Muriel Hankey

Died 1978

     IN APRIL 1920 James Hewat McKenzie founded the original British College of Psychic Science, headquartered in a twenty-five room house at 59 Holland Park in London. (Author's note: The present College of Psychic Studies was not a part of this College, but assumed the name "College of Psychic Science" in 1956, having previously been the London Spiritualist Alliance established in 1884. In 1970, it became the College of Psychic Studies.)

The College was a center of psychical investigation and experiment. A major concern of the College was the subject of survival and trance mediumship.

Prior to the College's founding, in 1915 McKenzie hired Muriel Hankey as his secretary. From McKenzie Muriel learned to cast a compassionate, knowledgeable and critical eye at psychics and methods of research. From her experiences during those early days a serious and almost intuitive insight into the many problems of mediumship and all manifestations of phenomena was stamped upon this devoted employee's mind.

McKenzie was a hard taskmaster who imposed strict disciplines upon the training of his psychics. One of his students was Eileen Garrett, who felt a close attachment to McKenzie and his training until she died in 1970. Under McKenzie's tutelage Muriel observed, acted as organizational secretary, and even acted as a "proxy sitter" (i.e., serving as a substitute for someone who seeks communication through a medium) countless times until she emerged as an investigator in her own right. In 1930 she became Organizing Secretary of the original College, and from 1952 to 1960 she served as Principal and Secretary of the now more familiar College located at 16 Queensberry Place. She was a frequent lecturer and contributor to publications devoted to psychical research, was a commandant in the British Red Cross from 1939 to 1947, served as secretary to the Ladies' Army and Navy Club from 1937 to 1939, and was a personal friend to numerous mediums and researchers.

Muriel Hankey was a well-preserved woman with a demure face, a quick smile, and sudden flashes of a captivating personality. She also possessed a deep serious quality that saw immediately what really was, but for gracious reasons often chose to save her opinion until later when all pertinent facts had been gathered. This insight was invaluable when she dealt with mediums.

Muriel was born in Putney, and in later life lived there in a flat near Putney Bridge. When I visited her at her home in London on June 30, 1971 she was sitting in a green velvet print chair in her sitting room. An oriental tapestry hung on the wall, and a variety of plants on the windowsill provided warmth to the room. It was a kind of reunion, for we had previously met and talked in 1966 when she was handling correspondence for Eileen Garrett at her parapsychology conference in the South of France. Now several weeks after my visit Muriel was scheduled to lecture on Eileen Garrett at the College. I wondered as we talked if Muriel started out as a believer in the reality of psychic phenomena ... so I asked her:

Q. How did you find your way to this subject?

A. When I was twenty years old, Bill, I wanted to find a job and earn pocket money. My family thought I should just be a daughter at home. I went ahead and looked in the papers for job notices. I answered an advertisement. It was during the War in May 1915. The person who sent me a telegram to come for an interview was Mr. J. Hewat McKenzie. I received that telegram on a Friday. I was engaged to start the following Monday. Without my parents' knowledge I had attended night classes and learned shorthand. I was his secretary from 1915 to 1925.

Q. What did your parents think?

A. I went home and told my mother, who immediately telephoned my father in the north of England. He took a night train down and came to London on a Saturday to find out just what I was up to.

Q. What was the outcome?

A. He went with me to McKenzie for a second interview, and became interested. My father then took me home and told my mother that the job was all right and not to worry - that I was too sensible ever to fall for the kind of nonsense that the material I was to work with involved, and that I would never be a spiritualist. He felt there was no harm in my working and earning a little money. That was the beginning.

Q. Did you ever think you would believe?

A. No, I thought I would never believe. It was just a job in 1915. When McKenzie took me to the first sitting to take notes, I found that I had to take notes for myself and the medium was Gladys Osborne Leonard.

Q. What did you think of her as you looked and listened?

A. She was a little older than I, but she was young. I was a little frightened because I didn't know exactly what I was in for. I was only 20, and I did not have much life for her to gather, but I have never seen anyone like her either in or out of trance.

Q. Did you have to pay for the sitting?

A. We were asked half a crown for the fee, and I didn't have half a crown. I have often said that my first sitting cost me five lunches. About six pence a day was my allowance for lunch in those days. McKenzie said, "You'll pay your fee yourself." I replied that I could not afford it. He said, "You'll never do anything in this life at somebody else's expense. If you want anything, you'll pay for it." I didn't want that sitting, but I had it, and that was my first introduction. It was a good one, although she wasn't giving me exactly communication. She went into trance, and she had really only then just become professional, and half a crown was the fee.

