Greetings From Magonia

February 10th, 2017

 

All that we saw was owing to your metaphysics.
—William Blake  The Marriage of Heaven and Hell 

Magonia is the name of the cloud realm whence felonious aerial sailors were said to have come according to the polemical treatise by Carolingian bishop Agobard of Lyon in 815, it is featured within the research of Jacques Vallee's book Passport to Magonia, which explores the link between modern UFO visitations and reports from antiquity of contact with these "space beings" where he quotes Agobard's description. 

An Initiation 

On November 4th, 1990 at approx. 1 am, I was getting ready to go to bed for the evening. My then husband, children, and my sister who was visiting, had already turned in for the night. I had been watching an "Elvira Mistress of the Dark" movie with my brother-in-law, when I looked up at the clock. Realizing it was way past my bedtime (I had small children at the time) I got up to lock the sliding glass doors to our balcony.


At the time we were living on the 10th floor of a condo building, and as I had young children it was my habit to make sure those doors were always locked. I will also mention that this apartment had a SSE exposure with a clear view of Lake Ontario, and the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. As I went to lock the glass doors I observed a large, red, glowing orb.

It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

In my pajamas I stepped out onto the balcony. I noted that the "orb" seemed to be in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant. My mind raced with all the possibilities, a plane, a search light, quickly discounting each.

I yelled out for my brother-in-law who was at my side within seconds.

I was yelling "what is it, what is it"? He started yelling back, "it's a UFO!” He had grabbed my arm, and I remember I glanced down to see my own goose-flesh.

Almost immediately after he said that it was a UFO, the full moon-sized orb, began to pulsate. And for some inexplicable reason, for which I cannot fathom I said, "they know we can see them."

After pulsating, the UFO, which appeared octagon in shape imploded in on itself, turning into a speck, and shooting straight up. At this point my brother-in-law's memory and mine differ slightly. He says he saw the orb implode, but not shoot up into the sky.

I clearly remember that I looked down towards the street and I saw a single car driving eastward. I remember thinking we cannot be alone in seeing this. We went inside, and sat up in the kitchen discussing everything within our own experiences that we could to rationally try to explain what we had witnessed (despite my strange comment of a "them"). We were up until about 4 am. and I ran back to the sliding glass doors a few times that night to see if the orb had returned. It didn't, not that night nor in the many nights after that I would sit out on the balcony looking for it.

My brother-in-law and I failed to report our sighting immediately. We both were afraid of nor wanted to put up with ridicule. We also did not know who we should have reported this experience to. In those days there was no internet or easy way to locate a UFO investigative group.

I did pick up a UFO book from the library and sent a letter to CUFOS in Chicago, which was listed as a place people with these experiences could contact, but the letter was returned to me as undeliverable.

Eventually many years after the fact I was able to report the experience to MUFON (Mutual UFO Network). They were able to piece together quite a bit of information and based on the fact I could give them an accurate time frame as Elvira had been on the television.

Despite never answering the question of what we saw that night with any degree of certainty, I learned there were thoughtful and intelligent people who were looking into these extraordinary experiences without prejudice, and we were not alone in that regard. This in turn inspired me to follow suit and eventually towards the establishment of my own research interests.

It was an experience that has radically shaped the course of my life, and continues to do so through other UFO events I have had since.


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
—Arthur C. Clarke

I was 23 at the time of the experience in 1990, 23 being an important number throughout my life, but I will save that for another future blog.  I had, had a childhood filled with odd events, and as I grew up I would try to put them down to imagination solely. As an example I was plagued by what I thought were wee little ghosts or dwarves and these frightened me, until a large talking wolf appeared to me one day and became my protector against these day/nightmares. When I was in my late teens I had figured out that I was the wolf, and that I was in fact empowering myself in a highly creative way.

In 1990, however, that experience as an adult and with another witness directed me towards a way of thinking and being that otherwise would likely have not come. I recall so vividly in my mind's eye, what we saw that night red, and octagon much like a stop sign with an equally forceful message that through a lot of deep introspection I believe I was eventually able to at least partially decode. 

I feel that these experiences guide me, and much like a dream where the content is not always reflective of the message I see the UFOs as symbolic and on a personal level very meaningful to important and crucial points in my life. My life took on the framework of UFO experience, and I consider it my true life's work.

I experience much synchronicity within these encounters, and they have also assisted in shaping my own spirituality as well through the emergence of the "Cosmic Witch" (Pagan Divine Feminine) which I am strongly self identifying with. 

Carl Jung, Jacques Vallee, and J. Allen Hynek have all played significant roles in progressing my thoughts and ideas. 

