I have found at last the book I have been searching for… regretfully I had lent it out and never got it back… I have had to buy a replacement copy of the original edition.
Light to all, Leo.
The newspaper tests
Charles Drayton Thomas’ influential book Some New Evidence for Human Survival (1922) is back in print in a Kessinger edition. I recommend it to anyone interested in the history of mediumship.
Thomas reports on a long series of experiments he conducted with the British medium Gladys Osborne Leonard. The tests he highlights fall into two categories: book tests and newspaper tests. In each case, the medium reported the content of printed material that she could not have read by any normal means.
Both sets of experiments are impressive, but the newspaper tests are, I think, the most impressive of all. The reason is that the medium gave specific information about words and phrases that would appear in particular locations in tomorrow’s newspaper — at a time when, in many cases, the typesetters at the newspaper office had not even finished composing the relevant page.
Thomas gives numerous specific examples, including not only dramatic hits but also inconclusive results and definite misses. The full details can be appreciated only by reading his book. In what follows, I will summarize his report of one particular test, which took place on March 16, 1920 at 2:48 in the afternoon. Thomas checked the newspaper (the Times of London) when it came out the next day. (This material is found on pp. 155-159.)
Mrs. Leonard began by saying, “A little more than half-way down column one is March or Marsh, he cannot be certain as to the one letter. He knew some one of that name went on earth, and your mother will know in a moment who he means. She would be interested not only in the man, but also in one belonging to him. The name of the latter is given a little lower.” (In this and subsequent comments, the word he refers to the ostensible communicator, Thomas’ father, whose information was being relayed through Mrs. Leonard’s spirit control, Feda.)
Thomas notes that because the session took place in the month of March, the word March appeared many times, including at the location specified. This in itself is not particularly evidential, “but the interest centres in the latter statements. My parents had for many years been friendly with a Mr. and Mrs. Marsh, who were residing near them in two localities during the last few years of my father’s earthly life. Three-quarters down this column, which agrees with the direction ‘a little lower,’ is the name of Mr. Marsh’s wife. I had been unacquainted with her name, and was obliged to make inquiries before this could be verified.” In the vernacular of the period, the wife was “one belonging to” her husband.
Mrs. Leonard went on to say, “About one-third down column two, or a trifle lower, is given a date which is a very important one in your life…. Clairvoyantly he saw Cambridge close to this date.” The date at that location was March 15, which was the approximate date when Thomas was approved for service in the Wesleyan ministry. The word Cambridge did appear less than an inch above this date.
Thomas was not certain that March 15 was the exact date on which he became eligible for the ministry, though he knew that the event “must necessarily have been within a day of so of that date.” Because of his uncertainty, he cautiously counted this verification as “inconclusive.”
Mrs. Leonard continued, “At the beginning of column one there is a name usually associated with the very early part of the Bible. His reason for getting it is that you have noticed that name particularly within the last few days.”
Thomas reports, “The first name in the column is Adams. I had certainly been thinking, during the previous day or two of a Mrs. Adams who was an old friend of my parents…” Adam, of course, is the first human name given in the Bible.
Thomas, who was a clergyman himself, was accompanied to the sitting by another pastor, who came anonymously. Mrs. Leonard produced information said to be specifically for him. “Near the top of column two, first page of tomorrow’s Times, is the Christian name of the lady who comes with this gentleman.”
This was correct. “Four inches from the top of the column,” writes Thomas, “was the name Anne Maria.” The pastor’s deceased wife had been named Annie Maria.
Mrs. Leonard: “Close to it is this gentleman’s Christian name. These are close together, and, possibly within half an inch.”
Again, this was correct. The Rev. Frederick appeared in the specified location; Thomas’ friend, a reverent, was named Frederic (but without the k).
Mrs. Leonard: “About one-third down column two is the name of a place at which this lady lived and which she liked.”
Before checking the newspaper the next day, Thomas asked the Rev. Frederic which towns would meet this description. Frederic named two, one of which was Cambridge. The name Cambridge did appear in approximately the correct location (one-quarter down the page, rather than one-third).
In conclusion, Thomas rated the overall results of this session as 7 correct, 1 inconclusive, 1 failure.
Bear in mind two important points. First, this was just one test among hundreds that Thomas carried out with Mrs. Leonard involving books and newspapers, with comparable levels of success in most cases. Second, the newspaper in question had not even been set in type in its finished form at the time when the séance was held.
Naturally, the question arises of whether these hits could be the result of chance coincidence. Thomas carefully investigated this possibility by checking other editions of the newspaper to see if similar hits could be found by chance. He devotes a whole chapter to this phase of his investigation. The upshot is that he encountered few hits of any significance.
It is also worth pointing out that most of the cases involve multiple hits in the same small section of the newspaper or book. Multiple hits within one passage of text greatly reduce the odds of success by pure coincidence.
What impressed Thomas most of all about these experiments was that many of the references given were consistent with his father’s memories, personality, and earthly interests. In many cases, Thomas himself did not know if the information was correct until he had confirmed it by checking with other family members or by reviewing his father’s journals. Details of family history unknown to Thomas were regularly produced — exactly the kind of details that his father would have known.
It seems safe to say that no non-paranormal explanation can account for the remarkable success of the book tests and, even more so, the newspaper tests. Perhaps the only alternative to actual communication with Thomas’ deceased father is some version of super-psi, practiced unconsciously by Mrs. Leonard. But the forcefulness with which Thomas’ father came through at the séances seems to belie this possibility. Mrs. Leonard would have had to be gifted with something close to omniscience, at least subconsciously, in order to not only gather information from the future but relate it to details of the father’s life which were unknown even to his son. I very much doubt that any form of ESP, no matter how robust, can produce such results. Certainly it has never been demonstrated in the laboratory.
The more natural explanation is that Thomas’ father really was in communication with his son through the agency of Mrs. Leonard and her spirit control.
But don’t take my word for it. Read the book for yourself. Thomas’ writing style is a tad dry, but the content is fascinating, and these tests remain among the very best evidence of postmortem survival.
P.S. For additional info, see Michael Tymn’s essay on the book and newspaper tests. (Sadly the Essay link is not working from the original article) Leo.