In a previous post, Ectoplasm and Materialization, I linked to photographs of Jack Webber producing ectoplasm during a seance. Since that time I had a chance, in the comment section of Michael Prescott's blog, to ask Zerdini his opinion of their authenticity. His reply was very informative ...
Yes they were:
Leon Isaacs, who took the photographs at Webber’s circles, used two cameras placed at different angles…shots using this two-camera technique showed the disposition of trumpets and other objects, establishing that they were not held aloft by any material agency.
Isaac’s pictures were taken by flashlight, the source of the light being screened by an infrared filter which suppressed practically all visible light rays and only permitted infrared emanations to pass.
In effect there was a brief glow at the instant of exposure which had no harmful effects on the medium.
Many of the photos of Jack Webber were taken by a 'Daily Mirror' photographer.
Harry Edwards can be seen in some of the photographs as one of the sitters.
THE following report occupied the best part of the two centre pages of the Daily Mirror on February 28th, 1939. "Cassandra" is the pen-name of a gentleman on the staff of the Daily Mirror who writes a daily pertinent review on matters in general. He is well known for his cryptic and biting sarcasm, and has, on numbers of occasions, given full vent to his opposition to spiritualism.
The séance in question was held in North London at a place to which the medium had never been before, and the people present were complete strangers.
Mr. Leon Isaacs had been asked to take infra-red photographs. The problem arose as to the means of transporting the equipment, and since "Cassandra" had a car, he was asked to help this way. Thus the only reason why "Cassandra" was present was because he possessed a car.
The article was illustrated by a photograph (Plate No. 20), with the following description beneath it "The medium in a trance, lashed to the chair, while a table leaves the ground and books fly through the air ... a photograph taken during the séance attended by 'Cassandra.'
The heading was "Cassandra got a surprise at Séance," and his report, in his caustic manner, reads as follows:
"I claim I can bring as much scepticism to bear on spiritualism as any newspaper writer living, and that's a powerful load of scepticism these days. I haven't got an open mind on the subject--I'm a violent, prejudiced unbeliever with a limitless ability to leer at the unknown. At least, I was till last Saturday. And then I got a swift, sharp, ugly jolt that shook most of my pet sneers right out of their sockets.
"Picture to yourself a small room in a typical suburban house. In one corner a radio-gramophone. In the centre a ring of chairs. At the far end an armchair."
"About a dozen people filed in and sat in the circle. I hope they won't mind my saying it, but they struck me as a credulous collection that would have brought tears of joy to a sharepusher's eyes."
"Almost everyone a genuine customer for a lovely phony gold brick."
"They sat down and the medium, a young Welsh ex-miner, was then roped to the arm-chair. The photographer and I stood outside the circle. The lights went out and we sailed rapidly into the unknown."
"The medium gurgled like water running out of a bath, and we opened up with a strangled prayer."
"The circle of believers answered with 'All Hail the Power of Jesu's Name,' and I was told that we were 'on the brink.' I thought we were in Cockfosters, Herts, but I soon began to doubt it when trumpets sprayed with luminous paint shot round the room like fishes in a tank. They hovered like pike in a stream, and then swam slowly about.
"The medium snored and struggled for breath."
"Somebody put a record on, and we were soon bellowing 'Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do.' The trumpets beat time and hurled themselves against the ceiling."
"A bell rang."
"There was considerable excited laughter, and in a slight hysteria we sang 'There is a green hill far away,' followed by the profane, secular virility of 'John Brown's body.'
"A tambourine with 'God is Love' written on it became highly unreasonable, and flew up noisily round our heads.
"The rough stertorous breathing of the medium continued, and a faint tapping sound heralded a voice speaking from one of the trumpets that was well adrift from its moorings. A faint, childish voice said in a voice of deep melancholy that it was 'Very, very happy.' More voices spoke."
"Water was splashed about (there was none in the room when we started) and books took off from their shelves."
"The medium remained lashed to his chair."
"A clockwork train ran across the floor."
"Suddenly a heavy table slowly left the ground. The man who was sitting next to it said calmly 'The table's gone !' The photographer released his flash-you see the result on the right."
"At no time did the medium move from his chair. I swear it."
"The table landed with a thump in the middle of the circle. A book that was on it remained in position."
