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Fifty Years A Medium by Estelle Roberts

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

PSYCHOMETRY

 

Psychometry is an aspect of mediumship which I have always found fascinating because of the remarkable results it produces. It is based on the fact that everything material pulsates with vibrations. The aura surrounding the human body also emits vibrations which are constantly being absorbed by inanimate objects lying within their field of influence.

 

Small personal possessions, such as those regularly carried in pockets or handbags, are ideal for psychometrical purposes. Repeated handling of them over a period of time impregnates them with their owner's vibrations. This impregnation may persist for a long time - often after the object has been permanently laid aside or, as happens in many cases, after the owner's death.

 

It is not only from the personal objects that I get the most interesting psychometrical readings. Articles with no personal association frequently reveal strong vibrations gathered from the surroundings in which they were found. Those which have remained undisturbed for a long time - hundreds of years, in some cases - frequently reveal the most interesting historical associations.

 

How psychometry conveys its "message" to the medium is one of the mysteries of the occult which I have found almost impossible to explain to the uninitiated. It is easy for even the most earthly individual to understand clairvoyance, because he is accustomed to seeing things with the physical eye. When you tell him that you see spirit forms as clearly and sharply as he can see you across the room, he has no difficulty in understanding what you mean though he may privately think you are a little unbalanced. Similarly with clairaudience. He is accustomed to listening to voices of his


 

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friends, so it does not need any great stretch of imagination for him to understand that there might be people who can hear voices which are not audible to him. He probably does not believe in it as a possibility, any more than he would have accepted the feasibility of radio and television fifty years ago, but at least he can understand what he is saying.

 

But what about psychometry? In this the medium sees nothing and hears nothing. There in no mental picture in which she can look at and describe in detail, and no distant voice to penetrate her consciousness with verbal messages. Then how do the vibrations of the object she is holding communicate their message to her? As far as I am concerned the answer is inexplicable because there is no physical counterpart from which to make a comparison. I can only say that as soon as I take the proffered object in hand I know its message. I can't tell you how I know, I can only say I know.

 

The observant reader will doubtless note that when describing psychometry experiences elsewhere in this book, I sometimes contradict what I have just said by using the words "I got a picture of" or "I heard him say." In fact, I did neither, but I find myself forced to use such expressions because I can think of no other way to express what I want to say. What is popularly known as "feminine intuition" is perhaps the nearest parallel I can offer. Much humor is regularly extracted from this subject, and some of it may be justified. Nevertheless, intuition does play its part in the lives of all of us, regardless of sex. Many people have at sometime had an unmistakable hunch which has come unbidden into their thoughts. Suddenly they know that such and such a thing has happened or is about to happen. It is not a matter for speculation but of certainty. Without any facts to go on, without even having been conscious of thinking about the subject, they are miraculously provided with the answer. Questioned on it, they will tell you that they knew "intuitively," which is their way of explaining that they do not know how they knew, or why they knew, but only that they knew. And in the majority of cases their hunches are proved absolutely right.

 

This sudden "feeling" - whether you call it instinctive or intuitive does not matter - cannot be accounted for by reasoning or logic. It is as though the mind has been momentarily swept clean of all the other thoughts and ideas that normally clutter its surface, leaving it responsive and susceptible to some latent force that is waiting to impress itself.


 

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If, then, you are prepared to agree that every man and women may occasionally experience such moments of unexplained "clear sight," you may also agree that a few, who by nature and training are mediums, can develop an extension of it. Not that I suggest that psychometry is a straightforward extension of what is popularly known as intuition. It goes much deeper. But in seeking an answer to the oft-repeated question of how I am able to give my descriptions and verbal messages when demonstrating psychometry, I can only advance intuition as the interest parallel.

 

An experienced medium handling a personal object can translate its vibrations into a detailed description of its owner, his character, idiosyncrasies, and talents. Alternatively she may conjure up a scene or age far removed from the present time or place. I vividly recall an instance of the distant past coming strikingly to the fore. I had been invited to dine with a very charming woman named Mrs. Hackney. Although she had visited me on a number of occasions, I had never before been to her house, nor had I met her husband.

