Today we are all connected to the information superhighway. Information we stumble upon in this electronic ether may be accurate, of great benefit and, yes, sometimes even enlightening. Other information … well, not so much.
So it seems too, information gleaned from that other ether, the world of spirits of the dead, may prove to be accurate and of great benefit. But just like today’s information superhighway, the supernatural superhighway can also be a source of dubious information, deliberate deception and even grave danger.
Where there’s a will …
It seems even in the afterlife, the dearly departed maintain a material interest in their earthly possessions. The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal on 16 September 1927 reported on a case where a missing will was uncovered following a séance held in a Sydney apartment.
“A, V. Turner, the daring motorist who was killed last year, revealed from beyond the grave the existence and whereabouts of his will. Such is the conviction of Miss de L’Orme, of Hilltop Crescent, Manly, who was for years Mr. Turner’s business secretary, and who found the will in accordance with the direction in the spirit message,” the paper stated.
“The voice told her to look behind one of the drawers in his desk. She did so, and there, folded up the middle (and doubled) and tied with tape, as the voice described it, was a will! It, alone, of all the documents, was folded in that way!”
And years earlier, in November 1892, the Barrier Miner reported on the discovery of another will following apparent guidance from the other side.
“Mr. Justice Manning was occupied for a considerable time in the Probate Court yesterday with an extraordinary will case…
“The will in question was alleged to have been made by Mrs Cowell, who possessed a considerable amount of property. A search was made after her death for a will, and two wills were found, one secreted in the back of an armchair, and the other in a secret drawer of a secretaire. One will, that found in the armchair, proved to be informal. The discovery of the other is ascribed to a dream which the young woman who found the will had.
“It turned out that she was the beneficiary under the will which she discovered. The dreamer was called in court, but, unfortunately, has had a severe attack of illness since she had the dream, this seeming to have deprived her of the power of describing in detail the mysterious vision which she alleges she saw. All efforts to secure a description of what she had seen failed. She was very firm in the conviction that she had had the dream, but, beyond making the positive assertion that she had the dream, her evidence did not go very far.
“Attempts were made to lead her into making a detailed confession, but she seemed to stand aghast; and it was evident that the dreamer had suffered, and is still suffering, severely in health. The case was adjourned.”
Whatever so rattled the young woman in her dream, one can only imagine. The spirit of Mrs Cowell herself perhaps?
Mystery of the Tichborne Claimant solved?
And what is the mystery of the Tichborne Claimant you ask?
The young heir to the Tichborne fortune, Roger Tichborne, was feared drowned after the ship on which he was sailing was wrecked off the coast of Brazil in 1854. Stories soon emerged, however, that he and others on board the doomed ship had been rescued and later landed in Australia. During the 1860s and 70s, a man claimed to be the lost heir. His name was Thomas Castroas. He also went by the name of Arthur Orton but he became best known as the Tichborne Claimant. He was eventually convicted of perjury. You can read more here.
The case of the Tichborne Claimant captivated both Australia and England … and perhaps also those inhabiting otherworldly realms.
The Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate on 21 June 1879 provided the following account of a séance in which the mystery of the missing Tichborne heir may just have been solved.
“A gentleman, who holds a good position in the city, says that on Queen’s Birthday he went to Newtown to a friend’s house, where he spent the evening. While there a circle was formed, and the party there, our informant, his friend, and a gentleman from the country, and a young lady … Mary, and her beau, Smith.
“Conversation with the spiritual world was quickly obtained, and the table suddenly standing on end, suddenly fell into the lap of the gentleman from the country, who was evidently to be the medium…
“After some formal questions and answers, a very startling message came from the spirit world. Not the least strange line from the spirits was the one referring to the Tichborne claimant. It was interpreted thus – ‘[Edward] Souper [Souper and Orton had been described as inseparable companions] is the real claimant of the Tichborne case. He is still alive, and is now living in Ireland, in Dublin county. Souper went from Hobart Town to Wellington, in New Zealand. He left Hobart Town in 1854.This, our informant states, is as the spirits dictated.”
The Man Who Lost Himself: The Unbelievable Story Of The Tichborne Claimant by Robyn Annear would later claim that Souper was indeed, the true Tichborne Claimant.
Medium’s message sheds new light on long forgotten death
“The police have recently been investigating a case, the chief peculiarity of which is that they have been set in motion by an alleged communication from the spirit world,” so stated an article in the Border Watch on 17 February 1872.
“Some 20 or 21 years ago there was a man named Waugh residing in Melbourne, whose avocation was that of a carrier. Returning from a trip to the country, he found that his daughter had got married in his absence, and he was greatly annoyed thereat, as she was only a girl of 15 or 16 years of age.
“However, his resentment was not of long duration. He was reconciled to his daughter and her husband, and promised to start them in business. He left them shortly after the reconciliation, and was never more seen by them – all they knew of his intended movements being that he was to sleep that night at the house of his sister.
“His sister’s account was that …whilst riding to Kyneton he was accidentally thrown from his horse and killed. She disposed of a quantity of personal property belonging to her brother which was in her possession, the curator of intestate estates being seldom troubled in those days, and … Waugh’s disappearance was soon forgotten.
“Recently a man named Campbell has informed the police that he has received a communication from Waugh’s spirit to the following effect: ‘I was murdered by Liz (his sister) with a poker. Dig four feet under the ground at the rear of her house and you will find my body.’
