Thomas GlendenningHamilton (1873–1935) was a physician of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Founder and president of the Winnipeg Society for Psychical Research, Hamilton conducted systematic research on physical mediumship in a laboratory in his home over a period of 15 years.
T. Glen Hamilton, TGH or Glen, as he came to be known, was born on November 27, 1873, into a farmer’s family in Agincourt, Ontario, now a part of Toronto. The Hamiltons moved in 1891 to Winnipeg, where Glen attended college and taught school for a period before studying medicine. After graduating from Manitoba Medical College in 1903, he did a year’s internship as house surgeon at Winnipeg General Hospital, and established a private medical practice.
In 1906, he married Lillian May Forrester, a nurse. The Hamiltons had four children, including a son, James, and a daughter, Margaret. TGH was active in community and medical affairs, serving on the Winnipeg School Board for nine years, from 1906 until his selection as Liberal member for Elmwood to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly in 1915, a position he held until 1920.
In 1916, he became the first chairman of the Winnipeg Committee on Mothers’ Pensions. He was elected president of the Manitoba Medical Association for 216 Halloween 1921–22. From 1922–23, he was president of the Canadian Medical Association, and from 1923–31, he was the Manitoba representative on the Executive of the association. He also taught medical jurisprudence and acted as an examiner in clinical surgery.
TGH was first attracted to psychical phenomena as an undergraduate, when he read an article by the Spiritualist W.T. Stead in the Review of Reviews. In 1918, he came across the Patience Worth publications, which greatly impressed him. The following year he devised and carried out a telepathy experiment, and began reading widely in psychical research.
His first practical experience with the psychic came in 1920, at a Table-Tilting session arranged by his wife in their home, at which the deceased Stead and Frederic W.H. Myers purported to communicate. The Hamiltons became interested in the work of William J. Crawford, whose books on the Goligher Circle had recently been published. Mrs. Hamilton was struck by an apparent similarity between Kathleen Goligher and Elizabeth Poole, the medium at the Hamilton’s Table-Tilting session, and wondered whether Poole might have greater untapped abilities.
Poole was willing to find out, and the women began to hold weekly Séances in the Hamilton home. Nothing unusual happened for several months, and they were about to give up the sittings, when suddenly their table reared up on two legs. It remained so for several minutes, despite efforts to push it down. TGH was called in, and the phenomenon was repeated. His curiosity aroused, TGH formed a small group of sitters, with Poole as the medium.
By March 1922, after some 40 Séances, he had satisfied himself about three things:
(1) a 10-pound wooden table would make powerful movements under Poole’s touch;
(2) it would continue to make strong movements after she had removed her hands; and
(3) the rappings he and the other sitters heard showed signs of intelligence in their responses to questions.
He accepted the table movements as evidence of paranormal activity, but he was skeptical of the idea that the raps really were communications from Stead and Myers. TGH decided to give up the psychic work. He had satisfi ed his curiosity, and he was much aware how this research would be regarded by his medical colleagues. But it was a decision he found impossible to carry through.
Nine months later, at an impromptu Séance held for a visiting friend, Stead advised him to go on with his work, predicting that there was more to come. Impressed, TGH told his wife that if she could get together a suitable group of people, he would find the time to continue. The sitter group which Mrs. Hamilton formed over time consisted of four medical doctors, a lawyer, a civil engineer, and an electrical engineer, in addition to the Hamiltons.
Poole and two other nonprofessional mediums were engaged. And, perhaps most significantly, a special Séance room was outfitted in the Hamiltons’ house. This room was furnished with an open medium’s CABINET, a 12-pound wooden table, and chairs arranged in a halfcircle facing the cabinet. There was a ruby-colored light in the ceiling, equipped with a dimmer (most Séances were held in the dark). There was also a large battery of cameras of various types, some of them stereoscopic, positioned at the end of the room. These could be operated by remote control with the aid of a push-button device TGH invented.
