Garrett, Eileen Jeanette Vancho Lyttle

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Trance medium Eileen Garrett, regarded as one of the greatest trance mediums in the world. Courtesy Fortean Picture Library.

Garrett, Eileen Jeanette Vancho Lyttle (1893–1970)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In his introduction to Eileen Garrett’s autobiography, Allan Angoff wrote, “Eileen Garrett holds no professional degrees and has no license to practice any of the healing arts, but she has helped and apparently cured hundreds of physicians, scientists, writers, editors, secretaries, psychiatrists, psychologists, bereaved parents and children, and the prime minister of a very large country.”

Born on March 17, 1893, at Beau Park in County Meath, Ireland, Eileen Jeanette Vancho Lyttle showed psychic abilities from a very early age. Suffering from tuberculosis and bronchial asthma, she spent many long weeks confined to her bed. As a young child, she claimed that she was able to speak with the dead. Her mediumship started in earnest following the end of World War II. She came to be considered one of the greatest mediums the world has ever known.

During the war, and after a failed marriage to a young architect named Clive Barry, Eileen ran a hostel for wounded soldiers. She had precognitive visions of many of the men with whom she came into contact, often seeing them killed on returning to action. One of the soldiers she saw die in this way was a man who, as she nursed him, she agreed to marry. At the end of the war in 1918, she married James William Garrett, another wounded soldier. Like her two previous marriages, this one did not last long. It ended in divorce and Garrett did not marry again.

One day Garrett joined a group of women who were doing table tipping. In the middle of the session Garrett went into a trance and started speaking of seeing dead relatives of the women around the table. The women were so surprised and startled that they shook her awake. Garret was persuaded to consult with a man who would help her understand this aspect of herself. When the man put her into a light hypnotic trance, a spirit guide named Uvani came through and stated that Garrett would be active as a trance medium for the next several years. This turned out to be true. It took a while for her to come to terms with this new role, but eventually—through the agencies of people such as James Hewat McKenzie and the British College of Psychic Science—she accepted her gift.

Garrett came to work with people such as Hereward Carrington, Nandor Fodor, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Sir Oliver Lodge. In 1931, she was invited to visit the American Society for Psychical Research, which she did. While in America she also worked with other notable mediums, Dr. Joseph Banks Rhine, William McDougall, and Dr. Anita Mühl. In 1938, she wrote a book titled My Life as a Search for the Meaning of Mediumship (Rider, London 1939), which was quite successful. Shortly after its appearance, she traveled to Juan-les-Pins, France. At the beginning of World War II, she tried to remain in France to help orphaned children, but eventually had to leave.

On March 8, 1941, back in New York, Garrett was inspired by the name of the Life Extension Building to start a publishing company at its location on East Forty-Fourth Street. On impulse she rented two rooms on the eighteenth floor and planned to launch a magazine to be called Tomorrow, which would deal with serious investigation of the paranormal. The proceeds, she decided, would go to the starving children of France. She actually started by publishing two books, one on Nostradamus, by Lee McCann, and one of her own called Telepathy. These were under the banner of her publishing company, Creative Age Press, though this name was later changed to Helix Press. The first issue of her magazine Tomorrow appeared on September 1, 1941. Garrett became a U.S. citizen in 1947.

In 1951, Garrett founded the Parapsychology Foundation to promote organized scientific research into parapsychology. The Foundation published the International Journal of Parapsychology. Garrett was always somewhat uncertain about psychism generally, and her own in particular, and allowed herself to be subjected to numerous tests at such institutions as Johns Hopkins University and the New York Psychiatric Institute. In the 1960s she worked with psychologist Lawrence LeShan in his studies of alternate realities, assisting him in describing “clairvoyant reality.”

Guiley said, “While many other mediums believed in the literal existence of spirits of the dead and of their spirit controls, Garrett retained an objectivity and even skepticism about them.” Eileen Garrett died on September 15, 1970 in Nice, France, after a long illness. She has been acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest mediums.

Sources:

Angoff, Allan: Eileen Garrett and the World Beyond the Senses. New York: William Morrow, 1974
Fishley, Margaret: The Supernatural. London: Aldus, 1976
Garrett, Eileen: Many Voices: The Autobiography of a Medium. New York: G. P. Putnam’s, 1968
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen: The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. New York: Facts On File, 1992