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Rescue Circles Part 46 'Most Haunted' on the Yorkshire Moors in Victorian Times

By:Richard Rowley
Date: Wed,16 Mar 2011
Submitter:Richard Rowley - reviewer

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David Weatherhead

Another type of cell memory. Alfred Kitson and a visit to prison. Getting Physical and the original “Most Haunted” in Victorian times.

Rescue work in its various forms and locations continues to this day. We can even take an outsider’s glimpse of it in such television programs as “Most Haunted ”in England, and “Rescue Mediums” in Canada and other features about hauntings emanating from various places in and around the USA.

Some of the locations where earthbounds and
extremely distressed souls are found are prisons and
mental hospitals. I have visited both types of
institution a few times performing in concerts, and
have not wanted to linger long in such atmospheres.
These places have never been the reformatories they
were intended to be, and much suffering lingers on,
even when the buildings have been converted or torn
down and rebuilt as pubs, hotels, museums and
We were recently discussing one of the pioneers
of Spiritualism and the Lyceum movement, Alfred Kitson. He
first met W.T. Stead in 1895 when the latter presided
over the General Conference of Spiritualists in
London. So we will take this opportunity of giving his
account of some rescue work with former prisoners and
jailors who had been earthbound for several centuries.
Those of you who are contemplating undertaking this
kind of rescue work will find some useful information
in his story. In particular he points out the
dangerous situations which can easily get out of
control in such cases.
For his encounter with spirits in prison we go
back to the 1880s, the same time that the Baileys
started their rescue circle in Buffalo, N.Y. and when
the clairvoyant boy was writing his spiritual diary in
Yorkshire. This meeting also took place in Yorkshire,
at Howley Ruins near Batley, the grounds of which have now (2011) long been turned into a golf course. A few miles North-West
of there is Haworth, home of the Brontes, and the village of
Keighley, where an ancestor of mine, David
Weatherhead ( * see note below), co-founded the first Spiritualist
journal, "The Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph” in 1855.

Alfred Kitson was present with mediums and
speakers from the Yorkshire District Spiritualists’
Committee. Here is his account.
Richard R.

“The weather was fine. The place was the ruins
of an historic hall [which included dungeons], said to
have been destroyed by Oliver Cromwell. It was a
place of general attraction and holiday resort, and
had two or three tea rooms that catered for the

At the close of the meetings, the friends were
photographed by Mr. Fox, of Batley, who was a local
Spiritualist. Then someone suggested that a meeting
be held in the cellars, it being rumoured that there
were some earth-bound spirits in them. The
suggestion was eagerly accepted by a number of local
Spiritualists, amongst whom was Miss Atkins, the
medium of our Home Circle. The novelty of the affair
appealed to their curiosity. I tried to persuade them
not to hold the meetings as there would be trouble if
they did. They begged of me to join them, but I
walked away in the hope of drawing them away; but in
vain. I had not gone far when I heard strains of one
of our hymns wafted to me from the cellars. I
proceeded on my way until arrested by hearing my name
called in a tone of distress. I halted to learn what
was the matter, when with white face, and panting
breath the messenger begged of me to return with him
as some of the ‘mediums were under control, screaming
and kicking.’

When I arrived on the scene all was in wild
commotion and confusion. Those under control were
fighting desperately with all who tried to hold them
in restraint. Miss Atkins was one of the worst
affected. I advised the friends to get all those
under control out of the cellars into the open air as
quickly as possible. In my efforts to rescue Miss
Atkins I got severely kicked on my shins. When I
succeeded in getting the medium into the open air I
was unable to induce the spirit to quit control. It
was afraid of being dragged back into its cell of long
confinement. So, assisted by our local friends we led
her (the medium under control) to Mr. John Wm. Gales,
the ‘caretaker’ of our Meeting Place at Batley Carr.
Even then we had much difficulty to induce the spirit
to withdraw. I had to explain matters very fully to
it, and assure it that we were its friends to help,
and not enemies to hurt or injure in any way, and so
it would not be dragged back into captivity, but would
be cared for, and allowed to visit us at our Home
Circle and there tell us how it had come to be in its
pitiable condition. At a late hour it withdrew, and
we were able to return to our homes. Thus ended the
interest of those visitors to the Mass Meeting who had
been eager to enter into the novelty of holding a
meeting in the cellars of the old historic ruins. But
those of us who later listened to the pitiful story of
the rescued spirit found our work just beginning.

