Channelling The Brontës

In 1940, the Rev, Charles L. Tweedale of Weston, North Yorkshire, published a book titled News From The Next World: Being an account of the Survival of ANTONIUS STRAUARIUS, FREDERICK CHOPIN, SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE, THE BRONTËS and many of the Author’s relatives and friends, as proved by their after-death manifestations, photographs and signatures; together with their description of the other-world life, and a discussion of the bearing of these evidences on the present-day religious teaching and practice of the Churches. In it, he details accounts of spirit writing communications with various members of the Brontë family, along with what he proposes as evidence that these were in fact genuine after death communications. I was going to write a blog article on this, but in the end I concluded that maybe you should read the full section of the book pertaining to the Brontës yourself, and you can make your own mind up.

Monday, August 24th, 1931.—To-day we went to Haworth—my wife, self, Dorothy and a Mrs. Leverson—to see the Brontës’ Vicarage and Church. None of us had previously been there. In one of the rooms Dorothy was examining the collar of the dog “Keeper,” when suddenly some one laid hold of her dress and gave it such a violent tug that it caused her to stagger backwards. She turned instantly to remonstrate, when to her astonishment she found that, save for herself, the room was deserted, and she was alone! !1 When we came to the “parlour” containing the mahogany table at which the sisters used to write, it suddenly occurred to me to try and get some communication. We had not brought the planchette, so we borrowed a long lead pencil and some scraps of paper, and waiting until other visitors had cleared off, placed the paper on this table at which the Brontës used to write, and my wife, holding the long pencil by the extreme end, got Dorothy to place her fingers, also grasping the end, and rested the point on the paper. No more awkward or difficult position for getting writing or accurate signatures could be imagined. If any one doubts this let them try it. My wife has never before used a long pencil held vertically and by the extreme end, and never before with another person’s hand on hers and also grasping the end. To our surprise and delight the pencil, under these most difficult and apparently impossible conditions, began to write as follows :

“I am Emily and I know all is well.”

“We are all here to welcome you. Emily Brontë.”

“I am so glad, but you cannot get all at once, so many at our table. Emily Brontë.”

Then the writing changed, and we got “Patrick Brontë wants to say——

Just then there was an inrush of other visitors and we had to desist, but we at once asked the caretaker if we might see the original signatures of Emily and Patrick, which none of us had ever seen before. He went to another room, and taking out keys unlocked receptacles and drawers from which he took documents showing signatures practically identical (see Plate XXXIV). It was an extraordinarily interesting experience and absolutely spontaneous and done on the spur of the moment, the suggestion coming from me and not from my wife and daughter. I took no part in the writing. A period of nearly a year now elapses, during which our attention was not directed to Haworth or the Brontës in any way.

Plate XXXIV Brontë spirit signatures
Plate XXXIV Brontë Spirit Signatures

August 13th, 1932.—My wife and Dorothy sat, and to their great surprise, got the following message: “When you next go to Haworth, you must walk round my music stool and play on my piano and say ‘Emily Brontë, I love you.'”

D.M.T.: “Was it not Charlotte’s piano?”

Answer: “No, ours.

The message continued :

“Then you must play Chopin for me,
As I played étude No. 3.”

“Then upstairs you must go
To see my dress, and ask that you
May be always dressed in blue.”

D.M.T.: ” Why blue ? “

Answer : “Because your health improves in blue.”

D.M.T.: “Chopin’s music would not be much known in this country in your day.”

Answer : “I used to teach his music.”2

Then there was a long pause, and my wife and daughter, thinking the communication ended, talked about the hard life of the Brontë sisters, their trials and difficulties.

Suddenly the writing commenced again, and Emily wrote :

“Little words and little deeds count like diamonds in a crown;
All go to make up a big whole.”

Then came the signature in wonderfully small writing considering that it was done by such a heavy and clumsy instrument as a planchette. The name was twice repeated—first in the script, Emily Brontë, and finally the signature, Emily Brontë. Immediately following Emily, our Tabitha came and wrote: “Tabitha sees the other Tabitha (Brontë), 69, grey hair, parted in middle, round cap with strings.” She then ‘drew a round face, with frilled cap, the strings tied in a bow under the chin. Not until six years after did the sitters know Tabitha Aykroyd’s age (the other Tabitha). She died in her eighty-fifth year, in February 1855. She would therefore be sixty-nine in 1839, in which year her long service with the Brontë’s came to an end, following a serious accident.

