During the first half of the twentieth century Geraldine Cummins (1890-1969) was Ireland’s most celebrated psychic. As with Tudor-Pole in chapter 1, her particular mediumship manifested as “automatic writing” where, allegedly, controlled by discarnate beings the medium is able to write, sometimes with authority, on matters normally outside his or her own knowledge.
Cummins was never found to be anything less than genuine, and at times, even she was skeptical of the material she received psychically. Nevertheless, she produced impressive evidence that our consciousness survives physical death; evidence, furthermore, that was considered bona fide by the majority of the recipients despite her own skepticism.
The author of this chapter, Charles Fryer, was a schoolmaster and college lecturer who was ordained in 1963 at the age of forty-nine, but apart from a three-years curacy in Coventry, he remained in full-time education as a lecturer in history until his retirement.
He later became priest-in-charge to two small Episcopal congregations in the Scottish Highlands, and a part-time tutor in Liturgical Studies for the Geneva Theological College.
Fryer became interested in parapsychology in 1968 after reading an article in the Christian journal, “Modern Churchman” by John Pearce-Higgins. The article was on the subject of psychical research and its relevance to the Christian doctrine of immortality. Three years later Fryer discovered he also had the gift of automatic writing which prompted him to investigate Geraldine Cummins in detail.
The communication below took place in 1945. Geraldine Cummins was the medium and Miss Gibbes, the sitter. Geraldine’s Control was called Astor. Geraldine didn’t like the term, “control” and she wrote in her book, Swan on a Black Sea: “I dislike the word “control,” commonly used in psychic research for the guardian caretaker of a medium. Mine, Astor, has never controlled me. I prefer that long gone medium Socrates’s own name for his subliminal caretaker, which was “Daimon.”
During this sitting a communicator claiming to be Marguerite Le Hand, who had died a year earlier in 1944, came through trying to get a message to David Gray, the US minister for Ireland. Gray was known to Geraldine, and in life, Marguerite had been private secretary to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the then U.S. President.
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The scripts so far considered in this book were either ostensibly from persons in the remote past, evidence for whose historical existence could not be forthcoming, or from persons who, though Geraldine had not known them personally, had made names for themselves in one way or another, so that she might have gained knowledge about them through reading or hearing about them, before forgetting that she had done so. It is less easy to disparage or explain away the two sequences with which the present chapter deals, since, when the first contacts were made, she had never heard of either person.
The first appeared as a “drop-in communicator’” during a session when some of Miss Gibbes’ discarnate relatives were communicating, and asked to be put into touch with a named person, validating her existence by giving some pieces of information which turned out later to be quite correct and which, if genuine discarnate contact be set aside as impossible, could only be explained if Geraldine’s mind possessed an astonishing degree of super-ESP, ranging widely into the minds of people she had never met as well as some she knew, selecting pieces of mental material and combining them into a coherent whole in a manner for which no precedent exists. If this incredible ability may be supposed to exist, why boggle at survival?
At the time when these communications were received she was in a poor state of health. She had just returned from a long period of wartime residence in southern Ireland where she had been nursing her mother until the latter’s death late in 1944. Despite her indisposition she made a few attempts to write automatically for her friend’s benefit, and during a session on March 19th 1945 the following passage appeared in what her control Astor was saying:
“I must tell you there is a stranger here, a quiet gray-haired woman with a curious force . . . She says she died in Chelsea. She shows me a hand, that is her surname, I gather. Then a daisy. Yes, Marguerite Le Hand. She says she worked for a long time with an important public man - knew him well. She gives the name Frank. She says she wants to talk to David about Frank, and that David hopes to come to this town [i.e. presumably London] in April. If so, she begs that you see him for the writing, not to let anything interfere as she has something important to say about Frank . . . You may know in April, as David is likely to want to see you if he has time. . . . That is all about her now. She doesn’t seem able to give surnames. She seems to have been over here about three years. She says her message is important in regard to future peace.”
Geraldine herself, as was usually the case, was unaware of what she had written. Miss Gibbes, putting the name “Frank” and the designation “important public man” together, guessed that the American President Roosevelt was being referred to.
When the session was over Geraldine said she remembered something about David Gray; this latter was the United States Minister in Dublin, whom she had met more than once when she was in Ireland and who was interested in her psychic abilities; he also happened to be related to Roosevelt. So immediately after the communication they had some inkling of what the message might be about but none on the actual identity of the communicator. The statement that the latter had died in Chelsea misled Miss Gibbes, who naturally assumed that Chelsea, London, was meant, since she lived there herself, and she tried to trace locally the death of someone named Le Hand, but without success. However, her curiosity had been aroused, and at a session six days later she made a point of asking for “the quiet gray-haired stranger you described the other day.” Further information was now forthcoming.
“She was an interesting woman with a keen brain, extremely quick but quiet, like one who had very great self-control and grip of herself. … She knows David Gray. …” When I asked her who Frank was she replied that he was a man of affairs, and did not seem to wish to give more information. I said, was he in business, and she replied that he was the most important business man in his country. … She seems to have had a confidential post with Frank. … David would know her. … She did not particularly wish that you should find out who she was. … That was her habit in life, to keep secrets, and so she was always reserved with strangers. [Miss Gibbes then remarked that she had not been able to find any reference to her having died in Chelsea.] She said, “There is more than one Chelsea in the world,” and smiled.
