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The Curse Of Vicky’s Ticker

October 31, 2018
by Roger Clarke

In these pages in 2012, Roger Clarke first revealed the intriguing tale of a gold pocket watch presented by Queen Victoria to an eleven-year-old Shoreditch clairvoyant. The watch – known as Vicky’s Ticker – went missing in 1962 when it was stolen from the London College of Psychic Studies, yet since Roger wrote his story for Spitalfields Life it has inexplicably reappeared.

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Once I held it in my hand, I was aware of the weight of it. I was standing in a small downstairs room at Bonhams in South Kensington holding a Victorian gold pocket watch. Yet the weight I felt was not that of the precious metal or the intricate mechanics of its system, but of the significance of those whose hands through which the watch had passed: Queen Victoria, two celebrated psychics, a newspaper editor who went down in the Titanic and the thief who stole it fifty years ago.

Here is the entry in Bonham’s catalogue:

LOT 19: AN 18K GOLD KEY WIND OPEN FACE POCKET WATCH, Circa 1840 (£500–700)

Two engraved inscriptions: ‘Presented by Her Majesty to Miss Georgiana Eagle for her Meritorious & Extraordinary Clairvoyance produced at Osborn House, Isle of Wight, July 15th 1846′ and ‘Presented by W.T Stead to Mrs Etta Wriedt through whose mediumship Queen Victoria’s direct voice was heard in London in July 1911.’

I first came across the name of Georgiana Eagle, Wizard Queen & Mesmerist, while researching my book A Natural History of Ghosts - and as a Shoreditch resident myself – I was naturally intrigued by her. Dalston was a Victorian nexus of young female psychics, including the infamous Florence Cook in the eighteen seventies, and there was a very famous Dalston spiritualist group at the time many of whose members worked on the railways – two recently-built spurs (now the overground) had opened up the area and were instrumental  in making Dalston popular for séances.  It was a new territory, opening new doors into the other world. However it seems an even younger East London psychic proceeded Miss Cook by several decades amongst the furniture-making factories and leather-working rooms of Shoreditch.

Georgiana Eagle was born on November 28th 1834 and baptised at St Leonard’s Church. Her grandfather owned a pub in the parish and the family were of Huguenot descent. She lived with her father Barnardo Eagle in Holywell Place. He was a professional stage magician and the family led a nomadic existence as travelling players. In 1839, he was describing himself as ‘The Royal Wizard of the South’ and in the Birmingham Journal of November 23rd of that year claimed he had performed for ‘His late Majesty and Queen Adelaide, Duchess of Saxe-Weimar, Her Majesty Queen Victoria, The Duchess of Kent and numbers of the nobility.’

After the death of her mother, eight-year-old Georgiana stayed with her father while the rest of her siblings were packed off to live with their grandparents in 36 Coleman St. She was a willing participant in her father’s stage act of ‘Hundred feats of mighty magic’. He was a sceptic who revealed deception and his show, The Mysterious Lady, which was devoted to exposing the clairvoyance claims of mesmerists – proved immensely popular. Little Georgiana was the star and she performed for Queen Victoria at Osborne House when Prince Albert was still alive, receiving the gift of the gold watch from the monarch. Victoria’s journals show she gave similar watches to other children of Georgiana’s age and I believe Georgiana had it engraved after that event at Osborne House in 1846. This is the ill-fated watch that was subsequently stolen from the College of Psychic Studies in September 1962.

One morning last year, I received a call from a relative in the antiques business who was monitoring sales of objects connected to the Isle of Wight where we both grew up. He had learnt about the sale of a watch. I went in one day in January for a viewing and sat in a small windowless, fortified room as a young man brought it in. There was absolutely no doubt about it. This was Vicky’s Ticker – the watch given to Georgiana by Queen Victoria which has not been seen or heard of since 1962. It had been discovered among the effects of a jeweller from Manchester at his decease by his relatives, who had no idea of its tainted provenance.

There is a contemporary mention of Victoria’s gift of the watch to Georgiana in the Northampton Mercury in 1849. ‘On Monday last, a theatre suddenly upreared its tawdry head in the market square, decorated with pictures representing Miss Georgiana Eagle in trunk hose and flesh tights, in the act of receiving a splendid gold watch from Her Majesty Queen Victoria.’

