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Dr Melvyn Willin talks to Ghost Connections


Dr Melvyn Willin is an established authority on various aspects of the paranormal having researched areas as diverse as mediumship and ESP to electronic recordings, video and photography. He has written several papers on these subjects and is the author of books analysing well known and not so well known photographs which are available through most suppliers. He is a musician and teacher of music and is involved in the research of music featuring in aspects of the paranormal. Honourary archivist at the Society for Psychical Research and member of the Ghost Club we are grateful for Melvyn giving up time for this interview.


Melvyn – thank you so much for giving up some time for an interview regarding your work and views on the paranormal.

Your many published works feature many different areas of the paranormal but also witchcraft and paganism. How have you made this link or are these purely two different interests?

These are different interests plus my own religious belief. I have written a paper touching on the paranormal aspects of spellcraft and prayer,
published by the Society for Psychical Research.

Within your first book, Music Witchcraft and the Paranormal, you describe the findings of a number of experiments into the claims of mediums and psychics to be able to reproduce music of the great composers. Sceptics often challenge mediums to subject themselves to testing but it appears the ‘acceptance’ percentage is low. Did you have any problems finding volunteers for your research?

No I found quite a few volunteers whose music varied from absolutely awful to very interesting indeed. The depth of investigation of all these people (not always mediums by the way) and their music was considerable.

Part of your experiments into the composer claims involved Ganzfield type tests. Could you explain how this was conducted and what your results and conclusions were?

No, this was nothing to do with composer claims. It was a lab. experiment into ESP (telepathy) in this instance using a sender and receiver to try to convey music in a controlled environment. I undertook over 100 of these trials at Edinburgh (with my mentor Bob Morris) and at my home in Essex. The results were overall statistically not significant, BUT some pairs of people produced very significant results. A very detailed script of the experiment can be found in my first PhD thesis obtainable at Sheffield University or the SPR office in London.

You are currently archivist for the Society for Psychical Research. How did you come to join the society and can you give some examples of the work you have been involved in since then?

I am the Archive Liaison Officer for the SPR. I have been a member for about 20 years or so and joined to further my knowledge of the so-called paranormal - probably like most people. My work in the archive has been to help catalogue the huge number of manuscripts held at Cambridge University Library. I also personally house and regulate the audio-visual archive that contains almost 1000 cassettes of lectures and over 100 videos of phenomena of varying kinds. I have uncovered some very interesting items since undertaking this work sometimes of a confidential nature - so I can't tell you exactly what.sorry!

You are also a member of the famous Ghost Club. How did you become a member of this society and can you explain the function of the Ghost Club?

I was a member of the Ghost Club for many years and when it split into two groups I was the editor of the newsletter of one of the groups and events organizer. Whilst a member I participated in a number of visits to alleged haunted houses and undertook interviews etc etc. Originally I was invited to join by Peter Underwood.

In your membership of these two societies you must have met some interesting and respected people. Out of those you have met who do you most admire and why?

This is a difficult question since I have indeed met many interesting people. I would put Bob Morris at the top of the list since we formed a
good relationship outside of his situation as my supervisor. (He put me up at his home frequently and also came to stay with me.) His integrity and intelligence was second to no other that I have come across in the field. If I was allowed a second choice it would be Maurice Grosse. I was quite close to him near the end of his life and I was so very very impressed with his enthusiasm and forthrightness in investigations. I personally archived his whole collection at his request just before he died.

In one of your essays you describe rappings and haunting, and mention specifically the ‘Charlton House exploding cup’ phenomena that was caught on film. Can you explain a little about this?

This is an interesting case involving Maurice. A BBC Video Diary programme wanted to film Maurice attending an investigation. ASSAP organised one such event at Charlton House and a cup was caught exploding in a darkened room on video in a locked room with a camera man, Maurice and one other investigator witnessing it. BBC Radiophonic Workshop tested the sound patterns and concluded that it was NOT the sound of a cup being broken in the usual way and further experiments failed to replicate the circumstances. It seemed to implode rather than explode.

