From They Walked Among Us  Louie Harris


IN March 1957 came a big change in our lives when we emigrated to join our married son and his wife, Doney, in South Africa. Alec gave a number of public circles. Private ones were held to provide for our living costs—and no more. The rest were free.

Four years later, we had our first spirit warning that Alec was likely to be in danger. It came during the penultimate circle prior to our departure for Durban. Alec and I were to have a couple of months' much needed and well earned holiday with our son and his family.

Being a Tuesday we assembled in the sanctuary for our weekly private sitting. A most unusual manifestation happened, something quite foreign to the normal phenomena which usually occurred. Alec, in trance, stepped out of the cabinet and stood before us with ectoplasm streaming copiously from his solar plexus, mouth and nose. It literally poured from his body, forming a large pool. After a few minutes, it started to build into a spirit figure. The process was arrested; the form's outlines were indistinct and shapeless, only half built. It began to move, resembling an animated piece of cloth. Without warning it rose swiftly into the air and, with wisps of ectoplasm trailing from it, floated eerily around the room. The semi-built form was attached to and manipulated by a long rod which came from the lower part of Alec's chest. At the end of it were two finger-like protrusions which grasped and activated the ectoplasmic structure. After a few excursions around the room the apparition and its trailing ectoplasm returned to Alec's body to be re-absorbed. There was consternation and much discussion among us over this.

Alec turned to re-enter the cabinet. Still in trance, he walked in a slow, dazed manner. As the curtains parted and he stepped inside, the old scientist who visited us simultaneously came out without a second's delay to materialise. The pair passed one another in the cabinet's entrance. It was as if the guide had been standing behind the curtains awaiting his cue to appear. He bustled towards us, stocky of build, with an authoritative manner and an incisive tone of speech.

I see you are all surprised by the floating form which you have just witnessed, said the guide. That is what a lot of people believe materialisation is really like, and what they expect to see at your séances. Because we come in a body as solid as their own they do not believe the evidence of their eyes. They cannot. Therein lies the danger. I come to warn you that you are continually jeopardizing the medium's safety by allowing such people into your circles. The confirmed disbeliever always constitutes a danger. More care must be taken to weed them out beforehand. This medium is valuable to us in our efforts to prove survival. There are so few in your world we can use in this way. I implore you to select your sitters most carefully.

He turned to me and said: Before you undertook the task of physical mediumship we stressed we could protect the medium only `three parts of the way'. The other part was your responsibility. See that you take steps to ensure he is protected at all future séances. I assured the scientist I always did so. He nodded curtly and left. His warning greatly alarmed me. This guide rarely appeared. When he did it was always to impart important instructions.

There was only one more sitting planned before we left on holiday. I was so perturbed about the spirit warning that I asked Vidie Carlton Jones to cancel it.

Vidie's husband was a prominent mining magnate. After he materialised at one of our circles, she became a confirmed and dedicated Spiritualist.

Please do not disappoint these sitters, begged Vidie. They have waited patiently for such a long time for this circle. Anyway I have vetted them all very carefully. They've all sat before.

Much against my better judgment, I agreed that the circle take place as arranged. After all, I thought, Vidie is right. All the people coming can be trusted.

But I had not bargained for treachery. Despite Vidie's rigid precautions, an evil element entered our band of trusted sitters. A Judas came among us, one deemed to be above suspicion. He was the secretary of the Spiritualist church in a nearby town. I would have staked my life on his integrity. Because of his position of trust his deed was all the more despicable.

At the very last minute the man, who had booked two seats, approached Vidie and asked if he and his friend might transfer their seats to two acquaintances for whom he could vouch. The idea of collusion never entered Vidie's head. Thinking that the substituted sitters would be from the same church, she agreed to the exchange. Never for one moment did Vidie realise what dreadful plans these four had to break Alec's wonderful mediumship.

The two substitute sitters later turned out to be journalists from a small magazine. It was their intention to expose what they firmly believed was a gigantic hoax to hoodwink gullible sitters. In so doing the pair hoped, no doubt, to come up with an exciting story which would please their editor. They duly presented themselves on the appointed night.

The substitutes arrived about an hour before the others. Alec let them in. They asked to inspect the sanctuary. Being a reasonable request, Alec readily agreed and led them to the room. They made a thorough inspection and professed satisfaction. The journalists - we did not know their true role - asked if they might be left alone to meditate in the sanctuary. Somewhat surprised at this unusual request, Alec agreed.

Unaware of this intrusion into the sanctuary, I came downstairs and went to greet the other sitters when I encountered the men leaving the seance room. The sight of them caused me to stop in my tracks. Over their heads I saw a dark cloud.

