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Rolf Explains How Trance Mediumship Works

Posted on 25 August 2014, 12:00

The best explanation that I have read as to how trance mediumship works came from Rolf Little (below) as communicated through the trance mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard to his mother, Nelly Little, after his death during World War I. 


As psychical researchers came to understand, very few spirits have the ability to communicate directly through a trance medium.  Thus, a medium, called a “control,” is required on their side as well in order to facilitate the communication.  Mrs. Leonard’s control was called “Feda” for short, said to be Leonard’s great-great grandmother, who had died around 1800.  She would take over Leonard’s entranced body and relay the message from the spirit communicator to the sitter, in this case, Nelly.  In effect, there were four parties to the communication – Rolf and Feda in the spirit world and Gladys Osborne Leonard (below) and Nelly Little on this side.  Rolf would telepathically communicate a message to Feda, who would interpret what he had to say, then relay it through Leonard’s vocal cords to Nelly Little.  Rolf likened the control to a typist and the brain of the medium to a keyboard.


“Now, you’ll ask, ‘In what way is the brain like a keyboard for the control?’ Rolf continued.  “It’s different in this way.  Instead of representing separate letters, it represents words – whole words – ideas – different emotions – in fact, you can run the whole gamut of human experience and sensation upon it…Here we have the medium’s brain and we have the control hovering over the medium, the communicating spirit adjacent. Now, the control knows that there is a spirit there, wishing to send messages through her.  She thereupon brings her power to take control over the medium’s consciousness – the medium having prepared herself by becoming as passive as possible.”

When Nelly asked for further clarification, Rolf told her that it might take five minutes or 20 minutes for the medium to achieve trance and for the control’s spirit to be drawn into the physical organism of the medium.  When it is drawn in, the medium’s spirit is temporarily ejected, although still connected by the vital cord.  “Her spirit may travel and have some wonderful experiences of its own on the spirit planes, or it may hover two or three yards away from her body,” Rolf explained. “This medium’s spirit, I have noticed, is usually close, about two or three yards roughly…It looks very much like her own body, only not so solid, because it is still connected by the vital cord, and a certain amount of the power is running away from the spirit through the cord into the body. If the spirit were disconnected by death, it would become more solid, that is, more tangible, because it would not need to put the life force into the body but would keep it with itself.”

Leonard was able to achieve the trance state within a matter of minutes on most occasions, but there were times when she failed completely and no phenomena resulted. Her failures were apparently the result of her not feeling well, having too much stress, or antagonistic forces being present.  Complete harmony and passivity were required for good results.   

“[As] the spirit oozes out of the medium’s body, the control’s spirit is drawn in,” Rolf continued. “By being drawn in, I do not mean that all the spirit body of the control is drawn in contained within the stomach and chest of the medium, because that is where it would have to be, but it may be partly outside her form, looking like an outer covering or husk.  But as spirit can penetrate though matter, part of the spirit may penetrate the actual flesh, and by this contact, the mind of the controlling spirit may become aware of any physical disturbance in the body of the medium – and it is a very good thing that it is so sometimes, because it helps the control to receive impressions from the communicating spirit, and it helps the communicating spirit to register such useful evidence as the manner of his passing over, or anything that might have happened to him in the physical life which would be a good test of identity.”

Rolf gave an example of a spirit trying to communicate that he once broke his arm when in the physical life. “...the communicating spirit would think of it strongly enough to give the impression of the broken arm in the arm of the medium…We find it much easier to give the feeling of it first to the medium’s body, because directly the control feels that; she understands that it is something sent by the communicating spirit, and that can be done in one second.  The nerve thrill is sent at once to give the pain.  This is felt at once by the control, whereas you know the difficulty there often is in getting through some specified word. This is very important. I should think of arm, broken arm. Now the control would hear me say, ‘broken arm,’ but the difficulty is that the control, by being in the body of the medium, is to a certain extent limited, because she is in a condition which is not her own natural one.  She certainly does not hear what the communicating spirit says as clearly as if she were outside the medium’s organism. But we’ll say, for the sake of argument, that she has heard me say, ‘I once broke my arm.’  Her task is now to say that through the [medium’s] body.

