The Ten Spookiest Churches in the World

Are you brave enough to read this? Are you easily ‘spooked’ out? Would you dare to visit one of these spine-chilling churches late at night? Because… when the congregation’s away, the ghosts come out to play…

  1. Newby Church, North Yorkshire, UK

newby

A hologram of the Emperor from Star Wars? No, it’s the ghost of a medieval monk! Conclusive evidence that some spirits are not camera shy. Taken in 1963 by the Reverend Lord, this spectral snap-shot continues to perplex experts the world over. Psychics have speculated that it may be the ghost of a 16th century friar who treated plague victims.

  1. Westminster Abbey, London, UK

Westminster

Westminster Abbey may be an iconic British landmark, but with over 3000 burials registered on the site, it boasts an impressive array of terrifying tenants! Notable inhabitants include: a Benedictine monk who mysteriously materialises in the early evening, and a sombre soldierly spirit (said to be the ghost of the ‘Unknown Warrior’ who is entombed inside the abbey itself).

  1. Christ Church, Alexandria, Virginia, USA

christ church

The perfect setting for Stephen King’s next blood-curdling blockbuster, Christ Church, Virginia, is sensationally spooky! Sinister sightings of spectral civil-war soldiers in the graveyard are commonplace and ensure that this national monument is a popular haunt for avid ghost hunters. Thirty four Confederate troops were interred in a mass grave, and some tourists even claim to have captured their armed apparitions on celluloid.

7. Borley Church, Essex, UK

Borley

Borley became world famous thanks to ghost hunter extraordinaire Harry Price. Mysterious tapping sounds and unexplained footsteps around the building have been reported by witnesses. But perhaps the most disturbing phenomenon of all has taken place in the crypt. Investigators have been unable to explain how coffins have been bizarrely moved from their original positions despite the door being locked!

6. Most Holy Trinity Church, New York, USA

Trinity

Anyone who has seen ‘Poltergiest’ will know the occupational hazard that comes with disrespecting the deceased. The spirits of those interred in an old burial ground beneath the school of Most Holy Trinity Church are said to linger after dark. Spine-tingling tones of eerily ethereal voices coupled with disturbingly disembodied footsteps resonate. Lights in the gym hall mysteriously switch on and off, as if the dead protest a denial of dignity.

  1. Frauenkirche, Munich, Germany

Fraunkirche

The black sinister footprint at the doorway of the Frauenkirche in Munich is said to have been made by the Devil himself! Legend has it that he offered to pay for the building of the church provided it had no windows. The builder accepted his satanic salary and slyly positioned the columns so that the church windows cannot be seen from the Devil’s position! When the wind howls eerily around the Gothic towers it is believed to be Lucifer expressing his anger.

  1. Church of St Wystan, Repton, UK

repton

From the ghoulish goblin who lives atop the spire, to the peculiar misty spirits who dwell in the graveyard, St Wystan’s Church is a hive of weirdness. Locals speak of strange supernatural figures appearing during the witching hour around the church. The spirit of a seventeenth century grave-digger is also said to linger among the tombstones.

  1. Basilique du Bois-Chenu, Domremy La-Pucelle, France

basilique

Dedicated to Joan of Arc who was burnt alive at the stake after being accused of witchcraft by the English, the Basilique du Bois-Chenu is a well known spooky hotspot. Joan was said to have experienced divine visions as a young girl living in the village. Her ghost has been sighted on numerous occasions around the church, returning to visit her childhood home.

2. Mont Saint Michel, Normandy, France

mont

Divine intervention played a role in the building of the Abbey of Mont Saint Michel when the Arch Angel Gabriel appeared before the Bishop Aubert of Avranches and instructed him to build a holy structure. Mysterious monks and the ghost of Captain Louis d’Estouteville (who defeated the English in 1434) now haunt this unique location. The ghost of the soldier is often sighted guarding the ramparts, loyally performing his duty to the King of France.

1. Lucedio Abbey, Trino, Italy

lucin

Terrifying tales of torture, murder and dark rituals prompted the Pope to close Lucedio Abbey in the eighteenth century. Its horrifying history is equally as disturbing as the weird inexplicable fog which appears around the building, and the sinister evil ‘presence’ which can be experienced in the crypt. Several monks were found buried in a perfect circle and were all seated! Even more bizarrely, their bodies were naturally preserved. Italy’s most haunted place… were the abbots practising some sort of sinister sorcery?

