A late visit from Conan Doyle

Conan Doyle pretending to be Sherlock Holmes

Conan Doyle pretending to be Sherlock Holmes

Following on from our recent story about Sherlock Holmes’ creator visiting Perth, we should mention that Arthur Conan Doyle came back to WA in August 1930. That might not seem unusual, until you realise that he had been dead for more than a month.

A Sydney psychic (Psydney psychic?) claimed to be the first to have had a vision of the great man, but this was instantly rubbished by west coast mediums. If Conan Doyle was going to appear anywhere in Australia, it would definitely be in Perth. After all, hadn’t he visited here in 1921, and didn’t he donate £85 to the Spiritualist Church? And wasn’t WA the only place in Australia to actually have a spiritualist church at all?

So, a local apparition of the famous author was needed quickly, and fortunately one came to herbalist and clairvoyant, Maud McDonough. He had no particular message for her on this occasion, but she did see him quite plainly.

However when Conan Doyle returned three years later he had a very clear message for Maud. She was to take charge of all the various smaller spiritualist groups in Perth and Fremantle and unite them under own command. This was to be the grand Spiritualist Church of Western Australia (Inc).

Unsurprisingly, this did not go down well with the other leaders in the movement, who rejected Maud’s unambiguous mission from Conan Doyle. A series of bitter meetings took place, where Maud was roundly condemned and attempts made to expel her from the club.

The church administration fragmented, while numerous lawyers’ letters failed to resolve the situation. In the end, the secretary and treasurer resigned, taking the association’s cash with them.

Apparently the spirit of Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t see that coming.


  1. While in Perth in 1921 he also claimed to have met the spirit of Alfred Russel Wallace

    ‘The Spiritualists of Perth seem to be a small body, but as earnest as their fellows elsewhere. A masterful looking lady, Mrs. Mcllwraith, rules them, and seems fit for the part. They have several mediums developing, but I had no chance of testing their powers. Altogether our encounter with them cheered us on our way. We had the first taste of Australian labour conditions at Fremantle, for the men knocked off at the given hour, refusing to work overtime, with the result that we carried a consignment of tea, meant for their own tea-pots, another thousand miles to Adelaide, and so back by train which must have been paid for out of their own pockets and those of their fellow citizens.’

    ‘It is worth recording that upon a clairvoyante being asked upon this occasion whether she saw any one beside me on the platform she at once answered “an elderly man with very tufted eyebrows.” This was the marked characteristic of the face of Russell Wallace.’



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