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Communicating with the Dead (Original)

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Author Topic: Communicating with the Dead (Original)  (Read 2337 times)
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« Reply #165 on: January 18, 2008, 03:02:47 am »

Sandra Taylor

Member # 2492

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   posted 07-17-2005 09:58 PM                       
The Mechanics of Spiritualism

Photographing the Spirits | 'Materializing' Methods | The Regurgitation Theory | The 'Scientific American' Inquiry | Slate-writing 'Miracles' | Apports and Psychic Lights | Medium or the Rue Christine | Mediums' Confessions | The Beare Sensation | 'Gambols with the Ghosts' | Cheap Miracles | 'Convincing' Spooks | The Only Remedy

- Harry Price -

THE HISTORY of spiritualism is a history of fraud. From the days of Elizabeth Parsons and the Fox girls down to the latest newspaper 'exposure,' it is the same distressing story. It will be noticed that the various prosecutions, 'confessions,' and dark-sťance grabbings invariably concern physical mediums - seldom mental ones. If a mental medium (e.g. a clairvoyante) tells you that she 'sees' the spirit of your grandmother attired in a green dress with red spots, you cannot contradict her. But if this same medium professes to be able to materialize your grandmother, you can so arrange conditions that fraud would be impossible. Although it is very difficult to 'expose' a mental medium, one can sometimes check her sťance utterances, and prove if veridical or not; or if performing publicly, it can be ascertained if confederates are used.

Of course, some mediums are alternately fraudulent and genuine, and these people are difficult to test. Eusapia Palladino is the classic example. She warned observers that she would cheat if permitted to do so, and cheat she did. Her tricks were usually childish: long hairs attached to small objects in order to produce 'telekinetic movements'; the gradual substitution of one hand for two when being controlled by sitters; the production of 'phenomena' with a foot which had been surreptitiously removed from its shoe, and so on. Some of her tricks were so subtle that at the Cambridge tests in 1895 J. N. Maskelyne was called in to detect them. But with all her deceptions, Eusapia was often genuine and her tricks were of some psychological interest.

Even Florrie Cook, the beloved medium of Sir William Crookes, was finally caught pirouetting round the room in a white garment by Mr. W. VoIckman, who, at a sťance on December 9, 1873, seized the spirit 'Katie King' and found it was Florrie.(1) She was again exposed on January 9, 1880, by Sir George Sitwell, who also seized the 'spirit,' and found Florrie masquerading in her underclothes. More recently, in 1921, Miss Ada M. Bessinet, the American voice and physical medium, was investigated in London. Her spurious phenomena were alleged to have been produced 'subconsciously.'(2) Her 'spirit lights,' direct voice, and the 'paranormal' lashing of her body to the sťance chair by 'spirits,' did not impress Professor J. H. Hyslop, who tested her in 1909 and 1910.(3) He concluded that the medium's performance was fraudulent, to the extent that it was done in a state of dissociation or hysteria, for which she was not consciously responsible. One has to be a very experienced investigator to be able to discriminate between true and false manifestations. Some people can never tell the difference and that is why the 'Margery' thumb-print controversy(4) is still with us. In the same way, many people believe that the freeing of Rudi Schneider's arm(5) was an unconscious 'fraud,' and not a deliberate act.

(1) See The Medium and Daybreak, January 23, 1874.
(2) See Psychic Science, London, Vol. 1, Part 1, 1922.
(3) Proc., Am. SPR, Vol. V, New York, 1911
(4) See page 114, ante.
(5) See page 107, ante.

This question of 'subconscious fraud' is as perplexing as it is disturbing. Many observers declare that they do not know what is, or is not, psychic fraud. A medium may be normally honest, but subliminally fraudulent, and it is sometimes difficult to be certain that the psychic is cheating: the subconscious 'fraud' may be so like the conscious variety that we may be unable to tell the difference, though the fact remains that at least 99 per cent of all alleged psychic happenings are fraudulent. Of course, if there is evidence of previous preparation for fraud, the case is simplified. And in dealing with 'obvious charlatans,' one cannot always be certain. When Mesmer was hounded from country to country as an impostor and adventurer, his critics little realized that his 'animal magnetism' would be developed by medical science into the curative hypnotism of to-day. And Dr. Albert Abrams, whose 'magic box' was hailed as the 'greatest medical hoax in history' was acclaimed by high British medical authorities as the discoverer of a real phenomenon(6). The 'fraud' of to-day can easily be the orthodox science of to-morrow.

(6) See A Preliminary Communication Concerning the 'Electronic Reactions' of Abrams, by Sir Thomas Horder, London, 1925.

During the Meurig Morris action against the Daily Mail, Sir Oliver Lodge in the witness-box said, according to The Times report(7): 'I hear about fraudulent mediums, but I have not come across them.' Sir Oliver must have forgotten his sťance in 1931 with Mrs. Duncan, who was thoroughly exposed that same year.

(7) April 13, 1932.
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