McKenzie, James Hewat (1869-1929)

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McKenzie, James Hewat (1869-1929)

Founder of the British College of Psychic Science. McKenzie was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, November 11, 1869. He began the study of the paranormal in 1900 as a result of his dissatisfaction with the failure of science or theology to throw any light on human destiny. Years of private study and investigation followed. The fruit of this period of research was a series of lectures in London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow (1915), a book, Spirit Intercourse: Its Theory and Practice (1916), and a pamphlet If a Soldier Die (1916), which had a wide circulation. In 1917 he toured the eastern United States and the Midwest as far as Chicago in search of mediums. After spending a good deal of time in California, he returned home in 1920.

McKenzie raised money to found the British College of Psychic Science in 1920. He started Psychic Science, the college's quarterly journal, two years later. In the same year he and his wife, Barbara, who collaborated in all his investigations, visited Germany, Austria, and Poland and had sittings with many of the best psychics on the Continent. In Warsaw they sat with the materializing medium Franek Kluski and secured plaster casts of materialized hands, which they brought to London. These casts were the only ones in England at the time. They also brought Maria Silbert of Graz, Austria, and a poltergeist medium to the college for experimental work. A devoted Spiritual-ist, McKenzie had no scientific training. Characterized by a strong, assertive personality, he was known to cover up evidence of fraud when he discovered it.

McKenzie had a deep interest in physical mediumship in all its aspects and a profound knowledge of the conditions necessary for good results. On many occasions he was asked to investigate cases of hauntings and disturbances and was able to clear up annoying conditions. He also made an intensive study of trance mediumship with Gladys Osborne Leonard and Eileen Garrett and assisted in the development of the psychic talents of several other trance mediums. He was convinced that only through psychic "facts" was there any proved knowledge of survival, a belief he affirmed continuously in his writings and lectures. During the years in which he acted as honorary president of the college, it was the first substantial organization in London to become a center for psychic demonstration and instruction.

McKenzie died August 29, 1929, in London. Barbara McK-enzie, who also brought a fine intellect and understanding to the study of psychic phenomena, was honorary secretary of the college until 1929, and then became honorary president for one year, being succeeded by Rose Champion de Crespigny.


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

Hankey, Muriel. J. Hewat McKenzie: Pioneer of Psychical Research. London: Aquarian Press, 1963.