Harris, Bertha (1900–1981)
Bertha Harris, a leading British Spiritualist medium, was
born in Chester, England, around the turn of the twentieth
century. There is no record of her birth and the exact date is
unknown. What is known is that as a child she experienced her
initial spirit contacts and reported seeing auras as nice lights
around people. Her brother’s death in 1917 became traumatic
for her; she claimed he appeared to her. Frantic, she found her
way to a medium. In the accepting atmosphere, her own mediumship
blossomed. About this time her father died, and she
was forced to give up her plans for a career as a pianist. She left
school and took a job as a bookkeeper.
Over the next years she continued to develop her mediumship.
She also married Robert Harris, who also eventually developed
mediumistic abilities. In 1923 she accepted the invitation
of Ernest W. Oaten in Manchester and made her first trip
outside of Chester to demonstrate her mediumship. Oaten assisted
her on her stage presence, and the reports of her appearance
led to numerous bookings across northern England.
Oaten also introduced her to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and she
toured with him. After Doyle died in 1930, she reported on his
visits to her.
Through the 1930s, Harris made regular visits to London
and received the valued diploma of the Spiritualist National
Union, indicative of its acceptance of her psychic abilities. Just
after World War II began, in 1940, she moved to London. Reportedly,
a number of important people sought her advice during
the war, including Charles deGaulle, King George of
Greece, and Winston Churchill.
During the decades after the war, Harris emerged as one of
the most prominent of London mediums. In 1949 she became
a minister with the Spiritualist National Union and in 1953 was
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Harris, Bertha
693
honored by her colleagues with an invitation to demonstrate
her mediumship for the annual gatherings of the Marlybone
Spiritualist Association (now the Spiritualist Association of
Great Britain) held in Albert Hall. In 1956 she took the lead
in organizing the Union of Spiritualist Mediums (now the Institute
of Spiritualist Mediums), an organization for the training
of young mediums. She made her first tour in North America
in 1973.
Harris suffered a stroke in 1979 that hobbled her during her
last years. She passed away on March 17, 1981, in London.
Sources
Leonard, Maurice. Battling Bertha The Story of Bertha Harris.
Chicago Henry Regnery, 1974

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