Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, January 24, 2021

A Duck!

 In the 1940s there were beams of barely understood forces being used by the British and Germans to wage war against each other. I am not talking about the Battle of the Beams, the name given to electronic warfare’s embryonic first steps as both sides fought to guide bombers to targets, and disrupt their opponents attempts. No, I am talking about magic. 

HMS Witch... because, you know I'm vaguely attempting to keep this serious..

Now, before we go on, I really must stress the sources for the first part of this article are from very, very, very dodgy sources. In most cases they are being used by people I wouldn’t buy a used car from to justify themselves or promote some aspect. These ‘sudden revelations’ are nearly always published several years after the event, are often contradictory, or suddenly change from one interview to another. Equally, when proper grown-up academics have looked into the matter, they’ve been unable to find a shred of evidence.  That warning of course only covers the first part of the article, we will get to history later on. 

Apparently, I'm failing on the serious front...

So, with that caveat in place, we can continue. Just after Dunkirk the UK was of course facing Operation Sealion, which would have ended the war if it had been launched. Faced with this, a coven of witches at Highcliffe-on-Sea in Dorset decided to do something about the German invasion, by targeting the weak link in the German war machine, Hitler. 

Highcliffe-on-Sea in 1930.

On the 1st of August 1940 the coven held a ritual to beam thoughts into the mind of the Führer. This ritual apparently was an ancient one, used at two other moments in the nations peril. First the Spanish Armada was disrupted by it, and then Napoleon was warded off from an invasion by the spell. Now it was Hitler’s turn. The coven danced, chanted and followed the steps of the ritual they ‘…raised the great cone of power and directed the thought at Hitler's brain: “You cannot cross the sea”’. The story was related by Gerald Gardner in his 1954 book Witchcraft Today. In the book he was writing about what would become the Wicca cult. At the time witchcraft was seen negatively with strong associations with Satan, so it of course was a good idea to prove how patriotic the modern witch was, and what was a more worthy cause than stopping Hitler’s invasion? Of course, the lack of German invasion had nothing to do with the Royal Navy utterly outgunning the Germans, oh no not at all...  

There was a Fleet Review in 1937, which this newspaper picture was in honour of.


 Then the story gets stupider. In the 1970s Amado Crowley cropped up and confirmed that the attack did take place, but in his account the place was moved to Ashdown Forrest and it was held in 1941, with the support of Canadian soldiers. How did this writer know of this? He claimed it was carried out by his father, who was the well-known occultist Aleister Crowley, while he as a young lad watched. Amado claims that the result of the attack was the Rudolph Hess incident. Now, once again the grown-ups have investigated, and it appears that Aleister Crowley kept very, very detailed diaries, which totally fail to mention the ritual, or the minor point about him even having a son. 

Amado Crowley

Now we’ve got the humours part out the way (if you want to know more about the later claims, it was also called Operation Mistletoe, I’m sure Google will provide you with some reading), we can look at the actual history. Weirdly during the Second World War there were actually a couple of cases prosecuted under the 1735 Witchcraft Act in the UK. 

Victoria Helen McCrae Duncan

The first I will look at is Victoria Helen McCrae Duncan. She was an all-round charlatan and had a long history of faking. One of her party pieces was for ‘ectoplasm’ to flow out of her mouth, then retract later. Various investigators made suggestions such as her taking a tablet of a chemical called methylene blue before a séance. That way it would dye any concealed props, and at that particular time she was unable to produce the ectoplasm. Another time they attempted to use an X-ray machine on her, at which point she leapt up and ran out of the room screaming and the séance was abandoned. On another occasion her séances were held in darkened rooms. Figures were said to be nearby, and attendees were able to see ghostly shapes in the darkness. On one of these séances a photographer was there, and he took a picture. Unfortunately for Mrs Duncan he used a flash bulb.

Mrs Duncan first came to the attention of the authorities in 1933 when she was charged with Fraudulent Mediumship. She would, once again gain their attention in 1941 when during a séance a sailor from HMS Barham appeared. He claimed the ship had been lost with a large death toll. This was absolutely incendiary news as while the HMS Barham had been sunk, the news had not been released officially. However, while the news had not been officially released the families of those informed had been, so it was quite possible that rumours and stories had been overheard. After continued observation and several complaints she was once again arrested during a séance, while dressed in a white cloth which she tried to hide as she was being arrested. She was found to be in possession of a sailor’s cap band which read HMS Barham. Of course, the dress code changed in 1939 so a cap band only bore the initials HMS, and no ship name. The police arrested her under the 1824 Vagrancy Act, but the charge was later changed to the 1735 Witchcraft Act. The reason for her charge was that the authorities suspected she was exploiting the recently bereaved. She caught 9 months in prison for the fraud.

The last person to be tried under the act was the 72 year old Jane Rebecca Yorke, who held several séances which were visited by notables such as Queen Victoria or her spirit guide (a Zulu warrior). Her mistake was to tell an officer attending one of the seances that his brother had been burned alive in a bomber. As the policeman didn’t have a brother this was a bit tricky.

Mrs Yorke was charged in July 1944 and found guilty. Due to her age, she received a fine of £5 and was bound over for three years to hold no more séances. 


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