Category Archives: Spiritualism

STF issues statement on the future of Psychic News

I promised you that we had not yet heard the last of the sorry Psychic News saga, and here’s the latest chapter. It follows on rapidly after the news that the SNU has had yet another change of mind and has declared its intention to liquidate the company that published it – a revelation that has already been reported in the Comments to our previous story on the subject.

Let me just declare an interest here. I am one of the trustees of the Spiritual Truth Foundation, all of whom have agreed that the following statement should be issued immediately. It will also be sent to the members of the National Executive Committee of the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU) as well as to the liquidator:


In view of continuing speculation about the demise of Psychic News and the intentions of the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU) with regard to its title and other assets, the trustees of the Spiritual Truth Foundation (STF) – previous owners of Psychic News – met in London today to discuss the matter. They wish to make it very clear that:

1. The assets of Psychic Press Ltd, the original publishers of Psychic News until 1995, were transferred to the SNU in that year to ensure that the weekly newspaper could continue as an independent voice of Spiritualism.

2. It was agreed between the parties – STF and SNU – that those assets, which included the newspaper’s title, its bound volumes, its newspaper archives and its photographic library, would be transferred to a new company, trading as Psychic News. Other items, including portrait paintings of the newspaper’s founders, were gifted to the SNU to be kept in its museum.

3. The SNU’s newly-established company, Psychic Press (1995) Ltd, has published the newspaper ever since, until the SNU took the decision to cease publication with the issue of 24 July this year.

4. The SNU has now decided, after conflicting statements of intention, that this company will be put into voluntary creditors liquidation.

5. The STF is concerned that, during discussion about the newspaper’s future, the SNU appears to have informed a respected third party, which was interested in saving the publication, that the newspaper’s title and other assets were not part of the business that was to be liquidated. As a result, no agreement was reached and no lifeline has been thrown to the newspaper, which had been published weekly for almost eight decades.

6. The STF advises the SNU that, if it is claiming ownership of the assets, then this is contrary to the agreement that was made with the STF in 1995.

7. The STF calls upon the SNU to confirm immediately that it does not own the Psychic News title and other assets, that they belong to Psychic Press (1995) Ltd – the company it is now liquidating – and that the liquidator will include these in discussions with any interested party wishing to purchase the newspaper and re-publish it.


The Trustees of the Spiritual Truth Foundation
18 October, 2010

For the record, the STF trustees are: Bob Clarke (chairman), Geoffrey Craggs (secretary), Roy Stemman, Debbie De Vito, Susan Farrow, Robert Wallace and Eric Hatton who, incidentally, is Life President of the SNU and was also its President at the time ownership transferred from the STF.

Scepticism: the new religion

Those of us who have received evidence that convinces us we will continue to exist, in some form, beyond death know that it can be a life-changing discovery. And most of us feel that this world – humanity as a whole – would be a better place if more people had knowledge of the evidence for survival after death and the opportunity to explore the evidence and the implications for themselves.

Arthur Findlay CollegeSo it is hardly surprising that so many comments on this blog in recent weeks have expressed dismay over the decision by the Spiritualists’ National Union [whose headquarters is at the Arthur Findlay College, Stansted, Essex, pictured] to shut down Psychic News, a newspaper dedicated to promoting that evidence globally for almost eight decades.

Though its readership has been declining in recent years, it has been responsible for introducing many people to the scientific evidence for an after-life as well as Spiritualism’s philosophy. Its demise has left a gaping void and it is tremendously frustrating that those responsible for the decision are not answering questions about the real reasons for closing it, or their failure to come up with a rescue plan.

Contrast this dire lack of communication from Spiritualism’s largest UK organisation with the activities of the sceptics – people who are on a mission to dismiss all evidence for paranormal phenomena and belief in an after-life.

They are growing in numbers. Indeed, it seems to me at times as if scepticism has become a new religion. Their meetings take place at top venues around the world and their speakers’ sceptical assertions are lapped up with zealous enthusiasm by the delegates.

James RandiThey even have their own Messiah – James Randi – a bearded prophet of rationalism whose appearance on stage at these events is usually greeted with a reception akin to worship.

In the October news and updates email from the James Randi Educational Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, “social critic and magician” Randi says:

“For those of you who have supported the JREF since our inception in 1996, and even for those folks who are new to our coterie, there are a plenitude of reasons to be delighted.

“For instance, the JREF plans in the short term to enter the realm of digital publishing with sceptical titles poised for release on the iPad and iPhone, Kindle, and other digital schemes. We are increasing our video content on

“We have also launched a new grants for educators programme and our regional workshops are a reality with St Louis, Chicago and Louisville already on record as the first of many such planned sceptical assemblages. We also recently awarded four new academic scholarships.”

