Out-of-body experiences, meanwhile, are now accepted neurological phenomena, while certain visual illusions could confound the healthy brain and create mythical beings. For example, one young Italian psychologist looked in the mirror one morning to find a grizzled old man staring back at him. His later experiments confirmed that the illusion is surprisingly common when you look at your reflection in the half light, perhaps because the brain struggles to construct the contours of your face, so it begins to try to fill in the missing information — even if that leads to the appearance of skulls, old hags or hideous animals.
So any combination of exhaustion, drugs, alcohol, and tricks of the light could contribute to single, isolated sightings, like that reported by Churchill. But what about the experiences of people like Conan Doyle, who seemed to see other-worldly actions on a day-to-day basis? Psychologists studying religion have long suspected that a belief in the paranormal can be a kind of shield from the even harsher truths of the world. The idea is that when something unexpected happens — a death, natural disaster, or job loss — the brain scrambles around for answers, looking for meaning in the chaos.
Even simply asking people to remember a time when they felt out of control, can make people see illusory forces at work , she has found. Anthropomorphism is another common way that we try to understand events, says Adam Waytz at Northwestern University in Illinois. So we might think that a spirit lies behind a storm or that a demon is causing us to get ill — rather than acknowledging that we have no control over the matter; and if a branch is tapping on your window, you might be more inclined to imagine that it is a ghost sending you a message.
Again, this seems to be more common when we feel less control over our lives. Given these strange turns of the mind, might some people be naturally inclined to see hidden patterns and motives, and could this explain why they are more superstitious than others? It is a question that Tapani Riekki at the University of Helsinki in Finland has tried to answer for the last few years.
Riekki recently asked sceptics and believers to view simple animations of moving shapes, while lying in a brain scanner. Riekki has also found that people who believe in the supernatural are more likely to see hidden faces in everyday photos — a finding confirmed by another team at the University of Amsterdam, who showed that paranormal believers are more likely to imagine that they had seen a walking figure in random light displays.
Riekki gives the example of someone who is thinking about their mother, only for her to call two minutes later. Significantly, another paper reported that paranormal believers also tend to have greater confidence in their decisions , even when they are based on ambiguous information. So once they have latched onto the belief, you might be less likely to let it go. After all, one study has found that various superstitions can boost your performance in a range of skills. Michael Nees at the Lafayette College in Pennsylvania recently asked a group of students to listen to sound recordings from US ghost-hunting shows.
The medium Henry Slade was caught in fraud many times throughout his career. The magician Chung Ling Soo revealed how Slade had performed the trick. The British medium Francis Ward Monck was investigated by psychical researchers and discovered to be a fraud. 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. It was discovered that the cut piece matched a cloth found in Eglinton's suitcase. Rita, were detected in trickery at Amsterdam.
Her Indian spirit control "Pocka" was found to be the medium on her knees, covered in muslin. In the American stage mentalist Washington Irving Bishop published a book revealing how mediums would use secret codes as the trick for their clairvoyant readings. Keeler and Henry Slade. Margaret Fox revealed that she and her sister had produced the " spirit " rappings by cracking their toe joints. Goldston wrote "I saw at once that it was a gauze mask, and that the moustache attached to it was loose at one side through lack of gum.
I pulled at the mask. It came away, revealing the face of Husk. She was described by the magician Harry Houdini as "one of the most extraordinary fake mediums and mystery swindlers the world has ever known". In the late 19th century the fraudulent methods of spirit photographers such as David Duguid and Edward Wyllie were revealed by psychical researchers. 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 had been published on Pietrus Botha in a weekly magazine with a portrait and personal details. The trance medium Leonora Piper was investigated by psychical researchers and psychologists in the late 19th and early 20th century.
In an experiment to test if Piper's "spirit" controls were purely fictitious the psychologist G. Stanley Hall invented a niece called Bessie Beals and asked Piper's 'control' to get in touch with it. Bessie appeared, answered questions and accepted Hall as her uncle. Her hands were grabbed and she was wrestled to the ground.
A female police assistant physically examined Rothe and discovered flowers as well as oranges and lemons hidden in her petticoat. She was arrested and charged with fraud. The psychical researchers W. Baggally and Everard Feilding exposed the British materialization medium Christopher Chambers as a fraud in The spirit photographer William Hope tricked William Crookes with a fake spirit photograph of his wife in Oliver Lodge revealed there had been obvious signs of double exposure, the picture of Lady Crookes had been copied from a wedding anniversary photograph, however, Crookes was a convinced spiritualist and claimed it was genuine evidence for spirit photography.
In , Hereward Carrington exposed the tricks of fraudulent mediums such as those used in slate-writing, table-turning , trumpet mediumship, materializations, sealed-letter reading and spirit photography. In at a hotel in Naples , the psychical researchers W. Unlike the sittings, Feilding and Marriott detected her cheating, just as she had done in America. Her deceptions were obvious. 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.
