Cober Hill is a conference center developed around an old estate near Scarborough, on the north-east coast of England. In October, we attended the Stewart Alexander and Friends conference there. Having developed for more than forty years, Stewart is one of the world’s foremost physical mediums. Our objective was to sit with him in one of his rare public séances, but we soon discovered that the conference was no less important.
The fact that the conference was organized and managed by volunteers who have come to know and love Stewart is testimony to the respect he has earned. More than once we heard someone describe the group as a close family. There were ninety people in attendance and we heard not one cross word or criticism … only friendly faces and very good conversation. Amongst the attendees were academics, practicing mediums and generally well-informed people.
The first thing we noticed about Cober Hill is that it is a long way from home. We landed in Manchester and took a train to York to spend the night. The next morning, we continued on the train to Scarborough and then took a taxi to the conference center. The train system is excellent and permitted us to avoid renting a car … they drive on the wrong side of the road, you know.
As we passed the Blacksmiths Arms pub on our way to Cober Hill, the taxi driver told us that the Queen had recently eaten there. It turns out that it is part of the Duchy of Lancaster’s estate, which is the Queen’s property.
The weekend conference included talks, workshops and an evening séance. We don’t eat beef, lamb or pork and figured we would have to survive on fish and chips. As it turned out, the food was excellent and varied and they always offered vegetarian choices. Being October, we also assumed it would be cold and rainy, but the weather was very pleasant and the trees were all in their most beautiful autumn colors.
Dr. Annette Childs counseled Stewart concerning his grief over his sister’s unexpected transition and they have become good friends. She has devoted her career to understanding the end-of-life experience and has important understanding of this which she shared at the conference. If you think about this for a moment, you may understand how rare it is for someone to talk about the actual transition experience. Spiritualists speak of survival and communication across the veil; people interested in human potential speak of becoming all one can be; but, few of us want to speak about the act of dying.
Annette is the author of Halfway Across the River, which details much of what she has learned. She spoke twice at the conference. The first talk was focused on deathbed accounts and how important it is to talk about the coming experience based on knowledge and not fear or myth. Her second talk focused more on sudden transition in which the person has not prepared. The message we took away from that talk is that there really is no pain at the moment of transition. Annette has learned that we apparently disassociate from our body at the moment of trauma. She told us that sudden, violent events are only traumatic when we survive, because the pain eventually must come back.
Bradley Harris gave a talk about his father, well-known materialization medium, Alec Harris, who made his transition in 1974. As Saturday Night Press, Ann and Tom Harrison published a book about him titled, Alec Harris- The full story of his remarkable physical mediumship by Louie Harris.
Conference attendees were shaken by news of the transition of highly respected parapsychologist, David Fontana and Tom Harrison’s transition three days later, on October 23rd (see paranormalreview.com). Tom is the son of Minnie Harrison who was an important materialization medium. Tom and Ann were scheduled to give a talk about the Saturday Night Club which is the name given to the circle that supported Minnie. Instead of canceling the talk, Ann gave it herself, and later hosted a party which she said Tom would have wanted to celebrate his life.
Violet Eccles gave a talk about her path of development in mediumship and later taught a workshop about maintaining the mediumistic link. We attended the workshop and came away with a few new techniques which we will share with our circle.
Of course, the highlight of the conference was the Saturday evening séance with Stewart. The sequence of events during the séance was much like the one we describe on the next page. The short description is “amazing!”
The conference was one of the most interesting and enjoyable that we have attended. Being with a community of like-minded people for a weekend is something we all should experience every once in a while; as we all know, we are a rather different bunch!
We pay tribute to two people who were friends and who were very important to the field of survival research. They passed within a week of each other in October. David Fontana, author of Is There an Afterlife?, made his transition October 20 and Tom Harrison, author of Life After Death – Living Proof, made his transition October 23. We know that they will continue their work from the other side but they are greatly missed by friends, loved ones and the people who learned from them.