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.
In a series of experiments holding fake séances, (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.
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."
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."
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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."
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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.
From time to time, it may be helpful to seek out the counsel of someone objective for guidance or connection with spirit, and/or to gain a clearer read on your life. If a psychic, medium or any other intuitive healer speaks to you, I encourage you to set your intentions and then simply let go and go with the flow. Spirit will guide you as to who and what is in your highest and best good in that moment. Also, please remember that no one knows you better than yourself, and no one has a closer connection with your deceased loved ones and spiritual guides than you do. By learning to go within, listen to and trust your own inner voice, you gain access to everything you'll ever need to know. And what could be better than that?
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