An Extract From “Power Of The Spirit” By PN’s Founding Editor Maurice Barbanell
Permanent Records Of Survival
For many years I was closely associated with John Myers, whose psychic photography was a storm-centre of controversy. The first intimation I received of his mediumship was when I launched Psychic News.
A few days before the first issue was due to appear, I received an account of how he had accepted a challenge made by a parcels officer at the South-Western District Post Office in London. This postal official, a sceptic so far as Spiritualism was concerned, had imposed all his own conditions and was surprised to find that two of the plates had extras. I published the account and decided to follow up the story.
I learned that John Myers was a dentist in Victoria. His interest in Spiritualism had been aroused when a medium told him that he possessed the gift of psychic photography. Among friends and sympathetic Spiritualists he formed a circle and developed his gift, with startling results. His wife, however was not altogether pleased with this development. Like her husband, she belonged to the Jewish faith, but being the daughter of a rabbi she was far more orthodox than he.
The first time I met her, she earnestly consulted me as to whether it was right, from a religious point of view, for a Jew to be a medium. In all the years that I knew them, she was never able to allay her fears born of her orthodox religious up-bringing.
Myers’s psychic results were so startling that they led to violent arguments even among Spiritualists, apart from sceptics outside the Movement. One of my first tests had a strange sequel. Wishing to engage a reporter, I telephoned the National Union of Journalists and asked that the next reporter who was looking for a job should be sent to me. Along came a young man named A.W.Austen, who is now my successor in the editorial chair at Psychic News.
In those days, he was sceptical about Spiritualism. His attitude to religion was that of an agnostic. As a reporter on a local newspaper in North London, he had attended one or two meetings and described the proceedings. That was the sole extent of his interest in Spiritualism. I engaged him, telling him that all I wanted was that he should report fairly what he saw and heard at seances and Spiritualist gatherings.
A test seance with John Myers was his first assignment. I asked Austen to lay down the conditions that he would regard as proving Myers’s mediumship and all these were accepted. Austen himself bought the plates, chose the shop where they were to be obtained and loaded the camera, the plates being marked so as to make substitution impossible.
Myers, who was also clairvoyant, described the spirit presence of Israel Zangwill, the famous Jewish novelist. When the plates were developed, there was an extra of Zangwill. The sequel to its publication was a letter from a Fleet Street photographic agency asking for a fee for reproduction because, it was claimed, the extra resembled a photograph the agency had taken of Zangwill during his earthly life.
I replied by pointing out that if the claim was admitted it could be said that the agency picture had been copied, which might be an admission that the results were fraudulent. To prove that trickery was out of the question I invited the agency to conduct its own test of John Myers. These highly professional photographers were more than willing to do so and laid down rigid conditions for the test, which Myers accepted.
It was not revealed until afterwards that, unknown to us all, one of the representatives of the agency secretly marked the plates as he loaded them, a condition which was not mentioned in the original arrangements. Nevertheless, it was added proof of the medium’s powers, because one of the extras that appeared caused a sensation and it came on a plate with the secret marking.
While the photographs were being taken, Myers announced that he could clairvoyantly see Edgar Wallace in the seance room. The medium transmitted a message from Wallace which had a bearing on the Zangwill extra. Wallace stated that he would convey his likeness on one plate, but it would be a photograph of which there was no earthly copy in existence. The striking picture that was obtained bore out the famous novelist’s statement. Neither the representatives of the photographic agency which conducted the test nor, indeed, anybody else, has ever been able to produce a picture that was identical with Wallace’s spirit extra.