MURDER AND SUICIDE
When I had a telephone call from Douglas Sladen, an old friend whose
books I enjoy, I guessed from his tone that he was diffident about
coming to the point. After some humming and hawing he said: “Look
Estelle, I have just been talking to an editor. He asked if I thought
you could do anything to help find this child.”
I knew at once whom he meant by “this child.” It was 1937, when the
disappearance of ten-year–old Mona Tinsley had been making headline news
for several days. The child had vanished from her home in Newark and the
efforts of police throughout the country had failed to produce any trace
Douglas,” I replied, “but you know my views. I’ll do anything to help,
but I can’t be associated with something which might be condemned as a
stunt as soon as the other papers get to hear of it.”
“I was afraid you’d say that, and you’re right, of course. But there’s
another side to it besides sensationalism. Think of the child’s parents,
how they must feel, waiting, wondering, not knowing whether the child is
alive or dead. You could help them Estelle, if only to end the dreadful
always known how to play on my emotions and he was not hesitating to do
so now. He knew perfectly well that I could not stand up to argument of
“All right,” I agreed at last. “I’ll do what I can, but don’t let them
turn it into headlines news.”
“You can rely on me,” he said and rang off.
I had received many tempting offers to utilize my powers of clairvoyance
for material purposes but had invariably turned them down. To have
accepted would have been to lay myself open to charges of sensationalism
and of cheapening Spiritualism and all that it stands for. But the
present instance was somewhat different. In the case of Mona Tinsley,
there were the parents to consider and the agony of mind through which
they were passing. If I could help them in their hour of trial, I felt I
must do so, even at the sacrifice of my principles.
I wrote to the
Chief Constable at Newark-on-Trent, and told him that I believed I might
be able to bring some comfort to the unhappy parents if he would send me
some garment belonging to the missing girl. I received a reply in which
the Chief Constable, Mr. Barnes, said: “This is forwarded at the request
of the parents of Mona Tinsley and I shall be glad if you will refrain
from giving my action any official interpretation.” As this was in
accordance with my desire for no publicity, we were both satisfied.
In the parcel which reached me the next day was a pink silk dress
belonging to Mona. As I took it from its wrapping and held the soft
material in my hands, I knew at once that Mona was dead. Just then, my
old dog, who had been sleeping quietly on a rug, suddenly leaped to his
feet and began to career madly around the room. It is no uncommon thing
for cats and dogs to react strangely in the presence of strong psychic
phenomena, but this was the first time I had seen it occur with my own
pet. Puck, normally the quietest and gentlest of creatures, now behaved
like a thing possessed and finally had to be shut in another room before
he quieted down.
Then, with Red Cloud’s help, Mona spoke to me, saying she had been taken
to a small house where she had been strangled. She gave me a picture of
a house, with a water filled ditch on one side, a field at its back, a
churchyard close by, and an inn within sight. In my vision I was taken
to a graveyard, over a bridge, and across some fields to a river beyond.
There I stopped, unable to go further.
The picture projected to me was so clear that my secretary telephoned
the Newark police to check its details with them. Evidently my
description coincided close with the location of the child’s
disappearance because before they rang off they invited me to visit the
site. If I would go to Newark, I was told, they would
send a car to
meet me at the railway station. Despite earlier misgivings, I was now
deeply interested, and readily agreed to go.
At Newark railway station, I found the car awaiting me and, without any
preliminaries, we drove off. Soon we came to a small house, which I
recognized from my vision though I had never seen it with my physical
sight. Two policemen accompanied me up the path towards the front door.
Before we reached it, however, without knowing why I did so, I turned
from the path and walked to the side of the house where I found another
door. It was unlocked and I went in.
house was bare from top to bottom; every stick of furniture had gone.
Left to roam as I pleased, I went first to the staircase and climbed to
the two rooms above. I received no psychic impressions in the first room
I entered, but in the second, at the back of the house, particularly
near the water tank, I could feel the presence of Mona. I went
downstairs again and walked around the two lower rooms. It was in the
front one that Mona had spent her time – of this I was certain because
the child told me so clairaudiently.
