Long before the days of top TV paranormal shows like Most Haunted, Derek Acorah’s Ghost Towns and Colin Fry Live, there was a certain female medium who, whilst not exactly given the kind of glossy media exposure that the psychics of today enjoy, was nevertheless hugely popular in her own special way. Her name was Doris Stokes.
Doris May Fisher Stokes was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England – just across the road from Margaret Thatcher – on January 6, 1920. In her books, Voices In My Ear and More Voices In My Ear, she claimed that she started seeing spirits and hearing disembodied voices as a child. She went on to develop these abilities further once she joined a local spiritualist church.
She generated much controversy during her career: some people believed that she really was endowed with psychic abilities, while other, more skeptical individuals dismissed her performances as just cold reading.
In 1962, during a crisis of confidence, she gave up her work as a medium and retrained to become a psychiatric nurse. However, she had to retire five years later following an attack by a patient. She resumed her psychic work, and in 1975 became the resident medium at the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain
She first came to public limelight in 1978 during a visit to Australia, when she guested on The Don Lane Show. Her appearance on this show sparked a huge surge of interest in her, and she played to three capacity audiences at the Sydney Opera House. She was also the first medium to appear at the London Palladium, which was a complete sell out within two hours.
In 1980, her first autobiographical volume, Voices In My Ear: The Autobiography of a Medium, was published. Her books went on to sell over two million copies.
In her book, Voices in my Ear, Stokes claimed that she had solved two murder cases in England. However, Detective Chief Superintendent William Brooks of the Lancashire Constabulary stated that Stokes played no part whatsoever in the detection of either murder.
Whilst in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Stokes also claimed that local murder victim Vic Weiss had contacted her with details of his murder. Former magician and popular sceptic, James Randi, contacted the LAPD, who informed him that all of the information supplied by Stokes had been available to the media at the time. Stokes was unable to provide any new information to the police, and the case remains unsolved.
When challenged about her abilities, Stokes often defended herself vehemently against critics, insisting that her messages from the spirit world were accurate. A 1986 demonstration by Stokes at the Barbican in London was videotaped and can be seen on You Tube.
Stokes had a very down-to-earth attitude towards the spirit world, a tendency often displayed to people wherever she went. In fact, the other world seemed every bit as real to her as this one.
Some of the famous people whom Stokes claimed to have contacted in the spirit world include Diana Dors, Tommy Cooper, Richard Beckinsale and Dick Emery.
In her first book, Stokes recalled the early stages of her mediumship when she began repeating what ‘the voices’ said to her. She became aware of one voice as that belonging to her ‘guide’ – Ramonov – and realized she couldn’t choose who would speak to her.
In her fourth book, A Host of Voices, she wrote further about these matters. “I can’t bring someone from the spirit world into contact with the earth plane unless there is some sort of bridge. There has to be a bond of affection which links them with someone here.”
Her books discuss the various tests she underwent to determine the source of her information. One examination necessitated her having to sit a lie detector; another required her to undergo hypnosis and be questioned about her methods.
Stokes has been variously described as “an individual of great personal warmth”, “the Gracie Fields of the psychic world” and “a ruthless moneymaking confidence artist”. She continued to give free consultations until a month before her death, when she left only £15,291.
Stokes suffered bad health throughout her life. She had around thirteen cancer operations, and in April 1987, following the removal of a brain tumour, she did not regain consciousness. She died in Lewisham, London on 8 May 1987.
At the end of her posthumously published memoirs, she claimed she heard a disembodied voice telling her “Your life on Earth is over, your life in spirit has begun.”