George Vale Owen header


George Vale Owen was an outstanding and virtually the best known spiritualist of the early twentieth century.

He was born on June 26th 1869 in Birmingham, England. Owen was educated at the Midland Institute and Queen's College in Birmingham. In 1893 he was ordained by the Bishop of Liverpool as curate in the parish of Seaforth, in Liverpool. He became curate successively at Airfield in 1895 and St Matthew's, Scotland Road, in 1897; both these churches are also in Liverpool. In 1900 he became vicar of Orford, Warrington. Here he created a new church, which was built in 1908, and worked there until 1922.

The death of his mother in 1909 awoke his psychic abilities and he began to receive psychic communication in 1913. He received messages via a process known as automatic writing, which can be defined as: writing performed without conscious thought or deliberation, typically by means of spontaneous free association or as a medium for spirits or psychic forces.

Given the impact on him of the information he received in this way, he converted to Spiritualism.

The messages he received were developed into books. During the 1920s he authored a number of books about his new faith, his most notable being the five-volume set, Life Beyond the Veil. The works were prefaced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes), who was a great supporter of Owen.

Lord Northcliffe, the foremost newspaper proprietor of the day, published summaries of the works of Owen in his journal, The Weekly Dispatch. He said that he was impressed by the great sincerity and unshakable conviction of Owen and that he clearly possessed great spiritual gifts. Through his work being published in the Dispatch, Owen became famous throughout the United Kingdom.

Owen's spiritualist work resulted in the Church authorities forcing him out of his parish. This had a severe impact on Owen, including removing his primary source of income. In 1922, aged 53, he began actively promoting Spiritualism. He first went on a lecture tour in the United States. In England, after his return, he gave more than 150 lectures.

He eventually became pastor of a Spiritualist congregation in London.

However, his financial resources became severely depleted. To help him, Conan Doyle organised a collection for him. This resulted in a trust fund that provided financial support for Owen during the rest of his life.

In 1931 he fell seriously ill, exacerbated by the strain of his work as a medium. He died on March 9th of that year.

Owen married Rose Pemberton on November, 21st 1892 at St James church in Handsworth; they had four children.

After his death, messages purported to come from the surviving spirit of Owen were published in A Voice from Heaven by Frederick H. Haines. The clairvoyant Haines claimed the book contained messages he had 'received automatically' from Owen. A number of other individuals felt that they were in contact with Owen following his death.

Some Sherlock Holes aficionados continue to believe that Conan Doyle based Holmes on George Vale Owen. There are certainly some similarities. However, given the date of Conan Doyle's first meeting with him, GVO could only have been an influence on the later Sherlock Holmes stories.

Another ardent supporter of GVO was Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the head of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. In 1943, he corresponded with GVO's widow and told her that he had been in contact with GVO through seances.

When The Angel Says Write

The definitive biography of GVO was written by his grandson, David Owen (see Links) , and entitled "When The Angel Says Write". It was published in 1986 by Headquarters Publishing. Below is a brief summary of the initial chapters from this book.

Chapter 1

  • GVO's birth on June 26th 1869
  • Description of his father, George - a chemist
  • GVO's childhood

Chapter 2

  • GVO starts work at a foundry in 1884
  • Begins composing poetry
  • Writes and helps perform plays
  • Book of his poems published in 1889
  • GVO begins his studies for the Church at Queen's College, Birmingham

Chapter 3

  • GVO meets his future wife, Rosa while studying at Queen's
  • Marries Rosa in 1892
  • Appointed curate of St Johns the Divine in Fairfield
  • GVO has two children in addition to two that die young
  • Becomes assistant curate of Christ Church at Padgate near Warrington in 1900

Chapter 4

  • Moves to Orford
  • Another son born to GVO and Rose in 1902
  • New church In Orford is finished and GVO becomes the vicar. GVO had organised the construction of the church
  • Has letters and articles published in newspapers
  • GVO recounts his experiences of communication from angels, including Zabdiel in a letter to the Church Guardian
  • In 1912 receives a message via a planchette ( a present from his family) to "sit in your vestry and wait for messages"

Chapter 5

  • GVO begins to receive much material from the angels
  • Completes 1024 page manuscript
  • World War One intervenes in 1914

Chapter 6

  • GVO's articles on spiritualism published in the Light magazine
  • In July 1917, messages received from Kathleen which resulted in GVO starting again to receive messages in his vestry
  • In March 1918, the messages abruptly ceased.
  • The manuscript, "The Script", now consists of some 370,00 words
  • Harold Bailey, a spiritualist, publishes some of the Script in The Undiscovered Country. The book has a forward by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Chapter 7

