Mediumship and Trance Channeling: A discussion of Joe Fisher’s – The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts

Joe Fisher had a fascination for the afterlife. He had been studying, speaking and writing about the evidence for reincarnation when he received an invitation from a trance medium, Aviva Neumann (pseudonym). Although Aviva worked as a laboratory technologist and had always scoffed at psychic phenomena, she unwittingly became a mouthpiece for supposed disembodied human minds, or spirits. You see, she was suffering from leukemia when a neighborhood friend offered to hypnotize her and give her subconscious mind corrective commands such as “Your bone marrow will start immediately to manufacture the extra red blood cells needed by your body.” Aviva proved to be a good hypnotic subject, easily going into trance. They met twice a week. Each time, Roger would recite healing commands while she was hypnotized. Within a few months it was evident that the commands were helping to ease the pain, nausea, and reduce inflammation.

With Aviva’s permission, Roger began to conduct some experiments with her under hypnosis which led to the appearance of so-called spirit guides emerging and speaking through her.  

Joe accepted the invitation to witness this firsthand. After watching Roger lead her into a hypnotic trance, he was amazed at the change in her voice when Aviva’s supposed discarnate guide, Russell, started talking through her vocal apparatus. Instead of her high-pitched jocularity with a pronounced Australian lilt, now he experienced her speaking in a clearly masculine English accent. And as the group got bigger and more and more people joined the weekly sessions to hear the guides expound on many topics including life in the between life state, or afterlife, more and more guides appeared and spoke through Aviva, each with their own distinct voices and personalities.

There were some quirky things about these guides, such as their lack of knowledge of modern technology. It was as if they were stuck in the knowledge they had acquired up to the time period they were last incarnated on Earth. Joe’s guide, Filipa, for instance claimed to have lived her last life in Greece as Joe’s lover in the 18th century. Therefore, she couldn’t understand the concept of an airplane or any other modern transportation for that matter. When Joe told her he’d be flying to England in a few weeks, she couldn’t understand how he could get there so fast. How she could be watching over Joe as his guide in the spirit world and yet be so ignorant of modern technology is never really explained.

At least one guide also disdained being called a “spirit”, insisting that he was a person, just like them, just without a physical body. It’s almost as if they didn’t want to accept the fact that they’re dead, and not you know—people anymore, at least not in the traditional sense. Another peculiarity was that although the guides would give the year of their death in a past life and a general description of the cause, they were reluctant to really talk about the specifics of their death. When asked about why they wouldn’t give a detailed description, Aviva’s guide Russell gave some hand-wavy explanation about always needing to look forward and to it being too emotional, something that would distract them from their job in the afterlife of watching over the people they are guiding on Earth. Anyway, Joe also found that peculiar.

One of Russell’s and the other guides core teachings was that humanity is divided between souls and entities. Entities were said to be created from knowledge, while souls, which are more numerous, were created from desire. It was said that Entities are more influential and tend to be loners and individualists, whereas souls are more single minded and tend to prefer congregating in groups such as church gatherings or sports crowds.

Only entities can create new souls or entities, or bring forth the non-physical essence. As Fisher puts it, “This meant, of course, that desire of some kind— ranging from wanting to help others, to cravings for sex or alcohol—had become sufficiently entrenched to form, in embryo, an often unwanted “mind-child,” a discarnate presence that yearned for an earthly body.” Much rarer was the creation of an entity, born of knowledge.

Entities not only had the privilege of being able to create new beings, they were also assigned a guide, what most people might call a spirit guide to watch over them and protect them in their earthly existence. The guide assigned is said to have karmic ties to their charge, their term for the human they are guiding. The guides stressed that they are humans (of the entity variety), just without a body in the between life state. Souls, although not explicitly stated but definitely implied, were inferior to entities and had no guide in the spirit world.

If your bullshit meter hasn’t gone off yet, it should. They’re saying that some of us are beings of knowledge—power if you may–who have the ability to create life with our thoughts and are important enough to have a guide watching over us in the spirit world, but most people are souls—the sheep of the world–who just live their lives believing what they’re told and don’t seek out true knowledge. Yeah, well there might be a hint of truth in that last statement, but overall we are of the same essence. We are not fundamentally different types of beings. In my opinion, we are all sparks of the one divine mind underneath all reality.

