Gladys Osborne Leonard
| Putting the psycho in|
|Men who stare at goats|
|By the powers of tinfoil|
Gladys Osborne Leonard (1882-1968) was a British trance medium.
Leonard became famous for her séances with Oliver Lodge, in which she claimed to communicate with the spirit of his son Raymond, a deceased army soldier. Lodge published a book on the subject, Raymond Or Life and Death (1916), which recorded the alleged communications from Raymond.
Psychiatrist Charles Arthur Mercier analyzed the mediumship of Leonard and came to the conclusion that she had no genuine mediumistic ability. According to Mercier, Lodge had been duped into believing Leonard by trickery and his endorsement of spiritualism was based on assumption, not scientific evidence. In 1917, Edward Clodd examined the mediumship of Leonard and wrote she had known her séance sitters before she had held the séances, and could have easily obtained information by natural means.
In a séance on 3 December 1915, Leonard described an army photograph featuring Raymond sitting on the ground with an officer, placing his hand on his shoulder. Spiritualist writers such as Michael Prescott, Michael E. Tymn, and Robert McLuhan have written that Leonard could not have known about this photograph by natural means and have attributed the information as evidence for spirit communication. Skeptics, however, have refuted the spiritualist interpretation of the photograph and have uncovered the fraud of Leonard.
The rationalist author Walter Mann wrote that Leonard had already seen the photograph as she had five days to obtain the photograph before the séance:
“”There is not the slightest doubt in the present writer's mind that Mrs. Leonard had seen the photo in question. Let us go over the dates again. Captain Boast sent the negatives to England, where they arrived on October 15, 1915. A large number of copies appear to have been printed – there were twenty-one officers and their friends to supply. On November 28 Mrs. Cheves had six in her possession, with a key to the names, and wrote offering Lady Lodge a copy, which was not sent until December, 7 after an interval of nine days. On November 28, then it was common knowledge in Sir Oliver's household that the photo existed. On December 3, five days later, Mrs. Leonard describes the photo at a sitting with Sir Oliver. Five days gave ample time for her to obtain a copy of the photo; and the unfortunate delay of Mrs. Cheves in not sending her copy until the 7th gave just the chance needed to work the miracle.
Leonard's supposed "spirit" control Raymond was asked specific questions and he failed to answer them. "Raymond" could not remember the name of a single soldier he had been with before his death, and failed to give the name of a single soldier in the photograph.
- Charles Arthur Mercier. (1917). Spiritualism and Sir Oliver Lodge. London: Mental Culture Enterprise.
- Edward Clodd. (1917). The Question: A Brief History and Examination of Modern Spiritualism. Grant Richards, London. Chapter Mrs. Leonard and Others. pp. 215-241
- Walter Mann. (1919). The Follies and Frauds of Spiritualism. London: Watts & Co. pp. 187-188
- Alfred W. Martin. (1918). Psychic Tendencies of To-Day. D. Appleton and Company. p. 97
- Millais Culpin. (1920). Spiritualism and the New Psychology: An Explanation of Spiritualist Phenomena and Beliefs in Terms of Modern Knowledge. Edward Arnold, London.
- C. E. M. Hansel. (1980). ESP and Parapsychology: A Critical Re-evaluation. Prometheus Books.