What Happened at Helen's Wartime Séances in some detail by Campaign Co-coordinator Michael Colmer is both copyrighted and protected by all international copyrights. Unauthorized reproduction in any form without express permission of the author is forbidden under international copyright law.
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What Happened at Helen Duncan's Wartime Séances by Michael Colmer
MRS DUNCAN gave innumerable séances throughout her life, and these to sitters from all over the world, until that mischievously lethal police raid at her last séance which was to bring a premature end to her earthly life.
Here is an account of three, of many, materialization séances which remains as remarkable today as it did when it was held in the midst of war torn Britain. If the following details are accurate - and the sitters themselves were certainly in no doubt then it opens the door to proof that there is indeed an Afterlife, a fact that must trigger deep thoughts in all of us.
This particular tale comes from a book by Major J.H.Webster MBE, and holder of the much respected Military Cross, an equivalent to America's Purple Heart, and one of Britain's highest battlefield honours. His book, "Voices of the Past", details his own researches into Spiritualism and includes an account of three quite remarkable materialization séances where the medium was Helen Duncan.
In the early summer of 1942 the Major's close friend, one Squadron Leader E. Ramsden, decided he wanted to explore this claim to the Afterlife. His curiosity had been aroused by the fervent beliefs of Britain's Air Chief Marshal, Lord Dowding. Throughout the war Dowding made a point of sending the bereaved widows of his dead air crew to a carefully selected Spiritualist Mediums, a rare example of military compassion was to bring peace of mind to so many shattered military families.
But Ramsden was no fool. In fact he proudly described himself as "hard headed." He set about this in a scientific manner and had spent several months investigating this subject before arranging to attend a séance for himself . When he did so he booked his appointment choosing the false name of 'Mr Anderson'. The venue was the industrial city of Manchester . At first he had been told that this séance was fully booked but a phone call some day later revealed an unexpected cancellation. He took it.
The appointed day duly arrived and Ramsden joined a group of some 16 others in a small room where one corner had been hung with wartime blackout curtains. Mrs Duncan entered the room only to be whisked away to an adjoining room where several of the female sitters watched her undress and where she was examined to confirm that no possible body cavity had been used to hide any false evidence. To us, in the 21st century such a strip-search appears humiliating yet these 'precautions' were obligatory for all physical mediums to prove they were not fakes. The women then returned to the séance room and declared her free of any possible hidden devices.
As ever Mrs Duncan took her seat and after she had fallen into trance, the curtains were drawn and within a few minutes a billow of ectoplasm began to issue from behind the curtains. A minute later and the milky white ectoplasm ( resembling egg white two seconds after it hits a hot frying pan) began to form into the figure of a man. This marked the arrival of "Albert", Mrs Duncan's six foot high guide and 'Celestial Maitre de' at all of her séances.
It is worth noting here the important differences between these two. She spoke only the guttural lingua franca of her native Scotland, was less than five feet seven inches and had a bulky frame. At one time she weighed over 22 stone/over 300 pounds. He was a lanky six feet four inches who spoke in a refined Oxford accent. These two characters were virtually diametrically opposed. At times when there were skeptics in his audience one of Albert's party tricks was to draw the curtain hiding Mrs Duncan so that the sitters could see the two of them side by side. But this particular séance was not one of those occasions.
Albert launched into his address, blithely ignoring the false name of Anderson; "Good afternoon, Squadron Leader Ramsden. I am very pleased to have this opportunity of meeting you, " he told the startled airman. The guide added; "I have lady here who is anxious to be reunited with you". Albert then began to describe her appearance to the airman and the illness which had triggered her death. It was at this point that he broke off and appeared to be having a conversation with someone hidden behind the curtain.
Returning to speak to the sitters Albert said "It's no use trying to keep her back. Come on Mrs Ramsden and speak to your son. Ask her to come out Squadron Leader she is very excited".
The Tongue-tied ghost
The startled airman did just that and within seconds he was confronted by his mother in the flesh. She stood four feet from him and spoke; "I have been waiting for this moment for years, and now I am here I feel too excited to know what to say. So please don't expect too much of me this time. I shall do better on another occasion".
Nevertheless she did say a few accurate words about family matters known only between mother and son. And a few moments later the bewildered airman watched in astonishment as his mother bade him a temporary farewell and appeared to 'fade' away as if she had somehow dissolved into the floor.
Then it was the turn of other sitters in that room to see, hear and touch their 'dead' relatives. But airman Ramsden wasn't listening or watching too closely. His world had just been dramatically shaken by this encounter with his mother. Afterwards he told the organizers that there could have been no possible doubt that it was indeed his true parent.
He was also surprised when he spoke to the medium after the séance. Helen told him; "I have been doing this for years and I have never seen a spirit form yet. I am sure that if I did then I would die of fright ". She never once saw what others witnessed so freely and she died from the shock caused by the Nottingham police bust.
The Shattered Skeptic
Six months later (March 1943) the airman booked another materialization séance with Mrs Duncan, this time at the Edinburgh Psychic College. And he brought a skeptical colleague with him, a Wing Commander who was none to happy at being dragged into this collection of spook believers. This time the sitters were an international collection; two men from the Polish Army in exile, together with their wives, a Dutchman and a South African woman plus the two English senior airmen.
The séance opened with the usual prayers and several hymns. Then, following Albert's arrival, it was the eager Mrs Ramsden who was once again the first to arrive. This time she managed to curb at least some of her excitement at being reunited with her son and launched straight away into further detailed discussion of intimate family matters.