"I'll pledge my word that not a soul in the room touched it. It was so heavy that it needed quite a husky fellow to lift it. I felt the weight of it afterward."
"What price cynicism ? What price heresy?"
"Don't ask me what it all means, but you can't tell me now that these strange and rather terrifying things don't happen."
"I was there. I saw them. I went to scoff."
"But the laugh is sliding slowly round to the other side of my face."
REPORT OF A SÉANCE BY BERNARD GRAY (Sunday Pictorial).
THE séance reported took place on May 24th, 1939, and occupied two pages of the Sunday Pictorial dated May 28th, 1939.
Mr. Gray prefaced his report with an affidavit as follows:
"I, BERNARD GRAY, of 27, Barn Rise, Wembley Park, in the County of Middlesex, journalist, make Oath and say as follows -
"1. That my description of the incidents enumerated in the Article written by me hereunto annexed and marked 'B.G.' to appear in the issue of the Sunday Pictorial of the Twenty-eighth day of May One thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine under the heading of' I Swear I Saw This Happen' is true.
"2. I further make Oath and say that the incidents so described in such Article did occur in my presence."
This oath was sworn before a solicitor yesterday.
I bound him to his chair, hand and foot, with knots and double knots which a sailor once taught me.
Just to make sure he couldn't wriggle out and back without my knowing it, I tied lengths of household cotton from the ropes to the chair legs. And I sewed up the front of his jacket with stout thread.
So began my second investigation into the mysteries of Spiritualism.
The man I had trussed up was Jack Webber, formerly a Welsh miner. He's now a medium - a man for whom such remarkable claims are made that I selected him for my first test.
Through him, I was told, are performed some of the most astonishing miracles of spirit power, physical demonstrations intended to prove the reality of life after death.
And in this, my second adventure into Spiritualism during my association with the Sunday Pictorial, I want physical phenomena.
Startling deeds, not words, as proof. Not testimonies of people claiming to be healed, not messages from the dead. Just material facts which a materially minded man like me can grasp.
I want final and complete conviction. That is more important to me than Hitler, the Axis, or even the threat of war. And that is why I have asked the Editor to allow me-for a while-to leave politics, and go in search of Truth.
So we sat, fourteen of us, a cheerful, talkative group of very ordinary people, in a plainly furnished room at Balham, London.
There was a Metropolitan policeman. A consulting engineer. A waiter. A postman. A foreman plumber. Several women of various ages. And next to me, between the medium and me, Mr. Harry Edwards, leader of the Balham Psychic Society, by trade a printer.
We all held hands loosely, Mr. Webber settled himself back as comfortably as my knots would allow, and out went the light, leaving only a red bulb gleaming dully through the darkness from the middle of the room.
Things began to happen immediately. They went on happening with remarkable rapidity, with startling variety, for ninety minutes.
But I do not want to recount them in order. For I want to describe first two astonishing happenings which make the rest seem small in contrast. Happenings which I, personally, can only compare with the miracles of the New Testament.
THERE WAS THE APPEARANCE, IN MID-AIR, SO TO SPEAK, OF A PERFECT HUMAN FACE.
I am sitting, remember, only one removed from the medium. An hour of the séance has gone by. The early tenseness, the trace of excitement, which perhaps affected me at the start has disappeared.
I am my normal, cool, and vigilant self-alert for any sign of deception, accustomed to the eerie glimmer of light we get from the red bulb near the ceiling.
In the corner, so near I can touch him, the medium is breathing heavily, gulping occasionally, moaning uneasily at times, like a man with a nightmare.
Suddenly, he gurgles alarmingly, as if making some still greater effort.
Before me rises a kind of tablet, rather like a slate, and from the upper surface it sheds a luminous white light.
I watch it intently, not in the least perturbed. I saw it in its normal state before the séance started. An ordinary piece of four-ply wood, about a foot long and nine inches wide.
Now it hovers in front of the medium's face, its soft radiance lighting his features so clearly I can see the closed eyes and the twitching lips.
It moves gently down to his hands and I see quite clearly that the arms are still bound to the chair.
