Mysterian thinking
Randi's Prize

Eusapia Palladino online

Today I'm starting to fulfill a long-held ambition.

I've always thought that one reason for the confused and heated conversations we have about the existence or otherwise of psi phenomena is that some of us know the research and others don't. Sceptics can't see why the rest of us take it seriously, because they haven't read the sources that we're familiar with. Regular readers on Paranormalia have constantly complained about this - and with good reason.

This is one of the themes that runs through my book Randi's Prize, which with a bit of luck will be in the shops in September.   The title is slightly misleading, in that the book is not specifically about James Randi, or the Million Dollar Challenge - I'm just using it as a handy symbol of sceptical thinking. What I'm really trying to do is introduce the subject of psi research to people who know nothing about it, and convince them that, at the very least, there's something there that merits their attention. That involves looking closely at the counter-arguments of people like Randi, Hyman, Wiseman and Blackmore, who insist it doesn't.

My own conviction came through reading the primary sources. Years ago I was unemployed for quite a long spell, and spent much of it in the library of the Society for Psychical Research wading through the Journals and Proceedings, starting right back in 1882. Later the SPR commissioned me to write an abstracts catalogue of all 120 volumes, which gave me a very full understanding of just how much documented material there is in support of psi's existence.

I always thought that, at the very least, if the sceptics had read some of this stuff they would find it hard to talk about the subject in the casual way that they do. I don't mean it would change their minds, but it would mean their arguments would have to be more complex and convoluted. Of course that's a powerful motivation for them not to read it, as it makes their job harder.

These aren't the people I'm talking to, however. It's the people who hear them, and tend to take them seriously who I'm interested in reaching. In their different ways, the professional debunkers are very convincing - Randi forceful in his sarcasm (and admired by Dawkins, who has an enormous audience), Wiseman and Hyman persuasively reasonable. After all, disbelief is a natural default position in view of claims which seem incredible, both in absolute terms (dead humans materialising from ectoplasm) and in relative terms (the idea of surviving death in a scientific-secular society that views the brain as the sole origin of experience). 

And it's not enough just to argue. Randi's Prize mainly consists of arguments, but I know from my own experience that conviction comes gradually, from deep immersion in the research, to the point at which disbelief is overwhelmed and some new kind of accommodation has to be made. The research is referred to in the book, but only in a quite topline way, using examples to make points. I did toy with the idea of putting longer extracts in appendices, but this turned out to be impractical - the notes and bibliography already take up almost a quarter of the space.

Thankfully there's an obvious solution, and it's great that I'm writing at a time when the Internet has fully come of age, and is easily accessible to most people. I'm working on a companion site to the book, and my plan is for visitors to be able to download some of the research that has made such an impression on me. While I'm doing that, I thought I'd make some of it available here.

Here's the first: the Feilding Report on Eusapia Palladino, the famous series of eleven sittings carried out by three researchers on behalf of the Society for Psychical Research in Naples in 1908. As far as I know this has never been freely available before, in contrast to out-of-copyright books such as the SPR's Phantasms of the Living, Richet's Thirty Years of Psychical Research and Oliver Lodge's Raymond, which can be downloaded in various places. It's a Word file, and the scanning unfortunately introduced a lot of typos, so I've had to go through it to clean it up. I had to do it quickly - it's 90,000 words, so book-length - andI won't have got them all. But it's 99.95% accurate, which should do for general reading.

I'm tempted to pull some extracts out and discuss them, but there's no substitute just for browsing it.

What I will say is this: the report provides a detailed picture of three men - articulate, alert, highly intelligent and experienced in the dodgy medium business - shut up in a locked hotel room for hours at a time, on eleven different occasions, with a short, stout, middle-aged woman in long skirts, whom they have firmly controlled, and at times even tied up, watching all kinds of weird stuff happening: hands and faces appearing, the sensation of touches and grips on their arms, musical instruments playing themselves, tables and stools levitating, objects gliding around, raps sounding from the furniture. The disbelievers' position, by and large, has always been that this is explicable if we accept that Palladino got a hand or foot free here and there. My view is you have to read the report to see just how untenable this is.

Download Feilding Report (Palladino in Naples)


There's a handy biog of Eusapia Palladino here.