 

After the meal Mr. Hackney placed a small piece of flint in my hand and asked if I could learn anything from it. I got an immediate reaction and was able to tell him that until recently it had for long lain deep in the earth and, before that, had been part of a stone implement - probably an axe.

 

Mr. Hackney was intensely interested because he could confirm the accuracy of the first part of my reading. He told me he was a mining engineer who had occasionally to examine mineshafts and pit workings. He had idly picked up this small piece of flint in a mine and had brought it to the surface to examine it more closely. Whether it was a splinter from a Stone Age axe he was not qualified to say, but he was sufficiently interested to seek the opinion of the experts. He took the chip to the British Museum where my diagnosis was pronounced to be correct as far as they were able to judge.

 

Another piece of stone that was brought to me conjured up an impression of a medieval castle and a battle raging round it. Especially clear were the arrow -slits let into the massive walls. I told the man who had given it to me that this stone chipping had been taken from one of the slits. He confirmed this in detail, telling me that it had come from a castle in North Wales whose name I have forgotten. I remember only that it was reputed to be the birthplace of Prince Llewellyn of Wales.


 

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On another occasion I took from a tray of some thirty objects, each labeled with a number so that the owner could identify their own possessions, a small cube of white marble about the size of a lump of sugar. I was at once able to identify the owner - whom I did not know - and told him that he habitually carried the marble in memory of his wife whose body was buried in Italy. The marble itself, I said, he had taken from the foot of the grave. Thus, verily, are sermons written in stones.

 

One day a heavy metal ball, obviously a cannon ball, was among the collection of articles presented for psychometry. On placing my hand on it, I had no difficulty in identifying the battle in which it had been used - the fight for Quebec on the Heights of Abraham in 1759.

 

Some time after the death of his first wife, Sir Hugo Cunliffe­Owen placed a ring in my hand. I was at once aware of a sense of tragedy attached to it. Indeed, it was more than tragedy - it was as though the ring bore a curse. Though I got no more detailed picture than this, I was repelled by the evil it emanated and said I would like to throw it into the sea. Sir Hugo then told me that the ring, which had belonged to his wife, was set with a stone taken from the tomb of Tutankhamen.

 

At one psychometrical sitting a strange thing occurred which impressed everybody who witnessed it. I had been handling a string of large beads which had no clasp. It was a cheap necklace, long enough to be slipped comfortably over the head. As I handed it back to the owner, I found one of the beads lying loose in my hand. I thought for a moment that I had broken the threads on which the beads were strung. But examination showed that the thread was as whole and unbroken as ever it had been.

 

Another incident illustrated the influence of spirit power over matter concerned a silver cigarette case. It was wrapped in tissue paper when it was handed to me by a woman and I did not remove the wrapping. Through the flimsy paper I could feel the case was badly dented. With its aid I made successful spirit contact with a young airman who had recently been killed in a plane crash.

 

When the sitting was over, I handed back the package to my visitor, who returned it unopened to her handbag and, shortly after, she left. Later she wrote to me, a good deal bewildered. The cigarette case, she said, had been damaged in the crash that had killed her nephew and consequently it would open and close only with difficulty. "Well," she went on, "it's damaged no longer.


 

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When I got home I took it from my bag to put it in a safer place. I unwrapped it before putting it away, and to my unbelief the dents in it had completely disappeared. Did you do anything to it because, if not, a miracle has happened?"

 

"I did nothing," I assured her in reply. "How could I? You were with me all the time; you must have seen had I done so. But what was done was accomplished through me. I was only the instrument through which spirit power worked."

 

She accepted my explanation because it was the true one, the only possible one to fit all the facts. But she did so, I thought, with mental reservation.

