ISADORA DUNCAN AND I by Alyson Dunlop

ISADORA AND I

Isadora Duncan photoRound about 1999, I was in the passenger seat of a car.  We were heading towards Glamis Castle, along a country road.  Suddenly, I was no longer in the passenger seat.  I was in the driver’s seat, but at the same time my consciousness was outside looking at the scene.  It’s difficult to explain, but it seems the mind can really be in two places at the one time.  The scene before me showed a woman in a 1920’s style car and the same style of clothing.  The car was cream, with burgundy leather seating.  The woman was also wearing cream (or white).  She had short, bobbed, curly hair.  She was upset.  Or I was, as I was still also experiencing this through the woman’s eyes.  The whole thing lasted about somewhere between 10 and 30 seconds.  I really can’t quite remember, but it seemed like a long time.  Then I was back in the passenger seat in the here and now, wondering what the heck just happened!

A few years after this incident, a friend gave me a present.  It was photo frame, with a cutting from an article.  The picture was of a woman dancing.  I asked my friend who it was.  She told me it was Isadora Duncan.  “Who is Isadora Duncan?” I asked.

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“You’ve never heard of Isadora Duncan?!” my friend replied, astonished.  She explained that Isadora was an American dancer, whose style was unique and innovative.  She taught her own style of free form dance. My friend told me I reminded her very much of this dancer, as I was also free-spirited.  I may have mentioned my thoughts on dancing to my friend at some point.  I can’t remember.  In any case, she seemed to believe Isadora and I were very similar in nature.

5045[1]From the moment I could walk, I danced.  Everyone commented on it.  When I was younger I was less inhibited, but it would seem I kept the babysitters entertained.  I don’t really remember that.  Dance lessons in those days were very expensive, but in any case I never wanted dance lessons.  I couldn’t stand having to remember and follow set steps.  That’s not how I dance.  I dance to the beat of the music. It mirrors the soul.  It’s like entering an ecstatic trance, as I would later find out is a thing.  To me, it has always been natural.  It epitomises the phrase “going with the flow”.  During my years doing my National Certificate and Higher National Certificate in Drama and Theatre Arts, at different colleges, my dance teachers always commented on the natural rhythm I possessed.  I still didn’t like dance class. When I stopped to think and remember the sequence, it affected the rhythm.  I didn’t like that.  My brain never seems to be able to do both.  Perhaps it is a right brain left brain thing.  I have no idea. isadora-duncan-as-first-fairy-1896

I completely forgot about the conversation with my friend and (to my shame) Isadora Duncan, and continued with my university studies and pursuits.  All of these were focused around my degree subject of classics, the pagan society which I had founded there, and theatrical projects.  The subjects I was most drawn to were Greek religion and magic, so it’s no surprise that several productions I was involved in were focused on classics, psychology, ancient religious beliefs, and magic.

At college, I had been the tragic Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible.  At university, I played the tragic Phaedra in Hippolytus and then went on to adapting and directing.  First a Roman novel by Petronius, called the Satyricon then playing Caesar’s wife, as well as directing the comedy Rinse the Blood off my Toga (ironic, considering the events I would learn years later).  One of my favourite projects was Bacchae: The
Pie-Eyed Piper
.  I merged Tam o’ Shanter by Robert Burns with Euripides’ Bacchae, directed it, and was one of the Chorus of belly dancers.  The play featured, as well as these curvaceous ladies, lots of different sizes and shapes of Maenads (Greek for ‘mad women’).  We all danced with free and wild abandon, and not too many steps to remember!  It was a pleasure to see their true nature and confidence 215321_5085639055_2636_nblossom, although I always find directing a stressful experience I must admit.

In recent years, I’ve gone back to my interest in the paranormal and UFOs.  With the encouragement and support of Malcolm Robinson, the founder of SPI, I agreed to run SPI Scotland on his behalf.  I have always kept up with my mystical and psychic development, and recently, in meditation, I revisited the scene of the 1920s car experience.  In it, I saw a woman lying on the road injured.  An angel appeared and I whispered to her someone was there to help her and it would be okay.  As the angel ascended with the woman in his arms, I asked his name.  “Zachariel.” He replied, with glint in his eye, as though he knew something I didn’t.  If you’ve never seen one, let me tell you that angels are somewhat unnerving with their non-human eyes.  I later found out that Zachariel – who I’d never heard of either – is an angel of memory, as is the winged horse who had taken me on the journey.

