As part of my continuing series on the controversial direct-voice medium Leslie Flint, I have a few excerpts from a 1980 book called Love after Death, by Victoria Stevenson. To be honest, I don't find this material very interesting or evidential, but for purposes of thoroughness, I've decided to include it.
After losing her husband Bob, Victoria spent a good deal of time trying to make contact with him via mediums, electronic voice phenomena, and other means. In 1972 she had her first of two sittings with Leslie Flint. She notes:
He is so much sought after by people from all over the world that I had to make the appointment months in advance .…
Seven of us gathered in his sitting-room, settled on easy chairs and settees, and one couple even sat on the floor at Mr. Flint's feet with their tape-recorders .… [I wonder if they were Betty Greene and George Woods? - MP]
The lights were turned out and we all sat in complete darkness. Mr. Flint gave the date of the sitting and introduced himself, saying that no medium could guarantee results. We might, he said, sit there for an hour with nothing happening. There was nothing one could do about it. The important thing was to be natural .…
"The voices vary," he went on. "Sometimes they're loud, distinct, clear, with a personality and characteristics. At other times they don't sound a scrap like the person they are. It's one of those things! One doesn't know what the answers will be .… But even if you don't recognize the voice let it realize you respond. It's not so much the sound of the voice but what it says that really is important, I think."
He went on to say he didn't go into trances. "It would be very unusual if I do. I'm quite normal, and if I think it necessary to talk to the voices I will, but I prefer to keep out of the picture."…
If anyone for any reason, he told us, was not satisfied with the sitting he didn't want a fee.
The sitters talked among themselves in darkness until Mickey, Flint's spirit control, started speaking. When he got to Victoria, he told her that her husband was there.
"He knew you were coming this afternoon," Micky [sic] said, "and … I don't know what he means by … changing your route … but he says you weren't quite sure whether that was the right way."[Ellipses in original.]
"You are quite right," I said. Mr. Flint's flat is in a part of London I didn't know well.
"And you couldn't quite make up your mind and he had to lead you because he didn't want you to get lost!"
Since many first-time visitors to Flint might have had trouble finding his place, this comment is not necessarily very evidential.
Rather curiously, Mickey then turned his attention to another sitter, asking, "Are you Bobby?" She was not. "That's funny. Someone here is talking about Bobby. Is there someone here called Bobby?" Victoria's husband was Bob, so she identified "Bobby" as a message for her.
What's odd about this, if we assume that genuine communication was going on, is that Mickey was just talking to the husband a moment earlier, and yet now he seems to be hearing from a different person altogether – "someone here is talking about Bobby." Bobby is a pretty common name, and it's hard to resist the conclusion that Mickey was simply fishing in the expectation that one of the seven sitters would know somebody with that name or a similar name. It's possible, however, that someone else in the crowd of communicators was talking about the husband (we are told that a whole bunch of family members showed up on the other side).
In any event, Bob himself was next to speak. Victoria tells us:
It didn't sound like Bob's voice – and I told him so. He sounded so grand.
"That's because I'm having to speak through this confounded box!" he said.
He spoke about voices that Victoria had recorded on tape – which might sound evidential, except that she and the other sitters had been talking about these voices before Mickey showed up. (The fact that she freely discussed these personal details in front of the medium does not speak well for her understanding of the protocols necessary to guard against fraud.)
She adds, "He talked of our home and put personal questions." But unfortunately we get no details, so it's impossible to know if Bob said anything specific or merely offered generalities that Victoria, who was clearly eager for contact, seized upon.
Then quite suddenly a voice called across:
This is my first name, the one my family always called me by.
"This is Mother!" It was a light, bright, feminine voice. I recognized it at once as Mother's.
Well, she "recognized it" after it had been identified to her. The fact that the name Doris was used may or may not be significant, depending on how much Flint knew of his guests, and what name she used when making the appointment.