When placing the sitters immediately before the seance began, I remembered the evil cloud and deemed it wise to seat the strange couple on either side of my niece's husband. This was in the second row, where I felt they could do no harm. However, there was an opening in the centre of the front row which afforded access to the cabinet should backrow sitters be called by spirit friends.

I said a special prayer for protection when opening the circle. Bearing in mind the old scientist's warning I felt a heavy responsibility for Alec's safety. I was worried because the exchange of the two sitters had been permitted. The prayer completed, we sang a hymn, some bright songs and waited. When nothing happened, we sang again. There followed a longer period of waiting. Still nothing happened. The spirit entities seemed disinclined to materialise. I felt that something was decidedly wrong.

At last there was movement from the cabinet curtain. The slim, bearded figure of Rohan appeared, standing uncertainly in the aperture before the cabinet. This calm, strong guide always opened our circles with greetings, explanations and advice. It was his habit to come straight out and speak to each sitter in turn, taking his or her hands in his own slender ones. With his deep, soft voice he would welcome each one warmly. But this night things seemed different. Rohan remained for a long while within the opening of the cabinet curtains, standing very still. He surveyed the two semi-circular rows of sitters before him, searching the faces intently. I knew instinctively something was amiss.

After a pause he came hesitantly forward and commenced his welcoming gesture, taking the hands of each sitter in the front row. Somehow Rohan seemed wary, not as relaxed as usual. When he held my hands, Rohan looked deeply into my eyes. Seeing I was troubled, he gently squeezed my hands in reassurance. I felt all the guides were present and would help should there be any trouble. Despite that, my anxiety persisted.

Rohan released my hands and returned to the cabinet. He took hold of the black curtains which hung down to conceal Alec. He parted them, then held one side high above his head to reveal the entranced Alec. Seated in his chair, he was clearly visible to all. Rohan, still holding the curtain, backed away to stand by the window some distance from Alec. It was obvious there were two separate entities before the sitters.

Can you see the medium clearly? asked Rohan. Here am I, standing quite apart from him. Are you sure you can see us both?

There were excited cries of Yes and Wonderful! from the sitters. Rohan let the curtain fall back, and came forward to take the hands of those seated in the back row. He always made sure everyone was similarly greeted, that they saw and touched him.

Eventually, it was the turn of one of the substitute sitters to be greeted. As Rohan was about to take his hands in welcome, the man sprang forward and grabbed him! Throwing his arms around the spirit figure, he held on to him tightly, shouting, I've got you! The sitter was obviously convinced he had captured the draped medium in the act of duplicity, masquerading as a spirit form.

As Rohan's figure quickly dematerialised there was a loud groan from Alec in the cabinet. Then came a cry of pain as the ectoplasm swiftly returned to his body with the impact of a sledge-hammer.

The treacherous sitter fell dazed to the floor as the solid body he had held so tightly minutes before disappeared. I threw myself on him, desperately flailing with my hands, sobbing: Oh don't! You'll kill my husband! You fool, you'll kill him!

The man looked up at me, his eyes wide, terrified. The realisation dawned on him it had not been the medium he had grasped, but what it purported to be, a fully materialised spirit form. Meanwhile the second impostor, taking advantage of the commotion that ensued, rushed to the window and pulled aside the closed curtains, having previously tampered with them during the meditation session earlier. This revealed his confederates outside the window. They had a battery of cameras focused on the seance room, on the cabinet in particular.

Lenses immediately clicked furiously as flash bulbs exploded. I glanced frantically in the cabinet's direction, and realised with profound relief that our guides were doing all in their power to protect their medium. They had swathed the curtains around Alec, completely enveloping him so that he was immune to the blinding flashes of light being so ruthlessly directed at him. I was utterly bewildered and sick with dread for Alec, knowing what he must have suffered by the sudden impact of the returning ectoplasm. It all happened so quickly everybody was stunned.

The two journalists were the first to recover. They made a dash for the door in a bid to escape, but my niece Phyllis and her husband, Trevor, followed close on their heels in hot pursuit. One chose the kitchen exit. Trevor rescued him from the clutches of the dog who added its services in intercepting the fleeing man. The other ran wildly down the passage and was cornered by a very irate Phyllis and several male sitters in the lounge. This, to his chagrin, he found securely locked. Escape was impossible. All arrogance deserted him. He cringed apologetically.

You tried to kill my uncle, Phyllis raged. Why? Did you think he was a fake? When the man did not answer, Phyllis went on angrily, Now you know he isn't. In disgust she told him to leave and take his friend with him. Two very frightened men, sobered by what they had seen, ran off into the night to join their confederates in a waiting car parked some distance down the street.