In the same essay you describe fraudulent noises produced during the ‘Drinkwater case’ of 2000 investigated by the SPR. Were you directly involved in this case and how was the fraud discovered?

No I wasn't directly involved. I am not saying it was all fraudulent, but simply that the main focus person was caught on secret video actually
tapping on furniture at least once if I re-call.

You then moved onto recorded imagery with your book Ghosts Caught on Film. How did you select the images included in this book?

I didn't choose all of them. The publishing editor has a lot of power in these matters. I selected images when I had a lot of first hand evidence
from existing people or good primary or secondary sources. I wanted to show a range of different phenomena from different countries.

This was then followed by Paranormal Caught on Film in 2008. The images included here are those of other anomalies which do not fit the previous publication. How did you manage to select those included in this volume?


In both of these last publications who did you conduct your analysis of the images included?

I'm not sure I understand this question. If you mean whose opinions did I seek re the images then they included written documents by Vernon Harrison (ex-President of the Royal Photographic Society), Maurice Grosse, Guy Playfair, several professional photographers and members of the public at large for a broad overview.

In the second book you specifically include orbs and mists within the selection. These are relatively modern subjects made all the more public by paranormal groups publishing these photographs as evidence of spirit presences. Do you have a specific view on these two subjects?

Yes I do. I do not equate them with 'spiritual' phenomena as such, but I would like to think of them as a type of unknown energy yet to be
understood by contemporary science. That is, of course, when they are not explained by the usual host of natural causes such as condensation, dust etc.

The foreword for Paranormal Caught on Film is written by Guy Lyon Playfair who was an investigator on the Enfield Poltergeist case in the 1970’s. Have you been privy to the photographs of this case and what do you make of them?

Having gone through all the info. relating to the Enfield Case, my initial scepticism has changed somewhat and I now believe that there was far more to this investigation than teenage girls mucking about as has been suggested in some quarters.

This was a high profile case where a national newspaper was also involved along with Maurice Grosse. Various audio recordings have been released along with the famous photographs and witness testimony. What are your views on this case as a whole?

See above.

Remaining with Enfield for a moment. Why, with all the experts involved and the backing of a national newspaper is there no video footage? Surely this would have negated much of the later scepticism?

Video was not so common then as it is now and by the way there is video footage of Janet producing her voice on a television documentary. That aside, yes I agree it would have been very useful.

If you had to pick an image that, in your view, is more likely to be paranormal in origin what would it be and why?

I would love to know how the enlarged head hovering above the table of an Austrian hotel that appears in my first book came to be there. We have written affidavits about this from the people concerned and they were all baffled too.

In all of your research do you have a favourite subject to investigate and why?

My favourite subject is anomalous musical phenomena. Why? Because I know more about it than any other aspect of the paranormal.

You do conduct investigations at reported haunting. Have you a favourite location and why?

My favourite location is probably the Bell Hotel in Thetford. I have discovered different types of interesting inexplicable phenomena there.

It has been suggested that psychological factors play a major part in people’s accounts of hauntings. Have you a view on whether this is entirely acceptable to base a hypothesis on in regard to all hauntings?

I have no problem with this, but why shouldn't there be a whole range of different aspects that go to make up a haunting.including an actual

Would you describe yourself as a sceptic or a believer?

Depends on definitions. A believer if you mean there are phenomena outside of our current understanding including ghosts, poltergeist etc. and a
sceptic if you mean I take a load of convincing.

Do you think that evidence will be forthcoming to prove that life goes on and if so in what form?

I don't like the word 'prove' so I would say 'no' to this. Evidence to suggest it.possibly. As to the form, well perhaps we need to look to Nature
for this.

Do you consider that paranormal groups and mediums have over-egged the subject to the point where it is dismissed too readily and if so how can this be redressed?

No I don't. I think it depends how one does it. Extreme silliness, as witnessed on some TV programmes, doesn't do anyone any good in my opinion.

Having conducted investigations and experiments with mediums do you believe that they compliment a paranormal investigation or hinder it?

Good question. I think they have something to offer, but extreme care needs to be taken if using them.


Thank you very much for affording Ghost Connections time for this interview.

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