Through SPI Scotland and SSPR, I met a couple of women who have become very good friends: Lynsey Clelland and Margaret McMahon.  A few weeks ago we were at the monthly SPI Scotland book club meeting.  I told them about my strange experience in the car and of the meditation.  I told them at first I thought it might be a past life thing, although I don’t know if I even believe in past lives.  Margaret exclaimed that it reminded her of Isadora Duncan, to which my ears pricked up.  “Why?” I asked.  Margaret explained that Isadora had been killed in a car accident in 1927.  Her long flowing scarf Isadora_Duncan_640caught in the wheels of a Bugatti convertible, possibly 35 or 37.  Some say an Amilcar.  I’d actually say the car I saw in my vision was more like a Chrysler or Rolls Royce Convertible.  She met a very tragic end in this freak and horrific accident.  I sat there stunned, piecing together the jigsaw as the story of Isadora unfolded.  On looking at photographs of Isadora she does, indeed, look remarkably similar to the woman in my vision and meditation.  Our lives, it would seem, are mirrored in several ways, not just the vision I had of a car accident (and later I found out she had a few of them).  She too, was a feminist and like me enjoyed interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approaches in her projects.  This was exactly what my talk at the Scottish UFO & Paranormal Conference was about in trying to understand profound experience and how to communicate with interdimensional beings.  In fact, it was suggested to me by a member of the Traditional Cosmological Society at Edinburgh University who heard my talk that I get in touch with them, as they would definitely want to hear my ideas.

As I’ve mentioned, I have the same philosophy about dancing as Isadora Duncan did, but we also were drawn to ancient Greece.  She stated that: “The Dance of the Future will have to become again a high religious art as it was with the Greeks.”

1923._Esen_duncanBy coincidence, if there is such a thing, a short time after Isadora separated from her husband, Sergei Yesenin, he committed suicide by hanging; as did my boyfriend, Rod, in 1997.  He had a similar depressive psychiatric illness as Sergei.  Our relationship was not long-lasting – six months, but only a few weeks after we separated, he took his own life in a psychiatric hospital, where he hung himself.  I have never been able to find out the exact details, but it was with a tie of some kind.  There was an inquest, as most folk would see how obvious it is to make sure someone who is suicidal does not have anything like that in their possession.  I never found out what Rod’s suicide note said, but Sergei’s goodbye poem reads:

Goodbye, my friend, goodbye.

My love, you are in my heart.

It was preordained we should part

And be reunited by and by.

Goodbye: no handshake to endure.

Let’s have no sadness – furrowed brow.

There’s nothing new in dying now

Though living is no newer.

Choking has always been a sensitive issue for me.  When I was a toddler of about two years old, I choked on something, and lost consciousness.  I was a gonner, if it hadn’t been for my father tipping me upside down and dislodging the blockage.  I have never been able to bear choking in front of people.  I have to leave the company, and have always felt upset by it, even starting to cry when it happens.

On a happier note, Isadora and I have other shared interests and pleasures.  As I have said, my interest in ancient Greece lies primarily with the subject of their religion, which included ecstatic dance, as reflected in my adaptation of Euripides Bacchae.

[Isadora’s description, from My Life of their days in Greece] It was decreed to rise at sunrise..and greet the rising sun with joyous songs and dances. Afterwards we were to refresh ourselves with a modest bowl of goat’s milk. The mornings were to be devoted to teaching the inhabitants to dance and sing. They must be made to celebrate the Greek gods and give up their terrible modern costumes. The afternoons were to be spent in meditation, and the evenings given over to pagan ceremonies with appropriate music.

Margaret McMahon further added to these strange coincidences by telling me that for the first few months I was a member of the SSPR she had my name listed as Alyson Duncan, and was convinced that was what I was called!  It was only after someone else had pointed out the mistake that she realised and wondered how on Earth she could have thought that.  She told me she’d had to go and change all the records over to my real name!

