Eileen J. Garrett

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eileen J. Garrett
BornEileen Jeanette Vancho Lyttle Garrett
(1892-03-14)14 March 1892
Beauparc, County Meath, Ireland
Died15 September 1970(1970-09-15) (aged 77)
Nice, France
OccupationMedium, Parapsychologist, writer
NationalityIrish Republic of Ireland
Period20th Century
GenreNew Age
Literary movementSpiritualism

Eileen Jeanette Vancho Lyttle Garrett (14 March 1892 – 15 September 1970) was an Irish medium and parapsychologist.[1] Garrett's alleged psychic abilities were tested in the 1930s by Joseph Rhine and others. Rhine claimed that she had genuine psychic abilities, but subsequent studies were unable to replicate his results, and Garrett's abilities were later shown to be consistent with chance guessing.[2] Garrett elicited controversy after the R101 crash, when she held a series of séances at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research claiming to be in contact with victims of the disaster. John Booth, and others, investigated her claims, and found them to be valueless, easily explainable, or the result of fraud.[3][4]

Garrett was married three times, and had four children. Garrett died after a long illness on 15 September 1970, in Nice, France.[5]


Garrett was born in Beauparc, County Meath in Ireland on 17 March 1893.[6] Her parents committed suicide and Garrett went to live with her aunt.[7] Garrett admitted she had a very unpleasant childhood and because of the anger of her aunt would "separate into a world of her own" where she could dissociate from her surroundings. She claimed to have developed psychic ability in her youth. She later married and claimed to hear voices and show symptoms of a dissociative identity disorder. Both Garrett and her husband believed she was on the "brink of madness", however, Garrett came to accept her condition and took up trance mediumship.[8] The psychologist Jan Ehrenwald wrote that Garrett's claims of psychic ability could easily be explained by "megalomania... ideas of grandeur" as she experienced mental dissociation, hallucinations and had an eccentric disposition from her childhood.[9]

Garrett married three times. Her first marriage was to Clive Barry and they had three sons, all of whom died young, and a daughter, Eileen Coly, who took interest in parapsychology.[5] Garrett worked at a hostel for wounded soldiers during World War I.[5] In 1931 she was invited to the United States by the American Society for Psychical Research and performed experiments for various psychical researchers in both America and Europe until the 1950s.[10] Garrett was not a proponent of the spiritualist hypothesis and attributed her mediumship not to spirits but to the activity of a "magnetic field".[11] Garrett wrote "In all my years' professional mediumship I have had no "sign", "test" or slightest evidence to make me believe I have contacted another world." She considered that her trance controls were personalities from her subconscious and admitted to the parapsychologist Peter Underwood, "I do not believe in individual survival after death".[12]

The main trance controls of Garrett were known as "Abdul Latif" and "Uvani".[13] In 1934 Garrett voluntarily submitted herself to an analysis by the psychologist William Brown and by word-association tests by the psychical researcher Whately Carington. The tests had proven that her controls were secondary personalities from her subconscious, organised around repressed material.[14] The psychical researcher Hereward Carrington with his colleagues also examined the trance controls in many séance sittings. They utilised instruments to measure everything from galvanic skin response to blood pressure and concluded from the results that the controls were nothing more than secondary personalities of Garrett and there was no spirits or telepathy involved.[15]

Garrett regarded her trance controls as "principles of the subconscious" formed by her own inner needs.[5] She founded the Parapsychology Foundation in New York City in 1951.[16]

Garrett founded the Creative Age Press publishing house, which she later sold to Farrar, Straus and Young. She also edited Tomorrow magazine.[17]

Garrett died after a long illness on 15 September 1970, in Nice, France.[5]

Clairvoyance tests[edit]

Garrett took part in "clairvoyance" tests. One of the tests was organized by Joseph Rhine at Duke University in 1933 which involved Zener cards. Certain symbols that were placed on the cards and sealed in an envelope, and participants were asked to guess their contents. She performed poorly and later criticized the tests by claiming the cards lacked a psychic energy called "energy stimulus" and that she could not perform clairvoyance to order.[18]

The parapsychologist Samuel Soal and his colleagues tested Garrett in May 1937. Most of the experiments were carried out in the Psychological Laboratory at the University College London. A total of over 12,000 guesses were recorded but Garrett failed to produce above chance level.[2] In his report Soal wrote:

