Manning, Matthew (1955– )
British psychic, whose phenomena include poltergeist, apports,
automatic writing, telepathy, precognition, and psychic
art. Manning was born August 17, 1955; and at the age of 11,
he was the center of a poltergeist disturbance at the family
home in Shelford, Cambridge, England, which involved repeated
knocking and the movement of scores of small articles.
After several weeks, the phenomena subsided but returned
about a year later, accompanied by childish scribblings on walls
and even high ceilings. Chairs and tables were disturbed and
dozens of objects moved around.
According to the account in Manning’s several books, the
phenomena followed him to boarding school, where heavy
beds were moved, and knives, nails, electric light bulbs, and
other objects were sent flying through the air. Showers of pebbles
and pools of water manifested, and strange lights apMandrake
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
peared on walls. One day, while writing an essay in his study,
Manning found himself involved in automatic writing, at which
time the poltergeist phenomena ceased. Since then he has regularly
received hundreds of communications apparently from
deceased individuals, some in languages unknown to him, including
Italian, German, Greek, Latin, Russian, and Arabic.
Following upon the automatic writing, he produced psychic
art in the manner of Thomas Bewick, Thomas Rowlandson, Aubrey
Beardsley, Paul Keel, Henri Matisse, Picasso, and other
great names with remarkable fidelity to the artists’ styles. He
also discovered an ability to bend spoons in a manner similar
to that manifested by Uri Geller and to record startling demonstrations
of some unknown force in himself by means of kirlian
aura photography. Matthew duplicated the Geller effect of
starting inactive clocks and watches, as well as radios, tape recorders,
music boxes, and even electric lights. He had a premonition
of the June 1975 plane crash near Kennedy Airport that
killed 121 people, as well as the 1975 subway train disaster at
Moorgate Station, England, in which 43 people died.
While touring Japan, he appeared on television, and 1,200
callers jammed the studio switchboard with reports of bottles,
glasses, and other objects exploding in their homes. Faucets
turned on automatically, burglar alarms went off, and auto engines
switched themselves on. Lost articles reappeared, small
objects materialized in homes, other objects disappeared, and
watches and clocks went haywire. Manning has also predicted
that his own death will occur at an early date.
On August 7, 1977, he took part in an ESP test organized
by the British newspaper Sunday Mirror. Manning was stationed
in London’s Post Office Tower (580 ft. high). Between 6 and
615 P.M. he mentally transmitted three images the color
green, the number 123, and the shape of a house. Readers of
the Sunday Mirror were asked to ‘‘tune in’’ to these images and
send their results on a postcard. Of the 2,500 readers who responded,
575 scored the right color, 1 in 44 got the threefigure
number right, and about 1 in 30 identified a house-like
shape. There were some 30 interesting ‘‘near-misses’’ in which
readers reported the color green, the figure 123, and a shape
of a triangle on top of a square, or the color green, the number
132, and a house. Michael Haslam, deputy honorary secretary
of the Institute of Statisticians in London, confirmed that the
results were significantly higher than chance expectation.
Manning was also the subject of a Canadian documentary
movie, A Study of a Psychic, made by the Bruce A. Raymond
Company between 1974 and 1977. President Bruce A. Raymond
was formerly controller of programs at the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation and one of its chief executives. An
objective record of Manning’s career, the movie includes interviews
with members of his family, his headmaster, and school
friends. Extracts were shown on British television on the Brian
Inglis Nationwide program produced by Granada TV.
In December 1977 Manning announced that henceforth he
preferred to be described as a ‘‘mentalist’’ instead of a ‘‘psychic.’’
This statement came after three years of worldwide publicity
as the Western world’s most gifted psychic, on the same
day that Manning appeared on the Russell Harty Independent
Television talk show in London. The show included filmed accounts
from three first-hand witnesses of the poltergeist phenomena
that surrounded Manning as a schoolboy. During the
program he demonstrated automatic drawing and attempted
telepathy tests. He also stated
‘‘I believe also that a lot of people who are doing debunking
in the name of science are merely forming a religion of their
own, which I call humanism. . . . They believe there is no more
to life than everything they can perceive physically, there is
nothing beyond the five senses and that when one dies that is
the end. They turn that into a religion. Obviously, what I am
doing is to them threatening. That is why they will attack me.’’
During his 1977 American tour, Manning was vigorously
criticized by magician James Randi, a well-known and hostile
opponent of paranormal phenomena. Randi is a member of
the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of
the Paranormal and the author of The Magic of Uri Geller
(1975), in which he accused Geller of ‘‘massive fraud.’’
In September 1977 Randi attacked the British Sunday Mirror
ESP test in the Post Office Tower, suggesting that Manning
could have sent in ‘‘an important fraction of the postcards’’
himself. Manning countered, ‘‘The man who talks of ‘falsehoods’
makes statements himself which can be seen to be totally
false by anyone who reads my book.’’ A report on this controversy
was carried in the British newspaper Psychic News (September
10, 1977).
Manning’s preference for the label ‘‘mentalist’’ over ‘‘psychic’’
may be a response to aggressive campaigns such as
Randi’s. Manning delivered a statement to Peter Bander, his
former publisher and agent, which became a front-page story
in Britain’s Cambridge Evening News (December 3, 1977) and
was also reported in Psychic News (December 10, 1977). Manning
‘‘Dear Peter,—Without any disrespect to anything which
may have been said or done in the past, I would prefer from
now on to be known as a mentalist and not as a psychic, a description
I have always resented and never liked.
‘‘As I have no intention of giving interviews during my short
stay in England, I would like you to be the first person to know.
Perhaps you might also be so good as to pass this on to any
pressman or future inquirers.
‘‘Certain events in America, for example, have made me reconsider
my position. I feel this is probably the best description
to explain them.
‘‘I reiterate that I do not wish to withdraw anything I have
said or done in the past, and that I wish to be judged by what
I’m doing now rather than by what I have been doing in the last
four years.
‘‘I have no intention of explaining this any further at present.’’
In his first book, The Link (1974), which went into 19 editions
and was translated into many languages, Manning accepts
the description ‘‘teenage psychic’’ and describes the first occasion
that he ‘‘entered into direct communication with spirit entities.’’
It may be that like other sensitive individuals in the history
of psychic science and parapsychology, he felt that a
hostile debunking attitude was going beyond criticism and
speculation into the realms of psychic persecution.
In recent years Manning has specialized in forms of psychic
healing, healing by touch, and sympathetic contact between
individuals by guided imagery and mental disciplines. He also
founded the Matthew Manning Centre at 34 Abbeygate Street,
Bury St. Edmonds, Suffolk IP33 ILW, England. He has lectured
widely on healing and has issued audiotapes on the subject.
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Gregory, Anita. ‘‘London Experiments with Matthew Manning.’’
Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 58
Manning, Matthew. In the Mind of Millions. London W. H.
Allen, 1977.
———. The Link. London Colin Smythe; New York Holt
Rinehart, 1974.
———. The Strangers. London W. H. Allen, 1978.