From ‘Tall Tales’ to Real Encounters: Thirty years on the Ghost Trail
by John Legg
During the early years of our marriage I must have read many books relating to the supernatural, borrowed from libraries in both England and Tasmania. So when I arrived home after visiting our local library one day in the early 1970s, I should not have been surprised when my wife said to me, seemingly with some concern, ‘Not another ghost book!’ Perhaps she had reason to believe that I was too preoccupied with the Unseen World, with all its ‘ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night’, when I should have been concentrating on healthier, everyday matters.
We were living at that time in North-West Tasmania, where I had resigned from the Methodist ministry (largely for health reasons) at the end of 1969. We were not to know that within a few years, as the leaders of a spiritual group with Christian aims, we would attract attention as ‘ghost busters’, to use the language of the popular Press. We never imagined that within thirty years we would be able to look back on more than a hundred haunting cases that would come to our notice in various Tasmanian locations.
Early in the 1970s Ruth had read a general book on psychic experiences reviewed in the Quarterly Review of the Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies, of which I was a member. The book, by an American author, Harold Sherman, bore the title How To Make ESP Work for You. Ruth was particularly interested in what the author had to say about automatic writing. She discovered by a little experimentation that she had a psychic gift that fell into the same general category. This was inspirational writing (sometimes called guided writing), which involves the use of the medium’s own thought forms under the inspiration of a guide. Through this we were encouraged to call together a group of people with an interest in spiritual healing. Ruth at first had some misgivings about developing her unusual mediumistic talent, especially when one person who heard about it thought it meant she was a servant of Satan, while another said she ought to see a psychiatrist.
Writing to the London headquarters of the CFPSS at that time, we received the advice that it was not wise to undertake development unless one could be sure that it was the will of God. Otherwise, with the wrong motives, it could lead to obsession or even possession. Always it was necessary to surround oneself with prayer and this would help to guard against intrusion by unwelcome entities.
A small group of interested and enlightened people began to meet regularly and we were encouraged when we heard reports of sick people improving noticeably after being remembered in our prayers. Some of the best results came if they were given the laying on of hands in a spiritual setting.
In July 1980, for the first time, we received a request to tackle a haunting. Two young men and two young women, living together in the same house at Burnie (the Tasmanian town where we were living at the time), were so disturbed by strange phenomena that they had all decided to sleep on mattresses in the lounge-room and to keep the light on. One morning Kathleen (not her real name) was the last in line to have a bath; she had just topped up the hot water from an electric kettle when she saw the cord being lifted up by an unseen intruder, whom she immediately told to ‘get lost’. As she was strongly psychic, she had often become aware of visitations from the Unseen World and she wasn’t going to stand for any nonsense.
Seemingly, unwise psychic experiments by a couple of the young people had attracted a particularly unpleasant wandering spirit. Six of our group members, most with some psychic sensitivity, answered the call for help, and eventually succeeded in sending the troublesome entity on his way. We learned that he had led a cruel and godless life, and he was afraid of being sent to hell. He had to be pointed to the mercy and love of God, and the continuing work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I paid a further visit to the house when we heard that the two young women were continuing to be troubled by strange phenomena. Among other things, mysterious forces, believed to be immature spirits, had been playing with their hair and upsetting their bedding. A pair of shoes moved across the floor by themselves, and there were odd occurrences in the kitchen. One of the girls had been making a cake and found that the inside of an egg that she had broken open had returned to its place within the egg-shell. The two young women both reported seeing the apparitions of a couple of young girls whom they dubbed ‘the twins’. Answering a telephone call late one night, I was told that Kathleen had gone into trance while writing a letter to her mother about the strange things that had been happening.
Another rescue service was held, and the mischievous intruders from the world of spirit were persuaded to move on to the higher realms where they were meant to be. A member of the rescue group – a woman with clairvoyant and clairaudient ability – said there had been a request from ‘the twins’ to play ring-a-ring of roses. It dawned on us that because we were standing in a circle and holding hands to add to our effectiveness, it seemed to these very young and immature spirits that we were playing one of their well-remembered children’s games.
From a research point of view, one of the most interesting aspects of this case was the letter written by eighteen-year-old Kathleen at a late hour some days after our first rescue service. When I saw the letter I was in no doubt that she had been temporarily taken over by another intelligence – a matter of some concern to us because of its involuntary nature after our earlier efforts to bring peace and protection to all concerned.
It was apparent that after a few sentences written by Kathleen in her letter, another kind of writing had appeared while she was in trance. A few words had been written in a clumsy style by an entirely different identity: ‘Thank your companions for the way, the truth and the light. Take heed to the young ones.’ I concluded that the spirit who had been helped to find the light had returned with a strong wish to pass on his thanks to us, at the same time alerting us to the fact that there were some juvenile spirits still needing help. (Some of the words of Jesus quoted in the service were not reproduced quite accurately but were fairly close).
Many subsequent cases were much simpler and easier to deal with, but a few were to test us to the limit. We were grateful for the input of the psychically gifted people who assisted us from time to time. Often we found that the spirits of departed people were unwilling to believe they had died, or they may have been earthbound because of unfinished business, sometimes involving tangled personal relationships where forgiveness was sorely needed. Drawing upon previous experience as a trained counsellor, as well as being open to the promptings of her unseen guide, Ruth would take a leading part in our rescue services to point the lost spirits to the light, where loved ones were usually waiting to help them on their way. Only occasionally were specially trained spirit helpers forced to remove recalcitrant spirits. We believe these stubborn entities were taken to a kind of holding place beyond our sight where they could be more adequately counselled when they were ready to listen.
During the past thirty years we have become involved with a wide assortment of people, and similar diversity has been found among the lost spirits troubling them, some having had Aboriginal or convict backgrounds (Tasmania was once a penal colony with a particularly unhappy history). The people who were referred to us included teachers, policewomen, nightclub performers, a witch or two and a hermaphrodite (an individual with an unusual sexual orientation, combining the features and characteristics of both male and female). Ruth and I were thankful to be able to make use of our theological, psychological and other training in dealing with off-beat problems, but especially the help that came through Ruth’s inspirational writing, which gave us a comprehensive picture of the circumstances of each case.
It was rare to find anyone with an active church connection among those who sought our help. Those familiar with the church scene were probably fortunate if they could locate clergy who were able to understand their psychic problems. Occasionally we heard of people who had already tried to get help elsewhere but without lasting success. We always took pains to underline the importance of daily prayers in building up spiritual protection, especially when we met very sensitive people with too much openness to psychic interference.
With both of us close to eighty, Ruth and I are now taking steps to pass on the knowledge we have gained to other suitably gifted people who feel called to the deliverance ministry. We have learned a lot in the past three decades, thankful that Ruth was given the ability to receive inspirational guidance from the world of spirit. With Jesus as our supreme authority, we are confident that the love of God is all-embracing and all-transforming. We do not have to believe in the power of evil to condemn anyone to outer darkness for all eternity, when we have been given the understanding that Jesus continues to carry his Cross into even the darkest realms with his message of forgiveness and renewal. His words still carry their ancient power: ‘Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened.’ (New English Bible, Matt. 7:7.)