Anyway, as new members joined the weekly trance channeling sessions, they were informed as to whether they were a soul or an entity, and if they were an entity a guide was identified. It took time for new guides to be able to speak through Aviva, as it was said that they had to first “learn the energies” of the medium, Aviva, to be able to speak through her. Souls, obviously discouraged by the fact that they were not entities and thus had no guide to speak to, often left the group. However, a few, spellbound by the lessons and teachings imparted by the guides, stuck around and kept attending sessions. It seemed as if they were in contact with beings on the other side, giving them a treasure trove of knowledge about life and reality. They were lectured on life on the lost continents of Lemuria and Atlantis, told about their past lives, counseled on how to deal with problems in their lives, given knowledge of the inner workings of the mind, told about the guide-charge relationship, informed about how karma works, how we plan for our next life in the between lives state and so much more.

Guides were said to each have many earthly charges who they watch over and help nudge in the right directions and stay true to their between life intentions for the current life. Like guardian angels, guides said they could also intervene physically, such as infiltrating a drivers mind to increase attentiveness before a dangerous situation arose on the road ahead of them.

Joe was always a little skeptical of the guides’ pronouncement that humanity was split into two different streams, souls and entities. He describes his confusion of how Bernard Vesey was said to be a soul, when Joe knew that he was “an individualist of considerable perception, a keen seeker after truth and a student of metaphysics.” Nevertheless, he put his skepticism aside. He was enthralled with his guide, Filipa, who said she and Joe were lovers in a past life in Greece. This hit a soft spot in Joe, whose terrestrial love life had been suffering. Over time, he became emotionally attached to Filipa. He says, “Filipa and I seemed to think alike, feel alike and see the world from a near-identical perspective.” “No matter what I said or how I said it, my words were always interpreted just as I had intended them to be.” 

She asked him to try to make contact with her by meditating in his study room and clearing his mind. It took a while, but he eventually saw a clear image in his meditation of “a dusty pathway winding past two large boulders and leading in the distance to a stand of tall, spindly trees.” At the next session with Aviva, Filipa informed Joe that that was their spot, presumably where they would go for their romantic liaisons in the life they shared in Greece in the 18th century. They would talk every Friday night, which was when Aviva held the trance sessions, they had pet names for each other and it was as if Filipa was his lover in the afterlife, a lover who knew him and understood him better than any living human woman could ever hope to. Indeed, Joe ended at least two relationships in part because of Filipa. He started communicating with her daily in his own mind, stating that he could feel her presence when he experienced a buzzing in his ears—then he knew she was there with him.

At this point, far from any evidence that Filipa was an actual human spirit in the afterlife communicating through the medium, there seemed, at the very least, evidence of telepathy with the medium as Joe describes how on several occasions Filipa described situations familiar to himself but to no one else in attendance.

Besides being able to talk to his long lost lover, Joe was excited to speak to the guides in order to gain knowledge about a subject dear to his heart—reincarnation and the afterlife. He planned to write a book about their teachings, but knew that to overcome peoples’ skepticism he must first establish their credibility. Obviously, he couldn’t prove anything they said about the mind or the afterlife, or what life was like in Atlantis. But he could prove that they had indeed lived on Earth before by investigating their past life claims. If he could just prove that the guides could supply knowledge of a life they lived on Earth in the past, knowledge of dates, events, descriptions of the area where they lived, experiences and people they knew which could be verified through research of records and possibly interviews with surviving people from that life who knew them. And this would have to be knowledge that the medium herself could not have known through TV, books, history classes, etc… If he could do that—prove their credibility—in that area at least, he thought it would lend credibility to all the other pronouncements they made on things like what happens after we die.

The guides, surprisingly, made it easy for Joe, answering all his questions about their most recent past lives and giving ample information , so that Joe could research whether or not that person actually existed by investigating. He decided the easiest to verify would be the claims of a guide named Ernest, who said he had been a bomber pilot in the Royal Air Force during WWII. Joe figured that through war records and surviving veterans, he should be able to verify his existence. He claimed he was Flying Officer William Alfred Scott of 99 Squadron, Group Three, Bomber Command. He provided his birthplace, the university he attended and a wealth of information about life as a bomber pilot, information the medium, Aviva, was unlikely to know anything about.

Here is an example of the type of obscure knowledge he would provide:

Ernest said: “In February, 1941, while he was based at Newmarket Heath, a bombing occurred on the Norwich Road which “took out” the White Hart Hotel (“one of the favorite establishments of our class”) and the post office, killing a number of civilians. The attack, said Ernest, was the work of a German bomber, a Dornier DO 17, “an amazing little creature that had the gall to fly.” He mentioned that when he and his colleagues first moved to Newmarket Heath “it was quite uncomfortable for a while” because they slept in the grandstands of the Rowley Mile Racecourse owing to an utter lack of accommodation in the area.”

