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What the Nuns Forgot to Teach about the Spirit World

Posted on 29 August 2022, 12:26

While attending Catholic school during the 1940s, I became familiar with several of the stories about apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as she was referred to by good Catholics, the most notable at that time being those at Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal, and Guadalupe in Mexico, (below) A few years later, while in high school, I visited the Guadalupe church and observed the cloak revered by millions of Catholics – one in which an image of Mary is said to have mysteriously materialized from roses carried within the cloak.  In spite of the fact that I parted ways with the Catholic Church more than 50 years ago, I suspect that those stories subconsciously triggered my interest in psychic phenomena some decades later. It was one thing to leave the church, quite another to completely erase those psychic stories with varying degrees of credibility from my memory bank at times when I was pondering on existential matters. 


Until I read Don Porteous’s recently released book, Spiritual Reality and the Afterlife, I had no idea that there were hundreds of reported apparitions of Mary over the centuries, not to mention countless other unexplained religious phenomena not directly related to Mary. I recall reading about and even seeing photos of the apparition that took place in Zeitun, Egypt in 1968 and not too many years ago reading extensively about the Medjugorje apparitions, which began in 1981 and apparently continue to this day.  I even wrote an article about the Medjugorje apparitions for a national magazine and reported on them at an earlier blog, which can be found in the archives for October 3, 2016.  I also recall reading about tears or blood flowing from statues of the Blessed Virgin in various places, but they were mostly tabloid-type stories with no follow-up reports and seemingly little credibility. 

The first section of the book explores the empirical evidence for the actual existence of a spiritual part of our human nature, distinct and separate from the physical body and brain, and what Porteous classifies as “Extraordinary Knowing,” “Extraordinary Knowers,” and “Extraordinary Events.” A key part of the evidence relates to people “knowing things that by all known laws of science they shouldn’t know.” He discusses psychic healing, spiritual healing, remote viewing, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, telepathy, ganzfeld tests, xenoglossy, and even spoon bending and psychic ping pong.

The second section deals with the voluminous evidence for the actual survival of that spiritual part of us after the death and dissolution of the physical body and brain.  It includes near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, deathbed apparitions, mediumship, and instrumental transcommunication.

“Is it purely by coincidence that the deepest form of ‘trance mediumship’ – the source of such profound evidence for the continuity of life after ‘death’ – should have emerged in force at precisely that period when militant materialism was most active in the its denial of all things spiritual?” Porteous asks of the mediumship from 100-160 years ago.  “The emergence of this particular form of mediumship was relatively brief, and appears to have been largely limited to the period of greatest need. Mediumship today, by and large, is just a pale reflection of such giants as Mrs. Leonard and Mrs. Piper.”

In discussing the case of “Patience Worth,” said to be the spirit of a seventeenth century English woman who communicated through the mediumship of Pearl Curran, an American housewife who had never traveled more than a few hundred miles from her St. Louis, Missouri home and had no formal schooling beyond the eighth grade, Porteous summarizes a very interesting language study.  He notes that since the 1300s, other than the Bible, no English author of note has gone beyond 64 percent usage of Anglo-Saxon in his or her writings.  From 1600 to 1878, 28 percent was the average found in English literature over that time period.  Yet, in one of the books, Telka, dictated by Patience Worth through Mrs. Curran, the percentage of Anglo-Saxon words approaches 90 percent.  And it should be kept in mind that much of what came through Curran was spontaneous and in response to requests or questions.

“No matter how one chooses to approach it,” Porteous analyzes it, “it’s difficult to fathom how an absolutely undistinguished American housewife, who had never been outside the American Midwest, had absolutely no literary or historical interests and only an eighth grade education – could generate a linguistic production, a purity of Anglo-Saxon usage, that had not occurred in the English language in over 700 years.”  Porteous wonders how anyone can possibly reconcile this with the known laws of science.

