11 The Medium is the Message
On her knees she laid the infant,
On her lap she laid the infant,
And began to brush his hair straight,
And began to smooth his hair down,
When from off her knees he vanished,
From her lap the infant vanished.
Marjatta the hapless maiden
Fell into the greatest trouble,
And she hurried off to seek him …
From Runo 50 of the Kalevala
A strange disappearance, involving not one child, as portrayed in the quote from the Kalevala above, but three, took place in the year 1906. It was recorded by author Harold T. Wilkins, one of the many people who helped search for them, in his book Mysteries: Solved and Unsolved. Fortunately, however, the missing children were not lost for ever.
According to Wilkins, in June 1906 the three children of a railway brakeman named Vaughan – his son aged ten, and his two daughters, aged three and five – went to play in a large pasture field known as Forty Acres, which lay near to a Midland Railway locomotive engine-shed about one mile outside the city of Gloucester. They had often played in the field before and their parents had no reason to think that they would come to any harm. But the children did not return home for their tea, and when Mr and Mrs Vaughan went to look for them they were alarmed to discover that they could not find them. The police were therefore contacted, and a large search party consisting of policemen and volunteers was soon organized.
For three days and nights [says Wilkins], scores of people, including the cleaners from the locomotive shed, searched every inch of the ‘Forty Acres’. We paid particular attention to the north-east corner of the field, where the pasture was bordered by tall, old elms, a thick hedge of thorn and bramble, and a deep ditch, separating it from a corn-field. Every inch was probed with sticks, and not a stone was left unturned in the ditch. Had a dead dog been dumped there, he would certainly have been found. Not a trace of the missing children was found.
The police had absolutely no idea what had become of the children, although it was soon obvious that they had not lost themselves anywhere in the locality, as otherwise they would have been found. So after three fruitless days without finding either of them or any clue to their whereabouts, there seemed little point in continuing the search. The missing children, it was decided, had either left, or had been taken from, the area, and might therefore never be seen alive again.
But then, much to everybody’s amazement, at 6 a.m. on the fourth day, a farm worker walking to work along the edge of the corn-field abutting Forty Acres happened to look over the hedge standing between the two fields – and to his surprise saw the three Vaughan children lying asleep in the ditch! The children were none the worse for wear and they were not particularly hungry, but they were startled to learn that people had been out looking for them. All they could remember, they said, was going to sleep in the ditch. Indeed, when the Vaughan son was interviewed forty years later about the mystery, he stated that ‘he had not the slightest recollection, nor ever had had, of what had happened between the time when he and his sisters were missing in the Forty Acre field, and when he and they were found, asleep in the ditch’.
But how could three young children survive for three days out of doors, without food, without becoming famished, very dirty and unkempt, and very distressed? And where could they have been to remain hidden from scores of searchers? There are only two possible solutions: either they were taken in by an adult and cared for during the three days or they supernaturally vanished on the day they went missing and were only returned to that well-searched ditch at or near the start of the fourth day.
The first of these two alternatives might seem the most likely, although it is hard to imagine how an adult could have tempted the children into his or her home and then kept them there without the neighbours noticing them, or hearing them, for three days. If they had been hidden in this way, it would surely have been revealed by the children, if not immediately then sometime later in their lives. But none of them ever admitted it. All in fact said that they had no memory of what had happened to them. They went, as it were, straight from being in the Forty Acres to being asleep in the ditch. The three days were seemingly lost to them, just as they became lost to the world during those three days.
It is possible, therefore, that the Vaughan children were temporarily removed from our dimension and taken into another, whose time, like that of the fairy world, passes far more slowly than here, with the result that a few minutes spent there equalled the passing of three days in our world. If the children had lost consciousness on entry into that dimension, they would have no awareness, and hence no memory, of it at all. On their return they were deposited asleep in the Forty Acres’ ditch, blissfully ignorant of what had happened to them or of the search that had been conducted for them. Hence their surprise when they discovered the alarm that their ‘few minutes’ of innocent sleep had caused!
However, such time dislocation is rare; it is far commoner, as we have seen, for someone to supernaturally vanish at one place and then immediately reappear somewhere else, which might be some distance away. It is also rare for two or more people to disappear together and then to simultaneously reappear.
Teleportation, like the out-of-body experience, is essentially a ‘one-off event. It happens when the conditions are somehow uniquely right for it to do so, but it is seldom repeated. And because it occurs without warning, it is very difficult for the subject to be at all prepared for it. This is why the process itself is so little understood and why it seems scarcely credible.