In the case of Mrs. Eileen Garrett we fail to find the slightest confirmation of Dr. J. B. Rhine's remarkable claims relating to her alleged powers of extra-sensory perception. Not only did she fail when I took charge of the experiments, but she failed equally when four other carefully trained experimenters took my place.[19]

The experiments of Rhine and the Zener cards used in the 1930s were discovered to contain procedural errors and flaws, the results have not replicated when the experiments have been conducted in other laboratories.[20][21][22] Science writer Terence Hines has written "the methods used to prevent subjects from gaining hints and clues as to the design on the cards were far from adequate."[23] Leonard Zusne and Warren Jones wrote "the keeping of records in Rhine's experiments was inadequate. Sometimes, the subject would help with the checking of his or her calls against the order of cards. In some long-distance telepathy experiments, the order of the cards passed through the hands of the percipient before it got from Rhine to the agent."[24]


On 7 October 1930 it was claimed by spiritualists that Garrett made contact with the spirit of Herbert Carmichael Irwin at a séance held with Harry Price at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research two days after the R101 disaster, while attempting to contact the then recently deceased Arthur Conan Doyle, and discussed possible causes of the accident.[4] The event "attracted worldwide attention", thanks to the presence of a reporter.[25] Major Oliver Villiers, a friend of Brancker, Scott, Irwin, Colmore and others aboard the airship, participated in further séances with Garrett, at which he claimed to have contacted both Irwin and other victims.[26] Price did not come to any definite conclusion about Garrett and the séances:

It is not my intention to discuss if the medium were really controlled by the discarnate entity of Irwin, or whether the utterances emanated from her subconscious mind or those of the sitters. "Spirit" or "trance personality" would be equally interesting explanations – and equally remarkable. There is no real evidence for either hypothesis. But it is not my intention to discuss hypotheses, but rather to put on record the detailed account of a remarkably interesting and thought-provoking experiment.[27]

In 1978, paranormal writer John G. Fuller wrote a book claiming that Irwin had spoken through Garrett.[28] This claim has been questioned. Magician John Booth analyzed the mediumship of Garrett and the paranormal claims of R101 and considered her to be a fraud. According to Booth, Garrett's notes and writings show she followed the building of the R101 and she may have been given aircraft blueprints from a technician from the aerodrome.[3]

However, Melvin Harris, a researcher who studied the original scripts from the case, wrote that no secret accomplice was needed as the information described in Garrett's séances were "either commonplace, easily absorbed bits and pieces, or plain gobbledegook. The so-called secret information just doesn't exist."[4] Harris discovered that the original scripts of the séances did not contain any secret information and spiritualist writers such as Fuller had fabricated and misinterpreted content from these scripts. When experts and veteran pilots were shown the scripts they declared the information to be incorrect and technically empty.[4]

Archie Jarman, who had interviewed witnesses and wrote an 80,000-word report on the case, concluded that the information from the séance was valueless, and that one should "best forget the psychic side of R-101; it's a dead duck— absolutely!"[4]


  • My Life as a Search for the Meaning of Mediumship (1938)
  • Telepathy in Search of a Lost Faculty (1941)
  • Adventures in the Supernormal: A Personal Memoir (1949)
  • The Sense and Nonsense of Prophecy (1950)
  • Does Man Survive Death (1951)
  • Many Voices: The Autobiography of a Medium (1968)


