by Montague Keen, Arthur Ellison & David Fontana
DescriptionThis edition is the reprint of the original report published in 1999 in the Proceedings of the Society of Psychical Research. In 1994 the development of psychic phenomena in Robin Foy's Group at the Scole Farmhouse came to the attention of the Society of Psychical Research.
This report is the outcome of a two year investigation of the Group. It was conducted principally by three senior members of the Society for Psychical Research - the authors of this report. The authors' diverse professional backgrounds together with their many years of investigation of paranormal phenomena and the fact that most of the events described were experienced or witnessed simultaneously by at least three seasoned investigators improves the probability of authenticity.
In the course of over 20 sittings, from 1995 to 1997, the investigators, together with other occasional researchers/sitters, witnessed a wide range of phenomena and were unable to detect any direct indication of fraud or deception. They encountered evidence favouring the hypothesis of intelligent forces able to influence material objects, and to convey associated meaningful messages, both visual and aural.
IntroductionIn 1992 Robin Foy established a small home circle in the cellar of his home near Diss in Norfolk. By the end of August 1994, the development of physical phenomena had progressed dramatically and Foy and his wife Sandra dedicated themselves to what, according to their spirit advisers, was to become the centre for the development of a new type of spirit energy without the traditional ectoplasmic extrusions.
In the winter of 1994 the existence of the Group came to the attention of the Society of Psychical Research. This report is the outcome of a two year investigation of the Group. It has been conducted principally by three senior members of the Society for Psychical Research – the authors of this report.
The authors' diverse professional backgrounds of psychology, electrical engineering, agricultural administration/farming together with their many years of investigation of paranormal phenomena and the fact that most of the events described were experienced or witnessed simultaneously by at least three seasoned investigators improves the probability of authenticity.
In the course of over 20 sittings, from 1995 to 1997, the investigators, together with other occasional researchers/sitters, were unable to detect any direct indication of fraud or deception, and encountered evidence favouring the hypothesis of intelligent forces, whether originating in the human psyche or from discarnate sources, able to influence material objects, and to convey associated meaningful messages, both visual and aural.
Alan Murdie in his Introduction to this new edition states that the Scole Report is a valuable document for the wider study of alleged cases of spontaneous physical phenomena. The hope of psychical researchers is that analysis of cumulative data will yield deeper understanding of the factors at work, and The Scole Report provides potentially significant data both for the assessment of earlier cases, and for any cases that may arise in the future.
Chapter 9 Film PhenomenaWhat turned out to be the last of the film strips, and in at least one respect the most puzzling, derived from another 36-frame roll of Kodachrome 200 film. We have called this the Daguerre film because the written name of Louis Daguerre, pioneer of photography, appeared after the script which read: Can you see behind the Moon? (Plate 16). The film was developed following a sitting on 24th January 1997 (Sitting 25), attended by Prof. Donald West (DW), Dr Alan Gauld (AG) and MK, as part of what had been intended to be a series at which distinguished SPR researchers and others were to be invited to participate in experiments, or witness phenomena, or perhaps both. The sitting was prefaced by what by now had become a familiar procedure, in which the two visitors were invited to place two new Kodachrome film tubs (part of the batch bought by MK, stored at Hertfordshire University, and dispatched thence by Dr Wiseman direct to Prof. West) into the Alan and Keen boxes. MK produced his own padlock for the Alan box, locked it after DW had placed his film inside, and put the key in his car. The second tub was placed in the Keen box by AG who secured it with the combination lock MK had bought. AG memorised the four-figure setting number, and kept it to himself.
When DW, AG and MK entered the séance room, they placed the two boxes on a piece of plain paper in a central position on the table, as determined by alignment with the luminous direction-indicator tabs. The boxes abutted one another, and DW traced their outlines onto the paper, including the irregular shape made by the padlocks resting on it. After the sitting, DW, AG and MK each checked to ensure there had been no sign of movement of either box. Because the Group wished to retain the Alan box for further experiments, the investigators opened it after the sitting, removed the tub containing the film and placed this in a Jiffybag, which AG sealed and signed and handed to MK, together with the padlocked Keen box, so that they could both be taken to Wimbledon the following Monday for development. Having been requested accordingly, the manager at Wimbledon certified that the Jiffybag seals were intact, obtained the combination from Dr Gauld by telephone, and opened the Keen box.
In the event the film in this box proved blank, whereas the Alan box film carried l.3 metres of drawings, hieroglyphs, abstract imagery (for want of a more apposite description), the initials RS in two places, and some monograms. This film, which as indicated we have called after Daguerre, has generated considerable research, several further hints from later discussions with the Team, and thus far a failure to establish the full relevance or significance of the message or of the hieroglyphs, or the identity of RS and his supposed relationship to Daguerre. We examine the fraud hypothesis in some detail in Chapters XIV and XV. Here we are primarily concerned with the circumstances relating to the film's production and our attempts to discover the meaning of its message.