Comments

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Thanks Rob. I hadn't realised you'd had so much access to the original material.

I photocopied this years ago from the SPR library. Actually this comes courtesy of C-Far (http://www.c-far.org/) who created Lexscien, the online library of anomalies research, which I get access to with my SPR membership. I should have made that clear in the post, and of course will do so on the new website.

There are issues reproducing old research in this way. It's out of copyright, but obviously I'm not going to park all of the SPR's crown jewels online, especially using someone else's scanning. But I think a little exchange will work, with a few of the most interesting pieces made freely available, perhaps stimulating awareness and interest in the SPR and other organisations.

I used to have membership of the SPR but to be honest the publications were as dry as dust with very little of interest to me. It also struck me as somewhat disorganised. It is a shame really as they appear to have a great deal of information in their archives.

The Report was republished in the book "Sittings With Eusapia Palladino and Other Studies" in 1963 with an introduction by Eric Dingwall. It contains other interesting investigations of Feilding's in addition to the 1908 sittings.

that's useful to know, thanks

sounds like a book i will want to read! :)

archive.org has an enormous amount of literature on the subject of psychical research. Here's a relevant one:

http://www.archive.org/details/eusapiapalladino00carr

What I do, and recommend, is that interested readers download WinDJView - a viewer for .djvu files.

Then, you can download books from archive.org that are available in .djvu format for permanent storage.

Then, click the DJVU link on the relevant book. You'll get a lot of bumf in the address bar and if you delete these precise characters from the address: "/load_djvu_applet.php?file=" and then press Enter you'll be asked whether you'd like to save the file.

"the professional debunkers are very convincing - Randi forceful in his sarcasm (and admired by Dawkins, who has an enormous audience), Wiseman and Hyman persuasively reasonable. After all, disbelief is a natural default position in view of claims which seem incredible.."

Disbelief isn't the default position. What person doesn't really want us to have psionic powers and survive the death of our physical bodies? Isn't religion proof of the fact that most of us desire such things?
However skeptics do need extraordinary evidence of such things. Such is the way of modern scientifically minded folk. We're still in the realm of religious faith if we rely on unreplicatable anecdotes or sloppy research, or meta analyses.
I certainly hope that we do have psionic powers and do have some form of "soul". But the evidence for these ideas doesn't seem very reliable.

'What person doesn't really want us to have psionic powers and survive the death of our physical bodies? Isn't religion proof of the fact that most of us desire such things?'

The fact that so many people these days are agnostic, secular or atheist surely suggests the opposite is also true.

My reading of sceptic literature indicates that quite a few people are deeply perturbed by both ideas. There's a famous quote by James Alcock about the chaos that would ensue if people could read other people's minds. One of the big complaints about survival is that it would be an appalling vegetative existence. Nicolas Humphrey, in Soul Searching, says that religion, 'by blurring the distinction between life and death, destroying the grounding of one mind in one body,confusing the issues of personal responsibility, and undermining privacy, [it] would rob the world of the oxygen of individuality on which all things bright and beautiful – natural and cultural – have relied for their creative energy.'

I'm not even convinced that all religious people greatly desire life after death. Some Christians like Don Cupitt explicitly deny it happens, and there seems to be quite a bit of ambivalence about it among the Anglican clergy.

This is just great Robert. Much of the problem of course in controversial fields of science (and it arguably doesn't get more controversial than parapsychology and mediumship phenomena and the like) is that people arguing on both sides of any controversy often rely too much on secondary sources, and not the primary source material. So claims made from whatever viewpoint are merely repeated ad nauseum and take on an unquestionable authority of their own. Yet these claims/beliefs often rest on shaky foundations that are never questioned or examined too closely. When one looks at the actual primary source material, one's eyes and mind are opened afresh...

The late Brian Inglis who wrote some of the most definitive popular historical studies of mediumship and the like, actually made mention of the Fielding Report and came to the same conclusions that Robert has, that the disbelievers claims against Palladino on this front (which has taken on a 'case closed' aspect among the disbelievers) are untenable. Inglis remarked (in the pre-internet age) that the Fielding Report was there on SPR files, and researchers could examine the original report themselves if they could be bothered to make the effort.

