World War I and the Paranormal

Angels in the Trenches: Spiritualism, Superstition and the Supernatural During the First World War

The mechanised slaughter of the First World War brought a sudden and concentrated interest in life after death, living in spite of death and trying to predict, or even influence, when the merciless killing would end. People asked, can one communicate with the dead? Are the angels on the side of the British? Can black cat amulets and lucky shillings avert bombs and bullets? Can the fate of nations be foretold in the stars?

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Talking About War and the Paranormal


Angels in the Trenches on the Radio Angels in the Trenches author Leo Ruickbie spoke to Dave Shrader on syndicated US radio show Midnight in the Desert for Veterans’ Day 2019. Dr Ruickbie talked about the inspiration behind writing Angels in the Trenches: Spiritualism, Superstition and the Supernatural During the First World War and highlighted […]

Robert Graves’s Supernatural War


War Poet’s Lucky Escapes, Superstitions and a Ghost Sighting At the Front in 1915, Lieutenant Robert Graves, 3rd Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers, was counting his lucky escapes. On 28 May in the chaotic trenches among the brick stacks at Cuinchy in the sector between Ypres and the Somme, he had met a rifle-grenade at close […]

Did a Ghost Save this Canadian Soldier?


Was Corporal Bird Saved by His Dead Brother at Vimy Ridge? Corporal Will Bird of the 42nd Battalion, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, was sleeping fitfully in his cold dugout near Vimy Ridge, April 1917. Two warm hands on his back woke him. He opened his eyes expecting to see one of […]

Did Lucky Thirteen Save A Wounded Soldier? (4)


The Thirteenth Casualty, A Story of Luck During the First World War The number thirteen had followed Joe Cassells through the First World War. First at Dixmude, then at La Bassée and when ‘crossing the bar,’ now the number would crop up a final and fateful time. From what I can tell, Cassells was still […]

Thirteen Soldiers With Luck Enough for One (3)


Could Unlucky Thirteen Be This First World War  Soldier’s Lucky Number? Joe Cassells and his unusual relationship with the number thirteen during the First World War were not over after the strange events at Dixmude and La Bassée. The Black Watch scout had another tale to tell and this one, more than the others, was […]

When Rupert Brooke Returned from the War


War Poet Rupert Brooke died during the First World War. The mystic Aelfrida Tillyard claimed to have paranormal experiences in which she was visited by his ghost or spirit in dreams and received communications allegedly from Brook via automatic writing.

Thirteen Bullet Holes: Luck on the Western Front (2)


Soldier Joe Cassells, a scout with the Black Watch, told several stories of how he came to regard thirteen as his lucky number. Trench superstitions were rife during the First World War, but whereas most people think of thirteen as unlucky, a series of strange coincidences and events convinced Cassells that thirteen would always bring him good fortune.

Eyewitness to the Christmas Truce, 1914


A British Soldier’s Account of the Christmas Truce during the First World War Almost as incredible as the many stories of the supernatural recounted in Angels in the Trenches is that of the Christmas Truce between the British and Germans. Scotsman Joe Cassells, a scout in the Black Watch, was in the trenches on Christmas […]

Christmas Eve in the Trenches, 1914


How Christianity United Enemies During the First World War The Christmas Truce of 1914 began on Christmas Eve at some parts of the Frontline. Here Bruce Bairnsfather, famous for his ‘Old Bill’ sketches, recounts his experience of a truce on Christmas Eve. It is a testimony to the shared culture of the warring parties and […]