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A Mediumship Mystery: Who’s Sarah?

Posted on 27 September 2021, 8:31

When, in 1939, Charles J. Seymour, a British journalist, undertook an investigation of mediums, he expected to expose “the quackery” in the field.  As it turned out, however, he discovered that there were genuine mediums and ended up writing about them rather than the fakes.

One of the more interesting cases discussed by Seymour in his 1949 book, Behind the Seen, involved a woman named Sarah.  The first time it came through was on July 24, 1939 at a public sitting with a medium named Miller, who said a woman named Sarah was there for him.  Seymour responded that he could not think of anyone named Sarah in the spirit world.  He reasoned that Sarah is a pretty common name and that it could have been an attempt by the medium to simply fish for a name.  However, the name came through again and again with different mediums, 15 in all.

On August 3, 1939, he had a private sitting with medium Maude Bateman, who said, “I get for you the name Sarah.”  On October 1, 1939, medium Eileen Blaschke said, “Sarah is here.  She is helping you with your work, and I feel, has had a great influence on you for spiritual matters all your life.” At a public meeting on June 9, 1940, Grace Cooke said, “I have a message from Sarah.  She tells me that she has been close to you and has watched your progress all your life, and has noted with great satisfaction the efforts you have made.  She had no children of her own, but her wish was that she could have had a boy.  This is a very beautiful spirit, and she sends you a great deal of affection.”

The skeptic will ask why Sarah simply didn’t give her last name or her exact relationship with Seymour.  Seymour also wondered about that and eventually came to understand that most mediums, at least the clairvoyant types, rely on symbolic pictures for names.  In another book, he explained how the medium struggled to get a not so common name through.  In that case, the medium’s spirit control said she was being shown rice, but the name was not Rice.  She was shown more rice and even more rice, before the sitter realized that it was his old friend, Maurice (More-Rice). Generally, mediums report symbols for more common names, but most surnames are more difficult to symbolize. The clairaudient medium might hear the name, but it depends much on the degree of development by the medium.

“Sarah comes to greet you,” said a Miss Herbert at public meeting on December 22, 1940.  “She has a beautiful face; very fine eyes.”

“Sarah sends her love to you,” said medium Ethel Moss at a Sunday service on January 12, 1941.  She is a very sweet young person with blue-grey eyes.” More than two years later, on May 11, 1943, in a private sitting, Mary Burge said, “A Sarah, who says ‘They used to call me Sally…’ A good soul…in spirit a long time.” Still, Seymour shook his head.  The name Sally meant nothing to him, either.

“A Sarah for you, a very sweet lady,” said Eveline Canon at a public meeting on May 13, 1943. “Sarah is very much in your environment.  You get ‘hunches’ with her help,” said Olive Rutherford at a Sunday service on June 5, 1943. At a public meeting on February 19, 1944, Gertrude Rayner provided Seymour with a series of names, all of which he recognized except for Sarah and one other.

Sometime during 1943, Seymour had a sitting with the famous direct-voice medium Leslie Flint, but his record of that sitting were destroyed when a bomb fell near his home and did some damage to part of it, including the records from that sitting. As Seymour recalled it, however, it was a group sitting and the first voice to speak said, “I am Sarah,” first very softly, then more audibly.  Seymour remained silent and no one else in the room claimed the name.  Flint’s control, “Mickey” then spoke and said, “This is for the man by the fireplace.”  As Seymour was sitting by the fireplace, he said that he accepted the name.  The woman’s voice in spirit then said, “I used to be called Sally.  I have been with you many years, doing my best to help you.”  Seymour replied that he did not know a Sarah or a Sally.  The voice then responded: “You would not know me, dear.  I am your great aunt, on your mother’s side.”

Seymour now had a connection, but everybody on that side of his family had passed on and he had no easy way of confirming the actual existence of this great aunt.  However,  at a sitting with Rose Harley on February 24, 1944, the names Sarah and Alice were given.  Harley said that Sarah was in spirit, but she wasn’t sure about Alice.  “I do not know…this condition…I feel it means that the person has either passed on fairly recently or is still on the earth plane but is nearing the journey’s end,” Harley explained. “I am certain about Sarah, though. She is in spirit, and has been so a long time.”

Seymour recognized the name Alice as one of his mother’s sisters, but he had not heard from her in many years and assumed that she also had passed on.  About two weeks later, he happened upon the wife of a deceased cousin and asked her about his Aunt Alice. She informed him that his Aunt Alice was still alive and in her 80s, and provided him with her address. Seymour then contacted Aunt Alice and was informed that her mother had four siblings, Mary, Joseph, Fanny, and Sarah.  She said she had never met Sarah, because she had died before she was born, at about age 17. 

Seymour continued his investigation of mediums and the name Sarah was given three additional times.  “Mr. Sceptic, what do you make of it?” he asked. “I hope you won’t push telepathy at me here – a matter of fifteen mediums mentally searching around London for Aunt Alice, and then reading her mind when they found her and extracting from it the thought that Sarah, born 90-odd years ago, would have liked to make friends with me, had she lived.” 