Now of course, in the wonderful internet age, there is even less excuse for anybody so interested in these kinds of controversies - whatever side of the debate, to continue to repeat as holy writ often dubious secondary sources - as much of the primary source material is now made available on the web entirely legally.

Naturally don't expect the Randis, Wisemans and the Dawkinsbots of the world to take note. However this kind of wilful ignorance and denial only counts in favour of the genuineness of the phenomena under discussion, since the denial and wilful evasions and associated unscientific tactics are motivated (albeit largely unconsciously) by the pseudoskeptics' case being at bottom simply untenable.

Yes it would be good if the primary material was more widely known. I remember years ago John Beloff vainly trying to engage sceptics in debate about Eusapia Palladino ('What is your explanation' is the title of a piece in a sceptics anthology, I recall). But of course they paid him no attention, having nothing much to go on apart from quoted extracts. A two-way discussion (or confontation) based on the source material would have been much more interesting.

I was surprised at how difficult it is to get some sceptics (I say 'some' as I consider myself a sceptic but not a cynic - on this matter at least) to discuss the research done on the subject. I had a long discussion with Keith some time ago on this forum with an invitation to discuss, in this case, Lodge or Crookes research. This went nowhere.

I remember! I admired your persistence. Perhaps it might help to quote chunks of the primary sources like the Feilding Report, and then they'd have no excuse for not reading it.

LOL good point Rob.

I have now read this entire online article (196 pages), but I have to say that it doesn’t get off to a very good start, and it goes downhill from there.

In just the first few pages, Palladino is described as using trickery and deception in her performances, and the investigators’ first examination of her is set up so that she can perform in her usual manner (without any controls in place). As they say:

“…we preferred to adopt conditions to which the medium was used and in which therefore it was probable that effects would be produced, rather than impose others which might possibly impede the production of what we had gone to study.”

To be fair, they do also, in the text, say that this was at first because of time constraints. But they also talk about the fact that when controls were introduced later to reduce the possibility of fraud, Palladino’s alleged paranormal powers decreased accordingly. It seems that when she was in a good mood her psychic powers flowed easily, but when she was in a bad mood her powers declined. And it just so happens that her bad moods coincided with controls being in place, and her good moods (and her psychic demonstrations) coincided with the times when the controls were lax or non-existent.

This is also the theme at the survivalafterdeath link. One of their quotes:

"Many are the crafty tricks she plays, both in the state of trance (unconsciously) and out of it - for example, freeing one of her two hands, held by the controllers, for the sake of moving objects near her; making touches; slowly lifting the legs of the table by means of one of her knees and one of her feet, and feigning to adjust her hair and then slyly pulling out one hair and putting it over the little balance tray of a letter-weigher in order to lower it. She was seen by Faifofer, before her séances, furtively gathering flowers in a garden, that she might feign them to be 'apports' by availing herself of the shrouding dark of the room."

And this seems to be typical of her whole “career” as a medium. Time after time her deceptions were uncovered, but the simple answer was to ignore all of that, and just look at the times when she was able to produce “psychic phenomena” – ideally without any controls in place, and declare her to be the real deal!

The same story is apparent anywhere else you care to look (Wikipedia has a good article).

By analogy, imagine the Chairman of a multi-national company addressing the annual shareholders’ meeting: “At this point I would like to give special thanks to the company treasurer. Over the last ten years he has only been caught a couple of dozen times embezzling millions of pounds from the company into his private bank account, but I’m sure you will agree that we can ignore those occasions. The only times he has been caught fiddling the accounts is when those awful (sceptical) independent auditors have caught him with his hand in the till. The rest of the time, no one has been able to catch him out, so it is obvious that only closed-minded nay-sayers think our treasurer is a crook. I always thought that, at the very least, if the sceptics had read the annual accounts they would find it hard to talk about the subject in the casual way that they do. I don't mean it would change their minds, but it would mean their arguments would have to be more complex and convoluted. Of course that's a powerful motivation for them not to read it, as it makes their job harder.”

I wonder how many promoters of the paranormal on this blog have an accountant or employee, perhaps, who regularly steals from them, but assume he is OK because he is not caught every time? It’s certainly true that every time psychics are caught out, their supporters not only ignore it, but also come flying to their defence when a sceptic points out the obvious. The only mystery here is not how psychics do it, but how they continue to get away with it.