When Alec came out of trance he was patently very ill. He had a severe pain which persisted for some weeks in his solar plexus. A doctor was called. He treated Alec weekly for many months. Rohan, too, suffered adverse effects and needed, we were told by the scientist, a period of recuperation.

There was a sequel to this unhappy encounter. A short time after the exposure, Alec and I were sitting in conversation with a doctor friend when my husband stopped speaking in mid sentence and was entranced. Alec's eyes closed, his face became relaxed. A soft baritone voice announced, Rohan.

I have come to tell you, he said, that greater care must be taken of the medium. If there should be a repetition of the accident which took place a few weeks ago we will not be able to protect the medium as we then did. It was fortunate it was I who was materialised at the time. I knew what to do and was able to take the full shock of the encounter. By the time it reached the medium it was less severe. But I doubt that I shall be able to do this again. Take care! I thanked Rohan and promised it would never occur again if it was humanly possible to avoid such a catastrophe. I then raised a point which had been worrying me.

Rohan, what about all those photographs they took and are going to publish? I asked.

Do not worry about that, he said. We have made certain all the films will be blank.

So it turned out to be. The magazine had promised readers in a previous issue it would give full photo coverage to the exposure of Alec's mediumship. These pictures never appeared. Obviously there were no photographs to print.

When Vidie heard how the exchange of seats had been engineered she was very upset and reacted in her typical outspoken manner. She wrote a letter to the man who had originally secured the two seats. Herewith your 30 pieces of silver! were among her words. The Biblical inference was appropriate and, she hoped, humiliating to the perpetrator of such shameful treachery.

I noticed a great change in Alec after the exposure attempt. His health was not as robust as before. Something seemed to have gone out of him. He slowed down considerably. Alec had always been such an energetic person, constantly looking for things to do about the home. Now everything seemed to be an effort.

Vidie thought a trip to Britain might help Alec, and restore his zest for living. In May 1962 we accompanied her to the United Kingdom. Alec did not look at all well. I decided that as soon as we reached Cardiff he should see our doctor and have a check-up.

We visited Peggy, our dear pianist friend of yore, and spent happy hours chatting of the old days. After we left her, and were on our way to visit Alec's brother I noticed that Alec's driving was very erratic. He seemed to have difficulty keeping the car on a straight course. Alec managed to negotiate the vehicle through Cardiff's busy streets without mishap. We were driving slowly along a quiet road where his brother lived when the car suddenly swerved violently and landed on the pavement, where it came to a halt. Alec was slumped in his seat looking very strange.

I can't feel anything down my right side, he gasped. My right leg and arm are numb. His speech was slightly slurred.

Fortunately my brother-in-law, anticipating our arrival, was waiting by his gate. He saw the mishap take place and quickly ran to give assistance. Moving Alec into the passenger seat, he got behind the wheel and took us to his house. He then drove us back to an aunt's home. Alec refused to allow a doctor to be called. He did not wish to disturb the household. By then, it was midnight.

The doctor came early next morning and told me he would get my husband to hospital at once. As we were in Cardiff where all our old healing circle members lived, I felt Alec would be better at home receiving treatment from them. The doctor reluctantly agreed, provided Alec was watched very carefully.

Alec was sedated for five days. When the doctor made another examination he was very surprised at the improvement in my husband's condition. But Alec continued to make good progress. We remained in Cardiff for a further four weeks. Vidie came down to drive us back to London.

The sea air and plenty of rest on our return trip did Alec a lot of good. He seemed very much better. When we arrived in Durban to stay with our children they were dismayed at the change in their father. It took two years before he was anything like his old self again. Once home, we gave occasional circles, but only for immediate friends, not the public. Alec's confidence in sitters had been sadly shaken. He could never again be completely relaxed and at ease as in the days before the seance room betrayal. His health was not as good as previously. Spirit friends had difficulty in materialising. When we first sat nothing happened, but we were asked to be patient as there would have to be a period of redevelopment. There did not seem to be enough power for materialisations to form completely, or as strongly, as before. Sometimes they could not build to their proper height. On other occasions only portions of their figures took shape, perhaps an arm, leg or face, unrecognisable in incompleteness. When a form did build fully there would be a long wait until the next materialisation. Before the incident, when one spirit form returned to the cabinet another would step out almost immediately. There would be the minimum of delay.

It was decided Alec should give up materialisation and concentrate on voice phenomena only. At the next circle we sat around the room, instead of in two semi-circular rows, and extinguished the lights.