AX_Isadora_Duncan_Tomb_cropI once visited Isadora’s grave in Pere Lachaise years ago.  I did, of course, feel a sense of sadness as I stopped by her final resting place.  But, this is obviously a natural reaction in a cemetery.  I will no doubt go back again, and this time I will be sure to lay some flowers for this remarkable lady who met such a sad and untimely end.  Her final words were initially said to be “I am off to glory!”  However, her friends later admitted they were embarrassed to say they were actually “I am off to love!” as it implied she and the driver of the Bugatti, Benoît Falchetto, were leaving for a sexual liaison.  I will be sure never to say either of those expressions!

Incidentally, the day Margaret, Lynsey and I were discussing all this, I was wearing a long flowing scarf – something I have quite a liking for, as Isadora did too.  However, on our last outing, as I climbed into Lynsey’s car, I made sure to remove it.  I’ve become a tad superstitious of wearing them in cars…

I don’t have all the answers.  I don’t know what this means.  It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that I am the reincarnation of Isadora Duncan.  Others have speculated we have a similar demeanour and physique, although she was much taller.  But, I am stepping back from the situation and keeping an open mind, because I’m really not convinced that I am.  I’ll certainly be continuing to investigate this strange case, as I have yet to watch any films about her life or read her book.  I have loved watching clips of the Isadora Duncan Dancers, though.  Such free movement, and always in flowing Greek-style dresses.  Wonderful!  Perhaps I will discover more in the future.

I have several theories, and have kept several details out this report (Sherlock would be proud!).  It’s possible that Isadora is influencing me, reaching out to someone with a similar nature and soul, someone who will be able to pass on her message and philosophy.  My maternal grandmother had similar experiences (in fact, both sides of my family have pretty good psychic and spiritual awareness).  If that is what it is, I hope I have helped her spirit.  I hope I have managed to rinse the blood off her toga, and that her soul rests in peace, knowing she is not forgotten by any of us.

But, let’s give the final word to Isadora, and say “Bravo!” for bringing us modern dance, and standing for female equality and freedom.

dont-let-them-tame-you-isadora-duncan-quote

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A Haunted Lady?

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Events leading up to and including visit from Professor Archie Roy and Associates from the Scottish Society of Psychical Research

Where to begin really…?

I think the event that really triggered everything was the unexpected death of my mother. She was aged 49 at the time. It was very traumatic and led to a medical negligence investigation and possible court appearances over a period of 2 years after her death.   Meanwhile, other things were happening: moving home, getting married, husband losing his job, then the birth of my son and subsequent post natal depression – all within a year of mum’s death. This had happened within a couple of years of my grandfather and grandmother dying also. I mention all of this as I feel these life changing events triggered something inside me.

We moved into a brand new built house, so no previous owners.  However, the house was built over an old mine, as we were to find out later on. Everything was “normal” for the first while. After my son was born in the June, we noticed one of the bedrooms just simply did not heat up, it was always freezing cold despite the radiator being turned up fully. We duly got the gas board in to investigate in case the radiator was faulty. Outcome: nothing wrong with it!  It was the correct size for a small bedroom.  It should work. You could actually see your breath in that room it was so cold. Eventually after complaining to the builder the radiator was replaced but to no avail. Still freezing cold.   This was to have been my sons bedroom too and had been decorated as a baby boy’s room.

By this point, we had also started to hear some strange muffled bumps and bangs and occasionally when upstairs you would think you could hear talking downstairs. We put all this noise – which was very frequent – down to the house “settling”.

Toward the end of the first year in the house my husband had started working and had to take his turn of night shifts and it felt strange in the house on my own.  Although my son was there with me, it often felt as though I was being watched.  You know the feeling – hairs up on the back of your neck, draughts blowing in your face from nowhere.

I had also started noticing strange golden mostly coloured balls of light usually in 2 certain corners of the lounge up near the ceiling.  One was the corner below the cold bedroom and the other was below my son’s bedroom. I could actually see them appear out of the ceiling and come down into the lounge.  Then they would hover for a few seconds and disappear. These became very frequent.  At first there was no other change in them, but, after a while, they seemed to get larger and a lot more obvious. Sometimes there were more than just one or two.  At this point, our two cats would sit and stare into corners then walk over to the corners, sit down and stare up at nothing.

