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Observations placeholder

Sir Edward Marshall Hall - Automatic forewarning of his brother’s death via automatic writing



Type of Spiritual Experience


We think it was actually Archdeacon Gaul who was the key to this.  In a state of high emotion – shock and trepidation at having to write the letter informing Edward Marshall Hall of the death, Miss Wingfield actually picked up the thoughts of Archdeacon Gaul.  It could have been the dead man, but in this case one suspects not.

A description of the experience


The Hall Case

First let me say that I was a most hardened skeptic before the message came through to me which converted me.

My sister, to whom I was greatly attached, had for many years been in close touch and affectionate friendship with a Miss Wingfield, who possessed in a very high degree the power of . . . 'automatic writing.'

"In order to make the matter quite clear to my reader, I am afraid I shall have to go into a matter of family history which is not altogether a pleasant recollection. For some time previous to this date in March, 1894, a brother of mine much older than myself, who, after great prosperity, had fallen into great poverty, was in South Africa in receipt of an allowance, and this allowance was paid by me on behalf of the family through a kind friend, Archdeacon Gaul, who very reluctantly had accepted the somewhat disagreeable task.

"To put it very shortly, my brother was an inebriate, and as is always the case, any money coming direct to his hands went in drink. To avoid this, Archdeacon Gaul had kindly procured a lodging where the unfortunate fellow could be looked after, fed, and clothed, and, as far as possible, deprived of the means of procuring drink. As so often happens in this class of case, the recipient of this form of assistance resented very much that the payment should be made in that way, and demanded that the money should be paid to him direct. There had been some considerable correspondence between us on this subject. I had absolutely refused to accede to his request, and the tone of his letters had become more and more unpleasant. He had even gone so far as to write and threaten me with an action, unless I paid him a sum approximately, £50, being, as he alleged, the arrears of an agreement which I was said to have made with him, that if he would go to South Africa I would give him £1 per week.

The unpleasant details of this correspondence I had never communicated to my sister, but of course she knew that he was in South Africa, and she also knew that Archdeacon Gaul was interesting himself on his account.

"On Friday or Saturday, March 9 or 10, I had received from South Africa a short and insulting letter from my brother, again demanding that the allowance should be paid direct and threatening all sorts of pains and penalties if I refused. This letter happened to be in my pocket; I had not answered it, and I had not mentioned it to my sister, nor made any reference to our brother. As a matter of fact, I had only been in the house a few minutes. I realized that here was an opportunity of testing Miss Wingfield's powers. I took the letter out of my pocket; it was in an envelope. I folded it with the address and writing inside; I then placed the whole in another envelope which I sealed.

I wrote nothing, there was no writing on the outside of the outer envelope and I handed the envelope so sealed to my sister, desiring her to give it to Miss Wingfield and to ask her:
Where is the writer of the letter contained in that envelope?'
It will be noticed that I made no mention of sex and I am absolutely certain that my sister had no knowledge as to who was the writer of the enclosed letter. After considerable delay, a message came through in automatic writing, 'The writer of the letter is dead.'

This message was passed on to me by my sister, and naturally caused considerable surprise. In order to make a further test I asked another question:

 'When and where did the writer die?'

Again the answer came back, stating that he had died yesterday in South Africa. Again I had mentioned no sex and given no indication of the place of origin of the letter, and the answer, I remember, seemed to me so ridiculous, because there was a letter from South Africa which I had just received. For a moment by that curious lapse of memory which sometimes affects us, I did not realize that the letter, although received by me on March 9 or 10, had in fact been written some three weeks before.

I frankly admit that I was puzzled, for the letter about which I was asking was undoubtedly from South Africa, where my brother, about whom I was inquiring, was—for all I knew to the contrary—then alive. My sister asked me if I wished to put any more questions.

I simply said, 'No,' and I never told her anything about the facts of that letter till some weeks later. In the evening I returned to London and on Monday morning I dictated a letter to my confidential clerk addressed to my brother, a letter which in fact was not sent.

The following Saturday, March 17, I received a letter of small importance from Archdeacon Gaul; it is dated March 5, and the envelope bears the postmark of Kimberley, March 5, 1894, and the London postmark of March 27, on which day I received it. This letter, which I have in my hands at this moment, gives me an account of monies that have been expended for my brother, but complains very much of his conduct and practically requests that definite arrangements should be made as to remitting regularly through the Standard Bank of South Africa.

"So incredulous was I of the message that I had received that, though I remember having a qualm on the subject, I actually wrote a long letter to the Archdeacon on March 29, 1894, in which I put the position plainly before him and promised to do as he asked. The draft of that letter in my clerk's handwriting I have now found.

On April 2, 1894, I received another letter from Archdeacon Gaul, dated Kimberley, March 8, 1894, which begins:

'Dear Sir: I little thought when I wrote last week that I should have this week the melancholy duty laid on me of informing you of the death of your brother, which occurred yesterday,' and he goes on to say that my brother had been found lying dead on the early morning of that day and was going to be buried that afternoon.

 I need hardly say that this communication staggered me, and after considering every possible explanation of the communication, and making every allowance for imagination, I was convinced that the message I had received on March 10 had come through some agency outside this material world.

"…….I was ignorant of the fact, when I asked the question on March 10, that my brother was dead. My sister did not know that I was asking any question about my brother, or even about a letter written by my brother, and certainly she did not know that he was dead. Miss Wingfield had never seen my brother ; I doubt if she ever knew of his existence, and she certainly had no knowledge whatever that he was in South Africa at the time, so the fact remains that on Saturday, March 10, 1894, I was told that my brother had died in South Africa yesterday.

I quite admit that this is not strictly accurate, for, in point of fact he had died on the early morning of March 8; but that in my opinion does not weaken the conclusion I have formed, and it is quite possible that the word my sister read as 'yesterday' may have been 'Thursday,' which was the day of the death.

If I am right in saying that this phenomenon cannot be explained by any natural process, then I consider I am justified in continuing to believe, as I do believe, that it was a supernatural communication.

"Some day the true explanation of these phenomena will be demonstrated, and if it is not on the lines that I have indicated, and there is some other means of accounting for it which does not involve survival after death, I am convinced that we shall learn something even more marvellous, more improbable, and certainly less acceptable to those who, like myself, find comfort in our belief."

The source of the experience

Hall, Sir Edward Marshall

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Extreme emotion


Automatic writing