11-year-old medium shocks Unitarian minister
Born in Yorkshire, England in 1884, Westwood emigrated to Canada in 1904, ministering in both the western and eastern parts of the country. As he explained in his 1949 book, There is a Psychic World, his philosophy relative to survival and the meaning of life began to slowly change in 1918 when he observed messages coming over a Ouija board at a friend’s house. Curious, he purchased a Ouija board and began experimenting in his own house with his wife and her cousin, who lived with them.
Their initial efforts were a failure. When Westwood’s four children and ‘Anna,’ the cousin’s 11-year-old daughter, asked what was going on, Westwood explained that it was kind of a toy. They asked to try it and he consented. Nothing happened with Westwood’s children, but when Anna tried it things did happen.
‘She had hardly touched it, when the indicator began to move with startling rapidity and with equally startling accuracy, spelling out words and sentences in complete and intelligent sequence,’ Westwood wrote. ‘But the subject matter of the sentence was extraordinary to say the least. Things were revealed which the child could not possibly have known. Circumstances and events were told concerning each adult that were not known to the other two. At times it was embarrassing, at least, to me.’
Westwood turned the board around and blindfolded Anna, but it made no difference. The indicator continued to deliver a wealth of information with swiftness and accuracy.
‘My immediate reaction was that the natural sensitivity of the child enabled her, by some process beyond my ken, to explore the subconscious levels of the minds of the adults and to bring forgotten and buried memories to light,’ Westwood explained.
The following day, Westwood made his own Ouija board with the letters in different places. He brought Anna to the board in his den while blindfolded and placed her hand on the tumbler over the board. ‘It was literally amazing,’ he recorded. ‘Her hand was not confused in the least. The tumbler found the letters with the same swiftness and accuracy as the day before. And to my great surprise the first message that came through was to the effect that I was a fool for my pains, the arrangements of the letters made not the slightest difference and that ‘they’ would prove that they were invisible entities seeking to communicate on the physical plane.’
Among the messages was one purporting to come from Fred, an old college friend who had died several years earlier. Still, Westwood refused to believe in spirits. ‘I positively refused to grant them any real existence,’ he continued, adding that he was certain it had to be some aspect of the subconscious mind that he did not understand.
Concerned about the effect of all this on Anna, Westwood discussed it with her, her mother, and his wife. As Anna seemed not to be affected in a negative way, he decided to continue with more experiments. Within a week, Anna developed the power of automatic writing. ‘It made no difference whether we blindfolded her or not, she wrote with the same perfect ease and accuracy. Her pencil never faltered and never was there the slightest hesitation in recording answers to questions that were asked.’
One message came from a child whose parents Westwood knew. For privacy concerns, he referred to her under the pseudonym ‘Charlotte Summers.’ She had been in the adjoining ward of the hospital Dr Westwood was in for surgery during 1913. She ‘passed over,’ at the age of six, before he left the hospital.
Charlotte began by giving her name and their mutual hospital experiences, as well as the circumstances of her death. ‘As the message continued, she revealed an intimate knowledge of her parents’ family life both during her earthly sojourn and since,’ Westwood documented. ‘She then made clear the purpose of her communication.’ She wanted Westwood to contact her mother, who had ceased to grieve, and let her know that she was still alive. ‘Give her to understand that I’m always near and that I am so happy over baby brother.’ Charlotte communicated in Anna’s hand.
Westwood was reluctant to contact the Summers and tell them of the communication, especially since he was still not sure that it was not all some kind of trick of the subconscious combined with mental telepathy. However, he proceeded to call them and received the reaction he had feared. Mr. Summers was shocked that Westwood would believe in such ‘nonsense’ and wanted nothing to do with it. However, about a month later, Mr Summers, apparently at the urging of Mrs. Summers, called Westwood and requested that Anna be brought to their home.
