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A very large part is played by fraud in spiritualistic practices, both in the physical and psychical, or automatic, phenomena, but especially in the former. The frequency with which mediums have been convicted of fraud has, indeed, induced many people to abandon the study of psychical research, judging the whole bulk of the phenomena to be fraudulently produced.
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In 1917, Edward Clodd analyzed the mediumship of the trance medium Gladys Osborne Leonard and came to the conclusion that Leonard had known her séance sitters before she had held the séances, and could have easily obtained such information by natural means. The British psychiatrist Charles Arthur Mercier wrote in his book Spiritualism and Sir Oliver Lodge (1917) that Oliver Lodge had been duped into believing mediumship by trickery and his spiritualist views were based on assumptions and not scientific evidence.
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Modern spiritualists and psychics keep detailed files on their victims. As might be expected, these files can be very valuable and are often passed on from one medium or psychic to another when one retires or dies. Even if a psychic doesn't use a private detective or have immediate access to driver's license records and such, there is still a very powerful technique that will allow the psychic to convince people that the psychic knows all about them, their problems, and their deep personal secrets, fears, and desires. The technique is called cold reading and is probably as old as charlatanism itself... If John Edward (or any of the other self-proclaimed speakers with the dead) really could communicate with the dead, it would be a trivial matter to prove it. All that would be necessary would be for him to contact any of the thousands of missing persons who are presumed dead—famous (e.g., Jimmy Hoffa, Judge Crater) or otherwise—and correctly report where the body is. Of course, this is never done. All we get, instead, are platitudes to the effect that Aunt Millie, who liked green plates, is happy on the other side.
In 1966 the son of Bishop Pike committed suicide. After his death, Pike contacted the British medium Ena Twigg for a series of séances and she claimed to have communicated with his son. Although Twigg denied formerly knowing anything about Pike and his son, the magician John Booth discovered that Twigg had already known information about the Pike family before the séances. Twigg had belonged to the same denomination of Bishop Pike, he had preached at a cathedral in Kent and she had known information about him and his deceased son from newspapers.
The psychical researchers Eric Dingwall and Harry Price re-published an anonymous work written by a former medium entitled Revelations of a Spirit Medium (1922) which exposed the tricks of mediumship and the fraudulent methods of producing "spirit hands". Originally all the copies of the book were bought up by spiritualists and deliberately destroyed. In 1923, the magician Carlos María de Heredia revealed how fake spirit hands could be made by using a rubber glove, paraffin and a jar of cold water.
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In 1908 at a hotel in Naples, the psychical researchers W. W. Baggally, Hereward Carrington and Everard Feilding attended a series of séances with Eusapia Palladino. In a report they claimed that genuine supernatural activity had occurred in the séances, this report became known as the Feilding report. In 1910, Feilding returned to Naples, but this time accompanied with the magician William S. Marriott. Unlike the 1908 sittings, Feilding and Marriott detected her cheating, just as she had done in America. Her deceptions were obvious. Palladino evaded control and was caught moving objects with her foot, shaking the curtain with her hands, moving the cabinet table with her elbow and touching the séance sitters. Milbourne Christopher wrote regarding the exposure "when one knows how a feat can be done and what to look for, only the most skillful performer can maintain the illusion in the face of such informed scrutiny."
A series of mediumistic séances known as the Scole Experiment took place between 1993 and 1998 in the presence of the researchers David Fontana, Arthur Ellison and Montague Keen. This has produced photographs, audio recordings and physical objects which appeared in the dark séance room (known as apports). A criticism of the experiment was that it was flawed because it did not rule out the possibility of fraud. The skeptical investigator Brian Dunning wrote the Scole experiments fail in many ways. The séances were held in the basement of two of the mediums, only total darkness was allowed with no night vision apparatus as it might "frighten the spirits away". The box containing the film was not examined and could easily have been accessible to fraud. And finally, even though many years have passed, there has been no follow-up, no further research by any credible agency or published accounts. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1RI-NfCL7IeA8g5u5CG-LtcFl76Secb11/view?usp=sharing
In 1954, the psychical researcher Rudolf Lambert published a report revealing details about a case of fraud that was covered up by many early members of the Institute Metapsychique International (IMI). Lambert who had studied Gustav Geley's files on the medium Eva Carrière discovered photographs depicting fraudulent ectoplasm taken by her companion Juliette Bisson. Various "materializations" were artificially attached to Eva's hair by wires. The discovery was never published by Geley. Eugéne Osty (the director of the institute) and members Jean Meyer, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing and Charles Richet all knew about the fraudulent photographs but were firm believers in mediumship phenomena so demanded the scandal be kept secret.
The British medium Francis Ward Monck was investigated by psychical researchers and discovered to be a fraud. On November 3, 1876 during the séance a sitter demanded that Monck be searched. Monck ran from the room, locked himself in another room and escaped out of a window. A pair of stuffed gloves was found in his room, as well as cheesecloth, reaching rods and other fraudulent devices in his luggage. After a trial Monck was convicted for his fraudulent mediumship and was sentenced to three months in prison.
Cold reading also explains why psychics have consistently failed scientific tests of their powers. By isolating them from their clients, psychics are unable to pick up information from the way those clients dress or behave. By presenting all of the volunteers involved in the test with all of the readings, they are prevented from attributing meaning to their own reading, and therefore can't identify it from readings made for others. As a result, the type of highly successful hit rate that psychics enjoy on a daily basis comes crashing down and the truth emerges – their success depends on a fascinating application of psychology and not the existence of paranormal abilities. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Jp5LrVrI3j2JYGsZHnjPsuFPsq2Uv4mL/view?usp=sharing
In 1930 the Polish medium Stanisława P. was tested at the Institut Metapsychique in Paris. French psychical researcher Eugéne Osty suspected in the séance that Stanislawa had freed her hand from control. Secret flashlight photographs that were taken revealed that her hand was free and she had moved objects on the séance table. It was claimed by spiritualists that during a series of séances in 1930 the medium Eileen J. Garrett channeled secret information from the spirit of the Lieutenant Herbert Carmichael Irwin who had died in the R101 crash a few days before the séance. Researcher Melvin Harris who studied the case wrote that the information described in Garrett's séances were "either commonplace, easily absorbed bits and pieces, or plain gobblede-gook. The so-called secret information just doesn't exist."
Today "demonstration of mediumship" is part of the church service at all churches affiliated with the National Spiritualist Association of Churches (NSAC) and the Spiritualists' National Union (SNU). Demonstration links to NSAC's Declaration of Principal #9. "We affirm that the precepts of Prophecy and Healing are Divine attributes proven through Mediumship."
^ Joseph Jastrow. (1935). Patience Worth: An Alter Ego in Wish and Wisdom: Episodes in the Vagaries of Belief. D. Appleton-Century Company. pp. 78–92. Lyon Sprague de Camp. (1966). Spirits, Stars, and Spells. New York: Canaveral. p. 247. Robert Goldenson. (1973). Mysteries of the Mind: The Drama of Human Behavior. Doubleday. pp. 44–53. Milbourne Christopher. (1970). ESP, Seers and Psychics. New York: Crowell. pp. 128–29
Senses used by mental mediums are sometimes defined differently from in other paranormal fields. A medium is said to have psychic abilities but not all psychics function as mediums. The term clairvoyance, for instance, may include seeing spirit and visions instilled by the spirit world. The Parapsychological Association defines "clairvoyance" as information derived directly from an external physical source.