In 1892, William Stead discovered he had the gift of automatic writing and it was then that a discarnate entity claiming to be Julia Ames began to write using Stead's hand. "Sitting alone with a tranquil mind, I consciously placed my right hand, with the pen held in the ordinary way, at the disposal of Julia, and watched with keen and skeptical interest to see what it would write." Stead wrote at the time.
Julia Ames was a professional journalist who also edited the The Woman's Union Signal of Chicago. Ames had passed away during December 1891 and she and Stead had been friends. Her closest friend was a woman named Ellen who Stead also knew. Julia told Stead she wanted to relay her experiences from the 'other side' so as to help Ellen understand that death, far from being the end, was an event to be worked toward and that although her body had died 'she' hadn't really died at all. Explaining the process of her death Julia wrote; "I did not feel any pain in “dying;” I felt only a great calm and peace. Then I awoke, and I was standing outside my old body, in the room. There was no one there at first, just myself and just myself. At first I wondered I was so strangely well. Then I saw that I had passed over. She added in another communication, "There is no death… Death is only a sense of deprivation and separation which the so-called living feel – an incident of limitation of ‘life.’ Death only exists for the ‘living,’ not for us.”
The letters were dictated during a period between 1892 and 1893 and during this time Julia asked Stead to set up a 'Bureau' — a sort of facility where, with the use of mediums, spiritual communications between the living and the spirit world could take place. Julia expressed great importance in our knowing more about our true reality stating; "you may think it strange that the verification of another life should increase the importance of this. But such is the fact, and you can never understand the importance of your life until you see it from this side. You are never, for one moment, idle from influencing eternity. You may think this a figure of speech.
But it is not. You are, far more really than you imagine, making this world of ours in that world of yours."
The content of the letters included the law of spiritual growth, the mourning of the 'dead', life on the other side, and numerous other subjects she felt those living in the physical should be aware of before passing over.
In1893 Stead launched a publication called Borderland, a quarterly psychic magazine that ran until 1897, in which the "Letters from Julia" were published for the first time. The book containing the letters entitled After Death was published in 1905 and was great success with many copies being sold in the UK and the USA.