Eileen Garrett


















Harry Price & Eileen Garrett - the highly respected 20th century trance medium

Eileen Garrett photographed at a sitting in September 1936 (Photograph - Mary Evans Picture Library).

Eileen Garrett (1893-1970) was one of the most respected mediums of the twentieth century who, it will be seen from this short biographical note, lived a life full of tragedy.  She was born in Beauparc, County Meath in Ireland and was brought up by an aunt and uncle as her parents both committed suicide shortly after her birth.  During her childhood she suffered from tuberculosis and this recurring illness together with other respiratory problems resulted in her leaving Ireland and moving to live with relatives in England at the age of fifteen.  Shortly after she married but sadly three of her four children died in childhood and after a returning bout of illness her marriage ended in divorce.  During the First World War she met and married a young soldier but again tragedy struck as he was killed in action at Ypres.  A month before the Armistice was declared, Eileen married for the third time. 

With the war over she entered the phase of her life when her psychic abilities began to be developed, but she was plagued with ill health and again her marriage broke up.  A Mrs. Kelway Bamber was the first person to persuade Eileen Garrett to develope her mediumistic abilities and this was continued through a long association with Hewart McKenzie, the founder of the College of Psychic Studies who trained Eileen through until his death in 1929.

Harry Price first came into contact with Eileen Garrett in the Spring of 1923 when she attended the sittings which Price organised with the young British nurse Stella Cranshaw (Stella C) at the rooms of the London Spiritualist Alliance.  Eileen Garrett was present for eleven out of the total of thirteen sittings in the first series of experiments and experienced phenomena herself which included the vision of a tall girl standing behind Stella Cranshaw whom it was suggested was the medium's control, "Palma".

In 1932-33, Eileen Garrett toured the United States where she carried out sittings with a number of organisations which included the John Hopkins University and the New York Psychiatric Institute.  This began a period of experimentation and study into the fundamentals of mediumship and psychic activity in an attempt to evaluate and understand what actions and processes were involved which involved much travelling between America and Europe.  She was in France during the early years of the Second World War but left for the United States on a refugee boat via Lisbon and the end of 1940.  After her arrival in New York she established a monthly magazine devoted to literary and public affairs and created a new publishing firm, the Creative Age Press.

In 1951, together with Francis P. Bolton, Eileen Garrett established the Parapsychology Foundation with the intention of providing a worldwide forum of support for the scientific study of psychic phenomena.  Today this organisation mirrors what Harry Price was trying to achieve back in 1926 with the formation of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research.  The Parapsychology Foundation, which encourages and supports impartial scientific enquiry into the psychical aspects of human nature, publishes international journals devoted to current psychical research (cf. Price's British Journal of Psychical Research and Bulletins), has a grant program which supports research work (which Price intended to establish with his bequest to the University of London in 1933) and has the Eileen J. Garrett Library which is one of the world's major resources of parapsychological literature (cf. the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature at the Senate House at the University of London). 

The wreckage of the airship R101 which crashed into a hillside near Beauvais in France on October 5th, 1930 (Photograph - Mary Evans Picture Library)

After a lifetime devoted to the furtherance of mediumship and psychical research, Eileen Garrett died of bone cancer on September 15th, 1970.

Harry Price's most famous association with Eileen Garrett was in October 1930 at a single séance conducted at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research where the intention was to try and make contact with the recently deceased Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Price's long time sparring partner following his exposure of William Hope way back in 1922.  During the sitting, Eileen Garrett was apparently taken over an entity who identified itself as Flight-Lieutenant H. Carmichael Irwin who had died in the crash of the airship R101 which had hit a hillside near Beauvais in France two days earlier.  During the course of the séance, "Irwin" gave a highly detailed and technical appraisal of what went wrong with the airship which included information about the construction and powering of the dirigible.  This information was later checked by a member of the Air Ministry in an unofficial capacity and was found to be amazingly accurate - seventy per cent was absolutely correct and another twenty per cent was declared to be most likely.  News of the séance was withheld until after the public enquiry into the disaster had taken place, when Harry Price gave a lecture on the sitting at the National Laboratory and it subsequently made headlines around the world.

This section of the website deals with Harry Price's brief association with Eileen Garrett, a medium with whom Harry Price was most impressed and whose career he followed with interest, although they never worked together again.  However, Eileen Garrett does feature again in the Harry Price story, namely in connection with Marianne Foyster who was a major player in the Borley Rectory case.  In 1958, Trevor Hall, one of the co-authors of the highly critical 1956 'Borley Report' into Harry Price's investigation of Borley Rectory arranged for a private investigator named Robert Swanson to interview Marianne Foyster concerning her time at Borley between 1930-35.  Marianne had by this time emigrated to the United States as a "G.I. Bride" and it was here that she was persuaded to carry out a series of interviews with Swanson at the Parapsychological Foundation in New York.  Eileen Garrett met Marianne Foyster and had a subsequent correspondence with Trevor Hall concerning Marianne and her attitude to Harry Price whom she regarded as a faker and someone who would have produced the haunting effects at Borley for his own purposes.

Eileen Garrett's surviving daughter Eileen Coly who will be 90 in 2006 still serves as President of the Parapsychology Foundation while her grand daughter Lisette Coly is currently Executive Director of the same organisation.

As with other sections of the website, articles and papers by Harry Price and his contemporaries are included alongside modern essays and writings.  Click on the titles to access the articles.

"Lieutenant Irwin" Tells How the R101 Crashed by Harry Price (1933)   The complete text of Chapter VI of Price's Leaves from a Psychist's Case-Book which describes the complete protocol of the seance with Eileen Garrett in October 1930.




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