‘In response to the many questions asked through Anna of the alleged Charlotte [by the Summers], the replies indicated a wealth of detailed information entirely beyond any possible knowledge [Anna] might have possessed,’ Westwood wrote. ‘The parents were convinced that the communication were evidential and that through Anna they had come into touch with the daughter who had ‘passed over’ some five years before.’
Not long after the automatic writing began, Anna wrote messages from two apparently different sources. One signed her name ‘Ruth’ and the other ‘Ralph.’ They claimed to have been stenographers in Washington, D.C. in the employment of the U.S. Government and said they died together about two years earlier while in their late twenties. They provided some data about their life, but Westwood, still resisting the survival hypothesis, made no attempt to follow up and verify the information. ‘I was not interested in communing with the departed, and the problem of proving or disproving survival was not in my mind,’ Westwood explained as he wrote the book some three decades later.
While messages had come from other ‘entities’ earlier, they now came only from Ruth and Ralph. Anna suddenly became an expert typist while receiving messages from Ruth and Ralph. ‘Anna had never played with a typewriter,’ Westwood wrote. ‘But under control and blindfolded, she would operate the machine with perfect ease as though she possessed experienced hands. Yet, without control and without the blindfold, she had to pick out the letters, painfully, one by one.’
Westwood would place typed questions in the typewriter, blindfold Anna, who had no prior knowledge of the questions, and then receive swift replies from Ruth and Ralph. He even spoke with Anna about other matters as her fingers typed replies.
At one sitting, Ralph suggested a game. He instructed Westwood to take a ‘rook’ from his chess set and place a ping-pong ball on it, then to use his long briar tobacco pipe as a golf club and to hit the ball toward a certain object without knocking down the rook. ‘It was a task requiring the greatest delicacy in coordination and skill,’ Westwood related, mentioning that his four children and Anna all gave it a try. ‘Not once did any of us succeed. Usually, we knocked down the rook with ball. When we succeeded in hitting the ball without knocking down the rook, it went wild and we missed our object.’
Ralph then communicated that Westwood should blindfold Anna and place her in position. ‘Through Anna, Ralph assumed a stance, then swinging the pipe as a club, he struck,’ Westwood continued the story. ‘He did not miss, the rook did not fall, and the ball flew with precise aim and hit the object. We set ourselves up as targets around the room, and one by one, he caused the ball to hit us all.’ Anna remained blindfolded through it all.
Westwood then challenged Ralph to a game of chess. Westwood had previously taught Anna the game, although her skills were elementary. Nevertheless, as a precaution he again blindfolded her. ‘It was an extraordinary sight to watch her fingers move the pieces on the board,’ Westwood wrote. ‘But it was more marvelous still to realize that a genuine game was in process.’ Later, after Ralph had departed, Westwood tried to get Anna to play the game, but she could not see the pieces and therefore was unable to play.
There were times when Ruth and Ralph were absent. Westwood asked them what they were doing when they were not communicating with him. They informed him that they had duties and tasks, primarily that of welcoming to their side those who had just passed over. Ruth and Ralph explained that their time at the Westwood home was their recreation period. They further explained that their job of greeting new souls was very stressful, especially since many of them failed to realize that they were ‘dead.’ Some of those who had passed over from the battlefield continued to want to fight. It was as if they were men struggling in a nightmare.
Westwood pointed out that Anna never went into a trance. ‘Never, for one moment, was there even the suggestion of a lapse of consciousness,’ he explained. ‘While the alleged controls never ‘broke through’ or manifested in my absence, or without my expressed wish, when they did come through, Anna was always master of the situation. In almost every experiment, for example, she would at times throw off the control in order to make some personal comment or observation, thus showing that her own mind was watchful and fully alert.’
One evening, Westwood asked Ruth if she would play on the piano through Anna, who had taken a few lessons but was by no means an accomplished pianist. Ruth informed him that she was not musical, but that the following evening she would bring a friend named Kate, so gifted. The following evening, Westwood blindfolded Anna and sat her at the piano. ‘As long as I shall live, I shall never forget that night,’ Westwood reported. ‘She began with a slow melody, the like of which I had never heard before, for it was solemn in its majesty and almost unearthly in its beauty. As I watched the child play, the bodily action and the finger technique were entirely different from Anna’s own.’