Q. Did you come to know her well?

A. Oh, very well indeed, and also her husband. She was one of the most honorable people, a very charming Christian woman, but she did not speak very much about religion. She was mostly interested in her garden, which was beautifully kept.

Q. Since there was no center at that time, you then had to go to the mediums' homes for the sittings?

A. Yes, we went to peoples' houses and we had to watch for the police who would sometimes come anonymously for sittings and then haul off the poor sensitive to court for telling fortunes.

Q. Did you know the Rev. Charles Drayton Thomas who was associated in researching the mediumship of Mrs. Leonard?

A. Yes, I knew him very well indeed. He came into the picture because of McKenzie. Mr. McKenzie had many interests, and he was a businessman. He was certainly no fool, and he did have property. All that he had was always connected in some way with his psychic interests, and his love for the subject. He decided that people weren't hearing enough about the truth of psychic matters. He especially felt this in respect to the churches' interest. In 1915 he hired the Queen’s Hall to give an address. He then hired it a second time and invited 1,500 clergymen to attend! I had to be there to hand out the programs. About 300 actually attended. His opening remark was, "I'm out to smash the churches," which caused everyone to sit up. Among those present was the Rev. Charles Drayton Thomas.

Q. Did he show any interest?

A. He was a Methodist, and as a result of that meeting and through the McKenzie's he went to see Mrs. Leonard. It was that experience that started him on his own explorations and the eventual writing of his books. My interest was growing all the time, and by the time the College was started anything that had to be done I would do it. We could not even get any workmen, and so I literally helped to even make some of the drains in the building and prepare the floors. I know the whole history of the College from the beginning.

Q. What do you think this subject has done for you?

A. It gave me an interest in living. Before I was such a miserable person. It changed my whole life. I was unhappy. I thought life was so empty. McKenzie knocked some sense into me. The world opened up. Actually Mrs. McKenzie was his secretary when the College opened, and I was just the librarian and taking the money - and also a stenographer. My shorthand was very high speed in those days.

Q. Is there something more you remember about Mrs. Leonard?

A. She was a dedicated woman. I did two years of doing nothing but reporting for sittings. In this capacity I did get to know the mediums. I would sit for myself, somebody else as a proxy, or take down a reading for a sitter. I remember an instance in regard to a sitting Mrs. Leonard gave when something about shoes came up. The sitter could not remember anything about shoes and said so. The remark was, "It was a very good sitting, Mrs. Leonard, but you kept talking about shoes, and my relation had nothing to do with it." Mrs. Leonard later, thinking about it, remembered that she took a walk every morning to an area where there was an isolated group of houses, and a very few shops. She would walk as far as the shoe shop and look at the shoes and leave. She thought that was the last thing she would see or do before she went into trance. It taught her to be aware of what she said in her own mind - and after that experience she would never even open a newspaper in the morning until she had finished her sitting in case something she had read came out through the sitting. I respected her very much for this. She was very dedicated. She never worked with any one group - always at home.

Q. Since you were present in a sitting of Eileen Garrett when the "control" Uvani first manifested, and watched McKenzie work to educate the entity, what was his view of the personalities Uvani and Abdul Latif?

A. He accepted them, and not as mere facets of her multiple personality.

Q. What was your impression of Eileen Garrett in those early days?

A. I thought she was rather flamboyant. She was also a very, very warm person. Sometimes on Friday evenings these sittings of hers would take four hours, including the conversation before and after. She was very willing to cooperate, and she was certainly a guinea pig for the early days of research. During the day she would go on with her ordinary life. She had a tea shop. She often said, "When I knew you first I was living in one room - and if I get back to one room, what the hell." That was typical of her. You knew she would say that.

Q. How did her appearance impress you?

A. She was a beautiful woman because she had very regular features and fine brown eyes. She was not so heavy then. She had a fairly substantial build, but she was not heavy. She put weight on later. She was very bright and gay and always brought a laugh, and most especially if there were young men about. She loved parties.

Q. Did you attend her parties?

A. Oh yes, I did - I went to many of them. They were not quiet parties. When you would look for her she would be sitting around the corner of the stairs with the most handsome gentlemen.