“Now, it may be that the medium’s vocabulary does not contain certain words and expressions that the spirit would use, or it may be that the medium would be in the habit of expressing herself quite differently – do you see?  So that if the medium would not use those words – ‘I once broke my arm,’ for example, the control would have to find the nearest expression to it. and at the same time, would find some word suggesting ‘broken,’ and would perhaps not get the idea of ‘arm’ at all at first, but merely ‘limb,’ possibly getting ‘arm’ a little later.

“It is a strange thing that the nearer the first word found on the keyboard to the desired one, the more quickly will the desired one be found. For instance, the control might get ‘shoulder’ or ‘hand’ – that would quickly suggest ‘arm,’ because the control is, so to speak, feeling her way step by step…Now, the more used a control becomes to a particular medium’s organism, the more proficient will she become in quickly and correctly finding the desire word on the keyboard – just as an expert typist quickly finds the signs and letters on the typewriter, whilst an inexperienced operator is floundering about.”

Rolf went on to tell his mother that it isn’t so much that they look for it, as that they feel for it.  Can you imagine typewriting in the dark?  An expert typist could type even in the dark. He further explained that a control can work well with one medium, but may experience much difficulty working with another medium.  Feda agreed and said she couldn’t get through Mary Harris, another medium visited by Nelly, at all, after which Rolf said that Mrs. Harris’s guides were unable to use Mrs. Leonard’s power.

“Now, Feda very often hears the word or name from the communicating spirit, but only when she is not striving unnaturally for it.  The difficulty is so much less apparent when I come prepared with certain things to say, which I can pour through in a quiet and steady stream, than if you suddenly held me up and said, ‘Do you remember your mother’s name?’  Of course, I remember it, but directly you ask for the special word, which, mind, must be one word, and no other out of the thousands it might be, you make the control anxious, and a kind of strained effect occurs in the medium’s brain.”

Rolf explained that it is much like the earth life in that when a person is striving and anxious to find a name, it won’t pop into his or her mind.  But later, when not under pressure to remember it, the name will suddenly come to mind. “The control then would possibly get a name, or perhaps an initial, which would be the same, or very like the one required. Do you remember, Feda apparently, was not sure if my brother’s name was Alan or Alec, but she kept getting Ala, Ala in the first sitting you had with her?

“You see what I mean – the control would be lucky if she found the right name, if you were pushing her and straining her. It seems to me that the power produces better results when it’s all poured through from our side, not being continually stopped and dammed…I think I said before that we might speak to the control in two ways – one, by thought or telepathy; two, by actual words; but in many cases, communication is given much more quickly by thought. For instance, if I were describing a house with a certain room in it, how much more quickly and thoroughly could I give it to the control in a series of quick pictures than by saying word for word what the house looked like, and the details of the rooms, because, as I told you the other day, the control may not be able to hear my spirit voice clearly, whilst she is in the physical body…

“You notice that sometimes Feda is very successful in spelling specified words or names, by drawing them letter by letter in the air – that is, tracing them with the medium’s finger.  That is a third method, but Feda told me that she had been controlling her medium three or four years before she was able to attempt this third method.

“You might ask me, how I show the control these pictures, as I call them, and what is the difficulty of showing them.  Why does she get them wrong as so often happens?  Now, you know that if you in the physical body have some particular object presented to your sight, the impression of that thing has to be photographed on your brain before you will be conscious what it is you are looking at.  Your eyes may be looking at a thing, but unless your brain takes up the consciousness of it, you don’t see it, proving that one must become conscious of everything in one’s brain before one perceives it, through sight, or touch, or any other sense…The control’s difficulty is the same. She has to use the brain of the medium to perceive the pictures that I show, and if the brain of the mediums does not become conscious of them, the control herself does not know, do you see, because the control is not looking at me through the medium’s eyes, or through her own eyes, but with consciousness first.  So you see the reason why it is easier to give an impression or mental picture of a certain place is because one can suggest it, if you understand, to the mind of the medium, and then the control becomes conscious of it.”