Much of the second half of Porteous’s book deals with what he calls “The Great Convergence,” the sudden appearance in the mid-1800s of two separate streams of communication – one by spirits through mediums, and one by the Virgin Mary in her many apparitions – both at the same time that materialism swept over the world, as predicted by Mary some 300 years earlier.  “The primary thrust of the ‘spiritualistic’ line of communication was the survival message – the demonstration of our continuing existence,” he explains. “The primary thrust of the ‘Marian’ line of communication, was to put our present ‘physical existence,’ as well as our continuing ‘spiritual’ existence, into their larger perspective, with the successful beginnings and further development of our afterlife being very much dependent upon the nature of our approach to our present life.” 

It is the second “thrust” that makes Porteous’s book more comprehensive and more compelling than any other book I have read dealing with the overall subject of God and immortality.  He makes a strong case for the convergence.  He further suggests that the spirit world was “intentionally mobilized for this intensive communication effort at this point in time.” (Emphasis his)  Paradoxically, the biggest skeptics on the Church phenomena have been the Catholic clergy, while secular scientists have provided much of the best evidence validating some of that phenomena.

Porteous notes that a number of medical teams, some of them hostile to any form of organized religion, have failed to discredit the six young Medjugorje visionaries. The studies have involved neurological and psychological testing, including polygraph and hypnosis, and some have taken place during their visions while in a state of ecstasy.  One of the most intriguing observations at Medjugorje to me is that of the visionaries ascending a thorn-bush and stone covered hillside (Mt. Podbrdo) in about two minutes (to observe an apparition), whereas even an athletic adult would take about 10 minutes.  One of the witnesses was Jozo Ostovic, the regional sprint champion.  “I am running as fast as I can, but falling further and further behind, and so are the grown men running with me,” he is quoted. “We are gasping for breath, almost in tears, unable to believe what is happening.” A priest, Father Viktor Kozir, also an athlete, confirmed Ostovic’s report, saying the children seemed to be flying.

Porteous states that the same thing was reported at Garabandal in Spain with a series of apparitions of St. Michael and the Virgin Mary between 1961 and 1965. It was said that four young girls, ages 11 and 12, covered ground at three time their normal rate and that they often ran backward on their knees at an incredible speed.

One of the intriguing stories related by Porteous but not by the nuns at my Catholic school, at least to my recollection, is ”The Wonderful Crucifix of Limpias.” It involves a wooden cross with a carving of Jesus in his final agony, located in a church in Limpias, (below) a village in northern Spain.  In 1919, many people reported seeing the upturned eyes of Jesus and his mouth open and close, and the gaze moving from side to side or at times even staring directly at the viewer. Some reported seeing tears and blood dripping and even perspiration, which was felt as well as seen.  The witnesses numbered in the hundreds, including some medical and scientific men.  Dr. Armando Penamaria Alvarez described his experience: “His glassy, pain-filled eyes…His lead-coloured lips..the muscles of the neck and breast were contracted and made breathing forced and laboured…then a frightful spasm, as with one who is suffocating and struggling for air, at which the mouth and nose were opened wide.”  An outpouring of blood followed, Alvarez continued, after which his head sunk limply to his breast.


“Attitudes towards these events were divided,” Porteous observes, “with firmly entrenched camps of both believers and disbelievers. The sceptics quite naturally attributed the entire affair to anything from fraudulently implanted mechanical devices to optical effects caused by an electric light bulb, to the usual litany of delusions, hallucinations or mass hysteria.”  He adds that not everyone saw what others saw and that those who came to the church with the specific intent of the seeing the phenomenon, saw nothing at all. Porteous further notes that in a book about the events, the Rev. Baron Paul von Kleist provided the personal testimonies of several dozen witnesses, including a number of pure sceptics, some of whom attended with the intention of debunking the events. 
In the final chapters (Part 4) of his book, Porteous categorizes and summarizes the “teachings” of 145 different spirits, including Mary, quoting their actual words as coming through mediums or as passed on by the visionaries from Mary, noting their many similarities and occasional differences.  Summarizing the main message, Survival, Porteous states: “In combatting the negative forces rampant in our world at this time, the spirits’ primary weapon is a very special piece of information: Our bodies may die – but life goes on.