We proceeded on the assumption that the message was not intended as a meaningless game devised by the Team, but had been as carefully thought out as the Wordsworth films appeared to be, and that it was designed to demonstrate the Team's declared intention to bring further and better evidence of survival, and of the capacity of deceased souls to communicate by a method reflecting their thought-forms rather than our own. This assumption could, of course, have been mistaken, and in that case it would have been pointless even to attempt to discover a meaning. However, earlier films certainly had meanings, or reflected intentions, even though several were by no means entirely clear to us. But that meanings were in fact intended in the Daguerre film was evident from conversations with EB and Edwin spread over three sessions, that on the evening when the films were introduced and apparently worked on, 24th January 1997, and two subsequent sittings, on 8th and 28th February. The first, which of course took place two days before the film had been processed, contained the following exchange:–
Edwin: I believe that someone, a Frenchman, has . . . perhaps that’s all I should say: Monty does like a puzzle.
EB: He’s going off them!
Edw: Well, I don’t think it’s going to be too difficult . . . when you know who it is. When you look at his work a few more puzzles will fall into place. Just one other word, well two words — “the moon” . . . Oh, I must tell you, it’s probably the longest attempt they have made, in length.
EB: Someone is saying the initial ‘R’ is there.
While all these hints accurately forecast what was to appear on the 1.3 metre-long film strip, they contributed little to explaining its meaning. Time spent subsequently by MK in the print room at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London showed that the writing bore no relation to Daguerre’s normal signature. A subsequent sitting on February 8th, at which DF, IS, WS and MK were all present as investigators, contained the following:–
Edw: Can you see behind the Moon? [a repetition of the first message in the Daguerre film]
MK: No, I can’t see where it comes from.
Edw: Well Louis can.
IS: Louis Stevenson?
DF: Louis Pasteur?
MK: No, Louis Daguerre — but it isn’t his signature. That’s one of my complaints. I don’t mind being teased, but I think that’s misleading.
EB: We said there was a Frenchman there.
MK: If he was, and he signed it . . .
EB: Who said so? Not the same at all . . .
DF: His name was just written there.
Edw: There is another signature who was responsible.
MK: The RS? That was there, certainly.
Edw: Not in the hand of RS, even.
RF: Did RS have a French connection?
MK: There is one other letter.
Edw (slightly impatiently): “Can you see behind the Moon”: that’s where you must look.
Edw: It was all because someone was in prison.
DF: Oh, that was a clue to that.
EB: Think about the work, the work of the signature.
Edw: Have you found any of his work?
MK [on the assumption that ‘his’ referred to Daguerre]: Oh yes, I looked up Daguerre’s work, quite a bit of it. I saw nothing that was the back of the moon, but maybe I didn’t look carefully enough. I haven’t done as much research into it as I really ought.
EB: Look into his other interests.
EB: Yes, you see I’m being awfully sweet to you.
MK: If you could manage to put a little more saccharine into the tea . . .
DF: Other interests?
MK: Fox Talbot had other interests, and Louis Daguerre, but I haven’t tracked down the Fox Talbot reference yet.
DF: That may not be a reference.
EB: I wouldn’t put too much money on that. Not yet. Wait for something further.
RF: Do you know if RS had a French connection at all?
EB: I’m not giving that away! [after indications that RS was not connected to poetry or children’s books . . ]:
MK: Very much like the Paris Metro, the writing, 1890’s style.
EB: Oh well, not surprised.
Edw: Yes Monty, you have to look beyond what the text books tell you, beyond the obvious career of the person involved . . . something a bit deeper, more obscure. Then you will find your answers. Find out about the work of the man, the Frenchman. Then you will find out a lot more about that particular experiment.
MK found some of these hints so ambiguous as to be almost meaning-less. Daguerre (1787–1851) was a brilliant painter for the stage, and invented the hugely successful Diorama before collaborating with Nicéphore Niepce (and with Isadore, his son, after Niepce’s death in 1833) to improve and perfect Niepce’s photographic invention, the rights for which were bought by the French Government in 1839. Daguerre retired shortly afterwards. He had been responsible for some dramatic scenic effects during the 1820s and 1830s at several Paris theatres, most notably at the Opéra. But no connection with anyone with the initials RS could be found, or indeed any connection with a spell in prison, or with a close collaborator, other than Niepce and perhaps a little with Fox Talbot in England, with whom he was in fairly close touch. Talbot’s own photographic process was virtually contemporaneous with the development of the Daguerreotype, but based on a different technology. The Daguerreotype became all the rage, and dominated the reproductive process at least up to the time of the 1851 Exhibition, having become a major craze in the USA. Some of Daguerre’s impressive photographs include moonlight scenes.
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