Yet teleportation is one of the many marvels that may happen to the best spiritualist mediums; and it is certainly the most highly regarded ‘physical’ phenomenon.
At least two well-known nineteenth-century mediums supernaturally disappeared from one spot and spontaneously, and instantly, materialised at another. This was most remarkable in the case of the first, Mrs Samuel Guppy, who on 3 June 1871, while ensconced in her Highbury sitting-room with her companion
Miss Neyland, clad only in a loose dressing-gown and slippers, suddenly vanished from Miss Neyland’s presence to materialise with a scream and a loud bump on a table three miles away at 61 Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1, around which a seance was in progress. Her sudden teleportation there had resulted, it was said, from one of the sitters (of whom there were ten) jokingly asking the spirit control to bring the obese, 17-stone Mrs Guppy into the room. The spirit was evidently able to oblige without difficulty!
William Eglinton was another famous materialization medium of the period, but even he was surprised by his teleportation from a seance held at 21 Green Street, Grosvenor Square, W1, on the evening of 16 March 1878. The seance took place around a table in a darkened first floor room, and the participants included two other mediums, namely Arthur Colman and J.W. Fletcher, and four ordinary sitters, two of whom were women. The shutters of the room and its door were closed and locked, and they would have admitted revealing light if they had been opened at any time during the spiritualist session.
The teleportation of William Eglinton likewise occurred, interestingly enough, when one of the sitters, W.H. Harrison, ‘half seriously asked if the spirits could take Mr Colman through the ceiling by way of giving a variety of manifestation’. It was then remarked by two of the sitters, who would have been holding his hands, that Eglinton had left the circle, and immediately a loud bump was heard overhead, as if the man himself had suddenly been deposited on the floor upstairs. Someone immediately lit the light.
When the light was struck, Mr Eglinton was not in the room. Mr George Sutherland unlocked the door by turning the key which was in the lock … Mrs Gregory and several sitters proceeded upstairs, and found Mr Eglinton lying in a deep trance on the floor with his arms extended. This was about two minutes after he disjoined hands in the room below. In two or three minutes he revived and complained of the back of his head being hurt, as if by a blow; beyond this there was nothing the matter with him and he was as well as before in a few minutes.
An even more remarkable teleportation is reported of the famous South American medium Carlo Mirabelli, whose capacity for producing dramatic physical phenomena – apports, telekinesis, levitation, etc. – in daylight before reputable witnesses made him one of the most talented and exceptional mediums that have ever lived.
Mirabelli was born in 1889 at Botucatu in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil (he died in 1951), and it was from the Est da Luz railway station at the state capital of Sao Paulo, in 1926, that his miraculous disappearance occurred. He had gone to the station with a group of friends to catch a train to the port of Santos. The train was at the platform and some of the party were climbing aboard, when Mirabelli, who had stepped a few paces away from them to bid farewell to a friend who was not travelling with him, suddenly began to physically fade away. This brought cries of alarm and wonder from the friend and from those who happened to catch sight of the startling event, which naturally directed the attention of everyone nearby to what was happening, for Mirabelli continued to vanish into a smoke-like haze until he and his clothes and personal effects were literally no longer there. He had completely disappeared, in broad daylight and in front of dozens of witnesses, on a railway platform.
Those whom Mirabelli left behind were not only astonished, but were also very worried and perplexed, as they had not the slightest idea what had become of him. Yet their anxieties were fortunately soon put to rest, although their wonder grew, when fifteen minutes later the station master received a telephone call from the medium, who revealed that he had materialised in, and was speaking from, the town of Sao Vincente, which stood near to Santos on the coast and about ninety kilometres or fifty-six miles away from Sao Paulo! But the journey there had not taken him that long; in fact it must have been instantaneous, as by the time he had materialised there, taken in what had occurred, reaised that he was in another place, spoken to a person whom he recognized, who witnessed his arrival, and glanced at his watch, only two minutes had gone by. It was to take several more minutes of joyfully coming to terms with what had happened, and of adjusting to the fact that he was in a town so far away, before Mirabelli thought to telephone the railway station at Est da Luz and tell his friends, whom he reaised would be worried sick about him, that he was safe and well, but at a considerable distance from them.
The teleportation of Carlo Mirabelli was a sudden, spontaneous affair, which does not seem to have been brought on by any particular need or wish on his part to go to Sao Vincente. He also experienced no amnesia or mental confusion when he materialised, but quickly adjusted to what had happened, presumably because he was somewhat used to dealing with such strange and remarkable events.
