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What Happened to Thomas Bradford’s Afterlife Experiment?

People often wondered about the existence of life after death, as often described in many religious beliefs. There is no scientific experiment to confirm this claim. But did you know that a spiritualist tried exploring the theory by sacrificing his own life for the sake of it?

Spiritualists Thomas Bradford and Ruth Doran wanted to prove the afterlife and wanted to see if the dead could communicate with the living. Bradford killed himself and instructed Doran to wait for his return as a ghost. He didn’t show up.

How Did Thomas Bradford and Ruth Doran Meet? 

Spiritualism grew famous at the end of the Civil War and the First World War. Many mourning families wanted to hear from the relatives they lost during the wars. At the same time, many charlatans and acclaimed spiritualists started popping out of nowhere, trying to make money from the grieving families with the promise of communicating to the dead.

The theory of life after death, and the possibility of the dead communicating with the living, roused the interest of professor Thomas Lynn Bradford. Bradford, a former electrical engineer, athlete, and actor, was quite curious about the afterlife in 1920. He began studying and lecturing on the subject, wanting to prove his theories by scientific means. He genuinely believed that this claim could be verified.

Convinced that it could be done, the professor placed an ad in a local Detroit newspaper using a different name, Professor Flynn. The ad was seeking someone interested in spiritualistic science.

The ad caught the attention of a prominent Detroit local, Ruth Starkweather Doran. Though not a firm believer of spiritualism, Doran was an avid researcher and wanted to learn more about spiritualism, a field that she was unfamiliar with. She responded to the ad and began meeting Bradford regularly.

In their meetings, Bradford described his theory. His half of the experiment was actually to crossover to the afterlife. He would take his own life and would then attempt to contact Doran once his part of the experiment was complete. Doran’s part in the experiment was to wait for his return and communication from the afterlife.

Upon their agreement and Doran leaving the meeting, Bradford started on his part of the experiment. He specifically advised his landlord not to disturb him. He then turned on his room’s heater, blew out the gaslight, and turned up the gas before laying down on his bed until he died from the fumes. (Source: Hushed Up History)

What Happened After Bradford’s Passing?

The next day, the landlord discovered Bradford’s corpse. He then notified the police. The police were completely baffled by the professor’s suicide but began understanding the experiment when they found his manuscript detailing it. The police connected the dots that led to Doran.

The police interviewed Doran, clearing her of any criminal charges because though she knew and agreed to the experiment, she didn’t realize that Bradford would commit suicide right after their meeting.

Doran then started multiple vigils in her parlor. She waited for Bradford’s return from the afterlife. The experiment caught everyone’s attention, and people anxiously waited for the results. The vigil lasted a few weeks, and one night, Doran suddenly put her hands on her temples, asked the lights to be dimmed, and asked for someone to take down notes.

She then claims that she heard the professor’s voice, but it was weak. Doran then proceeds to utter words that were allegedly Bradford’s. After an hour, the lights were turned back on, and Doran suddenly fainted. Once she was revived, she shared that she was positive that she was speaking to Bradford. The notes were claiming Bradford’s account of the afterlife.

However, the public and members of the Spiritualism community were not convinced of Doran’s alleged conversation with Bradford. Newspapers and people began losing interest in the experiment. (Source: Hushed Up History)

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