Jack Webber is one of the best physical mediums in recent history and is an interesting materialisation medium to have emerged from Britain in recent times was the Welsh coal miner Jack Webber, whose death at the early age of thirty-three in March 1940 was a great loss to psychic research.
Webber was a simple man, a coal miner who left school at the age of fourteen to go down the pits until a few years before his death. Until he was twenty-one he not only had no inkling of his own psychic powers but treated all accounts of psychic phenomena with disbelief and scorn. It was only when he met his fiancée, who belonged to a staunch spiritualist family, that he began attending séances and in so doing learned, much to his astonishment, that he himself possessed considerable talents.
Webber’s mediumistic development is highly instructive. Most of us tend to believe that great mediums are born not made. This, of course, is true, but great mediums like other geniuses are not born fully fledged. Development of mediumship over the years only through constant practice and after much hard work.
Jack Webber demonstrated his mediumistic abilities throughout this country in home circles, and in public demonstrations to as many as five hundred persons; shortly before his passing, he gave up to two hundred demonstrations per year. He declined the use of a cabinet and insisted on being secured during a demonstration as he was conscious of the possibility that accusations of fraud could be made against him.
Maurice Barbanell was one person who testified to what he witnessed during a seance with Jack Webber as the Medium; in this, infra-red photography was permitted and high quality photographs were taken of trumpets, levitated by the ectoplasm originating from the Medium, and of table levitation. Barbanell also detailed how the Medium was secured to a chair and in fourteen-seconds his jacket was both removed and replaced, the stages of this event also being photographed. He concluded that while this was not actual evidence of survival, it nevertheless clearly demonstrated the presence of other-worldly intelligence that was not only active, but fully capable of reasoning.
Jack was invariably tied to a chair with a rope some fifteen yards long. When the tying-up had been completed the ends of the rope were sewn up, sealed with wax-and then impressed with a seal provided by a sitter. A piece of cotton was then tied at the base of Webber’s thumb, a piece of paper threaded on through a needle hole and the other end of the cotton tied to the base of his opposite thumb. This made it quite impossible for him to move his hands more than a few inches. Such precautions did not stop the rope from being removed by unseen hands during the séance.
On several other occasions, a few seconds after Webber had been roped in the chair the lights were switched on only to show the medium standing on the far side of the circle with the ropes resting on the chair precisely as tied. This was astonishing since it normally took close on five minutes for two people to tie Webber securely to his chair and much longer to untie him. Even more surprising was the fact that shortly after Webber had been seen standing on the other side of the circle he would begin to spin around rapidly, the lights would be put off and five-seconds later he would be found back in his chair roped precisely as before with the cotton and the sealing wax unbroken.
Webber discovered his own gifts through the simple process of table-rapping. It was not until two years after this that he was able to fall into a trance. He was then for the first time controlled by entities who sometimes manifested themselves, in the early stages at least, with quite distressing violence. A year or so after this Webber developed healing powers. Under trance thick oil would ooze from his hands. With this oil, which had the consistency of Vaseline, he would massage the patient who was more often than not cured of his affliction. Often during the day, half-entranced, he would go out into the marshlands and open country near his home, gather certain herbs, return home and brew them into potions which he then administered to the sick.
His healing powers were undoubted for he had many successful cures to his credit, but his ministrations exhausted him so much that they put a severe check on the physical phenomena which were then beginning to manifest themselves through him.
Curiously enough, Webber was for many years afraid of the physical phenomena that built up around him. At night when he went to bed loud rappings would be heard, the bed clothes would be ripped off him and objects would fly wildly around the bedroom while voices spoke and muttered around him in the darkness.
Only when he fell into trance and still more powerful phenomena appeared did Webber lose his fear of these manifestations. It was not until shortly before his death that he was able to accept the physical phenomena he himself produced without exhibiting a trace of fear.
Such were the precautions taken to ensure no fraud could take place, of which we can perhaps aspire to today, as we are aware of a recent case…
Jack Webber’s sittings took place in sittings held under conditions of strict control and, most important of all, were well-photographed. They were also times when a small amount of daylight were allowed to be let in.
Jack was nearly always tied to a chair with a rope some fifteen yards long. When the tying-up had been completed the ends of the rope were sewn up, sealed with wax-and then impressed with a seal provided by a sitter. A piece of cotton was then tied at the base of Webber’s thumb, a piece of paper threaded on through a needle hole and the other end of the cotton tied to the base of his opposite thumb. This made it quite impossible for him to move his hands more than a few inches. Such precautions did not stop the rope from being removed by unseen hands during the séance.
