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  • Writer's pictureBryan Williams

The Ghost & Mrs. Garrett: Considering the Haunting Impressions of a Notable Trance Medium



In addition to being St. Patrick's Day, March 17th marks the posthumous birthday of Mrs. Eileen J. Garrett (1893 - 1970). Apart from establishing the Parapsychology Foundation (with support received from her friend & long-time Ohio Congresswoman Frances Bolton) in 1951 [1-2], Mrs. Garrett had the reputation of being a notable trance medium, having willingly participated in a a number of parapsychological studies of her ability, with several having statistically significant outcomes [3]. Occasionally Mrs. Garrett would take part in field investigations of poltergeist & haunting phenomena, usually at the request of J. Hewat McKenzie (founder of the British College of Psychic Science) in response to people asking the College for help in dealing with such phenomena in their homes. As she stated in her third autobiographical book Many Voices: "I would accompany McKenzie when he went to investigate these cases, and by making use of the trance state and clairvoyance, I often helped him uncover the source of these strange phenomena" [4, p. 73]. And so this aspect of her work has a bearing on the question: Are some psychics & mediums able to receive impressions that accurately relate to the ghosts said to be haunting a particular location? Mrs. Garrett's granddaughter Lisette Coly has previously given us an insightful look at the approach taken by her grandmother in these investigations [5], which generally involved the medium going into trance and allowing her spirit control "Uvani" to come forth and "tell what he sees, hears, and senses. He usually has no difficulty in establishing contact with the entity or discarnate intelligence who admits being the cause of the disturbance." In one of the cases that Mrs. Garrett accompanied McKenzie on [6, pp. 235 - 241], "Uvani" claimed to contact the restless spirit of "F.," the deceased male relative of a family in distress over the disturbances taking place in their South-West London home. In addition to names, Mrs. Garrett was able to provide several impressions relating to F. while in her trance state, which included the following:


  • F. was known to have had a "...very bad physical condition, affecting his arm and hand particularly[, which] was shown by the medium" [6, p. 236];

  • a description was given of a particular room & desk that F. was known to have used; and

  • a description was given of a particular picture & its position in the room (behind which it was suspected that F. might've hidden his misplaced will).


Each of these impressions was later acknowledged by the family as being correct, despite the fact that, as McKenzie noted: "All these matters were unknown to us [i.e., the investigators] or to Mrs. Garrett, who did not even know where or to whom she was being taken on the occasion" [6, p. 237].


And in another investigation she undertook at the reputedly haunted Rose Hall manor house in Jamaica:


"...the medium stated that some members of the Palmer family [who'd occupied the manor for many years] had been buried on the estate. This was at first denied, but later a tombstone was discovered in the section of the estate indicated by the medium." [7, p. 30]


Some skeptics might argue that Mrs. Garrett had simply arrived at these impressions through lucky guessing, or by being attentive to visual & other sensory clues that were subtly present in the surroundings of the haunted location. But there's a way to test such claims, using a method devised by Gertrude Schmeidler [8] that applies statistics toward evaluating the impressions gathered by psychics & mediums in a field setting. In this testing method, a group of psychics & mediums are brought to a reputedly haunted location (without being told anything about it beforehand) and, one-by-one, are asked to tour the location to see if they can psychically pinpoint the specific areas where witnesses have seen ghosts or had other kinds of haunt experiences. Each time they receive an impression in a certain area, the psychics & mediums would mark it down on a floor plan of the location. And if they happen to receive an impression relating to the ghost's personality, they'd circle the most appropriate word (describing that impression) on a diverse list of personality traits.


Later on, a control group (comprised of people who don't claim to be psychic) is brought to the same haunted location and are asked to take the same tour that the psychics & mediums did. But instead of trying to psychically pinpoint the areas where the witnesses have experienced something unusual, this control group is instead asked to try and pinpoint these areas simply through guessing, or by being attentive to subtle clues in their surroundings (for instance, they might choose to mark down a certain area on the floor plan simply because it looks or feels dark, cold, & "spooky" to them). And then the controls are asked to guess what the ghost's personality might be like, and circle those words on the personality list.


Parapsychologist Michaeleen Maher has used this testing method in five haunting investigations she's conducted over the years [9], and the combined results indicate that the floor plan areas marked by the psychics & mediums tend to come significantly close to matching those indicated by the witnesses (with an odds ratio of 1,000 to 1). And to a lesser degree, the words circled by the psychics & mediums on the ghost personality list also tend to significantly correspond with the words circled by the witnesses (odds of 50 to 1). In contrast, the control group was largely unsuccessful at pinpointing the areas on the floor plan where witnesses experienced something (odds of only about 2 to 1), and at best, had only very weak success at merely guessing the ghost's personality (odds of 10 to 1). Tests of this kind with similar degrees of significance have also been reported in a few other haunting investigations [10-12], as well.


When considered alongside the impressive results that Mrs. Garrett has produced in other studies of her ability [3], perhaps tests like these may provide us with some reason for seriously considering the possibility that there could have been something "extrasensory" to her impressions. Hmmm...


*******

References:


[1] McMahon, J. D. S. (1994). Eileen J. Garrett: A Woman Who Made a Difference. New York: Parapsychology Foundation, Inc.


[2] Alvarado, C. S., Coly, E., Coly, L., & Zingrone, N. L. (2001). Fifty years of supporting parapsychology: The Parapsychology Foundation (1951 - 2001). International Journal of Parapsychology, 12, 1 - 26.


[3] For instance, see this previous PRF Facebook post which summarizes an extensive study conducted with Mrs. Garrett by J. B. Rhine & colleagues at Duke University in the 1930s: https://www.facebook.com/psychicalresearchfoundation/posts/pfbid02u5Yn5BnJBEk7uuz9BGdrbN3Vs21eCTnsPZz17z7dTea65Xku8X3TcsR2HhcYtMol


[4] Garrett, E. J. (1968). Many Voices: The Autobiography of a Medium. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.


[5] Coly, L. (2023, March 21). Eileen Garrett's approach to poltergeist and haunting cases. Entry in the Parapsychology Foundation blog: https://parapsychology.org/eileen-garretts-approach-to-poltergeist-and-haunting-cases/


[6] McKenzie, J. H. (1928). Some recent poltergeist cases investigated by the College. Psychic Science: Quarterly Transactions of the British College of Psychic Science, 7, 235 - 247.


[7] Garrett, E. J. (1953, Summer). The phantom mistress of Rose Hall. Tomorrow: World's Digest of Psychical Research and Occult Studies, 1(4), 15 - 30.


[8] Schmeidler, G. R. (1966). Quantitative investigation of a "haunted house." Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 60, 137 - 149.


[9] Maher, M. C. (1999). Riding the waves in search of the particles: A modern study of ghosts and apparitions. Journal of Parapsychology, 63, 47 - 80.


[10] Solfvin, G. F., & Roll, W. G. (1978). Quantitative investigation of a "haunted" house in Washington D.C. [Abstract] Journal of Parapsychology, 42, 63 - 64.


[11] Krieger, J., McCormick, D., & Luthman, M. (1980). Perceptual correspondence in a house with recurring phenomena. In W. G. Roll (Ed.) Research in Parapsychology 1979 (pp. 161 - 163). Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.


[12] Everist, W. G. (2000). Two studies of apparitional sensitivity amongst novice and experienced percipients. Proceedings of Presented Papers: The Parapsychological Association 43rd Annual Convention (pp. 346 - 363). Raleigh, NC: Parapsychological Association, Inc.

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