The Return of Helen Duncan

 - Alan Cleaver -

          What constitutes proof of life after death? Is it a series of messages received from a clairvoyant or trance medium? Is it seeing an apparition of someone you know to be dead? Is it making objects paranormally move, appear or disappear - or is it something more? Psychical researchers have argued this point for years and the debate is likely to continue for many years more but the most convincing evidence I have witnessed was when Gena Brealey spoke for about an hour to her dead mother Helen Duncan through medium Rita Goold.

         RITA GOOLD, her husband Stephen, and friends Pat and Barry Jeffery, had been sitting for some months developing a link with the dead when one of their regular communicators claimed to be Helen Duncan, the materialisation medium who died in 1956.

As with other communicators, Rita and the other sitters asked for proof. Some of this could be checked out through articles and books already available on Helen but the opportunity to check some of the more obscure references came when Helen's daughter, Gena Brealey, visited a Spiritualist church in Leicester. Rita and friends invited Gena to tea and by casually guiding the conversation were able to check some of the other points made by the spirit entity claiming to be Helen. The data checked out but they did not reveal to Gena that her mother was apparently communicating to them. Rita broke the news to Gena in August 1982 and it was arranged for her to visit the circle.

At the test sťance were Gena, Rita, Pat, Barry and myself. Not surprisingly we were all a little nervous, not least Rita the medium. The sťance was held in the front room of Pat and Barry's home; as with all sťances it was held in complete darkness apart from light supplied by luminous paint on the edge of the table and on some of the musical instruments or objects used during the sťances.

We lay our hands on the small table and it began to tilt. The light was turned out and the table continued its gyrations. Some apports (paranormally produced objects) were felt to land on the table and eventually we put the light back on. The apports were several deep red carnations and a single red rose which had been placed in front of Gena. Gena broke down in tears and cried, "What greater proof could I have?" She revealed that at her mother's funeral she had placed a single red rose - unbeknown to other relatives and friends - in her mother's hands in the coffin and whispered, "I love you." Years later a medium had told her of this (seemingly relaying the message from Helen) and also said that one day her mother would return the red rose to her. Now the rose had returned. The light was extinguished once more and through raps the spirit communicators asked us to put the tambourine on the table. This was heard to rattle vigorously and, thanks to the luminous paint, seen to dance around the room. The tambourine was discarded and the communicators asked for the sťance trumpet, a metal cone with luminous paint on the ends through which spirit voices had on many occasions been clearly heard.

Normally at this stage the outer circle removed Rita's shoes and watch and threw them on the floor. However, Barry had expressed some concern about Rita's watch possibly being broken by this and asked if they could be more careful. This time the watch was placed in my lap. I estimate that it was dropped from a height of no more than a couple of inches. Rita is sitting perhaps seven or eight feet away and was by this time entering a trance state; the room is pitch black. This was one of hundreds of occasions during my many visits to the Leicester sťances that whoever was causing the phenomena clearly demonstrated their ability to see in the dark.

Rita was now in trance. Soon the trumpet was seen, with the help of the luminous strips at the ends, to rise into the air. Helen had always been the first to speak at the sťances I had so far attended but that evening Russell Byrne was the first to speak. Russell had died on 14 August 1963 from cancer. He was nine years old. For most of the time he communicated as a nine-year-old boy; he said this was for "identification" purposes. On rare occasions he spoke as a man.

Speaking through the trumpet he introduced himself and welcomed Gena to the circle. Laura, using the trumpet, sang to the circle, along with the taped music playing softly in the background (a feature of every sťance was the use of taped music). Laura was another of the regular spirit communicators. Then Helen came and spoke, through the trumpet, to Gena. She spoke first of the rose and declared, "If I could I would bring you a thousand roses." There was a break halfway through the sťance but apart from that Gena spoke almost continually to her mother for more than an hour.

Much of the conversation was of a highly personal nature and Gena asked me not to release all the details. It contained not only information about Gena's childhood and Helen's work as a medium but also about her family today. It was difficult to follow carefully all the conversation because of the use of unfamiliar Scottish slang and because they spoke about people and events of which I, and the rest of the sitters, had no knowledge. For example, at one point Helen said she had thrown all the illnesses she had suffered from during her physical life in the 'midden'. Gena explained afterwards that this was Scottish slang for a rubbish tip. Helen also used the term 'poke' saying Gena could take her rose home in a poke. Gena explained afterwards that a poke is a paper cone. Helen also told Gena to take the rose home to her husband, George. This puzzled the rest of us until Gena explained her husband had "green fingers" and would know how to make a rose bush from the one bud.

Gena, a Spiritualist, cried during the sťance but she could scarcely be called an over emotional person. I was quite convinced she would not be afraid to denounce the voice if it was not her mother. But to make sure I rang Gena three days after the sťance and she reiterated there was no doubt it was her mother. There were no 'difficult' moments during the test sťance and the conversation flowed freely and easily.


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