The Green Stone: Psychic Questing Revisited
By Brian Hoggard
Published at Imbolc 1999
Psychic questing was a very popular activity around ten years ago, and, although it quietly persists in some areas and amongst some groups, it has largely lost whatever credibility it once had. It consists of a bunch of “psychic-vision-crazed” people charging around the landscape after cryptic spiritual messages in the hope that it will lead them to a place where they can fight the forces of evil and save the world (if their parents will let them stay out that late) or dig a hole and rediscover a source of “awesome supernatural power”. It starts with the would-be questers sitting in meditation to see what images come to them. These images are then written down without the individuals speaking to each other and afterwards studied to see if any similarities occur. If there are similarities in the images this is regarded as positive and they do another meditation focusing on that specific image to see what else they can find out about it - ideally this would be a location or a searchable name. If success occurs, then the people hit the road looking for the place in question and when they find it they do the thing again in the hope that it will lead to a quest. It is essentially psychic detective work and should really be an exciting research project for any budding paranormal researchers out there.
Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman are the two most profitable writers of this type, having published The Green Stone1 and The Eye of Fire which focused on things like the above. Later, they tried to become more credible and wrote things like The Shakespeare Conspiracy and The Quest for the Holy Grail. Andrew Collins, on the other hand, remained in the “questing” world and wrote The Seventh Sword and The Black Alchemist and other exciting tales of magic being fought around Britain with supernaturally endowed objects at stake. It’s a great way for a group of people to have supernatural experiences, albeit induced by group dynamics, but the recurring danger is that people will fantasize about what is causing the supernatural events and begin to believe that what they’re doing is of world importance - even though the world remains remarkably unchanged by their efforts. It is this kind of group psychology, enhanced by the occasional paranormal occurrence, that led the participants of these quests to believe that the artefacts they chased were relevant to the Pharoahs, King Arthur and other world mysteries.
This article will review The Green Stone story as an example of the activity known as “Psychic Questing” and attempt to assess the possible value in this kind of endeavour. My reasons for choosing this particular story are two fold. Firstly, I have been involved in doing “psychic work” for various groups that investigate the paranormal. This normally involves going to a specific site and “tuning in” to see what images came to me. Despite having as many failures as successes in this work I haven’t ruled out the possibility that there is truth in psychic phenomena, so I have a keen interest in this type of activity. Secondly, I lived in the area where many of the events which took place in The Green Stone occurred. As a result of my general researches into the history of Worcestershire, I found that there were several discrepancies in The Green Stone story which were not adequately explained by the book. I shall list some of my problems with the story and then speculate as to why, or how, their quest was apparently successful - if indeed it truly was.
Firstly a brief resume of the story for those who aren’t familiar with it, from the introduction to the follow-up book The Eye of Fire. It is, I should warn you, a little melodramatic:
In October 1979, a number of men, women and children throughout Great Britain independently received a strange psychic message, a clue to enable them to discover the secret hiding place of a priceless buried treasure, a green gem-stone fashioned in Ancient Egypt and lost from the pages of history for untold centuries. In legend the stone was believed to hold awesome supernatural power. Drawn together by this message, this group of ordinary British people were catapulted onto (sic) a terrifying search, race against time to find the hidden jewel.2
The stone apparently passed through the hands of Egyptian Pharoahs and even the knights of the Round Table until it was eventually hidden by Gertrude, the wife of Robert Wyntour of Gunpowder Plot fame.3 Their psychic clues took them on a learning journey into all the great magical mysteries of history and eventually landed them near my old house - where, as a person who is sensitive to strange atmospheres and the like, I am surprised that I did not pick up on this source of “awesome supernatural power” that was on my doorstep.
Poking fingers through holes
Firstly, I’d like to discuss the actual site where the stone was reputedly buried in its silver casket - the Swan’s Neck on the River Avon. There are several things of potentially great importance to their story very close by, but none of them were researched or even mentioned in the book. The story says that the stone was held by the Catholics during the Reformation (including Mary Queen of Scots) and that it was actually in the possession of the Gunpowder Plotters. The stone was passed to Robert Wyntour’s wife as they fled the law, and she subsequently had it hidden. So, it is perhaps a little interesting that on Bredon Hill, which looms above this stretch of the Avon, there is a manor called Woolas Hall which once housed a Catholic Recusant - someone who openly defied the Protestant regime and suffered heavy penalties as a result. There is a clear view of the Swan’s Neck from the manor, which is only a fifteen minute walk away.
Now this manor was completely remodelled in 1611 by John Hanford Esq and it is a puzzle how he was able to afford it. His father, Thomas, had experienced much financial difficulty and he, as a Catholic, suffered much under the penal laws and eventually died in 1605. John also had substantial financial difficulties yet still he found enough money to convert a 13th century manor into a fine Jacobean mansion with a private Catholic chapel on the top floor and priest holes.4 What is more intriguing is that in the 1670s the Hanford family married into the Wyntour family.5
Now, if I were part of their psychic quest I would have found this new heir to the Hanford estate (John) at the death of his father in 1605 (when the stone was hidden), who became wealthy in the face of great adversity and rebuilt his manor, very interesting indeed. Then for his family to later marry into the Wyntour family of Huddington Court in Worcestershire (the same as the Plotters) does suggest close links with the whole thing. Or it simply implies the close links which existed between members of the Catholic community at that time and has nothing to do with the green stone at all.
