A Lawyer Presents the Evidence for the Afterlife


The Russell Connection : Reuniting Parents with their Children in the Spirit World through Physical & Trance Mediumship

by Gwen Byrne, Edited by Karl Jackson-Barnes Psychic Book Club Publishing (November 10, 2014)

A review By Dr. M. Cristina Zaccarini

Gwen Byrne experienced every parent’s worst nightmare, when her nine-year-old son Russell (pictured left) passed away in 1963. Her loss led her to visit mediums and learn about the afterlife in an effort to maintain a connection to him. Byrne’s first book, published in 1994, was the product of copious notes from readings with mediums and a multitude of experiences related to this quest to maintain contact.

Western interest in the spirit world was slowly on the rise at the time of her book’s publication; however, as Byrne would note, a person’s visit to a medium tended to be kept secret, rather than shared, especially in the U.K., where discussions of the afterlife were highly regulated.

Indeed, there were restrictive clauses prohibiting any discussion of the afterlife in U.K. radio broadcasting codes, until Michael Roll challenged the Radio Authority to the European Court of Human Rights and achieved the removal of these clauses in 1994. Even today, there is still a marked difference between the U.K. and the U.S., when it comes to discussions of the afterlife on television. Thus, the publication of Byrne’s first book in 1994 coincided with a shift in the ways that people thought of, and spoke about the afterlife in the West.

In the 1990s, the U.S. saw the growing popularity of mediums such as James Van Praagh, who appeared on the television show “The Other Side,” and, by 1999, John Edward’s “Crossing Over,” as these fuelled interest in afterlife communication. Gradually, these led to the present day popularity of such productions as “Long Island Medium,” and “The Haunting Of...”

While U.S. shows focused primarily on the expertise of the medium, as they communicated with the world unseen, to bring comfort to the bereaved, Byrne’s homeland of the U.K., provided a different environment.

Afterlife investigator Michael Roll explains that serious discussion of the afterlife remains prohibited on television there, even today; however, information about afterlife communication in books, and in practice often went beyond the mere focus on the work of the medium, as it had in the U.S., emphasizing instead, the grieving person’s ability to communicate. (http://www.cfpf.org.uk/)

In the U.K., the publication of Spiritualist investigator Robin Foy’s book, In Pursuit of Physical Mediumship, in 1996, was a ‘how to’ instructional book for those seeking to form a home circle through which a group of sitters could study the means by which to manifest their loved ones in the spirit world. Foy’s book described the work of amateur investigators in Scole, England, who had reported phenomena that validated, through encounters with the spirit world, the psychical research of noted 19th century researchers, including authors, chemists and physicists such as Sir Oliver Lodge, Sir William Crookes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - individuals whose work could not be discussed on television in the U.K up until today, without tremendous consternation.

These works were unfamiliar to Byrne as she came of age in W.W.II. Consequently, despite having witnessed untimely, mysterious and disturbing deaths around her as a child, she remained uninterested in and unfamiliar with the concept of afterlife communication until her son’s untimely and tragic passing. Indeed, Byrne indicates that she had had no psychic visions and had experienced no visitations from the spirit world prior to her son Russell’s transition to the spirit world, but that her experience with mediums dramatically changed all that.

Despite Byrne’s unequivocal understanding that life did not end with physical death, and that her son was indeed still alive, but in another plane of existence, it was not until August 1982, almost twenty years after his passing, that the author was able to communicate directly with Russell. Byrne’s book provides superb detail regarding how this was achieved through direct voice mediumship, as well as riveting accounts of over one hundred encounters with Russell via seances.

The story of this communication began while Gwen, a semi-professional singer, (pictured left) was away from home during a performance. Her husband Alf picked up the phone and was told that a medium in the Midlands, U.K. had communicated with her son Russell, who had supplied his parents’ phone number by utilizing the painstakingly slow rapping technique made famous by the first Spiritualists, the Fox sisters, in 1848, in upstate New York.

One week later, the couple visited the group that Russell had contacted and Byrne indicates that Russell spoke, with the words “hello Mum, hello Dad,” and sang a song to his mother.