But I liked Porteous’s comment on the importance of humor as much as those of the spirits:  “The impression prevalent in some quarters (mainly churchly) of a heavenly afterworld marked by an unending state of pious solemnity, is enthusiastically laid to rest…”

Where have you gone, Sister Anastasia Marie? I hope you know all this by now.

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.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: September 5



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A Spirit Explains Ectoplasm

Posted on 15 August 2022, 8:01

In the February 1905 issue of “The Annals of Psychical Science,” Ernest Bozzano, an Italian psychical researcher, offers an article titled “A Defence of William Stainton Moses.” It is in response to comments made by Frank Podmore, the resident skeptic of the Society for Psychical Research, relative to the mediumship of Moses. Podmore’s theory was that the “spirit lights” frequently reported around Moses were produced with bottles of phosphorized oil hidden on or about him.  He claimed that Moses (below) had pretty much indicted himself by writing about a mishap that occurred during September 1873, as it suggested that a bottle had accidentally been broken.


The charges against Moses were made by Podmore in his book Modern Spiritualism, published in 1904, some 12 years after Moses’s death. He draws from Moses’s own written account of the incident, which reads, “Suddenly there arose from below me, apparently under the table, or near the floor, right under my own nose, a cloud of luminous smoke, just like phosphorus. It fumed up in great clouds, until I seemed to be on fire, and rushed from the room in a panic. I was fairly frightened, and could not tell what was happening. I rushed to the door and opened it, and so to the front door. My hands seemed to be ablaze and left their impress on the door and handles. It blazed for a while after I had touched it, but soon went out, and no smell or trace remained. … There seemed to be no end of smoke. It smelled distinctly phosphoric, but the smell evaporated as soon as I got out of the room into the air.”

The “clouds of luminous smoke” were likely what later came to be called ectoplasm.  Researchers reported it coming in various forms from vaporish to a thick milky-like substance.  Around the same time, Sir William Crookes, a renowned chemist, observed it with medium D. D. Home and referred to it as “psychic force,” a name given to it by lawyer Serjeant Cox, a fellow psychical researcher. 

Podmore was not present, only Dr. Stanhope Speer, Moses’s friend, but Podmore jumped to the conclusion that Moses mishandled a bottle of phosphorus, causing it to break. “Now this is what Mr. Podmore does,” Bozzano explains, “... he makes extracts of phrases where the phenomenon is insufficiently described, detaches the case, thus presenting it to the reader in a state of isolation, and makes a few brief comments on it – which, as usual, resolve themselves into cutting insinuations.” Bozzano further wondered why Moses bothered to write about it if it was a trick gone astray or why Dr. Speer made no mention of broken glass, etc.

Moses mentioned it because he was given an explanation the next day by a spirit communicator. It is not clear which spirit was communicating, but apparently it was Rector or Mentor from the Imperator group of 49 spirits. By means of automatic writing, Moses asked the spirit what the phosphoric smoke the previous day was all about. Here is part of the dialogue that took place:

Spirit: “We are scarcely able to write. The shock has destroyed your passivity. It was an accident. The envelope in which is contained the substance which we gather from the bodies of the sitters was accidentally destroyed, and hence the escape into outer air, and the smoke which terrified you. It was owing to a new operator (spirit operator) being engaged on the experiment. We regret the shock to you.”

Moses: “I was extremely alarmed. It was just like phosphorus.”

Spirit: “No, but similar. We told you when first we began to make the lights that they were attended with some risk; and that with unfavourable conditions they would be smoky and of a reddish yellow hue.”

Moses: “Yes, I know. But not that they would make a smoke and scene like that.”