The JREF is not alone. Another non-profit organisation, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), publishers of Skeptical Inquirer – to use the American spelling in both instances – announced two days ago that it wants to recruit a full-time communications director to handle press relations and publicity. Experience in public relations and/or journalism is required, of course, and applicants must be “familiar with the organisation’s mission and demonstrate a commitment to humanism and skepticism”. Salary will be based on experience.

Center for Inquiry HQThe CSI is an associate of the Center for Inquiry (CFI) which was established in 1991 and has expanded rapidly since then, moving into a new 20,000 sq foot headquarters in Amherst, New York, in 1995 (pictured), to which it added a 15,600 sq ft research wing five years ago. With its mission “to oppose and supplant the mythological narratives of the past and the dogmas of the present” it has had considerable success in placing sceptics on national TV and radio programs.

“Literally hundreds of guests have been placed on thousands of programmes,” says its website. “This includes all of the major networks – CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, PBS – and virtually all of the cable companies – CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, C SPAN – as well as National Public Radio, AP Radio, etc.”

The CFI maintains a Council for Media Integrity and “a rapid-response network to try to monitor programming and fight for balance in the media”.

So, what’s the difference between the SNU and the sceptical organisations – apart from the blindingly obvious fact that they champion very different philosophies? Its clearly all about communication: telling the world what you are doing and even appointing professional people to do so on your behalf.

Whilst the sceptics are busy coming up with titles that can be read on iPads and Kindles, the SNU has killed off Spiritualism’s only independent, weekly newspaper and fire its staff.

For the record, I know that the SNU and its churches, ministers, mediums and healers do a tremendous amount of good in presenting evidence for spirit communication and promoting spirit-inspired philosophy. But it needs to be shouting that information from the rooftops. It has to explore ways of publicising its activities (and those of similar organisations) through every avenue available.

The SNU website assures us that it “promotes knowledge of the religion, philosophy and science of Spiritualism” and that it “unites Spiritualists throughout the world and supports 340 Spiritualist societies and churches”. It also holds over 1,500 meetings a week across the UK – far more, I’m sure, than the rapidly-expanding sceptics groups in the US and Europe.

That’s all well and good, but in the battle for minds it seems to me that the sceptics have the upper hand right now. Their scepticism is even influencing the treatment of spiritual and paranormal stories by the supposedly objective media, due to a concerted campaign on their part. As a result, many newspaper and magazine articles I read now refer to Spiritualism in the past tense – as a religion that thrived in the 19th and 20th centuries but is now virtually dead and buried.

We know that’s not true. But closing down Spiritualism’s unique weekly record will simply reinforce that view around the globe. It’s time for the SNU and all Spiritualist organisations to speak up!

New Sherlock Holmes mystery

UndershawHere’s a mystery that surely deserves the attention of one of the world’s greatest fictional detectives. Why do visitors to London happily pose for pictures outside 221b Baker Street, “home” of Sherlock Holmes from 1881 to 1904, while Undershaw, the Surrey home of his famous creator – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – stands empty, unloved, in a state of serious disrepair and in danger of being redeveloped?

Fortunately, there are many who would like to see it preserved as a lasting monument to Sir Arthur’s literary talent and the creation of one of fiction’s greatest characters, rather than allow it to be converted into apartments. Today is Save Undershaw Awareness Day so, if you would like to support the campaign visit the website dedicated to that goal, or even post a link on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else that helps spread the word.

For Sherlock Holmes’ fans, of course, the Baker Street address has enormous importance. It’s where the detective and his assistant, Dr John H. Watson, “lived” – though only in Sir Arthur’s imaginative world.

But Undershaw, an impressive 10-bedroom redbrick house which Sir Arthur had built to his own specifications, close to Hindhead, Surrey, and where he wrote his most famous novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, has stood empty since 2004. It was previously a hotel.

Now, a campaign to restore it to its former glory and celebrate its literary heritage is gathering momentum, and rightly so. Last year saw the 150th anniversary of Doyle’s birth, on 22 May 1859.

Sherlock HolmesAfter all, the period during which he owned Undershaw – from 1897 to 1907 – is seen as pivotal in his life. During that decade he stood for Parliament, became Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey, volunteered as an army surgeon in the Boer War, championed the cause of George Edalji who was falsely imprisoned for animal mutilation, and decided to resurrect Sherlock Holmes, whom he had tried to kill off – in a struggle with Professor Moriarty – in his previous novel.

It was also at Undershaw that his wife Louise died from tuberculosis in 1906 and where he met Jean Leckie, who became his second wife the following year. That was the year he sold Undershaw and moved to Crowborough, Sussex.

