Experiencing a Demonstration of Physical Mediumship
Private Séance at the Bristol Spirit Lodge (14/03/09)
Warren Caylor is a medium who has attracted a lot of criticism. As a physical medium his claims to abilities are far beyond those of many mediums and psychics. His séances are extravagant by comparison to those usually carried out at the Bristol Spirit Lodge. My first experience of his mediumship abilities occurred on Saturday 14th March 2009.
I didn’t know what to expect before going into the séance. Of course I had heard a great deal of talk amongst the Spirit Lodge members about their experiences at Warren’s séances, but, as with all such things, the actual experience is always very much different to your imaginings of it based on hearsay. Having attended numerous séances at the Lodge I was accustomed to the idea, and experience, of channelled communications through mediums in trance, but other spirit phenomena are much more difficult to anticipate. At séances I had witnessed, in red light conditions, “face transfiguration” and the odd “spirit-light” flashing in the cabinet behind the medium. Over the weeks these phenomena had become staples: almost an everyday occurrence. Warren’s phenomena, on the other hand, are entirely different. While the observations of spirit phenomena during the previous séances I had attended were corroborated by other witnesses, they seemed to partake of a partially subjective nature; phenomena which existed somewhere between entirely subjective and entirely objective phenomena. Warren’s phenomena were entirely objective: there is no denying that “something” is happening before your eyes; something which can be observed and corroborated by multiple individuals regardless of whether it is a spirit or human creation. It is this that, to my mind, makes Warren’s manifestations of spirit phenomena that much more controversial.
The phenomena associated with Warren and his Spirit team are so physical as to make them seem impossible other than by fraud. Of course, during the séance and unlike all of those I had previously attended, Warren’s proceedings were conducted in full blackout, so it is very difficult to pass judgement on whether fraud is being utilised (despite my own best efforts to inspect the séance room and to bind the medium inside the cabinet: it was my responsibility to check the medium’s body for devices and to secure him into the chair with wire-ties and rope). The phenomena I observed that evening were so blatantly “real” that I would have to be entirely naïve not to question them at all. I certainly feel that I require more experience to ascertain this aspect for sure.
Phenomenologically speaking, that is from an experiential perspective without assessing whether the phenomena were “real” or not (how do we define reality?) I experienced:
- Trumpet phenomena
- Materialization of spirit-forms
- Extended voice phenomena
- Dematerialization of medium
- Loud banging
- Whistle blowing
- Writing messages
- Manipulation of objects
- Bringing personal messages from spirits
- Exhaustion of the medium
The Séance and Phenomena
The séance was conducted in complete black-out. It was accompanied by music and singing. On some occasions red light was used to illuminate objects that had been moved by the spirits.
I will now attempt to describe phenomenologically the phenomena I observed during Warren’s séance, including, along the way, some of my thoughts and feelings at the time.
These were entirely different to the sort of lights I have observed at other séances. Warren’s spirit lights were full and bright. Usually the light was a bright point that would flash. It seemed soft, almost smooth and fluorescent. It wasn’t like the light of a torch in that it didn’t appear to form a beam; it was localized. At times it was difficult to tell whether this point was in front of, or behind, the curtains of the cabinet. There were times when the light was clearly inside the cabinet: it shone out through the cracks in the top of the cabinet where the curtains were attached and was projected onto the ceiling. For a while, with the curtains of the cabinet open, the light seemed to be focused around the medium’s torso, the effect of which was to illuminate the medium’s body; it was clear to see that he was still in position in the chair at this time. Other times the light seemed to pulsate slowly illuminating the cabinet from behind the curtains. At one point, although I was not able to see it for myself because I was sitting directly opposite the cabinet, the light in the medium’s lap was used to show the outlines of materialized spirit hands. Jon was asked to come up to the medium, place his hand on the medium’s head and look down at his lap; he said that he saw a hand in silhouette over the light in addition to the medium’s two hands which were still strapped onto the arms of the chair. Jon described the light as appearing to come from beneath a layer of ectoplasm over the medium’s body.