In the interim period, I had been diagnosed with post natal depression and I actually put a lot of these happenings down to that. I was even investigated in case I had epilepsy or something else along those lines. Nothing was ever found.

The orbs, as I now know them to be, continued, whilst the feeling of presence got stronger and stronger. When I married my husband, he was a total sceptic, but even he eventually began to feel and see things. Ornaments were moved about and at first I blamed my husband for not liking where I had put things.  He emphatically denied moving anything.

One night we went out and my husband’s brother was babysitting.  When we came back in, he was sitting with his jacket on.  We went in the back door.  He immediately left, saying he was never coming back again!  Obviously we asked why and he said, “Because you live in a haunted house, that’s why!”  We laughed at him and told him we knew the house made noises but that it was just settling.  We were used to it. He replied, “OK, then.  Go upstairs.  It’s up there.”  I remember this because his face was a picture.  It will always live with me…  We went upstairs, and we couldn’t see anything.  My son was still fast asleep in his room. My brother-in-law shouted up, “Look up.”   The loft hatch was missing. He had heard a noise and gone upstairs, thinking it was my son.  The loft hatch – which was above the top of the stairs – had started to rock and continued to rock all the way back till it had totally opened up. It was a very calm night.  No wind outside. His face was actually very white and he looked ill. He left very quickly, saying he would never be back to that house. He never did come back.

Things progressed from there quite quickly.  I could actually make out shady figures, although it was not clear if they were male or female. If you were in the kitchen and turned round quickly enough when you were aware there was movement, you most definitely saw shadows moving. Sometimes they would be right behind you. I was not the only one to see them but I was the first. My husband saw them regularly too, in fact he became quite self conscious because it was as if there were a whole bunch of us living in that house. One night, when my husband had gone to work nightshift, I had put my son to bed and came back down. I had put out a drink of Ribena, but left the bottle lying on the kitchen work top. I was sitting in the lounge and I could see straight through into the kitchen. I heard a strange noise and looked up. The lid from the Ribena bottle was spinning in mid air above the bottle and then it simply shot off into the corner of the room. I was used to things like this by now and it really didn’t scare me. I actually simply spoke to who ever it was and asked they stopped as I didn’t really like it when I was in on my own. Doing that did usually work. Sometimes we couldn’t actually believe these things were happening, but I have always believed in spirits.  I believe they visit us in times of need and I had been very down for the first part of my son’s life.
We decided to have a barbecue one afternoon.  We invited a few of the neighbours round and during this, one of the neighbours said, “There’s a large man just walked through your lounge.”  He had appeared beside the fireplace and walked into an alcove at the back wall and disappeared. When investigated there was no one there. It was actually becoming intolerable by this point.  I was seeing greyish human shapes, hearing voices talking to me, actually saying my name. I could not get a minutes rest. Night was the worst time.
Finally, we decided we were going to have to do something about it. We decided (pre internet days) to go to our local library and research the land the house was built on. We spent days trawling through old microfiche documents, newspapers etc. We found there had been:

1. A Covenanter’s battle fought on the ground our house had been built on.
2. A spitfire had crashed in WWII killing the pilot.
3. A major mining disaster with numerous men killed.

We were by now convinced it could be any one or more of these spirits that were living with us on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the occurrences kept coming and it was difficult to shut out. In fact, it was driving me mad. I became so sentient at one point I could be sitting watching the television one minute, the next I would seem to zone out and time travel to another place where I had my back to a row of small pitch and straw roofed cottages in the Highlands, staring at what I thought were budgie cages lying in a garden. The sun was shining and I could feel the heat. I spoke to a tall weather-beaten man who told me he was a fisherman.  His name was Angus, but he was dead.  He told me how he had died in a fishing accident in a storm, but had lived in the cottage behind him when he was alive.  He said I knew one of his relatives. This felt so real. I could hear him talking, I could smell the sea. These episodes happened a few times and never lasted very long.   My husband told me on umpteen occasions he tried to speak to me, but it was as if I was unconscious with my eyes open. This old man I had spoken to was my mother-in-law’s great-grandfather.  He had been a fisherman and died at sea.  During these episodes I also spoke to children who had not made it into the living world.  When we followed it up, most of the time the stories were confirmed; sometimes these stories were about children that people had not wanted others to know about…

During all this time the other stuff still happened, toys rolling across the floor on their own and shadows or figures beside us. My son was beginning to talk and toddle by now.  I had a picture of my mum, whom he had never known.  He pointed at the picture and said in his baby voice, “Ganny.”  He then took me by the hand, went to his room, pointed at the corner of the room and said it again. “Ganny.”  I’ll never forget that feeling. We got up one morning too and every single ornament from a display cabinet was in the downstairs toilet. Nothing really surprised us any more. There was almost no respite and I was prone to bursting into tears or laughing depending on the mood of our extended family.

