Rosalind Heywood

Member of Council, Society for Psychical Research. Was interested in documenting different attitudes towards ESP research. Koestler dedicated his book "The Roots of Coincidence" to Heywood, 'catalyst-in-chief'. Her books included "ESP: A Personal Memoir", "The Sixth Sense" (London, 1959), "Beyond the Reach of Sense" (E. P. Dutton, 1974) and "The Infinite Hive" (Pan, 1966). In the latter book she documented her own psychic experiences.

Mediumship - Mrs Leonard (2)

 - Rosalind Heywood -

         MRS LEONARD'S ESP usually occurred during attempts by her Control, Feda, and other communicators, to convince sitters that they were genuine discarnate entities. At the tune telepathy from the living seemed the most likely alternative source of the information by which they tried to identify themselves and Feda suggested a new type of test in which it was difficult for this to occur. She offered to report something written on a particular page of a particular book, which stood on a shelf in a house which not only Mrs Leonard, but sometimes even the sitter had never visited. These became known as Book Tests, and, although most of them were inconclusive, even the cautious W. H. Salter found some of them so apt and definite as to give him a strong impression that some other factor than chance was at work.

At one time Feda developed the habit of giving sitters tests from the books in Mr and Mrs Salter's own house. From their point of view, this had its drawbacks. They would get telegrams, 'Touch no books in your house', and would then, after further instructions, have to undertake the task, sometimes long and tiresome, of verifying tests for other people. One good-test was given with Mrs Salter as sitter. Without telling anyone Mr Salter put some test books on a shelf in an unoccupied room. Feda clearly indicated that shelf and a book on it - it was Henry James's Daisy Miller - and she said that some words a quarter of an inch above a line drawn halfway down page 15 would form a cross correspondence, also that three particular words, 'a long pole'. were to be taken from that line. The communicator then purported to show the Control a long pole in his hand.

The passage at that spot in Daisy Miller was '"I should like to know where you got that Pole," she said. "I bought it," responded Randolf.'

Feda's report was not quite accurate. The actual words 'A long pole' do not appear on Page 15, though the pole carried by RandoIf was an alpenstock and on page 12 this was described as long. Nor was the passage a direct cross correspondence, though it had an association with some earlier experiments in telepathy between Mrs Salter and Mrs Stuart Wilson in which cross correspondences had arisen. Mrs Wilson had felt her own scripts to come from a superior intelligence, to whom she could no more live up than Randolf's family could five up to him and for this reason she had called the script intelligence Randolf. Mrs Salter knew this but Mrs Leonard did not.

One purported communicator, A. V. B., suggested to two regular sitters, Lady Troubridge and Miss Radcliffe Hall, that she could sense the meaning of passages in languages unknown to Mrs Leonard, to the sitters, or to herself when living.

In response the two sitters obtained some books in Greek which they put on a shelf in an order known to themselves alone. A. V. B. then made a number of attempts at this exacting task. Out of one group of fourteen of these, Mrs Sidgwick classified four as definite hits, a further four as right, with elements of doubt, four as very dubious, and one probably and one certainly wrong(1) A typical good hit, made ten days before the 1918 armistice, was to locate the Greek word for armistice on the right line of the right page of the right book, with the comment that this was what A. V. B. was wishing for on. the sitters' behalf. But the difficult question still remains: How often can such coincidences be accidental?

(1) In all Mrs Sidgwick analysed 532 book tests, and she classified about 17 per cent as successful, 19 per cent as approximately successful, 18 per cent as doubtful, and the rest as failures or all but failures. This appeared to be away above chance, so the usual control experiment was undertaken. 1,800 sham book tests were analysed by another investigator, and these gave less than 2 per cent as successful, and less than 3 per cent as partially successful, instead of 17 per cent and 19 per cent. But their judgements were, of course, subjective. Proceedings SPR, Vol. XXXI, 1921, pp. 241-400.

Mrs Leonard occasionally pulled off the tour de force of giving information relevant to a deceased person which appeared at the time to be known to nobody living. This occurred in an anonymous sitting by Mrs Hugh Talbot, in which Feda made immense efforts to convince her of the continued existence of her dead husband(2). One of these was to describe on his behalf a small dark leather book, about 8 to 10 inches long.

'It's not exactly a book,' she said, 'it is not printed... It has writing in.'

(2) Proceedings SPR, Vol. XXXI, pp. 253-60.

Mrs Talbot suggested that this might be a red log book of her husband's, but Feda said, no, it was darker and would she please find it and look for something written on page 12 or 13. Mrs Talbot still thought the log book was meant, but Feda insisted.

'There are two books, you will know the one he means by a diagram of languages in the front ... Indo-European, Aryan, Semitic languages ... A table of Arabian, Semitic languages there are lines, not straight, going like this.'

Mrs Talbot had never heard of a diagram of languages and thought the medium was talking rubbish. On her return home, she casually mentioned Feda's insistence about the book but could hardly be persuaded to look for it. Finally, right at the back of the top book-shelf, she found a shabby black leather book of the shape described by Feda. To her great surprise it contained a 'Table of Semitic or Syro-Arabian Languages' and a 'General Table of the Aryan and Indo-European Languages'. She also found on page 13 a long extract from an old book, entitled Post Mortem, describing the blissful situation of the author after death.