2) Trumpet phenomena:
Aside from channelled voices, trumpet phenomena were the first spirit occurrences to be observed. The trumpet is a sheet of light tin bent around and fastened into a cone shape. The trumpet was fitted with two small glow tabs so that its location could be observed in the darkness of the blackout. The trumpet would be lifted up to the ceiling from the ground, where it would be banged and then dropped. There was a point when the trumpet was paraded around the room presenting to each of the sitters in turn. The trumpet would be moved, as though dancing, along to the music. At one moment the trumpet was used to facilitate the vocalizing of a spirit voice: it served to amplify a faint and rasping voice.
3) Materialization of spirit-forms:
The materialization of spirit-forms is an exceptional occurrence for any medium. Here sitters were touched by hands and were exposed to the sound of heavy footsteps for certain spirits (Luther) and lighter footsteps (Tom) moving across the floor. When Luther materialized there was a distinct sensation of a very large individual standing in the middle of the room; very tall and very heavy. His voice was deep and booming and seemed to be coming from an abnormally high position in the small séance room. His footsteps were heavy thuds (Dave described it as though Luther was “wearing diving boots”). On three occasions I was able to feel the physical nature of the spirit hands for myself: the first time I felt my trousers being flapped playfully from very low down; the second time I felt a very small hand press its fingers into my knee and then a much larger hand pat me on the leg; on the third occasion I was invited over to inspect the empty chair from which the medium had dematerialized. I was asked if I would like to sit in the chair, I consented and sat down. I felt, coming from behind me and as though through the curtains of the cabinet, the same small hands touching my head. I thought that it could be the medium, and at the same time felt that it was very strange indeed. The feeling was very odd on all occasions, almost as though the hands were filled with some sort of energy.
4) Extended voice phenomena:
The majority of voice phenomena occurring during the séance appear to have been of the extended variety. This term refers to voices that do not appear to be emanating from the voice box of the medium. On several occasions I heard the voice move across the room. When Jon was asked to go up to touch the medium’s head I had the distinct impression that the voice was coming from a location about a foot away from the medium’s head. While we were discussing the séance Jon reported the same sensation as he had his hand on the medium’s head. I had not mentioned that I had made this observation at the time, and Jon’s mention of it served as corroboration for my own experience. Before and after different voices a whooshing rasping sound could be heard.
Because it had been my task to bind and tie the medium into the chair, the spirits took great pleasure in teasing me about it. One of the first things I was asked was whether I knew what “dematerialization” was, I answered yes but failed to describe it adequately. The spirit asked whether I would like for them to dematerialize the rope I had spent a long while tying around Warren’s legs; of course I did. Within moments of saying this, the rope was on my lap, which came as quite a shock. On another occasion the medium was shown to have completely dematerialized from the chair, which was brought out of the cabinet in front of the curtains. The spirit asked Belinda to turn up the red light so that we could all see. The chair was empty and the medium was not to be seen, although he may have been behind the curtains. I was asked to come up and inspect the wire-ties that I had used to bind Warren’s arms to the chair; they were intact and still in place. Admittedly Warren is a fairly large man, I could not see how he could have slid his hands out from the wire-ties without either stretching them or snapping them (both of which would take a considerable amount of strength).
6) Loud banging:
Bangs started to be heard even while we were still sitting in the house (although I did not hear them). When we were in the séance room it wasn’t long before loud knocks were heard from inside the cabinet. There were several loud bangs throughout the course of the séance.
7) Whistle blowing:
On a number of occasions slide whistles provided for use by the spirits were blown at extreme volume. The sound was piercing and shrill. The whistles were blown along to the music. On one occasion the whistling was occurring at the same time as the trumpet was floating in the air, which would, perhaps, be a difficult feat to perform.
8) Writing messages:
Two messages were written during the séance, one was intended for Chris and the other for ? . I could hear them being written out with a pencil on paper. At one point one of these messages was put on my lap. I did not read what it said and gave it to Chris at the end of the séance.
9) Manipulation of objects:
A number of object manipulations have already been mentioned: trumpet phenomena, whistles, writing with pencils, the moving of the chair. In addition to these there was also, apparently, manipulation of the curtains around the cabinet – they would appear to be open one minute and closed the next without anyone noticing the sound of the curtains being drawn. The spirits also played with a tambourine and concluded the evening by tying a length of rope to the roof of the cabinet and wrapping it around the neck of the medium, now sitting in the chair again with his hands strapped to the arms of the chair by wire-ties, as though it were a noose.
