Below is the complete text from Chapter VI of Price's Leaves from a Psychist's Case-Book (Gollancz, 1933) which describes the sitting with Eileen Garrett at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research on 7th October 1930.
Was it really the spirit of Irwin which returned within a few hours of his death to give us a graphic - and accurate account of how his airship met disaster? Did the information come from our subconscious selves? Was the medium clever enough to invent the whole story, with its highly technical terminology and facts known only to Air Ministry officials? Does it prove the case for survival after death? These questions have occupied my mind since the afternoon when the entity calling itself "Lieutenant Irwin" made such a dramatic "appearance" in my Laboratory.
On Tuesday, October 7th, 1939, a séance was held at the rooms of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, the psychic being Mrs. Eileen Garrett, the well-known trance medium. There were present Mr. Ian D. Coster, a friend of mine; myself; and Miss Ethel Beenham, secretary of the Laboratory, who took down in shorthand a verbatim report of the medium's trance utterances.
The séance was arranged at the request of Mr. Coster, who called at the Laboratory on Thursday, October 2nd, to make the necessary arrangements. In his presence I telephoned to Mrs. Garrett, and made an appointment for the following Tuesday (October 7th) at 3 p.m. Mrs. Garrett had never previously sat at the Laboratory, and none of the sitters had had any previous personal experience of her mediumship. No communication passed between the officers of the Laboratory and Mrs. Garrett during the interim (October 2nd to October 7th). At the time of booking, Mrs. Garrett was informed that my friend, Mr. Coster, would like a sitting. She did not know who Mr. Coster was, or that we wished or hoped that any particular entity would communicate.
The experiment was held at the suggestion of Mr. Coster, who thought it possible that the entity of the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle might communicate. No hint of this was conveyed to the medium, either before or at the séance. As a matter of fact, the alleged discarnate entity of Sir Arthur did manifest at this séance, and an account of this portion of the experiment has been recorded in these pages.
The R101 crashed in flames near Beauvais, France, on the early morning of Sunday, October 5th, 1930. News of the disaster reached London during the morning, and some Sunday papers issued special editions during the day giving a brief report of the catastrophe. But no detailed account was available to the general public until the morning of Monday, October 6th, when the daily press published more or less accurate reports of what had happened to the airship.
The séance with Mrs. Garrett was held in the rooms of the National Laboratory, in full daylight, on Tuesday, October 7th, 1930, and commenced at 3 p.m. I have already described how she is controlled by an alleged Arab who calls himself "Uvani." He speaks (of course, through the medium's vocal organs) in broken English, and introduces to the sitters those "spirits" who wish to communicate.
At five minutes past three, when the medium had become entranced, "Uvani" announced himself thus: " It is 'Uvani.' I give you greeting, friends; peace be with you and in your life and in your household!"
FLIGHT-LIEUTENANT H. C. IRWIN COMMUNICATES
Shortly after, "Uvani" said in his broken English: "I see for the moment I-R-V-I-N-G or I-R-W-I-N. He say he must do something about it ... apologises for coming ... for interfering ... speaks of Dora, Dorothy, Gladys ... for heaven's sake, give this to them ... the whole bulk of the dirigible was entirely and absolutely too much for her engine capacity."
Then the voice of the medium again changed and an entity announced that he was Flight-Lieutenant H. Carmichael Irwin, captain of the R101. He was very agitated, and in a long series of spasmodic sentences gave the listeners a detailed and apparently highly technical account of how the R101 crashed a few hours previously. The entity described how the airship sank and failed to rise; what was wrong with the engine, her design, etc. The full verbatim account is given below. At the conclusion of the very disjointed "communication," the medium relapsed into silence and shortly after the "Doyle" entity manifested.
The speech of the medium during the "Irwin" communication was so rapid that the stenographer had a little difficulty in taking it down, but it is not thought that much was lost.
