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Mystery power of Jane Salter that saved Sylvia Thompson's life



Lack of any mechanical aptitude didn't stop Mrs Salter from bringing up two children and looking after her husband Ronald. But it was the key to an astonishing incident in 1982 for which there appears no rational explanation despite the efforts of psychical researchers to find one.

The Salter family were not ashamed to describe themselves as "pretty ordinary." They lived in a comfortable North London suburb and Ronald was manager of a local estate agent. Jane was a fulltime housewife but did charity work for the Red Cross and was a former primary school teacher. When her own children were older she hoped to go back to teaching.

The strange story in which Jane Salter was to find herself involved began in the spring of 1982 when she visited her friend Sylvia Thompson, who after becoming severely paralysed was now confined to an iron lung machine without which she was unable to breathe.

The machine was now in the front room of Sylvia's home in Finchley, North London and there Sylvia spent her life, tended by a nurse during the day by her husband Richard at night.

The two women had been friends for years, working in the same schools and since Sylvia became incapacitated Jane tried to spend at least one afternoon a week with her. She would explain later: "Sylvia had always been a vital energetic person and her disability really shattered her. Then she began to rally and got more cheerful, but it was still a bleak and lonely life."

One Wednesday afternoon in May Jane Salter arrived at the Thompson house around 3pm bringing flowers and magazines for her friend. Sylvia was as usual inside the mass of still pretty primitive machinery with only her head protruding. Green lights glowed as the machine softly hissed in time with Sylvia's breathing.

The nurse, who was sitting next to Sylvia, rose when Jane came in. "I'm glad you've come," she said. "I would just like to nip out for a few groceries if that's OK. Sylvia has everything she wants and I will be half an hour at the most."

"As she had done many times before, Jane agreed and sat down to chat to her friend. "I had got so used to the machine that I had come to take it for granted," she said. "I knew it kept Sylvia alive and that was as far as my knowledge of it went.

"I had heard people say there was an alternative electricity supply in case of a power-cut but I had no idea how it worked. To me it was just a mass of mysterious machinery."

After a while Jane went into the kitchen to put on the kettle for tea and when she returned it was apparent even to her, that something was seriously wrong.

Two red lights were flashing on top of the machine and the regular pumping rhythm was jerky and disrupted. Sylvia's face was flushed and her breathing laboured. Jane Salter stood transfixed. She had absolutely no idea what to do. She knew the machine was looked after by a technician from the local hospital but she didn't know which.

Nor could she rely on the nurse returning in time. She alone would have to put right whatever was wrong with this massive and sophisticated machine. She later recalled: "Suddenly I felt completely calm and confident and yet things didn't seem real. Everything was very clear and I seemed to know exactly what to do.

"It was as though I was a spectator watching myself doing things. I went instinctively to a small box by the side of the machine and took out some electrical components. I then opened the side of the machine and took out some small white panels after first turning some switches.

"I then put the panels from the box into the slots to replace the ones I had taken out and switched on the machine again. After that I seemed to go into some sort of haze. When I emerged from it everything seemed to be working perfectly and Sylvia was breathing normally again. I didn't tell her what had happened or what I had done.

"There were bits of equipment lying by the machine and when the nurse returned she thought I must have called a technician from the hospital. She couldn't believe I had done the repairs and neither could I.

"I was told afterwards that what I had actually done was replace a block of resistors – whatever that might mean!"

Ever afterwards Jane Salter could offer no clue to what happened that day. "All I can think of is that I gained that knowledge in some way that is beyond ordinary understanding," she said. "What other explanation could there be?"

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