October 3rd, 1932.—Dorothy was running upstairs about 2 p.m., and at the turn above my study door, saw a tall, rather slim girl following her. She had very expressive eyes, a mass of short hair round her head, and a very animated expression of countenance. She was dressed in what appeared to be a bright blue dress. She vanished almost at once, but not before Dorothy recognised her as Emily Brontë from the picture by Branwell. Shortly after, they sat and Strad said it was Emily, and that the Brontë’s were often here, and took an interest in the house.

When preparing this book for the press I again visited Haworth and the Brontë Parsonage on September 13th, 1935, with the object of obtaining exact facsimiles of the signatures of Emily and Patrick Brontë which, by the kindness of the Council of the Brontë Society, I was permitted to do, and to whom I here make due acknowledgments. Weston is distant twelve miles from Haworth as the crow flies, across the heights of Rumbold’s Moor (1250 feet), and the two places have much in common. It was a beautiful day, such as Emily Brontë sang of when roaming her beloved moors :

“Not a vapour stained the breezeless blue,
Not a cloud had dimmed the sun
From the time of morning’s earliest dew
Till the summer day was done.”

Arriving at the top of that terribly steep hill, which must have sorely tried Emily and Anne when the dread disease began to make its presence felt, I turned up the narrow lane to the Parsonage. Remembering the entry in my Journal on the occasion of the last communication and signatures (August 13th, 1932) in which Emily told my daughter Dorothy that she

“must walk round the music stool and say ‘Emily Brontë, I love you,’ and on my piano you must play.”

“Then upstairs you must go
To see my dress, and ask that you
May be always dressed in blue.”

I resolved, although my daughter Dorothy was not with me, to carry out these instructions as far as I could. I, therefore, walked around the music stool, and then sounded as many of the notes of the piano as I could by inserting my fingers underneath the sheet of plate glass by which they are now covered. It was pathetic to hear the reedy quavering notes of the slackened strings, faint and “all jangled out of tune,” faint echoes of long ago when Emily swept brilliantly over them. I then said, “Emily, I love you,” and immediately proceeded to the room upstairs, as Emily directed, and looked for Emily’s blue dress. I could not find such a dress, but only a lavender silk dress belonging to Charlotte—her wedding dress. I then went to the caretaker and asked to see Emily’s blue dress. He replied, “I don’t think Emily had a blue dress.”

I said, “Is there a blue dress in the museum?”

He replied, “There is a blue dress, but we do not know to which of the sisters it belonged, and it is not on view.

I said, “Please let me see it.”

He then got out his keys, and proceeding to another room unlocked one of the cupboards there, and took out a dress of a strong fabric closely printed in bright blue with a small leaf and floral pattern on a white ground, but the blue so dominating that the general effect was that of a bright blue dress. The upper part was quite perfect with the neckband and cuffs, but a square piece had been cut out of the skirt. I handled it reverently and with great interest. The museum authorities did not know to which of the sisters it belonged, but I am pretty sure from the communication of August 13th, 1932, that it belonged to Emily and to no other. Some may doubt this, but the fact remains that we got a psychic communication from Emily in which she said that she had a blue dress in the Brontë house, and on investigating this and running the matter down I did find a blue dress in the house. After a most interesting time I signed the visitor’s book and took my leave. Discussing this with my wife and my daughter Dorothy on my return to Weston, they both said that they never saw any blue dress of Emily’s, nor any blue dress at all, when they were there. They saw only Charlotte’s wedding dress. They did not see any such blue dress as I unearthed and have here described, nor had they ever heard of one before the sitting. On referring to the catalogue of the museum which I then purchased, I found there was no mention of, or reference to, any such blue dress.

Before coming away from the museum I obtained a facsimile copy of the signature of Emily Brontë and of the Rev. Patrick Brontë. These will be found exactly reproduced on Plate XXXIV. The upper three signatures are the spirit signatures obtained psychically on August 24th, 1931, at Haworth by my wife and daughter.

The centre two signatures and the capital P are the normal signatures of Emily and Patrick Brontë.

The lower signatures are the spirit signatures of Emily Brontë obtained at Weston Vicarage on August 13th, 1932.