VERBATIM REPORT OF "IRWIN" COMMUNICATION
UVANI: " I see for the moment I-R-V-I-N-G or I-R-W-I-N. He say he must do something about it. He is not coming to you - does not belong to anyone - apologises for coming, for interfering [with our experiment?] Seems to be anxious to speak to a lady in the body. Speaks of Dora, Dorothy, Gladys. He says: 'Never mind about me, but do, for heaven's sake, give this to them. The whole bulk of the dirigible was entirely and absolutely too much for her engine capacity. Engines too heavy. It was this that made me on five occasions have to scuttle back to safety. Useful lift too small. Gross lift computed badly - inform control panel. And this idea of new elevators totally mad. Elevator jammed. Oil pipe plugged. This exorbitant scheme of carbon and hydrogen is entirely and absolutely wrong. To begin with, the demand for it would be greater than the supply. Also let me say this: I have experimented with less hydrogen in my own dirigible, with the result that we are not able to reach 1,000 metres. With the new carbon hydrogen you will be able to get no altitude worth speaking about. With hydrogen one is able to do that quite easily. Greater lifting than helium. Explosion caused by friction in electric storm. Flying too low altitude and could never rise. Disposable lift could not be utilised. Load too great for long flight. Same with S.L.8 -
tell Eckener. Cruising speed bad and ship badly swinging. Severe tension on the fabric, which is chafing. Starboard strakes [?] started. Engines wrong - too heavy - cannot rise. Never reached cruising altitude - same in trials. Too short trials. No one knew the ship properly. Air-screws too small. Fuel injection bad and air pump failed. Cooling system bad. Bore capacity bad. Next time with cylinders but bore of engine 1,100 c.c., but that bore is not enough to raise too heavy load and support weight. It had been known to me on many occasions that the bore capacity was entirely inadequate to the volume of structure. This I had placed again and again before engineer - without being able to enlarge capacity of Diesel twin valve. Had this been interchangeable with larger capacity, we might have made it. But the structure no good. That actually is the case, not gas did not allow mixture to get to engine - back-fired. Fuel injection bad.' "
PRICE: "Crude oil is not inflammable."
IRWIN: "This is inflammable. Also, to begin with, there was not sufficient feed - leakage. Pressure and heat produced explosion. [Explosion in cylinders, as entity already informed us that explosion on crashing was caused by friction in electric storm?] Five occasions I have had to scuttle back; three times before starting not satisfied with feed. Already a meeting, but feel desirous to put off and set our course and overhaul completely against this. Weather bad for long flight. Fabric all water-logged and ship's nose is down. Impossible to rise. Cannot trim. You will understand that I had to tell you. There were five occasions I have had distinct trouble - new type of feed entirely and absolutely wrong. Two hours tried to rise but elevator jammed. Almost scraped the roofs at Achy[?]. Kept to railway. At inquiry to be held later it will be found that the superstructure of the envelope contained no resilience and had far too much weight in envelope. This was not so until March of this year, when no security was made by adding of super-steel structure. I knew then that this was not a dream but a nightmare. The added middle section was entirely wrong - it made strong but took resilience away and entirely impossible too heavy and too much over-weighted for the capacity of engines. From beginning of trouble I knew we had not a chance - knew it to be the feed, and we could never rise. I am
anxious about the health of a lady and child - am very worried over everything private."
[Medium's voice changes, "Uvani" now speaks.] " He does not come to you. Seems to be holding out something to us. He says: 'Bore, capacity, feed, and gas. We could never rise.' "[Medium relapses into silence, and, after a minute or so's pause, "Uvani" again speaks and "Irwin" entity appears to have gone.]
THE OFFICIAL ATTITUDE
Immediately after the séance, the shorthand notes were transcribed and copies of the protocol handed to various persons on request. The Air Ministry is in possession of a copy of the report, and its existence was made known to Sir John Simon, who conducted the public inquiry into the disaster. Publication of the protocol was purposely delayed by the Administration of the Laboratory so that it would not disturb the work of those whose duty it was to collect material for the public inquiry. It is not known what use has been made of the protocol in official quarters, though I have had some correspondence with the Air Ministry concerning the information we acquired. It was not surprising that, when the existence of the "Irwin" protocol became known, it caused considerable interest at Bedford, where the R101 was built. Mr. X, an officer, read of the existence of the "Irwin" protocol in an article I wrote in a monthly journal, and wrote to the Laboratory asking if he could peruse a copy of it. Permission was given.