Recent books that have also greatly influenced my thinking on the subject include: 

The Hyperspace of Consciousness by Massimo Teodorani PhD  Elementà June 2015

The Trickster and The Paranormal by George P Hansen Xlibris 2001 

Illuminations: The UFO Experience as a Parapsychological Event by Eric Ouellet PhD Anomalist Books August 2015

For Illuminations I provided some of the research and edited the manuscript. Eric and I continue to work on innovating new models based on scientific parapsychology that allow us to look at UFOs with fresh lenses. 

I was recently honoured to be included in a compliation of original essays exploring alternative perspectives on UFOs and how we might more usefully study the phenomenon in the 21st Century.

UFOs: Reframing The Debate will be available May 2017

I am currently conducting a series of independent experiments based in part on the work of the late mathematician, Dr A.R.G Owen and psychotherapist Dr. Joel Whitton that will be the focus of a planned future book on UFOs, social PSI, and Magick. 

You can read more on my research if you are so inclinded through my website:

Out of My Mind's Eye
http://www.susanstclair.com/

A Box Of Treasures

January 20th, 2017

Last month I was blessed with meeting the amazingly talented artist Heather Coleman of DawnMist Studio in Devon U.K. We have quickly bonded over several common interests from science and history, (Heather specialises in making historically accurate clay pipes) to witchery, and electronic music.

Over the holidays I told Heather of my love of rocks and how I collect them from around the world. To me, my pebble collection represents a sort of United Nations of rocks, and they bring me a sense of togetherness and joy. Over the years friends have given me wee stones, and fossils and these are treasured by me. I tell people who wish to give me a stone that they don't have to be rare or valuable in a monetary sense just any rock or pebble they find, preferably in a location that is somehow special to them, and that they'd think I may appreciate. I shared this with Heather who offered to send me some from her home in Devon. I had been really down at the time Heather offered to send me some rocks. I had not told her how I was feeling sad, but perhaps she felt it in some subtle psychic way because she certainly managed to brighten my spirits with her kindness.  I think we may know each other and are already friends in the other realm. 

 

treasures

Yesterday the box from England arrived and I was sooooo excited to open it! Here are some of the treasures Heather had thoughtfully gathered together from her studio and attic and sent by postal mail across the great pond to me. I have laid them out on my favourite red scarf to show them off, and because I love them. Red being a love colour. :)

Some of these are her own handmade creations, others are stones she has found in her travels, crystals, insence from Glastonbury, even a marble circa 1840-1900!

crystals

 These are stunning and my camera cannot really do this justice

Ceramic Mummy

One of Heather's groovy ceramic pieces. 

Ceramic piece Dawnmist Studio

 I love this wee character!

Close up, handmade by Heather Coleman

A beautiful energy from this piece

This gorgous gold ceramic piece was made by Heather as well. I will incorporate this into a necklace.

See photo below. 

Dawnmist Studios

 Juat an amazing happy energy coming from these pieces!

Lady Mary was surprised too with some Cat mint, which she LOVES!

This was such a very kind and generous thing to do. I had so much fun opening each wee gift, which had been wrapped and labelled as to what each piece was and where it came from. I truly wish I could fully express my gratitude, especially at a time when unbeknownst to Heather I was feeling very low. Her kindness completely turned my spirit around that day towards the positive.  A good reminder that magic and caring, and fun are still very much a part of this world still, even if it might not always seem so.

Thank you so much my new friend. This meant a lot, and how super cool to recieve just before my birthday! #AquariusNation

Please visit Heather and her partner Natalie Winter's Dawnmist Studio website. They are both very talented and interesting people and there is a lot of cool pages to explore. If you are into Witchcraft, Paganism, and/or the paranormal have a look at their pages on Witchcraft here and Tales of Devonshire here

Standing Stones - a song about Scorhill Circle 

Music and photography Heather Coleman Dawnmist Studio - Heather's Electronic Music Facebook Fan Page

Remembering Norway

January 17th, 2017

Sue Demeter St Clair in Norway

Sue Demeter St Clair in Norway

Sue Demeter St Clair in Norway

Dragons in Norway Hessdalen Lights

 "Sue in Norway" image credit: Massimo Teodorani

The Old Los Angeles Zoo

January 6th, 2017

In November 2016 I took a trip to Southern California with my Sisters and niece. While there I was fortunate to visit a few places that are either reported to be haunted, and have a history or legend that is paranormal in nature. Of all the places my Sisters and I went we only encountered one definite cold spot that was unexplainable. I should note we were not ghost hunting, but just worked the paranormal, magickal, unique and interesting when possible.