When I rejoined the policemen outside they quizzed on my findings. I
told them the girl had occupied the upstairs back room, and they said it
was the bedroom in which some furniture had been found. The front
bedroom had been quite bare. They nodded when I mentioned the water tank
and said they had found a handkerchief there. This was later produced in
evidence at the trial. Downstairs I told them, she had spent most of her
time in the front room. This Mona had told me, adding that she had
amused herself in copying something out of a book. This was also borne
out later in the trial.
I said: “I knew before I came here that the child was dead. I can now
tell you she was killed in that back bedroom.”
“The child’s death has yet to be established,” came the guarded reply.
“We have found no body. But, assuming you’re right, can you tell us how
the crime took place?”
“Death was by strangulation. The murderer then put the body in a sack
and left the house by the side door.”
“Why not by the front door?”
“I don’t know. All I can say is that it was the side door he used.”
“Actually,” one of the policemen admitted, “the front door won’t open.
Nodder screwed it up so that it is permanently closed.”
“This is Nodder’s house?” I asked. “Yes.”
“I thought it might be.”
Frederick Nodder's name had been very much in the news. It was clear to
readers of the newspapers that the police were very interested in
Nodder’s movements at the time of the crime and just before it, but
interest and suspicion are not enough to substantiate a charge at law.
The police needed proof and they had not been able to get it. Neither
had they been able to find Mona Tinsley, dead or alive.
“Assuming the child has been killed, where would you say the murderer
hid the body?” I was asked.
“Some distance from here,” I said. “I can’t say precisely where, but if
you would care to walk with me, I’ll do my best to help you.”
Together we walked past the churchyard, where I saw that some of the
graves had been opened – doubtless by the police, who had been leaving
nothing to chance. We crossed the bridge and came to the fields, exactly
as I had foreseen.
“Beyond these fields there is a river,” I said. “There is.”
“The river holds the secret of the child’s whereabouts. If you’ve
dragged it already and found nothing, you must drag it again.”
I could tell them no more and, shortly after, they drove me back to the
after my visit to Newark, the police charged Nodder with the abduction
of Mona Tinsley. He was found guilty and sentenced to seven years'
imprisonment. But the hunt for the child was never relaxed. Many weeks
later her body was found still inside its sack in the River Idle beyond
the fields. It had
in the mouth of a drain, which explained why previous searches had
failed to bring it to light.
Nodder was brought from prison to stand trial for murder. He was
convicted and duly executed.
I have never
enjoyed dealing with murder cases because it is a harassing experience
for the medium to relive the impressions of the victim's last moments on
earth. It has happened several times that I have embarked unknowingly on
a case in which murder was involved, but it has required only a few
seconds of spirit communication before I was aware that the victim died
by violence. One such instance was when the Sunday Pictorial
asked if I would try to help two bereaved mothers without disclosing
their names or the reason for their mourning. There could be only one
answer to such a request and in due course a newspaperman arrived at my
door bringing the two ladies with him. The reporter, whose name was John
Ridley, wrote an account of our séance that afternoon, and it was
published in a subsequent issue of the newspaper. I am indebted to the
Editor of the Sunday Pictorial for permission to reprint this
article exactly as it appeared in the newspaper. Mr. Ridley wrote:
"Here and now
I must admit that I am completely staggered and bewildered. The picture
of the little girl you see on this page is that of Sheila Wilson. You
may remember her, for three months ago Sheila, eleven years of age, was
brutally murdered in a London house.
I did not know Sheila. Until three days ago I had never seen her
parents. But it happens that Mrs. Wilson read in the Sunday Pictorial
that I was investigating claims of Spiritualists to be able to
communicate with children in the spirit world.
So Mrs. Wilson wrote me this letter:
`Dear Sir, - I have just read with interest your article in the
Sunday Pictorial. If it is possible that you can speak with your
loved one who has gone, will you please inform me where to go, as my
poor little darling Sheila was murdered three months ago. I cannot
believe it is possible to speak to her again. I remain, yours sincerely,
I told you that I would be taking three bereaved mothers to séances,
without revealing their names or anything about them
the mediums. After receiving Mrs. Wilson's letter I decided to take her
along to see Estelle Roberts.
