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."
From its earliest beginnings to contemporary times, mediumship practices have had many instances of fraud and trickery. Séances take place in darkness so the poor lighting conditions can become an easy opportunity for fraud. Physical mediumship that has been investigated by scientists has been discovered to be the result of deception and trickery. Ectoplasm, a supposed paranormal substance, was revealed to have been made from cheesecloth, butter, muslin, and cloth. Mediums would also stick cut-out faces from magazines and newspapers onto cloth or on other props and use plastic dolls in their séances to pretend to their audiences spirits were contacting them. Lewis Spence in his book An Encyclopaedia of Occultism (1960) wrote: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1rrXPtB9sGi67HwXA-JNbF6Z9qXtdSQX8/view?usp=sharing
In 1876, William Eglinton was exposed as a fraud when the psychical researcher Thomas Colley seized a "spirit" materialization in his séance and cut off a portion of its cloak. It was discovered that the cut piece matched a cloth found in Eglinton's suitcase. Colley also pulled the beard off the materialization and it was revealed to be a fake, the same as another one found in the suitcase of Eglinton. In 1880 in a séance a spirit named "Yohlande" materialized, a sitter grabbed it and was revealed to be the medium Mme. d'Esperance herself.
In 1925, Samuel Soal claimed to have taken part in a series of séances with the medium Blanche Cooper who contacted the spirit of a soldier Gordon Davis and revealed the house that he had lived in. Researchers later discovered fraud as the séances had taken place in 1922, not 1925. The magician and paranormal investigator Bob Couttie revealed that Davis was alive, Soal lived close to him and had altered the records of the sittings after checking out the house. Soal's co-workers knew that he had fiddled the results but were kept quiet with threats of libel suits.
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^ 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.' https://drive.google.com/file/d/19XBpCeNfCJAhAffoBmEKrOMPHlCPQ1uy/view?usp=sharing
Many 19th century mediums were discovered to be engaged in fraud. While advocates of mediumship claim that their experiences are genuine, the Encyclopædia Britannica article on spiritualism notes in reference to a case in the 19th century that "...one by one, the Spiritualist mediums were discovered to be engaged in fraud, sometimes employing the techniques of stage magicians in their attempts to convince people of their clairvoyant powers." The article also notes that "the exposure of widespread fraud within the spiritualist movement severely damaged its reputation and pushed it to the fringes of society in the United States."
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.
In the typical deep trance, the medium may not have clear recall of all the messages conveyed while in an altered state; such people generally work with an assistant. That person selectively wrote down or otherwise recorded the medium's words. Rarely did the assistant record the responding words of the sitter and other attendants. An example of this kind of relationship can be found in the early 20th century collaboration between the trance medium Mrs. Cecil M. Cook of the William T. Stead Memorial Center in Chicago (a religious body incorporated under the statutes of the State of Illinois) and the journalist Lloyd Kenyon Jones. The latter was a non-medium Spiritualist who transcribed Cook's messages in shorthand. He edited them for publication in book and pamphlet form.
"Mental mediumship" is communication of spirits with a medium by telepathy. The medium mentally "hears" (clairaudience), "sees" (clairvoyance), and/or feels (clairsentience) messages from spirits. Directly or with the help of a spirit guide, the medium passes the information on to the message's recipient(s). When a medium is doing a "reading" for a particular person, that person is known as the "sitter". https://drive.google.com/file/d/1GEKx89qSKkJWI3i0M9kXg4Jy6OlYi_Qz/view?usp=sharing
The article about this phenomenon in Encyclopædia Britannica places emphasis that "… one by one spiritual mediums were convicted of fraud, sometimes using the tricks borrowed from scenic "magicians" to convince their paranormal abilities". In the article it is also noted that "… the opening of the wide ranging fraud happening on spiritualistic sessions caused serious damage to reputation of the movement of a Spiritualism and in the USA pushed it on the public periphery". https://drive.google.com/file/d/1y5Nf16dWP74wWod3tdEZ2TTw0KpVA-UP/view?usp=sharing
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Michael Shermer criticized mediums in Scientific American, saying, "mediums are unethical and dangerous: they prey on the emotions of the grieving. As grief counselors know, death is best faced head-on as a part of life." Shermer wrote that the human urge to seek connections between events that may form patterns meaningful for survival is a function of natural evolution, and called the alleged ability of mediums to talk to the dead "a well-known illusion of a meaningful pattern."
The psychical researchers W. W. Baggally and Everard Feilding exposed the British materialization medium Christopher Chambers as a fraud in 1905. A false moustache was discovered in the séance room which he used to fabricate the spirit materializations. The British medium Charles Eldred was exposed as a fraud in 1906. Eldred would sit in a chair in a curtained off area in the room known as a "séance cabinet". Various spirit figures would emerge from the cabinet and move around the séance room, however, it was discovered that the chair had a secret compartment that contained beards, cloths, masks, and wigs that Eldred would dress up in to fake the spirits. https://drive.google.com/file/d/124oBBEPOkBnezwDgNdARlFAV-ArJQIaI/view?usp=sharing
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. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1X_d_gOlAz9UMEGv8jxqmXs0czCNEBh0a/view?usp=sharing
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.
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