Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

I am presenting here an excerpt from a book by Morgan Knudsen discussing the psychic activities of her great great grandfather Albert Durrant Watson (1859-1926), described in the Dictionary of Canadia  Biography as a “physician, astronomer, author, and psychical researcher.” (Click here)

Albert Durrant Watson

Albert Durrant Watson

According to this biographical entry Dr. Watson “successfully practised medicine for more than four decades, serving on staff at three hospitals, including Toronto Western.”

Here is the excerpt.

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The Beginning of Psychical Research in Canada 

Excerpt from Teaching The Living: From Heartbreak to Healing in a Haunted Home (2018) by Morgan Knudsen

Morgan Knudsen

Morgan Knudsen

The idea that we have a say in what turns up in our reality has been tossed around a lot in the last number of years and in the early 1900’s, Albert Durrant Watson, my great great grandfather, was no exception. The subject matter comes up repeatedly in his book The Twentieth Plane and Birth Through Death, as both books were allegedly transcripts of the channeling sessions with a strange, then unknown fellow, Louis Benjamin.

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A.D. Watson was born in 1859 in Mississauga, Ontario. He was a member of the Euclid Avenue Church in Toronto, the Toronto Conference, the General Conference, the Board of Missions, and the executive of the Methodist Social Union of Toronto, and he served as treasurer of the church’s department of temperance and moral reform. His involvement in the church was about to change, unbeknownst to him, when he fell down the rabbit hole of the paranormal. Despite his church involvement, Albert was a man of science. He earned an MD from Victoria College, Cobourg, in 1883. In 1890 he would receive another, ad eundem, from the University of Toronto in recognition of his graduation as a licentiate from the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1883 and he practiced medicine for over twenty years. Watson’s life was far from boring.

If that wasn’t enough, Watson was fascinated with Astronomy and dove right in. His papers relating to that field include “The reformation and simplification of the calendar” (1896), “Astronomy in Canada” (1917), and “Astronomy: a cultural avocation” (1918). He joined the Astronomical and Physical Society of Toronto in 1892, which would eventually become the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and he served as first vice-president between 1910 and 1915 and as president in 1916 and 1917. But his life changed when he founded the Association for Psychical Research of Canada. The world wasn’t ready for what he was about to deliver and the public ridicule became relentless.

If you were born around 1970 or 1980, think about our grandmother’s generation: Growing up in the 1930’s and 40’s, the paranormal was never spoken about. In the Victorian era, it was all the rage! If you weren’t holding seances and spooky occasions then you were just missing the social life! But by the time the early 1900’s hit, the public attitude had changed. A lot. My great great grandfather, Albert Durrant Watson, was an extremely well-respected physician and a strict non-believer. He was a man of art and science, a fluent poet, and a wealthy doctor. He was married and had everything going for him with a rich social life that just happened to have a fair bit of interest in the spiritual. Something he did not subscribe to… at first. His mind started to open up when he began allowing his home to be used for channelling sessions with a man named Louis Benjamin. As he began to overhear these sessions which he labelled as hogwash and entertainment, he began to take some interest in the information that the uneducated and simple Mr. Benjamin should not have had access to, including detailed information about the death of Watson’s very own mother.

These repeated sessions ended up being scribed into two books, The Twentieth Plane and it’s sequel, Birth Through Death.

These books were quite a leap from the science and poetry that his colleagues and friends had come to expect from him, and were met with a negative tongue and controversial uproars. Despite this, Watson held on to his position about what he had experienced and didn’t seek the approval of readers. Instead he offered it as information for a coming age and believed people would either accept it or not, admitting his own heavy skepticism towards mediums. Either way, he put his career on the line to stand for what he believed in and my family never spoke of him. I did not learn that this influential and historical figure was the founder of the very first paranormal research association in Canada until I was well into my career, having founded Entityseeker: Paranormal Research and Teachings in 2002.

My family was steeped in paranormal occurrences and stories: all of them bad. It wasn’t until much later I discovered A.D. Watson had very different experiences, that I reshaped my history with the paranormal. The first words my grandmother spoke to my mother upon one of our visits to her place were very simple: “Don’t let Morgan get involved in the paranormal. It’s dangerous, it’s bad, and it will only cause trouble.”

She held this belief for a reason: Her experiences were no short of awful. She rarely spoke about them but when she did talk to my dad (her son) about them, they were terrifying. She spoke of waking up in the night with a hideous face inches from her own, attacks happening mid day and having absolutely no control over what came into or out of her experience. Being an intuitive woman, things would happen to her regularly and it wasn’t long before her younger son, my dad’s younger brother, began dabbling in the paranormal as well.  When he became a teenager, he was knee deep in it, and having the same horrific experiences.

Albert spoke of a very different relationship: A relationship with nonphysical that was helpful, peaceful, enduring, loving, and beautiful. His books reflected kind conversations and simple, easy access to the loved ones we believe we have lost to the death process. The idea of the spirit ‘getting stuck’ disappeared, and words of empowerment directed towards the living came bubbling forth. These weren’t grave warnings, these were uplifting, fun, and artistic messages from a group of entities that called themselves “The Humble Ones”. This was a game changer and this message were the basis for my program, Teaching The Living, although when I designed it in 2002, I had no idea these conversations had ever happened.

I have never been a big believer in coincidences. In the same breath, I am not sure I have an explanation for why or how I ended up on the niche path of paranormal research and parapsychology as a man who I was unaware of for decades. Regardless, Albert Durrant Watson is not only an important part of parapsychological history in my life, but throughout Canada as well.

It was said of A.D. Watson by Lorne Pierce: “He recognized no national, ecclesiastical or any other frontier, but searched the world through for truth… He sifted the philosophies, the religions and the humanities of the world… No man during this generation in Toronto ever entertained so many strange faces, tongues, sects, systems, enthusiasms, artists, poets, fanatics, sages as he did; no home was more the ante-chamber to the universe.”

If we all could embrace this attitude as we head in to this research, it is my belief that the advancement of this field would accelerate in ways, dare I say, that we could only dream about.

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For more information about Dr. Watson see Chapter 6 of Anatomy of a Seance: A History of Spirit Communication in Central Canada (Montreal: McGill’s University Press, 2004), by Stan McMullin.

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