In 1958, the English-born Spiritualist C. Dorreen Phillips wrote of her experiences with a medium at Camp Chesterfield, Indiana: "In Rev. James Laughton's séances there are many Indians. They are very noisy and appear to have great power. [...] The little guides, or doorkeepers, are usually Indian boys and girls [who act] as messengers who help to locate the spirit friends who wish to speak with you."
In the 1930s Harry Price (director of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research) had investigated the medium Helen Duncan and had her perform a number of test séances. She was suspected of swallowing cheesecloth which was then regurgitated as "ectoplasm". Price had proven through analysis of a sample of ectoplasm produced by Duncan, that it was made of cheesecloth. Helen Duncan would also use a doll made of a painted papier-mâché mask draped in an old sheet which she pretended to her sitters was a spirit. The photographs taken by Thomas Glendenning Hamilton in the 1930s of ectoplasm reveal the substance to be made of tissue paper and magazine cut-outs of people. The famous photograph taken by Hamilton of the medium Mary Ann Marshall depicts tissue paper with a cut out of Arthur Conan Doyle's head from a newspaper. Skeptics have suspected that Hamilton may have been behind the hoax.
Our search can take us far and wide and consume an inordinate amount of our time and energy and when we do find someone who looks like ‘The One’, we sometimes already have a fantasy story in our heads about what he/she will be like. When we realise that ‘The One’ we have found falls short of our ideals and expectations, for a time we are beset with doubts and confusion. Am I mistaken? Is it my fault? Is it their fault? Whose fault is it?
^ John Casey. (2009). After Lives: A Guide to Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. Oxford. p. 373. ISBN 978-0-19-997503-7 "The poet attended one of Home's seances where a face was materialized, which, Home's spirit guide announced, was that of Browning's dead son. Browning seized the supposed materialized head, and it turned out to be the bare foot of Home. The deception was not helped by the fact that Browning never had lost a son in infancy."
So, there you have it, my first (and probably last, since I'm apparently shitlisted) foray into psychic-busting. I'm not going to tell people to stop seeing psychics - if it makes you happy and you have the cash, go wild. Whether you go in as a believer or as a shithead like me, the psychics are the ones making bank, so either way, in the end, they win. And who knows, maybe I have a sister I don't know about whose birth and death dates I guessed right, in which case, I should set up my own psychic shop. I'm sure Emily would approve.
In old-line Spiritualism, a portion of the services, generally toward the end, is given over to demonstrations of mediumship through contact with the spirits of the dead. A typical example of this way of describing a mediumistic church service is found in the 1958 autobiography of C. Dorreen Phillips. She writes of the worship services at the Spiritualist Camp Chesterfield in Chesterfield, Indiana: "Services are held each afternoon, consisting of hymns, a lecture on philosophy, and demonstrations of mediumship."
In a series of fake séance experiments (Wiseman et al. 2003) paranormal believers and disbelievers were suggested by an actor that a table was levitating when, in fact, it remained stationary. After the seance, approximately one third of the participants incorrectly reported that the table had moved. The results showed a greater percentage of believers reporting that the table had moved. In another experiment the believers had also reported that a handbell had moved when it had remained stationary and expressed their belief that the fake séances contained genuine paranormal phenomena. The experiments strongly supported the notion that in the séance room, believers are more suggestible than disbelievers for suggestions that are consistent with their belief in paranormal phenomena.
The card meant to symbolize my hopes and my fears turned out to be the "Love" card, which shook me a bit, seeing as how I went on this quest in the hopes that I would learn more about how I can change my perspective on the love in my life. "There's nothing in this reading that would accentuate the fear and lots that would support the love. It's playful, it's feeding yourself, it's artistic, it's listening to the signs and your gut. Everything is supporting the hope. Unless you let these stupid thoughts run wild, you've got it."