The third communication from the gray-haired woman was, like the first one, apparently initiated by herself. She gave her name, Marguerite Le Hand, directly without recourse to symbolic imagery, said she had originally communicated because she wanted to warn David Gray that “Frank was coming over,” corrected Miss Gibbes’ misapprehension by saying she had died in Chelsea, Massachusetts, commented on her successor’s abilities— “Ann is very clever but hasn’t the experience,” said again that she had worked for “Frank” in a confidential position, and that ‘Frank” was now resting, “after the passage of death.” This was on April 14th 1945, two days after President Roosevelt’s sudden death, which was of course generally known in Britain almost as soon as it happened.
It was now time to contact David Gray, and natural that Geraldine should undertake this since he and she were already acquainted. She wrote him a letter expressing her sympathy for him at the President’s death, and added a note to the effect that a Marguerite Le Hand had “called in March and was worried about something happening to a friend of his in April. She said she was from Chelsea, Mass.” It was necessary to write vaguely since correspondence was still being censored if sent to Southern Ireland, but she believed that Gray would be able to put two and two together, which he did. He replied confirming that Roosevelt had indeed had a secretary named Marguerite Le Hand, and that this lady had died about two years earlier in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and that, though relatively young, she had had white hair.
He asked if he might be sent excerpts from the scripts.
Beatrice Gibbes answered the letter, not by sending excerpts but by asking eight specific questions about matters mentioned in the scripts. To each of these he applied affirmatively and added three questions of his own, to be posed the next time she was contacted in a session.
At a fourth session these questions were put. The communicator seemed to wish to avoid answering two of them, which were about herself, but in response to the third correctly gave the name of her successor as secretary to the President, the highly unusual surname of Boettiger. She also mentioned a friend of the President who had predeceased him, giving his first name and the initial of his surname correctly. Gray was notified the results of the session, and in reply confirmed the correctness of what was said and expressed special surprise at the mention of ‘Edwin W.’ (He was actually General Watson, who had died suddenly on the ship which brought the President and his entourage back from the Crimea after the Yalta Conference in mid-February 1945.)
At the fifth session, on June 6th, further attempts to probe were made, but the communicator now appeared to become cautious and suspicious. However, she did give one remarkable piece of information: she communicated her second name, which few people knew and David Gray did not know. This was Alice.
Geraldine returned to Ireland for a summer holiday soon afterwards, and on June 20th had a session at writing with Gray and his wife at their Dublin home. This time Roosevelt himself appeared to come through, and beside the expected personal remarks added some trivial information of the sort that sitters often find singularly convincing.
“I well remember that last warm morning. I think it was horror at the prospect of a detestable lunch of gruel that made me collapse ... I was very active at my funeral, and the only one who paid attention to me was Scottie, my dog . . . When my dog saw me he rolled on the ground, making quite a bit of diversion. But nobody guessed he rolled on the grass with joy because he saw me.”
It had been a nice morning, the President had had gruel just before his lunch (a food which he indeed did not relish) and the dog was a Scotch terrier who was in the habit of rolling over when meeting someone he liked.
It was not possible to continue this intriguing investigation since Geraldine had to go into hospital for a serious operation which was followed by a long period of convalescence. The case was reported in the Journal of the Society of Psychical Research for May 1947, with assumed names being substituted for the real ones. Enough facts had certainly been correctly conveyed, facts all of which were unknown to Geraldine and Beatrice Gibbes and some also to David Gray, to make it almost impossible to suppose that their production was the consequence of chance guesswork.
President Roosevelt and his dog Fala
One may surely also rule out the suggestion of a conspiracy to deceive the world (or that small part of the world which is interested in psychic disclosures) on the parts of those three persons. Had ESP between living persons not been established as a fact, the likelihood of there having been discarnate contact would have been overwhelmingly great.
As it is, if it were a telepathic tour de force it involved astonishing psychic virtuosity. Is it really believable that a middle-aged woman of moderate educational attainments (though considerable intelligence) who was in a poor state of health, with a cancer which needed removing, had the mental agility to reach out at incredible speed across the oceans, and select from the memories of people she had never heard of facts which could be processed in her own mind and then emerge as convincing little dramatic episodes. How could she have known about the President’s gruel? How could she have become aware of the surname Boettiger? Did she fish or was she told? The former seems as unlikely as sitting with a rod at the end of Brighton pier and catching a fish which one particular person several thousand miles away had marked beforehand.
Almost as strange as the disclosure of evidential detail is the way in which the communicator, who had deliberately taken the initiative in the first and third sessions, became cautious and wary in the fifth. This was quite in keeping with her character as the secretary of an important political person. If Geraldine had been fishing for clues with her wide-ranging mind, one would have supposed she might have found some, to make her impersonation stronger.
“President Roosevelt’s Secretary Communicates from the Afterlife” is a chapter from In Times of War: Messages of Wisdom from Soldiers in the Afterlife by Jonathan Beecher, published by White Crow Books
Geraldine Cummins: An Appreciation by Charles Fryer is published by White Crow Books