She concludes, "It was a marvelous sitting and afterwards people crowded around me and congratulated me .…"
A year later, in 1973, she had a second sitting with Flint. Mickey came through as usual, asking one of the sitters, "Did you come with that lady, Vic? ... Are you with Vicky?… It's one of the names people call you, but it's not the name commonly used."
This seemed to me remarkable evidence: my Christian names are Doris Victoria, the first used by my family, and the second I use as my pen-name. I replied:
"Quite right, Micky [sic]. How did you know?"
"Because your Mum's telling me."
Again, it's unclear how much Flint knew about his guests. A year had passed, long enough that a fraudulent medium would have had time to find out that his sitter in 1972 used a pen name.
Then, "Victoria!" came over the air, very faintly.
"Victoria!" A soft feminine voice whispered this a second time. "I'm not sure whether you can hear what I'm saying. Can you hear me? It's Mother."
"But – you never called me by my second name before!"
"I know." The voice was audible, but faint. "But I thought today I would, because it's not usual for you to use that name .…"
This doesn't make much sense to me. If anything, it seems counter-evidential. Assuming that the mother normally referred to her daughter as Doris, then calling her by the other name would seem like a "character error," as we say in the writing trade.
Victoria goes on to say that the voice did not sound "quite like" her mother's voice. The mother blamed "this box, I suppose. I don't understand much about it. All I know is that I could come and speak through – this box business – and I hope you can hear what I'm saying!"
She added that Bob was with her, as was Charles. Victoria didn't know anybody named Charles. Another very common name. Another fishing expedition?
Mickey assured her that "there was a Charles on your father's side of the family." There's no indication that Victoria ever confirmed this. Mickey then gave Victoria's married name, and a little later, a lady, "pushing herself in," introduced herself as Nell. Victoria tells us, "I'd recently lost a dear friend of that name." But she doesn't say whether the Nell communicator was specifically addressing her, or whether the name was simply thrown out there for any sitter to pick up on. Nor does she indicate that Nell said anything evidential about her passing, her relationship with Victoria, etc.
After this, Bob came through again.
He mentioned music and I asked him if it helped when we played it at home.
"That's what I mean. I try my utmost to draw near to you, and I must say I find music's a great help."
Without a transcript, it's impossible to be sure, but it sounds like Bob made a very general statement about music, which Victoria interpreted in a specific way – music that she played at home – an interpretation that Bob picked up on by saying that the music helped him to draw closer.
Following some other business with Mickey, the name Doris was again offered by a voice identifying itself as Bob. He said he was "so amused at Mother calling you Victoria," explaining that her mom "thought it would be interesting to let her know [she] hadn't forgotten [Victoria's] second name."
This doesn't help to clarify the character error. It sounds to me as if using the name Victoria was a mistake from which the "communicators" were still trying to recover.
At the end of the chapter, Victoria betrays her lack of knowledge of direct-voice mediumship in general, saying that for a long time she had no idea why the sittings were held in darkness or what the term "box" meant.
It was not until this book was about to be published that I put the question to Mr. Flint, who told me that Physical Mediums work in darkness as power and energy are drawn from the body of the medium and exude, as ectoplasm, a living substance which forms the artificial voice box.
It's hard to understand how somebody could attend two séances with Leslie Flint and even write a book about it without knowing these rather elemental facts.
Overall, as you can tell, I'm not impressed with this author or with these accounts. But there really isn't much to go on. Everything we've been told could probably be accounted for in terms of cold reading, warm reading (generalized statements that apply to most people), and hot reading (research into a sitter's background). The voices apparently did not sound much, if anything, like their living counterparts, and nothing that sounds particularly evidential was communicated. Victoria was obviously eager to be convinced and accepted whatever she was told (though she does say that she continued her quest, seeking still more proof), and she doesn't seem to have taken any precautions to protect her personal information.
I don't think we can conclude much from this narrative, but there it is. The investigation continues!