"IT'S SHOWING YOU THE MEDIUM TO CONVINCE YOU HE'S STILL IN THE SAME POSITION," MR. EDWARDS EXPLAINS, IN A NORMAL TONE. " AH ! YOU'RE REALLY GOING TO SEE SOMETHING NOW ! "
The glowing tablet has moved over to me. It hangs motionless so close to my face I feel that if I breathe hard I shall blow it away.
"Watch!" says Mr. Edwards, giving my hand a squeeze.
Then above the tablet I begin to see something white emerging from the darkness. Almost invisible at first, it grows stronger every moment, like a motor car headlamp advancing through fog ; until I can clearly see it as a diaphanous ellipse, standing on its end, as it were, on the tablet.
"Ectoplasm," says Mr. Edwards. "Watch closely in the centre of it !"
No need to tell me. My eyes are glued on it, though, I want to emphasize, I'm still cool and unemotional.
Now, framed in this luminous halo, I can perceive dimly what appear to be features. They are becoming clearer, easier to trace. There's the nose, and - yes the mouth. The eyes, and, my God ! The eyelids are moving.
The tablet moves still closer. The eyes, soft and natural, are looking directly into mine. I jerk myself back to a detached, inquisitive state of mind, examine the thing in front of me closely and searchingly.
It's not like the pictures of spirit faces many of us have seen in Spiritualist papers. It's not white and unearthly, like the frame in which it is set. RATHER IS IT A HUMAN FACE - BUT SOFTER, FINER, AND SOMEHOW DIFFERENT.
I can trace the cheek-bones fading back from the eyes. The lips, they are quite clear. The chin, rounded and delicate, is silhouetted against the lower rim of the halo.
I recognize it suddenly as the face of a very old lady. Just like a lovely miniature - for it is much smaller, now I come to think, than the face of any human adult.
"Try and speak to us," says Mr. Edwards, encouragingly.
I am watching the lips. They part a little, move with an effort.
There's a whisper. What is she saying ? Who is she speaking to ? Yes - I've got it.
"MY BOY, MY BOY," WHISPERS A WOMAN'S VOICE, IN THE TONE A WEALTH OF LOVE, OR MAYBE COMPASSION.
"Who's she speaking to ?" I ask, without taking my eyes off the face for a second.
"You," replies Edwards."Speak to her!"
"Who are you ?" I ask, gently.
"I am--," she answers, and whispers a name I shall not repeat - it is personal.
"I cannot stay," she goes on. "I just want you all to see me. God bless you, my boy ..."
The tablet and its burden move away. I can see it floating around our circle. Other sitters are exclaiming that they can see it, quite plainly, that it's wonderful.
I'M GLAD I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN SEE IT...
The tablet returns to me. The features in the miniature are fading, like outlines yielding to the dusk of a summer evening. Now the halo is going too.
Only the tablet is left. Its gleam disappears with the suddenness of a light being extinguished. The tablet falls with a clatter at my feet.
"Lights on," says a voice instantly.
There's the click of a switch. In less than five seconds the whole room is bathed in electric light. Everybody is in his or her place, holding hands.
The medium is bound just the same in his chair unconscious in his trance.
AND AT MY FEET IS THE BIT OF COMMON FOUR-PLY WOOD. . .
The deep voice which comes from the medium's corner - they call it the voice of Black Cloud, Webber's Indian spirit "guide" says:
"I want the gentleman sitting next to Mr. Edwards to hold the medium's right hand. I want the lady on the left of the medium to hold his left hand."
Edwards guides my hand over his knees to the hand of the medium. I feel my fingers seized in a powerful grasp. The pressure tightens till it hurts. I set my teeth and wait.
The medium is moaning like a man in pain.
I can feel a soft fabric rubbing against my wrist. "Can you feel his coat ?" asks the deep voice in the corner.
"I can feel some kind of material on my wrist," I answer, readily.
"I am dematerializing his coat and taking it off."
Now the coat is rubbing the other side of my wrist. Something drops to the floor with a light, rustling impact.
"LIGHTS ON," SAYS THE VOICE SHARPLY.
Simultaneously, it seems, somebody presses the switch.
The medium is in his shirt-sleeves. He is no longer wearing his coat. Round his arms, over his shirt now, are the ropes, still fastened by my patent knots.
The thin strands of cotton from the ropes to the chair are unbroken.
On the floor, the medium's jacket. Not a stitch holding the edges together broken. My twisted thread round the button just as I had left it.