One night something happened that would prompt us to get outside help.  It stepped up a notch and got a bit sinister. Things had been all quiet that night and we had gone to bed.  I slept on the left as usual and at one point through the night I woke up and shouted at my husband that he was hurting me. I thought in my sleep he had put his arm over me and was pulling me towards him, but in fact I was being pulled downwards into the mattress. I had to struggle to get free from the grip that was pulling me.  It was painful. Eventually my husband woke up.  I was actually in tears it was so painful. We turned the light on and looked around.  There was nothing to see, but on my left-hand side, (I was facing the middle of the bed) I had a very large red mark over my rib cage. I was still angry as I thought my other half had been having a dream and done this. Over the next few hours and into the next day it became very obvious it hadn’t been done by him, as there was the very evident bruising appearing and it was a large hand print with the fingers facing the front of my body.  The opposite way it would have been if it had have been done by my husband. This scared us.
We then had to try and find someone who would come and help us.  Looking through books and articles – remember, no internet then! – we kept coming across the name of Professor Archie Roy, who investigated paranormal happenings and was lecturing in astronomy at Glasgow University.  My husband eventually phoned the Uni to ask if he was still there.  He was and he did indeed phone us back. He was interested in our story and made arrangements to come out to our house with a colleague.  She worked with him and was also a spiritualist medium.
When he arrived at our door we were amazed to see this quite tall elderly gentleman standing there, with an older lady. It wasn’t what we had expected. They came in and sat down and we told them in detail what had been happening. They asked us if we had a history and if we believed in the spirit world, as well as asking us generally about ourselves. When we were telling them about our “visitors”, the lady simply looked at the corner of the wall and kept nodding.  Every so often she would turn back round to us and affirm everything that we had said. They walked round the house and spent some time in each room, came back down and told us were correct in assuming we had spirits living with us and explained the reasons why. The woman told me I was conduit for spirits and I would probably find it very difficult to cope with because it was so strong. This was also the reason my husband and others could feel their presence and sometimes see things because it was so active around me. They told us there were some family members around plus some others that maybe weren’t so happy.  However, they didn’t mean us any harm.  They were simply trying to get my attention. She also told me at that point that I hadn’t been well and it would get worse if I didn’t “shut myself down” at this point in time.  However, it was up to me. This was actually a very difficult choice to make because, although it had sometimes been frightening and draining, I was quite happy with the spirits’ company.  Eventually, after discussion all round, I decided it would be for the best to learn how to shield myself and was duly told how to do this. The medium also performed a ceremony to send the spirits on their way. She said it was not the house that was in fact haunted, it was me.  One day it would all return but only when my son was old enough to cope on his own and I was sufficiently able to cope with it all again.

Things did quieten down slowly after this, but occasionally we still heard and saw things.  They weren’t as obviously as they had been in the past, though. It actually got to the stage I felt very alone at times, as I had become so used to hearing and seeing things.  I hadn’t felt on my own for a long time. I did regret it a bit.

Time moved on and we moved house.  I wondered if things might start up again. Occasionally I saw spirits.  I smelled them and heard them, but not to the same extent. I didn’t have my “time travel” again, as I called it.

The years have passed since it all started.  My son is almost at the age to move on.  I feel it coming.  Things are building up.  I have seen more clearly the other side again. I have had different experiences. They are taking shape again. I have been touched and scratched.   I can’t deny it any longer. I can’t wait.  I have missed them.

This is the shortened version of events as it took place over two or three enlightening years. My husband believed in spirits before, but was sceptical of other things. He still is with some things, despite seeing everything.  His mind says,  “That’s not the way it should be!”

I believe.

Gail Mackay (January 2014)