A remarkable thing happened. In 1850, Barnardo Eagle advertised private clairvoyance sessions  ‘to the nobility and gentry’ in Brighton. At a meeting in Edinburgh in November 1852, around sixty people were invited to experience Georgiana’s powers of mediumship and mesmerism. Whether this conversion was heartfelt or genuine, we will probably never know.  It could have been simply that Barnardo was commercially savvy and he saw the wind was blowing in favour of psychics. Yet his journey from sceptic to believer is the reason that the watch is so precious to the College of Psychic Studies.

Those who were shocked by Barnardo’s apparent betrayal of his rational beliefs blamed him for dragging his eighteen year-old daughter along with him. It did not go well for either of them. By 1853, he had abandoned the profession and reverted to the family occupation, buying the licence to the Brown Bear Tavern near the British Museum. His infant daughter Rosabel died and was buried in a public grave, indicating the family’s reduced state at this time. Yet by 1855 they were back on the road, offering clairvoyance once again.

There was a late resurgence in their fame. The hiatus appears to have restored their public reputation now belief in psychic phenomena had became widespread. Then tragedy struck when Barnardo died onstage during his act. A few weeks later – while her father was barely cold in the ground – Georgiana married a Drury Lane scene-painter.  She was now performing as Madame Card, Wizard Queen and Mesmerist and living happily with her husband in Cheltenham, until he was committed to a lunatic asylum in Sussex where he died seven months later.

She married a music professor from Islington and they toured together. He accompanying her act with musical numbers and they were reviewed quite favourably by the Evening Standard. Georgiana was by now an accomplished hypnotist and ‘performed with a dexterity that is scarcely surpassed by any other male conjurer’ Unfortunately, the music professor – a volatile character who got in trouble with the law over his temper – also died young and Georgiana was widowed for a second time by the age of forty-seven. She married a draper twenty-five years her junior, and eventually died in Muswell Hill of ‘senile decay’ in March 1911.

Within months of Georgiana’s death, the watch fell into the hands of the newspaper editor W.T. Stead who gave it to Etta Wriedt, a medium who used it to channel the spirit and voice of Queen Victoria in London in July 1911. When Stead drowned on the Titanic, Wriedt presented the watch to the London College of Psychic Studies.

The colourful history of this little timepiece might tempt the credulous to believe it has a curse attached to it – though why that should be, I have no explanation. I attended the ceremony marking the return of the watch at the College of Psychic Studies and afterwards talked with a throng of interested parties.  ‘We think you were guided,’ suggested a couple of mediums but naturally I could not say.  Yet it is very strange that I should write on the subject for Spitalfields Life and then find it.

I do not feel my business with Georgiana Eagle has quite finished yet.

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Georgiana Eagle, Wizard Queen & Mersmerist of Shoreditch

Inscription of July 1846

Inscription of July 1911

St Leonard’s Church where Georgiana Eagle, Wizard Queen & Clairvoyant Mesmerist, was baptised

Dalston became a nexus for female psychics in the eighteen seventies due to improved transport links

Barnardo Eagle, the Royal Wizard of the South (Courtesy of Senate House Library)

Advertisement for a performance by Barnardo and Georgiana Eagle in Plymouth

Georgiana Eagle commonly performed under the stage name of Madame Gilliland Card (Poster courtesy of British Museum)

Etta Wriedt used Vicky’s Ticker to channel the spirit and voice of Queen Victoria in London in 1911

Journal of Spiritualism, Psychical, Occult & Mystical Research (Courtesy London College of Psychic Studies)

Roger Clarke wishes to thank Vivienne Roberts, College Curator & Archivist at the London College of Psychic Studies for her research

You may also like to read about

Bill Crome, The Window Cleaner Who Sees Ghosts

Geraldine Beskin, Witch

The Ghosts of Old London

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Glenn permalink
    October 31, 2018

    Fascinating story. Thanks very much!

  2. Greg Tingey permalink
    October 31, 2018

    Nice try for a good “ghost” story!
    Mind you, ghosts & spirits are imaginary … even so.

  3. Howard Hilliard permalink
    October 31, 2018

    Perfect. Can’t wait for the novel, then the movie.

  4. Funky Cute permalink
    October 31, 2018

    What a dramatic coincidence the way the watch is located!

  5. Gary Arber permalink
    October 31, 2018

    Among the old type faces that I had in my print works was a rare ten point type face called “Cheltenham Bold Wide” that was rarely used. I was interested to see this type used in the Horns Assembly Rooms leaflet, it is the line under the main title spelling “THE WORLD RENOWNED”.
    Gary

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