TGH loaded all photographic plates and did all the developing, printing, and enlarging. A secretary took verbatim notes during Séances. These arrangements, together with TGH’s standing in his community, greatly impressed many who heard him speak about his work in later years. The new sittings began in April 1923. Many movements and partial Levitations of the table occurred, some without physical contact. Thirty of these were photographed, from various angles.
Soon Poole (in reports, she is called “Elizabeth M.”) began to enter a spontaneous trance. At first, her deep trances would last only a few minutes, but gradually they became longer. During these deep trances, Poole would be “invaded” by trance personalities, two of which—those purporting to be the writer Robert Louis Stevenson and the missionary-explorer David Livingstone—became regular communicators.
It was as a consequence of messages from them that TGH ultimately became convinced of survival after death and the correctness of the spiritualist view of mediumistic communication. A woman who had Demonstrated some mediumistic ability in her occasional appearances with the group started to attend regularly in January 1928. In February, a control calling himself “Walter” and identifying himself as Mina Stinson Crandon’s control of the same name attached himself to this woman, Mary Marshall (also known as Mary M. or “Dawn”).
At Walter’s insistence, TGH built a bell box of the sort used in Crandon’s Séances. This was a box with a hinged lid which, when pressed down, would bring two strips of metal into contact, and cause a bell to ring. Walter instructed TGH to place this bell box on a shelf in the Séance room, where it could be heard to ring periodically at sittings. In July, Walter suggested that TGH photograph Marshall while the bell was ringing.
In September, a developed plate showed very fine, thin cords connecting Marshall’s head to the bell box, some three feet above. Walter explained that he had constructed the cords from Ectoplasm, allegedly a substance exuded by physical mediums that enables materializations to take place. In October 1928, Walter announced that he would try something new. Between November 1928 and May 1929, photographs of miniature faces in the likeness of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a preacher in England, appeared.
Not long thereafter, the circle underwent another major development, with some of the regular sitters falling into trances along with the designated mediums. Marshall, however, was the only one to produce Ectoplasm. Photographs showed some of these to be attached to her head, others separated from it. They ranged in size from a silver dollar to substantial growths three or four feet in height and several inches thick.
Several showed faces, and a few represented more fully formed figures, replete with hair and clothing. As his research continued, TGH began to speak about it openly. He gave a presentation, which included displays of photographs, to the British Medical Association at its convention in Winnipeg in 1930. He was convinced that European psychical researchers were wrong in interpreting materialization as a psychokinetic action of the medium, and believed that the production of Ectoplasm was under the control of the trance personality, as Walter claimed.
TGH published a series of articles on his work in Spiritualist publications such as Light and Psychic Research in the early 1930s, but his only book, a compilation of his notes edited by his son, James, appeared posthumously in 1942 as Intention and Survival. The title expressed TGH’s conviction that Séance communications were purposeful, providing evidence of intention, and therefore of a surviving intelligence.
TGH died of a heart attack on April 7, 1935, at the age of 61. After a hiatus of some months, the sittings were continued by Mrs. Hamilton, partly for the purpose of giving him the opportunity to communicate himself. As the Hamiltons’ daughter Margaret tells in her book Is Survival A Fact? (1969), the most significant of these new sittings occurred in February 1939, once more at Walter’s suggestion. TGH’s likeness was produced in Ectoplasm, and through Marshall a TGH communicator referred to events that were known only to Mrs. Hamilton, and that had been forgotten consciously even by her.
She and the other sitters were confident that TGH had indeed communicated his continued existence from the beyond.
- Dean, K. F., comp. Register of the Thomas Glendenning Hamilton Collection. Available online. URL: https://umanitoba. ca/ libraries/units/archives. Hamilton, Margaret. Is Survival A Fact? London: Psychic Press, 1969.
- Hamilton, T. Glen. Intention and Survival. Edited by James Hamilton. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1942.
- University of Manitoba Libraries, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas Glendenning Hamilton collection, MSS14. Available online. URL: https://umanitoba.ca/ librairies/ units/ archives.