Marriott by means of a hidden thread. In the s the British medium Charles Albert Beare duped the Spiritualist organization the Temple of Light into believing he had genuine mediumship powers. In Beare published a confession in the newspaper Daily Express. In the confession he stated "I have deceived hundreds of people…. I have been guilty of fraud and deception in spiritualistic practices by pretending that I was controlled by a spirit guide…. I am frankly and whole-heartedly sorry that I have allowed myself to deceive people.
A bowl of hot paraffin was placed in the room and according to Kluski spirits dipped their limbs into the paraffin and then into a bath of water to materialize. Photographs of the molds were obtained during the four series of experiments and were published by Geley in Marriott had proven the spirit photographer William Hope was a fraud during tests at the British College of Psychic Science. Price wrote in his SPR report "William Hope has been found guilty of deliberately substituting his own plates for those of a sitter It implies that the medium brings to the sitting a duplicate slide and faked plates for fraudulent purposes.
He also discovered that her ectoplasm was made of muslin. Guzyk would use his elbows and legs to move objects around the room and touch the sitters. According to Max Dessoir the trick of Guzyk was to use his "foot for psychic touches and sounds". The psychical researchers Eric Dingwall and Harry Price re-published an anonymous work written by a former medium entitled Revelations of a Spirit Medium which exposed the tricks of mediumship and the fraudulent methods of producing "spirit hands". The Hungarian medium Ladislas Lasslo confessed that all of his spirit materializations were fraudulent in The spiritualists Arthur Conan Doyle and W.
Stead were duped into believing Julius and Agnes Zancig had genuine psychic powers. Both Doyle and Stead wrote that the Zancigs performed telepathy. In Julius and Agnes Zancig confessed that their mind reading act was a trick and published the secret code and all the details of the trick method they had used under the title of Our Secrets!!
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. Mina Crandon claimed to materialize a "spirit hand", but when examined by biologists the hand was discovered to be made from a piece of carved animal liver. The so-called secret information just doesn't exist.
She was suspected of swallowing cheesecloth which was then regurgitated as "ectoplasm". 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. Psychologists and researchers who studied Pearl Curran's automatic writings in the s came to the conclusion Patience Worth was a fictitious creation of Curran. The "spirit" thumbprint that Valiantine claimed belonged to Arthur Conan Doyle was revealed to be the print of his big toe on his right foot. It was also revealed that Valiantine made some of the prints with his elbow.
The medium Frank Decker was exposed as a fraud in Taylor presented a mail bag and Decker agreed to lock himself inside it. It was later discovered to have been a trick as Martin Sunshine, a magic dealer admitted that he sold Decker a trick mail bag, such as stage escapologists use, and had acted as the medium's confederate by pretending to be M.
Researcher Melvin Harris who examined some photographs of Red Cloud wrote the face was the same as Roberts and she had dressed up in a feathered war-bonnet. Pap was searched and was found to be wearing a device under his robe, where he had hidden the snake. He claimed that spirits had lifted him. Evans was later discovered to be a fraud as a cord leading from a device in his hand has indicated that it was himself who triggered the flash-photograph and that all he had done was jump from his chair into the air and pretend he had levitated.
According to the magician John Booth the stage mentalist David Devant managed to fool a number of people into believing he had genuine psychic ability who did not realize that his feats were magic tricks. George's Hall, London he performed a fake "clairvoyant" act where he would read a message sealed inside an envelope.
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The spiritualist Oliver Lodge who was present in the audience was duped by the trick and claimed that Devant had used psychic powers. In Devant in his book Secrets of My Magic revealed the trick method he had used. The physicist Kristian Birkeland exposed the fraud of the direct voice medium Etta Wriedt. When photographs taken of Reynolds were analyzed by researchers they discovered that Northage looked like Reynolds with a glued stage beard.
The magician Julien Proskauer revealed that the levitating trumpet of Jack Webber was a trick. Webber would cover the rod with crepe paper to disguise its real construction. In , 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.
The discovery was never published by Geley. Cornell wrote that a stomach rumble, nicotine smelling breath and a pulse gave it away that all the spirit figures were in fact Harris and that he had dressed up as each one behind the cabinet. He confessed to fraud in revealing the microphone and trick-apparatus that he had used. In , psychic investigator Andrija Puharich and Tom O'Neill, publisher of the Spiritualist magazine Psychic Observer , arranged to film two seances at Camp Chesterfield , Indiana using infrared film, intending to procure scientific proof of spirit materializations.
The medium was shown the camera beforehand, and was aware that she was being filmed. However, the film revealed obvious fraud on the part of the medium and her cabinet assistant. In the son of Bishop Pike committed suicide. 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.
Ronald Pearsall in his book Table-rappers: Keene detailed a multitude of common stage magic techniques utilized by mediums which are supposed to give an appearance of paranormal powers or supernatural involvement. After her death in the s the medium Doris Stokes was accused of fraud, by author and investigator Ian Wilson. Wilson stated that Mrs Stokes planted specific people in her audience and did prior research into her sitters.
The British journalist Ruth Brandon published the book The Spiritualists which exposed the fraud of the Victorian mediums. In , 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. 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.