Spirit: “Nor would they, save by accident. The envelope was destroyed by mischance, and the substance which we had gathered escaped.”

Moses: “What substance?”

Spirit: “That which we draw from the bodily organisms of the sitters. We had a large supply, seeing that neither of you had sustained any drain of late.”

Moses: “You draw it from our bodies – from all?”

Spirit: “From both of you. You are both helpful in this, both. But not from all people. From some the substance cannot be safely drawn, lest we diminish the life principle too much.”

Moses: “Robust men give it off?”

Spirit: “Yes, in greater proportion. It is the sudden loss of it and the shock that so startled you that caused the feeling of weakness and depression.”

Moses: “It seemed to come from the side of the table.”

Spirit: “From the darkened space between the sitters. We gathered it between you in the midst. Could you have seen with spirit eyes you would have discovered threads of light, joined to your bodies and leading to the space where the substance was being collected. These lines of light were ducts leading to our receptacle.”

Moses: “From what part of my body?”

Spirit: “From many; from the nerve centers and from the spine.”

Moses: “What is this substance?”

Spirit: “In simple words, it is that which give to your bodies vitality and energy. It is the life principle.”

Moses: Very like sublimated phosphorus?

Spirit: “No body that does not contain a large portion of what you call phosphorus is serviceable to us for objective manifestations. This is invariable. There are other qualities of which you do not know, and which not all spirits can tell, but this is invariable in mediums for physical manifestations.”

On another occasion, Imperator, the chief of the band of 49, which included Rector and Mentor, communicated:

“We have a higher form of what is known to you as electricity, and it is by that means we are enabled to manifest, and that Mentor shows his globe of light. He bring with him the nucleus, as we told you.”

At a sitting on September 11, 1873, Maria Speer, the wife of Dr. Speer, recorded: “... the next evening we sat again in perfect darkness, which Mentor took advantage of, as he showed lights almost as soon as we were seated. He then controlled the medium (Moses), talking to us about the lights as he showed them. At first they were very small. This, he said, was the nucleus of light he had brought with him, a small amount of what we should call electricity. This nucleus lasted all the time, and from the circle he gathered more light around it, and kept it alive by contact with the medium. At one time, the light was as bright as a torch. Mentor moved it about all over the table and above our heads with the greatest rapidity.”

On August 10, 1873, Dr. Speer recorded that Mentor said he would show his hand. “A large, very bright light then came up as before, casting a great reflection on the oilcloth, came up as before in front of me; inside of it appeared the hand of Mentor, as distinct as it can well be conceived. ‘You see! You see!’ said he, ‘that is my hand; now I move my fingers,’ and he continued to move his fingers about freely, just in front of my face. I thanked him for his consideration.”

Everyone who knew Moses, an Anglican priest, spoke of his honesty and integrity, especially Frederic Myers. Moreover, it seems highly unlikely that Moses would have carried on such imposture with his friends for over ten years. Podmore implied that all of Moses’ seances were in the dark, but Bozzano pointed out that many of them were in lighted conditions. This was confirmed by Dr. and Mrs. Speer and others.

Bozzano’s article also refers to other phenomena observed by Dr. and Mrs. Speer, as well as their adult son, Charlton Speer, a professional musician. Charlton reported on strange music about them with no visible instruments.  He described it as something like “the soft tone of a clarinet gradually increasing in intensity until it rivaled the sound of a trumpet, and then by degrees diminishing to the original subdued note of the clarinet, until it eventually died away in a long drawn-out melancholy wail. This is a very inefficient description of this really extraordinary sound, but as I have in the whole course of my experience never heard anything at all like it, it is impossible to give to those who have not heard it a more accurate idea of what it was like.” 

On July 13, 1874, Dr. Speer reported: We had last night an admirable specimen of zither playing, for a length of time. The performer (we don’t know his name yet) actually performed what is called a free prelude; that is to say, a short unbarred composition. The whole thing was most marvelous, for there is no zither in our house, and it is an instrument that cannot be mistaken.” Dr. Speer further stated that they “ascertained that the sounds were in truth evidence of the presence of individuals purporting to have long since departed from earth life.”

