Dr Wickland Script
Looking back on my school days, there are incidents I’ll never forget. One concerns a lad named Phil Potter, a smiley lad who liked to raise a laugh in the classroom. One day, the physics teacher was introducing the wonders of static electricity using a Wimhurst machine, an antique gadget with two circular plates like LP records. By turning a handle on the machine, the plates revolved in opposite directions, creating miniature lightning. Of course, Potter could be trusted to stick his finger into the machine, receiving a shock of almost 100,000 volts. Fortunately only his pride and his finger were hurt, because while the voltage was astronomically high, the power in watts was extremely low. Decades later I read about the Wimhurst machine again, this time being used to shock people on purpose. These were the patients of Dr Carl Wickland. In the early 1900s he believed that many people in psychiatric hospitals were not mentally ill but were possessed by the spirits of the dead; sometimes by several spirits simultaneously. Now remember that in the New Testament Jesus spent a good deal of time healing people by casting out unclean spirits. So either there is something to the theory of spirit possession, or the Bible was describing a travesty and Jesus was a fraud.
It happens that Dr Wickland was a deeply religious man - not a traditional Christian, but with an impressive knowledge of the Bible. Yet his ability to cast spirits out of his patients was only possible with the help of his wife.
She was a trance medium who, together with a circle of sitters, was essential to carrying out the treatment. The spirits possessing the patient, on receiving a mighty electric shock, would jump out of the patient’s body and into the entranced body of Anna Wickland. Surely this is preposterous? Yes, especially when Dr Wickland then interviewed these spirits to find out more about them, with verbatim records kept by his research assistants.
Dr Wickland was not a quack. Born in February 1861 in Sweden, he emigrated to the United States, trained as a physician, and from 1909 until 1918 became chief psychiatrist at the National Psychopathic Institute of Chicago. He was a Member of the Chicago Medical Society, the Illinois State Medical Society; and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Subsequently he moved to Los Angeles, where in 1924 he published THIRTY YEARS AMONG THE DEAD, a classic in abnormal psychology.
It ran to five editions in the United States, with three printings in England.
Dr Wickland witnessed many miraculous cures in his patients. He argued that when a person dies it is simply a transition to a spiritual life. People who led a compassionate life, a life of service to others, or who had taken the trouble to investigate the meaning of death, would be met by friends and relatives at death, and then move off into ‘the light’. His view was that Heaven was not a place, but a state of mind. In contrast to these fortunate souls, people who had led lives of criminality, greed, selfishness; or were addicted to drink or drugs, would become earthbound spirits wandering in darkness because their spiritual eyes had not been opened by their earth life. In his experience, these spirits could enter into the living bodies of vulnerable people and damage their lives - with many ending up in mental institutions.
Its instructive to dip into Dr Wickland’s book for examples of his interviews with spirits talking through Anna Wickland. He says of his book, "Read not to condemn, but to weigh and consider". Faced with the preposterous, he thinks you need an open mind.
By comparing Wickland's cases various trends appear. Many spirits said they were really hurt by the electric shocks administered to the patient, which is why they vacated the body in favour of Mrs Wickland’s. Many also had amnesia, unable to remember dying, and denying having done so. Take the example of a spirit called Ralph Stevenson, a suicide case. Dr Wickland asked, "How long have you been dead?" And the reply: "Dead, you say. Why, I’m not dead; I wish I were”. So the doctor asks, "Is life so unpleasant for you?" And the reply, "Yes it is. If I am dead, then it is very hard to be dead. I have tried and tried to die, but it seems every single time I come to life again. Why is it I cannot die?". The doctor replies, "Because there is no actual death". To which the spirit replies. "Of course there is!".
Spirits also often failed to remember how long they’d been dead, or where they were. The doctor asked Ralph Stevenson, "Where do you think you are?". "In New York", the spirit replies. So the doctor puts him straight. "You are far from New York", he says. "You are in Los Angeles, California. And what year do you think it is? Do you know it is 1919?" The spirit replies,"1919! That can’t be". He thinks the year is 1902.
Often when the spirits were 'male', Dr Wickland would challenge them, asking why they were dressed as women and located in a woman’s body. Wickland used quite aggressive arguments to assure them they had only lost their physical bodies. They had not been extinguished but were living in another dimension. Take the example of Edward Sterling, in September 1920. Having been propelled into Mrs Wickland’s body by electric shocks, he struggles to get away, becoming very indignant when restrained. "Stop holding me", he shouts. And the doctor replies, "I am not holding your hands. I’m holding my wife’s hands". The spirit replies, "Your wife’s hands! I never saw you before, and I’m not your wife. Do you think a man marries another man? I never heard such talk". So the doctor says, "Well, look at your hands, they are not yours. This is my wife’s body. Are you my wife talking to me?". Angrily he retorts, "I’m not your wife, I’m a man!". So the doctor explains, "I drove you away from the woman you were controlling. You made her act like an insane person. You influenced her to cut off her hair and to run away". And the spirit’s reply: "What did I want with long hair? I went to sleep, and when I woke up my hair had grown too long, so I cut it off, that’s all".
Dr Wickland invariably assured the spirits that a team of enlightened spirit helpers was standing by to assist and bring them to their loved ones; former husbands, wives, mothers. Take the example of Elizabeth Noble, a drug addict when on Earth, and married to Frank Noble who died before her. Elizabeth says, "Oh, I’m sincere when I call Frankie. I’m thinking of Frankie. I love him. But I love morphine too. Oh!....Frankie is standing there! When did you come, Frankie? Give me some morphine!". In due course, Elizabeth is taken away from Mrs Wickland and replaced by her dead husband, Frank Noble. He says, "My wife was very sick. Once the doctor gave her morphine to help her pain, and from that time on she had spells so severe we could do nothing but call the doctor to give her morphine". And he adds, "Thank you for helping us, because when my wife gets out of this stupor she is in, she will be better and we shall be together".
There are many such reports in this old book, and together they become consistent and understandable from the Doctor’s perspective. There were some failures, of course, but often these interviews brought about a restoration of spiritual sight to the earthbound souls; who then willingly moved away from the Earth plane to a more enlightened existence. While it sounds implausible, it resulted in dramatic cures, and two books about the process.
One interpretation is that the doctor’s wife, although apparently in a trance, was only play-acting during the interviews. But is it possible to keep up such a charade - in front of witnesses - for over thirty years? I suspect not.
Dr Wickland was a forerunner of a small movement that still exists today. Although the Wimhurst machine is no longer a part of the kit, the doctor’s techniques have been emulated and developed by hypnotherapists and psychiatrists such as Dr Edith Fiore,
Dr Shakuntala Modi, and Dr William Baldwin, practitioners of spirit releasement in the United States. And Dr Samuel Sagan in Australia. In Britain there is the Spirit Release Foundation. Established in 1999 by Dr. Alan Sanderson, a psychiatrist, it has around 200 members. And the Psychiatry profession itself has begun to acknowledge possession as a factor in mental health. In its UK diagnostic manual, an entry for trance and possession disorders says where "there is a temporary loss of both the sense of personal identity and full awareness of the surroundings; in some instances the individual acts as if taken over by another personality, spirit, deity or ‘force’." In other words, a person may have both a mental illness and a spirit attachment, with one state leading to the other. If Carl Wickland seemed preposterous initially, he can now be seen as having heralded in a new movement; one challenging the western materialist viewpoint; one suggesting that consciousness and brain function are not the same thing.
© Copyright 2008 Keith Parsons