Herbert Saltmarsh

Herbert Saltmarsh (1881-1943) was a British psychical researcher who wrote on mediumship, precognition and survival issues. He published two books, Evidence of Personal Survival from Cross-Correspondences and Foreknowledge, later reprinted in a single volumeThe Future and Beyond. 

Life and Career

Herbert Francis Saltmarsh was born on 16 July 1881 in Highgate, London. He started his professional career in the shipping business, but ill-health forced him to retire at an early age, after which he devoted himself to psychical research and theosophical philosophy.

Psychical Research

Saltmarsh joined the Society for Psychical Research in 1921 and was co-opted to its governing council in 1931. In 1939 he was appointed a trustee of the Society’s Research Endowment Fund and he took over the work of treasurer.

Mediumship

In an experiment with the medium Mrs Warren Elliott, Saltmarsh tested the extent to which statements accepted as true by a sitter might be accepted by other people, not involved in the sitting, as being true also for them. Details from sittings in which a young pilot killed in action purported to communicate were sent to families who had suffered a similar loss, and scores made of their relevance. Chance correspondences occasionally approached those of the real sitting, but the average score for the pilot’s family was four to five times over chance, and in another case, six to seven times over chance.

These experiments are discussed at length by philosopher CD Broad in his 1962 Lectures in Psychical Research. Broad praises Saltmarsh’s methodology while dissenting from his conclusions.1

Cross Correspondences

The Cross Correspondences is the name given to a series of automatic scripts received by mediums and automatists in the early twentieth century that showed an interlinked pattern of themes and topics, apparently an attempt by deceased psychical researchers to give convincing evidence of having survived death. In Evidence of Personal Survival from Cross-Correspondences, Saltmarsh provides a clear model of the intricacy of this material, as he describes it, ‘in the spirit of judicial summing-up and not of advocacy’.2

Precognition

In a 1934 study, Saltmarsh analyses 349 cases of ostensible precognition reported in the SPR’s records. The majority were found to be in dreams, and of these, 76 were reported as highly evidential and 40 significantly so.3

Saltmarsh’s second book Foreknowledge (1938) presents cases of precognition from the SPR’s records and other sources which, he considers, require ‘a multitude of stretched hypotheses if they are to be explained away’.4 He discusses possible theoretical approaches, including the nature of time, concepts developed by JW Dunne (author of a best-selling 1930s book on precognitive dreams), and comparisons with basic memory functions.

Works

Books

Evidence of Personal Survival from Cross-Correspondences (1938). London: Bell & Sons.

Foreknowledge (1938). London: Bell & Sons.

Articles

A case of apparent telepathy (1925). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 22, 44-45.

Non-veridical cross correspondences (1929). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 25, 159-62.

Correspondence: A deferred impression during a trance sitting (1930). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 26, 112-13.

Report on the investigation of some sittings with Mrs Warren Elliott (1930-31). Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 39, 47-184.

A method of estimating the supernormal content of mediumistic communications (with S.G. Soal, 1930-31). Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 39, 266-71.

Correspondence: R.W.S. Irving comments on mediumship (1931). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 27, 5-6.

Is proof of survival possible? (1931-32). Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 40, 105-22.

Reply to Sir Oliver Lodge (1931-32). Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 40, 126-28.

Correspondence: Is proof of survival possible? (1932). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 27, 241-43.

Correspondence: On the possibility of proving survival (1933). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 28, 86-89.

Report on cases of apparent precognition (1934). Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 42, 49-103.

Correspondence: Precognition and psychoanalysis (1934). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 28, 219-20.

Correspondence: Time and precognition (1934). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 28, 242-43.

Note on an experiment by G.N.M. Tyrrell and Miss Johnson (1935). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 29, 69-71.

Correspondence: Preliminary experiments in precognitive guessing (1935). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 29, 126-28.

Correspondence: The study of the psychological aspects of Mrs Willett’s mediumship (1936). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 29, 195-200.

Some comments on Mr Tyrrell’s paper on individuality (1936). Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 44, 183-88.

Correspondence: Statistical methods of investigation of séance personalities (1937). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 30, 142-43.

Correspondence: E. Dingwall (1938). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 30, 153-54.

Correspondence: R. Thouless (1938). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 30, 187-88.

Ambiguity in the question of survival (1941). Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 46, 345-60.

Correspondence: The question of survival (1942). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 32, 137-42; 154-56.

Correspondence: Abdy Collins and D.J. West (1942). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 32, 161-62.

Book Reviews

The Death of Materialism by Whately Carington (1933). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 28, 131-33.

Discarnate Influence in Human Life by E. Bozzano (1938). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 30, 277-78.

Melvyn Willin

Literature

Anon. (1938). Review: Evidence of Personal Survival from Cross-Correspondences by H.F. Saltmarsh. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 30, 227-28.

Broad, C.D. (1943). Obituary: H.F. Saltmarsh. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 47, 151-53.

Broad, C.D. (1962). Lectures on Psychical Research. New York: Humanities Press.

K.R. (1939). Review: Foreknowledge by H.F. Saltmarsh. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 31, 41-42.

Salter, W.S. (1943). Obituary: H.F. Saltmarsh. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 47, 154.

Saltmarsh, H.F. (1930-31). Report on the investigation of some sittings with Mrs Warren Elliott. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 39, 47-184.

Saltmarsh, H.F. (1934). Report on cases of apparent precognition. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 42, 49-103.

References

  • 1. 3Broad (1962), 15-33.
  • 2. Anon. (1938), 227.
  • 3. Saltmarsh (1934).
  • 4. K.R. (1939), 42.