Dr Fiona Bowie (Hon) Ph.D.

This demonstration of David Thompson`s trance/physical mediumship at Jenny`s Sanctuary was not only the first of David`s demonstration of materialization mediumship I had attended, it was also the first séance of any type. Indeed, my experience of mental or physical mediumship is very limited, although my reading around the topic has convinced me of that of thepossible explanations of the type of phenomena David and other highly respected mediums produce, fraud is the least likely. I did not come seeking the proof of survival of consciousness nor of the ability of those in spirit to communicate with the living under certain conditions, but out of intellectual curiosity to see a gifted medium at work. I was not disappointed. After some very useful preparatory talks by David Thompson and Christine Morgan (David`s partner, medium and `master’ of ceremonies on the physical side during the séance) we were treated to some very clear, unambiguous appearances by several members of David`s regular spirit team (William, Timmy, Quentin Crisp and May) as well as by two other `regulars’ including jazz musician Louis Armstrong, who sang, spoke, tap danced and played the harmonica – for me the high point of the evening. There were also materializations of relatives of some of the sitters, including Jack, a grandfather of one of those present, who held a conversation lasting several minutes that included evidential information, such as the name of his dog and of one of his granddaughter`s hairdressing clients who had died. The conversation and detailed information Jack gave certainly convinced his granddaughter that he was who he claimed to be.

As the séance was conducted in total darkness the only thing I saw was a phosphorescent glowing band attached to a trumpet that Timmy whirled and spun through the air while an Irish jig played on the tape recorder. The voices, however, came from the centre of the room and sometimes moved around. They were loud and clear, with accents and tones that were consistent with their supposed identity. The medium was sitting to the back of the room in a chair, gagged and bound in a cabinet, and the sitters were all around the walls holding hands during the materializations. Other explanations for these voices, such as collective suggestibility or the manifestation of group expectations and energies, seem less likely than the ostensible one, that these were spirits materializing using ectoplasm produced by the medium. They were sometimes accompanied by footsteps and by hands laid on sitters (with their permission).  When this happened those involved were asked to say out loud what was happening and what they felt. There was generally a tone of surprise in people’s voices at the weight and solidity of these physical contacts.

The hope is expressed by the spirits that David Thompson is able to develop his mediumship, in collaboration with his spirit team, to the extent that what sounded and felt like pretty solid ectoplasmic materializations can be seen as well as heard and felt. The Circle of the Silver Cord website does have photographs taken during séances in red light, but apparently the spirits are experimenting with producing light without any external physical source. If proof were needed that something out of the ordinary had taken place the séance ended, as is apparently often the case, with the mediums chair, with David attached to it, being lifted out of the cabinet and dropped rather heavily onto the floor in the middle of the room several yards away.

David’s cardigan, which had been tied on with cable ties, with straps over the sleeves, had been reversed, so that as David came out of trance and the lights were slowly turned on it was clearly seen to be buttoneddown the back.

I have seen some extraordinarily impressive stage magicians whose antics far exceeded those of David Thompson, but they were working with elaborate props, accomplices, a well-prepared stage and numerous means of distraction in the form of lights and movements to direct the audience’s attention away from whatever they were not supposed to see.

There was no evidence of any of these criteria being fulfilled before during or after David Thompson`s séances, and as the entry fee was modest I cannot see any financial or other likely motivation to deceive those present. The claim sometimes made that fraud might be involved unconsciously seems nonsensical in the face of actual events – the medium was certainly unconscious, in deep trance, but the
phenomena produced were real enough.

Robert McLuhan in his recent book, Randi`s Prize: What sceptics say about the paranormal, why they are wrong and why it matters (2010:263), makes the point that those who dismiss parapsychological phenomena out of hand usually do so on the basis of claims rather than experience. I for one am delighted to have had the opportunity to experience David`s mediumship first-hand, rather than just rely on the testimony of others, and look forward to another opportunity to do so again in the future.

Dr Fiona Bowie BA (Hon) Honorary Research Fellow.

University of Bristol, UK – website


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