London’s Psychic College



*Ominous creaky door noise*


In my last post I flagged up a couple of events coming up that seemed like they might be quite interesting; last weekend I managed to toddle off and enjoy one of them, so I thought I’d share the experience.

The London College of Psychic Studies turned 90 at the weekend, or their residency in their permanent home in South Kensington did, at any rate. To celebrate, they opened their doors to all comers, putting on a display of art and artefacts that have been collected over the years.

The college itself is in a tall, but narrow house sandwiched into a standard Kensington terrace. A few doors down is a casino, lurid lights spilling out on to the street – at a glance Mrs Pootler wondered whether that was the college, but no: the college has a more down-to-earth approach to its particular niche. Hogwarts, it ain’t.

I explored the college from the basement up (looking for, but not finding any hidden passageways). The first room was dedicated to Arthur Conan Doyle, president of the college in its early days when it was still directly connected with the Spiritualist church. Archive footage, books, photos and newspaper clippings were the order of the day. Similarly, the next room was dedicated to newspaper clippings from various spiritualist papers.


Smiles, indeed…


Take that, Scotland Yard!


A stuffed library and reception area on the ground floor gave way to a further three floors of rooms resplendent with photos and artwork – some of the art was ‘automatic’, drawn or painted when in a trance state or whatnot. Here are a few further snaps I took (note: the pallid, reflected face you can half glimpse in some of the photos is either me or Mrs Pootler, not a ghost):

A favourite quote to end on, from a poster advertising Spiritualist lectures (capitalisations intact):

The Priest offers you a Book and Dogmas. The Occultist offers you a Key and Facts.

For the avoidance of doubt, I’d take imagination and art over either, but it’s nice to paddle around and get different perspectives.

If you’ve got some favourite esoteric haunts around London, let me know in the comments and I’ll check them out.





Upcoming Esoteric Exhibitions

John Dee_0

A little while ago the British Library had a barn-storming exhibition devoted to Gothic. I wrote about it here. For fans of the esoteric it was a particular treat, with John Dee’s spirit mirror being one of the exhibits. At their Comics Unmasked exhibition one of the stand-outs was a recording of Aleister Crowley reading John Dee’s Enochian writings. It played on a loop. In a building full of ancient manuscripts. Have they never seen The Evil Dead?!

Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve written about an exhibition, but that may change soon – two have come along at once. Keeping with the John Dee topic, the Royal College of Physicians have just launched a 6 month airing of some of his books.

A lot of Dee’s library, once housed at the impeccably named Mortlake, was nabbed or destroyed. It seem that after passing through a couple of pairs of hands much of the remainder was gifted to the Royal College of Physicians in 1680. Lots of alchemical scribblings and Enochian doodahs abound in the margins, so I fully expect to come away from it able to turn lead into gold (which, now I think about it, is what Games Workshop did in the 90s).

The second exhibition is actually more of an open day. The London College of Psychic Studies is opening its doors this Saturday, on its 90th anniversary. I’ve not been there before, so it seems like a good excuse to have a poke around and see what really goes on behind its doors. Spoiler: it seems like collecting snazzy art may be one of their hobbies. But I’m sure there’s much more besides.

I’ve long been fascinated by the college. It sits happily in an affluent area of London rather than, as my imagination would prefer, being tucked away down a twisting alleyway that’s never the same twice. I’m sure it keeps all its oddities on the inside, and the façade is just to throw off the scent…

You can read more about the Dee exhibition here, and the College of Psychic Studies here.

I’ll report back once I’ve been along. Let me know if there’s anything else going on that I should be aware of!