Published in 1918, Frederick Bligh Bond’s ‘The Gate of Remembrance’ detailed excavations at Glastonbury Abbey. Recorded in the book were automatic writing sessions in which Bligh claimed to have been contacted by dead monks who had guided the excavations. Bond’s employer, The Church of England, fired him and he faced reputational ruin. But was there any way that Bond could have located the buildings he found at the abbey without spirit help?
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whenever we look at the past whether it's through history or archaeology there always has to be a logical sensible reason why everything happened but sometimes you come across an event where however hard you try you can't find a normal sensible reason for it which is why we call those events the paranormal I'm going to look at these phenomena in a really open-minded way to see if I can find out what the truth actually is I'm working with Becky McCall who's a science journalist she's very smart very skeptical which will probably help because we're investigating one of the most controversial archaeological claims of the 20th century the guy was called blade Boland he was the most successful archaeologist at duster grabby at the turn of the 20th century he was coming up with structures has come up with chapels it was almost as though he knew where to look for the stuff that he was firing and at the height of his success he announced the reason he's been able to find all this stuff was because he'd been in some kind of psychic communication with a monk who had died 400 years previously who was showing him where today Glastonbury Abbey is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Britain it's got a Christian history stretching back 2,000 years and it's the legendary burial place of King Arthur but in the 16th century the Magnificent abbey was ransacked during Henry the eighth's dissolution of the monasteries and abandoned despite its historical significance most of what we know about the archeology of the building is down to one man Frederic Bligh bond an expert in church design and an eminent architect the Church of England appointed him director of excavations at Glastonbury Abbey in 1908 what he discovered was stunning but can there be any truth to Bligh bonds claims that his success was down to dead monks telling him where to dig this is it Abby how about friendship like bond so tell me what was his name again the Scot Tim Hopkinson ball apparently knows more about blahblah anger so you've got this very successful respectable antiquarian yet he announces that he's made the archaeological discoveries that he has because he's been communicating with a monk from the Middle Ages yes my got to know a gentleman by the name of Captain John Allen Bartlett who was also a West Country antiquary Bartlett discovered by quite accidentally about 1900 that he could produce something called automatic writing and this is what interest Bligh automatic writing where does this come from what is it with automatic writing what happens is that either one or both hands start to literally write automatically by themselves where are the words coming from very good question when let's read what's being written you often meet with personalities obviously it's not you it's not a conscious you producing the writing but some body something else is so essentially what we're talking about is writing on a page which is voices from another time yes in short do you have any of that writing indeed I do would you like to see something yeah these are bond box original automatic writings that were produced in 1917 as you can see is not very easy to read where did all this happen well off the time it actually happened in bonds offices actually in Bristol working day would finish and then John Bartlett would come into the office blog would dismiss his staff and they go into a room and they'd sit down together at a table bar that would take pencil in his hand and bond will put his hand on the back of Bartlett's and then bartha's hand would start right of its own volition as far as blood bond was concerned he wasn't skeptical about what was going on was he no absolutely not from before he started excavating here bond had developed a theory which he called B Magnum a moria the great memory theory and his idea was basically this about the whole of our lives we accrue memories and when we die these memories go into a great cosmic library or card-index so he was sort of tuning into the cosmic soup yes yes but which one would he rely on if you had to choose one or the other automatic writing or good old or seduction methods from his point of view it can't actually be digging a trench and pulling things out of the ground however occasionally there would be problems or glitches which he couldn't explain conventionally so he would pull multimatic writing session giving him the inspiration to get over the problem did it work were there occasions when the traditional methods failed and he used automatic writing and found something yes and this is the classic case we're actually standing in the ruins or foundations of the Egbe chapel which is bombs most spectacular find [Applause] for years fly bombs contemporaries had insisted that the weren't any structures of the East End of the Abbey but Bligh Bond