The author of this article is David Fox who is a freelance writer and entertainer based in the UK. Visit David’s website for more details: David Fox Magician.

Magician Mystic Soldier Spy – The extraordinary life of Uri Geller

‘Nowadays even presidents, vice-presidents and heads of big agencies are opening their minds to accept psychic phenomena because they know it works.’ 

Uri Geller

Uri Geller needs no introduction. A household name the world over, the indefatigable Israeli has been amazing audiences for the past five decades. Minds are read, metal mysteriously bends, watches and clocks which have not worked for many years suddenly spring to life and impossible predictions are made which will soon come to pass. These are the hallmarks of the mild-mannered entertainer’s sensational performances. However, recent revelations of Geller’s involvement with secret intelligence agencies, most notably the CIA, have further enhanced his legendary status.

Oscar winning director Vikram Jayanti’s documentary The Secret Life of Uri Geller  charts the charismatic mystery man’s meteoric rise from humble origins to worldwide super-stardom. From an early age Geller developed a heightened sense of perception and an awareness of his psychic capabilities. After serving in the Israeli army during the Six Day War in 1967, he was invited by Mossad (the Israeli secret service) to demonstrate his preternatural talents. Hardened military men were perplexed by Geller’s telepathic abilities and he would later be called upon to assist the state of Israel during times of emergency. Subsequent CIA interest in his inexplicable aptitudes followed, and Geller was promptly summoned to the USA to participate in a rigorous course of scientific experimentation.

Uri Geller at the Stanford Research Institute circa 1973

It was during this intense period of investigation at Stanford Research Institute in California during the early 1970s that Geller would develop his reputation as a man of extraordinary capabilities. Scientists were amazed by his propensity to read minds, find hidden objects and successfully conclude experiments in remote viewing (observing objects, places and people many miles away by using the power of his mind). The experts were unable to discern any logical explanation for these seemingly miraculous feats and conceded that Uri Geller must possess some sort of extra sensory perception (ESP). These findings would eventually culminate with Geller being invited to assist with covert intelligence operations throughout the world.

saul

Salvator Rosa’s famous painting of Saul’s visit to the Witch of Endor.

Inevitably many will find such a disclosure difficult to digest. However, governments calling upon the aid of psychics and paranormal experts, particularly at times of crisis, is certainly not a novel concept. Since time immemorial, powerful leaders have sought to gain the upper hand against an adversary by invoking the mysterious forces of the unseen. Indeed, one of the earliest accounts of this practice is King Saul’s clandestine meeting with the Witch of Endor in the First Book of Samuel. The King sought divine inspiration prior to a major battle with the Philistines and was terrified by the witch’s ominous prediction. The next day the prophecy was fulfilled: the battle was lost and the King took his own life shortly afterwards.

Dr John Dee. The original 007 and confidant of Queen Elizabeth I.

Thankfully not all interactions between great leaders and soothsayers have ended in disaster. The reign of Queen Elizabeth I is now celebrated as a golden age of British history, and perhaps this can be credited in no small part to the travails of the enigmatic Dr John Dee. Highly regarded throughout Europe as one of the most learned men of his age, it is believed that Dee provided Shakespeare with the inspiration for Prospero in his final play The Tempest. He was a trusted confidant of the Queen and used the number 007 (later to be adopted by Ian Fleming for his fictional character James Bond) when serving as a spy for the Crown. Dee possessed a deep knowledge of the occult arts and was said to have conversed with angelic beings from another dimension. He foresaw the coming of a great British Empire and provided Sir Francis Drake with tactical advice on how to defeat the mighty Spanish Armada in 1588. It is said that he may even have used his magical powers to summon the storm which assisted Her Majesty’s fleet.

Aleister Crowley. Most people are still unaware of his work as a British spy.

The English occultist and self styled ‘Great Beast 666’ Aleister Crowley gained notoriety during the early twentieth century and revelled in his sobriquet of the ‘Wickedest Man in the World’. But was Crowley really so wicked? In recent years academics have begun to appreciate that he may in fact have been a misunderstood genius. Crowley was also a secret agent who worked with British intelligence during both world wars. Whilst masquerading as a German sympathiser in New York during the early years of World War One, Crowley secretly lobbied to ensure that the USA came into the war on the side of the British Empire. Crowley’s close connections with occult groups in Germany during the 1930s naturally made him a person of interest for MI5. The Nazi’s obsession with the occult is well documented and Ian Fleming (the creator of James Bond who then worked with British Naval Intelligence) contacted Crowley in order to entice Rudolf Hess (deputy Fuhrer and a man with a deep interest in the occult) to come to the UK. Hess’s ill-fated clandestine flight to Scotland in 1941 soon followed and was said to have had a devastating impact upon Hitler when he learnt of this betrayal. It is widely believed that Crowley used his mysterious influence to draw him to the UK in order to discuss possible peace negotiations.

