|THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON 1/13/21 AT PARANORMALENCYCLOPEDIA.ORG.|
This photo of Doris and manager Laurie O'Leary is from A Tribute to Doris Stokes (1988) by Linda Dearsley. (Steve Hickey photograph)
When Laurie O' Leary became the manager of Doris Stokes (1920-1987), the famous psychic medium made a telephone call to her friend and memoir coauthor Linda Dearsley to "Come and meet Laurie" as recounted in Linda's book Voices Everywhere (2019). This article presents some excerpts from the book.
Where had he come from all of a sudden?
Laurie's background was show business — particularly the music business.
It turned out that Laurie was a genuine East Ender who'd grown up around the corner from the notorious Kray home in Vallance Road, Bernal Green. [The Kray twins had been convicted to life imprisonment for murder in 1969.] His mum knew their mum and, as children, the boys played together; they ran in and out of each other's houses and attended the same school.
Laurie remained on friendly terms with the family but stayed out of Ronnie and Reggie's terrifying gang.
As so often with Doris' affairs, it was all down to chance it seemed. Some months earlier, a friend of Laurie's wife, Iris, had bought two tickets to a demonstration Doris was giving in Walthamstow. Iris had agreed to accompany her friend but, at the last moment, got an attack of nerves.
"I thought she was a fortune teller," Iris explained anxiously to Laurie that evening, "but apparently she talks to the dead, and I don't want to talk to the dead. I really don't want to go. Would you take Maureen instead, Laurie? She'll be so upset if I let her down."
Laurie said later that he'd never heard of this Doris Stokes, but he was devoted to Iris, and curious to see what the show was all about, so he agreed to keep Maureen company.
"When I arrived at Walthamstow, there were so many people queuing outside I thought I must be in the wrong place," he said, "but I checked, and this was the Doris Stokes event. I was impressed. I'd never heard of her, but she seemed to attract a big crowd."
"Doris had such presence; she held my attention all evening," he said.
All those people picked out from the audience to receive supposed messages from departed loved ones — some moving, some funny. It didn't seem possible.
"Those people who get the messages — they're obviously all plants," he said to Maureen on the way home. "Got to be. I mean if what she's doing was true, it would be marvellous. But, if not, then she's a very wicked woman and I'd like to expose her."
"But suppose she's genuine?" asked Maureen.
Laurie shrugged, thinking it highly unlikely. "Well if she's genuine, I'd like to manage her."
. . . when they got back, she lent him a copy of one of Doris' books.
"I read it and I was even more intrigued. I thought, surely she can't write a book like this if it's all lies?"
As it happened, the Krays' beloved mother had passed away a year or so before. They might have been brutal gangsters but those tough, ruthless twins genuinely worshipped their mum and Laurie thought Doris's book might comfort Ronnie, so he posted him a copy in Broadmoor.
"Ronnie not only read it, he liked it so much he wrote back and asked if he could meet this Doris Stokes," said Laurie.
To everyone's surprise, Doris agreed.
"Doris wasn't put off by Ronnie's past," said Laurie. "She always said it's what people make of their lives now that counts, and if a man like Ronnie was becoming interested in spiritual things, that was a good sign."
By all accounts, they had an enjoyable afternoon and Doris reckoned she picked up Ronnie's mum and passed on some messages from mother to son.
After watching her closely through several events, Laurie realised it would have been impossible for Doris to memorise all the correct facts and names she mentioned night after night — names and facts that changed every night too.
In the end, he was so impressed, he offered to be Doris' manager.
At the time, I don't think it properly occurred to me how nerve-wracking it must have been to contemplate [Doris] walking out onto a stage and entertaining an audience alone, for over two hours, without even a script to fall back on.
Doris always said that, every night before she went to bed she spoke to her spirit guide Ramanov for advice; so, naturally, the subject of her stage appearances came up.
Apparently, his instructions on this matter never changed: "He always tells me to trust," said Doris. "He says, 'Just trust, child. We've never let you down now.'"
. . . despite the fame and the fuss — Doris remained unchanged, or so she appeared to me. Perhaps it was because success came so late in life or maybe it was her strong sense of self and deeply engrained philosophy. Maybe it was Ramanov's stern presence. Whatever the reason, Doris was still noticeably the same woman I'd met all those years before, walking through the washing lines.
These days Wikipedia records that she was a controversial figure, described by some as: "the Gracie Fields of the psychic world" and others as "A ruthless, money-making con artist."
. . . after Doris passed away, Laurie was offered a large sum by the press to expose her as a fake.
"But I couldn't do it even if I wanted the money," said Laurie. "Because there was nothing to expose."
A Note from MRB: It seems that whenever I read some manner of book about metaphysical aspects of life (article) there are noticeable synchronicities involving word patterns noticeable in my own life. Linda mentions in the 2019 book that Doris had been a "regular 'resident medium'" at the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain at the time located in Belgrave Square. Doris had a little pet dog named 'Boots.' Mike Edgeley was the Australian tour promoter who first suggested the six-week tour that made her a . . . 'celebrity' with Linda Dearsley commenting in the book: ". . . she'd only been doing what she'd always done for the last 30 years to almost complete indifference in England." Linda recalled about the success of their first book together: "Simply getting the book published seemed a monumental achievement." When the book made the UK bestseller list, Linda responded: "I could hardly believe my eyes. It was so exciting."