Braude for ignoring evidence of fraud in mediumship. According to Grossman "[Braude] accuses sceptics of ignoring the evidence he believes is solid, but himself ignores evidence that does not suit him. If a medium was caught cheating on some occasions, he says, the rest of that medium's phenomena were still genuine. Wiseman discovered this trick was already mentioned in a book from , he also visited a carpenter and skilled magician who constructed a door within an hour with a false panel.
The skeptical investigator Brian Dunning wrote the Scole experiments fail in many ways. 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. Ray Hyman discovered many methodological errors with Schwartz's research including; "Inappropriate control comparisons", "Failure to use double-blind procedures", "Creating non-falsifiable outcomes by reinterpreting failures as successes" and "Failure to independently check on facts the sitters endorsed as true".
Hyman wrote "Even if the research program were not compromised by these defects, the claims being made would require replication by independent investigators. In , skeptic investigator Massimo Polidoro in his book Secrets of the Psychics documented the history of fraud in mediumship and spiritualistic practices as well as the psychology of psychic deception. 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.
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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. An experiment conducted by the British Psychological Society in suggests that under the controlled condition of the experiment, people who claimed to be professional mediums do not demonstrate the mediumistic ability. In the experiment, mediums were assigned to work the participants chosen to be "sitters.
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The research gather the numbers of the statements made and have the sitters rate the accuracy of the statements. The readings that were considered to be somewhat accurate by the sitters were very generalized, and the ones that were considered inaccurate were the ones that were very specific. On Fox News on the Geraldo at Large show, October 6, , Geraldo Rivera and other investigators accused Schwartz as a fraud as he had overstepped his position as a university researcher by requesting over three million dollars from a bereaved father who had lost his son.
Schwartz claimed to have contacted the spirit of a year-old man in the bathroom of his parents house and it is alleged he attempted to charge the family 3. Schwartz responded saying that the allegations were set up to destroy his science credibility. They told vulnerable clients that to solve their problems they had to give the purported psychics money and valuables.
Marks and family promised to return the cash and goods after "cleansing" them. Prosecutors established they had no intent to return the property. 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.
Michael Shermer criticized mediums in Scientific American , saying, "mediums are unethical and dangerous: As grief counselors know, death is best faced head-on as a part of life. According to James Randi , a skeptic who has debunked many claims of psychic ability and uncovered fraudulent practices,  mediums who do cold readings "fish, suggest possibilities, make educated guesses and give options. Most prominent psychics and mediums have not taken up his offer. The key role in mediumship of this sort is played by "effect of subjective confirmation" see Barnum effect — people are predisposed to consider reliable that information which though is casual coincidence or a guess, however it seems to them personally important and significant and answers their personal belief.
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". From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. United Kingdom United States World. Death and culture Parapsychology Scientific literacy. Search for the Soul.
Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. British Journal of Psychology. A phenomenon of physical mediumship in which living entities or inanimate objects are caused to take form, sometimes from ectoplasm. Retrieved 23 March Scientists and the Supernormal. Conan Doyle and the Spirits: Children of the New Age.
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Doreen Phillips, Vantage Press, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp. Indiana University Press, With an introduction by G. Cook, Medium and Pastor. Compiled and Written by Lloyd Kenyon Jones. Stead Memorial Center, The Machine in the Ghost: Spiritualism, Technology and the 'Direct Voice ' ". In Buse, Peter; Stott, Andrew. Retrieved 30 July Possession Power and the New Age: Ambiguities of Authority in Neoliberal Societies. When in a trance In the trance, the medium often enters a cataleptic state marked by extreme rigidity.
The control then takes over, the voice may change completely American Spirituality in an Anxious Age. Investigations on Receiving Information from Paranormal Sources. The couple who claim they can make you rich beyond your wildest dreams". University of Toronto Press. An Introduction to Parapsychology. How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age. The Psychology of the Psychic. Anomalistic Psychology Palgrave Insights in Psychology.
Sixty Years of Psychical Research. Trick', 'Manipulation' and 'Farce': Albert Moll's Critique of Occultism. Medical History 56 2: A Study of Magical Thinking. On the one hand, they personify the medium's hidden impulses and wish life. On the other, they are also shaped by the expectations of the medium's sitters, the medium's experience, the cultural background, and the spirit of the times. The full facts book of cold reading. The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience. Pseudoscience and Extraordinary Claims of the Paranormal: A Critical Thinker's Toolkit.
Belief in the paranormal and suggestion in the seance room. British Journal of Psychology, 94 3: Secrets of the Psychics: From Shaman to Scientist: Essays on Humanity's Search for Spirits. A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology. An Encyclopaedia of Occultism. The Founders of Psychical Research. Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, — Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena. Exposing the secrets of the prophet-eers who conduct our wickedest industry.
Inside the Medium's Cabinet. A Magician Among the Spirits. Sixty Years Of Psychical Research: A Popular History from Dodd, Mead and Company. Merrifield was present at one of the sittings. Home's usual phenomena were messages, the moving of objects presumably at a distance , and the playing of an accordion which he held with one hand under the shadow of the table.
But from an early date in America he had been accustomed occasionally to "materialise" hands as it was afterwards called.