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.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post:  August 29

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The Balance Problem in Weighing the Afterlife Evidence

Posted on 01 August 2022, 6:24

Over the years, I have posted 20 biographies and articles about various psychic phenomena at the PSI Encyclopedia website, which is sponsored by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). They include bios of Sir Oliver Lodge, Leonora Piper, Professor James Hyslop, and William T. Stead, along with essays on the Glastonbury Scripts, the Buried Crosses, and the mysterious Patience Worth.  Nearly all of them have been edited to some extent to overcome my bias toward accepting the credibility of the person or the genuineness of the phenomenon.  In other words, I rarely give as much weight to the debunker’s side of the story, as I do to that of the dedicated researchers. After all, the researchers had already debunked the debunkers. Nevertheless, if the debunking side is not given equal attention, it is not seen as a “balanced” report and the editor finds it necessary to rework my submission by deleting some of the testimony in favor of the genuineness of the person or the phenomenon or to add some information (or misinformation) that supposedly counters the evidence in favor of the person or the phenomenon. 

My most recent submission, the most edited of all, is on the controversial direct-voice medium, Mina Crandon, (below) better remembered as “Margery,” whose mediumship was extensively studied by scholars and scientists during the 1920s. Historians and pseudo historians have not treated her well. The “know-nothings” are certain she was a fraud.  The debunking theories extend to the possibility that her husband, Dr. LeRoi Crandon, a prominent Boston surgeon and instructor of medicine at Harvard University, enlarged her “female storehouse” so that animal lungs could be hidden there and later exuded and passed off as ectoplasm.  This “anatomical concealment” included reabsorption at the end of the séance as well as the need for a refrigeration unit of some kind.


Most of the phenomena were physical, including levitations of a table, apports (objects floating around the room), unusual lights and breezes, the materialization of hands and arms, paraffin gloves purportedly produced by spirits, the ringing of a bell not within reach of the medium, a scale in which the weighted side went up as the unweighted side went down, and other strange happenings.  However, the main attraction was the “master of ceremonies,” said to be Walter Stinson, Margery’s older brother, who had been killed in a railroad yard accident in 1911. Walter would speak through his entranced sister and also independently of her in a masculine voice.  He would carry on conversations with the sitters, joke with them, curse at them, whistle tunes, and do automatic writing through Margery. She is said to have produced writing in nine different languages, including Greek and Chinese. 

On the surface, the story seems trite, even laughable, involving no more than homespun vaudeville, but a verdict for Margery would have meant an indictment of mechanistic science and the philosophy of materialism.  The story made front-page news in the New York Times and other newspapers.  It included character assassinations, revenge, sexual innuendos, threatened lawsuits, the aforementioned anatomical storage, and bizarre phenomena, even a table chasing a guest around the Crandon house and down a staircase. 

My submission was melded with that of another writer and the editor’s own research and many revisions, so that I recognize very little of it being from my original paper. What bothers me most is that the key to understanding what some researchers considered “tricks” by Margery is explained in my paper, but none of that survived in the published piece.   

From earlier discussions, I gather that the editor is under pressure to provide a neutral account so as not to offend the members who prefer a materialistic explanation. Once an article becomes biased in either direction, it is no longer “scientific” and is considered “propaganda.” At that point, the materialists do not renew their memberships and the organization faces insolvency.  I understand this concern and appreciate the dilemma of the editor, but at the same time I struggle to understand how an organization or publication can have an unending quest to straddle the fence.  Shouldn’t it at some point be able to move off its perch?  If it does show some unbalance toward accepting a spiritualistic view, has it abandoned science?  It seems so stultifying and senseless for an organization to be perched on the fence for 140 years. In all fairness, I know that some of the editors at the SPR have permitted articles that lean in the direction of spiritual causes. Dr. Leo Ruickbie, whose essay earned him third place in last year’s Bigelow Institute Consciousness Studies contest, is one example.       

