Virginia Campbell from County Donegal - The famous Sauchie poltergeist case
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Science and the Spook – George Owen and Victor Sims
In the autumn of 1960 a little girl of eleven years of age named Virginia Campbell came from her home, a very quiet place in County Donegal, to stay temporarily with her relatives in Alloa, an industrial town in Scotland.
Virginia was a tall girl in excellent physical health, with intelligence somewhat above average, and a temperament which normally was calm, placid and responsible.
In late November and early December 1960, accounts appeared in the national press of what seemed to be poltergeist doings that took place in Virginia's presence. Until that time I was a sceptic, but I was impressed by something in the tone of the newspaper reports which conveyed to me that for once this was the real thing.
I corresponded with the people who had been mentioned in the papers as being concerned with the case in their professional capacity, and after Christmas went up to Sauchie, the suburb of Alloa where Virginia lived. I discovered incidentally that a letter seems to take as long to get to Scotland now as it did in the time of that pioneer parapsychologist Charles l - namely, three days!
When I arrived at Alloa I found that, not untypically, things had died down before the investigator had reached the scene. But instead of wending south again in disgust, as some researchers have been known to do, I took the precaution to take down detailed and circumstantial accounts from eye-witnesses. These were five in number-professional people whose contact with the family had previously been very remote or non-existent. I then realized that I had stumbled on a scientific treasure beyond price-incontrovertible testimony as to the reality of poltergeist phenomena.
The case started effectively about midnight on November 22 when a neighbour called on the Rev. Lund, Minister of Sauchie, to tell him that strange things were happening at the Campbell home. When Mr Lund got there he heard loud knocking sounds while still on the front doorstep. Going upstairs he found Virginia in bed but not asleep. The electric light was full on and numerous members of the family and neighbours were sitting around listening, with considerable awe, to the knockings.
By various tests and inspections Mr Lund satisfied himself that neither Virginia nor anyone else was producing the knockings. The sound seemed to come from the bedhead. He gripped it and felt it vibrating entirely of its own motion.
He was interested to see a large heavy linen chest (weight about 50 lbs) raise itself from the floor in a leisurely way to a height of about two inches. It progressed about three feet parallel to the floor while suspended in air. Mr Lund put a hand on it and found it to be gently vibrating. It then settled gently down on the floor.
Occurrences of this kind repeated themselves every night for about a week, together with new sounds-“sawing” or "rasping" noises-and movements of pillows and bedclothes which were of a sort that Virginia could not have produced by trickery.
Mr Lund, and two local doctors Dr Logan and Dr Nisbet, observed the phenomena either together or separately each evening while Virginia was trying to get to sleep. Their statements, which I have given in full elsewhere, leave no doubt as to the reality of the happenings and obviate any mundane explanation such as trickery or mal-observation.
Mass hallucination is also ruled out because Dr Logan took a tape-recording of the sounds, and although tapes can be faked, a hallucinated tape-recorder is unknown to science. The tape-recording is of great interest as it records two different sounds being produced at the same time, a "knocking" and a "sawing".
As it chanced, the haunted house theory was very adequately tested. After a few days at home it was decided that Virginia might as well resume attendance at school. Owing to a verbal misunderstanding the true reason for her absence was unknown to her class teacher Miss Margaret Stewart, who thought she had been suffering from some mild ailment. That afternoon Miss Stewart was astonished to see an unoccupied desk just behind Virginia gently rise an inch or so into the air and settle down again a little way out of its normal position.
Like Dr Gibbs and the bedstead, Miss Stewart went over to the desk and verified that it had no strings or levers. On another occasion Virginia was standing about a foot away from Miss Stewart's desk (actually a table four foot long by two foot wide, a substantial object). While Miss Stewart was explaining an arithmetic problem to her, the table, vibrating slightly, moved of itself, swinging around as if pivoted at one end.
It was agreed by all that a change of scene might be beneficial and so Virginia was sent for a few days to her aunt at the nearby town of Dollar. Here no objects moved but each evening knockings sounded all over the house.
Dr Logan and his wife (also a doctor) visited in the evenings. Mrs Logan had been intensely sceptical but was converted though only after a somewhat relentless investigation of her own into the source of the sounds, which were traced to a point in mid air near the bed!
The Sauchie poltergeist case lasted in effect about a fortnight.
My brief extracts here fail completely to do justice to the amount of phenomena attested by the five witnesses. Nor have I accurately conveyed the quality of their observation, the precautions they took, and the extent to which their testimony is corroborated.
The total effect of their complete depositions as given verbatim in my book Can We Explain the Poltergeist? is overwhelming and ought to convince any truly unbiased persons.
In the intervening years not a single critic has come forward with any suggestion as to how or why the witnesses might have been mistaken, though the case received wide publicity at the time in the press and on Scottish BBC radio, and subsequently in the Sunday Mirror, in Woman's Hour and in a recent BBC television programme on Poltergeists. There is no argument more eloquent than the silence of critics.