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Madge Gill and the Bournemouth crime

Found - a curious and very rare spiritualist book The Spirit of Irene Speaks published in Bournemouth in 1923. The title refers to a notorious murder in 1922 of a young cook, Irene Wilkins, who had travelled down to Bournemouth to London in response to a potential employer from an advertisement she had placed in a local paper. She had been met at the station in a large Mercedes and her body was found in a field the next day battered to death. Eventually a chauffeur was arrested, one Thomas Henry Allaway. An astute car designer had noted the car's registration number at the station and he was also recognised by a telegram clerk… The book claims that through 'psychometrics' (in this case the psychic tracing of the murderer through clairvoyant communications from an object from the murder scene) a medium had solved the case and there is a weight of convincing evidence in the book and suggestion of police co-operation. No account of the case found online mentions this aspect of the case.

However the book is notable for other reasons. It has a long plea at the beginning by Dr Abraham Wallace for the repeal of capital punishment as being irrational and unchristian and a further article on 'The Futility of Capital Punishment.' The endpapers of the books are designed by the cult outsider artist Madge Gill. She is mentioned in the text as having produced these 'automatic drawings'. She is called Madge E. Gill from London ('this lady through her mediumship obtains gorgeous oriental designs in marvellous colour schemes, and quite unusual in conception.  She also, under control, does the most beautiful embroidery and needlework…)

Madge Gill (1882- 1961) was a prolific outsider and visionary artist.  She was introduced to Spiritualism by an aunt when she was in her teens in East London. Later when she was about 40 she began creating thousands of mediumistic most done with ink in black and white. She claimed to be guided by a spirit she called "Myrninerest" (my inner rest) and often signed her works in this name. Many feature a young woman in intricate dress  often thought to be a representation of herself or her lost (stillborn) daughter, and female subjects dominate her work. Her drawings are characterised by geometric chequered patterns and organic ornamentation, with the blank staring eyes of female faces and their flowing clothing interweaving into the surrounding complex patterns.These endpaper drawings, different at both ends (rear endpapers pictured) do not have the female face…a book on her came out in 2013 by the musician and occultist David Tibet.

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Edgar Wallace at Sing Sing

Found in the Haining archives - this article by Edgar Wallace.It is unclear from which magazine it was clipped but probably dates from the late 1920s and was published for his British readers. Several of Wallace's books refer to Sing Sing prison including  Mr J.G. Reeder Returns (1932) which has a story called The Man from Sing Sing. Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) was the adopted son of a Billingsgate fish porter in London, and largely self-educated - the newspaper boy who became one of the most famous writers in the world. He sold millions of books, but he was plagued by debts due to an extravagant lifestyle. He left Britain for the United States in 1931, only to die in Hollywood in 1932, aged 56, after writing the original story for King Kong. His body was returned by ocean liner in honour, only to be reunited with an ocean of outstanding bills.It is said all his debts were paid off in a few years from massive book sales. A BBC radio programme earlier this year by thriller writer Mark Billingham on Edgar Wallace (The Man Who Wrote Too Much?) suggested he was somewhat forgotten. He may not be much read anymore but his books are still collected throughout the world…

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