Q. Did you think she had a magnetic quality?

A. Yes, she did. She was gregarious and always entertaining people. One thing I liked was her compassion for young people. Perhaps she was too compassionate. She would always listen to their troubles and woes.

Q. How did she look upon Mr. McKenzie?

A. She did what he said, and was a very obedient pupil, but then again I have heard her extol him and denigrate him severely to others. She was complex.

Q. Did she miss him later on?

A. Yes. She would say, "We shall never see his like again," and I would say, "No, thank God." Then we would laugh because we both knew he was a hard taskmaster. The reason for my book about him was to give him the benefit of his quality. He was very precise, truthful, and exact about things.

Q. Would you say Eileen Garrett was any more a believer in her mediumship in the early days than later on?

A. If you look at Eileen she was like a many-faceted diamond. She would believe one thing one moment, and disbelieve it another. You could not hold upon her, nor could she hold for herself a set belief or opinion.

Q. Would you call her a moody person?

A. She was a very moody, but not a morose, person. She was so many faceted. She was loving and giving, critical and dictatorial. She could be everything, which was for her a contradictory virtue, and of course you didn't know at any time when she was going to turn on you next! It could be as quick as that.

There was an instance at one of the conferences in America. She had an interview with a scholarly gentleman who was denigrating the validity of the McKenzie history and all else. Eileen was completely agreeing with him. It was over and he had gone, but immediately after she walked into her office with me where there was a picture of McKenzie on the wall, she turned to me and said: "Do you think he approves of our work now, Muriel?" Well, I said, "Eileen, you ask a strange question. I just heard you say you didn't believe in him. Do you believe that he persists, or that he is aware of what you are doing?" She replied: "How can I not believe?" Now that is indicative of Mrs. Garrett's temperament. It took me a long time to come to grips with her mysterious mind.

Q. What did you learn from Eileen Garrett?

A. I learned all about personality. I learned about her mediumship, but you couldn't apply that generally to other mediums because she was truly a unique person all by herself.

Q. Did you have an opportunity to observe the work of Ena Twigg before she was so well known?

A. Yes. Way back when I was the person who recommended her to speak on the radio when the BBC asked for the name of a medium. I also recommended her to appear on television. Ena was a very cooperative sensitive. I did what I could for her, and I always recommended those having sittings that they take notes. For a time my daughter would go to the College and take shorthand for sitters.

Q. Do you consider that essential?

A. Yes. They should bring a tape recorder rather than sit without any secretary or some way of taking it down. I have known people to have a sitting and term it completely wrong and misrepresent it or misquote it or make it better than it was or put a different aspect to it which is not valid. Ena was very good. She was charming with her clients, and got better and better at her work. I observed her improve so much, and she became first class.

Q. Has your own faith been strengthened by your experiences?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you believe that you will survive death?

A. I do, but in what manner I cannot say.

Q. Are you attracted to the Easter story?

A. Yes, it has added to my faith and just illustrated it.

Q. What would you say to a young person who inquired of you, "I have no faith at all. I don't believe in anything, but I am interested in psychical research and ESP"?

A. I would welcome him. I think psychical research would open a door for him.

Q. Did McKenzie believe that he would survive the experience of death?

A. Yes, he was quite certain.

Muriel Hankey died in 1978. Her memoirs, along with her many experiences and insights, are documented in her book titled James Hewat McKenzie: Pioneer of Psychical Research (Aquarian Press, London: 1963)

My personal memories of Muriel include reflections on her delightful personality, and learning valuable insights from her on the life of Eileen Garrett - all of this information shared with me over the inevitable British cup of tea.

The College continued to flourish until McKenzie's death in 1929 when it is recorded that it "continued under the chairmanship of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with Mrs. Champion de Crespigny as principal, and with the collaboration of Mrs. McKenzie. In 1939 the College combined with the International Institute for Psychical Investigation but in 1947 the College closed.

It is interesting to note that during the later years Muriel's daughter Denise (Iredell) also transcribed sittings by mediums and psychics. Like her mother, Denise attended events at Mrs. Garrett's European headquarters at Le Piol, St. Paul de Vence in the south of France. Her involvement in Psychical Research remains to this day.

Source: By William V. Rauscher



Some parts of this page The International Survivalist Society 2005