I chose Mrs.
Roberts for this supreme test because, in Spiritualist circles, she is
acknowledged as the outstanding medium.
Let me add
that until three days ago I had never met Mrs. Roberts, but here and now
let me say that I am prepared to swear in any court of law that the
following account of what happened at our sitting with the mother of
little murdered Sheila Wilson is true.
We sat a round in a circle in broad daylight in an ordinary room. Not at
all a room in which you would expect uncanny things to happen to you.
There beside me was Sheila's mother and four feet away was Mrs. Estelle
Roberts. Beside us was the other bereaved mother, Mrs. Pugh, of Broad
Lane, Birmingham, who had contacted me in exactly the same way.
Almost at once, Mrs. Roberts began rubbing her throat. There was no
question of her being ‘in a trance'. She seemed perfectly normal. Then
she spoke - to Sheila's mother.
‘Your little girl', she said, 'passed into the spirit world with a
terrific shock. I have a feeling of constriction round the throat - of
choking. Your little girl was strangled.'
Now do you remember the case of Sheila Wilson? She was, in fact,
strangled by a man who has since been executed for his crime.
‘This spirit,' Mrs. Roberts went on, 'passed over only a short time ago.
She has been dead less than six months. It is difficult for her to
communicate . . . she has not yet adjusted herself to her new life.'
`After her death, you went to see your little daughter - but you only
saw her through glass.'
Mrs. Wilson nodded. It was true - all true.
appeared to be seeing and talking to people all this time; to people who
were not visible or audible to me or to anyone else in the room. Then
the medium spoke again:
`Your daughter is asking what you have done with her little colored
shoes. You took them out of the cupboard downstairs.'
Mrs. Wilson, fascinated now, agreed. She said she had taken them out, a
pair of her child's red dancing shoes, and given them away.
girl sends you all her love,' Mrs. Roberts went on, 'also her love to
Baby, Rosie, Jim, Peter, John, May, Nelly, Margery, Vi, Ruby, Doreen and
to the Three.'
All of these names were instantly recognized by Mrs. Wilson as being of
Sheila's relations and little friends.
'Kiss Peter for me, she says,' went on Mrs. Roberts. Peter is Sheila's
There was another pause, then the medium went on `Listen! The child is
telling me that you keep holding in your mind a picture of her as having
suffered a great deal. But you are wrong. She did not suffer. She was
very peaceful before she passed.
Mrs. Wilson sat wide-eyed with wonder. Her whirling mind tried to grasp
the immensity of the revelation.
Mrs. Roberts turned to Mrs. Pugh. After a while she said:
'Your little boy is a dear kiddie, with brown curly hair. He is standing
just beside you now.'
Mrs. Pugh gave Mrs. Roberts a toy which had belonged to her child. But
the medium was not satisfied. She asked: `He says he wants to have the
other toy you have brought with you in your bag.'
Mrs. Pugh opened her handbag and produced a very small woolly doll. No
one but herself could have known it was there.
Mrs. Roberts told Mrs. Pugh that her little boy was being cared for by a
tall old lady called Emily. She described in detail this old lady. But
the description conveyed nothing to Mrs. Pugh. Nothing - until Mrs.
Roberts said that this lady was the mother of Mary, the little boy's
Then she remembered that again the medium had discovered a fact that she
herself was hardly aware of. For she recalled that Emily was in fact the
name of the little boy's great-grandmother.
As she was still sitting almost transfixed by this revelation Mrs.
Roberts in the same conversational tone continued:
you went up to your little boy's grave and put some flowers there. He
thanks you for them. There were also some chrysanthemums that were sent
- but they are not on his grave.'
Mrs. Pugh admitted that she visited the child's grave on the previous
day with some flowers, but that she had left at home some chrysanthemums
sent by her sister.
The séance ended. For a while the mothers were too overwhelmed to speak.
