Dr Dee: Raising the Dead at Walton le Dale

On 12th August 1560, Dr John Dee, minister at Manchester and later astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I, attempted to raise the dead near Preston. Along with convicted fraudster Edward Kelley, the two entered the churchyard of St Leonard’s Church, Walton le Dale, to do the deed. Benjamin Woolet’s 2002 biography of Dee The Queen’s Conjurer makes no mention of this incident and other sources such as Encyclopedia.com suggest it was only Kelley who attempted the resurrection. The 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica states that it was in fact Dee who summoned the spirit of a man from the Walton le Dale ‘who had died before giving the whereabouts of a considerable amount of money. It is said that he was successful and the spirit did indeed tell the him the whereabouts of the wealth, but not before also predicting to Dee the fate of many of the locals, which is said to have later come true’.

The accounts are evidently varied and unclear. Dee was living in Lancashire in the sixteenth century, but thirty years after this alleged event, when he was made one of the ministers of Manchester’s Collegiate Church, now the cathedral. I have no doubt that Doctor Dee would have attempted such an act had he been able; later in his life he had a special mirror by which he claimed to contact angels. Dee lived at a time when science and the occult were barely distinguishable; astronomy and astrology had not the clear distinction they now enjoy. Nevertheless, seeking to raise the dead was a foolish thing to attempt. The dead shall rise when they hear the trumpet call to judgement. In the meantime, they will not rise to satisfy the curiosity of nosey-parkers or greedy treasure hunters. The only raising of the dead to which we are currently privy is that of our own soul’s spiritual re-birth:

Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 2:

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world…But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together…

When someone becomes a Christian, God spiritually raises them from a state of spiritual death. When the final trumpet sounds, this resurrection will become physical also.