IN APRIL 1920 James Hewat McKenzie founded the original British College of
Psychic Science, headquartered in a twenty-five room house at 59 Holland
Park in London. (Author's note: The present College of Psychic Studies was
not a part of this College, but assumed the name "College of Psychic
Science" in 1956, having previously been the London Spiritualist Alliance
established in 1884. In 1970, it became the College of Psychic Studies.)
The College was a center of psychical investigation and experiment. A
major concern of the College was the subject of survival and trance
Prior to the College's founding, in 1915 McKenzie hired Muriel Hankey as
his secretary. From McKenzie Muriel learned to cast a compassionate,
knowledgeable and critical eye at psychics and methods of research. From
her experiences during those early days a serious and almost intuitive
insight into the many problems of mediumship and all manifestations of
phenomena was stamped upon this devoted employee's mind.
McKenzie was a hard taskmaster who imposed strict disciplines upon the
training of his psychics. One of his students was
Eileen Garrett, who felt
a close attachment to McKenzie and his training until she died in 1970.
Under McKenzie's tutelage Muriel observed, acted as organizational
secretary, and even acted as a "proxy sitter" (i.e., serving as a
substitute for someone who seeks communication through a medium) countless
times until she emerged as an investigator in her own right. In 1930 she
became Organizing Secretary of the original College, and from 1952 to 1960
she served as Principal and Secretary of the now more familiar College
located at 16 Queensberry Place. She was a frequent lecturer and
contributor to publications devoted to psychical research, was a
commandant in the British Red Cross from 1939 to 1947, served as secretary
to the Ladies' Army and Navy Club from 1937 to 1939, and was a personal
friend to numerous mediums and researchers.
Muriel Hankey was a well-preserved woman with a demure face, a quick
smile, and sudden flashes of a captivating personality. She also possessed
a deep serious quality that saw immediately what really was, but for
gracious reasons often chose to save her opinion until later when all
pertinent facts had been gathered. This insight was invaluable when she
dealt with mediums.
Muriel was born in Putney, and in later life lived there in a flat near
Putney Bridge. When I visited her at her home in London on June 30, 1971
she was sitting in a green velvet print chair in her sitting room. An
oriental tapestry hung on the wall, and a variety of plants on the
windowsill provided warmth to the room. It was a kind of reunion, for we
had previously met and talked in 1966 when she was handling correspondence
for Eileen Garrett at her parapsychology conference in the South of
France. Now several weeks after my visit Muriel was scheduled to lecture
on Eileen Garrett at the College. I wondered as we talked if Muriel
started out as a believer in the reality of psychic phenomena ... so I
Q. How did you find your way to this subject?
A. When I was twenty years old, Bill, I wanted to find a job and earn
pocket money. My family thought I should just be a daughter at home. I
went ahead and looked in the papers for job notices. I answered an
advertisement. It was during the War in May 1915. The person who sent me a
telegram to come for an interview was Mr. J. Hewat McKenzie. I received
that telegram on a Friday. I was engaged to start the following Monday.
Without my parents' knowledge I had attended night classes and learned
shorthand. I was his secretary from 1915 to 1925.
Q. What did your parents think?
A. I went home and told my mother, who immediately telephoned my father in
the north of England. He took a night train down and came to London on a
Saturday to find out just what I was up to.
Q. What was the outcome?
A. He went with me to McKenzie for a second interview, and became
interested. My father then took me home and told my mother that the job
was all right and not to worry - that I was too sensible ever to fall for
the kind of nonsense that the material I was to work with involved, and
that I would never be a spiritualist. He felt there was no harm in my
working and earning a little money. That was the beginning.
Q. Did you ever think you would believe?
A. No, I thought I would never believe. It was just a job in 1915. When
McKenzie took me to the first sitting to take notes, I found that I had to
take notes for myself and the medium was Gladys Osborne Leonard.
Q. What did you think of her as you looked and listened?
A. She was a little older than I, but she was young. I was a little
frightened because I didn't know exactly what I was in for. I was only 20,
and I did not have much life for her to gather, but I have never seen
anyone like her either in or out of trance.
Q. Did you have to pay for the sitting?
A. We were asked half a crown for the fee, and I didn't have half a crown.
I have often said that my first sitting cost me five lunches. About six
pence a day was my allowance for lunch in those days. McKenzie said,
"You'll pay your fee yourself." I replied that I could not afford it. He
said, "You'll never do anything in this life at somebody else's expense.
