home books e-books audio books recent titles with blogs
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.


One of the best things about mediumship is the way it can bring us information, often very practical information, that can’t be obtained otherwise or that needs additional details or background.  The R-101 is a wonderful example– just too bad that people were so stupid as to allow the thing to take off in the first place. 

Mediumship generally isn’t so much about fuzzy speculation and metaphor as it is about real people communicating what’s important to them.  If we realize that this is the simple truth in most cases, just regular people talking, it all becomes more understandable.

Elene Gusch, Sat 7 Sep, 20:59

Add your comment



Your comment

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Please note that all comments are read and approved before they appear on the website

translate this page
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
© White Crow Books | About us | Contact us | Privacy policy | Author submissions | Trade orders