Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, renowned author of the Sherlock Holmes series, was a trained physician but also a believer in spiritualism and spent decades researching ghosts, fairies and the paranormal.  His interest began in the 1880s and in 1893, Conan Doyle joined the British Society for Psychical Research, a society formed in Cambridge to scientifically investigate the claims of Spiritualism and paranormal phenomena.  

After carrying out experiments, he became convinced of the existence of telepathy and gave his first lecture on spiritualism in 1917.  He also held séances with his wife in attempt to contact family members they had lots in the First World War.  His interest intensified at the loss of his son and younger brother died of flu after the war.  Once at the height of his career with the Sherlock Holmes novels, Conan Doyle began to devote himself to writing on the paranormal: his most notable work on Spiritualism was ‘The History of Spiritualism’ (1924).

Conan Doyle also befriended Harry Houdini and believed he had psychic powers, despite Houdini himself denying it.  Houdini himself was an opponent of the Spiritualist movement in the 1920s.  Houdini died on Halloween in 1926 and Conan Doyle publicly maintained that Houdini’s dead mother had predicted his death at a séance (D. Slotnik, New York Times, 2016).

In 1917, two young girls from Yorkshire, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, produced two photographs of fairies which they claimed to have taken.  Conan Doyle accepted these photos as genuine evidence for fairies; he proceeded to write two pamphlets and a book, ‘The Coming of the Fairies’ (1922).  He was widely criticised in the press and many believed he had descended into madness  (A. Diniejko, 2013).

Five days after his death in July 1930, his wife arranged for a medium to attempt to contact him: a huge crowd gathered at the Royal Albert Hall to attend.  The medium, Estelle Roberts, claimed she had seen Conan Doyle sitting in the empty chair on stage and conveyed a message from him.  However, apparently only his wife sat in the front row heard it (New York Times Obituary, 1930).