If you want anything, you'll pay for it." I didn't want that sitting, but
I had it, and that was my first introduction. It was a good one, although
she wasn't giving me exactly communication. She went into trance, and she
had really only then just become professional, and half a crown was the
Q. Did you come to know her well?
A. Oh, very well indeed, and also her husband. She was one of the most
honorable people, a very charming Christian woman, but she did not speak
very much about religion. She was mostly interested in her garden, which
was beautifully kept.
Q. Since there was no center at that time, you then had to go to the
mediums' homes for the sittings?
A. Yes, we went to peoples' houses and we had to watch for the police who
would sometimes come anonymously for sittings and then haul off the poor
sensitive to court for telling fortunes.
Q. Did you know the Rev. Charles Drayton Thomas who was associated in
researching the mediumship of Mrs. Leonard?
A. Yes, I knew him very well indeed. He came into the picture because of
McKenzie. Mr. McKenzie had many interests, and he was a businessman. He
was certainly no fool, and he did have property. All that he had was
always connected in some way with his psychic interests, and his love for
the subject. He decided that people weren't hearing enough about the truth
of psychic matters. He especially felt this in respect to the churches'
interest. In 1915 he hired the Queen’s Hall to give an address. He then
hired it a second time and invited 1,500 clergymen to attend! I had to be
there to hand out the programs. About 300 actually attended. His opening
remark was, "I'm out to smash the churches," which caused everyone to sit
up. Among those present was the Rev. Charles Drayton Thomas.
Q. Did he show any interest?
A. He was a Methodist, and as a result of that meeting and through the
McKenzie's he went to see Mrs. Leonard. It was that experience that
started him on his own explorations and the eventual writing of his books.
My interest was growing all the time, and by the time the College was
started anything that had to be done I would do it. We could not even get
any workmen, and so I literally helped to even make some of the drains in
the building and prepare the floors. I know the whole history of the
College from the beginning.
Q. What do you think this subject has done for you?
A. It gave me an interest in living. Before I was such a miserable person.
It changed my whole life. I was unhappy. I thought life was so empty.
McKenzie knocked some sense into me. The world opened up. Actually Mrs.
McKenzie was his secretary when the College opened, and I was just the
librarian and taking the money - and also a stenographer. My shorthand was
very high speed in those days.
Q. Is there something more you remember about Mrs. Leonard?
A. She was a dedicated woman. I did two years of doing nothing but
reporting for sittings. In this capacity I did get to know the mediums. I
would sit for myself, somebody else as a proxy, or take down a reading for
a sitter. I remember an instance in regard to a sitting Mrs. Leonard gave
when something about shoes came up. The sitter could not remember anything
about shoes and said so. The remark was, "It was a very good sitting, Mrs.
Leonard, but you kept talking about shoes, and my relation had nothing to
do with it." Mrs. Leonard later, thinking about it, remembered that she
took a walk every morning to an area where there was an isolated group of
houses, and a very few shops. She would walk as far as the shoe shop and
look at the shoes and leave. She thought that was the last thing she would
see or do before she went into trance. It taught her to be aware of what
she said in her own mind - and after that experience she would never even
open a newspaper in the morning until she had finished her sitting in case
something she had read came out through the sitting. I respected her very
much for this. She was very dedicated. She never worked with any one group
- always at home.
Q. Since you were present in a sitting of Eileen Garrett when the
"control" Uvani first manifested, and watched McKenzie work to educate the
entity, what was his view of the personalities Uvani and Abdul Latif?
A. He accepted them, and not as mere facets of her multiple personality.
Q. What was your impression of Eileen Garrett in those early days?
A. I thought she was rather flamboyant. She was also a very, very warm
person. Sometimes on Friday evenings these sittings of hers would take
four hours, including the conversation before and after. She was very
willing to cooperate, and she was certainly a guinea pig for the early
days of research. During the day she would go on with her ordinary life.
She had a tea shop. She often said, "When I knew you first I was living in
one room - and if I get back to one room, what the hell." That was typical
of her. You knew she would say that.
Q. How did her appearance impress you?
A. She was a beautiful woman because she had very regular features and
fine brown eyes. She was not so heavy then. She had a fairly substantial
build, but she was not heavy. She put weight on later. She was very bright
and gay and always brought a laugh, and most especially if there were
young men about. She loved parties.