As I recall, William Stainton Moses, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Vice-Admiral W. Usborne Moore and Dennis Bradley all had the same concern and resigned from the organization.     

I justify my bias by saying that I am only interested in writing about people or phenomena who have, or which have, been judged authentic by researchers.  If the research pointed to the person being a charlatan or the phenomenon being fraudulent, it doesn’t interest me enough to write about it. I guess that makes me a propagandist in the dictionary sense of the word, i.e., someone who promotes an idea with zeal, even if modern-day politics has given a negative slant to the word. 

In the introduction to my book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper, I explain that I am presenting the case for Piper as a lawyer might present a case for his client in a court of law.  I focused on her many “hits,” and mentioned only a few of her “misses.”  I assumed that the intelligent reader would see that her hits went far beyond chance guessing, coincidence, or advance research by Mrs. Piper and tried to point out that mediums are not infallible living saints.  If I were writing a book about Babe Ruth, I’d focus on his 714 home runs, not his 1,330 strikeouts. However, the problem there is that most people don’t know how difficult it is to hit a 90-100 mph fastball or a breaking ball.  It looks much easier than it is.   

It’s not just the SPR.  I recall being asked by a college professor putting together an encyclopedia on psychic matters to write 5,000 words on levitations.  I did so, but it was unacceptable to him because I didn’t have enough information in the essay on the debunker’s view of it all.  He asked me to revise the submission by adding more research opposed to levitations.  Since I was asked to keep it at 5,000 words, that meant deleting 2,000 or more words supporting levitation and adding the research opposed to it.  However, I was unable to find any research opposed to it, only comments by fundamentalists of science saying it defies the laws of gravity and is not possible, or they offer theories on how the “trick” could have been carried out.  It didn’t amount to much more than 100 words, and so I gave up on that project. I do wonder how a researcher goes about proving that levitation is not possible.

About 20 years ago, I interviewed Dr. Gary Schwartz, a research professor at the University of Arizona and author of the 2002 book, The Afterlife Experiments.  He mentioned that when he was asked to appear on television for interviews to discuss his research, the program producers would always call in a paid skeptic to present the other side, suggesting that Schwartz was on the side of the mediums he had studied because he validated them. Schwartz should have been interviewed as the judge in the case, not as an advocate for the medium.  He had already dealt with the arguments of the paid skeptic. And so it should have been with all the researchers cited in my essay on levitations. 

My essay on Margery included prior research with other mediums, namely Eusapia Palladino. Kathleen Goligher, and Rudi Schneider, which if understood and accepted, would have pulled the carpet out from under the naysayers in the Margery case.  However, that was all deleted from the final product. 

The research with Palladino was some two decades before Margery came on the scene and included reports on movements well away from her reach.  That is, her fingers, hands, and feet seemed to be moving in harmony with activity distant from her, something of a puppet effect resulting from invisible ectoplasmic “strings” between the medium and the object. “When [Professor Oscar] Scarpa held Palladino’s feet in his hands, he always felt her legs moving in synchrony with ongoing displacements of the table or chair,” reported Professor Filippo Bottazi, who referred to the action as “‘synchrony.”

Adding to that is research by Dr. Karl Gruber, as reported in my blog here of March 14.  Gruber, a German physician, biologist, and zoologist, explained that, in his research involving more than 100 experiments with Rudi Schneider, he observed “synchronous movements” between the medium and objects out of his reach.  “This fact has been repeatedly misunderstood by the skeptical, who have seen in it the unmasking of a frightened medium,” he wrote in the May 1926 issues of the Journal of The American Society for Psychical Research.

