Thursday


Stranger than fiction: Strange tragedy of the carbon-copy wives...


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In a letter to his brother in Scotland, Frank Morris wrote philosophically of his wife's death in May 1911 at the tragically early age of 25.

They had been married only four years ... years spent happily together in their small cottage near Exeter, Devon, which had brought Frank a joy he never expected to be repeated.

But fate, it seemed, had decided otherwise and Frank Morris was to find love again ... only to have it taken away in a cruel and astonishing irony which was to become a classic tale of psychic experience.

Twenty years later, the celebrated psychic investigator Edgar Beresford wrote of the case of Frank Morris: "It prompts one to ask whether a dead person's identity can be taken on by someone who is still living, to the extent of being dominated and controlled from beyond the grave."

Edgar Beresford spent many hours with Frank Morris before his death at the age of 75 and came away both puzzled and impressed by his story.

The facts are not in dispute. Only the assumptions drawn from them are a matter of controversy which has lasted to this day.

Frank and Elaine met at a mutual friend's and within a year were married. From photographs Elaine can be seen to have been a dark, slight and obviously vivacious girl with shoulder-length hair and a happy smile.

"She was a marvellous person," Frank recalled. "Everything a man could wish for. I couldn't bear the thought of a long engagement and neither could she. So after a year we married and moved into the Devon cottage.

"I was working in the offices of the Great Western Railway and money was tight but she never complained and we were very happy.

"She made not only her clothes but mine as well and we both got enormous joy from picnics, walks and other small pleasures. I never imagined I could find such happiness with anyone.

"We were never apart except when I was at work and even after four years of marriage I would hurry home in the evening, anxious to see her and chat about our day. I should have known it was too wonderful to last."

And so it was. One May day in 1911 Frank was called from work to Exeter city hospital. His wife had been hit by falling masonry while walking past a demolition site near her home. She died without recovering consciousness while Frank held her hand.

For nearly a year he was lonely and distraught. Friends and relations tried vainly to comfort him but every evening after work he returned to his cottage littered with memories of Elaine, and sat alone.

He said of those dark days: "I wished I had had the courage to take my own life and be with Elaine again, but I just couldn't do it. I could see no point in living without her."

In the summer of 1913, Frank, still determinedly living in the past, was persuaded to go on holiday with relatives to the holiday resort of Torquay and while he was there, an astonishing thing happened.

"One afternoon when the weather was wet, we had gone to a tea-dance. I was standing with my brother-in-law near a window when sitting in a corner of the room, was a girl of about 25. She was the absolute image of Elaine.

"Almost without knowing what I was doing. I went over, apologised for not having been introduced, and asked her to dance.

"She accepted, and almost immediately it felt as though we had known each other for years. She told me: 'I feel I have met you many times before but that's impossible. I only came here yesterday from Salisbury.'"

Her name was Mary Dinard and she worked in a Salisbury store. They spent most of the rest of the holiday in each other's company and were astonished by their ability to read each other's thoughts and to instinctively know the other's likes and dislikes.

After the holiday they wrote and met whenever possible and three months later were engaged. With her elder sister, Mary came to stay at Frank's cottage. "She knew instinctively where everything was kept," Frank remembered. "We went on walks and she seemed to know the way. It was amazing."
"No man can reasonably expect to find true happiness more than once in a lifetime and in my grief I am very conscious of how lucky I am to have known and loved a woman like Elaine."

Six months later they were married, moved into the cottage — and were as happy as Frank and Elaine had been. But their happiness was short-lived. The following year war broke out and Frank enlisted in the Dorset Regiment. A few weeks later he was in France.

It was in May 1915 that he was called before his company commander and handed a telegram from home. It was from his mother and told him that Mary had been killed in a railway accident at Yeovil while travelling to Salisbury to see her family.

Today Frank Morris and his two brides are reunited in a Devon churchyard. The headstone provides the end of this tragic and uncanny story.

Mary and Elaine both died on their 26th birthdays on exactly the same day in May.

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