  1. ^ Raymond Buckland. (2005). The Spirit Book: The Encyclopedia of Clairvoyance, Channeling, and Spirit Communication. Visible Ink Press. p. 157. ISBN 978-1578592135
  2. ^ a b A. S. Russell, John Andrews Benn. (1938). Discovery the Popular Journal of Knowledge. Cambridge University Press. pp. 305–306
  3. ^ a b John Booth. (1986). Psychic Paradoxes. Prometheus Books. pp. 164–165. ISBN 978-0879753580
  4. ^ a b c d e Melvin Harris. (2003). Investigating the Unexplained: Psychic Detectives, the Amityville Horror-mongers, Jack the Ripper, and Other Mysteries of the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. pp. 171–182. ISBN 978-1591021087
  5. ^ a b c d e Rosemary Guiley. (1994). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 132–133. ISBN 978-0851127484
  6. ^ Lewis Spence. (2003). Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. Kessinger Publishing. p. 366. ISBN 978-1161361827
  7. ^ Jon Klimo. (1987). Channeling: Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources. Jeremy P. Tarcher. p. 154. ISBN 978-1556432484
  8. ^ Jenny Hazelgrove. (2000). Spiritualism and British Society Between the Wars. Manchester University Press. pp. 127–128. ISBN 978-0719055591
  9. ^ John Booth. (1986). Psychic Paradoxes. Prometheus Books. p. 193. ISBN 978-0879753580
  10. ^ Helene Pleasants. (1964). Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology with Directory and Glossary 1946–1996. New York: Garrett Publications. p. 118
  11. ^ Gordon Lewis. (1987). Confronting the Cults. P & R Publishing Company. p. 168. ISBN 978-0875523231
  12. ^ Peter Underwood . (1983). No Common Task: The Autobiography of a Ghost-Hunter. George G. Harrap & Co Ltd. p. 56. ISBN 978-0245539596
  13. ^ Daniel Cohen. (1971). Masters of the Occult. Dodd, Mead and Company. p. 211. ISBN 978-0396064077
  14. ^ Hornell Hart. (1959). The Enigma of Survival. Rider. p. 138
  15. ^ Peter H. Aykroyd, Angela Narth and Dan Aykroyd. (2009). A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters. Rodale Books. pp. 74–75. ISBN 978-1605298757
  16. ^ Lawrence Samuel. (2011). Supernatural America: A Cultural History. Praeger Publishers. p. 64. ISBN 978-0313398995
  17. ^ Keith, Joseph Joel (1 July 1951). "Books, Writers". Independent Press-Telegram. p. 9. Retrieved 25 November 2016 – via Newspapers.com. icon of an open green padlock
  18. ^ Jenny Hazelgrove. (2000). Spiritualism and British Society Between the Wars. Manchester University Press. p. 204. ISBN 978-0719055591
  19. ^ Samuel Soal. A Repetition of Dr. Rhine's work with Mrs. Eileen Garrett. Proc. S.P.R. Vol. XLII. pp. 84–85. Also quoted in Antony Flew. (1955). A New Approach To Psychical Research. Watts & Co. pp. 90–92.
  20. ^ Charles M. Wynn, Arthur W. Wiggins. (2001). Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction: Where Real Science Ends...and Pseudoscience Begins. Joseph Henry Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-309-07309-7 "In 1940, Rhine coauthored a book, Extrasensory Perception After Sixty Years in which he suggested that something more than mere guess work was involved in his experiments. He was right! It is now known that the experiments conducted in his laboratory contained serious methodological flaws. Tests often took place with minimal or no screening between the subject and the person administering the test. Subjects could see the backs of cards that were later discovered to be so cheaply printed that a faint outline of the symbol could be seen. Furthermore, in face-to-face tests, subjects could see card faces reflected in the tester’s eyeglasses or cornea. They were even able to (consciously or unconsciously) pick up clues from the tester’s facial expression and voice inflection. In addition, an observant subject could identify the cards by certain irregularities like warped edges, spots on the backs, or design imperfections."
  21. ^ Terence Hines. (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. p. 122. ISBN 978-1573929790 "The procedural errors in the Rhine experiments have been extremely damaging to his claims to have demonstrated the existence of ESP. Equally damaging has been the fact that the results have not replicated when the experiments have been conducted in other laboratories."
  22. ^ James Alcock. (2011). Back from the Future: Parapsychology and the Bem Affair. Skeptical Inquirer. "Despite Rhine's confidence that he had established the reality of extrasensory perception, he had not done so. Methodological problems with his experiments eventually came to light, and as a result parapsychologists no longer run card-guessing studies and rarely even refer to Rhine's work."
  23. ^ Terence Hines. (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. pp. 119–120. ISBN 978-1573929790
  24. ^ Leonard Zusne, Warren Jones. (1989). Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking. Psychology Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0805805086
  25. ^ "R101". Retrieved 10 September 2011.
  26. ^ Leasor, James (2001) [1957]. The Millionth Chance: The Story of the R.101. London: Stratus Books. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-7551-0048-4.
  27. ^ Harry Price. (1933). Leaves from a Psychist's Case-book. Gollancz. p. 132
  28. ^ John G. Fuller. (1978). Airman Who Would Not Die. Putnam Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0399122644

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]