1889 - 1919
"This girl must be called Estelle,
for one day she will become a star."
These words were uttered by my grandmother as she gazed down at her
daughter’s child who had entered this world barely two hours before.
In later years my mother told me of this incident for which there was no
apparent reason. My grandmother had no reputation in the family as a
prophetess, and no doubt would have been shocked at any suggestion that
she had psychic powers. However, my father had different ideas in the
matter of names. For the good and sufficient reasons that I was born on
May 10th 1889, and that we were
then living at May Cottage in Kensington, he chose to call me May. And
so, in due course, there appeared a new entry in the registry of births
- May Estelle Wills, daughter of Edwin Blackstone Wills and Isobel, his
My parents were good kindly people, typical of the Victorian age. They
had a family of eight children, five girls and three boys, and we all
lived in Kensington in comfortable but not affluent circumstances. In
company with my brothers and sisters, I grew up a very ordinary,
unremarkable child with the sole exception that from the moment of my
earliest recollections I heard voices which the other members of the
family could not. Though I knew nothing of Spiritualism I soon came to
recognize them as the voices of the spirit people, and knowing myself to
be part of them as they were part of me, I never had the slightest fear
of them. My father, however, had no understanding of such things and,
although he was always a just man, he nevertheless frequently felt it
his duty to correct my allegedly riotous imagination by means of his
belt! I was repeatedly told that such thing were evil, and because of
this until the day of my enlightenment, I was haunted by the fear that
perhaps my mind was little "touched."
One of my brothers, Lionel, who had dies before I was born, was among my
earliest visitors. He often used to come of a morning or evening, and I
would talk to him. He was then only a child, but I watched him grow
through the years to maturity. He still comes to me. Other spirit
children of my own age would also visit me and I would talk aloud to
them. It was hearing me speaking apparently to myself on these occasions
that was the main source of alarm to my parents.
Looking back after long experiences of psychic phenomena, I am convinced
that these early visitations were a preparation for my future work, to
allow me to accustom myself to their presence and to converse freely
with them at all times.
My first major psychic experience as a child was in the form of a
vision, and its impression remains as vivid today as it was then at the
age of seven. It occurred at about eight o'clock on a sunny May morning
when my sister Dolly and I were getting dressed, ready to set off for
our daily lessons at the local school. I had a mass of thick black hair,
and I was standing before a mirror in front of the window endeavoring to
arrange it when I became aware of a movement beyond the window. Looking
up I saw a dazzling vision of a knight in shining armor, poised in the
sky. Of majestic, life-size proportions, he was encased from head to
foot in armor. Each leg was sheathed in steel plate running right down
to his feet and ending in points at the toes. His body was clad in chain
mail, on the front of which was a blazing red cross. On his head was
helmet, and though his face was covered by a visor I could see a pair of
piercing eyes shining through the eye-slits.
At the back of his helmet he wore a crest, which I could not see
sufficiently well to describe, and in front of him he held a twohanded
sword pointing to the sky. His right hand grasped the hilt, which was
studded with gems, while his left hand gripped his right wrist in
support. On his hands were gauntlets. The whole figure, and particularly
the sword, glinted dazzlingly like sunlight reflected by snow, and from
that moment onward I have always thought of him as my White Knight.
As I watched him, he slowly lowered the blade of the sword and extended
the point towards me as though in salute. This action must have released
powerful vibrations towards my body, for I
myself go weak at the knees, and my stomach seemed to turn over.
The vision persisted. Three times I glanced away, to find it still there
when I looked back. Then I called to my sister, "Dolly, come and look!"
Dolly looked, and a moment later to my horror, she had collapsed in a
faint. The vision then disappeared as mysteriously as it had come.
Alarmed by Dolly's fainting fit, I called out to my parents, who rushed
in and bore my sister away. When she had recovered sufficiently, my
father questioned her, in the course of which she described the figure
exactly as I had seen it. It made a great impression on me because this
was the first time any member of my family had seen or heard any of the
spirit people I knew so well.
My poor parents were most disturbed and puzzled by the occurrence,
particularly as I had no opportunity of talking to my sister and
exchanging impressions with her before my father questioned her.
