Eileen J. Garrett remains one of the most important mediums of the Twentieth Century. During her career, she reportedly helped stimulate popular interest in parapsychology and research into unexplained psychic phenomena.
She wrote extensively about the paranormal and her life as a psychic medium.
Childhood Psychic Events
Born in County Meath in eastern Ireland in 1893 as Eileen Vancho-Brownwell, she moved in with an aunt and uncle at an early age following the tragic suicides of both her parents. As a child, Eileen reportedly observed unusual lights and energies around many living creatures, a phenomena she considered normal. Her childhood playmates reportedly included imaginary friends.
As a young girl, she was outdoors one day when she noticed a relative approaching her, carrying an infant in her arms. Her relative, Leone, resided in a community some miles away. She explained to Eileen: “I am going away now and I must take the baby with me.” Eileen promptly notified her foster-mother of the chance encounter, but was punished for lying. The next day the household learned that Leone had perished during childbirth, together with her baby.
As a youngster, Eileen Garrett reportedly suffered from poor health. Her family sent her as a teenager to live with relatives in England. Shortly after she arrived, she attracted the attention of an older man, architect Clive Barry. They married sometime around 1908.
The couple celebrated the birth of four children, three boys and a girl. Sadly, all three of their sons passed away at young ages. The two eldest both contracted meningitis and died unexpectedly. The third son lived for only a few hours.
Soon after giving birth to their daughter, Eileen fell seriously ill. Her marriage ended in divorce shortly before the outbreak of the First World War.
The WWWI Years
During World War One, Eileen supported herself by nursing wounded soldiers. One of her patients proposed to her, a young officer, and they married before his return to the front lines. Shortly after her spouse returned to active duty, Eileen reportedly experienced a premonition of his death. She reportedly dismissed the feeling and went out to dinner with friends, but later had a vision in which she saw him dying.
Two days later word arrived that her husband had been listed as missing in action. The British government later reported that he died in combat at Ypres, France. Online sources do not indicate this gentleman's name.
Eileen once again fell seriously ill during the final months of the First World War. While recovering from her illness, she fell in love with J. W. Garrett. The couple married in 1918.
During her third marriage, Eileen grew increasingly intrigued by paranormal phenomena, and she began attending seances with mediums, a popular past-time in post-war England. Her interest in this subject placed a strain on her family life.
During one visit with a group of people seeking to explore the phenomena of table rapping, she reportedly fell asleep and awoke to discover that other people in the room believed she had gone into a trance and helped the dead communicate with them. Her fame as a medium grew during this period. Some online sources report that she eventually came to channel four personalities or spirit “guides,” although she ultimately rejected many spiritualist concepts concerning paranormal phenomena.
In 1927, Eileen Garrett's marriage ended in a divorce. She began working closely with J. Hewat McKenzie, the founder of the British College of Psychic Science, and his wife, Barbara. The couple investigated mediums until Mr. McKenzie's death in 1929.
At one point, she reportedly became betrothed again, but both Eileen and her intended fell seriously ill. He passed away from pneumonia before their wedding. Once again, online information is not readily available about this man's identity.
The R101 Airship Disaster
In 1930, Eileen Garrett's paranormal abilities gained widespread media attention when she participated in a seance sponsored by Harry Price to contact the late writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to ask him about an airship disaster which had recently occurred. A reporter attended the event, as did several survivors of the accident.
Medium Eileen Garrett purportedly obtained psychic impressions from the deceased pilot, Lt. H. C. Irwin. She related a series of highly technical pieces of information about the crash of the airship, stunning many observers.
Dr. Rhine's Investigations
The early American parapsychology investigator Dr. Joseph Rhine in 1933 invited Eileen Garrett to his laboratory at Duke University, where he tested her extensively for clairvoyance. Cards carrying symbols were sealed in envelopes and investigators asked test subjects to identify the designs. Although some modern sources (namely Wikipedia) reported that Eileen Garrett performed poorly during this test, Dr. Rhine and some parapsychologists disagreed strongly with that assessment. The controversy has been cited as evidence of bias against Parapsychology as a field in at least one blog.
She participated in analysis sessions with Psychologist William Brown and agreed to take word association tests administered by Whately Carington. Researcher Hereward Carrington tested her physiological responses during seances, including blood pressure. These researchers reportedly concluded that telepathy did not factor into her abilities as a medium.
Eileen Garrett impressed many people as a clairvoyant. She reportedly assisted Nandor Fodor investigate the haunting of Ash Manor in 1936. Many other researchers sought to test her psychic abilities during this period, reportedly with variable results.
Eileen J. Garrett would later write in the preface of her autobiography:”I have a gift, a capacity- a delusion, if you will- which is called ‘psychic.' I do not care what it might be called, for living with and utilizing this psychic capacity long ago inured me to a variety of epithets- ranging from expressions almost of reverence, through doubt and pity, to open vituperation. In short, I have been called many things, from a charlatan to a miracle woman. I am, at least, neither of these.”
World War II
Eileen Garrett resided in southern France when World War II broke out in 1939. She managed to reach Lisbon, Portugal in 1940 or 1941. She journeyed to the United States aboard a refugee vessel.
She became a U. S. citizen in 1947. In North America, Eileen J. Garrett supported herself by writing and speaking. She founded Tomorrow, a magazine about public events which fared poorly. She also started Creative Age Press, a publishing house later sold to Farrar, Strauss and Young in 1951. It published works by Eileen J. Garrett and a number of other authors.
Her books eventually included several novels written under the pen name Jean Lyttle. Between 1938 and 1968, she authored a number of nonfiction works dealing with the paranormal. Her books included: My Life as a Search for the Meaning of Mediumship (1938); Telepathy in Search of a Lost Faculty (1941); Adventures in the Supernormal: A Personal Memoir (1949); The Sense and Nonsense of Prophecy (1950); and Many Voices: The Autobiography of a Medium (1968).
Efforts to Understand the Paranormal
In 1951, she joined Congresswoman Frances Bolton of Ohio in founding the Parapsychology Foundation. Through its library and scholarly publications, this institution sought to disseminate information about the field of parapsychology and provide a place for the study of paranormal phenomena. It reportedly scheduled 28 international annual conferences on the subject of Parapsychology.
Congresswoman Bolton reportedly served in Congress for 28 years following the death of her husband, Chester, in 1939. She was appointed to succeed him in office, and subsequently won 14 consecutive terms in her own right. The Republican congresswoman's interests included investigating paranormal events and supporting the Civil Rights movement. The Parapsychology Foundation website indicates that she provided much of the funding for its establishment in New York.
Later in life, Eileen J. Garrett reportedly divided her time between the United States and France. In 1960, she reportedly worked with a Psychologist called Lawrence LeShan, who was interested in the topic of alternate realities.
Eileen J. Garrett passed away on September 15, 1970 at the age of 77 following a long battle with bone cancer. Her biography is documented in Wikipedia, but does not appear in Encyclopedia Britannica and several other online sources.