Later, the alleged Kate (through Anna) took pencil and paper and began to write rapidly. She told Westwood that the scale structure on her side was different and thus it was difficult to express herself as she would have liked to. ‘Yet the whole performance was on an elevated plane, indicating a mental range and musical understanding far beyond the child’s normal power,’ Westwood wrote.
At another sitting, during which a number of family friends gathered, Ruth took charge and asked each person to write a question on a piece of paper, leave it unsigned, then fold the paper and put it into a container. Westwood then shook the container and gave it to Anna, who took out the pieces of paper one by one. In each case, Ruth identified the writer and answered the questions. In two or three cases, the answer was ‘I don’t know.’ One of the guests asked what the price of a certain stock would be on the stock exchange the following day. ‘Have you been imbibing too freely from the contents of your well-stocked cellar?’ Ruth responded to that question. This was during prohibition and the response was very embarrassing to the guest. Westwood pointed out that Anna, herself, could not possibly have known of the guest’s ‘well-stocked cellar.’
Still, Westwood remained a ‘doubting Thomas,’ not wanting to believe in the spirit hypothesis and thinking that Anna’s subconscious was somehow producing the phenomena. One night, Ruth and Ralph left and a nameless spirit who would only designate himself as ‘X’ began communicating. ‘I realized that we were in the presence of a decidedly superior intelligence, as far above Ruth or Ralph in intellectual grasp as a Ph.D. would be above a college freshman,’ Westwood documented. ‘X’ began discussing philosophical matters, some of which were beyond Westwood’s grasp. ‘The general point of view was that the underlying, in fact the all-permeating reality was consciousness, and that the universe by and large was designed for ‘being’ and ‘beings’ in an infinite series of gradations,’ Westwood further reported, admitting that his intelligence was no match for ‘X’.
Westwood then proposed an experiment. He would blindfold Anna and he would then walk backward into another room, the library. With his back to the bookcase, he would select a book at random. Without looking at the book, he would open it and place it on a buffet in the dining room with the open pages down. He would then return to Anna and ask ‘X’ to indicate the number of the right-hand page at which the book was opened and write the first 10-12 words. ‘X’ agreed to the experiment, which was carried out as Westwood requested, several other adults in attendance.
‘I do not hesitate in making the confession that I walked to the buffet with some trepidation,’ Westwood continued. ‘I did not believe that what I had proposed was within the realm of possibility. However, when I reached the buffet and compared the script (from ‘X’ through Anna), they corresponded. The script gave the correct number of the page. However, as to the writing, there was one slight variation. Instead of the words from the top of the page, they were the opening words of the first paragraph. Also, there was one slight discrepancy, the first word ‘Remember’ was spelled ‘Rember.’ Otherwise, the text was perfect.’
On Christmas Day, 1918, a young girl named Virginia, the niece of a member of Westwood’s congregation was killed in a tobogganing accident. Two days later, Ruth communicated that Virginia was there and she would allow her to communicate through Anna, even though Virginia was still dazed.
‘The first symptom was that of bewilderment bordering on fear,’ Westwood wrote. ‘In fact, the first words that came through were, ‘Where am I? I want my mother.’ This was repeated several times as she (Virginia through Anna) gazed around the room.’ Westwood told her that there was no need to be afraid, that she was in the study of the church. Virginia then settled down and asked how her mother and baby brother were. Westwood noted that neither he nor Anna knew that she had a baby brother. He asked other questions of Virginia and later confirmed the responses as fact with Virginia’s aunt.
While Westwood claimed to have no interest in survival, he wrote that he was forced to believe in it after his experiences with Anna, who lost her powers after about three years, upon the departure of Ruth and Ralph.