship of Eileen Garrett, several members of the crew, including Flight Lieutenant H. Carmichael Irwin, the R-101 captain, communicated with Major Oliver G. Villiers, an air command intelligence officer who knew many of the victims of the R-101.  Villiers had gone anonymously to Mrs. Garrett, giving her no indication of his connection with the R-101.  Garrett went into the trance state and the voice of Irwin came though, much like Villiers remembered it.  In that very first sitting, Carmichael communicated for nearly an hour.  He explained how the accident happened, using many names and technical details that Garrett would not likely have known, leaving Villiers convinced that he was actually speaking with the spirit of the man he had known as Irwin. 

r 101 paper

Villiers asked if the electrical installation had caused the explosion.  “No. Not that.  It was the engine,” Irwin responded, going on to explain that the diesel engine had been popping or backfiring after crossing the channel because the oil feed was not right.  “You see the pressure in some of the gas bags was accentuated by the under girders crumpling up, and since gas had been escaping, extra pressure pushed the gas out with a rush and at that moment the diesel engine backfired and ignited the escaping gas.  That caused the first explosion and others followed.”

At the second sitting, Sir Sefton Brancker and Major G. H. Scott, also victims of the crash, communicated, giving their versions of what happened, while also offering technical information that seemed well beyond Mrs. Garrett’s knowledge. “Little did I think when I saw you last that we’d meet again with things so upside down,” Brancker spoke.  Villiers again noted that the cadence of the voice was the one he had identified with Brancker.  “No parties here, nothing in bottles.  But spirits of other kinds, if you know what I mean.”
Brancker admitted that Irwin and other flight crew members wanted to postpone the flight because of the weather conditions, but he nixed the idea because Lord Christopher Thompson, British Secretary of Air, felt the honor of the country was at stake. “I felt awful,” Brancker ended.  “Of course, we never had a run for our money.”  Wing Commander Reginald Colmore then came through and told Villiers that many of the crew felt that the flight should have been postponed because the ship was not ready, but Lord Thomson, also a victim of the crash, insisted that they take off on schedule.

In the seventh sitting, Lt. Commander Noel Atherstone communicated and said that he had kept two diaries attesting to the lack of airworthiness of the airship. These diaries were later located, the second one stating:  “There is a mad rush and panic to complete the ship. It is grossly unfair to expect the officers to take out a novel vessel of this size… The airship has no lift worth talking about and is obviously tail heavy.” .

Villiers informed Sir John Simon, who was presiding at the Court of Inquiry into the disaster, of the information he received, but Simon said that it would not be admissible in a court of law and therefore Villiers’ report.

Robertson , a former math and physics teacher as well as a past-president of the Scottish Society for Psychical Research, has been studying paranormal phenomena for nearly 30 years.  She offers many more interesting cases that strongly suggest after death communication, some, like the R-101 historic, others lesser known. 

“One of the ‘things that you can do when you’re dead.’ Robertson writes, “seems to be giving some kind of comfort to those remaining behind.” She tells of one case in which a woman contacted her and wanted to talk about the death of her daughter, wondering if Robertson could direct her to a good medium.  Robertson asked her to bring some personal possession of the girl in a sealed envelope. Unaccompanied by the mother, Robertson then took the envelope to a medium.  Upon holding the envelope, the medium said that he had a “girl here with longish dark, brown hair.”  He added that she had been killed.  He told her that she had two tattoos, one above the left breast , in the form of two hearts intertwined, in red and blue, and the other on the back of her right arm, a simple rose in read and green.  The girl went on to tell the medium where she had lived, the name of her partner, that she had four cats, that she had been in prison when younger, and that she had a terminated pregnancy, and she described how she had been murdered. In all, Robertson jotted down 29 individual statements and then visited the mother to seek confirmation.  The mother was able to confirm 22 of them, including the description of the tattoos, with absolute certainty.  The other seven were not necessarily wrong.  It was simply that the mother had no knowledge of them.

“Mediums themselves are interested and curious as to the possible mechanisms involved in their mediumship gift,” Robertson writes.  “Every medium to whom I have spoken has stated that they do not understand “how,” i.e., by what means, they are able to “see,” “hear” or “sense” a deceased person, only that they can.”

In addition to those and other intriguing stories of mediumship, Robertson offers some interesting cases of apparitions, poltergeist activity, reincarnation, and paranormal healing. “There is an enormous wealth of evidence out there to be harvested,” she concludes the book. “Do not be put off by the well-known television sceptics, paid to do so, who are brought out to play the part of sceptic as programme directors seem to feel the need for this. They usually hold up a weak case and, quite correctly, discredit it, but that is not the true picture for other cases.”  She adds that it certainly appears to her that the departed can, on occasions, communicate in various ways.

Things You Can do When You’re Dead! Is published by White Crow and available from Amazon and other online book stores.


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. 

Paperback               Kindle

Next blog post:  August 26.

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