Barbara McKenzie

Born Barbara Hendry on October 17, 1870 in Elgin, North Scotland. Principal of the British College for Psychic Science and editor of it's journal "Psychic Science". Wife of J. Hewat McKenzie, founder of the BCPS. James and Barbara had regular sittings in their special 'quite room' for meditation. Barbara was the medium, "and as she sat she became aware of various new influences operating on her receptive mind, which seemed distinct from her ordinary thoughts of which she had full control. Various personalities 'spoke' through her, giving evidence regarding matters of which she had no knowledge, but, illustrating the influence of the mind, they would very often answer questions on which her husband had been pondering, arising out of his intensive reading" (Hankey, J. Hewat McKenzie: Pioneer of Psychical Research). President of the Women's Adult School Movement. She became actively interested in politics and met many of the political leaders of the time through her position with the ASM.

Bertha Harris: A Famous British Medium

- Barbara McKenzie -

Bertha Harris
Photo by Dora Head

          BERTHA HARRIS, of Chester, whose portrait, by the kindness of the well-known photographer and friend of the College, Dora Head, we present to our readers in this issue, needs no introduction to College members, for she has visited the College at regular intervals since 1935. I made her acquaintance first at a Spiritualist Conference at Llanberis, in North Wales, and invited her to visit London, where she was practically unknown, although her fine gifts were already fully recognized among Spiritualists in the North of England and in Scotland. She soon became a prime favourite amongst us, securing immediate attention by her pleasant easy personality and by the excellence of her demonstrations both in public and private.

During her London visits she is one of the most acceptable psychics on the Queen's Hall and Spiritualist Community platforms, demonstrating to an audience of many hundreds as easily and convincingly as to a roomful of friends. Her private sittings are arranged at the College, and these are eminently satisfactory to the members and strangers who see, that when she is at the College, she has little free time. While in her public work she seems to be normal, it has been frequently noticed that her frame and features seem to undergo subtle changes and express something more than her usual personality. She claims as her chief "control" an Egyptian, 'Angelős,' and it may be that there is overshadowing by this 'guide' at certain moments. One reporter in describing her at work, speaks of, "This tall medium with an impelling personality".

In her private sittings a trance condition is more evident. Often "direct control" by a communicator operates. As one sitter wrote, after such an experience, "A dead man, my father, had returned, and was talking to me as intimately as in life." Full names, incidents, intimate things only applicable to the one communicating, sometimes predictions, come in a quick flow which starts almost as soon as the sitter comes into her presence, and her gift has given evidence of survival to thousands. Our critics who have never looked into the matter are not aware of the spate of power, continually flowing through good mediums, and offering evidence of surviving personality. Godfrey Winn in the Daily Mirror for Dec. 1st, 1937, reports a group séance at the College, at which he arrived as a stranger. After receiving a recognized description and message from Bertha Harris, he comments, "Immediately a wall was knocked down between us, because you see, the only person who could want to talk with me from the other side was, as described, savaged by asthma all her life." This from a hard boiled journalist, who goes on to describe the evidence also handed out to others in the same group.

During a visit to Edinburgh, as reported in the Evening Dispatch of March 24th, 1936, by a well-known journalist, Mrs. Harris was asked to visit a haunted house. Her findings on the site were in harmony with long-buried history, quite unknown to her. She is an expert psychometrist and has also made a study of the human aura as a means of detecting personal characteristics, health conditions, etc. She likes to speak on this subject and can express herself clearly and logically when she does so. It is interesting to know that her husband is a good trance-speaker, and at week-ends, when free from business, is often in request by societies in the North.

Bertha Harris seems to be what is called a "natural" medium, that is, one who has always been aware of unseen presences. In an account of her psychic life, which appeared some time ago in the Two Worlds, she speaks of often as a child seeing fairies, or "the little people." Her parents regarded her as an imaginative child and though her "seeing" sometimes got her into trouble they seem to have taken her unusual faculty as a matter of course. At the age of seven she one day declared that she had seen her uncle, believed to be at the time in South Africa, on board a ship; that he had a pretty dolly in his arms, which was thrown into the sea. Shortly afterwards the uncle arrived in England unexpectedly, and it was made known that at the time of her vision his wife had given birth to a child who died, and was buried at sea. The following incident is amusing. She often played chess with her father and often won. When asked how she did it, she said, "Oh, a big hand with finger-ends gone, points, and shows me where to move." It turned out that her great-grandfather, known to her father as a boy, had his finger-ends cut off by a threshing machine. There were no more games of chess.

It was only after the passing of a brother, whom she saw after his death, that she began to connect her visions with the idea of survival, and determined to use her gifts to prove this to others. She has continued to do so with the consciousness of being guarded and helped by spirit friends. "I am often asked”, she says, "if my work tires me; people are amazed at the vitality I possess, though I am not naturally strong. The work does not tire me, rather, I feel that as I work and use my gift I become stronger and more energetic; I never experience an ache or pain as a result of my mediumship." And again, "It is a highway of adventure on which I meet with unexpected people and circumstances, my outlook on life is larger and fuller and I am able to deal with my own problems and receive direct help and guidance and rejoice in the life of service and helpfulness to others that has been opened to me."

It is good to meet a sensitive with such robust faith in her gift, and through its right exercise Bertha Harris is able to secure conviction through good evidence, and gives confidence through her personality, to the many who constantly seek her help.


The above article was taken from "Psychic Science", vol. XVII, No. 2, July 1938.

See also:

Biographies of other mediums

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Some parts The International Survivalist Society 2005