Glasgow Physical Seance Makes History

This is a fascinating report of Gordon’s largest ever physical séance held in Glasgow in 1972 in front of over 200 people.  During the séance, loved ones materialised and spoke via direct voice even though there was not perfect blackout conditions.  It also includes reports from those whose relatives materialised and we see just how much evidence was given.  With some of today’s physical seances, people often complain about the lack of survival evidence and this séance report shows us how such evidence was a cornerstone of physical work in the past.


Is there a life after death?  And if so can the dead return?  These questions were convincingly answered on a recent evening in Glasgow when, before a gathering of some two hundred ordinary men and women, a cross-section of Glasgow citizens, the dead not only returned but appeared in material form and conversed with their relatives in the audience.

This historic event (it is no exaggeration to call it such) took place at a public meeting in the Somerset Place headquarters of the Glasgow Association of Spiritualists on Saturday, 22nd January, 1972.  It was an astounding manifestation of spirit power, and seemed all the more so because the physical appearances of the spirit communicators were entirely unexpected.

The medium whose astonishing gift was responsible for the happenings is Mr Gordon Higginson, President of the Spiritualists National Union and Honorary President of the Glasgow Association of Spiritualists.


It had been arranged to hold an experimental public direct voice séance, that is one in which spirit voices may be heard although the spirits themselves are not visible.  It had been advertised as “experimental” because owing to the delicate nature of these manifestations, success can never be guaranteed.  Such séances are usually held when there are present only a small group of friends who may be depended on to provide a harmonious atmosphere.  Even in such conditions, there is no certainty that the séances will be successful.

We would not have been too disappointed, therefore, if our public séance had not been a complete success.  What seemed altogether too much to hope for was that not only would the spirit voices come through clearly, but that the spirit communicators would be able to materialise and appear in physical form.  Yet that is in fact what happened.


Before the séance, a portable cabinet had been erected on the platform.  It is made of plywood and measures 4ft x 4ft x 6ft in height and has double curtains at the front.  Cabinets act as ‘condensers’ and ‘dark rooms’ for the substance known as ectoplasm which is withdrawn from the medium’s body and used by the spirits to make their voices audible to earthly ears.  When conditions are unusually favourable and the medium’s gift is sufficiently powerful, they use it to materialise and show themselves in physical form.  Light tends to have an inhibiting effect on its production, hence the need for an area of darkness.  A small microphone was attached to the curtain rail to magnify the voices, and a chair for the medium was placed within the cabinet.  Eight of the Association’s officials sat beside the cabinet, four on either side.


After Mr Higginson, dressed in dark pullover and trousers, had taken his seat in the cabinet, Dr John Winning, former Principal of the Arthur Findlay College of Psychic Science, gave a short talk on what was expected of the audience and informed them that Mr Higginson, at his own insistence, had been examined by Mr Colin Ferguson, an official of the Association, who had found nothing out of the ordinary on his person.  A hymn was sung and Dr Winning offered up a short prayer asking for guidance and help.  The lights were then put out.  It was found, however, that public lighting from the courtyard outside gave sufficient light through the uncurtained windows for us to see from one end of the hall to the other.


In a few minutes, the medium, in deep trance, appeared at the front of the cabinet with a mass of white ectoplasmic fabric streaming from his mouth and extending to the floor of the platform.  After a moment or two, he retreated into the cabinet, taking the ectoplasm with him.  A male voice with a pronounced Irish accent [Paddy], coming from within the cabinet, asked the lady seated on his right to close the curtains, which up to that point had remained open.  This was Mrs Hodgkinson, Secretary of the Association, who, as she closed the curtains, took the opportunity to have a good look inside.  She described the ectoplasm, still issuing from the medium’s mouth, as white, shimmering and semi-transparent fabric.  She also saw the form of a male spirit guide standing beside the medium.


The first spirit form to appear was that of a young girl, another guide of the medium, who spoke briefly in a soft feminine voice.  The audience gasped as they saw a mass of ectoplasm appear and build up into a slender female figure, draped from head to foot in beautiful shimmering white robes.

But this was only the beginning.  From then onwards figure after figure appeared-some male, some female, all relatives of people in the audience.  They gave their names, or the names of those they wished to speak to, and were quickly identified.


Had it been a small private séance the sitters would have been close enough to recognise the features of the communicating spirits.  On this occasion, it was not possible.  The spirits, however, established their identity by giving details of their life on earth.  When they had difficulty in communicating, the Irish guide [Paddy] came to their aid.

One of those who materialised was known to many of the older Spiritualists present.  She was Mrs McConnell, a well-known medium in pre-war days and mother-in-law of Mr James McNee, former President of the Glasgow Association.  Another was Miss Nellie Roehead , one-time Lyceumist, and a member of the Association all her adult life.  She passed over quite recently, in her eighties.  She appeared as we had known her in her latter years, small, frail and slightly bent.


