The Singular Case of Dr Lobsang Rampa: lama, mystic & plumber

As it’s April Fool’s Day, we thought we’d regale you with the true story of a West Country plumber who fell out of a tree while owl-spotting, only to awaken possessed by the spirit of a Tibetan lama. Dr Bramwell introduces Cyril Hoskin, unemployed plumber, yeti startler and best-selling author of The Third Eye.

Photo: Jesse Wild.

Written by Dr Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, The Third Eye is an autobiographical account of a wealthy Tibetan growing up in Lhasa where, at the age of seven, he is sent to a Lamasery to study Buddhism.

The book is full of extraordinary stories and adventures. Rampa recounts how he achieved his psychic powers after a painful trepanning-style operation to open up the “third eye” in the middle of his forehead. Elsewhere there are first-hand accounts of levitation, clairvoyance, meetings with the Dalai Lama and even an encounter with the Abominable Snowman: “We looked at each other, both of us frozen with fright for a period which seemed ageless. It was pointing a hand at me and making a curious mewing noise like a kitten. The head had no frontal lobes but seemed to slope back almost directly from the heavy brows. The chin receded greatly and the teeth were large and prominent. As I looked and perhaps jumped with fright, the yeti screeched, turned and leaped away.” Rampa’s book became a global bestseller.

During his first live radio interview, Rampa was confronted with an eager young presenter who had gone to the effort of learning a smattering of Tibetan. The presenter opened with the line “Hello, how are you?” in Tibetan but was met with silence. When informed that he’d just been addressed in Tibetan, Rampa fell to the ground and began to scream in agony. This continued for a good 30 seconds (a long time in radio) before he finally climbed back onto his chair and calmly explained that before leaving Tibet he had put a curse on himself to no longer understand or speak Tibetan, for fear of giving away his secrets. In truth, Lobsang Rampa only spoke English with a curiously strong West Country burr.

Despite a number of detractors – notably Tibetologist Heinrich Harrer who hired a private detective to prove not only that Rampa had never been to Tibet, but that he didn’t even own a passport and was in fact an unemployed plumber called Cyril Hoskin from Plympton in Devon – Rampa went on to write a further 19 books.

In a later interview he cheerfully admitted that he’d never actually been to Tibet but that he was, in fact, possessed by the spirit of a lama. He claimed that after he fell out of a tree in 1956 and lay half-strangled by his binoculars, an elderly lama was passing by on the astral plane and the pair agreed to swap bodies. Whether, at the same time a lama in Tibet was claiming to be a West Country plumber and writing books on how to install a boiler, remains, as yet, unverified...  

An extract from The Singular Case of Dr Lobsang Rampa, in issue one of Ernest Journal. For the full story, scoot over to the App Store to download your copy...

David Bramwell is a writer, performer and radio presenter for BBC Radio 3 and 4. In 2011 he won a Sony Radio Award for The Haunted Moustache, the true account of his search for the owner of a bizarre family heirloom: a Victorian moustache in a box. David publishes his first travel memoir, The No.9 Bus to Utopia, in May this year.