The First World War in the Paranormal Review (1)

First World War Centenary in the Magazine of the Society for Psychical Research

As the Editor of the Paranormal Review, the magazine of the Society for Psychical Research, I was in the fortunate position of being able to mark the centenary of the First World War with a series of articles from notable experts on different aspects of the experience of the paranormal during the conflict. I published 14 articles on the subject in two issues. I have included extracts from my editorials below, together with a listing of the WWI articles.

Paranormal Review 71 (July 2014)
First World War Centenary Special, Part 1

Leo Ruickbie, First World War Centenary, Paranormal Review

First World War Centenary in the Paranormal Review (2014)

As this year is the hundreth anniversary of the First World War, which regrettably was not the war to end all wars, I am going to be marking the occasion with two special issues on the subject, suitably enough, of WWI and the paranormal.

The response to my call for papers has been tremendous and I am delighted to introduce some new authors to the magazine whose contributions I am sure you will find as fascinating as I have done. Prof. Mulacz examines the event that started it all off, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, with consideration of a possibly precognitive dream and the stacking up of coincidences that put victim and assassin in the same place at the same time. Dr Alison Butler has drawn on the war issues of the Occult Review to build a fascinating picture of the discussions, theories, predictions of Britain’s occultists. With so many young men dying in all those corners of a ‘foreign field’, Spritiualism found itself having to meet a new demand for news of the other side. What is not often appreciated is the extent to which traditional Christian faith saw this as a challenge and Dr Francis Young details the reaction of the Catholic and Protestant Churches. Lucy Harris looks at the beliefs, often labelled as superstitious, of the soldiers at the front. Michael Tymn tells us about his new book, Dead Men Talking, featuring contemporary accounts of purported communication with soldiers killed in action, and publishers White Crow have kindly provided us with an excerpt.

As a nice little anomaly of my own, a patriotic WWI postcard fell out of an old copy of an Asterix comic (in German) in my wife’s library as we moved some books. It says ‘For King and Empire’ over a portrait of Lord Kitchener. On the back, a certain Boyce of Battersea Park writes in Fre”nch to a lady in Paris, dated 29 December 1916. My wife had not bought it. None of us know where it came from, but there it is.

For some time, the Paranormal Review has had full colour covers, providing the opportunity for something more eye-catching on the front. However, choosing an image was a challenge. In looking through old photographs, contemporary painting and the propaganda posters of the period, one is struck by the extreme contrast between the initial enthusiasm for the war and sense of patriotic duty that motivated the volunteers, and the utter horror of the new industrialised battlefield. Pride and sorrow for such bravery and waste catch in the throat like poison gas. Added to that is the additional difficulty of finding something touching upon what we could call the ‘paranormal’. In such alien landscapes of unimaginable carnage, one hardly needs to seek for that which was beyond the ‘normal’. Then simply getting hold of a high-quality image of such illustrations of the paranormal as there are turned into a wild goose chase. In the end, I chose Futurist C.R.W. Nevinson’s Bursting Shell (1915); a cyclone of exploding light shattering the darkness of some war-torn town with the terrible mystery of modern warfare.

WWI Articles from PR71

Peter Mulacz, ‘”A Terrible Dream”‘

Prof. Peter Mulacz considers a possible premonition of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the tragic consequences of a set of unlikely coincidences that lit the fuse that was to set Europe alight with war.

Alison Butler, ‘Conflict Through an Occult Lens’

Dr Alison Butler presents the First World War as it was seen in the pages of The Occult Review, including Aleister Crowley’s prediction of war.

Lucy Harris, ‘”You Will Not See Me Again”‘

Lucy Harris takes us into the hearts and souls of the soldiers on the front line with her examination of their beliefs and stories.

Francis Young, ‘The Dangers of Spiritualism’

The Roman Catholic Church led a campaign against Spiritualism during and after the First World War, as Dr Francis Young shows, but with some surprising consequences.

Michael Tymn, ‘Talking About Dead Men Talking’

Author Michael Tymn shares his thoughts on writing his latest book Dead Men Talking and considers the evidence for the afterlife.

‘Michael Tymn, A Door Ajar’

Publishers White Crow provide an extract from Michael Tymn’s new book, Dead Men Talking, published this month.

Leo Ruickbie, ‘A Vision in Bermondsey, 1917’

Following recent correspondence, Dr Leo Ruickbie writes up a previously unreported case of a ‘vision’ experienced during the First World War.

See the other WWI paranormal articles in Paranormal Review, 76 (2015).