A couple of years later, Mirabelli underwent another, although by comparison far more modest, teleportation: in a near repetition of William Eglinton’s vanishing, he supernaturally disappeared from a locked seance room, wherein he was also tied to his chair, and from the presence of five sitters, and was later found, reclining in an armchair and singing a popular song, in an adjacent room!
One medium who vanished from a seance room was seemingly as unlikely a subject for the role he was playing as was the fact of his teleportation. For he was none other than the Marquis Carlo Centurione Scotto, a distinguished Italian aristocrat, whose interest in contacting the spirits of the dead was only aroused, and whose ability to do so was only discovered, following the tragic death of his eldest son Vittorio in a flying accident in 1926. Indeed, the Marquis exercised his mediumistic powers, which were considerable, for a period of about two years, after which he ceased to communicate any further with those who had died.
The seance to which I refer took place at the Marquis’s magnificent summer residence and ancestral home, Millesimo Castle, situated in north-western Italy, on 29 July 1928. An account of the happenings on that night, written by one of the participants, the eminent psychic researcher Professor Ernesto Bozzano, was published in the September-October 1928 edition of the magazine Luce e Ombre (Light and Dark). The nine other individuals making up the circle included the Marquis’s wife, Luisa Centurione Scotto, M. and Mme Rossi, Mrs Gwendolyn Hack, and lawyer M. Piero Bon. Mme Rossi and Mrs Hack were also mediums, but with different abilities to those of the Marquis. They were in fact all educated adults, and presumably not easily duped.
Most of the seance, which was held in darkness in a downstairs room of Millesimo Castle, was taken up by a long conversation between the Marquis’s spirit guide, named Cristo d’Angelo, and M. Piero Bon, after which, ‘at the end of the sitting,’ Professor Bozzano tells us, ‘we had an extraordinary phenomenon, one of the rarest in the annals of metapsychical research, which caused us all the most terrible anxiety for two and a half hours.’
This ‘extraordinary phenomenon’ was the disappearance of Marquis Centurione Scotto. His vanishing was preceded by some other unusual phenomena, which included icy blasts of air, the movement of a heavy table, and several muffled raps from different parts of the room. Following the latter, M. Rossi twice thought he heard the medium move from his chair, although on calling out to him, Marquis Centurione Scotto was able to assure him of his continued presence. What happened next was equally dramatic: ‘Suddenly he exclaimed in a frightened voice: “I can no longer feel my legs!” At that moment the gramophone stopped, and in the general anxiety caused by the medium’s exclamation, no one thought of restarting it. An interval of death-like silence followed.’
The Marquise Centurione Scotto, becoming frightened, next called out loudly to her husband but received no reply. Another sitter, M. Castellani, was similarly disappointed. An attempt to detect the Marquis by touch revealed that both his chair and a nearby sofa were empty. Professor Bozzano then opined that the Marquis had probably been teleported or, as he calls it, ‘asported’ from the room. To determine if this was so, a red light was switched on, which showed that he was in fact no longer present, despite the door still being locked from the inside.
Professor Bozzano continues:
We searched for him in adjacent rooms, but found no one …
At this moment a terrible anxiety tormented us all. With great caution M. Castellani and M. Passini searched all the rooms of the castle, but their return only increased our alarm, for they found no one, absolutely no one . . . Meanwhile two and a half hours had passed in our vain search of the castle. The cellars, the stables, the family chapel, and even the grounds had been explored.
A successful attempt was next made to locate the Marquis by calling on the spirits for help. This was done by Mrs Hack, an automatist, who was told that her host was sleeping in one of the castle’s outbuildings: ‘Go to the right, then outside. Wall and Gate. He is lying – hay – hay -in a soft place.’ These directions led to a fresh search of the stables, where snores were heard emerging from behind a small door that had previously been overlooked.
This door was locked, the key being in the keyhole on the outside of the door. We opened it with great caution, and we immediately saw two well-shod feet pointing towards the door … On a heap of hay and oats the medium was comfortably lying, immersed in a profound sleep. M. Castellani made a few magnetic passes over the Marquis, and almost immediately he commenced to move, groaning pitifully. When he first began to regain consciousness and found himself lying in the stable on the hay and oats, with M. Passini and M. Castellani near him, he completely lost his bearings, feared that he had gone out of his mind and burst into tears.
If the teleportation of the Marquis Centurione Scotto was genuine, as it appears to have been, it is no wonder that he was overcome when he woke from his trance-like sleep. The shock to his nervous system would have been considerable, although fortunately he did not suffer any long-term ill-effects.