Can anyone here explain to me why it is that a “psychic medium” who is caught cheating can be declared genuine? In reality, the company treasurer in my example above would have been arrested, prosecuted, jailed and never again trusted in a position of responsibility. Why are psychics given a free pass when they are caught cheating?

I applaud the researchers’ apparent honesty in their reportage, but it seems incredible that Palladino was not denounced the first time she was caught cheating. And it is even more incredible that this report is being offered as any kind of proof of the paranormal, given the fact that fraud was a recurring theme in her séances. I don’t think people are sceptical due to not having read the primary sources; they are more likely to be sceptical because they have.

The Feilding Report could have been summarised as follows:

“We found the medium time after time after time resorting to, or attempting, all manner of fraudulent techniques during all of the séances. There were some effects, however, that we could not explain, so we assume that the effects we could not explain were the real thing.”

The investigators concluded that Palladino was a genuine medium; Palladino must have concluded that the investigators were mugs.

I think it depends on the circumstances in which the medium is thought to have performed genuinely. Either the phenomena are produced through mediumship in a particular situation or they are not. Previous fraud is only relevant if we are being asked to trust the medium herself on the basis of past performance, or if the possibility for fraud has not been excluded or at least accounted for.In this case the investigators knew that the medium had deceived in the past and were forewarned. Yet still they investigated her...I wonder why? Perhaps they were as dumb as you imply but I would not be so quick to reach that judgement.

Suggesting that because a person has been caught out acting fraudulently means that everything they do after is fraudulent is illogical.

What you seem to be saying Harley is a little like suggesting that because a person is accused of a particular robbery, they must be guilty because they have been convicted in the past of the same type of offence. We must judge each instance on the facts.

We are not asked to trust the medium but the perceptions and rigour of the investigators. You were not there to assess what the investigators saw and so cannot determine whether their conclusions were reasonable or not other than through their report.

I would not fault a person for discounting Palladino and refusing to investigate her. I should think it would be more difficult to investigate a person already known to fabricate evidence however in this instance the people investigating were interested in the phenomena and not the character of the medium. The fact that they knew from the outset she would attempt fraud would, I think, have made them more alert to the possibility and on guard for it.

Why did they bother? Perhaps because such phenomena are so rare, they had little choice but to investigate even though the material they were working with seems so poor.

Paul – I am not suggesting at all that (to use your analogy) a person who is accused of robbery (or anything else, including claims of paranormal powers) should be automatically found guilty just because they have done the same thing before. We would both agree, I’m sure, that at least in the case of the alleged robber, the evidence would have to stand on its own merits in a law court.

Then again, when a crime is committed, the police do tend to round up “the usual suspects.” And for good reason – the people who commit those crimes tend to do it over and over again. Perhaps you have noticed in your local newspaper the same as I have noticed in mine – the same people appear time and time again, convicted of crimes they repeat over and over. Even now, I see the same names appear as regularly as they have for nearly forty years. And every time they appear in court they “express remorse,” etc., ad nauseam. But they carry on as before. And in the meantime, younger criminals are coming on the scene as the older ones retire or die off. The story never changes. I don’t doubt that when they are not committing crimes, the same people love their family and are kind to animals. But would you trust someone who has a lengthy track record of dishonesty? You’ve said before that your interest is in “survival.” If you were to employ the services of a medium to contact a deceased loved one, would you trust someone who “appears” to have psychic powers “some of the time”?

The point is this: when someone is repeatedly caught out in a matter of dishonesty, you would be a fool to trust him or her. If you want to put a bank robber in a bank with “controls” put in place to prevent him from robbing it (cameras, armed police watching his every move and so on) I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he wasn’t able to do it.

Of course I wasn’t there to assess what the investigators saw. You weren’t there either. What I can say is that I have read the whole report that Robert put online. Have you? I can’t be accused of criticising without having read the “original source material.” If you have read it, then we can argue through it point by point.

The report still comes down to this: Palladino was well known as a “medium” who cheated, and this was clear for decades as she was caught out repeatedly. The investigators in the Feilding Report knew this, and caught her out as a matter of routine. But they assumed that the times they had what they thought were proper controls in place, Palladino was producing genuine paranormal phenomena.