The Sydney Morning Herald of 26 March 1872 further elaborated on Waugh’s otherworldly communiqué:
“Campbell informed the detectives that although he could not write, the spirit of a murdered man, named Augustus Calmut Waugh, had made use of his hand by enabling him to write upon a slate certain sentences which would show where the body of the murdered man had been hidden. He alleged that he did not move his hand at all, but remained passive while the spirit moved his hand, in the fingers of which he held a pencil. It does not appear that Campbell had any personal knowledge of the circumstances attending the supposed murder.”
The Border Watch article continued: “Taking into account Waugh’s mysterious disappearance, and the fact that no authentic record can be found of his death, the police have considered themselves bound to make inquiries to test the value of this information.
“So far … they have been unable to find any confirmation of the reported accident by which Waugh was said to have lost his life… Whether they have searched the premises in Melbourne, we are not aware, although, we understand, they have received permission to do so. The publication of these particulars may perhaps assist the police in obtaining a clue to the fate of Waugh. It may be added that both his sister and her husband [have since] committed suicide by cutting their throats.”
Following publication of the original article, it was later revealed by the police that “the deceased was foully murdered, and did not die from accidentally falling from his horse, as was represented at the time by his sister.”
It was also later reported that a search of the house and yard failed to find poor Waugh’s earthly remains.
Police “not interested” in medium’s message of murder
“The police do not intend to take any action following the spirit message given in the Town Hall last night by Arthur Ford, the American medium,” reported the Maitland Daily Mercury of 22 June 1937.
“Ford announced that William Henry Lavers, who disappeared on September 1 from his store at Glenelg, had been murdered, and that his body would be found buried about 30 miles away in the direction of Cowra.
“The Acting Commissioner of Police, Mr J. T. Lynch said: ‘I am not interested,’ when questioned about the matter.
And it seems the medium soon lost interest in the apparent murder too.
“Asked if it would be possible for him to obtain more detailed information of the whereabouts of Lavers’ body by handling some article, Mr Ford said his interest in the matter ended with the message he was able to give.”
But ten years after Lavers’ disappearance, Frederick Lincoln McDermott, a 38-year-old labourer was arrested over his murder. The Singleton Argus reported on 6 November 1946 that McDermott allegedly told another man in 1944 that: “he had killed Lavers and disposed of the body.”
“This was stated in Grenfell Police Court by Mr. T. S. Crawford for the Crown, at the opening of an inquiry into the disappearance of Lavers, then aged 49, from his country store and home at Glenelg, near Grenfell, in September, 1936.
“The case is unusual, in that no body was found … Because of that, evidence will be called which would not be necessary where the body was found.”
Perhaps if Acting Police Commissioner Lynch had taken some interest in the spirit message delivered nine years earlier by Arthur Boyd, Lavers’ body just might have been found and Lavers’ murder solved years earlier.
As a postscript, McDermott was found guilty and handed the death penalty, which was commuted to life in prison. He was released in 1952 after serving only five years, however. His release followed a Royal Commission into the trial concluding there was reasonable doubt about some of the evidence in the case. Like a body?
Bourne whence no traveller returns
“Ten years ago, I went to the Mountains, on account of bad health, and was away for four months. I had left my aged father in the care of some people living in the town. My father was about 81 at this time, and was absolutely blind and deaf, and it was impossible to communicate with him,” so began a reader’s letter of May 1919 to Sydney’s The World’s News.
“On the day of my return, I went to see him, and when I touched him he recognised me, and said how he had missed me. He then turned his sightless eyes to me, and said, “Did you hear of P_’s death?” P_ was my brother, and was living in London. The next day I again saw my father, and he said, “Did you get word from P_’s widow?”
“I somehow felt that there was something peculiar about the matter, and waited till word was received from London, which came along some six weeks later, and the letter told me that my brother had died precisely at this time, and he was 12,000 miles from my father.
“It was humanly impossible for my father to learn anything of his son’s death, except through a spirit medium, and it was absolutely certain that he had received a message in some way outside human agency, by which he became positively sure that my brother had passed to that “bourne whence no traveller returns.”
“Much as I desired to investigate this remarkable revelation, I was positively prevented from making further inquiry into the matter, and my father never again referred to it, and died about two years later.”
Séance obsession ends in family tragedy
A woman’s obsession with spiritualism and pondering ‘the life beyond the grave’ would have tragic consequences for one Malvern family when the woman battered her two daughters to death and then tried to take her own life following a warning she had recently received from “spirit voices”.
The Courier Mail on 2 May 1934 reported that:
“Mrs. Martha Lees Turner (aged 35 years), of Malvern, who lies in hospital seriously wounded, while her two children are dead, having been battered to death with an axe, wrote a pathetic note to her husband yesterday.
“In the note she told how she had decided to die with her children, as the result of warnings by spirit voices that she would have to face domestic worry. Mrs. Turner, who wrote the note at her own request, told how recently she had attended a spiritualist meeting, and the spirit voices there had given her warnings that she would have to face domestic worry.
“That warning had preyed on her mind, and she thought she would take her children out of the world and that she would go with them. Another note which was found at her home and was addressed to her husband, David Turner, referred to ’people following her about,’ and her decision to die with her children. The note, which was rambling and some what incoherent, seems to reveal a definitely deranged mind.
“The story of the woman’s spiritualistic experience is confirmed by her husband. He told the detectives that for about six years his wife had been absorbed in the study of spiritualism. She attended séances and spiritualistic meetings, and constantly pondered over death and the life beyond the grave.
“More than once Turner feared that his wife’s obsession with spiritualism and with messages from ’beyond the grave’ was developing in her a morbid mental outlook. Lately, he told the detectives, his wife had acted strangely, and her neurotic condition was becoming progressively worse, she had no need to fear domestic worry, he said.“
Don’t trust everything you hear on the supernatural superhighway.
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