Note the extraordinary similarity of the Christian name Emily. It will be obvious to the most casual inspection that the Emily Brontë signatures of August 24th, 1931, and those of August 13th, 1932, are the work of the same personality. That this was not either my wife or daughter is certain from the conditions under which I myself saw those of August 24th, 1931, produced, namely, at my suggestion, made suddenly and without warning to them, they never having previously seen either Emily’s or Patrick’s signature; also, when the Emily signatures of August 13th, 1932, were obtained, neither my wife nor daughter had seen the 1931 signatures for nearly a year, and they did not have any facsimile or copy of them with them in the room. The impossibility of memorising them so as to produce exactly the same characteristics, after the lapse of a year, will be obvious to all, especially when one remembers that they were done with a heavy and clumsy planchette on which were two pairs of hands.

The first Emily signature obtained on this visit to Haworth is remarkable for the peculiarity of the B. For a long time we regarded this as a confused overlapping, due to the difficulty of writing with my wife’s hand holding the extremity of the pencil, and further hampered by my daughter’s fingers surrounding hers. When scrutinising this signature for the preparation of this book and examining it with a magnifying glass I saw that the formation appeared to be deliberate and intentional, and was apparently intended for two letters, the whole signature probably signifying her full name, Emily J. Brontë. I should not be surprised if she had used some monogram of this kind in her earlier years. In the second message there is a distinct showing in the original script of an effort to emphasize the down-strokes, as in copperplate writing, and this is characteristic of Emily’s writing and signature which, be it remembered, neither my wife nor daughter had ever seen.

The Patrick Brontë signature is equally wonderful, as neither my wife nor daughter had ever seen it, and both his and Emily Brontë’s normal signatures were not on view at that time in the museum, and both of them had to be fetched out of the securely locked cupboards or drawers in which they were kept. Neither of these particular signatures have ever been previously published, nor had my wife or daughter ever seen them. Comparison between the Rev. Patrick Brontë’s signature and the psychic signature shows it to be practically identical, while there is one point which is peculiarly evidential. It will be noticed that in the capital B of Brontë, the rounded body of the B is made first, and then the upright is put in second in a curious sort of detached way. On examining other of Patrick signatures on my visit to Haworth on September 13, 1935, I found that the capital P of Patrick was formed on this rather curious system, ¢.e. the back of the letter formed first and then the upright inserted afterwards, and curiously separate and detached (see Plate XXXIV). For the Patrick Brontë signature to be produced by my wife holding the extreme end of a long pencil with the hand of another person also grasping it, and when she had never seen the ordinary signature, would be altogether impossible, on any other explanation than the spiritual one. The only explanation that satisfies the observed facts is that given by Emily Brontë when she wrote, “We are all here to welcome you.”

The section on the left shows the spirit signature of Charlotte Brontë from the marvellous series of messages on Christmas Day, 1932, and the confirmatory signature not seen by us until September 1935, and then copied from the “Haworth Edition” of Mrs Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Brontë.

Long years ago Emily Brontë wrote :

“No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in life’s troubled sphere,
I see Heaven’s glories shine,
And faith shines brighter, arming me from fear.”

To be present on these occasions when that splendid soul proved the realisation of her trumpet blast to mankind, and manifested from “the kingdom of the heavens,” was indeed a privilege for which to thank God, and from which to take courage.

Rev. Charles L. Tweedale and Mrs. Tweedale with the alleged Spirit Form of F. Burnett taken by the popular “spirit photographer” William Hope and published in 1919. This spirit photograph like all of William Hope’s were exposed as fraudulent.

This ends Tweedale’s commentary on his and his wife and daughter’s experience with the Brontës. It is interesting to note that, while the book is full of quotes giving praise for Tweedale’s work, one researcher of my acquaintance, John Billingsley, who was able to speak to some elderly parishioners who recall the Rev. Tweedale, tells me that we was not held in high regard by his flock. The beliefs he espoused did not, apparently, sit well with a North Yorkshire Anglican Church going community and the current incumbent at the time was given to believe that Tweedale was frequently AWOL from his post as he pursued his more esoteric interests!

  1. On returning home we sat and Strad manifested and said that the pulling of the dress was done by Emily.
  2. At this time neither of the sitters knew that Emily was the musician—her playing is described as ” accurate, vivid and full of fire “—and that she used to teach music at Héger’s school. They both understood that the piano was Charlotte’s.