The fact that the questers weren’t drawn to Bredon Hill top seems remarkable too as they seem to have visited many caves, follies and sacred sites on their quest. Bredon Hill has Parson’s Folly at the summit, there used to be a cave there, the Bambury Stone sits within the Iron Age fort at the top, there is a holy well beneath the summit and there is a henge monument within half a mile of the Swan’s Neck. None of this was apparently interesting for the questers (although, to be fair, Andy Colllins’ own little account of the quest does show a photocopy of part of the OS map of Bredon Hill with a circle around St Catherine’s Well as a possible site to investigate).
This information seems to support the questers’ activities, but a number of questions still remain about the story. The clue that led them to the Swan’s Neck on the River Avon was received at a folly called Dunstall Castle. The young psychic, Gaynor Sunderland, reputedly saw a vision of a white swan flying out of the top of one of the towers with a bag around its neck - which she knew contained the Green Stone. Obviously this was interpreted as “the green stone is at the Swan’s Neck”. The biggest problem that I have with this is that the folly was not built until 1766 - not at all close to the date of 1605. It was previously thought to have been built by Sanderson Miller, the architect who first brought the sham castle idea to park ornaments (the folly at Edge Hill is also his work, as is the sham castle at Hagley).8 It is now known that Robert Adam was paid for drawings of it in 1765.9 Dunstall Castle is part of the extensive estate of Croome Court, once owned by the Earls of Coventry (more recently a centre for Krishna Consciousness by gift of George Harrison). How can a clue to a treasure buried in 1605 come from a folly built in 1766? Surely Croome Court should have been one of the principal research projects for the questers.
Another remarkable incidence in the story is the discovery of a short sword at a pool known as Knight’s Pool.10 It was discovered by removing a stone from beneath a bridge over the pool. The questers explain that the red brick of the bridge seemed to be too young to have been contemporary with the burial of the stone etc (so whether a structure is of the same period or not is important to them here, but not at Dunstall Castle) but the lower courses of masonry were or large rough hewn blocks - “Certainly the foundations appeared much older.”11 It is not uncommon to use large blocks when building foundations in wet land because they are less prone to decay - how many river bridges etc have you seen that are made entirely out of red brick? Yet, this is also part of the Croome Court estate, which was entirely remodelled in the middle of the 18th century. The old Jacobean mansion was getting very damp because of the marshland it was surrounded by. Lancelot “Capability” Brown was commissioned to landscape the lands and dug many drainage ditches and pools as a result - this is one of them.12 Likewise, in the follow-up book The Eye of Fire, a dark silhouette is seen on Knight’s Hill above the pond where the Panorame Tower looks out over the M5 motorway.13 This is also a 1766 folly for the Croome State commissioned by the sixth Earl of Coventry.
What’s going on? How doe we explain these discrepancies? The following possibility only works on the assumption that it is possible to leave “psychic clues” in the landscape. One answer, therefore, could be that Gertrude Wyntour hid the stone somewhere different and entrusted the Earls of Coventry with its protection. At some later point the sixth Earl subsequently buried it at Swan’s Neck and left psychic clues at his newly built follies - this would be OK if he were not chummy with George III, a very Protestant monarch. The other possibility, which still depends on belief in the psychic truth of the whole affair, is as follows. Empty, functionless (except in the aesthetic) buildings like follies are inspirational and psychic senses are heightened at time of inspiration, thereby allowing people visionary glimpses of things that are important to them - in this case it was the green stone. But this does not solve the fundamental historical discrepancy of the sword which was found in a structure built in the mid-eighteenth century as opposed to the early seventeenth century.
Another dubious point about this quest is that the casket and stone were found at the Swan’s Neck by one solitary person - Graham Phillips. There were no witnesses. He apparently found the site intuitively. “He turned round and saw a slight rise in the earth, a low grass incline. And then he knew.. This was where he had to dig.”15. One of the most surprising things about this, and the discovery of the sword, is that no-one seemed to make any effort to take photographs at the moment of discovery, or carefully describe the site to prove that what they claim happened is true. They obviously were not remotely interested in furthering the cause of psychic research.
Since these quests, Graham Phillips and co have gone on to uncover the Shakespeare Conspiracy and to find the Holy Egg-cup (sorry - Grail). Clever chaps. I’m surprised that they haven’t risen to be world leaders with all the supernatural power they’ve been discovering. Why didn’t the green stone, that “awesome source of supernatural power”, change our lives? And I have to say thank you to them all for saving us from being overrun by evil forces after their light-against-dark battles that may even have saved the world.
