Book Review: “Many Voices: The Autobiography of a Medium” by Eileen J. Garrett

Eileen J. Garrett (1893-1970) was an Irish born medium and parapsychologist. She attended the British College of Psychic Science and studied under Hewat McKenzie. In 1951, she and Frances Payne Bolton (Ohio’s first female representative in Congress) founded the Parapsychology Foundation. The foundation published the “International Journal of Parapsychology” between 1959 and 1968. Garrett worked with all of the well-known paranormal investigators including J.B. Rhine, Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Price, Hans Holzer, and more. She is well known for her interest in supporting research into paranormal phenomena and often questioned the possibility of spirit communication. She was not a proponent of the Spiritualist hypothesis and attributed her trance personalities to her subconscious.

Would I recommend this book? Yes and no, this one was tough to get through because the organization is strange. There are a lot of what I would call Easter eggs in the book as she will drop something interesting into the mix when you are least expecting it. I marked a lot of pages for future reference as she was clearly a major player in the parapsychology movement of that time.

Pros: Eileen Garrett knew pretty much everyone you may be interested in learning about in the paranormal between the 1920’s and the 1970’s. She provides some interesting information about her own abilities and her questions about the possibility for such abilities. “My investigations of the phenomena of mediumship convince me that these are not new or extraneous sensitivities but rather refinements of the physical senses all men possess. I cannot therefore accept the usual explanation of mediumship as an abnormal or supernormal development.” It is a nice contrast to read about mediumship from someone who is reported to have these abilities but who also questions them as being something supernatural. I made many notes about the specific experiments she was involved with so I could research the projects further.

Cons: This is an autobiography, and it can get a little disjointed. She will be talking about one thing and then quickly jump to something vastly different in the next chapter. The flow is not great in this book. She talks a lot about individual people and if you don’t know the names, it is very easy to get lost. She was a very connected person who made it her business to know everyone in theater, literature, and the paranormal.

Overall thoughts: There are moments in this book that shine a light on the early days of parapsychology and then there are moments of extreme name dropping. This book is an interesting introduction to the world of Eileen Garrett but not the easiest to navigate. I’m not going to let that stop me from reading another one of her books in the future because I think she has some interesting insights; she just makes you work to get to them. I also made a lot of notes as I read this book for follow-up research, so it can be a good place to start when you want to understand mediumship phenomena.

You can find your own copy of this book here.

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