But gradually their minds adjusted themselves to this amazing experience
and when we parted they were happy. I say deliberately - they were
happier than they have ever been since they were parted from their loved
That was not my only experience in last week's investigations, although
after that almost incredible sitting with Mrs. Roberts, the others pale
away in my memory . . .
I had a séance with another medium, Lilian Bailey. To her I took another
bereaved mother from Birmingham, Mrs. Ethel Wright.
Mrs. Wright lost her five-year-old daughter nine months ago - and the
medium told her that the child died ten months ago.
Mrs. Bailey also described the child quite fairly and added: 'She wants
you to give her love to her daddy and to tell him that she is still his
It was true that the child's father often used this phrase to the little
I began this investigation a complete skeptic. Until last week I saw
nothing to make me change my mind.
After last week's tests I am no longer a skeptic. I am completely
mystified, simply because I cannot hope to explain how this had happened
to me and to those mothers.
is whether grief-stricken parents can find in Spiritualist experience
comfort and solace after the death of their beloved children.
went to the séances, Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Pugh and Mrs. Wright, were
three bereaved mothers, living in the shadow of their sorrow.
afterwards their whole aspect changed, as if by magic. Gone was the
strain and the tension. They chatted brightly to each other, exchanging
anecdotes about their children, their minds at rest.
Not all Spiritualists have the power of Mrs. Estelle Roberts and Mrs.
Bailey. There are, I am sure, racketeers and charlatans who will try to
take your money and give you nothing but a conjuring show.
Yet, if you will bare this warning in mind, then I shall not hold you
back from seeking comfort in Spiritualism
And I say even though I cannot even yet regard their case as proved, the
experience that happened to the mother of that murdered child in my
presence last week has made it possible for me to say any longer: 'I do
not believe.' For it was something I shall never forget."
Suicide is no less an offense against the spiritual laws than it is
against the laws of man-made civilization. And, as in the one so in the
other, there are degrees of transgression. Both laws recognize there is
no fault attaching to the unfortunate person whose mind is so unhinged
that he is not aware of the sins he is committing. In such sad cases
there can be no penalty, only love and sympathy. Both laws equally
condemn suicide in those who are responsible for their actions, the
spiritual law being meticulously just, as Red Cloud has made clear on
Everyone is given freedom of action to do as he will, says Red Cloud. It
is for him to choose, but in choosing he must also accept the
consequences of his choice. He may destroy his earth-body, but because
he has been granted eternal life the spirit is indestructible. In
passing into the next plane of life it suffers no change except that the
imperfect earth-body is no more. The individual continues to exist,
expressing himself through the spiritbody, which is the replica of the
earth-body except for its
imperfections. He who was blind can again see; he who was maimed is
whole. Individuality and character remain unchanged, for the soul starts
after death from the same stage of evolution that had been attained. The
problems from which the suicide hoped to escape remain with him, as does
the realization that death has solved nothing.
By the act of suicide, man undergoes premature birth into the spirit
world. He cannot immediately reach the plane of consciousness to which
his evolution would entitle him had he fulfilled his allotted span on
earth. Instead he remains suspended between the earth and the astral
plane, which is the first stage beyond earth. In this state he is
deprived, for the time being, of the company of his loved ones in the
spirit world, unable to cross the barrier raised by his premature birth.
Only when he has advanced in his evolution to the required degree can he
rejoin those he knew and loved.
How futile then are the efforts of those who commit suicide in order to
rejoin more quickly those loved ones who have preceded them! How futile
to try by this means to end earthly sufferings! Only if life on earth is
endured to its end can the spirit progress in its evolution.
Some years ago The People
published a series of articles on Spiritualism. Written by Maurice
Barbanell, the series aroused so much interest and correspondence that
the Editor invited readers who were bereaved and who had never attended
a séance to send him their stories. From those submitted, the Editor
undertook to select a few readers to have sittings under rigid test
conditions. Maurice Barbanell had no hand in choosing the readers whose
stories suggested they were most in need of psychic help; and neither,
of course, had I.
With one of these readers, the story that unfolded was profoundly
moving. He was a man named Proctor, brought to my house by a reporter
from the The People. His
name and all the circumstances surrounding him were deliberately kept
from me. The preamble to our séance was no more than a polite comment on
the weather. As soon as the sitting began I became aware of a women
about thirty-five years old who had clearly passed over not long before.