The spirit’s story was to the effect that in the
days when the hall was inhabited, this spirit, who
gave her name as Everlyne, lived with her husband at
Soothill Hall, Oak Road, Batley, and was in the habit
of paying friendly calls at Howley Hall [where the
lord of the manor no doubt took advantages of his
aristocratic privileges!] On the occasion of what
proved to be her last visit, having her little baby
girl with her, she was grossly insulted by the master
of the hall, and because she indignantly resented his
actions and threatened him with exposure, she was
deprived of her baby, - which was subsequently killed
– and incarcerated in the cell in which the meeting
had been held, and after being subjected to many more
indignities [torture and rape] she was put to death.
Strange to say, she had continued to think
herself a prisoner, and had remained there in a kind
of coma, from which she was awakened by the singing,
and by the magnetism of the visitors, and perhaps
aided by the spirit people. As the ‘law of control’
is to enter the organism of the medium by similar
sensations as those experienced at death, the spirit
lived over again, when controlling Miss Atkins, her
desperate struggles with the jailors who had murdered
her. Hence her screams and frantic kicking.
We also learned that when her husband heard she
was being detained at the hall, he sought an interview
and demanded the immediate release of his wife and
child, and vowed revenge if any harm had befallen
them. He was at once overpowered and incarcerated in
another part of the cellars, where he was securely
chained to the wall and starved to death. His wife
[in spirit] pleaded piteously for us to go and rescue
him, as we had rescued her.

Having learned the need for caution when
liberating those who had passed out of earth life
under such tragic circumstances, we talked the matter<

Keighley residence

br> over with the medium, who willingly promised her
services if proper arrangements could be made. Mr.
Joshua Taylor and Mr. Fox accompanied us to the ruins.

The cellar pointed out to us as containing the
prisoner faced west and was known as the ‘dark
cellar,’ owing to the window being blacked up with a
large stone. Wishing to avoid any accident during the
anticipated struggle, I fixed a lighted candle, with
clay, to the wall of the cell and cleared all the
blocks of stone and rubbish away before the medium and
friends entered. The control was effected with little
trouble. We were able to pacify the spirit with the
assurance of being his friends to effect his
deliverance and lead him to freedom. As we were in
the act of leading him out of the cell he started back
with fright, at the sight of two fierce looking
jailors, guarding the door with swords in their hands,
as he last remembered seeing them. Our spirit
friends helped us from their side of life all they
could, and on our third attempt to approach the
doorway a vision of his long-lost wife and child was
shown to him. As his gaze fixed on them his face lit
up with a radiant smile, and with arms out-stretched
to them he rushed forward calling, ‘Evelyne, Evelyne
and my child. At last! At last!’

The vision had imbued him with courage to throw
all fear of his jailors on one side and leave his
prison cell for light and freedom. But his strength
failed as soon as he was safely outside. He sank on to
a stone at the top of the cellar steps. He had been
starved to death and so all the pangs of starvation
began to assert themselves on his controlling a mortal
body. The medium presented a famished appearance.
She begged piteously for food, and began to gnaw the
finger ends. We hurriedly dispatched Mr. Fox’s son,
Richard, who had been permitted to accompany his
father, for food and milk to Mr. J. Gibson’s, who
catered for visitors. He returned with biscuits and
mineral waters, they having sold out both bread and
milk. The biscuits were ravenously disposed of, the
controlled medium only chewing them sufficiently to
allow ‘him’ to swallow them. It was a most pitiful
sight to see exhibited through a medium, who only a
short time previously had partaken of a good tea!

