Snippets from the Past is an occasional column in which items from newspapers and elsewhere that might be informative, amusing, weird, wonderful or just plain ridiculous, are posted for your edification or entertainment.
This first snippet relates to events at the Helen Duncan trial on March 30, 1944.
Magician’s Tests Cited at Witchcraft Trial
The magicians were introduced in evidence by Hannan Swaffer, well-known journalist, who said that he had been a psychic investigator for 20 years. Swaffer described ectoplasm pouring from Mrs Duncan which seemed to him “like white living snow”.
He added: “Anybody who describes this ectoplasm as butter muslin would be a child.” Handed a length of butter muslin by the defence counsel, Swaffer offered to attempt to swallow it to illustrate the difficulty of the medium trying to swallow and regurgitate such cloth. The Recorder declined the offer.
Swaffer then recounted how he had tested Mrs Duncan in 1932, with the help of four magicians who, he said, had handcuffed and tied her up with forty yards of sashcord, and lashed her thumbs together with thread.
“Even then the manifestations persisted,” said Swaffer.
He added that “Albert, the guide,” was there, and that it was Albert who released Mrs Duncan.
Like other witnesses, Swaffer said that he also had a guide – an Egyptian.
When another witness said, “We all have guides,” the Recorder commented wryly: “I don’t seem to have one regarding this evidence.”