It was after his mother had left that this séance suddenly turned into a psychic United Nations. A steady flow of 'dead' relatives emerged, and spoke to their loved ones in a variety of languages, including Polish, Dutch and a rare Bolivian Spanish dialect. Each of the recipients responded in their native tongues with no misunderstandings. The woman from South Africa, whose son had sadly died some years earlier, spoke to him once again and he proudly showed her his pet rabbit, his talking budgerigar and his dog. Since his own passing these pets had now joined him in the Spirit World. He even accurately repeated his favourite phrases in native Afrikaans.
An English sitter was then shown the same bouquet of flowers that had been his gift to his sister on her wedding day and which had also served as a wreath for her funeral. Tragically she died the same day she wed. She also showed him her wedding dress, last seen in her coffin now some six feet below ground.
'Kiwi-speak' shocks his Commanding Officer
The followed a 'dead' New Zealand pilot who had been shot down and drowned a few days earlier. This shook the skeptical Wing Commander to his very roots. For the pilot had been one of his own air crew. He could not stifle his exclamation of startled recognition; "Why it's Bill Watson", he said in amazement. But what followed was even more 'evidential'. The same Bill Watson , officially killed in action, went on to describe to his commanding officer exactly how he had been shot down and why he was unable to use his escape hatch.
His startled CO immediately switched into military mode and demanded an instant 'sortie debriefing' from the young New Zealand 'ghost'. Had there been any fraud then this ghostly appearance would have conveniently 'dissolved' to save answering this difficult barrage of technical questions. In fact Flying Officer Bill Watson was only too keen to provide satisfactory answers to all his CO's questions and, it has been suggested that, shortly after this séance certain technical modifications were made to aircraft of the type he had been flying. But few realized these changes came as a direct result of advice from a 'ghost' from the Next World.
But, despite these incredible developments it was to be his third physical séance with Helen Duncan that finally convinced our hard-headed Squadron Leader of the true existence of another world where the 'dead' are freed form physical pain and can savour the true delights of Heaven.
History in the Making
It is now 11th December 1943. In the war weary world outside the security of the séance room historic events were taking place. War leaders Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin were holding their first joint meeting in Tehran; jazz pianist 'Fats' Waller had just passed, and so had celebrated child author Beatrix Potter. Two weeks later a gifted American soldier was to be appointed the Supreme Commander of the Allied invasion of Europe. His name was General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The séance began as usual with prayers and hymns. This time the 'dead' Mrs Ramsden appeared only briefly and stepped back to allow a deeply touching family reunion. Present were the sitters, a husband, wife and their eight year old son. Before the séance had started Ramsden had spoken to this young lad and discovered that whilst this was his first ever materialization séance he was far from nervous about it. The reason, so the Squadron Leader learned, was that the lad had already received a stream of messages from his sister, who had passed over before he was born, via visiting Mediums at his local Spiritualist Church.
Ramsden was well placed to observe everything that was to take place this day. He sat between this husband and wife, the boy sat apart from them. The séance started. Albert materialized, greeted the sitters and, as always for the benefit of newcomers explained just what this 'experiment' between the Two Worlds was all about.
After the first three manifestations had been, greeted their loved relatives and gone, Albert announced there was a visitor for the lad. At this point from behind the curtains popped a young girl "full of life and bubbling over with excitement. As she moved about quite freely the rustle of her gown was clearly audible, just as the folds in it were clearly visible".
This spirit visitor pirouetted in front of her brother declaring; "Kenneth. Oh! aren't you a big boy! Are you pleased to see me ?" He was and not the slightest bit perturbed.
At this point Kenneth got up and stood next to his sister for all to see. There they stood facing each other for several minutes; an eight year old boy and his ten year old sister. One child 'alive' the other supposedly 'dead'. They chatted as siblings do, mostly about his school and his love of music.
"Mum. Come to Me"
Then this vivacious young spirit visitor turned to the woman sitting next to Ramsden, stretched out her arms and said very simply; "Mum, Come to me!" . In his book Major Webster reports his friend's reaction; "In her voice at that moment there was an appeal that was touching in the extreme, her very soul seemed to give it expression." And her mother did just that. And was quickly followed by her husband .
"And so this little family reunion was complete. It formed an enchanting and very 'normal' picture. He watched carefully as the young girl chatted first with her mother, then her dad and then her brother. It seemed so normal".
After the lass had left, with the sweetest smile on her face as she faded. Albert announced the pending arrival of a stranger.
The 'Enemy' Ghost Helper
With consummate tact the guide also declared that he did not wish to hurt the feelings of anyone present but with him was a man belonging to the nation with whom Britain was at war. "He is German and wishes to appear for the benefit of the boy, Kenneth" There was no hesitation from any sitter, with one accord they greeted this unexpected 'enemy' spirit visitor.
A man then emerged from behind the curtains. He spoke in English with a heavy but with a strong German accent. He praised the young Kenneth on being given a medal for his music some days earlier in Manchester (accurate) and revealed that with Kenneth's permission, he would like to work with him on developing the lad's talents. He added that is was gratifying to him to know that Kenneth's efforts were being directed towards uplifting men's minds instead of being trained to kill as was the case of young boys in Germany.
That séance ended leaving each sitter deep in thought. There were hundreds of more séances yet to come via the good offices of Mrs Duncan but there was also a major Criminal persecution heading her way. Within a month of this session she would be in jail imprisoned by paranoid security forces.
Yet even in the depths of the notorious Victorian Holloway prison her Spirit helpers were with her. For it just so transpired that the Deputy Matron of that very goal was also a Spiritualist and it also just so happened that Mrs Duncan resumed her unique sittings in the most unexpected venue of all.
"The truth is her only 'crime' was to fall asleep - to order".