Helen Duncan


















Harry Price and the Regurgitating Medium

Portrait of Helen Duncan from Harry Price's Regurgitation and the Duncan Mediumship.

Of all the high-profile cases which Harry Price was involved with during his career in psychical research, the two which come down to us through the years that are still able to command active participation as it were, and continued debate and attention are without a doubt Borley Rectory and Helen Duncan.  Harry Price encountered and tested countless mediums and psychics.  Many are now obscure and forgotten, while others occupy their places in the history of spiritualism, either bogus, apparently genuine, or a mixture of the two.  Of the frauds, mention can be made of William Hope, George Valiantine and Jean Guzik whom Price personally sat with and was wholly or partly responsible for their exposure.  The four mediums whom Harry Price was most impressed with were Stella Cranshaw, Eileen Garrett, Willi Schneider and his brother Rudi Schneider, probably the most scientifically tested of all physical mediums. 

Depending on your point of view, Helen Duncan can occupy either of the three categories mentioned above.  In her day she was revered in spiritualist circles and this continues actively to this day.  Mediums like the Schneiders are now noted historical figures, but Helen Duncan is unique in the respect that she holds what amounts to a continuing emotive position in contemporary spiritualism and inevitably psychical research, nearly fifty years after her death.  There is an 'Official' Helen Duncan website which promotes a campaign for a Governmental pardon for her imprisonment following the notorious trial at Portsmouth in 1944 where she was charged under the 1735 Witchcraft Act for pretending to communicate with the spirits of the dead.  Like the many people who had sittings with Helen Duncan that were convinced of the genuineness of her phenomena, many psychics and commentators today express the same view - in the recent Sky One documentary of Harry Price, medium Gerrie March expressed her opinion that Helen was a genuine medium who resorted to trickery only when she found her powers were failing and had to keep up with the hopes and expectations of her sitters.

Whether the Scottish medium really produced genuine materialisations will not be debated here.  This section of the website deals with Harry Price's involvement with Helen Duncan, primarily during the series of sittings which she gave at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research in May 1931.  The phenomena which was produced for Price was quite clearly fraudulent for which Price and his Laboratory were charged £50 for the privilege of witnessing.  As with other sections of the website, articles and papers by Harry Price and his contemporaries are included alongside modern essays and writings.  Click on the titles to access the articles.

Control photograph replicating the phenomena of Mrs Duncan taken at Harry Price's National Laboratory in 1931

The Duncan Séance Photographs (1931)    Reproduced here are the entire 22 stereogram photographs which illustrated Price's report of his series of sittings with Mrs. Duncan.

Review of Harry Price's Regurgitation and the Duncan Mediumship by Dr V.J. Woolley (1932)   Harry Price's report on his sittings with Mrs Duncan were published as Bulletin I of his National laboratory of psychical Research.  This review is taken from the Journal of the S.P.R.

The Cheese-Cloth Worshippers by Harry Price (1933)   The complete chapter from Price's Leaves from a Psychist's Case Book which deals with the sittings at the National Laboratory with Mrs Duncan.









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All original text, photographs & graphics used throughout this website are © copyright 2004-2005 by Paul G. Adams.  All other material reproduced here is the copyright of the respective authors.