Happy Valentine’s Day: Breakup Via Séance

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In February of 1956, newspapers across the United States—from New York to California—told the story of a relationship between a British girl and a ghost ending after a séance.

A three-week “out of this world” romance between a pretty cockney bobby-soxer and her poltergeist boyfriend was over yesterday—or at least her family hoped it was.

Three weeks before the séance, 15-year-old Shirley Hitchings of London met her ghost sweetheart through tappings on her bedroom wall. Shirley first felt his presence, then the tappings began. She had set up an alphabet card and was able to decipher his messages. His name was Donald and he was from New Zealand. Shirley was scared at first but, as she told reporters, “[…] I realized there was nothing to be afraid of. It was a feeling of love, and not fear that surrounded Donald.”

The tapping communication worked like so. One tap meant “yes.” Two taps meant “no.” Three taps meant “I don’t know.” Then, using the alphabet card, Shirley and Donald were able to talk using more complex messages. She would point at letters and he would tap when she reached the next letter to spell out words, as if her finger where a sort of planchette.

So things started off pretty sweet, but teenage love can get complicated. “It was great fun having a ghost for a boyfriend after I got used to it,” Shirley said, “But it got kind of complicated when he started throwing furniture around.” The noise woke up her father and alerted the family to the paranormal romance. Her grandmother put up a crucifix in her bedroom, but things just got worse. Donald threw more objects, including a clock.

The family, fed up with this violent boyfriend, decided to throw a séance.  It was quite the event. Three mediums, including spiritualist Harry Hanks, a crowd of newsmen, and “angry” police were all in attendance.  The one-hour seance, though, was pretty anti-climatic as no objects were thrown (the rowdy newsmen were making more of a racket than Donald). Rather, Shirley felt a sudden feeling of being free. She was reluctant to end things with Donald, but decided it was for the best after the séance. She felt happy.

Shirley’s father was relieved to have his quiet nights back (as he told reporters through a yawn). What was next for Donald? Well, Shirley’s father told reporters he would probably have to get a job.

Source: “Seance Ends Romance With Ghost,” The Troy Record, February 24, 1956, page 34.

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