Hester (Dowden) Travers Smith

          THE DAUGHTER of the distinguished Shakespearian scholar, Professor Edward Dowden, Travers Smith, a resident of Dublin, Ireland, was primarily a ouija board medium. She sat regularly with a small group of friends, including Lennox Robinson, a world-renowned Irish playwright, and the Rev. Savell Hicks. Sir William Barrett was a close personal friend and also attended a number of sittings with the group.

In his 1917 book, On The Threshold of the Unseen, Sir William explained that two members of the group would sit blindfolded at the board, their fingers lightly touching the board's "traveler," a triangular piece of wood which flies from letter to letter under the direction of a "control" (a spirit communicating directly or relaying messages from other spirits unable to directly communicate), while a third person would copy the messages letter by letter. At times the traveler moved so rapidly that it was necessary to record the messages in shorthand. Although Barrett had no doubt as to the honesty and integrity of his friends, he designed special eye patches for them to wear so that there could be no question as to them seeing where the traveler was pointing. On one occasion he turned the board around to see if the results would be the same. They were. On another occasion, to satisfy a skeptical observer, who theorized that the blindfolded operators had memorized the position of the letters on the board, the letters were rearranged and a screen was put between the two operators who remained blindfolded. Still, coherent messages came.

When Barrett asked the controlling spirit if any friend of his could send a message, he heard from a deceased friend, who sent a message to the Dublin Grand Lodge of Freemasons, of which he had been a high ranking member. Barrett was reasonably certain that neither of the board operators were aware of his Masonic affiliation.

On another occasion, Barrett sat at the board, securely blindfolded. He reported that he was startled by the "extraordinary vigor, decision, and swiftness with which the indicator moved." A message came through that Barrett was not suited for receiving. In other words, he did not have the mediumistic psychic power necessary to adequately receive messages.

One of the more interesting cases reported by Barrett is referred to as The Pearl Tie-Pin Case. Travers Smith was sitting at the board with a "Miss C.," the daughter of a physician. The name of Miss C's cousin, an army officer killed in France a month earlier, was unexpectedly spelled out on the board and then the message came: "Tell mother to give my pearl tie-pin to the girl I was going to marry, I think she ought to have it." As Miss C. was unaware that her cousin had intended to marry and did not know the name of the woman, she asked that the name and address of the woman be given. The full Christian and surname was given on the board along with an address in London. Either the address was delivered wrong or taken down wrong as a letter sent to that address was returned. Miss C checked with other family members and none was aware that the cousin had been engaged nor knew the fiancée named.

Several months later, the family of the young officer received his personal effects from the War Office. They included a pearl tie-pin along with a will naming the fiancée as his next of kin. Both the Christian and surname were exactly as given to Miss C.

The primary controls for the Travers Smith sittings were an Egyptian called Eyen, Astor the Greek, and an American Irishman calling himself Peter Rooney, and a Hindu woman calling herself Shamar. It was Travers Smith who introduced Geraldine Cummins, the famous Irish automatic writer, to mediumship and to Astor. Astor would go on to become Cummins’ chief control.


Barrett, Sir William F., On the Threshold of the Unseen (E. P. Dutton & Co.,1917).
Cummins, Geraldine, Unseen Adventures (Rider and Company, London, 1951).
Travers Smith, Hester, Voices from the Void (E. P. Dutton & Co., 1919).

Source: Michael E. Tymn, vice-president of The Academy of Religion and Psychical Research.

Articles by Hester Travers Smith on this website:

Mediumship and the Mental Sensations of the Medium

The Communicator - Evidence For Survival



Some parts of this page The International Survivalist Society 2005