The mysterious Wolf Messing who amazed Josef Stalin.

The cessation of hostilities in 1945 would pave the way for a new world order and the dawning of the Cold War era. A tense stand-off between the two major Super Powers naturally intensified the covert activities of intelligence agencies across the globe. The campaign to identify and utilise people who exhibited extra sensory perception and psychic abilities would unearth some exceptional individuals. One such person was the Polish entertainer Wolf Messing who came into the orbit of the KGB (the Russian secret intelligence agency). Messing had been amazing audiences throughout Europe for many years before being forced to flee to the USSR during the Second World War. His ability to influence the thoughts of others, read minds and cast accurate predictions became legendary in Soviet Russia. Josef Stalin was said to have been mesmerised by his incredible talents and it is widely believed that Messing assisted the KGB during the post-war years.

uri book

Jonathan Margolis’ recent publication.

In the early 1970s Uri Geller was invited to a meeting with Wolf Messing in Berlin. The Polish master was clearly amazed by the young Israeli’s amazing talents as well as the fact that Geller is a distant relative of Sigmund Freud (who Messing had mesmerised alongside Albert Einstein many years before). The exchange shared between the two men will perhaps forever remain classified, but it is a great testimony to the respect Messing had for Geller that he chose to divulge the secret techniques he used to perform some of his incredible feats.

As the world enters an era of political uncertainty, Uri looks certain to remain very busy.

Thus, it could readily be argued that governments and leaders who do not take the powers of the unseen seriously do so at their peril. Indeed, with Brexit negotiations looming and some challenging times ahead, perhaps Uri Geller can expect a phone call from Prime Minister Theresa May very soon?

*Special thanks to Uri for his kind assistance with this article.

Recommended Reading

Uri Geller’s website: http://www.urigeller.com/

Uri Geller’s Little Book of Mind Power Uri Geller, Robson Books, 1998

The Secret Life of Uri Geller – CIA Masterspy?  John Margolis, Watkins Publishing London, 2013

The Queen’s Conjurer: The Science and Magic of Dr John Dee Benjamin Woolley, Flamingo, 2002

Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult Richard Spence, Feral House, 2008

Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin Tobias Churton, Inner Traditions, 2014

Wolf Messing: The True Story of Russia’s Greatest Psychic Tatiana Lungin, Glagoslav Publications, 2014

The author of the article is David Fox, a professional entertainer and freelance writer based in the UK. Visit David’s website at: www.magician-midlands.co.uk

Tutbury Castle: Britain’s Most Haunted

tutbury-30

Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire has developed a reputation as one of the finest wedding and events venues in the Midlands. Every year this majestic medieval monument attracts visitors from around the world who marvel at its exquisite charm and rich heritage.

A fortification has existed on this hilltop since the eleventh century, and the castle boasts a long and illustrious history. Its most notable past resident is Mary Queen of Scots who was incarcerated in Tutbury during the late 16th century after abdicating the throne of Scotland and being forced into exile. Indeed, there is much to amaze historians in and around the ruins, and lively re-enactments of historical events are commonplace in the spacious castle grounds on summer days. However, perhaps it is matters of a more mysterious nature which have generated most intrigue in recent years…

mary-q

Mary Queen of Scots was held at Tutbury Castle

No fewer than five ghosts are said to haunt Tutbury Castle. The apparition of a soldier wearing armour has been sighted on numerous occasions, along with a spectral white lady and the phantoms of a young boy and girl respectively. In 2004 a large group of visitors saw the spectre of Mary Queen of Scots herself peering down from the South Tower. Furthermore, her celebrity spirit has been witnessed frequently at other locations and is always said to be immaculately attired. Thus, Tutbury can rightfully claim to be one of the British Isles’ most haunted venues, and it is now a site of very special interest for ghost hunters.

tutbury-ghost

Orbs and a ghostly figure captured at Tutbury Castle

Recently the events team at Tutbury announced they will be resuming ghost hunts at the castle. This will provide an excellent opportunity for paranormal investigators to explore this extraordinary location and seek out evidence of the afterlife.