And while the Marquis’s sudden and unwished-for translocation to a stable was comparatively short in distance (about one hundred yards in total), his removal there remains one of the most compelling examples of this remarkable phenomenon, even though his apparent supernatural disappearance from a darkened room cannot be as persuasive to the sceptic as the daylight vanishing of Carlo Mirabelli.
But while desire seemingly played no part in the Marquis Centurione Scotto’s ‘asportation’, it was certainly a factor in the fortunate and timely movement made by W. Tudor Pole, which he described under the heading ‘Transit Most Mysterious’ in his book The Silent Road.
Pole says that one evening in December 1952, when he was expecting an important long-distance telephone call at his Sussex home, the train bringing him from London arrived late at the local station, which lay one and a half miles away from where he lived. Frustratingly, it was pouring with rain, the bus had gone, there were no taxis, and the station telephone was out of service! He went into the waiting-room in near despair, thinking that he must certainly miss his 6 p.m. call, the time then being 5.57 p.m.
What happened next I cannot say [he writes]. When I came to myself I was standing in my hall at home, a good twenty minutes’ walk away, and the clock was striking six. My telephone call duly came through a few minutes later … Having finished my call, I awoke to the realization that something very strange had happened. Then much to my surprise, I found that my shoes were dry and free from mud, and that my clothes showed no sign of damp or damage.
If Pole has accurately represented the time he was in the waiting-room – and we have, it must be admitted, only his word for it – then it would have been impossible for him even to have sprinted home by six o’clock. A journey on foot would also have soaked him through to the skin. It is even doubtful if he could have got back by six o’clock had a friend suddenly turned up and given him a lift. Not only would his friend have found it difficult to drive sufficiently fast along the narrow country lanes in the dark with the rain pouring down, but the time remaining would have been partly taken up by his meeting with that person, by his requesting a lift and explaining his need to get home, and then by the dash from the waiting-room to the car and from the car in to his house. The latter would likewise have exposed him to the rain.
This suggests that, unless Pole lied or was hopelessly befuddled on the day in question, the only way he could have reached his house in time to take the call was to be supernaturally shifted there by teleportation, which means that he would have vanished from the railway station waiting-room and instantly rematerialised in his own home. That is what he seems to have believed happened to him, although he does not speculate as to how it came about.
However, it must be admitted that there are many cases on record of people who have suddenly, for one reason or another, lost their memories, so that they both forget who they are and where they live, and who wander off, sometimes to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles before their memory returns, although they cannot remember how they got where they are. These cases, perhaps not surprisingly, are sometimes mistakenly referred to as examples of teleportation.
The most famous of such false teleportees was a 21-year-old South African man named Thomas R. Kessel, who was found wandering the streets of New York in a confused state on 3 May 1956. He did not know where he was or how he had got there. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where it was discovered that the last thing he could remember was sitting in a bar in Johannesburg on 10 April, drinking with some friends. After that everything was a complete blank
The mystery deepened when it was found that he had no documentation with him. How then had he arrived in the United States? Was it by a miraculous teleportation, reminiscent of that made by Gil Perez, or had his journey there been far more ordinary? There were some who thought that the former possibility was the answer, although the length of time between 10 April and 3 May – a little over three weeks – suggested that the latter was far more likely.
And so it turned out to be. Enquiries made by the authorities determined that Kessel had crossed the Atlantic as a deck-hand on the Danish cargo ship Nordhval. The ship had first docked at Mobile, in Alabama, where Kessel, while darning a hole in one of his socks, had unfortunately coughed and thereby swallowed the other needle he was holding in his mouth. He was rushed to hospital to have the needle removed from his throat, which resulted in him missing the departure of the Nordhval for its next port of call, New York.
On his release from hospital, the operation having been a success, Kessel made his way to New York, but found that the Nordhval had already left without him. He therefore went to the Danish Consul, from whom he collected his wages, which had been deposited with them. It was then that he unaccountably lost his memory (and his passport), and the mental confusion this caused led to him being taken into the Bellevue Hospital. But after six days of psychiatric treatment, Kessel fully regained his memory and it wasn’t long before the Cape Town-based shipping firm who had employed him paid for his return to South Africa. And so the mystery was solved!
But much genuine mystery still surrounds the powers of Uri Geller, whose abilities as a psychic metal-bender have amazed, delighted, and even disturbed millions. Less well-known is his tendency to cause the materialization and dematerialization of inanimate objects in his vicinity, like vases, ashtrays and keys, and on one famous occasion he may have been unwittingly responsible for the transportation of a dog.