Gwen continued to attend séances until 1989; however, Byrne’s later experiences and work would become relevant beyond that date, not only for its comfort to herself and family, but to a greater network of grieving parents, and to any bereaved individual reading this book.

Grief therapy, especially when involving an untimely passing, is an extremely challenging endeavor for the counselor. The departed person cannot be brought back, and an inconsolable, bereaved person can unfortunately sink into complicated grief, depression and substance abuse. Grief therapists are often left with few tools to help those who are bereaved, and whose only comfort can be that of knowing that their loved one is well.

Early scientists and authors, and later investigators such as Michael Roll, understood the value of spreading the word that life beyond physical death continues. Roll described the materialization of his own father, who had previously passed into the spirit world, and fought to spread the word that this knowledge had ability to sooth, to some degree, the pain of grief, in a way that grief therapy could not.

Byrne’s 1994 account, detailing her personal experiences witnessing the materialization of her son, and the power it had for her own family’s personal healing was significant; however, the value of this 2014 volume also lies in its warmth and generosity of spirit, not only through thoughtful and straightforward writing, but through its example of comradery amongst other mothers who suffered through the overwhelming pain of the loss of a child.

Indeed, Editor, Karl Jackson-Barnes notes that he had “imagined” Byrne’s story “would be one of tragic loss and like many others…followed by a comforting collection of spirit messages from mediums.” However, Jackson-Barnes admits that he “couldn’t have been more mistaken.” (16) The communication that Byrne achieved with mediums may have been extraordinary, but it also led her, at the insistence of her son Russell, in spirit, to bring together a group of grieving mothers who would gather to communicate with their children in the spirit world.

In this most recent 2014 publication, Byrne recounts the ways that five, out of the fifty mothers in the group she created, 'Russell's Pink Panther Society', experienced contact with their children in spirit. At a time when “no one dared even mention“ visiting a medium, these mothers did so; however, they also communicated individually with one another’s children, engaged in automatic writing, used home-made Ouija boards and formed “their own self-help groups.”(23) Through this RPPS group, comforting information about the worlds inhabited by their children in spirit was shared among the grieving mothers, providing important messages that will likely help many readers in need of healing from grief.

The bereaved may fear that their departed loved one was cheated from their time on earth and relegated to an eternity “resting in peace,” and inactivity, or possibly nothingness. Byrne states that Russell explains how the young grow old on the other side and recounts how she and her husband “were privileged to speak with Russell as a man” during their “last time at a physical phenomena séance.” (23) In what Russell and others, like 18th century Swedish scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg has described as worlds of thought, where “like attracts like,” Byrne notes that Russell was happy working in the “Children’s Realms,” and, motivated by the sadness of children who missed their mothers, began his labor of love, the project of uniting the spirits of children who had crossed over, with their grieving parents. Hence, since Russell missed his mother, he was drawn to children in a similar predicament.

Since Gwen was a singer, Russell often conveyed information, including the process of his life work on the other side through lyrics such as these:

“They’re sad because they miss their Mums and Dads, then I came up with this idea. I’ll form a contact club, to prove that we are here.’
‘…I’ve already contacted my dear Mum. ‘How do you do that ?'...It’s easy…just form a thought and put it in their head.’
‘I’ll show you how’ and so I did…”

Those who are grieving may long to hear that their departed loved ones retain identifiable personality traits, while continuing to grow in their new lives in spirit. It was precisely because of his ability to sing and make people laugh that Russell engaged in the work that he was doing in the world of spirit, according to Byrne. Russell noted, in the lyrics to this same song, that he was told “Russell, we have a job for you, we need a little clown….someone to make others laugh’”… “to lift them when they feel down.’ (19)

Interestingly, Byrne details not only how the personality is maintained in the spirit world, but the ways in which the spirit grows in maturity as well. Complementing 19th century U.S. Spiritualist understandings of continued growth and learning in the spirit world, Byrne explains that Russell, who had passed to spirit so young, had grown to adulthood, and chosen to “adopt a child” in the spirit world, thus experiencing parenthood and helping the spirit of a younger soul in need of parenting. (62)

The bereaved person may experience a survivor’s guilt and unhappiness that their loved one cannot go on to enjoy intimate relationships and earthly enjoyments. Byrne explains, in Russell’s words, that in his world “when we find people we like, we can be together all the time if we want. We don’t have to sign a piece of paper - but we can still find someone and love them.”