Professional psychical investigators deploy a rigorous regime when investigating such a venue. State-of-the-art technology is utilised to record potential supernatural phenomena, and a strict scientific methodology is observed. Indeed, such ghost hunters believe that evidence can be captured on film, but this theory is certainly controversial and challenged by sceptics. Nonetheless, there are ample video clips and photographs of weird occurrences at the venue.

Whilst shooting a wedding reception at Tutbury Castle, professional photographer David Green was amazed to find this mysterious image appear in a nocturnal photograph of the newlyweds. David was unaware of the queer ‘fog’ whilst photographing the couple and, to date, there is no logical explanation for this peculiar phenomenon…

david-green-1

Professional photographer David Green captured some peculiar white mist during a wedding reception.

 

david-green-2

A closer inspection of the fog… What do you think?

For more details about Tutbury Castle and the tremendous facilities it has to offer, visit the website at: Tutbury Castle

David Green is one of the UK’s top photographers and boasts an exceptional portfolio. Contact David now for your next photo-shoot: David Green Corporate Photography

The author of the article is David Fox. A professional magician and freelance writer who is based in the East Midlands: David Fox Magic

An article posted on 12th January 2017 in the Burton Mail regarding the resumption of ghost hunting at Tutbury Castle: Ghost Hunts Make Spooky Return

The Society of Psychical Research offers guidance for those interested in exploring hauntings and haunted venues: Society of Psychical Research

 

Harry Price: Dweller on the Threshold

harry-price

‘Harry fought a long, lone battle against, on the one hand, the Victorian educated scientists who derided the occult and, on the other, fanatical believers in spiritualism whose favourite mediums he exposed as frauds.’

Dennis Wheatley

Harry Price (1881 to 1948) is remembered today as perhaps the most famous ghost hunter and psychical investigator of all time. The intrepid scientist’s study of Borley Rectory in Suffolk, purported to be ‘The Most Haunted House in England’, from 1929 until his death brought him international recognition and cemented his reputation as a colossus within the field of occult research. Nonetheless, this extraordinary figure became an object of both acclaim and disdain during his lifetime. Some commentators viewed Price merely as a sensationalist who sought publicity by courting the supernatural, whilst others championed him as a genuine truth seeker – selflessly dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of the universe.

Indeed, Price’s commitment and dedication to the investigation of preternatural phenomena cannot be understated. He founded The National Laboratory for Psychical Research, compiled one of the largest libraries of the occult in the world, and was one of the first scientists to apply a rigorous and methodical approach when testing the authenticity of psychics and hauntings. Price utilised state-of-the-art technologies such as pressure sensors and infra red photography in his quest into the unpredictable and inhospitable shadow realm of spirits, poltergeists and demons. His capacity and appetite for conducting painstaking research – in often freezing and isolated locations in the dead of night – has set the bench mark exceptionally high for all psychical explorers. In Borley Rectory alone Price recorded no fewer than sixty different types of supernatural occurrence.

borley-rectory

Borley Rectory in Suffolk – The Most Haunted House in England.

 

Contemporary ‘ghost hunters’ frequently pay homage to Price’s considerable influence and achievements, but few are actually aware of his background in the art of conjuring and legerdemain. A lifelong member of the prestigious Magic Circle, his interest in this amazing art form began at an early age when he witnessed a performance of The Great Sequah in Shrewsbury market place. The young Price was mesmerised by the magician and this profound experience clearly catalysed an inner yearning for the mysterious.

the-conjurer

‘The Conjurer’ by Bosch. Magic and the Occult have always been closely linked.

 

Thus, like the great Harry Houdini (who successfully debunked numerous fraudulent psychics in the US), an understanding of the art of magic allowed Price to deduce what secret artifices or methods, if any, were being deployed by supposed soothsayers and mediums during his research. The story of the famous ‘spirit photographer’ William Hope is well documented and is an example of one of Price’s many skirmishes with Spiritualists who normally felt threatened by his research. The scientist was more than aware of how accomplished magicians can surreptitiously ‘switch’ objects, undetected by audiences, in order to achieve startling outcomes. This was precisely what Hope was doing with the photographic plates, and Price quickly concluded that his ‘spirit images’ were actually frauds. Indeed, this damning revelation set the tone for most of Price’s investigations into Spiritualists and clairvoyants. He attended hundreds of séances and was rarely convinced by the authenticity of the spectacle. Lifelong friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes – but himself an ardent Spiritualist) frequently expressed his anger at Price’s findings and urged him to be more sympathetic towards individuals of a psychical disposition.

houdini-price

Like the Great Houdini, Price’s knowledge of magic helped him ‘debunk’ fraudulent mediums.