If you have read the report, you will be aware that although they were holding Palladino’s hands, ankles, and all the rest of it, there were times when other people were present in these séances. Some of those people were Palladino’s personal friends, but while the investigators’ hands were holding Palladino’s, they weren’t holding the hands and feet of others who were present. The opportunities for trickery were abundant, (especially in total darkness) but the investigators focused on Palladino, oblivious to the fact that the trickery could have been coming from another direction.

If a psychic medium has the powers he or she claims to have, there is no reason whatsoever for them to resort to trickery.

Hi Harley

I haven't read the report. However the points I made are general principles, not about the specifics of the report.

We are not being asked to trust Palldino as you imply in para 2. I did mention this. So her record is irrelevant for the reasons I mentioned. The presence or absence of adequate controls is however very relevant as you mention and I think it is better to concentrate on those.

Why would a person sometimes commit and fraud and sometimes not? There could be a number of reasons a) they always commit fraud b) their ability is not consistent or under their control and they know this however they feel the need to 'supplement' their performance through fraud. These are two that spring immediately to mind.

Assuming mediumship exists at all, it is already thought to be susceptible to interference from a number of sources from weather to mood, and a number of other causes between.

I do not see why a person who has a skill such as clairvoyance or any related skill (assuming they exist) has, as a consequence, to be a paragon of virtue or even a nice or honest person. Any more than a musician or an engineer.

The points you make about the actual execution of the test are a reasonable challenge to the validity of the controls during the tests. I will read the report at some point (it looks like a long one!). On the face of it, from your comments, it does look like the controls were lax which would make the whole exercise somewhat pointless.

I have no desire to 'argue the report point by point' as at this juncture I don't have a view on Palladino's 'skills'. If I spot a flaw in your view I am happy to discuss it. I am sure others have read the report and will respond in time.

Quick little comment. One I agree with Harley, first for everything. A cheat is a cheat. I don't care if she had genuine talent or not if she cheated she cheated and everything is suspect. That is the way of things. For example Barry Bonds is finding out the hard way your accomplishment doesn't mean squat if people question the idea you did it honestly.

However I have to say I think is highly unlikely it would not have occurred to researchers to investigate her colleagues when they investigated her. I mean how likely is that,....

Why cheat if she is genuine. Powers were off an on, spice up the show, who knows but in the end she wasn't honest so she is suspect at best.

If she is a fraud her reasons for cheating well are obvious.

I don't think anyone is disputing the fact that she cheated are they Kris?

What do you mean by 'her colleagues'?

This is what Harley said

Some of those people were Palladino’s personal friends, but while the investigators’ hands were holding Palladino’s, they weren’t holding the hands and feet of others who were present. The opportunities for trickery were abundant, (especially in total darkness) but the investigators focused on Palladino, oblivious to the fact that the trickery could have been coming from another direction.

I have not read the report but I have to say even if this is true I have a hard time believing the investigators would be skeptical enough to investigate Palladino but not once think to check her colleagues. How likely is that?

Lets say she was an honest medium. How do we know if what she reported is true, after all we know she is dishonest?

Paul we cannot defend cheats, if they have talent or not.

I am not defending anyone. She certainly wasn't honest and the investigators knew that. I am more interested in the investigators than her to be honest as I believe they were reputable - not that their reputation makes them impervious to deception.

I think it would be better for us both to read the report before commenting on it rather than simply accepting Harley's report of the contents (no disrespect to Harley intended).

I merely make the point that one can choose to reject all evidence produced by someone found to have committed fraud, or consider that some of it may be genuine depending on how it was gathered. If one chooses to reject everything once a single fraud is discovered, that is one's choice. I don't think it is necessary though.

Personally I am not interested in Palladino particularly because of the muddied waters and the difficulty in uncovering what was and was not genuine (if anything).

Paul – you say, “Assuming mediumship exists at all, it is already thought to be susceptible to interference from a number of sources from weather to mood, and a number of other causes between.”