But the fact remained that Mrs Leonard could have got most of the things she said by unconscious telepathy from the sitter. To eliminate this, a new type of proxy sitting was tried, in which the sitter was represented by someone else. That would at least ensure that telepathy from the living was indirect, since the real sitter and medium were at one remove from each other. The less, obviously, that the proxy sitter knew about the real sitter and the dead person sought the better, and in 1936 Professor E. R. Dodds arranged a careful experiment at what might be called two removes. On behalf of a Mrs Lewis, he asked Mr Drayton Thomas to try for a communication from her father, a Mr Macaulay, who had been a water engineer(3).

(3) Proceedings SPR, Vol XLV, pp. 257-306.

Mr Thomas and Mrs Leonard knew nothing of Mrs Lewis or Mr Macaulay, but on the face of. it Feda got in touch with him right away As evidence of his identity, she described his working instruments, tool chest, mathematical formulae, drawing office, etc., as well as could be expected from a woman who knew nothing of such things. She also correctly recounted incidents in his past life, gave his pet name for his daughter - Puggy - spoke of his damaged hand, said he specially wanted her to mention baths and gave the names of some persons who had shared a particularly happy time with him. One of these puzzled her and she said, 'It might be Reece but it sounds like Riss.'

All this was meaningless to Mr Thomas and he sent it to Professor Dodds who sent it to Mrs Lewis. She said that her father's anxiety about wasting bath water had been a family joke, also that during the halcyon period referred to by Feda her schoolboy brother had hero-worshipped an older boy called Rees and had drawn attention to the fact that his name was spelt Rees, not Reece, so often that his young sisters used to sing 'Not Reece, but Riss', to tease him. This was eventually stopped by Mr Macaulay as it hurt the boy's feelings.

Another communicator claimed to be the first wife of Mrs Lewis's husband, and referred to a conversation on a bridge during which he had proposed to her twenty-five yew earlier. To those personally linked with purported communicators this kind of trivial material is often stronger evidence of identity than more dramatic statements. Professor Dodds does not, himself, believe in survival, but he doubts if fraud, rational inference, or telepathy from the sitter can account for the number of hits made by Mrs Leonard, particularly such items as Puggy, Reece-Riss, or the bridge proposal. And he finds it equally incredible that these were all lucky shots. In his view, then, we are left with an important either/or. Mrs Leonard must have had extra-sensory access to the thoughts of living persons who had never had any communication with her or with the sitter, or she had somehow tapped the past of a person no long living.

In the Macaulay case Mrs Leonard had been given the distant inquirer's bare name, Mrs Lewis, as a starting point. But on one occasion she produced veridical material about a family of whom neither she nor the sitter had ever heard. On October 28th, 1938, Mr Thomas was told by his purported father and sister that a middle-aged man would be writing to him. This man, they said, had once lived near an old home of his at a place which sounded like Morton and he wanted to get into touch with his son, who had recently been killed in a motor-car accident. A fortnight later a letter came from an unknown Mr A. For the past month, he said, he had been meaning to write his appreciation of a lecture given by Mr Thomas and he would also be glad of advice about trying to contact his own son, who had recently been killed in an aeroplane accident. It transpired later that the A family had lived for twelve years at Norton, not far from a town where Mr Thomas himself had lived. The son, young A, purported to communicate at two further sittings by Mr Thomas with Mrs Leonard. At these striking veridical material was given which was unknown even to his father, Mr A, but was later confirmed by another son. Feda said, too, that young A spoke of a friend who had died, whose name began with BR, and as a clue to his identity she described in detail a model ship. This meant nothing to Mr A, but once more the living son confirmed that he and his dead brother had had a friend named Br ... who had worked for a firm making model ships and had been killed about a year later than young A.

But once again, as in the Sevens case, when one or two good mediums were producing clues which fitted the survival hypothesis, other clues pointed to the living as the source of information which purported to come from the dead. A Canon Douglas reported one such case in The Unpopular Review for January-March 1919. Ms Chauffeur, a Frenchman named Reallier, had joined the French Army in 1914 and had occasionally written to hint thereafter. Then, at a sitting with a non-professional sensitive, Canon Douglas was told that a deceased communicator, named Ravallier, wished to speak to him. To prove his identity, Ravallier gave many convincing details from the past and reported a recent journey to Salonica and other recent events in his own life. Canon Douglas knew nothing of these, but later found them all to be correct for Reallier. In fact Ravallier made no mistakes - except the vital one that Reallier was not dead and had never even been seriously ill.

Similar incorrect statements were made to Dr S. B. Soal, who afterwards became famous for his successful card-guessing experiments. After some impressive sittings with a medium, Mrs Blanche Cooper, he devised a test. He invented an imaginary friend, John Ferguson, and immediately before each further sitting he visualized an incident in which this John took part. And time and again John turned up as a discarnate communicator and reminded him of these incidents(4).

(4) Another difficulty in assessing mediumistic material is that many lives are not very dissimilar. We all love, hate, fail, succeed and die. So a hit for sitter A. may often be a hit for sitter B. as well. Not long ago a widow gave an SPR investigator an impressive list of correct hits made by a medium about her deceased husband, and as a test she kindly allowed him to get it annotated by some other widows as if the sitting had been for themselves. One or two of them found even more correct hits than the lady for whom the sitting had been given.

The situation still remains the same. No absolutely watertight method of establishing the source of statements made by sensitives has been discovered. But that they often obtain their information by some kind of ESP it is hard to doubt.


"The Sixth Sense" by Rosalind Heywood (1959, Chatto and Windus Ltd).


More articles by Rosalind Heywood

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