Roy, William

Roy, William

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

William Roy, whose real name was William George Holroyd Plowright, has been described as the most audacious Spiritualist crook of modern times. He was first exposed in 1955, but not before he had become the best known medium in Great Britain. It was the Spiritualist publication Two Worlds (originally founded by Emma Hardinge Britten) that exposed Roy.

Roy claimed to produce the independent direct voice phenomenon. A voice, separate from his own, would issue from the region of his wrist and speak giving details of the sitters and their deceased. After his exposure, Roy admitted—being very well paid for a series of interviews, by the Sunday Pictorial—that he had devised a clever microphone relaying technique. An accomplice sat in an adjoining room and spoke into a microphone. The wires from it ran through the wall and under the carpet of the séance room. They terminated at two large brass tacks that looked as though they were there to hold the carpet in place. Roy himself was wired and had a metal plate on the sole of each shoe. When he stood on the tacks it completed a circuit that ran up his pants legs and then down his arm to what had been an old hearing aid, strapped to his wrist. The hearing aid had been adapted to become a miniature speaker. The voice of the accomplice would therefore come from the general region of Roy’s wrist and could well be speaking even while Roy himself was speaking.

Roy researched possible clients very thoroughly, going to voters’ lists and the National Registry of Births, Marriages, and Deaths. He pored over details of wills and property transfers. He kept a filing system with index cards filled with information on different people. He also claimed that he exchanged information with other fraudulent mediums. Among other things, he would have an accomplice go through the pockets and bags that clients had left in his hallway, and he listened in on their pre-sitting conversations through hidden microphones. Roy worked with fake slates, trumpets and, on occasion, used masks and cheesecloth for fake materializations. He claimed to have a spirit guide named Tinka, an Native American, and used another system of microphones to produce his voice.

As early as 1951 other Spiritualists became aware of Roy’s fraud and, rather than give the whole of Spiritualism a bad name, it was agreed not to reveal him so long as he left the country. This Roy did. But he did not stay away long; he was soon back and continuing his practice. The British national Spiritualist magazine Two Worlds then published an article labeling him a fraud. Roy responded by suing the journal for libel. Once the matter went to court, Two Worlds was not allowed to make any further comments, which suited Roy very well. He kept the law suit pending for several years, but finally had to drop it in 1958. He agreed to pay the court costs to the editor of Two Worlds, but to do so in twenty-four monthly payments. Immediately afterward the journal published all of its evidence of fraud. The Sunday Pictorial offered Roy a substantial amount for his “story.” By the time it was published Roy had once again left the country.

Roy’s final words in the newspaper article were, “Even after this confession, I know I could fill séance rooms again with people who find it a comfort to believe I am genuine.” He went on to prove this. In 1968, he was again exposed, this time by the Spiritualist newspaper Psychic News and its editor Maurice Barbanell. At that time Roy was using the name Bill Silver and was working as a medium under the patronage of a wealthy client. Psychic News revealed that indeed some of the sitters were aware of Roy’s real identity and that he had previously been exposed, but they didn’t seem to care. The sitters included a bishop and the Beatles.

Sources:

Edmunds, Simeon: Spiritualism: A Critical Survey. North Hollywood: Wilshire, 1960
Stemman, Roy: The Supernatural: Spirits and Spirit Worlds. London: Aldus, 1975
Mentioned in ?
References in periodicals archive ?
Besides her husband, she was predeceased by her children, Carole Ann Roy, William Patrick Roy, Joan Sullivan and Robert F.