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
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
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
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
"The Sixth Sense"
by Rosalind Heywood (1959, Chatto and