ROSEMARY BROWN (1931 - )
(Investigator 104, 2005 September)
Rosemary Brown is an English psychic who claims to have been contacted by the spirits of the dead, and given the opportunity to produce works of art, music or literature, which under normal circumstances she would be unable to create.
When Rosemary Brown was only seven years old she was given a foretaste of what was to come. Franz Liszt, the famous Hungarian pianist and composer who died in 1886, appeared before her when she was playing in an attic bedroom. He told her that when she grew up he would come back and give her some music.
This was not the first time she had been confronted by spirits, for during her school days Rosemary often had flashes of telepathy and visions of people on a different plane.
During her teens she took piano lessons but never reached a high standard, being content to play a few pieces in her spare time on an old second hand piano.
Liszt kept his promise and returned one afternoon in 1964 to guide her hands. Apart from composing and playing, Liszt and Rosemary would engage in lengthy discussions on world problems and reincarnation. He also introduced her to Chopin, who not only guided her fingers over the piano keys but on occasions accompanied her to concerts.
One by one the long dead and famous composers dropped in to encourage Rosemary in her musical endeavours – Brahms who dictated piano music and string quartets; Beethoven who impressed the music upon her mind without saying a word; Schubert who sang his composi-tions to her in a flat voice; and Bach who just told her the notes.
In 1970, a long playing record of some of the works was released to the critics. Hephzibah Menuhin, brilliant sister of the great violinist, said, "I look at these manuscripts with immense respect." Leonard Bernstein was impressed, and composer Richard Bennett commented, "You couldn't fake music like this without years of training. I couldn't have faked some of the Beethoven myself."
In 1987, Mrs Brown had another spirit visitor, this time from the other end of the musical spectrum – John Lennon, who dictated some new songs and lyrics.
If you are mystified as to why the great composers have chosen an unpretentious housewife to communicate their unwritten works, the distinguished musician Sir Donald Tovey explains it this way, "The musicians who have departed from your world are attempting to establish a precept for humanity, that is, physical death is a transition from one state of consciousness to another, wherein one retains one's individuality..."
It's worth noting that when the composer Richard Bennett commented, "you couldn't fake music like this without years of training", he wasn't saying that it couldn't be faked!
Just because a composition is written and played in the style of a particular individual it doesn't follow that they wrote it. Many entertainers, such as Liberace, Winifred Atwell and Victor Borge, often entertained audiences with modern songs rendered in the familiar style of the old maestros, and some teachers of music composition set exercises in the style of earlier composers.
Further, a perusal of newspaper reports about Ms Brown elicit contradictory information about her alleged lack of musical education. Originally she stated that she had had no musical training, later she was reported to have had only a couple of years of music lessons, and recently admitted to belonging to a musical household and being a competent musician and pianist.
One interesting aside, Ms Brown was able to converse with Beethoven despite it being well documented that he was deaf!
Coincidently, her alleged contact with Beatle John Lennon (murdered in 1980), came at the time she was publishing her fourth book, Look Beyond Today, which is all about John Lennon.
The thousands of dollars worth of free publicity gained from newspaper reports about her "revelations" (in Australia one full page in the Sydney Sun, February 23 1987), was a novelist's dream. In addition to the lyrics, Lennon is also reported by Ms Brown as giving her messages to pass on to his fans, typically warnings to the young relating to drug abuse, and other observations one would normally associate with a conservative suburban widow's outlook on life rather than a metaphysical communication.
Bill Barry, an expert on Lennon's lyrics was unimpressed, and said after studying one of Lennon's "new" tunes: "John never wrote songs as bad as that."
The mediums of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who reported contact with entities were undoubtedly frauds, their message the same as Ms Brown's – there is life after death.
However, in Mrs Brown's case it raises the question why, if the great masters wish to convince us, they do not do it by composing a masterpiece? Further, why were all the compositions for the piano?
While I am prepared to concede that Mrs Brown may, like so many others, have produced her material from her own subconscious, I certainly do not believe that it was through the medium of any supernatural agency, and had a great to desire to question the veracity of her claim. Cognizant of defamation laws however, I decided that it would be more prudent if the spirit of John Lennon did so.
With this in mind, and in an endeavour to show how easy it is to be accepted as a psychic and to get publicity for extraordinary claims, I wrote a satirical letter to the Sydney Sun newspaper, with some remarkable results.
In part, I also claimed to be psychic and in touch with the spirit of John Lennon who, I said, refuted Mrs Brown's claim to have spoken to him. Positing the technical reasons (the problems involved with interstellar communication) why these claims were questionable, I went on to elaborate my own fantasy.
The letter was not published, but an interview ensued with the Sydney Sun on March 10, following which some of my claims were reiterated in the next edition of that newspaper.
Subsequently I was interviewed on Good Morning Australia, and People magazine featured my extraordinary claims in a three page spread on May 18, 1987. My point had been well taken!
Sydney Sun Newspaper. 1987. March 3 and March 10.
People with Pix Magazine. 1987. Hwy's Spirited Chats! May 18.
Winckle, John. 1986. The Evolution of Rosemary Brown. the Skeptic, (L) 6(2):16.
[From: Edwards, H. A Skeptic's Guide to the New Age]