was unconvinced asked for help during one of his automatic writing sessions the personalities predicted that if he excavated Bligh bond would find a chapel we have here bonds copies of the automatic writings this is the great church then here we have this great eastern extension second diagram was produced which again shows the small internal chapels in a great Chapel to the east so the scripts were clearly telling him there was a large Eastern chapel deciding to trust the automatic writings fly bond south trenches at lo and behold hit massive foundations and in a couple of weeks that uncovered this enormous forebay late medieval Chapel huge great construction so this around here was all discovered through automatic writing yes the bond wasn't only excavating here in 1908 he also made a quite fascinating discovery in the form of a grave where was the grave well the grave we can place absolutely exactly which is slap-bang here just to the east of the high altar the one end of it bond found a jumble of bones have been cut around and mixed up so he speculated that perhaps these bones belong to the last Abbot of Glastonbury Richard whiting like many Catholic happens in the Middle Ages whiting was wealthy and influential but in 1539 King Henry the eighth closed down his Abbey and stole its riches whiting was dragged at Glastonbury Tor where he was hung drawn and quartered four hundred years passed before Bligh bond discovered the mysterious bones buried at the altar so at this point Bly decided to turn to the automatic writings and the personalities in the writings told him that these were indeed the bones of the martyr the martyr was he they said in other words these bones did belong to whiting and that after he'd been hung drawn and quartered the bones had been collected by the faithful men buried here in secret presumably he couldn't substantiate whether it was whiting or not not at all he did his best though he took the bones out and showed them to a surgeon in Bristol and the surgeon announced that the body the bones came from had been cut about while the person was alive or shortly after death and Bly thought that the surgeons pronouncement the scripts and also the peculiarity in the position of the grave all points of the fact that these were indeed the last earthly remains to the Blessed richard whiting and they still survive today or Peniche abbey in Gloucestershire they're still there indeed they are this is important isn't it we've now got a body we've got an identification for that body and automatic writing has authenticated that identification and we know where those bones are I think we need to go and see them I think your honor Bly bond was making astonishing find which he set with the result of automatic writing it claimed those bones belonged to avert whiting but is that true I think we should put that to the test whatever went on during those automatic writing sessions it's not fancy having a girl so we're at the beginning of the 20th century here in Glastonbury there's this man called Bly bond the most successful archaeologist they've ever had here he's pulling stuff out of Glastonbury Abbey that people didn't know existed that's suddenly at the height of his fame he announces he's been able to do all this because he's been in communication with people from the Middle Ages by some psychic process called automatic writing now that is pretty weird isn't it it's very strange but we have to examine the evidence we have to find out did these writings really inform his work because there are the bones aren't there the bones that fly bond found and through the automatic writing they were authenticated as belonging to have a writing in the 16th century well I can go and see these plates this is my British yeah they're in Gloucestershire you know the other thing that really interests me is this whole process of automatic writing what is it how does it work I've failed a woman from the Society of psychic research who does automatic writing they call them or tortoise –tz– and I think she's rather good and I'm just hoping if I do some work with her she'll get us a bit closer to the kind of experience that Bligh Bond himself would have been going through his theory was that he was tapping into what he called the great memoriam when you die your thoughts feelings go into this card index in the sky does that echo with the kind of work that you did definitely it really does I call it the omniversal mine oh you have a phrase for it I have a phrase for it – yes and I do feel that it is this energy field that surrounds us that has all consciousness that ever has been within it and I do believe we can tap into it could I judge I'm sure you could so to be able to get you into a good space to do automatic writing the first thing that we need to do is get you into the right side of your brain what is it about the right side as compared with the left well the left side is the logical the critical the side that's almost like the computer whereas the right side is the side that interfaces with the omniversal mind so we can find out things that are outside of our five senses that are beyond outside the box if you like which is where automatic writing comes from right yeah so do you feel ready to have a go initially writing the way that sit back and be comfortable