Nonetheless, in the midst of a seemingly incessant tide of fraudulence and deceit, Price did encounter some incredible individuals who genuinely appeared to possess exceptional extra sensory talents. The most notable is perhaps Ms Stella C who, unlike the majority of clairvoyants and mediums, did not accept money for conducting séances and was not interested in forging a career in this field. Price and others observed the occurrence of genuine telekinetic phenomena in her presence, and she also incredibly predicted (with an uncanny accuracy which startled even Price) what would appear on the front page of The Daily Mail several weeks in advance.

Price was further led to speculate that it may be ‘highly probable’ that some individuals actually can communicate with the deceased. A séance in 1930 with the clairvoyant Mrs Eileen Garrett, who was not a Spiritualist, provided some of the most extraordinary results ever obtained in the field of psychical exploration. Garrett claimed to be in communion with Flight-Lieutenant H Carmichael Irwin, the captain of the doomed R101 Airship which had tragically crashed in France two days earlier. All the crew and passengers had been killed, but the psychic was accurately able to relay intricate details about the sequence of events which led to the fatal accident. Specialised technological information about the airship itself, of which Garrett could not possibly have known, were also provided. Price contacted the RAF with his findings and they concluded that 70% of Eileen Garrett’s account was exactly precise, 20% was ‘most likely’ and the remainder was rather confused.

r101

The medium Eileen Garrett recounted intricate details of the R101 disaster.

Such examples of Price’s work reveal that as well as earning a reputation as a sceptical man of science, he did have a sensitivity towards psychics and was prepared to reveal instances of what appeared to be genuine ‘supernatural’ phenomena. Indeed, his feud with fellow magicians the Maskelynes would reveal how he was often prepared to defend psychics who he believed were genuine. Nevil Maskelyne had long claimed that his brother Clive could duplicate all types of ‘supposed spiritual phenomena’ a medium could create in a séance. However, Price challenged this statement and alleged that he had witnessed events in séance rooms which even the most accomplished of conjurers would struggle to produce.

maskelyne

Magicians can amaze audiences with seemingly ‘psychical phenomena’.

Enigmatic and complex, the life of Harry Price is arguably even more perplexing than the mediums, spirits and poltergeists he documented along the way. It is intensely intriguing when a talented and highly intelligent individual is drawn to devote his entire life to the study of a fringe subject such as the occult. They run the risk of being ostracised, condemned and ridiculed by their peers. So why did Harry Price decide to embark upon such an atypical and arduous journey which would ultimately lead him to the bowels of desolate dilapidated mansions, the icy spectral solitude of cemeteries, and the sinister sultry environs of fraudulent medium’s séance parlours? Was he merely a deluded moonstruck eccentric shying away from the harsh realities of life? Or should we celebrate him as a heroic pioneer who conducted invaluable research into an area which has been largely ignored or overlooked by many of the greatest minds over the centuries?

 

price-end

Psychical researchers can easily become objects of ridicule. Why did Price choose this path?

For an interview with Harry Price click the link: Harry Price Interview YouTube.

A radio production about Price’s life: Are You There Harry Price?

The author of the article is David Fox, a professional magician and freelance writer.

www.magician-midlands.co.uk

Poltergeist Hauntings – Mischievous Spirits or Misplaced Energy?

”…in the nineteenth century, investigators of poltergeist phenomena observed that children are usually present, and one of them often seems to be the ‘focus’ of the disturbance…”

Colin Wilson

poltergeist-1

Poltergeists are infamous in all cultures

In early August 2016 police were summoned to a property on Stonelaw Road, Rutherglen, Scotland. A series of bizarre disturbances had been reported, and the highly experienced officers were soon to be confronted with a profoundly perplexing situation. Doors opened and closed by their own accord, clothing was hurled through the air by unseen hands, and the pet dog mysteriously levitated on top of a seven foot hedge. Naturally the events caused extreme distress for both tenants and police officers alike. A more detailed account of this case can be found on The Metro website, 13th August 2016: Police Witness Paranormal Events.