LA Old Zoo

On Sunday November 13th we visited Griffith Park in Los Angeles, and it was near the old, long abandoned LA Zoo that we had the odd happening. The old Zoo is located on a hiking trail off Fire Road, Los Angeles, 90027

Here is a brief history:

"The Griffith Park Zoo was originally opened in 1912, amusingly built on the former location of Griffith J. Griffith's old ostrich farm. It was opened with 15 animals, and due to lack of funding, it opened without any cages, simply stockades to keep the animals in, which was inadequate for several of the species kept on site.

Stories claim that the history of the zoo was rocky, and it was always struggling. For example, in 1916, the zoo was apparently leaking sewage into the L.A. River, and later during World War I, a meat shortage made it hard to properly care for the animals, forcing the zoo to substitute horse meat for beef, leading to the deaths of many of the meat eating animals, particularly the big cats. Luckily the zoo was free which kept visitors coming.

In the mid 1920s, with the failure of the Selig Zoo, William Nicholas Selig donated several of his animals to the Griffith Park Zoo. Selig had owned Selig Polyscope, which post closure of the film studio, led the movie producer to take all the animals he had gathered for his films and try his hand at opening up a zoo in East Los Angeles. A zoo he had plans to mix with a large amusement park. Selig had grandiose plans involving a large zoo, rides, restaurants, a hotel, and even a giant swimming pool complete with a beach and wave making machine. None of his plans ever saw fruition however, and although the Selig Zoo was occasionally rented out to film a few movies, such as the 1918 Tarzan, the zoo ultimately failed, leading Selig to donate the animals to the Griffith Park Zoo.

By May 1958, people had had enough of the Griffith Park Zoo and its condition, leading voters to vote for the establishment of a brand new zoo. An $8 million dollar bond was approved for construction, and by November 1966 the new Los Angeles Zoo opened a few miles north of the Griffith Park Zoo. All the animals were relocated there, thus ending the career of the Griffith Park Zoo."

 History Source Weird California

 

Old L.A. Zoo

We arrived at the head of the trail after several hours of exploring the Griffith Observatory and taking in a show at their Planetarium, which I highly recommend! There were quite a few people including families near the parking area who were picnicking, it was getting close to dusk, but still fairly early in the day and quite warm. As we hiked up to the abandoned zoo enclosures there were fewer and fewer people and no one on the trail giving us a chance to thoroughly check it out.

There is an eerie atmosphere there that can definitely be related to the history of how people used to believe it was ok to treat animals, and in some cases still do. A definite sadness in the air, and the scenery lends itself to a horror movie vibe.

Old L.A. Zoo

 After climbing into some of the enclosures and snapping a few photos we started back up the path away from the parking towards the trails. I was looking for some rocks to bring home from the location when my Sister called out to me to come over to where she was standing. Right in that spot there was a definite "cold spot" with absolutely no identifiable source. The temperature if I had to guess was at least 15 degrees colder and felt like standing beside air conditioner's vent. 

Here is a photo of the location of the cold spot.

Old L.A Zoo 

 This is another angle from near where the cold spot was encountered. 

Old L.A. Zoo 

Cold spots are considered to be part of a PSI or paranormal experience. Maurice Townsend of ASSAP describes them thusly:

"People often report 'cold spots' in haunted locations. These are small areas (usually a lot smaller than a room) that feel significantly colder than the surrounding area. They are considered by some to be a sign of a ghost in the area. Some cold spots are always felt in the same place while others seem to appear and disappear at different locations." 

Full article on cold spots here

I have encountered cold spots before while visiting reportedly haunted sites, but usually not so drastic a change, and never one outdoors before. An unusual and unexpected highlight of our visit to Griffith Park. 

For more on the Griffith Park hauntings please have a look Weird California's Curse of Griffith Park page which includes the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round which we visited after the the hike up to the Zoo. 

This Merry Go Round was the inspiration in part for Walt Disney to build his theme park. There is information and a history on the site. It is definitely beautiful with its own creepy long ago fairground vibe and vintage caliope music.

Creepy clown and devils lead the way!

 

Naturally we just had to take a ride! 

Merry go round selfie

Merry Go Round Selfie!  

According to Weird California "a ghost lurks near the Merry Go Round, having been seen descending steps nearby and disappearing as he reaches the last step." I can believe it! And while we did not encounter that ghost I would love to hear from anyone who has had a first hand encounter or an interesting story from Griffith Park. Will definitely go back when in L.A.

Snack tip: Popcorn is free at the Merry Go Round at the end of day :) 

A Different Kind Of UFO

January 5th, 2017

Modern witches

This highly unusual and very interesting report of flying women was sent to me by my good friend and colleague in the documenting of the strange, Albert S. Rosales this past Winter Solstice. This appeals to my UFO-ish and Cosmic Witchiness. 