Webber’s feats of apportation put him in the same class as the greatest teleplasts. Crookes himself, working with DD Home and others, witnessed the arrival of apports on no less than twelve occasions. Stainton Moses, on August 28, 1872, heard a small hand-bell move from a neighbouring room ringing loudly, pass through a closed door and finally, after completing a circuit of the room, materialise on the table close to his elbow. Enrico Morselli (1852-1929) Professor of Psychiatry at Genoa University, witnessed during the course of thirty sittings with Eusapia Paladino, “the sudden appearance, on the table or in the room, of objects come from a distance through doors and walls such as flowers, branches, leaves, nails, coins and stones”. Dr Julien Ochorowitz (1850-1918) when working with Stanislawa T. frequently observed the disappearance and reappearance of objects in full light. Madam d’Esperance produced spectacular apports of flowers.
On August 4, 1880, she caused a plant twenty-two inches in height with twenty-nine leaves, all of them smooth and glossy, to appear in a water carafe which it filled so completely that it could not be removed. In the photographs which were taken of this plant almost immediately after its appearance, it can be seen that the roots were wound around the inner surface of the glass as though they had germinated on the spot and never been disturbed. On June 28, 1890, the same medium excelled herself by apporting a golden lily seven feet in height bearing eleven large blossoms.
After the plant had been photographed by Professor Boutleroff it vanished as mysteriously as it had come leaving behind only a couple of fallen blossoms.
On May 28, 1939, Bernard Gray, a leading journalist from the Sunday Pictorial, attested on oath as preface to a report in that paper that he had attended a séance on May 24 at which Webber had displayed remarkable physical phenomena:
“… I want to describe first two astonishing happenings which make the rest seem small in contrast. Happenings which I, personally, can only compare with the miracles of the New Testament. There was the appearance, in mid-air, so to speak, of a perfect human face. I am sitting, remember, only one removed from the medium…. I am my normal cool and vigilant self – alert for any sign of deception, accustomed to the eerie glimmer of light we get from the red bulb near the ceiling….Before me rises a kind of tablet – rather like a slate – and from the upper surface it sheds a luminous white light.
I watch it intently, not in the least perturbed. I saw it in its normal state before the séance started, an ordinary piece of four-ply wood, about a foot long and nine inches wide. Now it hovers in front of the medium’s face its soft radiance lighting his features so clearly I can see the closed eyes and the twitching lips. It moves gently down to his hands and I see quite clearly that the arms are still bound to the chair….The glowing tablet has moved over to me. It hangs motionless so close to my face that I feel that if I breathe hard I shall blow it away….Then above the tablet I begin to see something white emerging from the darkness. Almost invisible at first, it grows stronger every moment, like a motor-car head-lamp advancing through fog; until I can clearly see it as a diaphanous ellipse, standing on its end, as it were on the tablet….
Now, framed in this luminous halo, I can perceive dimly what appear to be features. They are becoming clearer, easier to trace. There’s the nose, and – yes – the mouth. The eyes and, my God! The eyelids are moving. The tablet moves still closer, the eyes soft and natural, are looking directly into mine. I jerk myself back to a detached, inquisitive state of mind, examine the thing in front of me closely and searchingly. It is not like the pictures of spirit faces many of us have seen in spiritualist papers.
It’s not white and unearthly, like the frame in which it is set. Rather it is a human face – but softer, finer and somehow different. I can trace the cheekbones fading back from the eyes. The lips, they are quite clear. The chin, rounded and delicate, is silhouetted against the lower rim of the halo. I recognise it suddenly as the face of a very old lady. Just like a lovely miniature – for it is much smaller now I come to think, than the face of any human adult….I am watching the lips.
They part a little, move with an effort. There’s a whisper. What is she saying? Why is she speaking to? Yes, Yes, I’ve got it. ‘My boy, my boy’, whispers a woman’s voice, in the tone of a wealth of love or maybe compassion…. The tablet and its burden move away. I can see it floating around our circle. Other sitters are exclaiming that they can see it quite plainly, that it’s wonderful. I am glad I am not the only one who can see it.”
Gray’s article, caused something of a sensation even in a Britain preoccupied with rumours of impending war, had been preceded in February by a lengthy article occupying two centre pages of the Daily Mirror written by ‘Cassandra’, a columnist well-known for his often vituperative opposition to spiritualism and all that it stood for. Cassandra had attended this séance, not because he wished to go, but because the Mirror’s staff photographer, Mr Leon Isaacs, had been asked to take infra-red photographs at the séance so Cassandra had taken him along there in his car.
The phenomena Cassandra witnessed were by no means as spectacular as those seen by Bernard Gray but were nevertheless quite impressive. Cassandra heard bells ringing, saw luminous trumpets shooting around the room “like fishes in a tank”, heard the splashing of water though there was none in the room, listened to voices and finally witnessed the levitation of numerous books and a heavy table.
Webber’s chief interest for us, however, lies not so much in his materialisations but in his production of ectoplasm which flowed from him in great quantities, always under strict control conditions. In his useful book devoted to Webber the well-known British healer, Harry Edwards, points out that Webber produced two types of ectoplasm – namely ectoplasmic arms and ectoplasmic rods.
