Antoine and the Red Dress

In 1960, Dorothy Jenkins was perusing a junk shop in Fulham when an old oil painting caught her eye. The work was four foot in height and depicted a beautiful young woman in a red velvet dress, signed as ‘Antoine.’

The painting had some damage, including some noticeable scorch marks, but Dorothy liked it nonetheless and took it home to her family.

1813 Hon. Mrs Thomas Hope full face in a red velvet dress by Henry Bone

As soon as the painting was hung, problems began to arise. Hanging it in both Dorothy and her son’s bedrooms, soon thereafter, both became ill, suffering sudden nervous breakdowns after exposure to the painting. Dorothy quickly sought advice about the problematic picture but was told not to remove the painting from the house, in case the negative activity intensified.

Philip Paul was investigating on Jenkins’ behalf and soon arranged for renowned medium, Ena Twigg, to join him.

Ena Twigg (1914-1984) was a psychic medium and minister of a Spiritualist church who was also the first medium to be interviewed on British TV. She reportedly accurately predicted the death of her father and her husband’s return from WWII.

Ena Twigg

When Paul brought Twigg into the house, he made sure to restrict the amount of information given beforehand, in order to lessen the likelihood of deception. Instead, he requested that Twigg ‘psychometrise’ some objects within the household.

Psychometry is the method whereby a medium may touch an object and gain information or impressions from a form of psychic transference.

As with so many cases, journalists and photographers were already involved in the case and a menagerie of professionals joined the investigator as Twigg made her way across London. Waiting at the house was Dorothy’s friend Violet Smith, while Twigg and Paul arrived with Leslie Howard (assistant editor of Psychic News), Twigg’s husband, three newspaper reporters and a photographer.

Upon arrival, Paul led the medium directly to the painting, intending to prove her legitimacy with a double bluff (as she would anticipate being shown a ‘neutral’ object first). Instead, the medium immediately recoiled in horror. Twigg began talking incessantly, describing hearing music, seeing blood and recounting terrifying experiences of interrogation, truth drugs, electric shock therapy and the terrors of confinement.

John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Charles E. Inches (Louise Pomeroy) (detail), 1887.

Most of the comments made by Twigg appeared to directly relate to Dorothy’s son who was not at home during the investigation. Similarly, after handling many objects in an attempt to ‘psychometrise’ them, only a photograph of Dorothy’s son incited any reaction from the medium.

Twigg was introduced to the painting in many blindfolded tests, but her reactions were consistent. During one experiment whereby the painting had been moved, Twigg claimed to see a flash of light moving from between the painting and its former location during the initial investigation.

Things Unseen: Ena Twigg – Medium (1971)


In Ena Twigg’s biography, she recalls the incident vividly, especially the views of the assembled journalists. After reportedly proving her powers several times, she wrote,

‘The reporters were not at all impressed with the accuracy of my performance…For the most part they believed and said that “somebody must have tipped her off in advance.” With some people it wouldn’t matter if you brought the sun, moon and stars down and put them in their proper rotation. They would still be doubters.’






The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. Haunted Objects. P.89-90


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