Such phenomena are commonly grouped under the term of ‘Poltergeist’ activity (which comes from the German for ‘noisy ghost’). These mischievous spirits are said to be responsible for a myriad of weird occurrences such as: moving furniture, creating disturbing sounds, switching on and off electrical appliances, and even physically attacking people and animals. Acclaimed Occult author Colin Wilson identified these actions to be the ‘basic characteristics of the poltergeist’ and noted that they always form the same ‘pattern’. Indeed, perhaps what makes them so disturbing is that, unlike traditional ghosts, they do not assume any particular shape or form. Poltergeists can merely be described as ‘forces’ or mysterious ‘energies’ which happen to linger around particular people – normally young children or adolescents.

poltergeist-3

Tobe Hooper’s cult classic raised awareness of poltergeist phenomenon

Tobe Hooper’s cult movie ‘Poltergeist’ (1982) propelled this troublesome type of spirit into the popular contemporary mainstream. The young daughter in the movie was very much the focus of the paranormal activity which occurred in and around the family home. However, just six years prior to the movie’s release, the story of the Enfield Poltergeist in the UK had caused an international sensation. Peggy Hodgson and her children were plagued by such activity at their home in the north eastern borough of London. Strange forces shifted heavy furniture, slammed doors and a police officer even observed an arm chair move unaided across the floor. Perhaps one of the most disturbing images of poltergeist phenomena is that of Janet Hodgson (Peggy’s daughter) being thrown violently through the air in her bedroom. The case was examined thoroughly be a variety of agencies and, although Peggy’s daughters admitted playing tricks at times, much of the phenomena cannot be conclusively explained.

poltergeist-2

One of the most disturbing images of poltergeist activity – The Enfield Poltergeist

Since antiquity, the poltergeist has made an appearance in the folklore of virtually every culture throughout the world. Stone throwing was usually the first indication that such a spirit was present, and it could even occur during daylight hours. The curious tale of The Drummer of Tedworth in 1661 is one of the oldest documented accounts of this phenomenon in the British Isles. The musician had his instrument confiscated and held at a local house which caused a variety of chaotic incidents to take place. It was only when the drum was returned to its owner and he was promptly instructed to leave town that the disturbances ceased.

Indeed, there are countless eye-witness accounts and tales of poltergeist activity in the media every year. This raises the question of what actually causes such phenomena to occur – surely there must be a logical explanation behind all of this? We live in an age of unbridled technological advancement, and queer notions of malevolent spirits seem somewhat medieval and outdated to say the least. Perhaps poltergeist activity can be explained as an aspect of what Colin Wilson termed ‘Faculty X’? This is the term he gave to the largely latent range of exceptional faculties human beings may possess – but of which we are presently unaware. Could it be that poltergeist activity is actually ‘created’ in some way by excessive energy which has built up in and around the sphere of certain individuals?

Like many free-thinkers, Wilson believed that the overwhelming majority of human beings are unaware of the massive potential which exists within their psyches. The state of the contemporary adult could be easily compared to a toddler sitting at the controls of a jumbo jet. We have yet to fully appreciate just how powerful the human species can become and how limited our current state of consciousness actually is. If poltergeist activity really is created by individual persons, it could be grouped in with other phenomena such as telekinesis (the capability to move physical objects using the mind), premonitions (predicting future events in dreams and visions) and thaumaturgy (the ability to heal others at will).

David Fox is a professional free-lance writer and entertainer who lives in the UK. Visit his website to find out more about him: David Fox Magic.

Harry Houdini – Spiritualism or Swindle?

Magician David Fox explores…

Houdini 1

‘What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes’

Harry Houdini, 1874 – 1926

It was a dark and dreary mid-winter evening several years ago in Derbyshire. I had been invited to entertain guests at a corporate function in the distinguished setting of Breadsall Priory. The evening was going very well, and my repertoire of card magic, illusion, and sleight-of-hand was clearly having a positive impact on the proceedings. An opportunity soon presented itself for me to conduct some mind-reading and psychological routines (known as ‘Mentalism’ in magical parlance).

In one such effect I invite an audience member to think of someone they know well. It could be a family member, friend or work colleague. In this instance the lady in question happened to think of someone who had recently passed on. Needless to say, when I later revealed the person’s identity, the participant thought something supernatural had taken place.

As magicians we are well aware of the possibility of creating powerful effects which will leave a profound and lasting impression upon an audience. Indeed, magic and the supernatural have long been inextricably intertwined. The priests of ancient Egypt often used the art to mesmerise and frighten their subjects. In more recent times the case of the great French magician Robert Houdin (from whom Harry Houdini took his name) is well documented. Houdin managed to scare a group of tribal insurgents in Africa by using a simple magical effect in order to quell colonial insurrection. It is for this reason that the contemporary prestidigitator must be responsible and respectful when entertaining any audience.

Houdini 2

On hearing the word ‘magic’ we automatically think of Harry Houdini. This sensational individual needs little introduction and, almost a century since his death, he continues to amaze and inspire both magicians and lay persons the world over. Houdini helped to raise the profile of magic considerably throughout the early twentieth century with his wonderful stage performances and death defying stunts. His boundless charisma, formidable work ethic, and strength of personality, all combined to create one of the world’s first international superstars. However, most people are unaware of Houdini’s close association with spiritualism during the latter stages of his life.

On losing his beloved mother, Houdini began to ponder the possibility of an after life throughout the 1920s. Like many vulnerable souls who find themselves in such a time of emotional turmoil, he sought solace in mediums who had become more prevalent around the industrialised American towns since the ‘Occult Renaissance’ of the late nineteenth century.

Sadly, Houdini was bitterly disappointed by the séances he attended, and quickly developed the point-of-view that spiritualists, and those that claimed to be in league with the dearly departed, were merely charlatans. Thus, he set out on a moral crusade to disclose, or ‘debunk’, the fraudulent activities of such persons. Houdini’s revelations are masterfully presented in his 1924 work entitled ‘A Magician Among The Spirits’. The great magician demonstrates much of the chicanery utilised by purported spiritualists in order to extract hard-earned cash from the unwary.

Houdini 3

Spiritualism grew in popularity from the mid nineteenth century onwards.

But what of Spiritualism? Can we fully accept Houdini’s warnings, or is there really some kernel of truth in the possibility of communicating with the deceased? Adherents of the multitude of contemporary Spiritualist churches which exist throughout the world would refute his accusations. Indeed, one commentator has calculated that there are currently over thirteen million followers of this faith throughout Europe and North America alone. Perhaps like many belief systems Spiritualism has attracted its share of charlatans over the years, but are there mediums amongst its ranks who possess a genuine ability to contact the dead?

The eminent philosopher Carl Jung appreciated that human beings possess a subconscious desire to believe in some form of higher force, or divine purpose, to life. The prospect of living a meaningless existence with no prospect of an afterlife is, to say the least, frightful. Many magicians often scoff at those who readily accept the existence of spirits, but in my humble opinion this is a rather arrogant stand-point to assume. Granted, given a sympathetic enough context, we can create effects which may appear to defy reality.

A variety of elements combined that wintry evening all those years ago in Derbyshire such as the gloomy weather, dim lighting, and the fact that we were on the site of a medieval abbey which is rumoured to be haunted, to create an effect of almost supernatural proportions. However,  there are indeed many things which contemporary science in all its wisdom still cannot fully explain such as: premonitions, photographs and recordings of unusual phenomenon, and telepathy.

As for Houdini, he promised to send a coded message to friends and family after he shed this mortal coil. To date, we are still waiting to hear from the master…

David Fox is a professional award winning magician who performs his unique brand of magic throughout the world.

Visit David’s new Corporate website at: www.davidfoxcorporatemagic.com

Telephone number: 07946 686 258

Tarot Reading – The 78 Keys to Wisdom

Magician David Fox explores the origins and significance of the Tarot Deck…

‘it is a complete symbolic map of all the transformative processes in the universe’

Dr. David Shoemaker, Chancellor of the International College of Thelema

The Mystery of the 78

The origins of the Tarot deck are as mysterious as the cards themselves.

The origins of the Tarot deck are as mysterious as the cards themselves.

As a professional magician, I owe an incalculable debt to the 52 pieces of laminated cardboard popularly known as the humble deck of playing cards. However, I am fully aware that the origins of the four suits are far more mysterious and profound than even the most mystifying card trick in the conjurer’s repertoire. It is widely accepted that the contemporary deck originates from the Tarot cards: that peculiar collection of colourfully illustrated rectangular pictograms which are most commonly utilised for divinatory purposes.