Rolf had much more to tell his mother about how things work on his side of the veil.  Rolf’s story is abridged in Chapter 5 of my recently-released book, Dead Men Talking.

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.
His latest book Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I is published by White Crow Books.

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The Story of Australia’s Greatest Medium

Posted on 11 August 2014, 15:42

Having read numerous books about mediums over the past 25 years,  and having written about many of the best mediums, I thought I knew all their names.  However, clearly I missed one.  In recently reading a book entitled The Certainty of Eternity, authored by L.C. Danby, I discovered an Australian medium named Stan Walsh, who, if the author has accurately reported the story – and I have no reason to believe he did not – must be considered one of the greatest of mediums.

Walsh is said to have discovered his mediumistic ability in 1919, at age 20, when he reluctantly accompanied a friend to several séances with a Port Melbourne medium.  Impressed by the information that came through at his first sitting, Walsh returned the next week and was told by the medium that he also had mediumistic ability.  She told him to hold a pad and pencil on this lap.  “The séance was almost half over when suddenly his right hand began to write on the paper; writing furiously as if controlled by some invisible hand,” Danby explained.  “Later when the lights were turned up he found himself possessor of a sheaf of written messages for every member of the circle.”

Left to Right. Bert Jones, Stan Walsh,
woman unknown, Leslie Danby

At the third meeting, Walsh experienced a complete blackout.  When he regained consciousness, he was told by those present that he was controlled by a Red Indian named Malocca and that he began speaking in Malocca’s native tongue, until Mrs. Beames asked Malocca to attempt to speak in English, after which he spoke in broken English. He said he had been sent by God to be the chief guide and doorkeeper to Walsh. Then Malocca allowed other spirit entities to speak through Walsh and many evidential messages were given to others in the room.

Bert Jones, one of Walsh’s best friends, was a “doubting Thomas” until his father communicated.  As further evidence that it was his father, Jones asked him to speak in Welsh, as he used to do.  The father obliged.  Jones then asked him to sing his favorite song in Welsh.  The father complied and further revealed a number of intimate family secrets, fully satisfying the son that he was hearing from his father.

A number of seemingly advanced spiritual personalities began communicating through Walsh, the first being Angus Du Font, a former Frenchman who said that he had died 47 years earlier.  He attempted to give those present a brief description of the world of spirit, saying it was comprised of many spheres of light and nothing of a material nature existed there.  He added that the beauty and scenery were indescribable and that there was nothing on earth to compare with it.

At a later sitting, Du Font lectured the Inner Circle that had developed around Walsh on low-level spirits, informing them that they should not call them “evil spirits,” but rather “unprogressed spirits.”  He pointed out that many of them are drawn towards séances as they long for the company of human beings and need help. He added that they dwell in darkness created by themselves.  When asked why angels or more progressed spirits do not help them out of the darkness, he explained that it takes time – as it is measured there – for them to understand higher beings.  Initially, they understand only human beings in the flesh.

Danby met Walsh in 1927, a year or so after his wife Winnie died during childbirth, when friends persuaded him to attend a séance with Walsh.  He recalled that it began with a hymn, followed by a prayer, and then a lecture by a spirit guide called Vashti.  Several other spirit visitors spoke to other people in attendance, either through the direct voice trumpet or through the medium directly.  “This went on for about an hour, and then a woman’s voice was heard coming from the lips of the medium under deep-trance,” Danby wrote. “She called me by name, and when I answered she said it was ‘Win’!  She spoke to me, and I to her.  It was an eager, emotionally-charged conversation in which she talked to me of many intimate incidents in our past life, of her care and guidance for Ron, her son by her first marriage, and many other personal matters known only to ourselves.  I was convinced beyond all doubt.  I left this house of strangers with my head in a whirl.  Life, it seemed, did have some meaning.  The dull, grey cloud of loneliness and desolation that had enveloped me for more than a year, since Win died, seemed to have lifted…”

