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Observations placeholder

Heywood, Rosalind - The Infinite Hive - At the SPR in Tavistock Square, I used to meet an invisible man wandering about the small room at the back of the stairs



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Rosalind Heywood – The Infinite Hive

At the old headquarters of the SPR in Tavistock Square, I used to meet an invisible man wandering about the small room at the back of the stairs and the passage which led to it.

He seemed to be in a state of acute anxiety.

As the house was an old one I jumped to the conclusion, without warrant, that this apparent presence must be a 'left-over' from the distant past, for I had not yet worked out that, for me at least, such 'left-overs' do not seem to be actively conscious of the present.

Being a new recruit to the SPR I did not want my colleagues to feel that I was a Mr Black, imagining 'ghosts' on their own premises, and so for some time I kept quiet about the poor man.

But one evening when after a meeting I went to fetch my coat from the little back room, he seemed so desperately in need of help that I felt quite shaken, and could not resist blurting out to a group of senior members of the SPR, who were standing by the front door, that I had just met an invisible man in the little room down the passage. Out of cowardice I put it as a joke, but they did not appear to think it funny. On the contrary, they looked shocked and hastily left the house, without, I could not help observing, asking me a single question, even to check whether I had suddenly gone out of my mind or was pulling their legs. Nor could I help wondering whether this would have happened in other forms of inquiry which were still, like our inquiry into ESP, at the exploratory stage.

However that might be, from the experient's point of view, there was the poor worried man and there was I doing nothing to help him except to make soothing noises (interior) when we met. Much good that did him, I thought. In the end I decided to go to Edward Osborn about the problem, because he combined scientific caution with an open mind and a kind heart.

(He ran the publications department for Chatham House and investigated ESP in his spare time.)

To my great relief he did not treat me as a knave or a moron. He even asked a question:

'What does your man look like?'

'I don't know. But he seems to be very worried.'

'Try hard to visualize him.'

I did my best, but could only evoke a very faint mental image of a pale thin man with hollow cheeks and wispy grey hair. I put him in period clothes, but said that I was pretty sure that this was merely imagination because the house was an old one.

Edward Osborn failed to find anything in its history to account for such a presence, so there seemed nothing left for me to do but try to check my experience independently. To that end, I asked the writer, Signe Toksvig, to go round the house - a large one - by herself and give me her impressions.

She was sensitive to places and I could trust her. She reported an invisible presence in the ground floor passage and little back room.

So far so good; if her impression was not due to chance, it might at least suggest a telepathic link with me. And then, some years later, I met an American sensitive who had visited the SPR, and I asked her if she had had any impressions there.

'Yes, 'she said,' I once met Whately Carington in the small back room behind the stairs. He was desperately worried about a loved relative and as a result of meeting him I was able to help her.'

Whately Carington was a scientist who had given the best part of his life to experimental research into telepathy and who had evolved a theory that it was encouraged if agent and experient both held a thought of the same object in their conscious minds. This, he felt, might act as a link between them.

I had done a few little experiments for him, and it beat me why, on the wild hypothesis that he had been seeking for help, he should have tried to make contact with us in the little back room instead of in places where in life he used to meet his friends. At the same time, I had to admit that the face and physique I had so very faintly evoked were, in fact, like his, though the period clothes were wrong.

…. However, it was all very vague, and as there seemed no way of finding out for certain who my man might be, I put him out of my mind. Then, a year or two later, I wanted to look through the records of the experiments I had done for Carington and asked the secretary of the SPR where they were stored.

'Here,' she replied, 'with all his experiments. They are on the shelves behind the curtain just inside the little back room.'

The source of the experience

Heywood, Rosalind

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps