On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Shakespeare and the Mysterious Origins of 007

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‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on’

The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s best known plays and has mesmerised audiences since the early seventeenth century. Like all of the great Bard’s works, it can be analysed on many levels, but the themes of magic, power and the occult are dominant.

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Prospero in Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki’s Tarot Deck

On reading the play, few are aware that the main protagonist – Prospero – was based on a real man who held an esteemed position in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Dr John Dee was respected as one of the most learned men of his age. His knowledge of science, mathematics, astronomy and geography was astounding, and his formidable intellect was celebrated throughout Europe.

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Dr John Dee

However, Dee also harboured a deep interest in astrology and the occult. In the late sixteenth century, science and the supernatural were in fact closely interwoven. Frequent references to magic and superstition throughout Shakespearian literature are testimony to the mind-set of the Elizabethan world. Indeed, few eyebrows were raised when Dee claimed to be able to commune with spirits, and to be close to discovering the fabled ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ which granted the privilege to transmutate base metals into gold.

Acting as an adviser to the Royal Court, Dee decided upon the most auspicious date for the Queen’s coronation using astrology, and predicted the coming of the British Empire. He also travelled far and wide on the continent, functioning as a spy for the Crown. Using the code number of 007, Dee communicated intelligence back to England via a complex network of secret agents and covert ciphers.

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Dee and Kelly communing with a spirit

It was during this period that Dee befriended the psychic Edward Kelly and undertook a dangerous series of magical operations. These involved communicating with spirits and angelic entities. The two men began to decipher a mysterious language known as Enochian which permitted them deeper discussion with preternatural beings. Some say that the language is a genuine medium of communication for those inclined to study the occult, whilst sceptics argue that Enochian is merely an ingenious cypher developed by Dee himself to transmit intelligence to the Royal Court in London.

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‘this rough magic I here abjure… I’ll break my staff…’

Like all great artists, Shakespeare himself seemed to sense a spiritual, academic and cultural shift taking place during the Elizabethan era. The ascent of James I to the throne in 1603 heralded the dawning of a new age. The King was no friend of witches and soothsayers – having remorselessly persecuted them prior to the Union of The Crowns. The Tempest would be the Bard’s final play, and Prospero’s symbolic act of breaking his magical staff after the climax seems to portend the coming of an age of reason when mainstream science would completely divorce itself from magic, spirituality and the occult.

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Ian Fleming took the number 007 for his fictional secret agent Bond

Nonetheless, Dr John Dee continues to be a figure of interest for many contemporary scholars and academics. The instruments Dee and Kelly used to communicate with the angels are now on display in the British Museum, and scores of books have been written about his mysterious exploits. Ian Fleming drew upon the Queen’s conjurer’s exceptional life story and took his secret number when creating the iconic James Bond character. Daniel Craig may not sport a flowing beard and communicate with spirits during his outings as 007 – relying instead upon intelligence, vulpine instinct, and the magical genius of Q’s gadgetry to outwit adversaries.

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Instruments used by Dee and Kelly to communicate with angels and spirits on display in the British Museum.

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

Feel free to contact us on: email@magician-midlands.co.uk

Tutbury Ghost Captured on Film?

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Captured during a photo-shoot in Tutbury, Staffs, is the figure a ghost or supernatural being? Copyright 1993 Brenda Ray.

Who is the mysterious cloaked figure?

The idyllic village of Tutbury, Staffordshire is a popular haunt for day trippers who come to savour its unique charm and famous castle. Mary Queen of Scots was incarcerated here in the 16th century, and it has developed a reputation as one of the most haunted places in the British Isles.

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Appearing only once in a series of shots, the figure represents a peculiar puzzle! Copyright 1993, Brenda Ray.

In 1993 Brenda Ray captured the image of a peculiar cloaked figure in the village whilst conducting a photo shoot. This has since been the subject of much speculation, and the story surrounding the mysterious apparition is truly incredible. Indeed, perhaps at some time in the future, Brenda may decide to publish an account of her extraordinary experiences.

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An award-winning short-story writer, Brenda has been interested in the supernatural since childhood.

The supernatural is a subject which has interested Ms Ray since childhood and often features within her literary work. An award winning author, Brenda has recently published two collections of short stories: ‘The Siren of Salamanca’ (2008) and ‘Gondwanaland’ (2013) to much critical acclaim.

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Humorous, mysterious, thought-provoking and highly entertaining – Brenda’s recent collections of short stories.

As someone who was brought up on a diet of Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft and Roald Dahl, I could identify and appreciate Brenda’s genius immediately. Haunting, vivid and tantalising, her stories often leave the reader with more questions than answers. After all, there is nothing more mysterious than the unresolved…

For more details about Brenda and her work please visit: Brenda Ray Writes

Visit Brenda’s Amazon Page to obtain copies of her books: Brenda Ray Amazon

David Fox is a professional entertainer and freelance writer based in the UK. Visit his website at: www.davidfoxmagician.co.uk

 

 

Dreams – what do they mean?

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The Moon of the Tarot represents the realm of the subconscious… The realm of dreams….

What are dreams and why do we have them? The ancients believed them to be cryptic communiqués from the Gods. In more recent times, Sigmund Freud held dreams to be revelations of repressed anxieties whilst his student, Carl Jung, considered them to be important messages we can use to resolve problems. They come in a variety of forms: vivid, pleasant, nightmarish, recurring… Here are seven of our most common dreams and their meanings.

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1. Falling

We will all experience the sensation of falling in a dream at least five times in a lifetime. It is agreed that this type of dream is indicative of losing control of a particular aspect of your life. Through the act of falling, we are being subconsciously prompted to reclaim the initiative and organise ourselves better.

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2. Naked in a Public Place

One of the most unpleasant dreams is to find yourself stark naked in a public place! Are you afraid of being found out for making a mistake? Facing up to the situation now and being honest will always gain you respect in the eyes of your peers. This could be daunting, but you won’t be spotted au naturel in dreamland again!

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3. Not Prepared for an Exam

There is nothing worse than not being ready to sit an exam. The dreamer may never even enter the exam room, but the feelings of helplessness are terrifying. Students are being warned to take more responsibility for their studies. The dream may also represent a fear of failure and of new challenges. Remember the mantra: if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again…

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4. Being Chased

Your legs seem to be encased in concrete and whoever (or whatever) is pursing you is gaining ground rapidly… This dream is said to symbolise a refusal to stand up to a particular person, or problem, in your life. Can you identify your pursuer? If so, you will discover the source of your consternation. If you cannot see this threat, you may in fact be running away from an unsavoury aspect of yourself.

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5. Missing a Train, Bus or Plane

In the internet age, we all have hectic schedules and it is normal to miss a transport connection. Dreaming about such a stressful occurrence is commonplace and suggests that you need to think more carefully about your time management. Perhaps your diary is too full and it’s time for a vacation? It could also indicate that you are feeling regret for not seizing an opportunity.

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6. Flying
The feeling is normally exhilarating. Dreamers who recount ‘flying’ during their sleep usually do so positively. This phenomenon reveals that you are attaining new giddy heights in personal development. Be proud of your achievements and continue to reach for the stars. However, if you feel somewhat ‘tethered’ to the ground in your dream, something in waking life may be holding you back.

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7. Dreaming of a Deceased Loved One

When a dearly departed family member or friend pays you a visit during your dream, it should be considered a great blessing. Many cultures believe that this is actually the spirit of the deceased returning to offer reassurance and guidance. The more vivid the dream is, the more details you can draw upon in order to find a solution to a problem.
We hope this short guide will help you unlock the mysteries of your dreams. Why not keep a pen and paper at the side of your bed and write them down on waking? Because, as Shakespeare once said: ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on.’

The author of the article is David Fox, a professional entertainer based in the UK. David also functions as a freelance writer. His website is: www.davidfoxmagic.co.uk

Do you have any of your own stories you would like to share with us? Send an email to: email@magician-midlands.co.uk

UFO Attack! The Strange Tale of Robert Taylor – A Victim of Alien Assault?

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An artist’s impression of what Taylor reported

Since time immemorial human beings have pondered the existence of alien life. Are we alone in this universe? Or do intelligent beings exist which could pose a threat to our very existence?

I have always harboured an interest in UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) and this was piqued following a very illuminating conversation with a security guard at Cambridge University several years ago. The gentleman in question told me about his career working with the police at airports around the UK.

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Strange objects in the sky are reported every day like this saucer in New York State, 1966

He reminisced about the first time he obtained a statement from a distressed pilot regarding a strange object that had circled his plane over the North Sea. Poker-faced, the policeman dutifully recorded the aviator’s observations and filed the report. As a hardened law enforcer, he dismissed the captain’s account as a delusion – possibly triggered by fatigue or stress. Nonetheless, after taking scores of similar statements by the time he decided to retire several years later, his opinion had somewhat softened. He was now willing to believe in the existence of extra- terrestrials, and had even observed some perplexing phenomena in the sky himself.

However, this is not the only example of the authorities seriously considering the existence of intelligence beyond our world. The bizarre story of Robert Taylor (1919 – 2007) from Livingston, West Lothian, resulted in the police opening a criminal investigation. To date, it is the only known case of a law enforcement agency filing criminal charges as a result of a potential alien assault.

On the evening of 9th November 1979 Taylor, a forestry worker, appeared at his home in Livingston in a distressed state. His clothing was torn and he bore scratches on his face and legs. His anxious wife promptly summoned a doctor along with the local constabulary.

Taylor explained that he had parked his van close to the M8 motorway and entered woodland at Dechmont Law. After walking along a path for several hundred yards, he suddenly became aware of an acrid burning odour. Suddenly, in a clearing before him, a large ‘silver domed’ object loomed large.

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Many UFO photographs and sightings are hoaxes like this one from Sheffield, UK

The dark silvery saucer hovered above the treeline and appeared to have propellers. Taylor was only able to observe the craft briefly before he was set upon by a host of aggressive spherical entities. The metallic balls seized him and attempted to drag him towards the mother ship. After struggling violently for a few moments he lost consciousness.

When Taylor awoke, the UFO and its sinister crew had vanished. On returning to his van, he was unable to start the engine and was forced to trudge back home to Livingston in a disorientated and ragged state.

Incredibly, the police took Taylor’s account very seriously and he accompanied them on a trip back to the site of his alleged attack. Mysterious markings were found in the clearing and a criminal investigation was duly opened.

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Taylor returned to the scene of his attack with the police, and strange markings were found around the clearing

A commemorative plaque has since been placed at the site, and Ufologists celebrate Taylor’s close encounter as evidence that we are not alone. The fact that the authorities chose to accept his account as credible helps to legitimise their cause. However, sceptics are not so convinced. Some believe that the forestry worker may have experienced some sort of break-down or seizure; whilst others dismiss the Dechmont UFO as a crude hoax.

Nonetheless, the case will continue to raise many questions. Why were the police so willing to accept Taylor’s account? And for what purpose would he fabricate such an outlandish story which could potentially harm his reputation?

Do you have any other interesting stories about UFOs or strange phenomena? If so, please email them to us at: email@magician-midlands.co.uk

The author of the article is David Fox a professional entertainer and freelance writer based in the UK.

Follow David on Facebook: www.facebook.com/davidfoxmagician

Twitter: DavidFoxMagic

Website: www.davidfoxmagician.co.uk

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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

Wolf Messing: The Man Who Mesmerised Stalin. Clairvoyant or Conjurer?

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‘The future shapes itself from the past and the present, and there are certain models or bonds between.’

Adolf Hitler placed a 200,000 Reichsmark bounty upon his head, Josef Stalin was mesmerised by his extraordinary talents, and Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein were baffled by his telepathic abilities. He gained an international reputation as a psychic entertainer par excellence and enjoyed celebrity status in the former Soviet Union. The legend of Wolf Messing continues to mystify and astound, but why are so few people in the West aware of this incredible individual?

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Messing’s performances were legendary in both pre-war Europe and Soviet Russia

Messing was born in Poland in 1899 into a respectable middle class Jewish family, and from an early age he exhibited extraordinary talents: an uncanny ability to predict future events, divine the thoughts of others, and find concealed items. But it was Messing’s curious capability to inexplicably influence the actions of friends, relatives and neighbours which caused the most amazement. The eccentric young man eventually defied his parent’s wishes to become a rabbi and travelled west to Berlin to seek his fortune.

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Messing is said to have amazed both Einstein and Freud with telepathy.

Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, Messing toured extensively with a circus and quickly established himself as a sensational showman. Audiences throughout Europe marvelled at what appeared to be genuine feats of telepathy, psychic ability and clairvoyance. His act was unique and clearly very different from that of a classic conjurer or illusionist. Indeed, Messing’s famous meeting with Freud and Einstein illustrates this fact. Both men were extremely curious about his purported ability to read minds and they set him a task. Freud would attempt to transmit a thought to Messing and he would then have to reveal this. The Polish man of mystery successfully completed the task by leaving the room, collecting a pair of tweezers, and returning to pluck a hair from Einstein’s moustache – which was exactly what Freud had ‘willed’ him to do! However, as Messing’s star was rising, so too was the tyranny of the Third Reich, and he was forced to return to his homeland.

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Hitler was said to be wary of Messing and the Nazis placed a bounty upon his head.

 ‘If Hitler declares war in the east, his death awaits him.’

Messing’s potent prediction did not endear him to the Fuhrer and, after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, he was hunted down by the Gestapo. Nonetheless, sanctuary would be found to the east and, after crossing the Russian border, Messing received a summons from the Man of Steel himself. Having escaped the brutality of Hitler, he was now faced with the prospect of a precarious meeting in Moscow with Josef Stalin. Mercifully, the Russian leader was deeply impressed and intrigued by his now legendary status – not to mention his captivating performances. He decided to set the Pole a task to prove he truly had the ability to influence the thoughts of others…

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Stalin was amazed by Messing’s extraordinary feats and apparent psychic abilities.

On a typically bitter Moscow morning, Messing answered a brusque knock on his apartment door to be greeted by the ominous figures of two secret police officers. He was then tersely ordered to rob 100,000 roubles from a bank using only his powers of suggestion and influence. Stalin had devised a seemingly impossible test. Nonetheless, never a man to shirk from a challenge, Messing accepted the task and promptly proceeded to relieve the bank of this massive sum. Somehow he managed to convince the teller that the blank piece of paper he presented was in fact an ‘official document’ which authorised the gargantuan transaction. Stalin was amazed and invited Messing to visit him at his dacha (country retreat) on the outskirts of Moscow.

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Stalin’s dacha was heavily fortified but Messing defied the odds and mysteriously appeared in the Soviet leader’s study.

One of the most heavily fortified places on the face of the planet during this period, and until his death in 1953 – Stalin’s dacha was an impregnable citadel. A perimeter fence was manned constantly, and no fewer than 300 agents of the NKVD (later to be the KGB) prowled the compound ensuring maximum safety for their leader. Indeed, Stalin seldom left his office in the heart of the complex and was profoundly bewildered when Wolf Messing mysteriously materialised in his study unannounced. The Soviet leader was in awe of the Polish wizard and demanded to know how he had achieved the unachievable. Messing calmly explained how he had used his powers of suggestion to convince Stalin’s guards that he was in fact Bera (the head of the secret police). Clearly they had believed him and some accounts state that this sensational feat would earn Messing a commission working for the NKVD. However, he would refute this claim in his biography in later life. Legend has it that he taught the officers of the Soviet secret police the dark arts of telepathy, mind-reading and psychological influence, but Messing dismissed this forcefully as nonsense to his biographer Tatiana Lungin.

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Messing had visions of Russian tanks entering Berlin during the early years of conflict and successfully predicted the date the war ended.

 ‘The war will end on 9th May 1945’

Messing was famous for his predictions, but the one he made in Novosibirsk on 7th March 1944 would cement this reputation. The war did indeed end on the day he said after the cessation of German military operations at 23.01 on 8th May 1945. He had also spoken of having visions of Russian tanks in Berlin throughout the early years of Operation Barbarossa. Messing was now celebrated as a national icon, and would also gain a reputation beyond the Iron Curtain, proudly claiming prominent post-war admirers such as Mahatma Ghandi and Marilyn Monroe. Stalin’s favourite psychic continued to tour and amaze audiences until his death in 1974.

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Wolf Messing claimed to have the ability to see the future and that science could not currently explain this.

Messing’s phenomenal life-story is surely just as astonishing as the incredible feats he is reported to have performed on-stage. There are many Russians today who still believe that he was a true mystic who was blessed with some sort of preternatural power. However, sceptics would argue that his act consisted of effects which are very much the stock-in-trade of mentalists and magicians. Indeed, contemporary entertainers readily convince audiences that they can predict future events, read minds and influence actions. Was Wolf Messing genuinely a man with a wonderful psychic capability? Or was he merely a highly talented magician/mentalist who managed to dupe one of the most powerful dictators the world has ever known? To this day much of his life remains a mystery and there are said to be secret KGB files concerning his famous talents which have yet to be disclosed to the public…

For a documentary click the link: Wolf Messing Psychically Robs a Bank.

The author of the article is David Fox. A professional magician and freelance writer who is based in the UK. For more details, visit his website at: http://www.magician-midlands.co.uk

‘Wolf Messing: The True Story of Russia’s Greatest Psychic’ by Tatiana Lungin is available from Glagoslav Publications

Harry Price: Dweller on the Threshold

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‘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.

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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.

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‘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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

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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

Colin Wilson – The Outsider

Magician David Fox pays tribute to a genuis.

‘From a fairly early age, I developed the conviction that most people waste their lives because they see the world falsely… such a person accepts a set of social values without question, like a sheep that never feels curious about what lies on the other side of the hedge.’

Colin Wilson

The great Oscar Wilde once stated that ‘we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars’. Such a profound aphorism readily defines the intriguing personality of one of Britain’s most prolific writers: Colin Wilson. A man who dedicated his life to the pursuit of greater understanding and knowledge; Wilson sought to push the boundaries and venture into areas of study which many (even in the 21st century) would view with scepticism, disdain, and even disgust. Wilson addressed a variety of subjects, from the 1950s onwards, which resided on the hinterland of modern rational twentieth century society. These included: the occult, true crime, sexuality and the psychology of serial killers. Indeed, Wilson seemed naturally motivated to venture into hitherto unexplored realms of  the human psyche, and articulated his findings masterfully and insightfully to his readership.

The publication of ‘The Outsider’ in 1956 quickly brought Wilson much acclaim. His analysis of  famous individuals throughout history who had been predisposed to rebel in one way or another against the prevailing social axioms of their ages, clearly tapped into the prevailing post-second world war zeitgeist. Wilson identified a tremendous sense of social alienation in all of these outsiders, from Vincent Van Gough to Albert Camus, and throughout his life he would remain a champion of existentialist thought and philosophy.

‘Civilisation cannot evolve further until ‘the occult’ is taken for granted on the same level as atomic energy.’

However, it was when Wilson was commissioned to produce an in-depth study of the occult that the focus of his work shifted onto what some would describe as ‘supernatural’. An extensive period of research spawned three seminal works in this area: ‘The Occult’ (1971), ‘Mysteries’ (1978) and ‘Beyond the Occult’  (1988). What is intriguing is that Wilson initially approached this vast subject as a sceptic, but quickly realised that it warranted serious consideration and analysis. The so-called ‘Occult Explosion’ of the 1960s demonstrated the perpetual human urge for deeper self-awareness and spiritual development. The Occident may have created the first nuclear weapons and sent rockets into space, but there appeared to be a spiritual void in the lives of many. Modern science and technology had without doubt alleviated much of life’s immediate problems, but the curious spirit of man knows no boundaries.

‘I believe that the human mind has reached a point in evolution where it is about to develop new powers – powers that would once have been considered magical.’

‘The Occult’ is a wonderful analysis of what some would define as the ‘magical arts’ through the ages. From the ancient Egyptians, to the Kabbalists and modern magicians such as Crowley and Gurdieff, Wilson provides an engaging thesis on an alternative viewpoint of human evolution. He clearly appreciates that from the late 17th Century onwards, cold rationalism began to stifle much of Western man’s potentialities: ‘The science of men like Albertus Magnus, Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus may have been crude and defective but it was based on this instinctive recognition of the psychic links between man and nature. The science of Newton, Huygens and Priestley was incomparably more accurate, but it had lost belief in the invisible links.’ Indeed, much of the evidence that Wilson presents in his studies on the occult surely demonstrates that modern science simply cannot provide satisfactory solutions for much of the phenomena we experience throughout our mortal existence.

‘Magic was not the ‘science’ of the past. It is the science of the future.’

Wilson essentially understood that a human being is far more complex (and potentially infinitely more powerful) than is fully appreciated in the modern technological era. We live most of our lives effectively ensconced within a bubble of accepted ‘facts’, rules, regulations, prejudices and misconceptions about our very existence and place in the universe. If only there was a way out? If only human beings could learn how to emancipate themselves from the often painful existence of mundane life? Wilson defines our largely latent potentialities as ‘Faculty X’ and appreciates that the human mind ‘has always possessed greater powers than we now realise: of telepathy, premonition of danger, second sight, thaumaturgy (the power to heal).’

‘…it is almost impossible to avoid the conclusion that the human mind is a vaster and stranger realm than we ever supposed.’

Wilson explored a myriad of fascinating subjects within the domain of the occult, these include: poltergeist activity, dowsing, spiritualism, ritual magic, life after death and astrology, to name but a few. His written style is highly engaging and he did confess that he saw himself as an author as opposed to a researcher (he was also a prolific novelist). Nonetheless, they do raise serious questions about modern science’s current uneasy relationship with these matters. Wilson has collected a wealth of data from a variety of sources throughout the world which does suggest that there are truly ‘more things in heaven and earth’. Approaching Wilson’s work with an open mind will most certainly provide the inquirer with much food for thought.