The Magazine of the Society for Psychical Research
The Magazine of the Society for Psychical Research, 4 (2021)
The Kingdom has not fallen, definitely wobbled, but not fallen, definitely wobbled, but not fallen, despite the doom writ in ancient prophecy sounding its warning bell. Since the Queen of the Tower Ravens, Merlina, vanished from Britain’s fortress heart at the beginning of 2021, invoking superstitions of legendary proportions, we have witnessed a year of unprecedented turmoil. COVID-19 continued to ravage the nations through successive mutations and lockdown imposed its own miseries. The Royal Family was saddened by the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, as well as Harry and Meghan’s notorious Oprah Winfrey interview, and serious allegations against Prince Andrew. The battered British economy shrank by the largest amount since The Great Frost of 1709. Violent riots and demonstrations against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – ‘Kill the Bill’ – rent the civic life of our major cities. Insulate Britain brought the road network to a standstill. Chaotic weather brought lowest and highest temperature records across the country, as well as catastrophic flooding. Then there was terrorism, murder and another record number of deaths by stabbing in London. We will not even mention all the scandals of our elected representatives that have rocked the government of this land. Why would any of these things be ascribed to an ‘unkindness’ of ravens living in one of our historic palaces?
I had the good fortune to ask the Tower of London’s current Raven Master, Chris Skaife, exactly this question. An able raconteur, he generously gave me an hour or so of his time to divulge ‘The Secrets of the Raven Master’.
Also in this issue, the Society’s President, Prof. Adrian Parker, contributes an essay review of Luis Portela’s new book The Science of Spirit. Luis Portela is Chairman of the BIAL Foundation, known to us as one of the most significant funding bodies supporting parapsychological research, including work by our Vice-President, Prof. Chris Roe. Portela was recently awarded the Scientific Merit Medal by Portugal’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education.
The Society’s Communications Officer, Tom Ruffles, gives us the inside history of forty years of the SPR’s magazines. In the process, he highlights debates within the Society as to what role a magazine should have and what topics it – and, by extension, the Society – should cover. To a large extent, these discussions continue today. There is also a tendency to see any periodical as simply the repository of things submitted, but one clearly sees here the vital role played by successive editors in shaping the content as well as the style of the publication.
Our Events Reporter, Ashley Knibb, reports on the SPR’s first ever online conference. Forced online by necessity, it happily turned out to be highly successful, not least because the talks were all recorded and continue to be available. However, staring at little faces on the screen can never approach the true feel of a conference – colleagues have already reported feeling ‘Zoomed out’ – and one hopes that we shall soon return to normal service.
Finally, Brandon Hodge brings this issue to a close with another foray into the strange world of spirit communication devices. Looking at the range of talking boards produced by Theodore H. White, one sees the themes that the designer thought important in allegedly communicating with the discarnate, such as the scale on a 1900 board ranging from ‘blonde’ to ‘brunette’. Make of that what you will.
Dr Leo Ruickbie