The magician Julien Proskauer revealed that the levitating trumpet of Jack Webber was a trick. Close examination of photographs reveal Webber to be holding a telescopic reaching rod attached to the trumpet, and sitters in his séances only believed it to have levitated because the room was so dark they could not see the rod. Webber would cover the rod with crepe paper to disguise its real construction.
In a 2019 television segment on Last Week Tonight featuring prominent purported mediums including Theresa Caputo, John Edward, Tyler Henry, and Sylvia Browne, John Oliver criticized the media for promoting mediums because this exposure convinces viewers that such powers are real, and so enable neighborhood mediums to prey on grieving families. Oliver said "...when psychic abilities are presented as authentic, it emboldens a vast underworld of unscrupulous vultures, more than happy to make money by offering an open line to the afterlife, as well as many other bullshit services."
The physicist Kristian Birkeland exposed the fraud of the direct voice medium Etta Wriedt. Birkeland turned on the lights during a séance, snatched her trumpets and discovered that the "spirit" noises were caused by chemical explosions induced by potassium and water and in other cases by lycopodium powder. The British medium Isa Northage claimed to materialize the spirit of a surgeon known as Dr. Reynolds. When photographs taken of Reynolds were analyzed by researchers they discovered that Northage looked like Reynolds with a glued stage beard.
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In 1988, the magician Bob Couttie criticized the paranormal author Brian Inglis for deliberately ignoring evidence of fraud in mediumship. Couttie wrote Inglis had not familiarized himself with magician techniques. In 1990 the researcher Gordon Stein discovered that the levitation photograph of the medium Carmine Mirabelli was fraudulent. The photograph was a trick as there were signs of chemical retouching under Mirabelli's feet. The retouching showed that Mirabelli was not levitating but was standing on a ladder which was erased from the photograph.
The exposures of fraudulent activity led to a rapid decline in ectoplasm and materialization séances. Investigator Joe Nickell has written that modern self-proclaimed mediums like John Edward, Sylvia Browne, Rosemary Altea and James Van Praagh are avoiding the Victorian tradition of dark rooms, spirit handwriting and flying tambourines as these methods risk exposure. They instead use "mental mediumship" tactics like cold reading or gleaning information from sitters before hand (hot reading). Group readings also improve hits by making general statements with conviction, which will fit at least one person in the audience. Shows are carefully edited before airing to show only what appears to be hits and removing anything that does not reflect well on the medium.
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The séance trick of the Eddy Brothers was revealed by the magician Chung Ling Soo in 1898. The brothers utilized a fake hand made of lead, and with their hands free from control would play musical instruments and move objects in the séance room. The physiologist Ivor Lloyd Tuckett examined a case of spirit photography that W. T. Stead had claimed was genuine. Stead visited a photographer who had produced a photograph of him with deceased soldier known as "Piet Botha". Stead claimed that the photographer could not have come across any information about Piet Botha, however, Tuckett discovered that an article in 1899 had been published on Pietrus Botha in a weekly magazine with a portrait and personal details.
The British medium William Roy earned over £50,000 from his séance sitters. He confessed to fraud in 1958 revealing the microphone and trick-apparatus that he had used. The automatic writings of the Irish medium Geraldine Cummins were analyzed by psychical researchers in the 1960s and they revealed that she worked as a cataloguer at the National Library of Ireland and took information from various books that would appear in her automatic writings about ancient history.
^ LeCron, Leslie; Bordeaux, Jean (1970). Hypnotism Today. Wilshire Book Co. p. 278. ISBN 0-87980-081-X. When in a trance ... the medium seems to come under the control of another personality, purportedly the spirit of a departed soul, and a genuine medium undoubtedly believes the 'control' to be a spirit entity ... In the trance, the medium often enters a cataleptic state marked by extreme rigidity. The control then takes over, the voice may change completely ... and the supposed spirit answers the questions of the sitter, telling of things 'on the other plane' and gives messages from those who have 'passed over.'
Mediumship became quite popular in the 19th-century United States and the United Kingdom after the rise of Spiritualism as a religious movement. Modern Spiritualism is said to date from practices and lectures of the Fox sisters in New York State in 1848. The trance mediums Paschal Beverly Randolph and Emma Hardinge Britten were among the most celebrated lecturers and authors on the subject in the mid-19th century. Allan Kardec coined the term Spiritism around 1860. Kardec claimed that conversations with spirits by selected mediums were the basis of his The Spirits' Book and later, his five-book collection, Spiritist Codification.
The Austrian medium Rudi Schneider was investigated in 1924 by the physicists Stefan Meyer and Karl Przibram. They caught Rudi freeing his arm in a series of séances. Rudi claimed he could levitate objects but according to Harry Price a photograph taken on April 28, 1932 showed that Rudi had managed to free his arm to move a handkerchief from the table. According to Warren Jay Vinton, Schneider was an expert at freeing himself from control in the séance room. Oliver Gatty and Theodore Besterman who tested Schneider concluded that in their tests there was "no good evidence that Rudi Schneider possesses supernormal powers."
In 1910 at a séance in Grenoble, France the apport medium Charles Bailey produced two live birds in the séance room. Bailey was unaware that the dealer he had bought the birds from was present in the séance and he was exposed as a fraud. The psychical researcher Eric Dingwall observed the medium Bert Reese in New York and claimed to have discovered his billet reading tricks. The most detailed account at exposing his tricks (with diagrams) was by the magician Theodore Annemann. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NC_exEwvIecJ9EWDa-MwzzZdzPkWWZ-H/view?usp=sharing
In the later half of the 20th century, Western mediumship developed in two different ways. One type involved clairaudience or sensitives who hear spirit, and then relay what they hear to their clients. The other incarnation of non-physical mediumship is a form of channeling in which the channeler goes into a trance, or "leaves their body", allowing a spirit entity to borrow their body, who then speaks through them. When in a trance the medium appears to come under the control of the spirit of a departed soul, sometimes entering into a cataleptic state, although modern channelers may not. Some channelers open the eyes when channeling, and remain able to walk and behave normally. The rhythm and the intonation of the voice may also change completely.