Webber, John Boaden

Webber, John Boaden (Jack) (1907–1940)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

John Boaden Webber was born in Loughor, South Wales, in 1907. He had an uneventful childhood and grew up to go to work in the Welsh coal mines. He worked there until 1936. In 1930, he married Rhoda Bartlett, who came from a staunch Spiritualist family. Webber considered Spiritualism to be “bunk,” but to please his fiancée, he went with her to home development circles, where he invariably fell asleep. After two years of attending the circles, Webber began falling into trance. His spirit guide came through as Black Cloud, a Mohawk Native American. Rappings, slight movements of the table, and levitation of trumpets and other objects quickly followed. It was suggested that Webber sit inside a cabinet to focus the power, but he refused. He preferred to sit in a circle with the others.

Another spirit guide, a young Egyptian named Malodar, soon came through. His specialty was healing; Webber was led out to the marshlands in a semi-trance condition, to gather various herbs. The most effective healing technique for Webber was to stand beside the patient, in trance, and massage him or her. As he worked, thick oil would ooze from his hands. Spiritual healer Harry Edwards said, “So thick were these oils that his hands presented the appearance of having been immersed in a large can of Vaseline.” Edwards was also the head of the Balham Psychic Research Society.

Other spirit guides were Paddy, a young boy, and Reuben, a South American schoolmaster. There were also Talgar, Rev. John Boaden (a deceased great-uncle of Webber’s), Dr. Millar, and Professor Dale. Over the years of development, voices came both from trumpets and independently. Heads and hands materialized.

Many photographs have been taken of Webber’s mediumship, mostly by infrared photography. Harry Edwards commented, “When the infrared ray first became practical for photographic use in the dark, it was said that it would expose séance-room trickery. Through Mr. Webber’s mediumship it has proved the genuineness of physical phenomena, and, by doing so, has provided evidence of survival after ‘death.’” Certainly the photographs reproduced in Harry Edwards’s book The Mediumship of Jack Webber, are extraordinary, showing ectoplasmic “arms,” levitating trumpets and tables, the appearance of apports, and the construction of ectoplasmic larynxes for use with the trumpets. The photographs have been taken in different places, frequently in surroundings that Webber had never previously visited. The photographers have included official press photographers representing national newspapers. The sitters were media representatives from the BBC, national newspapers, various Spiritual and psychical journals including Psychic News, Two Worlds, and the Journal of Psychical Research. There have been doctors, clergymen, scientists, university officials, and others. Webber’s mediumship has been repeatedly tested by psychical research societies throughout Great Britain.

The medium Colin Evans gave what he described as a “critical analysis” of a Webber séance. The sitting was typical in that it contained a number of different phenomena including levitation, direct voice, materialization, trumpet work and more. Evans said,

I scrutinized very closely the tying of the medium’s arms and ankles to the chair by rope. Two men did this, and the knots tied and the tightness of the rope was such that no “escape” trickery was possible that would permit of getting back into the ropes without obvious disturbance of them. They cut closely into the flesh, and the muscles of arms and ankles were immovably secured to the solid wood of the chair … Before he was tied in the chair, his coat was stitched all down the front so that it was an absolutely tight fit that could not possibly be taken off and put on again … After the séance it took some minutes to cut away this stitching with scissors … The first movement of the trumpets occurred instantly on the light being put out … these trumpets—about two feet in height and two in number and very plentifully daubed with luminous paint so that they were never lost sight of—had been standing on the floor well out of reach of the medium’s hands where he was seated. First one trumpet soared swiftly up into the air, and then both trumpets simultaneously … Repeatedly the medium’s control called for “light” and every time the light was switched on instantly, and as it was switched on the trumpets would sink with a fairly rapid movement, but not so rapid as a falling body, unsupported, towards the floor, and when the light was on the trumpets were usually just reaching the floor, but still in movement, and continued moving for a moment or two—once for almost half a minute—with gentle movements, obviously intelligently controlled, on the floor—not rolling on their curved sides, but “hopping” as it were on their broad flat ends.

Evans further described the levitation of two luminous plaques, tambourines, bells, castanets (which played “in strict time and tempo, very strongly, to the rhythm of the sitters’ singing"), the materialization of hands, multiple voices from the trumpets, and what in some ways was the highlight of the sitting: the removal and later reinstatement of the medium’s jacket. The light was turned on at intervals so that Webber could be seen to be still tightly tied to his chair. But, as Evans said,

After the medium had been inspected and his ropes and knots and stitched coat had been examined in full white light, the light was switched off and afterwards switched on again. The medium was seen to be still tightly and securely roped in his chair, the rope (including the evidentially exact angle at which these two loops crossed under one arm, which the medium himself could not have seen or rearranged even had the rope been loose enough for him to get his arms free and replace them) undisturbed—his coat was off. The stitching of the coat was examined and was undisturbed. The light was switched off again, and on being switched on again he was again wearing the coat, the sleeves being perfectly straight and smooth to a degree impossible if his arms with the coat on had been pushed through the loops of the rope which cut tightly into the arms through the coat sleeves. Intermittently, light rain of real objective cold water fell on sitters’ faces.

This seemed typical of a Webber séance. His coat was removed and replaced at other séances as well. Infrared photographs even showed the coat at various stages, at one time with the back of the coat in front of the bound medium, in a normally impossible position. Reports in various publications included such comments as, “A bowl of water was placed on a locked piano and a jug of water on a gramophone cabinet. Despite the fact that both instruments were well beyond the medium’s reach, Webber’s Guides managed to place a record on the gramophone turntable and play it, and also play the piano.” (Psychic News, July 8, 1939). “The Guide said he would demate-rialize the medium, and before our eyes, in good red light, we saw the head, hands, and wrists vanish, leaving just the medium’s clothes in the chair. It remained so for approximately a minute. We all then saw the rapid emergence of the medium.” (Two Worlds, March 3, 1939).

Jack Webber died on March 9, 1940, after a short illness.

Sources:

Edwards, Harry: The Mediumship of Jack Webber. London: Rider, 1940
Stemman, Roy: The Supernatural: Spirits and Spirit Worlds. London: Aldus, 1975