But most significant for Spiritualists, who are playing a leading role in the fight to save his Hindhead home, is the belief that it was while at Undershaw that he first began taking an active interest in spirit communication and mediumship. Later, of course, he became one of Spiritualism’s most famous champions, writing books – including the two-part The History of Spiritualism – and travelling the world to lecture on the subject.

Sir Arthur at deskLast year, I had the opportunity of looking around the house that was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s home for many years during an open day to raise awareness of Undershaw’s situation and to publicise possible future uses for the property. The building, in a sad state of disrepair, is now boarded up and is not open to visitors.

That open day was organised by Lynn Gale, who is PA to Anna Hayward of the White Eagle Lodge. Lynn is also the driving force behind the “Save Undershaw Awareness Day” campaign – which happens to be today. Actor Stephen Fry is among the supporters.

If you would like to see Undershaw saved for the nation, rather than become a private development, why not spread the word? I’ll keep you informed of any future developments.

The above blog is an edited, updated version of a story that first appeared on this website a year ago.

Spiritualist leader or spoilt child?

David BrutonOh dear. I seem to have upset David Bruton, the new president of the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU). Was it something I said? Apparently so.  He and the SNU’s National Executive Committee (NEC), having totally mishandled the closure of the weekly Psychic News (PN), and remained largely silent about their future plans, if any, have now decided that criticism of their actions is unacceptable. They don’t seem to realise that they are just digging a deeper hole for themselves.

Eleven days ago I emailed a copy of my blog, which posed “Questions the SNU must answer”, to Bruton, Mark Bradley, who was the executive director responsible for PN, and Charles Coulston, the SNU’s general secretary, inviting them to give me a response. These three gentlemen, along with Graham Hewitt, who was spokesman for SNU shareholders, represented the union at the recent creditors’ meeting of Psychic Press (1995).

In my blog I asked what the SNU’s purpose was in wanting to sell the Psychic News business but retain its title and assets. Was it planning its own publication to replace PN? If not, what would it do with the photographic library and newspaper cuttings that the weekly Spiritualist newspaper had accumulated over eight decades?

On my return from Hong Kong, having not received an email or written reply to my communication, I phoned Bruton in the hope of getting a verbal response to the questions I had posed.

I did – but it was not what I was expecting.

He told me that the questions I had asked were “reasonable, rational and acceptable” but he was afraid that the latter part of my blog “was more akin to the schoolyard” and he was not impressed with “the way it was framed”.  [You can make your own judgment by clicking here.]

Bruton added that he would have gladly responded to my questions if the tone of the blog had remained as it was at the beginning, but because there has been so much rubbish put on the internet about what has happened with Psychic News he was “not prepared to respond to them”.

He added that he was not interested in “trial by internet” and did not want the contents of our conversation “ending up on the internet tomorrow morning”.

I pointed out, however, that I had published the fact that I was sending the questions to him and his SNU colleagues.  If he was not prepared to answer my “reasonable and rational” questions, then I was duty bound to share that response with those who visit my website and have been looking forward to getting some answers. I will, however, respect his request not to divulge the rest of our nine-minute conversation.

Well, if Bruton didn’t like the tone of the second half of my last blog then I suggest he stops reading this one right now.

David Bruton has taken on a role with huge responsibility, not only to the churches and individual members who belong to the SNU but also to the Spiritualist movement as a whole. It is an enormous task and I wish him well. But he needs to rise to that challenge by being bold and inspiring. Telling a journalist that you won’t reply to his reasonable questions because you don’t like some of the comments he has made about you or the way they are worded is not only lacking in good judgment but also demeaning to the position you hold.

If the US president or British prime minister refused to answer questions from critical members of the media, their regular press conferences would be very short affairs.

Had I not picked up the phone and called him, I would still be waiting for a response. He and his colleagues didn’t even have the courtesy of sending a curt “no comment” response.

David, you need to wake up to the fact that the reason so much “rubbish” has been written about the demise of Psychic News and speculation is rife is because you and the SNU are saying so little about your intentions – assuming you have some.

In an interview with Tony Ortzen in Two Worlds (September 2010), Bruton says: “I concede that the SNU often fails to get its message across” and adds, “This is one priority I have placed at the top of my personal agenda for the year ahead.” So, David, why don’t you do something about it … like answering my reasonable questions instead of adopting the ostrich position?

In the same interview, Bruton says, “I fully understand the considerable groundswell of opinion attached to PN and its long-standing, loyal readership, and repeat my pledge at the union’s AGM in Blackpool. This is that every effort will be made to ensure the paper survives in a viable format which is appropriate for the modern age.”

Only time will tell whether that pledge becomes a reality. But closing the newspaper and dismissing all its staff is hardly a step in the right direction as far as ensuring the newspaper’s continuing existence. It has ceased to exist. Its staff are on the scrapheap. And all the president can do is behave like a spoilt child, throwing his toys out of the cot when he doesn’t like what is being said about him and his colleagues.