When this voice circle opened who should leave the cabinet but the fully materialised scientist. He raised his arm and pulled the cord attached to the lights; the room was bathed in a dull red glow.

Sir, I explained, we intend having a voice circle tonight.

Oh, he said sharply, if that is what you want ... The scientist pulled the cord, extinguished the lights and returned to the cabinet.

It was an amusing circle, a constant battle of wills between the spirit people who were determined to materialise, and me, equally determined that it should be a voice seance. They compromised by materialising in one place, but speaking so that their voices came through the trumpet elsewhere. I determined that at the next circle I would obstruct their efforts by removing the globes from their sockets and leaving them outside the room. This plan was put into operation, but the communicators defeated me by bringing their own psychic blue-white lights with them. These showed the materialisations to even better advantage. Every detail of their faces was absolutely clear.

White Wing explained that the spirit scientists had worked hard to perfect the physical manifestations and wanted to carry on the good work. He said that though Alec's health had deteriorated and the materialisations would not be as strong as previously, they would still bring comfort and enlightenment to many. The guide added they would protect Alec, but insisted that only thoroughly reliable people should be included among the sitters.

When I told Alec what White Wing had said, he agreed, reluctantly, to carry on dedicating his life to this service.

However, in 1974 when the New Year dawned, Alec appeared to be listless and very tired. These symptoms persisted throughout the next five or six weeks.

One evening as he sat in our cosy living-room smoking quietly, deep in thought, he said, You know, Lou, I'm not going to be with you for long.

Remember, darling, I replied, we are soon going to have our golden wedding. We're going to celebrate that special milestone together. Alec looked thoughtfully at me for a moment, then smiled, saying: One of us has to go first. Better it's me than you. When I'm gone you will be able to carry on for sure.

Two weeks later, on February 12, I awoke suddenly in the early hours with a feeling that something was wrong. I reached out, switched on the light and glanced at Alec's bed. He wasn't in it, but sitting slumped on the edge, breathing heavily.

I have a queer, tight feeling, he explained.

I'll get the doctor, I said, reaching for the telephone and dialing quickly. No, said Alec. He won't be in time.

I sat down next to him. Alec raised his head and looked at me for a long moment. Then he put his arms about me, holding me in a close embrace. With a suddenness that took me by surprise Alec pressed his lips to mine and kissed me with desperate urgency. Then his body went limp. I realised he had passed on.

I sat and held him to my breast, dazed and uncomprehending. I could not believe that that last fond kiss Alec had given me was his farewell.

Even with my knowledge of the spirit world and its inhabitants, the shock of Alec's sudden passing was almost unbearable. I missed him, just as much as all the bereaved souls who had attended our remarkable circles over the years must have missed their loved ones. Momentarily, in my grief, I forgot that Alec would never leave me.

Twenty-four hours later, at about the same time as he passed the previous night, Alec returned. As I lay on my bed, I felt a man's hand, strong, warm and well materialised, take hold of my arm and gently squeeze it in the old, familiar, loving way.

A few weeks later I had a remarkable experience. Again, I was lying on my bed. I was on the point of entering the sleep state when I felt the weight of a body as someone lay beside me. I felt no fear, only a sense of keen expectancy. An arm reached over my waist while a hand took hold of mine, as it had so often done in the past. I knew beyond doubt that my Alec had come back.

I experienced a strange sensation and, in a flash, found myself out of my physical body. I saw Alec standing in the room. His whole being seemed to be bathed in a mystic blue light. He appeared so much younger than when I had last seen him, looking no more than 30. I went to Alec. He placed his arms around me, murmuring tenderly, I had to come, Lou, I had to come.

I remember putting my arms round his neck, gazing up at his thick golden hair. Oh, Alec, I said, isn't it wonderful to be together again? Suddenly, I felt a strange trembling sensation. With a jerk that left me breathless I was back in my physical body.

I shall always remember the sweetness of that out-of-the body encounter with my husband. It was certainly no dream.

From personal experience, I can now appreciate just what it means to have communications from a dead loved one. How much more rewarding is the sight of a face, the touch of a hand and the sound of a familiar voice.

Alec held sacred his gift of mediumship. Never once did he abuse it in 40 years. I realise now how blessed I was to have had the privilege of being chosen to help him with his great work. Alec was a selfless man. Because of his great love for humanity, he dedicated his life to the service of his fellows, performing his demanding, and often difficult, work with humility, seeking only to be of service to others.

Ours was a happy marriage; our work brought us very close together. I look back over almost half a century of working with our beloved spirit friends with a deep sense of gratitude that we were chosen to be so used. I sincerely pray that our psychic experiences, shared with countless others along the way, will convince many that truly there is no death.

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