 

My recognition of the cigarette case through the wrapping was, of course purely from the feel of it. It was altogether too familiar an object to need spirit help for its identification. This, however, is not always the case, as may be judged from this story of a woman and her son who came to a meeting at the House of Red Cloud. From the tray in front of me containing a score of miscellaneous articles, I took up a small parcel wrapped in soft paper. I pointed to the women and said: "I will begin by telling you the contents of this package. Inside it is a caul taken at birth from the face of the young man sitting at your side."

 

"But how can you possibly know?" The women asked incredulously.

 

"I know because I was told by the voices of my spirit friends," I replied. "How else could I know?"

 

They looked at me in wide-eyed wonder, apprehensive that they should be in the presence of all-seeing spirits whose voices I could hear but they could not.

 

Many and varied have been the personal possessions of deceased loved ones which their friends have brought to me in the hope that the vibrations of the objects would help me to contact the owners. I recall one old lady who was the unwitting cause of general alarm in the famous Queen's Hall. Just before the service a steward came and told me that he believed a member of the audience had come armed with a revolver. He had caught a brief glance of some dull metal gleaming inside a paper bag on the women's lap. To be on the safe side he had planted a burly steward by her side with instructions to watch for the least suspicious movement.


 

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His anxiety was not quite so alarmist as it might at first seem because there had been an unruly disturbance at a previous meeting when I was threatened from the body of the hall. A man - presumably a Spaniard - leaped to his feet and noisily voiced his displeasure of the "blasphemy" he had witnessed. "In Span”, he bellowed as attendants forcibly escorted him to the door, "we know how to deal with your sort." Perhaps he had the inquisition in mind for me.

 

My friend the steward was probably justified in taking precautions. Anyway I went on to the platform shortly afterwards and the service was held without any untoward results. When it was over the steward came and said that the woman with the gun was asking for me. Did I think it wise to see her? I told him I was confident she meant me no harm and requested him to send her to me. It was a funny little woman who hurried in, clutching the brown paper bag.

 

"Mrs. Roberts," she said sadly. "I was so hoping for a message from my husband tonight. You see, I thought it might help if I brought his braces."

 

She produced the braces from the bag and as she did so the light glinted on the buckles. So that was my steward's revolver!

 

From time to time I have enjoyed discussions with skeptical men and women from all walks of life. Mostly they were intelligent, fair­minded folk who came in a spirit of genuine inquiry. I always did my best to answer their questions as fully as I could. Often they would counter my explanations with their own theories. The trouble with all such theories is that they never stand up to examination over a wide field of experiment. They may provide a complete and satisfactory explanation of the particular phenomenon under discussion and, indeed, of a wide range of similar phenomena. But extend the field of inquiry and immediately the most tenable of explanations gets wrecked beyond repair.

 

A popular theory, for instance, is that telepathy explains clairvoyance. The existence of telepathy is generally accepted by most people these days. So, say the theorists, it is not widely surprising if a person more than usually sensitive (the medium) should establish mental communication with his or her sitter. They even suggest that neither medium nor sitter may be aware of the thought transference between them.


 

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This is a possible line of reasoning that can be made to explain some phenomena, the story of the caul just related, for instance. It apparently meets all the requirements. The women came to my house fully aware of the strange contents of her parcel. We are together in the same room and in picking up the package I am miraculously made aware of what it contains not mediumistically, as I maintain, but by thought transference working from her subconscious to mine. What could be simpler?

 

For the benefit of any reader who may have been reasoning along these lines, I offer the following account of an experiment I conducted recently, which, in my submission, disposes of the "telepathy" theory once and for all. It did not begin as an experiment but as an ordinary sitting which was remarkable only in that a doctor visitor was acting as proxy for someone living in Canada.

 

Clairvoyantly I described an act of suicide, where it had happened and how it was done. Every word I spoke the doctor faithfully recorded for transmission to Canada. At the end of the sitting he read back what I had said, telling me that his friend in Canada was the wife of a man who had killed himself. In due course a reply came from Canada, suggesting that the doctor must have unknowingly hinted details of the suicide to me or, failing that, these must have been uppermost in his mind at the sitting.