What is the real truth of this? The fact that the book contains just about every single history-mystery ever to have existed (and apparently they were all connected to the Green Stone in one way or another) seems to suggest that they had all just suffered a dose of magical overload. The book starts with UFOs and ends up with the Gunpowder Plot - this all suggests a rather imaginative element to the experiences these people endured. The way that people new to the occult and magic link everything together as a plot has been well exemplified in Umberto Eco’s novel Foucalt’s Pendulum.16. It’s a bizarre tale - but then so is The Green Stone. There were definitely some bizarre coincidences of psychic vision in the story which may suggest some telepathy was going on (still the most plausible explanation for most types of psychic phenomena). Their belief that they were being followed by the forces of evil and that they were on an Arthurian-type quest doubtlessly reinforced any emotional links they may have had as a group putting them in the most likely category for telepathic experience. Whether they actually discovered the artefacts or whether they popped into an antique shop and said “Have you got any old swords?” is a matter for some debate because they did nothing to provide proof of their claims. I bet they’re very disappointed if they did because the current Earl of Coventry managed to get legal possession of the sword which was found on the land he still owns. If they really did find these objects, then wow! If they didn’t, what a naughty lot of people.
Making sense of loose ends
Psychic questing relies on enthusiasm and a sense of mystery to sustain the feelings that motivate the individuals concerned. People who are not ordinarily “psychic” need to be highly inspired or frightened to have psychic experiences, and, if they do, then do they receive powerful images. The fear that this paranormal behaviour (which comes from a strange point within themselves) generates causes them to suspect that there are dark forces at work. These dark forces reinforce the “race against time” and cause people to act more spontaneously and out of character, reinforcing the paranormal behaviour they've already been experiencing - and also reinforcing the sense of brother/sisterhood that exists within those individuals going through the same thing. These individuals need to have what happened to them reaffirmed by those others involved too, otherwise the dream will end. As a result a compounded enthusiasm and imaginative recollection influences the descriptions of events which were often at best rather unclear - a mythology is born.
A curious point is that those individuals who attempt to do psychic questing on a more rational basis, with no belief in harmful forces (if the worst that evil forces can do is scare a bunch of people silly then there is nothing to fear but fear itself), tend to be not as successful at finding objects - and, let’s be honest, they are more likely to tune into something as comparatively mundane but equally as important as (for instance) old Fred’s quest for a partner who doesn’t mind his severe body odour as they are to find themselves on the search for the holy grail. Magical conspiracies are probably extremely rare in history - assuming that real magic in the most paranormal sense ever existed. Where they have existed, in reality, magical groups were only secretive to avoid unwanted attention and being labelled as weirdos, or to avoid persecution by an elite who regarded them as heretical - exactly the circumstances that created the Catholic Recusants in The Green Stone. As for the mysterious objects ….. Most people involved in paranormal or spiritual group activity have a strong urge to symbolise what they’re experiencing because it’s hard to define in words; having an earthly symbol of “it” reaffirms the reality of their phenomena. These objects, therefore, have a key importance to the group of individuals related to them and maybe those experts in psychometry (the psychic “reading” of objects) would experience more from these objects than a personal item like a wrist-watch. This might explain why psychic questers often feel magic in items designed purely for symbolic reasons.
Psychic questing is one of the most innovative and experiemental uses of ESP yet to have been attempted in my opinion. Undertaken with a balanced, rational, well-researched approach it could reveal much about the nature of psychic work and how it is influenced by group dynamics. Anyone want to give it a try?
1.Keatman, Martin and Phillips, Graham, The Green Stone, 1984 Grafton edition (first ed - 1983), Neville Spearman Limited, Jersey), London.
2. Keatman, Martin and Phillips, Graham, The Eye of Fire, 1986, first edition, The C W Daniel Company Limited, Saffron Walden, Essex, p11.
3.Keatman and Phillips, The Green Stone, p50.
4.Andrews, Francis B, “Woolas Hall”, Transactions of the Birmingham Archaeological Society, XLIII 1917, (pp73-86), p79.
5.Lloyd, Rev R H, Bredon Hill and its Villages, 1987 8th ed (1st ed 1967), privately published, p86.
6.All of this information is available in my booklet Bredon Hill - A Guide to its Archaeology and History, 1998, privately published - this is available from me (Brian - Ed) at 5, Richmond Hill, Worcester, WR5 1DP.
7. Keatman and Phillips, The Green Stone, p117.
8.Pevsner, Nikolaus, (The Buildings of England) Worcestershire, 1968, Penguin, p139.
9.Cousins, Michael, ‘Lost and Found - (a report on a lecture by Jeffrey Haworth)’, Follies - the International Magazine for Follies, Grottoes and Garden Buildings, vol 9, no 1, Summer 1997, p8 (this mag is available from The Folly Fellowship 41 Bincote Road, Enfield, Middlesex, EN2 7RD).
10. Keatman and Phillips, The Green Stone, p89.
11.Keatman and Phillips, ibid, p86.
12.Grice, Frederick, ‘The Park Ornaments of Croome D’Abitot’, Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society, vol 5, 1976, (pp41-49), p42.
13. Keatman, Martin and Phillips, Graham, The Eye of Fire, p30.
14.For early designss and loads of info, see Grice, op cit.
15. Keatman, Martin and Phillips, Graham, The Green Stone, p121.
16.Eco, Umberto, Foucalt’s Pendulum, 1989, Martin Secker and Warburg Limited, London.