Q. Did you attend her parties?
A. Oh yes, I did - I went to many of them. They were not quiet parties.
When you would look for her she would be sitting around the corner of the
stairs with the most handsome gentlemen.
Q. Did you think she had a magnetic quality?
A. Yes, she did. She was gregarious and always entertaining people. One
thing I liked was her compassion for young people. Perhaps she was too
compassionate. She would always listen to their troubles and woes.
Q. How did she look upon Mr. McKenzie?
A. She did what he said, and was a very obedient pupil, but then again I
have heard her extol him and denigrate him severely to others. She was
Q. Did she miss him later on?
A. Yes. She would say, "We shall never see his like again," and I would
say, "No, thank God." Then we would laugh because we both knew he was a
hard taskmaster. The reason for my book about him was to give him the
benefit of his quality. He was very precise, truthful, and exact about
Q. Would you say Eileen Garrett was any more a believer in her
mediumship in the early days than later on?
A. If you look at Eileen she was like a many-faceted diamond. She would
believe one thing one moment, and disbelieve it another. You could not
hold upon her, nor could she hold for herself a set belief or opinion.
Q. Would you call her a moody person?
A. She was a very moody, but not a morose, person. She was so many
faceted. She was loving and giving, critical and dictatorial. She could be
everything, which was for her a contradictory virtue, and of course you
didn't know at any time when she was going to turn on you next! It could
be as quick as that.
There was an instance at one of the conferences in America. She had an
interview with a scholarly gentleman who was denigrating the validity of
the McKenzie history and all else. Eileen was completely agreeing with
him. It was over and he had gone, but immediately after she walked into
her office with me where there was a picture of McKenzie on the wall, she
turned to me and said: "Do you think he approves of our work now, Muriel?"
Well, I said, "Eileen, you ask a strange question. I just heard you say
you didn't believe in him. Do you believe that he persists, or that he is
aware of what you are doing?" She replied: "How can I not believe?" Now
that is indicative of Mrs. Garrett's temperament. It took me a long time
to come to grips with her mysterious mind.
Q. What did you learn from Eileen Garrett?
A. I learned all about personality. I learned about her mediumship, but
you couldn't apply that generally to other mediums because she was truly a
unique person all by herself.
Q. Did you have an opportunity to observe the work of Ena Twigg before
she was so well known?
A. Yes. Way back when I was the person who recommended her to speak on the
radio when the BBC asked for the name of a medium. I also recommended her
to appear on television. Ena was a very cooperative sensitive. I did what
I could for her, and I always recommended those having sittings that they
take notes. For a time my daughter would go to the College and take
shorthand for sitters.
Q. Do you consider that essential?
A. Yes. They should bring a tape recorder rather than sit without any
secretary or some way of taking it down. I have known people to have a
sitting and term it completely wrong and misrepresent it or misquote it or
make it better than it was or put a different aspect to it which is not
valid. Ena was very good. She was charming with her clients, and got
better and better at her work. I observed her improve so much, and she
became first class.
Q. Has your own faith been strengthened by your experiences?
Q. Do you believe that you will survive death?
A. I do, but in what manner I cannot say.
Q. Are you attracted to the Easter story?
A. Yes, it has added to my faith and just illustrated it.
Q. What would you say to a young person who inquired of you, "I have no
faith at all. I don't believe in anything, but I am interested in
psychical research and ESP"?
A. I would welcome him. I think psychical research would open a door for
Q. Did McKenzie believe that he would survive the experience of death?
A. Yes, he was quite certain.
Muriel Hankey died in 1978. Her memoirs, along with her many experiences
and insights, are documented in her book titled James Hewat McKenzie:
Pioneer of Psychical Research (Aquarian Press, London: 1963)
My personal memories of Muriel include reflections on her delightful
personality, and learning valuable insights from her on the life of Eileen
Garrett - all of this information shared with me over the inevitable
British cup of tea.
The College continued to flourish until McKenzie's death in 1929 when it
is recorded that it "continued under the chairmanship of Sir
Doyle with Mrs. Champion de Crespigny as principal, and with the
collaboration of Mrs. McKenzie. In 1939 the College combined with the
International Institute for Psychical Investigation but in 1947 the
It is interesting to note that during the later years Muriel's daughter
Denise (Iredell) also transcribed sittings by mediums and psychics. Like
her mother, Denise attended events at Mrs. Garrett's European headquarters
at Le Piol, St. Paul de Vence in the south of France. Her involvement in
Psychical Research remains to this day.
Source: By William V. Rauscher