 

As the doctor himself was quick to acknowledge, at the time of the séance he had known of the suicide, but none of the details, which I had supplied. He had been astonished to have them confirmed in every particular by his Canadian correspondent. He asked if there were some way by which we might convince his Canadian friend of Red Cloud's existence. I suggested an experiment.

 

At my request the doctor wrote to the widow asking her to choose some object connected with her husband and post it to him in England. The object was to be placed in a rigid box so as not to reveal its contents by shape or feel, and it was to be wrapped and sealed in such a way that it could not be opened without breaking the seals. When the parcel arrived at the doctor's address he was to bring it unopened to me.

 

These instructions were carried out. When the doctor next called at my house he carried the mystery parcel. It measured in inches about eight by six by two. Judging by the way it was heavily sealed the widow was taking no chances.


 

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"Have you any idea what this box contains?" I asked the doctor. "None whatsoever," was his emphatic reply.

 

As I held the box in my two hands, I knew at once what it contained.

 

"Inside this package there is a photograph of the dead man," I said. "It was originally a picture of two people standing side by side, but it has been cut in half so that only one portrait remains - that of the dead man."

 

With the seals still unbroken the parcel was returned to Canada together with my description of its contents, which I learned, was correct in every detail.

 

Of course it might be argued that the widow and I were in unconscious telepathic communication; distance, it may even be argued, is no hindrance. But as this women and I did not know each other, had never corresponded, and the date and the hour of our experiment had not been disclosed to her, it is hardly a theory that can be seriously entertained.

 

Nor could telepathy explain the following case in which neither the medium nor the two sitters had knowledge of what was communicated.

 

The first of these sitters had a private sitting for clairvoyance. A message came from her father in the spirit world.

 

I said: "Your father is giving me the name Florence. Do you know who she is?"

 

"Yes," she replied. "Florence is my mother."

 

"The message is: 'Florence has an affliction of the heart. Soon it will show itself and she will be very ill. But she will not die.' "

 

My sitter went away with this alarming, yet reassuring, warning ringing in her ears, and could think of little else. Without saying anything to me, she sent her sister for a sitting and deliberately did not tell her the message she might receive. The sister came as a complete stranger, yet she received the identical message. Two sisters, one mother and the same message from the same source!


 

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The mother was taken ill a few days later, and, in due course, she made an excellent recovery. The original sitter came back to tell me the whole story.

 

At one séance a husband returned to his wife with several messages, including one which stated that he had met his brother in the spirit world. This statement mystified her because she had always believed her husband to be an only child. According to the foster-parents, who had brought him up in Ireland, he was an orphan without kith or kin, and so he had believed himself throughout his earthly life. Now here he was, within a short time of passing, returning to speak of a brother whom he had never known existed.

 

Discussing it with me after the sitting, the wife was disposed to think a mistake had been made somewhere, though she couldn't think where. Determined to inquire closer, she decided to write to the foster-mother in Ireland to see if she could throw any light on the strange affair. It was some weeks before she received a reply to her letter and, reading between the lines, I thought the interval might well have been spent by the writer in wrestling with her conscience as to the propriety of revealing a confidence. She told us that the brother's existence - he had been reared in some other foster-family, there was no mention of the real parents - had been kept a closely guarded secret from the moment of his birth. To the best of her knowledge she was now the only survivor of those who had been party to it. How then, would the wife please tell her, had she become aware of these facts which had been jealousy guarded for nearly forty years?

 

In the circumstances I though it was a fair question, and hardly one to be explained by the convenient "telepathy" theory.

 

Neither can it explain the following incontrovertible evidence. A lawyer from the Commonwealth was on a world tour, and during an extended stay in this country he heard me at various meetings, including one at the Albert Hall. He reached the conclusion that I had "planted" people in the audience, incidentally thereby opening up endless demands for blackmail! He decided to prove his theory by having a private sitting with me. His mother who had passed over many years before told him of two children she had with her, both of whom were born and died before his own birth. He vehemently denied it, insisting that he had been an only child, but his mother was equally as insistent. He was sufficiently intrigued to write to the Registrar of Births and Deaths in his parents’ hometown, some 500 miles from where he was living. To his


 

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astonishment, two certificates, one of a boy and the other a girl, were sent to him. The evidence was accurate; there was no possibility of thought transference because his mother was the only person who knew, and she was dead! He was finally convinced, and published the details in a book he subsequently wrote.

