They say you can't take it with you but in the spring of 1979 it very much looked as though Leonard Freedman had. The owner of a chain of clothing stores in south London, he died in May, 1979 a wealthy man, leaving behind him a mystery which his relatives, his accountants and his solicitors seemed unable to solve.
Freedman had made a will — in fact he had made several over the years, changing them from time to time to take advantage of new tax situations. The current will, in a long blue envelope, had been shown to his two sons only a few weeks earlier but now Leonard Freedman was dead and no one knew where the document was. Nor, on his instructions, had any copies been made.
It was a prelude to one of the strangest cases in psychical research, and one which still defies any rational explanation. But six people were prepared to swear that they saw Leonard Freedman come back from the dead to reveal the whereabouts of his will during a series of events they would remember for the rest of their lives.
It was later discovered that for the last 20 years of his life – he died of a stroke at 70 – Freedman had a deep interest in the supernatural which his sons Arthur and Leslie didn't share.
"We used to have arguments about it," Leslie Freedman recalled "And he used to say that one day he would prove to us that he was right. But we had no idea what he had in mind. And after what happened I became far less cynical so my father seems to have won his point!"
The son of a Jewish tailor, Leonard had built up a flourishing business and the year before his death moved to a large Georgian-style house in fashionable north London. It had a room converted into small library in which Leonard spent much of his time. "He wasn't a great reader but he liked to be surrounded by books," was how his son Leslie put it.
On the day of Leonard's death the hunt for his will started and continued, amid mounting panic, for over a week. His solicitor assumed his accountant had it and his accountant believed it was in the bank. But everyone was wrong. The last wishes of Leonard Freedman seemed to have completely vanished.
Then nine days after his father's death Leslie Freedman had a dream. "In it I saw my father not as he was when he died but as he was when I was a child – a vigorous man in his prime. He was sitting at his desk in his office and he suddenly turned and said: 'I want you all at the house on Saturday – your mother, Arthur and yourself, and your wives Seven O'clock.' Then I woke up."
Leslie knew it would be impossible to persuade his family to take his dream seriously so he told them the family solicitor had called a meeting for that time. Indeed he did ask his father's solicitor, Sidney Gretton, to be present, so convinced he was that something extraordinary was going to happen.
Leslie Freedman later said: "About 6.50 we all gathered in the dining-room adjoining the library and sat down. The library door was open. As I had called the meeting it was obvious I was expected to explain why, and as nothing had happened I was pretty much at a loss for words. "I was just about to give them some cock-and-bull story when without anyone saying anything we all turned and looked through the open door into the library. There, standing against the shelves was the unmistakable figure of my father.
"We all saw him and were transfixed by the sight. He put up his right hand and touched a book on the third shelf — a red book with black binding. Then the figure gradually faded away. We all sat there in stunned silence and then Arthur got up and went into the library.
"He took down the book, A History of Lighthouses of the Irish Coast, and opened it. Folded inside the cover was the blue envelope containing our father's will. We brought it through into the dining-room and gave it to Sidney Gretton who opened it and read it out.
"My father had left his shares in the business to my mother and control of the firm to Arthur and I. There must have been at least a thousand books in that room. It just couldn't have been coincidence or a trick of the light.
"We all saw my father in there. It was so incredible that it still upsets me to think about it. Something like that changes your whole life."
Numerous investigations have probed what motive could the family have in making up the story?
Could autosuggestion and imagination have played a part? Or did Leonard Freedman really come back from the grave to prove a point? There is no shortage of questions about this extraordinary case? But will there ever be any answers?