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The Strange Tale of the Crumpled Photograph

A Building Steeped in History

I am now in my nineteenth year at the College of Psychic Studies, South Kensington, London. This old battleship of a building is steeped in history. When you have been there as long as I have, you become quite familiar with the stories of various spiritualist luminaries that have crossed its threshold. I feel a sense of awe and wonder when I think of people such as Helen Duncan, Ivy Northage, Eileen Garret, Harry Price and of course Arthur Conan Doyle to name but a few. They all did so much for the spiritualist movement, but not only that, they played a part in social reform and challenged the church in its absolute authority over the creationist view.

A Unique Consultation

I cannot lay any such claim. However, over the years I have enjoyed being part of the College’s ensemble. I have made many friends, done a lot of growing and have honed my skills. The College is part of my personal history and for that I am truly grateful. Yet none of this could be said without those people who come along to have a consultation with me. It is part of my ethical practice not to remember readings. It’s not a good idea to take it all home with you for several reasons but there is the occasional sitting which for its own unique reason, stays with you. These sessions are memorable if they move you, surprise you, challenge you or are just simply inexplicable. It is to this end that I shall tell this tale.

Here is my Tale

There was a man from Malaysia and whenever he was in town he would make an appointment to come and see me. He was like so many other clients in so far as he was interested in the influences around his work and private life. Really straightforward stuff. He was an affable type, charming but discerning. It was always a pleasure to sit with him and I was happy that he should leave content with his consultation. One day he turned up for his reading, but on this occasion he seemed a little agitated. We went into the session as we always did. I engaged with him in my normal way; my link was positive as usual but I couldn’t understand why he was so ruffled and aloof. We carried on with our sitting and despite his energetic itchiness, we touched all bases and he seemed happy with the proceedings. We had finished the session well in advance, for a change, so he seized upon this opportunity to take the consultation down a strange and amazing route. From his pocket he produced what seemed to be a folded piece of paper. He handed it to me and on closer inspection I realised that this was a black and white photograph. It was crumpled and tattered, lined with age and frayed at the edges. I opened it out and smoothed it open with my hand. “Take a look,” said he “What do you see there?” I gazed at the picture and I was somewhat perplexed. At first glance it seemed so ordinary. A classic memento from a family album.“I am worried about my brother,’’ he continued; “he doesn’t seem well in himself and I don’t know what to do. I went to see him and found him on the floor surrounded by old family photos. This particular one was in his hand. He had been clearing out cupboards before moving to a new place and must have been taking a walk down memory lane. This photo, however, has really freaked him out.” I took another look at the photo and initially nothing jumped out at me. It was an image of a christening with the font at centre stage. Gathered around it was the priest holding a baby and a bunch of people who I assumed were parents and godparents and a small congregation. My client’s earnest expression urged me to take another look. ‘’There is something very unusual in this picture,’’ he said. My eyes scanned each individual and I mentally remarked on how smart they all looked. Their attire was in the style of the 50s or 60s; sharp suits with tulip lapels and the ladies in their sweetheart neckline dresses and full skirts. Everyone was smiling and happy. Then I saw it… Standing at the font, amongst the family, was a man with very curly hair. I don’t know how I missed it. The more I looked the more I realised he was completely out of place. His being had a different type of hue and his clothes were completely unlike the others in the photo. The others were dressed for their era and he was in clothing that we wear today. I felt a shudder, I knew that what I was looking at was something very unusual indeed. That was not all. I told my client what I saw. “The thing is,” he said, “the man with the curly hair is my brother and this is a photo of HIS christening!! HE is the baby that the priest is holding! These are also my parents who are now in the spirit world”. How could this be? We sat in silence for a while contemplating the enormity of it all. I considered that the photo could have been doctored but that wouldn’t explain the age of the worn image nor would it explain the brother’s poor mental state at the discovery of such a shocking picture. When, where and how did all this happen? I didn’t have any answers and I don’t now. Perhaps we will never know. I hope my client and his brother got to the bottom of it and found some peace. Maybe the parents were wanting the brother to remember them kindly and to re-evaluate his childhood. I probably won’t ever know for sure. As for my Malaysian man, I never saw him again. This work can be like that. People disappear like smoke and with it their stories; which sometimes, such as this one, remain in the unexplained file.

This then, my friends, is the end of the strange tale of the crumpled photograph.

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