because if you feel that you're anxious or on duty then you're gonna have your left brain in there so block off the right nostril breathe in through the left nostril which feeds the right brain this is a yoga technique and you'll start to get the sense that you're much more relaxed bring the energy up then direct it to come down your arm and we'll have the pen ready to write so bring it up with the breath and then down the arm and it will start to feel like it wants to go really quite fast and I'm just gonna hold it back and wind it up okay so let it drop again now bring it up with the next breath so bring it up with the breath and down the arm and then we'll draw it back oh yes okay good good and then the breath again should I be watching what I'm drawing a lot watch it from a distant place yes do watch it because what we want is cooperation from the left brain how does it feel further good so now go for making it smaller just intend don't try intend to make the writing a little bit smaller now bigger they're smaller okay so there's a certain amount of control it's just a love yeah good good it's just a laughs excellent I'm often printed Jappy they something that goes to share what's determined with the bones found a ghastly really are those about mine see if they are like bones claims about automatic writing one big base or something solid hi Jerry yes Mary hi Becky now we have some bones here at the monastery I just wondered if you could take a look at them and tell me if there's anything that might signify they came from somebody who was hung drawn and quartered as this person is supposed to have being not like to expect to see well obviously cut marks that were made at the time of that person's death so these are very sharp quite shiny marks that suggests metal on wet bone as opposed to a bone that's been buried and broken in the ground see are the relics of blessed Richard wising that's right okay yeah okay what we have to do is that they are slightly crumbly and so if we put them here then we can at least save anything yes all right so okay now take out here okay to see sirs form there it's got this a song that you know about this yeah when archaeologists oh and then in here there's more so you have an arm bone there I think part of the upper arm yes any other bit biggest bit of his um see that what would have occurred at the execution on the tour the whole body would have been smashed out and that's your thigh bones that cyber the right thing so you have some good substantial pieces of of the body so we have two arms one leg bone some fragments yes those two parts are not very crumbly professor hunters yes it's slightly different to the other bones I would say it looks more bleep why is there such a changing color do you think Mary all I can say is that this isn't this isn't human bone this is an animal bone these are human bone and I would say that they appear to belong to the same person they're all the same size but this one is very different in color hmm because it's it's a denser bone do you have a question I could ask a question that's likely to be validated later on I could ask how those bones the bones of Abbott's whiting okay okay so let's have a look we've got lots of letters it's like an X and P slit what do you make of it hey hey top Pig [Laughter] [Laughter] whether any features that might suggest these bones belong to somebody who was hung on and quartered you think I didn't see any marks that suggests that they were cut marks I need the breaks that were visible on the bones were the typical types of breaks that you expect to see in our cortical bone but due to the preservation of the bones the lack of the ends of the bones I won't be able to tell you whether they were male or how old this individual was or even how old the bones themselves are there were also a couple of bones within the relics that are animal bone that aren't human bone at all of course when life on found these bangs he took them to a surgeon in Bristol and this surgeon said that they were the bones of a man who was probably killed in the mid fifteen hundred's which is obviously very much in contrast to what you've said here based on modern anthropological method 7 no way you would be able to come to those conclusions based on the remains that we've just seen one of the things about the way black bonds did it was that when he did on his own he really wasn't really good at it but when the Bartlett was doing he just had his hand over Bartlett he seemed to be able to write much more clearly now my left brain is saying well yeah that's how Ford's operate but do you have a reason why it would work better when the two of them have their hands together like that yes I think it's when two or more people come together with the same intention the intention is magnified all right will you put your hand on top of my and and promise me looking into my eyes promising me that you won't try and write a particular word around because if I try we'll be fighting yep so what's our intention what was the name of the medieval monk that Bly Bond and Bartlett were communicating with [Laughter] it's angels that's what I'm so high ngel oh he's a river what can you see Wow I can't see angel there's something definitely there isn't there's time ensign Winston oh yeah and that could be