The problem here is that not only is there no conclusive proof that any paranormal phenomena exist, there is even less proof that such alleged interferences are a valid reason for the non-production of the paranormal. Unless it can be demonstrated that a particular phenomenon is causing the failure of a paranormal demonstration, then such speculation sounds like weak excuses. If your car fails to start, after all, there might be a number of possible reasons for its failure, but they can all be objectively tested and eliminated until the cause is found and the car repaired. In the same way that I would ask a psychic to prove their claims, I would also expect them to objectively prove that they failed because of a particular excuse they might offer. If you want to claim that a psychic failed for reason X, Y or Z, I feel entitled to ask for evidence of that (at the very least) in lieu of a paranormal demonstration.

You might be interested in this article:

http://www.prairieghosts.com/palladino.html

It is very interesting, and includes information about tests of Palladino carried out in Cambridge, England in 1895, and which included Sir Oliver Lodge. The report of that experiment was never published (the whole thing was regarded as a “disaster”), but of the eminent people present, only Lodge believed that Palladino was for real. Other famous names, including Myers and Sidgwick thought it was pretty much a farce and concluded that Palladino was an outright fraud.

Here’s the rub: famous names are always thrown at me on this blog (an appeal to authority, which does not move me, as you know) but always without any links to specific research. Here, however, are some of those authorities disagreeing with each other. Are there any criteria you could suggest that would decide which particular authority should be believed?

I agree with you that if anyone has a specific ability of any kind, it is not a necessary condition that they have to have any other specific characteristics – honesty, integrity, or even just being a nice person. Some of the greatest achievers in history were, apart from their particular achievements, not very nice people at all.

The bottom line for me is this: if someone claims to have a paranormal ability, it is reasonable to expect that person to be able to deliver what they claim. There is a difference between a psychic saying “I’m getting the letter J...” and a psychic giving specific information. (The latter have not presented themselves yet, however) If they have to give a reason for failure, then I expect to be able to test that too.

In the real world, however, if I paid money to see a concert pianist, I expect him or her to play their piano, not “finger-mime” to a tape recording. If they don’t perform, I would want my money back, and I would have no qualms about calling them a fraud, whatever excuses others might make on their behalf.

Regarding Kris’s comment, the investigators made no mention of securing the movements of anyone else who was present at the séances. Their focus was on Palladino, presumably because they were expecting trickery from her, but still not allowing for the possibility that the tricks could have come from elsewhere. You would have to read the report to understand some of the other things that were happening. When the investigators reported, for instance, feeling what “appeared to be” the materialisation of a real human hand (in total darkness), well...

In this case I will pass from reading the report. She was dishonest, everything even the possible paranormal she produced is suspect.

As for the claims psychics have not produced specific info all I can say is police agencies might disagree. But that is another conversation for another time.

Hi Harley

I certainly have not seen conclusive proof of any paranormal phenomena. I haven't personally even seen persuasive evidence of it. That doesn't of course mean that no-one else has either.

Whether the reasons given for non-performance are genuine in some circumstances, or not, I do not know. I remain open-minded. I agree it would look like a weak explanation to those who take a view that the phenomena do not exist. For others, such as myself, I say I simply do not know whether the explanation is correct or not.

As far as references to authority, Lodge was, and is a scientific authority in his field. He is (or was depending on your view) also a human being capable of error and of being misrepresented. He is also no longer able to defend himself. I would not believe that we survive physical death based on the opinion of a stranger, let alone a dead one. I do think his writings provide evidence.

In the past I sought a discussion based on his writings, to no avail.

As far as people producing what they claim 'on demand' that depends on the nature of the 'goods' and the conditions necessary to produce them. It seems to me that even if mediums can produce these phenomena, for which there is a good deal of evidence, the mediums often do not understand how it works though they often say they do.

Again you are referring to the report. I have said several times now that my reply was not based on the report because I have not read it and, as I said last time, have no particular interest in Palladino. I also agreed that she clearly acted fraudulently at times and that I could understand why a person would not bother to look further.

I agree that one should claim one's money back if the medium does not deliver evidence (provided that it was a reasonable expectation - ie not in a theatre full of people one does not know).

I get the impression that you see me as some kind of apologist for Palladino. I am not. I am simply offering an alternative view. As you quite rightly point out, neither of us know the truth of the matter. Accepting Palladino as an example of good evidence is, in my view as illogical as dismissing out of hand the evidence collected simply because she was found in fraud in particular circumstances. Such dismissal is not a necessary logical consequence but it is not an unreasonable one.