Mr. X was much interested, as he came much in contact with the officers and crew of the R101.
Mr. X was invited to visit the Laboratory and give his impressions and comments of the séance report, especially in regard to the technical details, terms, and phraseology. Mr. X kindly consented, and his assistance has been utilised in determining the value to be placed on the trance communication. By appointment, he met Mrs. A. Peel Goldney, a Council member of' the National Laboratory, who recorded his comments and annotations.
GENERAL REMARKS RE THE R 101
As a preliminary to his notes on the trance utterances, Mr X gave Mrs. Goldney a short resume of the history of the R101. It should be emphasised that her informant was speaking in his private capacity and not as an official of the department with which he is connected. The following general remarks are important as bearing on the séance record:
Previous history: The loss of the R38, destined to be known as the Z.R.2, in the Humber on August 24th, 1921: This was the last trial flight prior to handing this airship over to the United States of America. The airship had been out about thirty hours. The airship was being turned suddenly, whilst going at full speed (as a test of her capabilities). She broke in the middle.
Description of the R38 : Running practically the whole length of the ship's keel was the petrol line for supplying the fuel to engine. Parallel and adjacent to this ran the electric cable. When the ship broke, as stated above, both the cable and petrol line snapped, a spark from the former igniting the petrol and causing a conflagration.
With the fate of the R38 in mind, the designer of the R101 realised that the great danger for airships lay in the inflammability of the petrol, and not chiefly of the hydrogen gas with which the gas-bags are filled. The petrol fumes being heavy, they would sink to the bottom of the ship. On the other hand, hydrogen gas, being so much lighter than air, would rapidly rise above the airship, disperse in the atmosphere, and so cause less danger. Therefore, in designing the R101, the object in view was to eliminate the petrol. This was the more important as the ship was destined for use in the tropics.
It was decided, therefore, to adopt the Diesel oil engine with heavy fuel oil. A special type of D.O. engine was evolved which had, however, the disadvantage of being very heavy and adding considerable weight to the ship. There were five of these D.O. engines installed, and whereas a sixth would have been advisable in so far as power was the consideration, the resultant weight made this quite impracticable.
R101 compared with sister ship R100: The R100 was of five million cubic feet capacity (and practically 4,000 horse power);
the R101 was of five-and-a-half million cubic feet capacity, with barely 2,500 horse power. The power in the R101 could not be increased because of the impossiblity of adding further weight. This 2,500 horse power was the minimum possible for safety; but, even so, was preferable to the use of petrol and its attendant risks.
THE LAST FLIGHT OF THE R101
After preliminary trials, it was recognised that the ship was too heavy to undertake trips abroad in her then condition. Modifications of structure were necessary, and, to effect these, the ship was put back into her shed and (a) a further gas bag added by inserting a new compartment or bay and (b) a certain amount of weight was also eliminated by reducing passenger accommodation.
After the alterations it was confidently anticipated that the increased "lift" was ample for the voyage to India to be safely undertaken.
The R101 left her shed after the modifications described above, and was taken to the mooring-tower on Wednesday, September 3oth, 1930. It was intended that she should have undertaken a twenty-four-hour trial flight, but actually this was cut down to a sixteen-hour trial flight, which took place on October 1st, 1930. As was revealed by the subsequent public inquiry, no official report could be produced of this trial flight. But presumably it was considered safe to proceed to India as per schedule.
Start of the R101 on her last trip: The consensus of opinion of those who witnessed the start of the R101 was that she "got away" badly when the airship left; it was observed by all that in spite of the added section (the new bay) an abnormal quantity of water ballast had to be released in order to enable the ship to rise the small amount necessary in order to clear the mooring-tower. After leaving, she appeared to sink, but upon her engines being put into action she gradually began to climb by dynamic lift. The ship left her moorings at 8 p.m.
It was apparent to all onlookers that the ship appeared very heavy. Shortly after leaving, the R101 ran into heavy rain and
squalls. The water on the fabric admittedly added anything from four to six tons of weight to the ship, just as a wet umbrella is heavier than a dry one.