Location. Birkenhead, Wirral, Merseyside, England
Date: early June 1982 Time: afternoon


Insidious heat crept into the country at the end of May and bubbled road tar and inflamed tempers, when two painters saw an incredible sight. A perspiring 17-year old apprentice decorator named Dominic Bassett took off his paint-splattered T-shirt on the roof of an office building in one of the higher parts of Birkenhead not far from Bidston Hill. The sounds of distant shrieks – female shrieks – and girly laughter came from somewhere up in the burning blue sky. The painters both looked up and the ultraviolet stung their eyes. “That came from up there!” Dominic placed his hand over his eyes as if he was saluting and saw only a passing gull. Female screams pierced the air again, followed by melodic laughter – and this time it came from behind the painters. They both turned around and looked out towards a Liverpool skyline ghosted by the haze of the heatwave and a light wind gently wafted up an aroma of tar and Mersey salt, and there in the distance, some 400 yards up in the Alice-blue sky were three colored dots. “Balloons” the other painter, Eric, muttered, but the superior eyesight of youth could plainly see three people, and Dominic shook his head, “Its three girls!”


The hay fever began to water Dominic’s eyes and he sniffed and rubbed them and looked again and the three girls moved off towards the north, until they were specks over the river. Then they were gone. Eric stuck to the balloons explanation but a sneezing Dominic knew what he had seen. Eric then blamed the lad’s hay fever. About 10 minutes later the men had managed to resume painting. Eric climbed a ladder and then Dominic felt paint trickling onto his head. “Eric!” he looked up and saw his workmate gazing at something in a daze with paint dripping off the brush. This time the three levitating women were almost near enough to touch as they flew by, and Eric swore in shock. The first woman in the formation was a brunette of about 30 sitting slide-saddle on a brush, and wore a flowing pinkish dress, and the young blonde lady flying behind her had her hand on the broom-mounted woman’s shoulder. The third figure flying closely behind the blonde one was much younger, possibly in her teens, and she was also blonde. All of these females were laughing and giggling and the brunette was screaming as she almost fell off the broom. They were oblivious to the male observers as they flew in the direction of Bidston Hill. Eric was so shocked he had a ‘funny turn’ and went home.
According to the source (Slemen) years later when he gave an account of this incident on the Billy Butler Show (radio) he was inundated with calls and emails from people of all ages and all walks of life who recalled the “witch scare” that summer.


HC addendum
Source: Tom Slemen’s Spooky Summer: Broomsticks over Birkenhead – Liverpool Echo Type: E
Comments: Slemen comments that “someone reading this knows the truth”, I can only conjecture what these flying women were. Modern day witches, apparently that’s what they were trying to portray themselves as? This one is beyond strange.

Wildflowers and the Setting Sun

September 19th, 2016

In a world that believes all that glitters is gold I find my truth, meaning, and solace in nature. I am very fortunate to live with an abundance of natural beauty that surrounds me, and I will share it through these photos I took yesterday evening. Trees, flowers, water, nature is where I find my inspiration and return to myself.

Wildflowers and the setting sun

Sitting quietly in the forest, among the wildflowers and the setting Sun on a warm September evening.

Wildflowers


"To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour." ~ William Blake

Thank you for visiting my blog. 

DIY Shabby Chic On The Cheap

August 15th, 2016

Shabby chic end table less than 20 bux to make

This is my first attempt at repurposing an old, used piece of furniture into a fun shabby chic piece. It was fairly easy to do and cost me around $25 bux. Cheap, chic, and fun to do, plus I can feel good about recycling! :)  

Old 1970s ish end table

First I found this end table that someone in my neighbourhood pitched out. It looked in ok shape, is solid wood, and I got to save something from being added to the trash heap. Bonus its free!  

Paint chips for shabby chic project

Next I went to Canadian Tire and decided on the paint colours I wanted to use in this project. I picked these three, Scottish Wind, Romantic Tulips, and Elderberry  ie: light blue, plum, and purple. Canadian Tire had a sale on its C.I.L one litre testers so all three colours in a water based  flat paint cost around nine dollars. You can also check out any paint store's boo boo section for fun colours that are heavily discounted. 

end table sanded down 

After making my paint colour choices  I used my sander to quickly sand down and strip away the original finish and expose the bare wood. You could use sandpaper if you don't have a sander. I bought mine a couple of years ago on sale at Canadian Tire for under forty bux and I use it for lots of things including distressing jeans heheh. 

First layer of paint 

 

Once sanded down, and wiped clean with a damp cloth I started adding the first coat of paint in the darkest purple using some Dollar Store paint brushes, and sponges.  

Paint layers

Yum Plum is what I'd call this one, but its Romantic Tulips at Canadian Tire. 

