Manning, Matthew (1955-)

Updated About content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Manning, Matthew (1955-)

British psychic, whose phenomena include poltergeist, apports, automatic writing, telepathy, precognition, and psychic art. Manning was born August 17, 1955; and at the age of 11, he was the center of a poltergeist disturbance at the family home in Shelford, Cambridge, England, which involved repeated knocking and the movement of scores of small articles. After several weeks, the phenomena subsided but returned about a year later, accompanied by childish scribblings on walls and even high ceilings. Chairs and tables were disturbed and dozens of objects moved around.

According to the account in Manning's several books, the phenomena followed him to boarding school, where heavy beds were moved, and knives, nails, electric light bulbs, and other objects were sent flying through the air. Showers of pebbles and pools of water manifested, and strange lights appeared on walls. One day, while writing an essay in his study, Manning found himself involved in automatic writing, at which time the poltergeist phenomena ceased. Since then he has regularly received hundreds of communications apparently from deceased individuals, some in languages unknown to him, including Italian, German, Greek, Latin, Russian, and Arabic.

Following upon the automatic writing, he produced psychic art in the manner of Thomas Bewick, Thomas Rowlandson, Aubrey Beardsley, Paul Keel, Henri Matisse, Picasso, and other great names with remarkable fidelity to the artists' styles. He also discovered an ability to bend spoons in a manner similar to that manifested by Uri Geller and to record startling demonstrations of some unknown force in himself by means of kirlian aura photography. Matthew duplicated the Geller effect of starting inactive clocks and watches, as well as radios, tape recorders, music boxes, and even electric lights. He had a premonition of the June 1975 plane crash near Kennedy Airport that killed 121 people, as well as the 1975 subway train disaster at Moorgate Station, England, in which 43 people died.

While touring Japan, he appeared on television, and 1,200 callers jammed the studio switchboard with reports of bottles, glasses, and other objects exploding in their homes. Faucets turned on automatically, burglar alarms went off, and auto engines switched themselves on. Lost articles reappeared, small objects materialized in homes, other objects disappeared, and watches and clocks went haywire. Manning has also predicted that his own death will occur at an early date.

On August 7, 1977, he took part in an ESP test organized by the British newspaper Sunday Mirror. Manning was stationed in London's Post Office Tower (580 ft. high). Between 6 and 6:15 P.M. he mentally transmitted three images: the color green, the number 123, and the shape of a house. Readers of the Sunday Mirror were asked to "tune in" to these images and send their results on a postcard. Of the 2,500 readers who responded, 575 scored the right color, 1 in 44 got the three-figure number right, and about 1 in 30 identified a house-like shape. There were some 30 interesting "near-misses" in which readers reported the color green, the figure 123, and a shape of a triangle on top of a square, or the color green, the number 132, and a house. Michael Haslam, deputy honorary secretary of the Institute of Statisticians in London, confirmed that the results were significantly higher than chance expectation.

Manning was also the subject of a Canadian documentary movie, A Study of a Psychic, made by the Bruce A. Raymond Company between 1974 and 1977. President Bruce A. Raymond was formerly controller of programs at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and one of its chief executives. An objective record of Manning's career, the movie includes interviews with members of his family, his headmaster, and school friends. Extracts were shown on British television on the Brian Inglis Nationwide program produced by Granada TV.

In December 1977 Manning announced that henceforth he preferred to be described as a "mentalist" instead of a "psy-chic." This statement came after three years of worldwide publicity as the Western world's most gifted psychic, on the same day that Manning appeared on the Russell Harty Independent Television talk show in London. The show included filmed accounts from three first-hand witnesses of the poltergeist phenomena that surrounded Manning as a schoolboy. During the program he demonstrated automatic drawing and attempted telepathy tests. He also stated:

"I believe also that a lot of people who are doing debunking in the name of science are merely forming a religion of their own, which I call humanism. They believe there is no more to life than everything they can perceive physically, there is nothing beyond the five senses and that when one dies that is the end. They turn that into a religion. Obviously, what I am doing is to them threatening. That is why they will attack me."

During his 1977 American tour, Manning was vigorously criticized by magician James Randi, a well-known and hostile opponent of paranormal phenomena. Randi is a member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal and the author of The Magic of Uri Geller (1975), in which he accused Geller of "massive fraud."

In September 1977 Randi attacked the British Sunday Mirror ESP test in the Post Office Tower, suggesting that Manning could have sent in "an important fraction of the postcards" himself. Manning countered, "The man who talks of 'false-hoods' makes statements himself which can be seen to be totally false by anyone who reads my book." A report on this controversy was carried in the British newspaper Psychic News (September 10, 1977).

Manning's preference for the label "mentalist" over "psy-chic" may be a response to aggressive campaigns such as Randi's. Manning delivered a statement to Peter Bander, his former publisher and agent, which became a front-page story in Britain's Cambridge Evening News (December 3, 1977) and was also reported in Psychic News (December 10, 1977). Manning wrote:

"Dear Peter,Without any disrespect to anything which may have been said or done in the past, I would prefer from now on to be known as a mentalist and not as a psychic, a description I have always resented and never liked.

"As I have no intention of giving interviews during my short stay in England, I would like you to be the first person to know. Perhaps you might also be so good as to pass this on to any pressman or future inquirers.

"Certain events in America, for example, have made me reconsider my position. I feel this is probably the best description to explain them.

"I reiterate that I do not wish to withdraw anything I have said or done in the past, and that I wish to be judged by what I'm doing now rather than by what I have been doing in the last four years.

"I have no intention of explaining this any further at present."

In his first book, The Link (1974), which went into 19 editions and was translated into many languages, Manning accepts the description "teenage psychic" and describes the first occasion that he "entered into direct communication with spirit entities." It may be that like other sensitive individuals in the history of psychic science and parapsychology, he felt that a hostile debunking attitude was going beyond criticism and speculation into the realms of psychic persecution.

In recent years Manning has specialized in forms of psychic healing, healing by touch, and sympathetic contact between individuals by guided imagery and mental disciplines. He also founded the Matthew Manning Centre at 34 Abbeygate Street, Bury St. Edmonds, Suffolk IP33 ILW, England. He has lectured widely on healing and has issued audiotapes on the subject.


Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Gregory, Anita. "London Experiments with Matthew Manning." Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 58(1982).

Manning, Matthew. In the Mind of Millions. London: W. H. Allen, 1977.

. The Link. London: Colin Smythe; New York: Holt Rinehart, 1974.

. The Strangers. London: W. H. Allen, 1978.