Popular theories: Popular opinion in Bedford was to the effect that the weight of the water due to rain proved too much for the engines, which were the first of their kind to be constructed in any country. It was confidently thought that had the R101 possessed the greater engine power of the R100, the disaster might have been avoided.
NOTES ON THE SÉANCE RECORD
Mr. X has kindly annotated for me the verbatim notes of the séance, and his comments and those of "Irwin's" are placed in parallel columns so that correspondences may be easily noted. Mr. X's observations are in the right-hand column. The "Irwin" statements that appear remarkable have been emphasised by using capital letters; obscure passages have been answered in italics.
One does not have to be a spiritualist to realise that the protocol of the "Irwin" entity obtained through the mediumship of Mrs. Garrett is, in many ways, a very remarkable document.
The medium, it is understood, has never possessed any sort of engine or motor-car and knows nothing about aeronautics or engineering.
The building and handling of an airship is a very specialised business, in which a number of technical terms, peculiar to the industry, are used.
How many women, taken at random, would understand the use of such terms as: "useful lift," "gross lift," "control panel," "elevator" (as applied to the raising of an airship), "hydro-carbon," "disposable lift," "cruising speed," "tension on fabric," "starboard strakes," "cruising altitude," "airscrews," "fuel injection," "trim," "volume of structure," etc.? Very few men would be able to reel off in rapid succession such a string of terms with any degree of relevancy. And every term used is relevant, and the statements made are, in nearly every case, entirely correct or probably or reasonably correct. Some of Irwin's statements were confirmed at official enquiry.
"We almost scraped the roofs at Achy" is a striking statement. I spent an entire morning trying to find the place on a number of French motoring and road maps. I failed. It was only when a large-scale railway map of France was studied that the place was discovered. Baedeker's Northern France (fifth ed., 1909) does not mention the place, and it is not even listed in such a detailed and comprehensive work as Michelin's Motoring Guide, France. It is, in fact, a very small village, on the main line between Amiens and Beauvais. As Mr. X points out, Flight-Lieutenant Irwin would be in the possession of a large-scale map of the district over which he was flying, and as the ship was in such a terrible predicament ("we almost scraped the roofs") he, as captain, was undoubtedly following the route with the greatest observation and apprehension.
The "hydro-carbon" observation is likewise remarkable, and, as the experiments were a more or less official secret, it seems unlikely that Mrs. Garrett could have been normally aware that they had taken place.
Thought-transference, it is considered, can be ruled out of the experiment with Mrs. Garrett. Not one of the small group of sitters was consciously thinking about the disaster; no one present had any technical knowledge of airships or their engines; the name of Irwin had not been mentioned, and the disaster had not been discussed. It came as a great surprise to the sitters when the alleged "Irwin" entity manifested.
The Schütte Lanz reference is interesting. I asked a number
of friends, at random, whether they had ever heard of the name: no one could place it. Even Mr. X had some trouble in tracing the reference. The "Dr. Eckener" reference is not so remarkable, as this German airship constructor is well known; but it would have been interesting to have ascertained, before the public enquiry, what percentage of women had heard of the name.
It is not my intention to discuss if the medium were really controlled by the discarnate entity of Irwin, or whether the utterances emanated from her subconscious mind or those of the sitters. "Spirit" or "trance personality" would be equally interesting explanations - and equally remarkable. There is no real evidence for either hypothesis. But it is not my intention to discuss hypotheses, but rather to put on record the detailed account of a remarkably interesting and thought-provoking experiment.
I have discussed with Mrs. Irwin the "return" of her son, and she was deeply impressed with the evidence. She can offer no explanation of the names "Dora," "Dorothy," "Gladys," which "Uvani" mentioned at the commencement of the séance.
My experiments with Mrs. Garrett attracted considerable attention, and shortly afterwards the medium was invited to go to the United States for some demonstration séances. A number of scientists took an interest in her, and I understand that they were impressed with her powers. Upon her return to England, she was again subjected to scientific examination. It is not often that I discover a first-class psychic, but I was fortunate in my choice of Mrs. Garrett, the development of whose mediumship I have watched with considerable interest.
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