Final layer of eye-popping plum

First  I added the blue and finally the plum. You have to wait for each coat to throughly dry which was about 4 hours between each. This is a good time to play a game, read a book, fix a snack, nap etc, the waiting is the longest part of the process.  

Roughing up the paint for shabby chic effect 

Once all the layers were complete and the paint fully dry I took a piece of sandpaper and with rubber gloves on so as not to eff up my manicure I began sanding bits of the paint to reveal patterns and layers below. In some places I've even let the wood peep through. Once wiped down with a slightly damp rag I applied a coat of fast drying Polyurethane, which to be fair I already had so did not need to purchase. It normally costs around $12 bux per litre, but for this project I used maybe a third of a can so around four dollars worth. It protects the paint from being chipped and takes a few hours to dry. 

 

Crystal door knob

I then reattached the door to the hinges that I also painted over and added these super pretty crystal door knobs I found at Home Depot for 5 bux each.  They have a cool prism effect and pick up the colours of the end table nicely. The glam adds some more fun in my opinion to the shabby chic style. 

And............ TA DA!!!!

Chabby chic end table under 25 bux

Inexpensive, shabby chic end table DIY project completed. I am really loving how it turned out. Its got a great purply vibe. If you have tried distress furniture or have any tips for this type of project please let me know in the comments. 

  

The Woman in Black

August 10th, 2016

A fresh look at the infamous Morton case of Cheltenham England. 

Apparition of a woman in black

 

Apparitions and haunting experiences, including all the associated phenomenon that fall under the umbrella of the word ghost, have been reported since the earliest time of recorded human history.

People relating first-hand encounters with ghosts represent every country, every culture, all major religions, socio-economic circumstances, educational backgrounds, and ages. And while belief in ghosts has never been considered fully respectable in general society, all attempts by both religious and natural, scientific philosophies to give an explanation to the phenomenon have failed to either dissuade popular interest in the subject or disrupt the phenomenon from occurring and being reported.

Experiences with ghosts, ghost stories, and myths of hauntings have been occurring without break or end throughout known human history. The overwhelming anecdotal evidence points to the reality of the existence of the phenomenon called ghosts; it is what the ghost and haunting experience actually is that is still very much hotly debated.

While there have been many theories and opinions on what ghosts are, from the natural to the PSI-based, there is little consensus among scholars and the public in general on the true origin or nature of the experience. The most popular notion of what a ghost may be is the belief it is representative of a deceased person's personality. We can call this the D.P.H or dead person hypothesis, and much like the E.T.H (extraterrestrial hypothesis) with UFO experiences, it is firmly entrenched as the popular "paranormal" belief, and very much supported throughout Western culture.

Both the D.P.H and the E.T.H may have merit, in fact they may even be the true cause of their respective events, no one can say with 100% certainty, however neither of these hypotheses have brought us any closer to an understanding of these strange happenings.

While I do not pretend to have any firm answers I do propose that we think outside of the box so to speak, and with this post I will attempt to have a different perhaps fresher and much needed look at infamous Morton case of Cheltenham England ie: The Woman In Black, in the hope that at the very least it may spur some discussion and new thinking.

For those who may be unfamiliar this is one of the best documented hauntings on record.  And I feel it is important here to give the reader a good background of this case before I put forward my thoughts on its possible nature.

The Morton Case

The Morton case from Cheltenham England is so named by the Society of Psychical Research after the pseudonym chosen to protect the witnesses at the time it was first reported. The haunting was initially documented by a 19-year-old medical student named Rosina Clara Despard, and it involved her own family. Rosina chose to report the case under the pseudonym Miss R. C. Morton, in order to protect her family's privacy at the time her reports were made to the SPR. Rosina documented several eyewitness accounts that later received independent verification from SPR founder Frederic W. H. Myers.

From approximately 1882 to 1889, Rosina and several members of her family repeatedly saw the apparition of a woman, which would wander through their home. The following is a firsthand account from Rosina:

“The figure was that of a tall lady, dressed in black of a soft woolen material, judging from the slight sound in moving. The face was hidden in a handkerchief held in the right hand. This is all I noticed then; but on further occasions, when I was able to observe her more closely, I saw the upper part of the left side of the forehead, and a little of the hair above. Her left hand was nearly hidden by her sleeve and a fold of her dress. As she held it down a portion of a widow’s cuff was visible on both wrists, so that the whole impression was that of a lady in widow’s weeds. There was no cap on the head but a general effect of blackness suggests a bonnet, with long veil or a hood” (Morton, 1892)

The specific and repetitive pattern of the path the apparition took is noteworthy: “The path began on the second floor of the house near Rosina’s bedroom, usually at a time when she would hear the sound of someone pushing against her bedroom door. Upon opening it, she would see the ghostly widow walking down the hallway landing towards the stairs. The figure would then descend all the way down to the ground floor and enter the front drawing room, where it would sit or stand for a brief period of time at a bow-shaped window located on the far side of the room. Then it would exit the room and head for a narrow passage leading out to the garden, where it would regularly vanish.”