Still, Seymour struggled with the problem of getting names.  He wondered why some mediums could get other facts about the person but not names.  He understood the problem with clairvoyants trying to interpret pictographic symbols such as that with “more rice” being Maurice, and he understood that that clairaudient mediums can sometimes hear the name. He encountered a clairaudient-type medium saying, “C-C-Copper,” but it did not immediately dawn on him that the name she was trying to get through was “Cooper,” which sounds more like “Cowper” in the particular dialect of the medium.

I recall John Edward, the clairvoyant who had a TV program some years ago, saying that he saw a picture of St. George when the communicator was trying to get that name through.  My most recent book, No One Really Dies, deals with this problem in Chapter 3.  When Sir William Barrett communicated with his widow through the mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard, he explained that it was much easier for him to get ideas through by thought impressions than simple names or words.  Lady Barrett had wondered why he identified himself as William, when she knew him as Will and why he called her Florrie, when he knew her as Flo.  He explained that it was a matter of being able to get certain names through a medium easier than other names. Much depended on the development of the medium.

In 1917, Charles Drayton Thomas, a psychical researcher, began sitting with Mrs. Leonard. He quickly made contact with his father, John D. Thomas, and his sister, Etta, receiving much veridical information proving their identities.  However, he wondered why they had such difficulty in giving their names and the names of others. “It became evident that the giving of a name involved the overcoming of some obstacle, and that usually the difficulty, whatever it might be, was too serious to permit of success,” Thomas recorded.  “There is unquestionably a difficulty in transmitting names through trance mediums, though some give them more successfully than do others.”

Thomas’s father explained that if he wanted to give the name of a man named Meadow, he might try to insert the idea of a green field, connecting it with the idea of the man himself.  When the father tried to get the name Jerusalem through the medium, it came out “Zion” instead.  His sister said she could not get her husband’s name, Whitfield, through the medium.  “I can feel it, but I cannot say it,” Etta said.  The best she could do was get the medium’s control, Feda, to say “Wh—, Whi—-, Wht—.”

Thomas noticed that Feda could more easily catch a first syllable than the whole name, but sometimes she would catch only the first letter, which he understood was pictured for her by the communicator. When one communicating entity tried to get the word “Greek” through, Feda struggled with “G—, Gre—, Grek, Greg, Greeg.” Thomas further observed that when Feda had latitude in the selection of words, e.g., Zion for Jerusalem, communication was easier. However, when it came to proper names, this alternative was not always possible.

The discarnate Thomas also told his son that when he entered the conditions of a sitting his memory would divide into its former earthly conditions of conscious and subconscious. Thus, the same forgetfulness he might have had when in the flesh with regard to names and other things still existed on his side of the veil.

Table-tilting is a more accurate method of getting names, Drayton Thomas pointed out, as the communicator can dispense with the control and, assuming enough psychic energy, can direct the tilting himself, i.e., so many tilts for each letter of the alphabet or a tilt for the proper letter when the sitter recites the alphabet. But this method is much slower and cumbrous.

As Seymour might have suggested, the skeptics can laugh when a particular medium can’t a name or gets a wrong name, but it only goes to show their ignorance of the subject matter.

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:  October 11





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How a Dead Author Finished His Books

Posted on 13 September 2021, 9:21

When Frank R. Stockton (below) died in 1902, he left a legacy of 23 volumes of stories for adults and children.  His first book, Ting-a-Ling, a children’s book, was published in 1870.  His most famous book, The Lady or the Tiger, was published in 1884.  Because of its uncertain ending, that book would become required reading in many high school English classes, something for students to debate.


Apparently, Stockton still had a number of stories to tell when he died, because he went on to dictate seven stories, all assembled in a book published in 1913 titled The Return of Frank R. Stockton. It was produced through the automatic writing of Etta De Camp, a resident of Schenectady, New York who worked as a legal secretary. 

Upon reading a newspaper article about automatic writing early in 1909, De Camp decided to give it a try, patiently sitting with pad and pencil.  After some time, she felt a “thrill” go from her shoulder to her finger tips as though she had been touched by an electric battery. “To my utter amazement the pencil began to move,” she recalled. “I watched it, fascinated, for I was absolutely sure I was not moving it myself.  It seemed as though my arm and hand had become detached from my body and did not belong to me.”

At first, she got only circles and scrolls, then some illegible words.  It was not until her third night of experimenting that the writing became readable and expressed thought. The first message came from an Indian calling himself “Blackfoot.”  A week or so later, she received several messages from her father, who had died 12 years earlier.  The messages were for her mother and contained much information that De Camp knew nothing about.  However, her mother confirmed them as fact.

De Camp was informed that the discarnates were writing through the “law of vibration.”  She recalled fighting off the trance condition, but recorded that she was in an abnormal state when the writing came through.  She had no idea what the next word would be until she saw it on the paper.  In one case, as her hand wrote, the words, “Who said we were d…,” she assumed the last word would be “dead,” but was surprised when the word turned out to be “drunk,” which proved to her that her conscious mind had nothing to do with the writing.