When his hunger was appeased he thanked us most
gratefully for the help given him, and learning the
nature of our mission, and how long he had been
confined in his cell, he seemed to regain his memory
of the closing incidents of his earth life, and the
treachery of his false friend. He vowed to have
revenge for the cruel wrong done to himself, wife and
child. It was in vain we pointed out that thirsting
for revenge would debar his spiritual progress and
delay his reunion with his wife and child. But all we
could do or say would not dissuade him from his
purpose. So he left us on his mission of revenge on
his wife’s betrayer and murderer.

We were assured that there was another victim of
foul play, a female, lying in one of the cellars. She
had been employed as a procuratress, and had been
slain when her master had grow tired of her services.
At the earnest solicitation of our spirit friends,
those angels of love and sympathy, we paid another
visit to the ruins to try and effect her rescue. As
our actions were being closely watched by a public
whose curiosity had been roused by rumours of our
visits, and wishing to avoid their attention we
decided to pay our visit at 6 a.m. the following
Sunday; the party to consist of myself, Miss Atkins
(the medium), Miss Rachel Ann Armitage, and my brother
James, all members of our Home Circle. We were
successful in our mission of love and mercy.

Our spirit friends next requested that we try to
bring away the two jailors who had kept guard over
Evelyne’s husband. I pointed out to our spirit
helpers how very difficult it was for me to visit the
ruins without the rabble following to make rude jests,
and impute wrong motives. I knew it was possible for
our spirit friends to bring the jailors to us by
reason of the magnetic connections we had made by our
personal visits. The task of liberation would be
harder for our spirit friends to accomplish, but under
the circumstances the request was considered a
reasonable one, and granted.

The jailors were brought one at a time, a
meeting or circle being devoted to each one. They
proved to be rough, rude fellows without any
compassion. Each one in turn was full of antagonism,
and threatened us with severe punishment for daring to
forcibly bring them away from their post of duty.
They, too, seemed to be unaware of their death and of
the lapse of time. They were, also, unaware that the
hall, once so large and imposing, was a mass of ruins.
This was explained to them, and in confirmation it
was pointed out that visitors were now able to walk at
will through the cellars and they, the jailors, were
unable to stop them. They admitted the fact, and also
their surprise that none of the visitors took any
notice of them, nor heeded their command to go away.
These facts helped to convince them of their changed
state of being, that of having left their mortal
bodies, and that they were denizens of a spirit world,
and so were invisible to mortal eyes.

Lady Evelyne, the one whom we rescued first, paid
occasional visits to our circle, and never failed to
thank us for her happy deliverance. She regretted her
inability to persuade her husband to cease seeking his
enemy to have his revenge on him. She expressed her
great delight at finding her little baby girl, who had
been violently taken from her arms, grown into a young
woman, clothed in robes of angelic radiance.

Our spirit guardians informed us there were other
cellars belonging to the ancient hall that were closed
or hidden from view. A careful inspection of the
ground seems to confirm the statement. But no effort
has been made to test it."

* Note: The portrait of David Wilkinson Weatherhead is courtesy of Heber Street Spiritualist Church, the first Spiritualist Church in the UK. David Weatherhead, an ancestor of mine, was Chartist, Grocerr and Provision Merchant and printer. He was publisher of the Yorkshire Spiritualist Telegraph (1855 - 1859). He was a born organizer and businessman with strong social principles, and he lost a son in 1851. In 1853 after meeting David Richmond of the Shakers Movement of America, he became a Spiritualist and organized local meetings with Richmond in Keighley. He paid for and had built the Keighley Lyceum buildings in 1871. The sketch of the Weatherhead home in Keighley was made by my mother, M.A. Rowley, nee Weatherhead. My grandfather T.C. Weatherhead was headmaster of Kings College Choir School, Cambridge, and his brother, my great uncle Ernest Weatherhead, was an MD and tuberculosis specialist, and served in WW I at Gallipoli. Richard T.C. Rowley

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Richard Rowley said:

For a good copy of the illustration of David Weatherhead's residence at Keighley, just e-mail me with the request "sketch" at [email protected]
Thu,17 Mar 2011,11:31:51 GMT
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