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Communicating with the Dead (Original)

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Author Topic: Communicating with the Dead (Original)  (Read 4256 times)
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« Reply #180 on: January 19, 2008, 03:06:08 pm »

Sandra Taylor

Member # 2492

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   posted 07-17-2005 10:32 PM                       
Cheap Miracles

And now for the effects themselves. For one dollar you can purchase a simple slate-writing miracle (instructions only): 'Any ordinary single or double slate is examined, thoroughly washed, and either held by sitter or hung to chandelier for a few moments; when opened a message is found thereon.' Another slate-writing feat 'for close circles,' which will provide answers to 'questions asked by investigators,' cost only $1.50. For the same sum you can produce 'Instantaneous Spirit Writing,' the 'recent invention of a prominent English medium.' The modus operandi is that 'the medium asks for a visiting card of anyone present, and holds it up in full view in one hand, and while waving the card about slowly he asks for the name of any celebrity or person, living or dead. On same being pronounced, he at once hands card for inspection and the selected name is found written thereon.' Surely a cheap miracle for only $1.50. Other slate-writing phenomena, even more miraculous, are priced as high as $10.00 each.

The first requisite for a fake physical medium starting in business is, of course, the humble but useful reaching-rod. Mr. Sylvestre sells them: 'Telescopic Reaching Rod. A very useful article for mediums working in the dark. They go in pocket and extend from four to six feet ... will pick up or bring to you any ordinary small object, float a guitar, etc., $4.00.' The guitar mentioned is a self-playing one: 'Indispensable for mediums. Finely finished Guitars. In dark sťances they play without medium's hands touching them. Price $25.00.'

'Convincing' Spooks

No dark sťance is complete without a materialization or two. As Mr. Sylvestre himself says: 'For all materializing mediums, the production of luminous hands or faces is a sine qu‚ non for their success. We furnish you complete with explicit directions for the making and production of same, or furnish them complete and ready for use as desired. Also draperies, head-dresses, and ornaments of the finest quality known. $5.00 to $25.00.' For full-form apparitions the price is, of course, higher: 'Luminous Materialistic Ghosts and Forms. All kinds and sizes. Full luminous female form and dress (with face that convinces) which can be produced in ordinary room or circle, appears gradually, floats about room and disappears. $50.00.'

The mental medium is not forgotten. Mr. Sylvestre will supply 'Clairvoyant and Psychic Readings for Private Sittings.' The system is sold to billet-readers, 'under certain written conditions only,' and costs $25.00. The effect is described as follows: 'The sitter enters the medium's parlour and is seated anywhere. He is requested to write his questions on an ordinary piece of paper, and keep same in his possession, the medium is not necessarily present during the writings, yet he, in a few seconds, is in full knowledge of what was written, although he does not handle or touch the paper on which questions were written... We wish to impress upon you that in this there is nothing used that has been made use of in somewhat similar effects in times past.' I wonder! Mr. Sylvestre must have forgotten his classics, or he would have remembered that the famous impostor and false prophet Alexander the Paphlagonian, of Abonouteichos (the modern Ineboli) in Asia Minor, established an oracle of the snake-god Glycon-Asclepius and he, too, gave answers to sealed messages, but was not always successful(75). Alexander, who 'flourished' about A.D. 150, must surely have been the first fake billet-reader in history. Lucian the Satirist has left us an amusing and detailed record of his 'psychic' frauds, his 'intelligence bureau' in Rome, etc.

(75) Like the fake billet-reader of to-day, he used heated needles for surreptitiously removing seals from closed missives. (See Lucian's Alexander).

But to return to Gambols with the Ghosts. In Mr. Sylvestre's fascinating catalogue you will find details and prices of spirit jugs; trick ropes for binding mediums; 'matter through matter' effects; fire tests; fake padlocks, bolts, handcuffs, benches, shackles and staples; mechanical and self-rapping tables, chairs, bells, hands and skulls; fake spirit sacks, bags and trunks; rapping tests 'as used by D. D. Home'; mind-reading, clairvoyant, second sight and psychometry tests (one of the latter having been reduced from $100.00 to $25.00) and complete mesmeric and hypnotic shows, etc. Then of course there are the incidentals necessary to every good physical medium, such as luminous paint, spirit robes, pasteboard hands, rubber 'spirits,' etc. Finally, for the youngster just starting out in the world and wishing to make good, there is the 'Complete Spiritualistic Sťance,' which includes spirit slate-writing, table turning, rapping, and lifting, sealed letter reading, fire-resisting effects (such as handling heated lamp chimneys or holding handkerchiefs in a naked flame without burning) - all for $25.00, 'express charges prepaid' to any address. Now we know what to do with our sons!

My only comment on this precious catalogue is that although Mr. Sylvestre reveals no secrets, practically all the effects are explained in The Revelations of a Spirit Medium, published anonymously in 1891 and written by a medium (either Donovan, Charles F. Pidgeon, Frank N. Foster or J. V. Mansfield) who suddenly 'got religion' and 'blew the gaff' with a vengeance.

Mr. Mulholland became friendly with one of these mediums' outfitters, and was permitted to examine his books. Out Of 2,000 customers, he recognized the names of several famous American mediums. In his book, my friend also reproduces an advertisement giving the current prices of 'certificates of ordination' for mediums. One can become a 'reverend' for $10.00 a 'D.D' for $5.00 and a 'bishop' for five times that sum. These ordinations are cheap at the price, as under American law, the clergy can travel at special fares on the railroads.

The Only Remedy [top]

The only remedy for all the fraud, humbug, and deception exemplified in this chapter is to examine and register professional mediums and control their activities in some way. The curse of fraudulent mediumship can be met only by legislation. To this end I have designed a Bill(76), which I hope will some day reach the Statute Book. I have had the assistance of Mr. Gordon Alchin, the distinguished barrister, who has drafted the Bill for Parliament, where, in due course, it will be presented and sponsored by a well-known lawyer M.P. The Bill will have the effect of stimulating scientific investigation and will confer upon the genuine medium a cachet he could not otherwise obtain. Conversely, the professional fraudulent medium will find his nefarious trade both difficult and dangerous. It will also make spiritualism 'respectable' in the eyes of the public. If the Psychic Practitioners (Regulation) Bill ever becomes law, we shall hear much less of the seamy side of spiritualism.

(76) See Appendix C.


The article above was taken from Harry Price's "Fifty Years of Psychical Research" (1939, Longmans, Green & Co.)
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