Danby befriended Walsh and became a regular member of the circle. Over the years, he observed various forms of mediumship with Walsh, including direct voice, trance voice, automatic writing, clairvoyance, clairaudience, transfiguration, apports, and “materialized painting.” He heard spirits speak to their friends and relatives in various languages, including French, Italian, Greek, German, Hindustani, and Yiddish.  “One of the strange aspects of deep trance is that when a spirit comes back for the first time, he or she reverts to the physical condition which they were in immediately prior to death,” Danby noted. “If they died in agony, they came back in agony; if they died short of breath they came back with the same condition; if a person left the body suffering from a throat disease, he or she would come back choking and gasping for breath.  All the symptoms of pain and distress were given to the medium.”  The guides explained that this is natural for a spirit when it contacts flesh and blood again, to recall exactly how he or she felt just before death. 

Both advanced and low-level spirits visited the circle.  “Weak or unprogressed spirits who were lost or in great darkness, were continually brought to our meetings by the guides to be encouraged and helped on the road to progression and peace,” Danby further wrote.  “Whenever an unhappy spirit, or lost soul, controlled the instrument, his or her name was ascertained and each member of the circle would promise to pray for them also in the silence of their own homes.”

During one especially intriguing sitting, in 1930, a “visitor” from Belgium began speaking through the entranced Walsh in his own language.  When asked if he could speak English, there was a pause, after which the speech then came in broken English, saying, “I come from Dietrich in Belgium.  I am – what you say – a deep trance medium. I come from a circle of eight people.  Your medium – he is now in MY body bringing greetings to them, my countrymen.  And I bring greetings from my people in Dietrich.” As Danby explained it, the two deep-trance mediums had exchanged bodies.  When Walsh returned to consciousness, he said he remembered sitting in a small dimly lit room and when he began to speak, those present did not understand him.  He was shown by a spirit guide, hovering just above and in front of him, how to translate the message, so that the Belgian sitters could understand him. 

Although Walsh apparently had no artistic ability of any kind in his conscious state, he displayed considerable talent in the deep trance state, said to be controlled by a spirit called Professor Jenkinson, whose hobby when alive was painting.  “I witnessed, together with many others, the transfer of colours on to paper,” Danby wrote. “Professor Jenkinson, or sometimes the spirit of the medium’s brother, Cecil Walsh, when controlling the medium, would take an ordinary pencil or a pen and using the medium’s hands, sketch the outline of the face or figure he was working upon.  After the pen or pencil outline was completed, he would cause the medium to start to massage the fingers of each hand, with a rapid washing motion, one hand over the other.  This was done in order to release, or set in motion, the flow of magnetism through the fingers which was needed to materialize the colours.  Then he would hold the two hands of the medium over the sketch and shake the fingers deftly and swiftly over every portion of the outline.  As he did this, one could see the colours forming on the portrait.  Finally, it would be finished, in vivid colours – life-like and clear.”

On one occasion, a member of the circle, Mrs. McIntosh, brought a black and white photograph of herself encased in a frame under glass.  “As the colour stained fingers shook just above the framed photograph, we saw, appearing through the glass, the pink coming on to the cheeks, the red on the lips, golden yellow tint her hair, and blue slowly appear in the eyes,” Danby reported. “When he had finished, there before our astonished eyes, was this perfectly coloured photograph of Mrs. McIntosh, painted through the glass.”

Danby relates many more mind boggling observations in his very intriguing book, originally published in Australia in 1974 and recently republished by White Crow Books.  For more about the book see

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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.
His latest book Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I is published by White Crow Books.

Paperback               Kindle

Next blog post:  August 25  



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Fallen Soldier Convinces His Famous Father of Life After Death – On September 14, 1915, Second Lieutenant Raymond Lodge, the youngest of six sons of Sir Oliver Lodge, a distinguished British physicist and pioneer in electricity and radio, as well as the former president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, was killed in WWI action in Flanders. Read here
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