a first night in man in yeah Eman Winston Haman Haman amen I have no idea what the name of this monk was or even if we know the name so it's gonna be very interesting to to find out there's that there's a wal there as well double hell balding Wallace oh you can see currently wide lied bond would have taken these and then written out kind of much much more neatly of course ensign angel I haven't done automatic lassen and this is very strange I asked what was the name of the monkey right she has specific question go live on was talking to him and we both the creature that is angels cries Wallace this one say that caught my head or tail of it something that went I wanna stuff some name from that era then have you think it well I went to see babies yes the a bird watching bones I had an expert there at the bone specialist and archaeologist I mean first thing she said was he's been to a mixture of animal and human bones there was one animal baby yeah or maybe to animate that was hard to tell the other bones were from a human that's for sure it could have been whiting in that sense but a big but there were no cut marks on these beds they weren't butchered this man was supposed to be the hyung Jordan bought it no marks at all your osteoarthritis animal bone in Wesley yeah definitely she did don't because it's just that when I was doing the automatic writing and I asked whether or not it was the habit okay who those bones began to predict all right I got and I'm sure even you in 1918 he live on published a book that was full of automatic writing he believed that the messages were coming from medieval monks in their own language little English but whose words were really going down on the page like bones or belong dead monks there's an expert at the University of Bristol who might be able to tell us whether what's in that book it's really authentic middle English I brought along a book that live on rate called the gates of remembrance and within it there are a number of transcripts of these automatic writings right I see so this is what he received from okay yeah this is interesting you begin with a bit of Latin just a formula which is quite common gloria in excelsis tibi Dale glory on high be to you God and then you get something that purports to be Middle English the time is near dig well and those things which ye seek shall be given you and then how much ye seek that sounds very Middle English that's that's alright that bit but let me read on right shall be given you but search carefully lest ye eradicate those things that be left for your guidance now that word eradicate this more than isn't it bound to be even that word there I've not come across in Middle English guidance I don't think that's a Middle English word let's have a look at some other passages here there's a few touches that are interesting in image felt with a why that's how you would spell it if you were medieval yes you wouldn't spell it with an eye but look at this one here with a balcony with a balcony yes that is an Italian word you would say balcony and in in Italy and all those words come in in the Renaissance period right that's far too late for this isn't it yeah I've just not come across that in all my years of reading Middle English could it be that's you know this is an educated man this guy bond yes no colleges he's interested in the period so he's bound to have read some medieval English text I could be but if he wants this to look authentic he could quite easily be slipping in a bit of the medieval English where he wants to yes with knowledge yes I bet there are just too many words that weren't in use in the medieval period so do you think it's a fraud yes yes I'm afraid I cannot authenticate this as proper Middle English although it felt like something happened during my session with Juna Laney I'm not sure I know what that something was I'm gonna have a chat with an academic a specialist in parapsychology I'm sure he'll have a theory about what was going on when I was doing that automatic writing yesterday something happened and I wasn't faking it and I wasn't trying to make something happen well I could believe that that is exactly how it felt I would say you are actually producing that writing yourself it's your own muscular moves you're just not consciously aware of the fact that that's what you're doing very interesting you've got an idea in your mind and and there's just this subtle mm-hmm twitching that might take place one of the things that was fascinating about Bly bond was that when he worked with Bartlett with one hand over the other the signals were much stronger I think that that's absolutely fascinating though the moment I heard about that the first thing it made me think of was a phenomenon known as facilitated communication I suspect that what we were getting was the information from Bly bond but actually it felt to him it felt of both of them as if it was coming from somewhere else so it's not apply bond putting his hand over and just going something about his passion for ensuring that that information comes across somehow in tiny ways yeah and and and it's the same with the Ouija board phenomenon if you've ever played around with a Ouija board which I know lots people say you're not supposed to do but I have done that and it feels as if the glass or the