These arms were used to apport objects – for Webber was famous for his apports – as well as to construct voice boxes which either emanated from the medium or were attached to the trumpets. The arms were soft and flexible though coarse in texture. They were equipped with tentacles at the end which could be used for moving objects. At times the ends of these arms were self-illuminated by a blue ring of light with a dark centre. These lights, which strongly resemble those produced by earlier mediums, first appeared near Webber’s solar plexus and then moved out to his sides and above his head. They were at all times responsive to the commands of the Guide.
The ectoplasmic rods were generally invisible and could not be photographed. Nevertheless , these rods were sometimes seen by sitters when a little daylight was allowed to filter in through the window. Edwards described them as strong, thick, straight structures, three to six inches in circumference, which attached themselves to any levitated object.
“At one sitting the author saw, against a very dimly illuminated area lit up by the glow of luminous paint, a rod extending from the ceiling straight down to the far side of the medium. This looked like a plank about four inches wide (the thickness could not be gauged ) but this structure was perfectly straight and precise, the edges being as clean cut as a rule.
Again in a very dim red light a structure has been seen by all sitters emerging from the solar plexus region as thick as the trunk of a medium-sized tree about eight to ten inches wide at the base close to the body and slowly tapering off to where the trumpet joined it. Experience in sittings has given further knowledge of these rods. When a trumpet has been temporarily rested upon the lap of the sitter, three or four places removed from the medium, and is again taken into use, the rod has been felt across the linked hands or knees of the sitters.
It is felt to be rigid and extremely strong, as may be gathered from the downward pressure that the sitters in question have experienced. It can best be likened to a rod of iron. These rods are capable of very great strength. At times the trumpet has been pressed against the sitter forcing him back into his chair in spite of every effort to resist. A solid mahogany table, so heavy that it takes two people to lift it, has been taken from a corner of the room and deposited in the centre of the circle”.
Edwards describes one dramatic instance in which a Christmas tree, ten feet tall, fastened into a wooden crate nailed to the floor with eight-inch nails through pieces of timber some four inches thick, was wrenched out of the fastenings, pulling up the floor boards in doing so, and levitated to the skylight . The force needed to accomplish such a feat must have been formidable. Since telekinesis, as Richet remarked, is the first stage of materialisation, it will be seen that Webber’s developing powers, so strongly telekinetic as they were, heralded the onset of the very promising materialisations which were just beginning to develop before they were cut short by his early death.
Jack was most famous for The quantity of ectoplasm which Webber produced, far exceeding that of any other medium I am familiar with, makes the above assertion more than credible. Webber produced most of his ectoplasm from his mouth. At the beginning of a séance he would lean over against the ropes that bound him with his head over his feet while the ectoplasm poured from his mouth like heavy vapour and spread across the floor. The whole process, which took place in silence, occupied only a few seconds. Almost immediately this mass of vapour would condense and solidify into a length of material hanging from his mouth.
Several descriptions of this material have been given by sitters. It was variously described as “closely woven silk of a rich quality”; “like wet toy balloon rubber”; or “a wide piece of thin seaweed”. The photographs show that this ectoplasm resembles a skin rather than a woven fabric and is quite distinct from the ectoplasmic mantle found swathing a phantom, which is far more intricate in its texture as well as being light gossamer. Edwards states that at one sitting ectoplasmic hands detached the red bulb from the ceiling-hook and held it up against the ectoplasmic material in order to illuminate its semi-transparent texture. On another occasion, sitters in the circle felt ectoplasm cover their heads while the floor space around their legs was almost filled up with the substance. This phenomenon was accompanied by a marked drop in room temperature.
The photographs of Webber’s ectoplasm are quite remarkable. None of the early mediums, as far as we know, produced ectoplasm in such quantities. Eva C, for instance, produced only a fraction of the amount of ectoplasm that normally emanated from Webber. Frequently the ectoplasmic material was so long that the wide-angle lens of the camera was unable to cope with it. Nevertheless, no matter how much ectoplasm was produced, its reabsorption into the medium was virtually instantaneous.
It disappeared, as Edward’s puts it, “with a sound like the twang of a piece of elastic” for example, it disappeared almost instantaneously the moment the white light was switched on. This surely disposes once and for all of the “regurgitation theory” which asserts somewhat simple-mindedly that ectoplasm is simply cheesecloth or some other substance swallowed by the medium and brought up at will. It should be obvious, quite apart from other objections, that not even a python could possibly swallow five yards of material in the space of a second.
The final stage of Webber’s development consisted of the production, first of floating heads illuminated by luminous plaques, then of hands, and finally of full-sized figures. The heads were generally only four or five inches high, resembling those produced by Eva C. These heads, which were invariably surrounded by a white, ectoplasmic cowl and were fully formed, appeared to be linked to the medium by an ectoplasmic connection but could travel from him about six feet or so in any direction. All these heads could speak quite clearly though it took some time after their formation for the sound to emerge. Xenoglossia (that is, the use of languages unknown to the medium, who, it will be remembered, was only semi-literate) was a frequent feature at these sittings.
I hope that you have found this of interest?
Light to all, always, Leo.