He spoke of crashes, such as one in which a Wellington bomber “took a little while longer getting off the runway than it should have and they piled her up with a nice big 4,000-pound bomb underneath her. The little lady didn’t go off and the crew did manage to get out but, my goodness, it did make quite a show.”

Joe’s preliminary investigation was promising as he was able to confirm quite a few details provided by Ernest, such as the locations of bomber bases, the existence of 99 Squadron which was called the Madras Presidency Squadron and featured a leaping puma on its badge just as Ernest had told him through Aviva. The Wellington bomber was indeed used in the war, and was nicknamed Wimpy just as Ernest had described.

So, he made plans to travel to England and verify more—and most importantly–the existence of Flying Officer William Alfred Scott. If he was lucky, he might even be able to talk to living soldiers who served with him.

It’s important to note that the sessions with Aviva were tape recorded, so all this information was on tape. Joe left a deposition of transcribed sessions with a lawyer in Canada to establish that the information had been obtained before he left Canada to do his research in England.

He was able to obtain war records at the Public Record Office in Kew. There, he rifled through the operations record books of 99 squadron, which contained a daily log of the squadron’s  wartime activities.

He confirmed the existence of Wing Commander F. J. Linnell who had been named by Ernest as his commanding officer. He confirmed the pattern of squadron moves from airbase to airbase that had already been sketched out by Ernest—from Mildenhall to Newmarket Heath to Waterbeach. He even confirmed that they had slept in the Rowley Mile grandstand when eleven aircraft were flown to Newmarket and picketed down.

However, one crucial detail could not be confirmed—the existence of a flying officer William Alfred Scott. In all the operations log books spanning three years of wartime activity, that name was nowhere to be found. He tracked down the surviving group captain of 99 Squadron and he too could not remember anyone by that name, only a Malcom Scott.

Then, Joe found another discrepancy. He discovered that Wing Commander Linnell had not been commanding officer of 99 Squadron during the war, as he had relinquished his post in 1936. He looked for other names of soldiers supplied by Ernest and came up empty.

But how could Ernest know so much about the war and 99 Squadron, but not be in the record books?

He checked Ernest’s supposed birthplace for records, as well as the university he said he attended and no record of him was there. Joe decided to track down a surviving member of 99 Squadron and play the tapes of Ernest speaking about his life and the war to see how they would react to hearing Ernest talk about his war days.

He got in touch with Norman Didwell, who served on the ground crew of 99 Squadron from 1939 to 1941. Meeting at Didwell’s home, Joe played the tapes of Ernest speaking. As Joe describes in the book, “he was consumed with fascination as Ernest’s voice droned through his living room. Leaning forward to catch every word issuing from my tape recorder, he puffed on one cigarette after another, his eyes flashing with recognition of much that was said. And when Ernest’s voice had faded away, he declared: “He was there. He must have been there. It’s very convincing. Who would have known about us sleeping in the grandstands? You’d only know that—and several other things mentioned there—if you’d been in the squadron.”

Didwell was also able to confirm a number of other details mentioned by Ernest, such as the 4,000 pound bomb which his Squadron was one of the first to have, chasing of the German battleship Tirpitz, the 48 foot hoops of insulated aluminum attached to some Wellingtons, and a host of other details provided by Ernest. But Flying Officer William Alfred Scott? No recognition, although Didwell did say the voice sounded very familiar, saying it sounded like the Scotty he knew Sgt. Malcom Scott. Another surviving member of 99 Squadron, Jim Ware, who also listened to the tapes agreed it sounded like Malcom Scott. Joe describes how Jim shook his head in wonder and disbelief upon listening to the tapes, muttering  “That’s right, That’s right”.

Joe finally looked into the place where Ernest said he had died in that life and found that the street he named did not exist. Burning with frustration, he looked forward to going back to Canada to confront Ernest on his findings.

When asked for an explanation as to why Joe couldn’t find evidence of a William Alfred Scott, Ernest became hostile and complained of an invasion of privacy. He offhandedly admitted that he had lied, or as he put it “covered his tracks”, because he was still working through the karma associated with that lifetime and he didn’t want any surviving relatives to be contacted and try to contact him. He said it would impede him in his position as a guide in the afterlife. He mentioned that he had done things in that life which he was not fond of which involved people still on the earthbound plane.