On March 23, 1909, De Camp’s hand wrote in a handwriting different from her own:  “I am Frank R. Stockton.  I have many stories I wish written out.  I am glad I can write them through you.  I have one I wish to write called What Did I Do with My Wife. We will go on with it now.”
After Stockton first took control of her pencil, De Camp felt intense pain in the forehead between her eyes, “and I felt a sensation in the left side of my head as though another mind was crowding into my own.”  However, the pain subsided and the first story was completed.  Three days later, Stockton wrote another story, My Wireless Horse.  Stockton advised De Camp that best results could be obtained if she would write an hour or two each morning at a fixed time.  He told her that when she felt a pain behind her ears it would be a sign that he was ready to write.  He explained that he was anxious to go on to the next plane, but that his brain must be relieved of the stories before he could progress further.  “We must be freed from all earth vibrations before we can go on,” he wrote through De Camp’s hand.  “The mind carries too many memories for me to get free.  I must write out my book and my stories before I can get beyond the earth-vibrations which keep me here.”

Prior to becoming an instrument for Stockton, De Camp knew nothing about him, although she had read The Lady or the Tiger during her school years.  She claimed only a faint recollection of it.  While apparently realizing that subconscious memories could not be completely ruled out, De Camp was certain she had no creative literary ability of her own and that she was not controlling the pencil. Moreover, she claimed that she never saw the stories in her imagination and had never really cared for humorous stories, even as a child. She further recalled that she often resisted the writing sessions, and when she did she would awaken in the morning in a dazed condition, as though drugged.  She felt as though she were enveloped in a thick fog.  The greater she resisted, the stronger the force became until she was finally compelled to take the pencil and write in order to find relief.

Upon learning of her experiences, some friends cautioned her about continuing. She was told that there were low-level spirits who delight in masquerading under the name of some well-known person and that the spirit claiming to be Stockton might very well be one of them.  If that is possible, she reasoned, then it must be equally possible for an honest spirit to represent itself.  “I have never for one moment doubted the genuineness of the spirit claiming to be that of Mr. Stockton,” De Camp reported.  “The serious objects of his return, the development of some higher sense enabling me to feel the personality of this entity so strongly, and to know its characteristics so well, make Mr. Stockton, to me, as real as anyone I know in earth-life.”

At a sitting on August 5, 1909, Stockton wrote that he had been searching for years for the right person to continue his stories.  “I am very fortunate in finding you, my dear madam, as you are sensitive to my vibration, and so I reach you easily,” he informed her. “We are in perfect accord, and, together, will do a great work, and teach the old world what can be done even after the so-called end of man.”

At times, De Camp had difficulty in achieving the passive state necessary for effective communication.  Stockton told her not to think at all while writing, as best results are obtained when the conscious mind is not allowed to interfere with the subconscious.  “The struggle for me to overcome the opposition of your conscious mind has been very great,” Stockton counseled her.  “The strain on you has been severe also.”

Apparently, Stockton still held on to his ego as he insisted that De Camp not take credit for the stories or pass herself off as the author.  “These stories are not yours nor do they belong to anyone living on your plane,” he admonished her.  “They are mine and I shall never consent to their being sold under any other name.”  He also asked that ten percent of the proceeds from the sale of any book be given to his estate.

When De Camp questioned the frivolous and humorous nature of the stories, Stockton explained that his objective was to show that people passing from the body to other planes of existence do not suddenly change temperament and personality.  “I am no more capable of writing serious stuff now than when in the body, and if these stories were not written in a humorous style they would not be recognized as mine.”

Stockton further told De Camp that he felt like a clown at the circus because some of the greatest writers the world has ever known were waiting to find an instrument through which they could write.

When Dr. James H. Hyslop, (below) a psychical researcher, heard the story about De Camp and Stockton, he decided to investigate. He was told by the editor of Harper’s Monthly that the stories produced by De Camp’s were very much in character with those of Stockton.  Hyslop then arranged for De Camp to sit with Minnie Soule, a trance medium he had been studying.  Though Soule knew nothing about De Camp, who sat with her incognito, Stockton communicated through Soule and gave some personal history unknown to De Camp or Hyslop, but later verified as true, and also confirmed that he was the source of her stories, adding that her subconscious sometimes distorted what he had tried to say though not to any great extent.


Hyslop observed that there were many touches of personal character and wit coming through, but he asked Stockton for more evidence of personal identity.  Stockton replied:  “I really have a desire to do a certain kind of work, but deliver me from the class who cut up their relatives to see how their corpuscles match up … I think I won’t do for your business at all, but personally I have no fight with you.  You can go on and save all the critics you can, but don’t send them to me when they die … I had my share of them while I lived, and I wash my hands of the whole lot.”

After Stockton departed, George F. Duysters, who had been an international lawyer and De Camp’s employer before his death, began speaking through Mrs. Soule.  He, too, offered veridical information to confirm his identity. “It is especially significant that both personalities should appear to communicate,” Hyslop reported.  “They are not in any way connected with each other in life, and [they were not] relatives of Miss De Camp.”

Stockton’s story suggests that it is best to transition from this lifetime with no unfinished business as it might very well be difficult to find a living human to finish it for you.

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 book

Next blog post:  Sept. 27

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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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