Saying nothing is not the best way out of the mess they have got themselves into. David, you now preside over an organisation that has a declining membership and has relied heavily on charitable donations to continue its work. I don’t envy you the task you have undertaken – which you combine with being a businessman and a working medium – but I wish you every success.

If the decisions you and your colleagues make in the future deserve praise or criticism, I and others will say so. That’s the role of independent commentators – whether online or in printed publications – and you are going to have to learn to live with it. Throwing a hissy fit when people say things you don’t like is laughable. You need to face criticism and deal with it. If your critics are wrong, say so. And if you make mistakes, own up to them.

The more information you share with your members and a wider public, the more support and understanding you are likely to enjoy. Right now, all you seem to be doing is alienating Spiritualists around the globe.

Questions the SNU must answer

The sudden, last-minute decision of the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU) not to liquidate the company that published Psychic News (as I reported last week) but to wind it down instead has important implications for the former employees of the weekly Spiritualist publication. It also leaves us wondering just what the SNU’s real intentions are.

The time has come – in the absence of any indication from the officers involved ­- to suggest a scenario that might go some way to explaining, but not justifying, the otherwise bizarre behaviour of the UK’s biggest Spiritualist organisation.

First, let me deal with the huge impact of the on/off employment status on those who have worked loyally for Psychic News over the years.

They, naturally, had sought legal advice, having been told by the union there was not enough money left in the business for it to make redundancy payments. They were advised that, on liquidation, they would be able to apply to the government for redundancy.

But when they received the surprise news that the liquidation process had been abandoned, two staff members telephoned the government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) to check if this changed their situation. They were informed that since the proposed liquidation is no longer happening, there will now be no automatic access for them to the government’s redundancy payment scheme.

Instead, staff must make efforts to claim the money from Psychic Press (1995) Ltd, their former employer. If the company ultimately refuses to pay up, then there is a possibility of claiming the money they are owed from the government. However, that could be a long process. In the meantime, staff who have already been without pay for a month could face several more before anything is settled.

I am told that everyone is very stressed and unsettled by this latest shifting of the goalposts, at a time when they have already had enough stress to last one lifetime.

To be realistic, Psychic Press (1995) seems to have little chance of paying its former employees redundancy, since the only money likely to dribble in from now on will come from book sales. And yet, Psychic Press (1995) could have afforded to meet most of its financial commitments by selling the business – lock, stock and barrel – to one of the potential buyers with whom the SNU had negotiations.

Those talks, regular visitors to this blog will know, fell through when the SNU insisted that it, not Psychic Press (1995), owns the newspaper’s title, archives and other assets. Unsurprisingly, the potential buyers found the offer as unappealing as a pub without beer. The potential purchasers discovered that the business they were being offered had apparently been divested of lock, stock and most of what was in the barrel.

One has to question the morals of an organisation that closes a publication and makes its employees redundant but claims, on a technicality, that the assets referred to – which were given to it in 1995 and have been the backbone of the newspaper ever since – are not part of the equation.

There are surely only two explanations:

  1. The SNU’s current officers are a bunch of buffoons (or unquestioning sheep) devoid of business acumen who are incapable of making a sensible decision about the fate of Spritualism’s only independent weekly newspaper, Psychic News, with its 78-year record of uninterrupted publication.
  2. The SNU’s current officers (at least, those who have control) have a cunning plan to kill off Psychic News, whose independent voice was not to everyone’s liking – that much it has now achieved – and then to use its valuable collection of photographs and cuttings, stretching back nearly eight decades, for their own purpose.

Now, why would the second explanation be an option? Perhaps to create a new publication (heaven forbid, given the SNU’s failure to keep previous publications alive!)? Perhaps even to call it Psychic News (surely, they wouldn’t dare!)? If not, then why would they want to keep those valuable assets?

That raises another important question. Would the archives be used or just stored away at Stansted? If used, by whom, with what purpose and how open would they be to researchers outside the SNU? Do they appreciate that these archives would fast become of historical and research value only, rather than being the up-to-date and vibrant record of modern Spiritualism that they were until the newspaper closed, and could continue to be if passed to those who are keen to keep Psychic News going.

The time has come for David Bruton, the SNU president, and Mark Bradley, the director responsible for Psychic Press (1995), and anyone else in the know, to come clean and tell us what their intentions really are and how they can justify the appalling treatment of loyal staff by not including the newspaper’s assets in the sale of the business.

I am sending these questions directly to David Bruton and Mark Bradley with a request for a response. But I would urge other Spiritualists, organisations and churches to put the same questions to them. They’ve kept everyone in the dark for long enough. The time has come for some honest answers and the more pressure that can be brought to bear, the better.

Or is that asking too much of the SNU?