In 1983 parapsychologist William Roll noted that apparitions experienced in haunted locations tended to display a repetitive pattern within the location:

“Apparitional experiences, especially of the repetitive haunting type, tend to be associated with a special area.” (Roll, and Cameron 1983 pp 74-80 )

In both the case Roll had investigated of a haunted radio station and in the Morton case, the apparition followed a specific pattern in the hallway (special area) of each respective building. Hallways and staircases often feature in haunted houses as the location of apparitions and I will be expanding more on this shortly.

Rosina had seen the apparition about six times between 1882 and 1884. She told no one in her family about her experiences, and during the same time frame at least three other people in the house saw the apparition. At times the ghost looked so solid to the other people seeing her that she was often mistaken for a real person, as this account illustrates:

In the summer of 1882 [the widow appeared] to my sister, Mrs. K., when the figure was thought to be a Sister of Mercy who had called at the house, and no further curiosity was aroused. She was coming down the stairs rather late for dinner at 6:30, it being then quite light, when she saw the figure cross the hall in front of her, and pass into the drawing-room. She then asked the rest of us, already seated at dinner, “Who was that Sister of Mercy whom I have just seen going into the drawing-room?” She was told there was no such person, and a servant was sent to look; but the drawing-room was empty, and she was sure no one had come in. Mrs. K. persisted that she had seen a tall figure in black, with some white about it; but nothing further was thought of the matter (Morton, 1892).

Rosina’s younger brother and another little boy also saw the apparition while they were playing outside on the terrace one afternoon in December of 1883. They both looked into the bow window of the drawing room at the same time and saw the apparition standing there and appearing to cry. Both ran inside to see who the lady was who was crying in the window, they found no one there. The maid told them that no one had come into the house.

The following encounter is of interest as it illustrates a common element in other hauntings.

“I went into the drawing-room, where my father and sisters were sitting, about 9 in the evening, and sat down on a couch close to the bow window. A few minutes after, as I sat reading, I saw the figure come in at the open door, cross the room and take up a position close behind the couch where I was. I was astonished that no one else in the room saw her, as she was so very distinct to me. My youngest brother, who had before seen her, was not in the room. She stood behind the couch for about half an hour, and then as usual walked to the door.”

Rosina was apparently the only one, out of several people in the room, to see the apparition. This could be suggestive of an ESP component to the haunting. And it should be noted that not all the people living in the house at the time saw the apparition or experienced any other haunting phenomena. Rosina’s father and step mother did not experience the apparition at all during this period.

All sorts of attempts were made by Rosina to test the physicality and capture evidence of the apparition. Rosina tied strings across the path the apparition would take, and would at least in one instance attempt to tackle the ghost in order to touch it. These along with an attempt to photograph the apparition yielded little results. Rosina also tried to talk to the apparition and communicate with it using various symbols.

“I opened the drawing-room door softly and went in, standing just by it. She [the ghost] came in past me and walked to the sofa and stood still there, so I went up to her and asked her if I could help her. She moved, and I thought she was going to speak, but she only gave a slight gasp and moved towards the door. Just by the door I spoke to her again, but she seemed as if she were quite unable to speak.”

This seemed to indicate some awareness on the part of the apparition.

Other haunting phenomena experienced in the house included the sounds of footsteps, temperature fluctuations i.e. cold spots and icy breezes felt by the witnesses in the presence of the apparition, although Rosina noted that the candles never blew out.

The apparition appeared solid and very life-like in the beginning, but it seemed to gradually fade over time, and by 1889 it had vanished completely. Inquiries made by the Despard family revealed that the apparition resembled an Imogen Swinhoe the second wife of a previous occupant of the house. 


It should be noted that the woman most strongly suspected to be the cause of apparition did not die in the house. The family eventually moved out of the house and Rosina went on to become a physician of forensic medicine.

Very few cases of  a haunted location have been so well documented and debated as the Morton case. The early haunting experience demonstrates instances of collective apparitional experience, a possible example of a retained “place memory” in the form of a recurring apparition, which may have shown a minor degree of awareness and an ESP component to the ghost’s appearance, and suggestions of immateriality in the apparition’s figure despite its solid-looking form.

 

Cheltenham House

 

Later hauntings

Throughout later decades the house changed hands a number of times, and is currently in use. It has most recently been divided into flats. And while the phenomenon seemed to have gradually stopped for the Despard family, it continued on with newer generations of witnesses of varying backgrounds right up until the 1990s. Later witnesses described the apparition as occasionally being outside of the house and surprisingly the apparition has also been reported to have appeared in other buildings in Cheltenham that would have been around in the time period of the first hauntings.