 

For the first twenty years of his life my son Terence was a ruthless skeptic of anything relating to psychic phenomena. Many times I heard him maintain that I would never succeed in convincing him. I knew that I could easily have done so had I wished, but I preferred that he should come to Spiritualism without any prompting from me.

 

The day of his enlightenment occurred during the war when he came home on a week-end leave from the Royal Air Force, bringing a young woman with him. He had told her I was a medium and she, never having come into contact with the occult before, was eager to learn what it was all about. In this she got no encouragement from Terry, who was almost belligerent in his antipathy to Spiritualism. She persisted in her questions until Terry, with such good grace as he could muster, offered to take her to a public meeting that evening. But, of course, he had forgotten it was wartime and that public Spiritualist meetings were few and far between.

 

As we sat quietly round the fire after dinner, my thoughts were preoccupied with this strange resistance by Terry to convictions so firmly held by other members of my family. I knew sooner or later he would change his views and under normal circumstances I should not have been concerned. But this was different. It was wartime; air raids were almost a nightly occurrence; none of us knew from day to day whether we should live to see the next. I felt I would suffer remorse if Terry or this pleasant-faced girl should pass into the next life ignorant of the knowledge I had to give them. And so, breaking the habit of a lifetime by offering to demonstrate my powers uninvited, I said: "If you like, I'll give the pair of you a little demonstration of what Spiritualism can do. There's a friend of yours standing beside you now, Terry."

 

"Is there?" Terry replied, humoring me, "what's his name?"

 

He says his name id Jimmy Macfarlane. Do you know a Jimmy Macfarlane?"

 

"Yes I do. Is he dead?"


 

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"He was killed nearly a year ago. Tell me why he keeps calling you Toady?"

 

"Toady? Good Lord, I haven't been called that for years! It goes back to when I was a kid at school and kept some toads as pets. Do you mean to say that you can actually hear Mac calling me Toady?"

 

For the first time in his life Terry was half convinced by my spirit voices.

 

"How else would I know?" I asked him. "A mother does not invent such an unpleasant name for her son."

 

"How did he die? What does he say happened to him?"

 

"He was in The Navy, in Scotland. There was an air raid. He was blown overboard and drowned. He says his mother still lives in the old house."

 

Terry waited to hear no more. He pulled his companion to her feet, saying: "I know where Mac used to live. We'll go along and check."

 

They came back two hours later, tired but convinced. They had spoken to Jimmy's mother. She had been reluctant to discuss the details of her son's passing, but had told them enough to confirm all that I had said. It was a moment of revelation for them.

 

Before we went to bed that night, I said: "Jimmy has given me another message for you, Terry. He said: 'Tell Toady I'll give him a sign he'll remember. Tell him I'll watch out on Monday morning at nine o'clock.'"

 

On the Sunday, their leave over, Terry and his friend returned to their billets in different parts of the country. Terry was due to report back at 9 a.m. on Monday and, as nearly always happened, he overslept. The result was a mad rush to get back on time. As he hurried from his billet to the camp, Jimmy gave the promised sign. Terry was passing a churchyard when the clock in the tower struck nine. As it did so, an overhanging branch of yew touched the cap and tipped it to the ground. Bending down to pick it up, he suddenly remembered Jimmy's promise. He remembered, too, that many times when they were boys together, Jimmy had done just that to his school cap.


 

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Of Course, it could have been a coincidence that this characteristic action should have occurred at precisely the promised hour, but there was no doubt in Terry's mind. I have often heard him tell this story, though until this moment I have never thought to ask if he was put on a charge for being late. If he was, he would be the first to agree that it was worth it, because from that day to this he has yielded to no one in his Spiritualist convictions.

 

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