Perhaps he was afraid that if he gave his real name, Joe would track down surviving relatives who would then come to the sessions with Aviva and talk to him.

The case of Ernest really does seem like genuine contact with a deceased individual who mixed in a lot of false information to cover his identity, but who genuinely did live during WWII and was a bomber pilot. The amount of specific, correct details pertaining to 99 Squadron and wartime activities pretty well precludes the medium having known enough about these matters to have concocted an alter-personality surrounding them. That is one theory, after all, that all these “guides” are merely made up in the medium’s subconscious mind, kind of like you see in Multiple Personality Disorder. But for that to be the case, we would also have to accept that the medium’s subconscious mind in trance has access to paranormally obtained information because of the unlikelihood that the medium would have known such details of the war, and 99 Squadron in particular, from TV shows, books, and history classes.

It is possible that she was tapping into an Akashic Record of memories, creating an alter-personality around them. This theory posits the existence of a storehouse of all knowledge, all experience, all memories, stored in another dimension of consciousness which can be accessed by the mind in deep states of trance.

However, the remembrance of Malcom Scott and the fact that not one, but two, surviving members of 99 Squadron concurred that the voice sounded like him leads one to believe that the easiest explanation is that the mind, the spirit, of Malcom Scott communicated through the medium, telling much that was true, especially about the war, but being careful to conceal his true identity for fear that it would get too personal if his existence was verified and surviving veteran’s and family members were brought to the sessions. As he himself said, he had some bad karma from that life which he didn’t want dredged up at the weekly sessions.

Joe, although frustrated by his findings, really wanted to believe in life after death and that the guides were truthful. So, he kept investigating. He looked into the existence of the other guides’ past lives, namely Russell, the supposed guide of Aviva, and Filipa, his own guide whom he grew to love and consult. Just as in Ernest’s case, while many details concerning the time period and place of their supposed past lives supplied by the guides turned out to be accurate, no one by their supposed name could be found in the records, and some of their statements concerning the area were proven to be false. I won’t go into the specifics of those cases, but if you’re interested, Joe details them in the book.

And he didn’t just work with Aviva. Joe went to other trance channelers and talked to the spirits they channeled as well and tried in vain to verify their past life stories. It soon became evident that his dream of writing a book on the treasure trove of knowledge supplied by the guides on the workings of the afterlife and reincarnation was crushed as he could not claim these entities to be credible based on his research. He KNEW they lied about their past life identities. How then could any of their teachings about the afterlife or any other topic for that matter be trusted?

Not only could they not be trusted, but he was about to find out that they weren’t the bastions of love and wisdom they seemed to be. There was a sinister, manipulative side to the guides as well. He sought out Sandford Ellison, a former member of the group, who had told him rather cryptically at a house party they both attended before Joe had finished his investigations and become disillusioned with the guides, “Any time you are ready to hear about the other side of the guides, I’ll be glad to tell you all I know.”

Ellison was a soft-spoken management consultant, who, for the first few weeks he attended sessions would sit in a corner listening to discussions but never participating. Finally after six weeks his guide was identified by Aviva’s guide Russell to be Tuktu, who spoke with an Asian accent. According to Tuktu, Sandford and himself had shared more than 30 lives together. Once his guide started talking, Sandford participated in discussions more actively. It was learned, for instance, that Sandford was one of the rare individuals who had made the transition from soul to entity. His wife, however, was a soul and therefore without a guide. Not only that, the group of devotees was told that when an entity and a soul formed a relationship, it usually meant “forward development for the soul and regression for the entity.” This implied that his marriage was good for his wife Betty, but detrimental to his personal growth. Forward development, or the understanding of oneself, was always proclaimed by the guides to be the number one goal of reincarnation and existence.

The manipulative tactics started when Sandford was told that in his last incarnation he had been the girlfriend of Aviva’s previous incarnation, Aviva having been a man and Sandford a woman in that life. They had been lovers. The guide, Russell, said ““You must remember your feelings towards each other in that life.” The guides told Sandford, who had natural healing abilities, that Aviva’s leukemia was worsening and he could provide healing energy with his hands which could save her life. The guides instructed Roger, who always led Aviva into trance, to teach his technique to Sandford so that he could conduct private sessions—talking Aviva into trance and healing her by touching various parts of her body with his hands. Describing this healing, Sandford said that he could feel varying degrees of heat emanating from his fingers depending on the types of energies Tuktu was channeling through him. He found, however, that the act of channeling energy left him feeling extremely depleted and ill-at-ease. So, the guides offered to give him restorative energies which apparently worked to help him feel better.