planchette is actually moving on its own but I think it's again it's a very interesting kind of social psychological phenomena where everybody's just kind of moving it very very slightly so slightly though it's it's not even conscious but the mood the actual movement is coming from within them and not from some external source you would suspect that rather than being a fraud subconsciously he moved his hand in order to create the answers they wanted that's exactly why I think's going on [Applause] is plausible variety is not really automatic it's being subconsciously directed by the writer hello it's a tiny yeah oh hi tiny arm it's David I've just been doing a bit of research into some of the words came up during your automatic writing session Callum basically I found this old text that's the kind of ancient history at Glastonbury that's written by a chap called William of Malmesbury medieval period yeah now according to this text st. Patrick came back tomorrow his old age and went to Glastonbury and he found he left early twelve brothers leaving a permit and one of them is called dweller or wallet oh you're joking I'm not how am I gonna make people believe that this is true now you know that Julie and I a couple of days ago asked lie bond through the automatic writing to tell us the names of the monks who told him where to dig and you've seen this haven't you this was the squiggle and out of it we interpreted these three names Wallis Eman Winston and Angel yes June do you know the medieval document written by William of Malmesbury about Glastonbury I swear to you nobody who was in that room when we were together had never heard anything about it and David our researcher phoned me up to tell me that in this medieval document it describes Winston Patrick this isn't the time just after the Romans have left Britain he came to Glastonbury where he met 12 monks who are living there as Hermits he took one of them up blessed and retour and the name of the one who took up Glastonbury Tor was Wallace they stay there for three months fasting and praying during that time Patrick saw a vision of God or Emanuel as he was also called at that time and on the strength of that they decided where to locate the new abbey at Glastonbury dedicated to the arc angel like I've got goosebumps what are your first thoughts well coming from my slightly skeptical condition disbelief I suppose first of all why why is a scientist do you immediately say disbelief because there's got to be a lot of people called was it just happens there's one called Wallace well I'm sure if you look through other texts as well there'd be more Wallace's and lots of other people too perhaps it was a common name of angel while yet we're talking about something please the article I expected angels gonna pop up now and again and your interpretation of this Eman or Emma Venson it's Emanuel so you've you've changed that to fit it let me come back to you on your criticisms I can quite believe that I might subconsciously have written the word angel down because what we were talking about with spiritual things I can see why I might put a squiggle down and interpret it as angel Eman Winston and Emanuel well again you know looking at it again I could say that this EMM am double-l I could equally as you say I could be twisting it Wallace I don't buy your idea that there is just out of the ether I would never in a million years of thought of a monk as being called Wallace down near the south coast to me Wallace is almost the epitome of the Scottish name Wallace if Wallace is anything else it's a shoe shop as far as I'm concerned no I'll concede to that if somebody said to me think of a the name for monk I don't think Wallace would spring to mind no okay so there is something eerie there isn't that there's certainly something a little bit eerie yeah no I'd agree with you there certainly something that's I wouldn't have expected okay that far those names angel and Wallace part of me still thinks they could be a coincidence like bond please fast as a scripts about Glastonbury but I wonder if there any clues in the automatic marketing that remain undiscovered and we could put to the test back in 1908 bond was asking the personalities in the automatic writings about various different saints and chapels here in the Abbey and he asked a question can you tell us anything about the other Saints in the church and the answer came relics of ye Saints rested by you two of johannes the Kentish minh close by the great sacristy on the north side of the East End of your great church what I could tell you more but all have perished what more would ye now we know from surviving sources that John Johannes the condition was buried in this area over here close to the high altar and according to the automatic script the great sacristy so it's going to be quite a large building is to the north of that tomb in other words it's going to be here in front of us what's interesting is that nobody has ever excavated on this side so we have no idea what's under the turf here so as far as we know there's nothing here as far as we know but the automatic writing suggest there should be exactly now in 1910 at an automatic writing session bond asked the question was there anything built to the east of the Edgar chapel so east of the chapel that's