Roberts, May Estelle

Roberts, May Estelle (1889–1970)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Born May 10, 1889, in Kensington, London, May Estelle Wills became one of England’s leading twentieth century mediums. Hannen Swaffer called her “the most versatile British medium of her time.” Her parents were Isobel and Edwin Blackstone Wills. She had four sisters and three brothers.

As early as seven years of age, Estelle and her sister Dolly saw the apparition of a knight in shining armor. Estelle soon claimed to see other spirits and to hear voices clairaudiently. At school she constantly saw apparitions and heard voices. One of her earliest spirit visitors was her brother Lionel, who had died before she was born. When she tried to describe her experiences, her parents scolded her, saying she had too vivid an imagination.

She had what she described as “an ordinary schooling in the local council school, which I left at the age of fourteen. I had continued without a break to meet my spirit people. They now started to warn me of events, which afterwards came to pass.” At fifteen she took a job as a nursemaid to a family in Turnham Green, London, looking after three children. But still she heard voices and saw spirits. At seventeen she married Hugh Warren Miles. His stepmother was a sister-in-law to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. After her husband fell ill with Bright’s disease, Estelle worked long hous to support her family, which included three children—Ivy, Evelyn, and Iris. They moved to Hastings, for the health of all of them, but Hugh died on May 13, 1919. With the children, Estelle then moved to Hampton-on-Thames.

After a setback with her own health, Estelle took a job as a waitress at Victoria Station, but it involved long hours. She kept it until the end of 1920, when she married Arthur Roberts and was able to give up the job (she divorced him in 1938). One day her next door neighbor, Mrs. Slade, invited her to attend a Spiritualist meeting in Hampton Hill. Estelle went there three times and at each meeting whoever was the medium would address her and tell her she was destined to do Spiritualist work. At the third service she attended, the medium—Elizabeth Cannock—said, “You are a medium and have much work to do. Chosen by the spirit world, you must not ignore the call.” She asked for proof and was told to go home and sit at a table and the spirits would give her physical proof. This she did for seven days. Nothing happened until she gave up. When she replaced the table at its normal position against a wall, and turned to walk away, the table rose up and pushed her in the back. It then pursued her as she retreated from it! She thanked spirit and then a voice spoke. It said, “I come to serve the world. You serve with me and I serve with you.” It was her first encounter with Red Cloud, who was to be her long-time spirit guide.

Over more than fifty years, Roberts demonstrated clairvoyance, clairaudience, trance, materialization, psychic healing, psychometry, automatic writing, and the production of apports. One of the high points of her career was when she gave a demonstration of mediumship in the British House of Commons. She frequently appeared before sold out crowds at the Royal Albert Hall. Just before her eightieth birthday, she was given a celebratory dinner by Psychic News and Two Worlds; Britain’s leading Spiritualist publications. More than six hundred guests attended. Estelle Roberts died in 1970, at her home in Poole, Dorset.


Barbanell, Maurice: This Is Spiritualism. Oxshott: The Spiritual Truth Press, 1959
Roberts, Estelle: Fifty Years a Medium. London: Corgi Books, 1969