I have seen my White Knight only once since then. This was years later
on the occasion of my first meeting at the Queens Hall in London. Not
unnaturally I was somewhat nervous at the prospect of addressing my
first meeting, but as I stood up to speak, I suddenly saw him suspended
above the audience. Again he lowered his sword and pointed it at me,
causing me to shake violently, as though the rays of the sword were
disintegrating my body by the strength of their vibrations. Shaw
Desmond, the distinguished writer, was on the platform with me and,
unaware of what was happening, asked anxiously if I was ill. I shook my
head and stood waiting, wondering whether I should hear my Knight's
voice. There came no sound, but unbidden into my mind came
"To serve and not to yield."
I knew they had come from
A medium, taking her place on a public platform, relies entirely upon
her spirit friends, for without them she can do nothing. It is only at
the ultimate moment before addressing her audience that she becomes
aware whether or not her gift will manifest itself. No dress rehearsal,
no prompter in the wings can help her. She stands alone save only for
her spirit communicators, and this was the first time I had been called
upon to take the platform at the Queen's Hall. It was the beginning of
an important series of fortnightly meetings and a most significant
moment in my career. There can be no other explanation than that the
Knight had come
to show me I was not alone in my mission to spread the truth of survival
after death - that the blazing red cross on his breast was symbolical of
the crusade upon which I was setting out.
I had an ordinary schooling in the local council school, which I left at
the age of fourteen. I had continued without a break to meet my spirit
people. They now started to warn me of events, which afterwards came to
pass. At such moments I would receive intensely strong impressions about
future happenings, accompanied by the certain knowledge of how they
would work out.
One day, shortly after my fathers death some years later, he returned in
spirit form to my mother's house. I can see him now, standing at the top
of the stairs and speaking words which filled me with alarm.
"My dear," he said,
"I am worried about Bella."
Bella was my sister, and for the next two or three days I hugged my
father's words secretly to myself in a fever of worry and anxiety. On
the fourth day the blow fell. Bella became ill - very ill - and for a
time I was certain that her last earthy hours had come. Then to my
intense relief she slowly began to recover and eventually was quite well
It was natural
that my father should have been concerned for Bella's well-being. It was
no less natural, having regard for my tender age and the circumstances
of my father's visit to me, that I should put the blackest, most dread
interpretation on his words, and, as a result, I suffered needless
agonies of suspense. It seemed to me that there was a moral to be drawn
from this experience, and that there was a lesson to be learned. That,
at least, was how I looked at it. As a consequence, from that day to
this, I have always guarded carefully against the slightest tendency to
read more into the words which come to me from my voices than is
intended, or, indeed, is strictly there.
At fifteen I went to work as a nursemaid to a family in Turnham Green. I
loved children and here there were three of them to look after. They
occupied nearly all my time for the next three years. Then I met and
married Hugh Warren Miles.
Hugh was born
at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Park, and had received his education as a
Bluecoat Boy at Christ's Hospital. His stepmother, whose maiden name was
Evelyn Galt, was a sister of the wife of the President Wilson.
He had a kind and sympathetic nature, and we were as happy as any two
young people can be. It was a great joy to me to be with someone to whom
I could talk freely about my spirit people, someone who listened and
understood. One such occasion was on the morning when I woke up and told
him I had seen his Aunt Mary walk through our bedroom during the night.
I had never actually met this aunt, yet somehow I knew intuitively that
the figure I had seen had been she. We learned later that she had died
In due course I found that I again had three children to look after, but
this time they were my own, Ivy, Evaline and Iris. They were happy days
though we had little on which to live, getting by only with difficulty
on my husbands meager wages as a clerk. Hugh was the most generous of
men, with the softest of hearts. One day as he was walking home at the
end of a week's work, he was so touched by a tale of woe told him by a
poor man he gave away his entire week's wages! Imagine my feelings when
I had no money with which to buy food for our own children!
Eight years after we were married, Hugh fell ill. It was thought at
first that he was suffering from consumption. Sir William Fairbanks,
physician to the Royal Family, who was a friend of my husband's family,
arranged for him to be examined at Brompton Hospital. The diagnosis
revealed that he was suffering from Bright's disease. He was never able
to work regularly again, although he tried hard to do so.