"That is merely intended to prove to you that the spirit world exists and has power to dematerialize," says the deep voice in the corner, when the lights are off again. "Later I hope to replace the medium's coat."
Half an hour later the lady on the other side and I are asked to hold Webber's hands a second time. Again the grip is firm enough to be painful.
A rustling. Cloth rubbing against my wrist again. Yes, and now the other side.
Lights. Webber is wearing his coat once more. Over and round each arm, the bonds. The cotton intact. The thread just as before. BUT THE BONDS AND THE COTTON ARE OVER THE COAT.
"My hand was gripped by his all the time," says the girl across from me, rubbing her fingers. "And I felt the coat go through my wrist. Didn't you ?"
Well, those two happenings, or miracles - call them what you like, take a bit of explaining away.
There were other things too. Heaps of them.
"I can feel a hand on my head," said Mr. Edwards, casually, just as if it were quite a natural thing for a hand to emerge from nowhere.
"I can feel something on my head," I said a moment later, and gripped Edwards's hand more tightly to make sure it hadn't been raised.
Something was pulling my hair pretty hard. I realized then with a sense of shock that the "something" was definitely fingers, yet rather different from human fingers. They felt sharper, more like claws, seemed almost metallic at the tips.
My neighbour chuckled.
"I know what they're doing," he said, highly amused.
The fingers pulled me firmly by the hair in Edwards's direction, till my head was touching his. My hair was pulled and twisted about for fully a minute. "We're being tied together," said my neighbour, laughing. "Can't you feel your hair being twisted with mine ?"
We were tied together, too ! We couldn't separate, and the séance was held up for a moment or two while the lights were put on so that we could be unraveled.
"A mischievous trick," said everybody else, laughing at our plight. Mischievous, all right. Inexplicable, too. I'll swear nobody moved before, during, or after the knots were tied in our hair.
Frequently throughout the proceedings the luminous trumpets were shooting about the room three at a time, with the speed and accuracy of swallows in flight.
"I should like to be absolutely sure nobody is holding them," I said boldly, though I myself considered it impossible.
One of the trumpets shot straight at my head with the speed of an express train, pulled up sharp just as it touched my temple, and I cringed expecting a knock-out blow.
That tin cone proceeded to run itself on my face and round my head, pressing first the broad end, then the narrow end, against my lips to prove it had no earthly connection at any point on its surface.
A bell which I'd seen on a table in a corner rose into the air and rang a rhythmic accompaniment to our singing. A pair of clappers, similar to those used by a dance band drummer, floated about clacking merrily in time with the music.
In a powerful bass voice, which has been recorded on gramophone discs, "Reuben" led some of the singing. Toys in the room, illuminated by a strange incandescent glow, leapt from the table and sailed about near the ceiling.
A boy, I was told, plays with the toys - a boy who died some years ago.
As something moved off the table and began to dart about the room, Mr. Edwards explained that it was a doll.
Whatever it was, it settled on my knee, and frolicked up and down my leg. I could feel it as well as see it glowing, like an outsize glowworm. It came to rest finally on my knee. And when the lights came on, I found that it was indeed a toy elephant, such as any child would use in play.
You see, therefore, it wasn't a gloomy gathering by any means. The strange pranks with the toys - a clockwork engine wound itself up and ran itself down near the ceiling - distinctly enlivened the proceedings.
All these little things, however, paled into insignificance beside a remarkable demonstration of furniture removing by unseen hands.
THE HEAVY TABLE IN THE CORNER, JUST BEHIND ME, ROSE STRAIGHT UP INTO THE AIR, BRUSHING MY COAT AS IT PASSES IT, SETTLED ONE LEG LIGHTLY ON MY SHOULDER FOR A MOMENT, WAS WAFTED RIGHT OVER TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM AND DESCENDED TO THE FLOOR WITH A DISTINCT BANG.
I saw it in passage, because it was outlined against the red light.
And of course there were spirit messages for some of the sitters. I do not want to write about them. In this series of articles I am concerned more with incidents. Well, that is my testimony. I cannot explain anything I saw.
BUT EVERY WORD I HAVE WRITTEN IS TRUE.
And although many of my friends will think I've gone crazy - I say again : I SAW IT HAPPEN.