But as he spent more time in these one-on-one healing sessions, he had more conversations with the guides, who began subtly manipulating him. He was talked into believing that his wife Betty was a negative influence on him, that being a soul, her energies could be devastating to an entity like him. The guides suggested that Betty was “smothering his energies with her own and manipulating him according to her wishes.” They told him to stand up more to Betty, that Betty was having affairs with other men and that she was a pathological liar. At the same time, the guides were telling him that him and Aviva had strong Karmic ties and were meant to be together. He was told they should express their love for one another and that she could take care of his physical needs. Tuktu and Russell even threatened to withdraw as their guides if they did not pledge their love for one another.

Sandford became depressed and was told that his emotional centers were shut down, but the guides could help open them by channeling their energy to him through Aviva’s entranced body. He said that whenever he could feel heat under his skin, the guides said that was due to an emotional center not being open or functioning properly. Sometimes he felt as many as 30 or 40 of these hot spots all over his body. The guides not only channeled energy through Aviva’s body, but counseled him to help open these emotional centers. They might tell him he’s useless, can’t make decisions, or stick up for himself in an effort to make him angry, so that his anger center would open up. Whenever a center opened, he felt a great rush of hot wind, or energy, within and would feel calm, confident, and in control. However, these temporary highs wouldn’t last and he’d later find himself feeling bad again until the guides opened up another center. He went through intense emotional swings throughout this time, and, in his own words, the guides turned him into a “psychic drug addict”.

Eventually, capitulating to the guides’ demands, Sandford left home, leaving his wife Betty. But shortly afterwards he had an argument with Aviva at his office and she stormed out and didn’t come back. He tried to resolve things, but found himself in the midst of another fierce argument with her. So, Sandford withdrew from the sessions and spent some time alone dwelling on the guides and what they had told him. He began questioning who they were and what their motives were.

Startlingly, he discovered that as time went by in the absence of the guides, he started feeling a lot better. His bouts of emotional swings and muddled thinking slowly ebbed away and he realized that the guides were not helping him, but were in fact causing his problems.

The guides tried to get him to come back. Russell, Aviva’s guide, had the hypnotist and member of the group, Roger, call Sandford. Russell, speaking through Aviva, told Sandford that Aviva’s leukemia was getting worse and that their differences must be worked out. He said he had just received the next installment of Sandford’s life and that if he didn’t tell Aviva how important she was to him and give her his healing energies that she would die very soon. Without Aviva, he said, Sandford would not be able to keep his energies balanced through contact with the guides. Russell informed him that his business would collapse and he would become depressed and commit suicide—unless, of course, he came back to the group and got back together with Aviva.

Sandford, however, had come to his senses after much time away from Aviva and the guides, and was not about to be coerced into returning.  He called bullshit! He didn’t go back and the guides were proven wrong as Aviva didn’t die shortly after that, her leukemia went into remission without his healing touch, and Sandford’s business recovered. He even smoothed things over with his wife Betty and they stayed together, forming an even better relationship than before they got involved with Aviva and the guides.

Joe, too, after his investigations left the group. He continued to struggle with an answer to the question: Who were these guides speaking through the medium? Were they made up personalities by the medium’s subconscious mind, deceitful Earthbound spirits who claim to be people they are not, speaking through mediums to coerce and control the living for their own malevolent ends?

You can read the book to find out Joe’s conclusion, but one thing’s for sure—there’s at least evidence for the paranormal in trance channeling. Specifically, knowledge comes through that the medium did not obtain in any normal way. This has been known for a while. As far back as 1898, the famed psychologist William James had as much to say about the famous medium of the time Leonora Piper. There was, without a doubt, according to James, evidence that Piper knew things about the lives of those consulting her in trance that she could not possibly have known through normal channels.

The other thing we learn from Joe Fisher’s book is that attempted spirit communication, whether it’s through trance channeling or even a Ouija board, can be quite dangerous. Whoever, or whatever, is coming through–whether it’s your own subconscious or an actual spirit–may claim to be a loving evolved being with your best interests at heart, may be very convincing with its knowledge and charm, but slowly and surely it will lead you down a destructive path that leaves you dependent on them and less and less in control of your own life and emotions.

Fisher, Joe. The Siren Call of Hungry Ghosts: A Riveting Investigation into Channeling and Spirit Guides. Paraview Press, 2001.

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