“The figure of a woman resembling the ghost of St Anne's was seen in 1958 and 1961 in Cotswold Lodge, a building now demolished, which stood on the opposite side of the road from St Anne's and within sight of it.”

The following is an example of a haunting in the old Despard family home, which was then known as St Anne’s, nearly eight decades later.

"In the autumn of 1969 I stayed at St Anne's with a number of clergy for a residential weekend. It is important to state I had not heard of St Anne's reputation and therefore had no expectations.

Having said evensong the clergy decided to visit a local hotel for a drink. Feeling the onset of a heavy cold, I decided to stay in and have an early night, helping myself to tea downstairs and taking two aspirin tablets. It was our custom to make our own beds to help the staff of St Anne's, so I made my bed very carefully it was not very warm in the bedroom and retired. I feel asleep quickly.

I woke to the strange sound and sensation of fingers scratching the eiderdown across the back of my neck and thought it must be a silly practical joke by some other man who had come into the bedroom, leaving the others outside. So I sat up suddenly to catch the man in the act, as it were, only to find no-one by the bed. The room felt bitterly cold when, to my amazement, the bedclothes, which I had carefully tucked in myself, seemed to be pulled slowly from me onto the floor at the foot of the bed.

I had said the office of evensong in the chapel and my prayer book was still open at the page by my bedside. The room was quite light without the bedside lamp. Quickly I repeated: Lighten our darkness, we beseech Thee, O Lord, And by Thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of the night, etc . . .

As I said the words, a grey shape took form by the door and came at me slowly, passing over my head and through the wall on my left shoulder. I put on the light and searched the landing, staircase and house. I was alone. No-one had returned from the hotel and it was still only about 10.45. I remade the bed and returned to sleep, thinking my cold was worse, and that I had experienced a bad dream and caused my own bedding to slip by my own movements. Perhaps the grey figure was a trick of moonlight and my cold feelings, my slight temperature and even fear. I decided to say nothing.

In 1970 when I was at Wells Theological College a discussion one evening turned to a great surprise when someone, a member of the Society for Psychical Research, began to describe experiences at St Anne's House, Cheltenham. It seems that I was not alone! So I described the above incident. I learned that another clergyman (who has since died) had had an almost identical experience to mine and that I had slept in the principal bedroom, and the wall through which the grey shape had passed led to what had been a dressing room of the original house. Changes in the structure had been made when it became a retreat house and a doorway from one room to the other was blocked by a partition wall. This account by the clergyman, whose name I am withholding, is of great interest. “( Andrew Mackenzie 1986)

It is notable that this later experience included poltergeist-type phenomenon i.e. the removal of the bedclothes, which was missing from the list of happenings in the house during the occupancy of the Despard family in the 1880s.

St Anne's was closed as a Diocesan house on December 31st 1970 and in 1973 was bought by a housing association for conversion into flats. The first tenants, a taxi driver and his wife, took the second floor flat that contained Rosina’s old bedroom and from where she (Rosina) first saw the apparition of the woman in black. The couple soon began to experience haunting phenomenon. These later events were also very well documented.

Apparitions, Liminality and Symbolism

So what really happened? Who or what is the "woman-in-black?" I believe we should focus our attention on the very first witness. It is the experients in any paranormal event that can be considered the one truly tangible component of any given case. Whatever is occurring we can all agree it is a human (living) experience.

In this case witness zero is the young medical student Rosina Despard. Who was she? What was going on in her life, and in a greater general context of the world in which she lived in?

Apparitions and other haunting phenomenon by their nature and popular definition can be defined as liminal.

“The term liminality has its origins in Anthropology, referring to the borders of and spaces between categories Limen in Latin means threshold, and anthropologists have become interested in a certain state experienced by persons as they pass over the threshold from one stage of life to another. For instance, the rite of passage at puberty has three phases: separation from ones status as a child, then a liminal stage, and finally reintegration into society as a full and independent member with rights and responsibilities that the initiate did not have before. During the liminal stage, the between stage, ones status becomes ambiguous, one is neither here nor there one is betwixt and between all fixed points of classification.”

George Hansen in his book The Paranormal and the Trickster noted the liminal nature of PSI events; ghosts, UFOs and other paranormal occurrences.

Ghosts are us and they are not us, they are not really alive nor are they really dead. When examining trends within haunting reports it can be noted that they are often representative of places that could be considered liminal too. This includes specific locations within the haunted buildings such as windows, doorways, staircases, and hallways where apparitions are more often reported.