Gruber cited the reports 0f Dr. William Crawford, a mechanical engineer who carried out 87 experiments with Irish medium Kathleen Goligher and reported on objects out of Goligher’s reach being moved by “psychic rods,” which apparently were made of what others called “ectoplasm.”  They originated with what Crawford referred to as “operators,” which he took to be discarnate human beings. “These particular mechanical reactions cause her to make slight involuntary motions with her feet, motions which a careless observer would set down as imposture,” Crawford wrote.

It was just such movement that contributed significantly to some researchers, as well as Houdini, the magician, condemning Margery, but there is no mention of any of this research in the PSI Encyclopedia on Margery.  Also cut from my submission were most of my comments about Dr. Mark W. Richardson, a professor of medicine at Harvard who is credited with developing a vaccine for typhus.  Although I was unable to determine how many of Margery’s sittings Richardson attended, indications are that he attended nearly all of them, probably well over one-hundred, maybe as many as two-hundred. He also carried out various tests with her to confirm that the “voice” of her deceased brother, Walter, was not coming from Margery’s body.  Even though Richardson was said to be a good friend of Dr. Crandon’s, it is difficult to believe that he could have been fooled so many times or would have collaborated with Crandon in a hoax of this magnitude for years.  If he knew that Margery was a trickster, didn’t he have better things to do?  In concluding his report on the series of sittings in which Margery produced Chinese script, Richardson wrote:

“… there comes a point at which this hypothesis of universal confederacy must stop; or if not this, that the entire present report may be dismissed off-hand as a deliberate fabrication in the interests of false mediumship. I respectfully submit that no critic who hesitates at this logical climax may by any means escape the hypothesis of validity. If the present paper is worthy of and if it receives the slightest degree of respectful attention, the facts which it chronicles must constitute proof of the existence of Margery’s supernormal faculties, and the strongest sort of evidence that these work through the agency of her deceased brother Walter.”


Dr. Mark Richardson testing Margery’s voice

Margery emerges as an attractive blue-eyed blonde, charming, giddy, outgoing to the extent of being flirtatious, and otherwise fitting the “flapper”’ stereotype of the era. She was definitely not the saintly type. When called a charlatan, she reacted with indignation at times, but laughed it off at other times. Although debatable, as so much of the story is, Margery’s flippant attitude may have extended to suggesting that if Walter, her deceased brother, was unable to produce phenomena on a particular night, which was sometimes the case, that one of her friends should go ahead and produce something fraudulent to please those in attendance.  Even if that story is true, it suggests that Margery produced genuine phenomena some, or most, of the time. 

The encyclopedic entry ends with a comment about a “negative” verdict by a committee of five.  To me, a negative verdict is one that judged Margery a fraud.  The verdict was “inconclusive,” not negative.  One of the five committee members voted in favor of Margery and one (Houdini) against her.  The other three said further investigation was necessary.  In effect, it was a “hung jury.”

The words of the renowned Italian researcher Ernesto Bozzano were not included in my submission, as I came upon them later.  He wrote, “It is true that amongst private mediums one occasionally finds persons so imbued with the spirit of sacrifice in the cause of science that they will undergo any kind of humiliation which may be inflicted on them. Such people deserve an honoured place among the saints and martyrs of a future metapsychic calendar, and in saying this, I have in mind that American lady – ‘Margery’ (Mrs. Crandon) – and her worthy husband Dr. L. Crandon.  They submitted themselves to all kinds of tests and endured untold dignity in order to convince the men of science who attended their seances. Such a spirit of sacrifice is indeed worthy of admiration, but one cannot reasonably demand that private mediums should be aspirants to the crown of martyrdom.” 

The bottom line here is that to find spirits, one has to recognize the possible existence of spirits.  Since science does not recognize that possibility, anything involving spirits of the dead must be considered fraud.  It is a Catch 22 situation and so the researcher is forever glued to the fence. 

All that said, I very much appreciate the efforts of the editor of the PSI Encyclopedia, who is faced with producing something that those stuck in the muck and mire of materialism will understand and deem “scientific.”

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.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: August 15


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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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