I had to be the breadwinner. With an invalid husband and three children
to maintain, our meager sickness allowance of ten shillings a week was
woefully inadequate. I found employment doing housework from eight in
the morning until two in the afternoon at a nursing home in Twickenham.
The pay was small and insufficient for our needs, but it enabled us to
keep going even though I had many a time to go without meals in order to
feed my little ones. Clothes were an even greater difficulty, and the
only solution to the shoe problem I could find was to stuff the soles
with newspaper. It was not very effective in wet weather.
One snowy morning I set out to work without having eaten and collapsed
in the snow. I was found by the police, who took me home, where I had to
remain in bed for several days. The doctor who called advised me
strongly to take my husband to live by the sea and I, willing to do
anything to help him, readily agreed. We went to Hastings.
Again Hugh tried to work, but his dropsical condition made it
impossible. We rented a flat in Hastings and I began to take in paying
guests, but as a result of trying to nurse my husband, look after the
children, and take care of the guests as well, my health broke down and
I again had to take to my bed.
My husband called in a doctor, a Frenchman, who examined me and made the
obvious pronouncement that I needed rest. How well I knew it, but what
rest could there be with four hungry mouths dependent on my efforts! I
had become very thing, and Hugh anxiously pointed this out to the
doctor, who replied with true Gallic gallantry: "Did you ever know a
thoroughbred horse that was fat?"
Life was desperately hard during these years, full of worry, work and
discomfort. But, looking back, I am convinced that it was all part of
the pattern of things to come - indispensable training for the work I
was to do. If you have not suffered, how can you understand the
suffering of others? Without sympathy for those in distress, how can you
help to alleviate burdens? At the time, of course, no such thoughts
entered my head; I was much too busy coping with more immediate
problems. Nor indeed did I understand the significance of the presence
of the spirit people who continued, as ever, to share my everyday life.
They were as much a part of my environment as were the ordinary people
in the street; the world would have been a strange and empty place if
they had suddenly ceased to be there.
The months passed. My husband became progressively weaker, until the day
I returned home at lunch-time to find two of the children standing at
his bedside. He was obviously very ill, much worse than when I had left
him that morning. With an overwhelming sense of shock I knew that he was
dying. Quickly I sent the children to a neighbor, who I knew would look
after them. Then I sat alone in the room with him and held his hand. He
was only spasmodically conscious and did not know what he was saying for
much of the time. But every now and then he would have lucid moments, in
one of which he said to me: "You will be alright, darling. God will take
care of you."
I stayed with him until far into the night. He died while looking at me.
At the moment of his passing I heard strange, terrifying noises coming
from the kitchen. It was as though someone was rending linen and, every
now and then, cracking a whip. It was an eerie, uncanny experience
which, coming at that particular time,
For some moments I sat unable to move; then the sounds ceased.
I looked again
at dear Hugh, recalling the happiness we had enjoyed together, and while I
sat there I saw his spirit leave the body. It emerged from the back of his
head and gradually molded itself into an exact replica of his earthly
body. It remained suspended about a foot above the body, lying in the same
position, and attached to it by a cord to the head. Then the cord broke
and the spirit form floated away, passing through the wall.
I went into the kitchen to get some water to wash his face and hands, and
an astonishing sight met my eyes. All the wallpaper on one side of the
twelve-foot room was hanging from the wall in strips. This, then, was the
explanation of the rending noise, which I had heard as my husband died. It
was the first physical manifestation of the spirit power I had
experienced. I could not explain the occurrence, yet I intuitively
understood its meaning. It was, I believed a symbol of the rending of the
I had no money
to buy flowers, so I took the children to the Downs, where we gathered
bunches of the little purple flowers which my husband had loved so well.
All of us joined in weaving them into a wreath.
On three consecutive nights after he died, he called to me. On the third
night I heard his voice say: "I need you. I want you to come to me."
"But how?" I asked, distraught by grief. "By dying."
"But, darling, I can't do that," I said. "There are the children to care
He said no more. The stress of his passing after his long illness must
have been great. It was natural that he should want me.
He appeared in the room once more before the burial. He said, as if in
apology: "I did not understand. I do not need you now. What you have
always told us is right. Here, all live on and cannot die. It is quite
Deeply moved, I said; "You live, and others live. It is the message I
must tell the world."