10) Bringing personal messages from spirits:
This occurred when an emotional message was given to Michelle. She burst into tears. I do not know what the message referred to as it was personal to Michelle. Her reaction seemed to confirm that there was something to what the spirit was saying. A message also came from a spirit called Edward who said that he had been watching Jon’s development. A spirit attempted to come through to talk to Chris, but, for some reason, the voice was too quiet and was not very clear and so ceased to communicate.
11) The medium’s exhaustion
At the end of the séance the medium appeared to be visibly flustered, as though he had been engaged in a strenuous ordeal. At this time his hearing was very sensitive, and so we had to be very quiet. He did not look well and it took a fairly long while before he was back to normal after the séance.
The séance was, then, very eventful. Interpretation of the phenomena observed is an intellectually challenging task. As mentioned earlier, the apparent “reality” of apparently impossible phenomena begs for an immediate call of fraud – how could something so tangible actually be of a “supernatural” nature? I, however, do not think that it is quite so simple. These phenomena cannot be reduced to a simple rejection or condemnation of fraud. I do not feel that it is possible to reduce the events to the apparent reality, or lack of reality, of spirit-lights or dematerialization – there is a much deeper context. One of the most striking aspects of this deeper context is the apparently highly emotional content of the message received by Michelle during the séance. This is an important factor, even if we were to assume that all of the physical phenomena were fake (which I do not) then this would still require explanation.
It must also be considered that the way the spirits moved about with such ease in the complete darkness of the séance room was exceptional. When I was asked to go over to sit in the chair I found the journey across the room very difficult, even with the red light on. I needed help from Jon and Chris to get back to my seat. How anyone could move around so nimbly and quietly in such a small space is beyond me. There was also a certain strangeness to the atmosphere when a materialized spirit was present, particularly with regard to the sense of size associated with the spirit. When my lap was touched and tapped the hand came from a low position, almost unrealistically low, as though the spirit were standing with his feet below ground level. When Luther was manifested, as stated earlier, his presence was distinctively felt and his size was palpable and quite awe inspiring, even though it was not visible.
Further deepening of the context, at least for me, comes from my own personal experience of trance. I have felt the potential for my own body to fall into the control of another energy; I have tasted the reality of that possibility for myself, and as such cannot deny it for others. Even if it were, and I am not necessarily suggesting that it was, Warren walking around the room in the pitch darkness touching people on the knees and head, that would not necessarily detract from the “otherworldliness” of the situation. It may very well be Warren, only acting with his body under the influence and control of another spirit. I do not necessarily think that it was Warren’s hands that I felt touching my head as I sat in the chair, but even if it was there was a distinct sense of energy about them that still requires accounting for.
To my mind Warren’s motives appeared to be sincere: he was concerned with helping people. True it is his means to earn a living, but in all honesty there are much easier ways to make money; methods that do not result in ridicule and public scorn. I was surprised by his suggestion that I might like to try to get some interest from people at the University who might like to study his abilities. If he were a fake then why would he suggest this?
One of the spirits stated that in 18 months time it would be possible for photographs of materialized spirits to be taken. When Warren was informed of this (as he cannot remember the events of the séance) he seemed excited about the prospect and was certainly keen about the idea. There seems to be a firmness to Warren’s conviction that these phenomena are real. The spirits also mentioned that it might be possible for future scientific study of them and their phenomena to take place at the Lodge (which is both an intriguing and exciting prospect).
It is clear that, in order for any of these phenomena to occur, a supportive and caring environment is essential. I do not believe that the sort of ridicule and negativity directed towards mediums (particularly physical mediums) is warranted or conducive to positive results. On this particular occasion the atmosphere was indeed supportive, and I think that the effects that we witnessed were just a peek at what is potentially possible. Development and dedication appear, to my mind, to be the key to success. Exposure to bad publicity and ridicule is not.
It was certainly an exciting and interesting evening. It has not dampened my interest in this topic in the slightest, indeed it has served to intrigue me yet further. I am very glad to have been given the opportunity to have this experience and I look forward keenly to my next opportunity to encounter Warren and his spirit team.