Time periods can also be considered in liminal states, and it would be of interest to see if this corresponds in a general time frame of lengthy hauntings like the Morton case that can be a century or more in duration with groups of reported haunting experiences separated by decades or an entire generation. Did each outbreak of haunting occur during a liminal time period? This line of inquiry could be expanded within investigations of hauntings to include the experient. Are they in a liminal state as defined by their culture? An example of a liminal state in modern Western culture is divorce and, even more so, marital separation, and another example may be graduate school, an often protracted liminal state, as graduate students are not yet professionals nor are they students, yet they are both.

So who or what was the "Woman In Black" Really?

Let us now consider the Morton case where the very first experient, a 19 year old Rosina Clara Despard in Victorian England (a period of well defined gender roles) is studying to become a forensic doctor at the time of the apparition’s first appearance.

Witness zero begins experiencing an apparition of a "woman-in black" in the house she shares with her parents and younger siblings. It is of interest here to note that in Jungian analysis the home or house is symbolic of the self or psyche. Residences feature predominately in cases of hauntings and people in general when thinking of ghosts may picture in their minds the classic image of a “haunted house.”

Rosina not only could be seen as personally living in a liminal state at the time of her experience, and during a liminal time period in general for women; the first women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom was becoming a national movement around the time frame of the hauntings. This is an excerpt from a paper examining the lives of women in the U.K from 1905-1914 similar to that of our witness.

"Ambitious middle-class women faced enormous challenges and the goals of entering suitable careers, such as nursing, teaching, law and medicine. The loftier their ambition, the greater the challenge. Physicians kept tightly shut the door to medicine; there were a few places for woman as lawyers, but none as clerics." 

 

Halévy, History of the English People: The Rule of Democracy (1905-1914) (1932) pp 500-6 

Life as a young woman living in a large middle-class family and training for a career in science during Victorian times could not have been easy on Rosina by any stretch of the imagination and it is a shame we have no personal accounts of her thoughts, feelings and life in general beyond her ghostly experiences.

If we examine the life of witness zero in this case, and in general the location and time frame that Rosina lived in, we can then begin to speculate a little more on symbolism of the experience as a possible expression of Rosina herself.

Woman in black symbol of female oppression.

 

The apparition viewed as a woman–in-black so popularly thought to be the representation of a dead widow can in my opinion be interpreted as symbolic of the social constraints on women of that era. The apparition then becomes a mirror of the first witness' life, and the general circumstance of the location and era in which she lived. The apparition could in fact be an outward  subconscious projection of Rosina's own inner realm and psyche, and that of a greater collective unconscious.

It is further interesting to note that after the Despard family moved the haunting activity then becomes dormant until the late 1960s, and reignites during another pivotal time in the woman’s rights movement when the house was occupied by males and served as a Diocesan house. PSI as far as we understand it knows no constraints of space or time and perhaps Rosina's haunting became reactivated during this highly charged time for women and the so called sexual revolution?

These ideas can be further explored within this case and the later hauntings, and I will write more indepth about that at another time.

The purpose of this blog entry is to merely give the reader a taste at the potential insights that can emerge if we free ourselves from the contraint of the dead person hypothesis. Focusing on the witness and using some of these ideas and tools to reexamine older cases with well established time lines and documentation and newer ones going forward, could provide a much better framework in my opinion, for attempting to understand the true nature of these experiences.


References, credits, and further reading suggestions:

Cameron T and Roll W. An Investigation of Apparitional Experiences, THETA Volume 11, Number 4, Winter 1983 (pp 74-80)

Copelman Dina, London's Women Teachers: Gender, Class and Feminism 1870-1930 (1996) 

Evans Hilary, Visions Apparitions, and Alien Visitors: A Comparative Study of the Entity Enigma, Great Britain: Aquarian Press, 1984

Evans, H. The Ghost Experience in a Wider Context. In Houran, J., & Lange, R. (Eds.), Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001

Gurney E, Myers F. W. H, and Podmore F, Phantasms of the Living. Trubner and Co., London, 1886.
Hansen George P, The Trickster and the Paranormal, New York: Xlibris, 2001

Jaffe Aniela, Apparitions: An Archetypal Approach to Death, Dreams and Ghosts (c) 1983

Mackenzie Andrew, Hauntings and apparitions. London; Paladin 1986 

Molto Kimberly, True Tales of the Paranormal, Toronto: Hounslow , 2002

Morton, R. C. Record of a haunted house. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 8, 1892 pp 311 – 332.

Tyrrell G.N.M, Apparitions, Great Britain: Collier Books, 1963 [First published 1943]


Photos:

House photo from Ghosts of Britain.com

Women-In-Black apparitions uncredited on Pinterest