Although his master detective Sherlock Holmes was the ultimate lover of all things deductive, writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was more into the metaphysical side of things. He followed spiritualism, went to seances, and maintained a great fascination with ghosts and the "other side" after he lost two close relatives. But Doyle saw such unusual things up close and personal after his wife's best friend channeled the deceased in person.
Doyle's second wife, Jean, was best friends with a woman named Lily Loder-Symonds, a fellow devoted spiritualist. In addition to being Jean's bridesmaid and pal, Lily came to stay with her BFF and her family, in part due to her recurring bouts of ill health. Lily wound up helping take care of the youngest members of the Doyle family, but in her spare time helped channel spirits from the beyond by writing down what they told her!
Doyle and Jean Leckie's wedding. Image via The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia.
Lily engaged in a practice called "automatic writing," meaning she wrote down the messages the deceased allegedly communicated to her. She went into a trance and became a "medium" for the dead by writing down that they told her; the deceased she spoke to including three of her brothers who had died in the Battle of Ypres in World War I. As Martin Booth related in The Doctor and the Detective: A Biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Doyle started out a skeptic, but wound up believing Lily because she somehow knew details of an intimate conversation he'd had years before with his deceased brother-in-law, Malcolm Beckie (Jean's brother).
What confirmed ACD's belief in Lily's abilities was when she predicted that the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 would bring about war. That wound up being the case - the tragedy influenced the United States' entrance into WWI - but Doyle thought Lily must have been psychic to predict what the effect the Lusitania incident would have. In fact, apparently he himself had foretold a similar occurrence in one of his short stories not that long before! Lily also supposedly predicted a particular telegram would come from a particular person on a particular day - but Doyle doesn't give us much more info than that.
Feature image via Wikimedia Commons.