She was very distraught and I knew her death had been a tragic one. She
almost pounced on me in her urgency to speak to my visitor who, she
said, was her husband, she said:
"Darling, I didn't want to leave you. I can't remember the end; it was
so quick. Have nothing on your conscience, darling; it was not your
fault. I was choking and then I just slept and slept and slept. The
babies are with me still. The three of us will always be near you,
waiting for you. I have wanted so much to tell you these things, to tell
you there is no death, but I've never been able to reach you. Now that I
have done so, I am happy, so happy."
husband I later learned the full details of what had happened. Some
eight months before he had returned home to find his wife dead on the
floor from an overdose of sleeping tablets. She had first tried to gas
herself, but the gas had run out, and so she had resorted to the pills.
(The choking sensation to which she had referred in her message must
have been the effect of the gas.) Beside her lay the bodies of their two
children; one aged four, the other five months. The poor women had been
in a bad state of nerves since the birth of the baby, and though she
seemed to be getting better, had suddenly suffered a relapse which ended
with this brainstorm. From the way she had almost hurled herself at me
in her anxiety to assure her husband that she still lived, there could
be no doubt that the sending of this message was as important to her as
receiving it was to him.
My visitor was much impressed by the events of our sitting; no less it
seems by my involuntary hand gestures than by the message I had given
him. He remarked to the newspaperman who accompanied him that while I
was in communication with his wife, I kept clasping my hands in front of
my face. I was unaware of having done this, nor could I later recall
having done so. However, the significance of it was not lost on him. He
explained that the movements of my hands had been a faithful
reproduction of a characteristic gesture of his wife's. Many times he
had seen her hands make the same nervous movements that mine had done,
especially in the mornings when he had had to leave to go to his
An account of Mr. Proctor's visit was published in
The People the following
Sunday. It was a full description, much more detailed that the brief
resume I have just given. Towards the end of the article the reporter,
Alan Bestic, wrote:
"There is, of course, another possible interpretation of what happened.
Mrs. Roberts has a keen, sensitive mind. Mr. Proctor came to her with an
appalling problem dominating his thoughts.
Perhaps that sensitive mind reached out and picked up those thoughts as
a delicate radio receiver picks up faint, persistent signals. It could
have been telepathy.
But that theory does not hold good for another test which Mrs. Roberts
conducted in my presence that day. This time the subjects were Mrs. P.
and her daughter, who, for family reasons, wish to remain anonymous.
Neither had seen Mrs. Roberts before. She knew nothing of them.
Mrs. P. wanted information about her son, Will, who was reported killed,
on a bomber raid over Germany 15 years ago.
Both she and her daughter had been told by several mediums that he was
still alive, wandering in France, suffering from loss of memory.
Mrs. Roberts told them she was in contact with a man, Mrs. P's husband.
She described accurately how he had died of cancer and how his mind had
been unsettled for a few days before his death.
But, of Will she could tell no more than other mediums. His father, she
said, told her he was looking after the boy, who was still alive on
But, because Will was suffering from amnesia, it was difficult for them
to influence his mind. She felt he had into Germany, perhaps into the
Russian zone. She could not pinpoint his exact position.
Naturally, Mrs. P. and her daughter were disappointed. But the
experiment was by no means a failure.
Mrs. Roberts gave them information which they could not possibly have
had in their minds when they came to see her.
She said: 'He is trembling with excitement. He is talking of a woman
called Lizzie. Who is Lizzie?'
Neither of them knew. 'Yes you do,' said Mrs. Roberts. She is connected
with his father.'
right,' beamed Mrs. P. 'My husband had an aunt called Lizzie - his
father's sister. I never met her.'
'He is talking about Jim. No . . . it's Jenny. Who is Jenny?'
Both Mrs. P. and her daughter looked blank. 'Her name was Jane,' said
the medium. `They're together now. Everyone called her Polly.'