I have heard many mediums suggest that a person in the afterlife will be drawn to the spouse for whom they felt more affinity, and that a person may even choose to be with two spouses. Byrne’s explanation is in keeping with this, as she notes that Russell explains that it all depends on “who you love the most.”

As has been described by many, including Emanuel Swedenborg and Helen Greaves, in Testimony of Light (2005), as well as authors and out of body travelers including William Buhlman and Jurgen Ziewe, one can initially inhabit a realm in the afterlife where eating and drinking are possible and earthly desires can be fulfilled, dependent upon what a person wishes. Byrne explains that Russell “did at first,” have his desire for food met, when he arrived, but that later he did not need this. (155)

Just as Robin Foy had described in his work, the mothers received ‘apports,’ objects taken from somewhere in the material world (and deemed unnecessary to the original owner) and transported to the séance room. Indeed, it was Byrne’s apport, a gift from Russell during Christmas of 1982, of a toy Pink Panther, that came with the request that Gwen help with the mission of reuniting children in spirit with their parents. This led Byrne to create 'Russell’s Pink Panther Society' (RPPS). “Now I’ve always liked the Pink Panther, so I’ll send one to my Mum! Oh that will make her laugh I know, and stop her feeling glum,” explained Russell.(19)

Reflected in this portion of the story, is the conveyed message that Gwen can help herself by helping other mothers. Readers who are interested in signs from the spirit world will be fascinated to learn the mechanics of this process, and how sharing knowledge of the apports helped to bond the mothers in the RPPS. Indeed, it is this bonding among women that makes the story so compelling.

Just as in the 19th century, the Spiritualist publication “Banner Of Light,” often encouraged readers to try communication on their own, because they too could be mediums, the book explains the way that mediumship skills can be developed.

Byrne believes that all can be mediums, but the difference is that some individuals are cognizant of these abilities, while others have switched off their connection to the spirit world. For example, Russell tells his mother that “B,” who communicates successfully, does so because she “perfected the art of listening” during childhood, and understood the “value of silence.”(60-61). Yet, Russell warns Gwen that it is “easier” to have an “intermediary” because “it would take very little…for you to just give up on life,” and the purpose of life is to do the “great deal of work” that is ahead.”(61)

Consequently, the mothers often communicate with their own children in spirit with the assistance of other mothers, doing so on one another’s behalf. For example, one evening, a mother in the RPPS, Margaret Prentice, had the thought to ask Russell to let her know that her son Richard was with him. Soon after, another mother called to give a validation that Russell was there with her by correctly describing an article of distinctive article of clothing that Margaret was wearing precisely at that time.(240)

These anecdotes, revealing the bonds among mothers in the RPPS who provided one another with support at this most difficult time, will doubtlessly inspire.

This engaging book provides readers with vivid and interesting depictions of the afterlife, and exciting séances with such mediums as Rita Goold, where the spirit of the famous medium Helen Duncan is said by Byrne to have appeared. Those who wish to research the material further can consult with Michael Roll’s website, which describes related experiments.

Sociologists and students of bereavement therapy will find that the book provides a glimpse into the warm and loving comradery that developed among grieving mothers in this unique self-help group.

That Byrne has described seeing her son materialize, is uniquely comforting, as are the other examples given by Byrne of materializations; however, the self-help component, which has not been captured often enough in written narratives or media sources in the U.S., interwoven in this lovely book provides readers with a unique, uplifting and beautiful story that is sure to help bring comfort and help heal many broken hearts.





Dr. M. Cristina Zaccarini

Associate Professor, Co-Director of Asian Studies
Adelphi University
300 South Avenue
Garden City, NY 11530
email: zaccarin@adelphi.edu