around around here yeah these foundations here we can see in front of us are the Edgar chapel so it's this area here was the anything built here they said to the east the Agda chapel there was a free-standing structure in this area where we are here and bond had no reason to suspect it nothing in surviving historical records said lubbers a building the Easton you wouldn't really expect to find one here I said just according to the writings there could actually be something here they're quite clear the writings are quite clear on the fact i building stood to the east of the acre chapel wow that's quite exciting I spoke to Tim Hawkinson ball again yesterday apparently according to the writings there's a gate house east of the Edgar Chapel but this gate house is mentioned in the writings and only in the writing do you mean we don't actually know whether it exists or not it's just that the automatic writing tells us the basis so if we manage to get some tier fists and machines which would work out whether or not there were structures under the ground we could find out whether fly bonds automatic writing was actually ahead of what people knew at the time perfect opportunity to look at this in a scientific way and actually see if proven periodically if there's anything in it this man was convinced of course if bleib bones had had geophysics he wouldn't have had to rely on automatic writing but he didn't so we want you to establish whether the archaeology that he predicted would be under the grass at the Abbey really is there or whether it was just a fantasy on his part why would there be anything here well according to historical records there shouldn't be anything here but according to the automatic writings there's a gatehouse we're at the North Harrier we are not filter yeah so if we find that there is a sacristy here that's well on the way to confirm you that there was something in there automatic writing it does seem to me tragic in 1919 by bond has the courage to tell the world about the automatic writing and immediately his reputation falls to pieces he's banned from the Abbey and he dies a broken and lonely man well it wasn't quite like that Bob was really started in the early 20s he became more and more possessive of the Apple site he sort is his ABI and the discoveries were his discoveries so you actually saying that it was nothing to do with his spiritual connections indeed it was nothing to do with the automatic writing sessions or his idea about the Magnum or anything like that at all but it is true isn't it that they took the key of Glastonbury Abbey away from them yes it is true he had his own passkey made to the abbey and he was required to officially surrender it and it of course symbolically had nothing else marked the end of his connection with the album another sad isn't it I guess this is it make or break time for bleib bond and his dead monks what we got here quite some time what ten years okay right number one you remember just beyond those stones there we were looking up that grass in order to see if we could find glide ones gateway you really there's the stones beyond that is that slope there's the hedge and beyond that the garden say what does blue mean what's threatening blue basically means there isn't anything under the ground there red means there could well be that so you might get quite excited about that except what that is is that tree and over here these two intriguing little phenomena are probably tree balls so the sum total of gateway there is zero is zero that was only the first place which year it was along there we think there might be a sacristy this is the extension of that wall there so once again sacristy is conspicuous by its absence yeah yeah well not as bad as you might think because we've always been of the opinion that automatic lighting gives you what you want you're looking for so it doesn't surprise me from that point of view I would have been a lot more surprised if you actually found a whacking great sacristy there okay well dare I say I actually feel quite disappointed to be really honest because part of you really wanted to find something both of you just may be right because there is something intriguing you see certain eighths of the way along this wall yeah we have this gap here and can you see this lighter blue there geophys say that could possibly be a war in which case they could be a little room there no one's putting any money on it small sounds so what you found for us is in fact the ghost of a sacristy so no hidden sacristy x' no proof that those bones actually belong to the abbot recordings of the parapsychologist automatic writings nothing more than a twitch of the wrist he certainly had a good hit rate with the excavations but that could have been more luck than judgment I'm split about those automatic writings cuz half of me thinks it's a load of complete nonsense but on the other hand I had an experience when I did automatic writing that I just can't explain oh you remember that bone that they thought was the abbot's bone but it turned out to be an animal yeah the automatic writing I wrote down a top Pig what did the osteo archeologist say what kind of bone is it well Stan she said it it's a medium-sized mammal it's a pig a medium-sized mammal well I space a suppose so that's scary you