Sir William Barrett FRS - Proof of Supernormal Messages - The Chatham Case
Type of Spiritual Experience
Sir William Barrett FRS
Professor of Physics at the Royal College of Science for Dublin from 1873-1910 and one of the distinguished early psychical researchers. In fact, it was Barrett who first initiated the founding of both the American and British Society for Psychical Research.
A description of the experience
Proof of Supernormal Messages
- Sir William Barrett FRS -
"The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God. In the sight of the unwise they seem to die and their departure is taken for misery and their going away from earth to be utter destruction-but they are in peace." From the Wisdom of Solomon, iii. 1-3
…….Some years ago I was staying at a friend's house in the country, which I will call Hawthorn Manor, and found that my hostess, Mrs. E. - the wife of a lawyer holding a responsible official position, and herself a matronly lady of great acumen and commonsense, the centre of a circle of religious and charitable activity - had accidentally discovered that her hand was occasionally impressed by some power she could not control. Long messages, the purport of which were at the time unknown to her, were thus written.
The curious feature of this automatic writing was that it came on her suddenly; when writing up some household accounts she fell into a dreamy or semi-trance-like state, and then felt the fingers of another hand - belonging apparently to an invisible person seated opposite to her - laid on her right hand, and a sudden vigorous scribbling ensued. But the writing was all upside down, each line beginning at her right hand side of the page, and could only be read by turning the page round. Mrs. E. assured me, and I have no reason to doubt her word, that it was quite impossible for her to write a single word correctly in this way in her normal state. Anyone who will make the attempt will find how difficult such a mode of writing is to execute, especially in the clear and characteristic calligraphy, which here occurred.
Mrs. E. was not a spiritualist and had no knowledge of the subject, in fact rather an aversion to it. Hence no serious attention was given to this abnormal writing until a message came containing certain specific statements, wholly outside the knowledge of herself or husband, which they subsequently discovered to be perfectly true incidents in the life of a deceased relative, who asserted he was present and guiding the lady's hand. Other communications followed, which also were verified. Then on another evening came, the instance to which I have referred as affording proof of identity.
THE CHATHAM CASE
In this case the communicating intelligence was unknown to Mrs. E. The circumstances, written down at the time, were as follows:
A cousin of my hostess, an officer in the Engineers, named B., was paying a visit to Hawthorn Manor. I was not present, but the facts were sent to me; some, indeed, came under my own knowledge.
B. had a friend, a brother officer, Major C., who died after B. left Chatham, and to whose rooms in the barracks he frequently went to play on C.'s piano, both being musical: of this Mrs. E. assured me she knew absolutely nothing. At the sitting in question, much to R's amazement, for he was quite ignorant of spiritualism, the Christian name and surname of Major C, were unexpectedly given, followed by the question, addressed to B.,
"Have you kept up your music?"
Then came some private matter of a striking character, when suddenly the unseen visitant interjected the question,
"What was done with the books?"
"What books?" was asked.
"Lent to me," was C.'s reply.
"Who lent you the books?"
The reply came at once, "A ," giving the name of another brother officer, of whose existence Mrs. E. was also wholly unaware.
"Shall I write to ask A if he has them?" B. asked.
"Yes," was the reply.
All present assert on their word of honour they knew of no such loan, nor was the officer named in any of their thoughts, nor had Mrs. E. ever heard A 's name mentioned before.
A was written to, and the question about the books incidentally asked, but in a reply that came some time after no notice was taken of the question. Two months later, however, B. accidentally met his friend A , when, in the course of conversation on other matters, A suddenly exclaimed:
"That was a rum thing you asked me about in your letter; I mean about Major C. and the books. I did lend him some books, but I don't know what became of them after his death."