Two other bits of information came out during this early period of discovery that became very important later. Since Peg and I were doing a lot of automatic writing in those days, we both tried very hard to channel Rachel’s full name. Peg kept getting the name Rachel Ward – which we both felt was a trick of her subconscious because she was a big fan of the famous actress of that name, having been deeply engrossed in the British mini-series The Thorn Birds a couple of years prior.
Both then and now, I struggle with channeling any name. I am claircognizant, meaning that information literally drops into my head out of nowhere – so my hand is not being pushed or manipulated when I do automatic writing. I am simply trying to write what I hear. For some reason, names do not come with that information. They still don’t, even after 30+ years of practice and lots of mediumship work.
I tried nonetheless, and kept getting something similar. As hard as I tried to turn Ward into something else, it still came out, as I observed at the time, W/a/short letter like r or n/tall letter like d, t, or l. Once my guides got to the tall letter, the writing always stopped.
Something else of deep import happened at this time. When I was first glancing through one of the many library books I had found, flipping pages, a photo caught my eye even as the page flew past – and I suddenly felt as if I had been punched in the chest. I was literally left gasping for air. The sensation would eventually become familiar, once I began my internet researches, but this was the first time I had experienced it. I almost felt as if I wanted to cry, and I didn’t even know what I had seen – the image had flown by so quickly that the effect was subliminal. I couldn’t even tell if that glimpse of a figure had been a man or a woman.
It was a thick book full of photos, so I had to flip around quite a bit before I found it again – and I immediately knew I had the right one because I again felt that odd sensation in my heart. It was a photo of a man wearing a dramatic cape, long hair hanging down, and I instantly felt the tears welling up in my eyes. Glancing down at the caption, I learned that it was a photo of Oscar Wilde.
I have been reading compulsively since early childhood. I learned to read Dick and Jane books at age 3, and became an avid reader by age 7 or so. My parents had a huge library and at a young age I began to search through their books for reading material. My mother had nearly completed her master’s degree in English, so the vast majority of books were classics of one sort or another, primarily English literature. When I was about 12, I was watching television with my mother one quiet Saturday afternoon when she found The Importance of Being Earnest, probably Wilde’s most famous play, on public television and insisted I watch it with her. It was a drawing room comedy, and I thought it was very funny, although there was a lot I didn’t quite understand.
The next week I was combing through her library and stumbled across a volume entitled The Plays of Oscar Wilde. I had loved reading and writing plays since second grade, when an Easter play I wrote was adopted as the class play for that year. This sounded good – and it didn’t even occur to me that it would contain the play I had watched the week before with my mom, since the author’s name was unknown to me.
I read that book compulsively for years. Over and over, I re-enacted the stories in my head, slowly grasping the finer nuances of his humor. I was a compulsive reader anyway – it was an escape from a rather miserable childhood – and I never objected to reading the same books again and again. I wore out the Anne of Green Gables series, the Little House series, and the Sue Barton series (now out of print, but about a young woman in the 1930s who becomes a nurse, which was my lifelong ambition as well; interestingly, the woman who wrote it had been a nurse near the front during World War I and, amazingly, best friends with Little House author Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter).
As you will eventually find out, that last bit of parenthetical information is less of a digression than it sounds, but right now we are back in the 1970s, compulsively reading Oscar’s plays along with a great many other books. I knew absolutely nothing about Oscar and did not try to learn anything; I just thought the plays were funny and delightful and they took me away from my worries and cares, even at that age.
Thus, my reaction to the photo I had now stumbled across in the mid-1980s was not just dramatic, but bewildering. My childhood reading habits notwithstanding, I felt desperately sure he had been very important to me when –or if – I was Rachel.
Peg’s guide Ursula explained that I believed I had broken Oscar’s heart once upon a time, and while the back story was not very clear, I mooned over the supposed incident for weeks, as if it had happened last month and not, at least hypothetically, a century before. I kept gazing at that picture, feeling the tears well up in my eyes like a tenth-grader getting over a crush. It affected me so deeply that my husband (a real nut, who many years later tried to murder me) eventually became overwrought about my obsession. I told him, “Seriously? You’re seriously jealous of someone who’s been dead for over 80 years?” but that did not appease him at all.
I even shared my obsession with my mother, who dismissively pointed out, “He was gay,” although I did not think that was relevant. Biographies of him, which I was mostly too depressed to finish as the story of his trial and imprisonment on the charge of homosexuality loomed near the end of each, made it clear he had many amours with a variety of women before finally allowing his true nature to prevail.
I dreamed about him, too, just as I had dreamed about the full cast of characters I encountered in the various library books I had read. In one dream he was smoking cigarettes in an 1870s or ‘80s context, rather than the more manly cigars or pipe; I found out years later that cigarettes were indeed one of his affectations, unusual for an Englishman in that time period, although more commonplace by the turn of the 20th century. I also heard his voice very clearly: he spoke with a cultured English accent, despite being Irish by birth, but when he became upset or excited his Irish accent suddenly came noticeably to the fore. Once again, a biography I read much later confirmed this.
The most dramatic vision I had came to me during a meditation session quite a few years later, but still long before I discovered Rachel’s true identity. I was in a typical meditative state when I suddenly found myself on a sidewalk in a crowd of long dark dresses and long black topcoats among a sea of black top hats and umbrellas. It was drizzling lightly. Everyone was jostling to get a better view of what looked like the side door of a public building, and somehow I knew it was the exit from a courthouse. I was standing on tiptoe, trying to see through the hats and umbrellas, and I felt very sick to my stomach – such a sense of dread and depression as I have rarely felt in my current lifetime.
I got a glimpse of someone being led out of the door in chains, bailiffs on either side, and I felt so sick I thought I might faint. Tears filled my eyes. At that moment, the vision ended abruptly. I sat straight up, completely alert and aware, astounded by how completely real the experience had been. There was no doubt whatsoever that for a moment I had been transported back to Victorian England.
I also knew intuitively what I had seen, although the face of the individual in chains was not visible to me as I peered around the thicket of top hats and black umbrellas. It was Oscar, charged and convicted of gross indecency (homosexuality), being led from the Old Bailey in chains to be transported to Pentonville Prison, where he would begin to serve his two years of hard labor, despite being fat and forty and in poor health from years of dissipated living. He was later transferred to Reading Gaol, where he wrote his famous ballad of that name. Upon his release he fled to Paris and died a few years later, having never recovered his health.
As I sat there, stunned by the amazing depth of sensation from physically experiencing another period of time, I had the sudden revelation that the primary emotion I was feeling was guilt – a most horrible, dreadful guilt. And somehow it was connected to Rachel’s sense that she was, in some unfathomable way, responsible for Oscar “becoming” homosexual – an obviously absurd belief in the 21st century, but presumably logical in a time when the whole concept of homosexuality was little understood and deeply distressing to most.
Now all I needed was the internet to be invented.