A member of the audience who received remarkable evidence was Mrs Violet Millard.  Her husband materialised, gave his name as Albert and said he wished to speak to his wife, Violet.  Mrs Millard replied, and said, “Can you tell me anything about Ada?”  She was given the somewhat cryptic reply, “She is still in the flesh”.  (We learned later that Ada is Albert’s sister and was seriously ill, though expected to recover.  She passed on, however, a week later.)  The Irish guide then interjected, asking, “Do you live near Onslow Square and Whitehill Street?”  (Yes)  “Does Dr Adeline Petrie live near you?”  (Yes)  “Are your husband’s initials A.M.?”  (Yes)  “You are known as Violet but your name is Agnes Violet.  Your husband says he used to pull your leg about the Agnes?”  (Correct)  (Note: Dr Petrie is a friend of Mrs Millard and sometimes accompanies her to Spiritualist meetings.)

That was but one of a number of astounding messages. Here are extracts from two reports submitted by people who received communications.


One of Mr Higginson’s spirit helpers said there was a Mrs McConnell here, and this was accepted by Mrs McNee and Mrs Hamilton (sisters), whose mother was Mrs McConnell.  Confirmation was obtained when the helper gave the family (there were other members of the family present) certain facts about Mrs McConnell.  He said that she had once lived at 49 Kestrel Avenue, Hernhill.  He also mentioned Brownlee Road, Mount Florida. (He was corrected at this point-she had lived in Brownlee “Street”)  He then said that someone at the meeting lived there and that there was still an interest in Mount Florida.  This, too, is true.  The helper then said that Mrs McConnell wished to materialise and that *Jim* was allowing her to do so.

The materialisation then took place and a voice, which the family recognised as belonging to Mrs McConnell, greeted them and told them they should be on the platform and not sitting in the audience.  (Mrs McConnell was herself a medium but none of the family have ever taken the platform.)  She then brought the medium out of the cabinet and the two were seen standing side by side.  Mrs McConnell then dematerialised and the helper gave a parting message from her, saying that **Jimmy** was with her also.

Note: *Jim* (Mr James McNee) and **Jimmy** (Mr James Hamilton) – Both Mrs McConnell’s sons-in-law.  Their wives were the recipients of the message.


My wife and I had the great pleasure and thrill of witnessing materialisation of my wife’s grandmother.  My wife’s uncle, Alex Leitch, who was sitting behind us, also shared that pleasure.  Then from the cabinet the guide asked if there was a Neilly present, to which I replied, “Yes”.  There followed a fairly long and detailed question and answer period between myself and the guide.  He said that my grandfather, the father of John Neilly, was there and would like to show himself.  He told me that my grandfather had come with Charlie (my father’s brother).  Reference was made to the moustache that I am growing and also to recent wedding bells.  (My wife and I were married five months ago in the very hall in which the séance was being held.)  He said that my grandfather was pleased that we were married and that my wife would act as an anchor and give guidance to me.  When I informed him that my wife was sitting beside me he answered, “Now would that be Sandra”.  On Sandra replying, “Yes”, he said, “Well, wench, your granny’s here, Granny L, and like most women wants to build for you in place of William’s grandfather.  Well, we’ll try.”  While she was building in the cabinet the guide shouted, “It’s Granny Leitch!”

To our astonishment and delight, Granny materialised, came out of the cabinet and said, “Sandra, Sandra, Sandra”.  When she returned to the cabinet the guide gave some intimate details about Sandra and me, making reference to the nature of our work and family conditions.  I asked him if he could tell me of whom I was thinking at that very moment, and he at once replied, “Of course we can; it’s your mother.  She is here and says she is very pleased you have settled down and got married.”

Thus our message ended. What had been said to my wife and me was very convincing proof of survival. It was absolutely impossible for the medium to have known the intimate details related to us.  (Signed.) William. Neilly. Sandra Neilly.


The séance must surely rank among the most outstanding in the history of Spiritualism.  It was unique in our experience.  But must it remain unique?  Can it be repeated; perhaps even improved upon?  With the tremendous advances in photography which have taken place in recent years, would it be possible for photographic “close-ups” of the faces of the materialised spirits to be taken in infra-red light?  The staggering success of the séance was due to the astonishing mediumship of one man, Mr Gordon Higginson.  With half-a-dozen such mediums, the movement could make a tremendous and immediate leap forward.

Charles Hodgkinson.
John Winning

From The Beacon, March 1972


1 thought on “Glasgow Physical Seance Makes History”

  1. This is Facinating if only I could see such materialisation whilst attending a seance, everything is always done in the dark now, and although you don’t want to doubt there is always that question mark because of this. Fabulous Gordon Higginson!

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