Mother and daughter burst into laughing. `Aunt Polly!' they shouted
I am convinced that Mrs. P. and her daughter had not thought of some of
these folk for years. And some they barely knew."
There have been many cases in which my mediumistic powers prevented
tragedies. One I recall concerned a girl-wife who had lost her husband
and was inconsolable. Her father and mother brought her to me,
volunteering no information other than that she needed my help. The girl
and I went alone to my little séance room. Her husband speedily
communicated, giving irrefutable proof that he had survived the grave.
He referred to little incidents, domestic happenings that had occurred
quite recently, thus showing that he was still with her. The loneliness
of bereavement she had been suffering was now over. In her joy at this
reunion, she ran quickly to the car outside, without stopping to rejoin
her parents who were waiting in another room. Understanding her action,
I went to them to tell them of her newfound happiness.
As I went into the room the mother sprang to her feet, anxious to know
the result of the sitting. I assured her that the girl's husband had
returned and proved his survival. Tears were in the mother's eyes as she
clasped my hands, saying: "Mrs. Roberts, you have saved her life. Had he
not come, I don't know what she would have done. Several times the poor
child has talked resolutely of taking her own life."
In that moment the full measure of the responsibility of my work dawned
upon me. I offered a silent prayer that I should never be found wanting.
A more dramatic case of forestalling tragedy occurred at the Queen's
Hall in London. I had been giving a demonstration of clairvoyance when,
in obedience to Red Cloud's prompting, I pointed to the back of the
packed balcony. There, I addressed a man, begging him to see me before
he left the hall. When the meeting was over a steward came to say the
man was asking to see me.
him here," I said, and turning to Mr. Hannen Swafer, who had been
talking to me, I told him I should be glad to have him witness what I
proposed to do.
The man came
in a minute later, poorly dressed, dejected looking, one who had clearly
known better days. He said politely, "You asked to see me, Mrs.
"Yes," I told him. "You have a bottle of poison in your pocket, and I
don't think it should be there. Will you give it to me?"
At once he began to bluster. "Poison," he said. "I've got no poison."
"Yes, you have. And for no good purpose." I held out my hand for it.
He looked at me steadily for several seconds and then shrugged his
"Since you know so much about it, you'd better have the razor, too."
He handed over a small bottle of prussic acid and a rusty razor.
"Would you like to tell us what it is all about?" I asked. Again he
shrugged his shoulders, as though it did not matter whether he told us
"It's the usual story," he said, at last. "Out of work, down and out,
broke! It wasn't too bad while the wife was alive; when there's two of
you, you seem to make out better. But she died a couple of months ago,
and somehow it took all the heart out of me. I've been trying for the
last couple of weeks to pluck up courage to do myself in. But it isn’t
so easy when you come down to it. I thought at first I'd use my old
razor. Then one day I spotted this bottle of poison, all nice and handy,
so I slipped it in my pocket. It seemed cleaner than a razor, somehow."
He paused, reflecting on the rival merits of acid and steel. The he went
"Well, this afternoon while I was on a bench in the park, I decided to use
the poison. I was sitting there, thinking out when and where to do it when
a newspaper blew across the grass and wrapped itself around my legs. And
there across the top of the page were the words, "You Can Talk With Your
"It was by Mrs. Shaw Desmond,” I told him.
"Maybe, I don't
know who wrote it, but it said to come here. There wasn't any charge to
come in, it said, so I thought I'd come. I'd nothing to lose, and it'd be
warmer inside than sitting around in the park till it got dark enough to
drink the poison without some busybody spotting what I was up to. I
reckoned, too, that if I could talk to my wife I could find out if she's
better off up there than I am down here. So there you are. That's why I am
here, and what I've told you is God's truth."
Neither of us who listened to this sad little story had the least doubt of
its truth. Swaffer picked up a hat and began a collection on the spot.
Later he took the man under his wing and, with characteristic kindness,
continued to help him until he was finally established in a job and firmly
on his feet again.
Many times I reflected what forces combined to lead that man to the
Queen's Hall that eventful evening. Perhaps it was simply his wife,
watching over him faithfully, as she had always done in the past.