The origins of the Tarot

The Tarot of the Witches. Popularised in the James Bond movie 'Live and Let Die'

The Tarot of the Witches. Popularised in the James Bond movie ‘Live and Let Die’

Some Occult historians claim that the Tarot originates from the times of the ancient Babylonians and the Egyptians. There may be a grain of truth in this somewhat Romantic theory, but the earliest recorded proof we have of such cards being used (primarily for parlour games) dates from late Medieval times. The wealthier inhabitants of Milan and present day northern Italy could afford to have such cards produced and ‘the game of trumps’ became a popular pass-time for the upper classes. Nonetheless, those with a deeper awareness of the arcane would always maintain that the cards were more than mere accoutrements for frivolous flights of aristocratic fancy. The rich symbolism evident within the Tarot clearly illustrated something much more profound, enduring and mystical. The ancient mystery schools had long since communicated Truth in such a manner: through the use of signs, symbols and codes which could only be discerned by those of the appropriate spiritual disposition and awareness.

Designs of Tarot

A Shakespearian Tarot Deck. There are many designs of Tarot.

A Shakespearian Tarot Deck. There are many designs of Tarot.

There is a multitudinous array of Tarot decks currently available for those who wish to explore the intriguing art of Cartomancy (the practice of using cards for divinatory or fortune-telling purposes). The enduring aesthetic appeal of the Tarot is a fitting testimony to the skill and talents of the artists who have sought to recreate, and offer their own unique interpretations of the Major and Minor Arcana, throughout the aeons. One of the most widely celebrated and used of decks is the Tarot de Marseille. This vibrant collection of pictograms dates from the late 16th century and is favoured by contemporary cartomancers the world over. However, it must be noted that the choice of deck is entirely a matter of personal preference. In Occult circles it is commonly accepted that for those who are so inclined to explore the world of the Tarot, the deck will choose them…

The Book of Thoth

The Thoth Tarot deck is one of the most beautiful ever created.

The Thoth Tarot deck is one of the most beautiful ever created.

Aleister Crowley has bequeathed to posterity an incredible text entitled ‘The Book of Thoth’. This is a profound and engaging treatise on both the origins and significance of the Tarot. The Thoth Tarot Deck (which accompanies the book) is truly an exceptional work of art, and was finalised, after several years of toil, by both Crowley and Lady Emma Harris, who carefully painted each card to Crowley’s precise specifications. Indeed, her instructor often insisted that a deisgn be painted several times in order to capture the True essence of the particular pictogram.

The Book of Thoth is an outstanding demonstration of Crowley’s awareness and profound understanding of the Occult arts. Well versed in the philosophies of Qabalah, Astrology, Alchemy, Geomancy, I-Ching and Numerology, Crowley appreciated that the symbolism contained within the Tarot is essentially a synthesis of the ancient spiritual traditions of the human race. He sought to demonstrate this through the unique design of each and every card. Fundamentally, he understood the following principles:

The four suits of the Tarot correspond to the four ancient elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water:

Coins are associated with Earth and mundane matters (money, material transactions)

Swords are associated with Air and thus the realm of the intellect (education, decisions)

Wands are associated with Fire: spiritual energy and vitality (masculine)

Cups represent Water and the realm of the emotions (feminine)

The Twenty Two Tarot trumps correspond with the paths on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, and the ten spot cards of each suit can be linked to the Sephiroth of the Qabalah in their corresponding element. Indeed, students with even a rudimentary awareness of the Western Mystery Tradition will glean much from working with this unique deck.

Methods of divination

Consultation of the Tarot permits us to view the 'bigger picture'.

Consultation of the Tarot permits us to view the ‘bigger picture’.

There are a variety of intriguing methods one can use in order to ‘divine’, or ask questions, with the Tarot. Some ‘spreads’ use several cards, whilst others may utilise the entire deck. I have personally found the well-known Celtic Cross method to be as effective as it is practical.

The following website by James Reeducks provides excellent instruction in conducting this spread, as well as an illuminating commentary on each particular card in the Thoth deck:

The Thoth Tarot Deck by James Reeducks

 It must be borne in mind that the Tarot provides one with a valuable opportunity to assess a situation, or problem, from a new, and often refreshing, stand-point. Consultation of the cards should not be regarded as a crutch to disregard responsibility and passively accept a particular outcome. The curious harmony of will and fate may be perennial, but human beings can take more control over their destinies if they have the courage and conviction to do so. Indeed, the Tarot affords us with a startling insight into the curious forces which incessantly influence the lives of men and women upon this planet for better or for worse…