  • During the 1919 annual congress of the Church of England, violent attacks were made on Spiritualism
  • Conan Doyle defends Spiritualism in a lecture at Leicester a few days after the congress; he mentions GVO
  • GVO is interviewed by the Warrington Examiner
  • This leads to the Script being published in the national Weekly Dispatch, owned by Lord Northcliffe. It was published in serial form starting in February 1920
  • GVO refuses a payment of £1000 from Lord Northcliffe; the circulation of the Weekly Dispatch rises by 400,000
  • He becomes famous, receiving hundreds of letters and speaking at many meetings

Chapter 8

  • First part of the Script published in book form as Beyond The Veil
  • In the winter of 1920/21 GVO again started to record messages from the spirit world
  • Third volume published in April 1921
  • High demand for GVO's books; printed in five languages and published in the USA

Chapter 9

  • Article in the Church Times suggesting that GVO's works were "profane,disgusting and a public scandal"
  • Meetings between GVO and Conan Doyle in 1921
  • Conan Doyle addresses the congregation at the Orford church
  • Bishop of Liverpool writes to GVO to express his disapproval
  • GVO's elder son, George Eustace Owen ordained (by the Bishop of Liverpool) and becomes a deacon to West Derby

Chapter 10

  • Conan Doyle undertakes lecture tour in the USA and covers the work of GVO.
  • In August 1922, GVO resigns his post in Orford to concentrate on Spiritualism (after 22 years at Orford)

Chapter 11

  • GVO and his family move to North Finchly, London
  • In January 1923 GVO embarks, with his daughter Rene, on the Cunard liner "Antonia" for a lecture tour of the USA
  • GVO's tour takes in Chicago, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Montclair, Stanford and New York
  • In May 1923, GVO returns to the UK
  • GVO and his family move to a house in Farnborough, Kent where GVO is to spend the rest of his life.
  • Trust fund set up to help GVO financially

Chapter 12

  • GVO embarks on a 12 month lecture tour of the UK
  • He now has a small office near Admiralty Arch in London to help with administration etc.
  • In December 1923, the fifth and final part of Beyond The Veil is published
  • In December 1924 GVO has three books published: An account of his American tour; Answers to questions that he has received entitled What Happens After Death
  • GVO's third book published in that month was a novel: Paul and Albert. It was considered to be made as a film.

Chapter 13

  • In December 1925, his book The Kingdom of God was published
  • In April 1926, his book How Spirits Communicate was published. This covered his personal psychic experiences as well as those of other mediums.
  • In November 1926, GVO speaks at Spiritualist Remembrance meeting at the Royal Albert Hall
  • Conan Doyle dies on July 7th 1930 [GVO speaks at his memeorial service the following week at the Royal Albert Hall in London.]

Chapter 14

  • Early in 1931 GVO is taken ill and dies on Sunday, March 8th 1931.

Chapter 15

  • Messages received from GVO (after his death)
  • Lord Dowding ( Head of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain) takes a great interest in GVO.



When David Owen was doing research for his book, he advertised in a number of papers to find anyone who had knowledge of GVO’s life. He received a reply from a lady in Brighton who said that she had come across the name in rather unusual circumstances. He arranged to meet the lady to get her story

She recounted that she had experienced a recurring dream where she encountered an unrecognised church. Inside the door, in the porch, she found a set of bells on the floor. After some years of this, she was touring Australia with her husband and, in the outskirts of Melbourne, she had a strong feeling that the church in her dreams was close-by. Driving around, they eventually came across a church that fitted what she had seen in her dream. And, amazingly, in the porch, sitting on the floor, was a set of bells. They sought out the minister of the church for an explanation which was actually quite simple.

It seemed that a family had moved to the area from Lancashire and were members of the church in Melbourne. They kept in close contact with the church family that they had attended in UK. The Australian church had only a simple bell. At some point, their old church in UK decided to replace its bells and offered the old ones to the church in Melbourne. When they arrived, it was found that they were too heavy to be installed in the church’s wooden framework – so were placed on the floor in the porch.

When the lady returned to UK, she was intent on finding an explanation for the dreams and contacted a spiritualist in Brighton. The spiritualist could offer no real explanation apart from saying that there seemed to be some connection with the names “Owen or Vale” and did she know anyone of those names – which the lady said she did not. She had not thought much more about it until seeing David’s advert.
On delving further, it became apparent that the church from which the bells had been sent to Australia, was none other than GVO’s church in Orford, Lancs.

David said that he had an open mind of the matter. He said that the lady seemed to be quite credible and he was sure he had not been hoaxed. He was sure that the lady had not made any connection between GVO and the church at Orford.