The latter event took place while he was staying with Dr Adrija Puharich, the celebrated parapsychological researcher, in early November 1972. This is how Geller describes what happened in his autobiography My Story:
The day after we arrived in Ossining, I noticed Andrija’s black retriever, Wellington, lying in the kitchen doorway and trembling noticeably. The telephone rang, and Andrija went to answer it in the kitchen. It was in my mind that he would have to step over the dog, but suddenly Wellington just wasn’t there. I don’t mean he got up and ran away. He was there one second and not there the next, just like some of the inanimate things that had been appearing and disappearing.
Within seconds, I saw the dog far down the driveway and coming towards the house. We called to him, and he came, still trembling and upset. We were all shocked. No one could make any sense of it. As Andrija said, how could a living thing be translocated like this in a matter of seconds?
It would be interesting of course to know why Wellington was trembling before he vanished. Something had obviously frightened the dog, but what? Was it an ordinary happening in or around the house which had just spooked him? – or had he sensed that some force or energy, which may have originated from Geller, was taking him over? If the first is right, then we have an example of how even a dog can be teleported by its own fear, while if the second is true, the force involved, from wherever it comes, may be the causative agent of many human translocations.
Uri Geller’s witnessing of Wellington’s supernatural disappearance from the kitchen doorway and the dog’s materialization at the bottom of the driveway strangely foreboded his own teleportation almost exactly one year later. And although Geller vanished while jogging along a street in New York, he materialised again just outside Puharich’s house in Ossining, about thirty-three miles away. Wellington, however, was in no way disconcerted by Geller’s sudden crashing entry, as apparently he did not even bark!
This is what happened: on the afternoon of Friday 9 November 1973, shortly after 6 p.m., Geller left a store called Hammacher-Schlemmer’s in Manhattan, where he had gone to buy a present for his date of that evening, and jogged back towards his apartment, where he intended to shower and change before meeting the woman at 6.30 p.m. He did not have far to go, and only two or three minutes later he recalled reaching the apartment building standing next to his own. What happened next, which it did without any warning, was startling:
‘I remember having the feeling that I was running backwards for a couple of steps. I don’t know whether I really did or not, but that was the feeling. Then I had the feeling that I was being sucked upwards. There was no sensation in my body. I closed my eyes and, I think, opened them almost immediately.’
The fleeting glimpse Geller had of his surroundings showed him that he was no longer in Manhattan. He was no longer jogging either, but falling out of the air. He next struck a light porch screen, tore through it, and collided with the glass-topped wooden table below, knocking it over and smashing the glass, before striking the floor, where he lay shocked and bruised, and wondering if he had broken any bones. He was still clutching the pair of binoculars he had bought earlier. It did not take him long to recognize where he was: he had fallen into the porch of Andrija Puharich’s house at Ossining!
The noise of Geller’s sudden entry and his subsequent shouts soon brought Puharich, who at first thought that a tree had fallen on the porch, to the scene. Though surprised, he quickly checked Geller out and determined that he was uninjured. Puharich was able to report that he had heard the crash Geller made half-way through the TV news broadcast he was watching, at about 6.15 p.m. The telephone then rang, the caller proving to be Maria Janis, a Manhattan-dwelling friend of Geller’s with whom he had been until 5.30 p.m. She knew that Geller couldn’t possibly have reached Puharich’s house by any ordinary means in forty-five minutes. Yet Geller’s translocation to Ossining had been far swifter, having taken virtually no time at all.
This led the astonished Uri Geller to ask: ‘What kind of transformation or transportation did my body undergo? Was I really torn up molecule by molecule? Was I pushed through a dimension, teleported by a ray or by a spacecraft? What happened? I don’t know.’
And with that puzzled cry I must bring this long catalogue of supernatural disappearances to an end. We have examined many of the most celebrated cases of this startling, enigmatic and wonderful phenomenon, and also many that are little known. You will not, I think, be unimpressed by the sheer number of such seemingly impossible events, which may perhaps convince you that what you thought you understood about the world needs some modification.
It is almost as if we are confined in a prison whose walls are at one and the same time more impenetrable than the strongest steel, for we cannot by any means force ourselves out from this dimension of being, and yet also, when the conditions are somehow right for a passage through them, as unresistant to material penetration as the surface of a soap bubble.
We find a resonance of this in the Tao Te Ching, which states: ‘The most submissive thing in the world can ride roughshod over the hardest in the world – that which is without substance entering that which has no crevices.’
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