Paul – I’m not sure what to say next. Robert threw out the challenge to sceptics to read an original source, claiming that sceptics don’t read original paranormal research, with that being the reason that they don’t believe in it.

As it happens, I have read a lot about the paranormal research that many researchers have done in the past. It’s a vast area, of course, and I suppose there will be only certain areas of overlap – not all of us will have read everything that the others have. Nevertheless, I took up the challenge in this particular instance, and have even followed up by searching for any other information I could get about Palladino (I provided a link earlier).

What I’m facing now, however, is a switch from paranormal supporters saying to me, “You haven’t read the research,” to now “I haven’t read the research either.”

I don’t blame you, in a way. The Feilding Report is lengthy, turgid and repetitive. One only needs to get a few pages into it to realise that it is going to be hard work to get through it all.

Let me try to summarise it as fairly as I can:

The researchers found that Palladino could produce apparent paranormal phenomena with ease when no controls were in place. As controls were introduced, the phenomena appeared less often, and the researchers still easily found Palladino cheating. Even when controls were tightened further, she was still cheating or attempting to cheat. When the researchers thought they had tightened the controls to the point where cheating was impossible, they missed crucial details. For example, they followed her instructions throughout. If she wanted the lighting levels raised or lowered or extinguished, they complied. If she wanted people to change their positions at the table, they complied. If she wanted items set up in a certain way, they complied. In other words, Palladino was in control throughout, which negates the idea that the researchers had controlled for all possibilities.

Given the fact that only a small percentage of the apparent phenomena could “not be explained by normal means” it does not mean that everything was controlled for and the phenomena genuine. Even when she was held/restrained, she was issuing instructions that the others were following, and when she was unable to perform, she would fly into a rage. I expect that if there had been a nineteenth century equivalent of the Randi Challenge, the researchers would be crying “foul” then, as most are today.

Anyway, I don’t think there’s anything else I can say if no one else here has read the report. The only thing I would ask is that if anyone wants to make a point about psychical research, please don’t just throw famous names at me – provide a link to specific research you have actually read, and explain why you think that particular research proves your point.

Harley

There probably is little more to say unless someone wants to defend Palladino and the report. I don't.

I don't say your observation on the report is unfair. I do say you are biased though. This isn't a problem for me at all as I supposed we are all biased in ways sometimes unknown to us.

Just because you pick a piece of research to review which others are not interested in, and which, coincidentally doesn't (taking your case at its highest) really count as good evidence, isn't a basis for saying those interested in phenomena aren't prepared to engage. You have had numerous opportunities to engage in meaningful debate on the subject (not Palladino obviously)on this forum in the past.

I didn't post the article and have no interest in Palladino. If the report is as you say there is little value in reading it in any case.

I suggested discussing the work of Lodge a long while ago and many times and you did not want to read it or engage. That's fine but it doesn't give much basis for a debate.

Complaining because no-one will engage you on a report you have chosen because it is a) easy to access and b) doesn't appear to stand up, doesn't really sound like you want an informed discussion on phenomena to me.


Posted instead or previewed. Never mind it's close enough.

Harley, all your concerns you have raised were discussed by Carrington himself, if you really have read his books (he has published at least three books, where his investigations with Palladini were intensively discussed). A lot SPR manuscripts are further strengthen his discussion. For example the theory of helping hands from Palladino´s friends never fits, because a lot of sitting were held in Morsellie´s psychiatric clinic and in further total foreign institutions. Carrington and Fieling were conjurers and wanted to show the acadmic society that Palladino was a pure charlatan. Both had absolute knowledge of cheating. I have a book from Carrington, where he only has described the fraudulent techniques, which he has detected during his investigations with mediums. There is much more to say, all your concerns are discussed over several decades again and again. Even the the ultra-sceptic Digwall has stated that some of her phenomena can not se easily explained in relation to the conditions. I recommend to you to write an email to Prof Stephen Braude about your concerns. He is one of the best professional about Palladino. For a short introduction about her, here is a link with an ectract from one of his books ("The limits of Influence"):http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/exam/Braude_Wiseman.htm.
BTW you have read total of the Fielding report. Regarding me, it took me about 12 months time in order to go deeply into detail, and I am sure not have everything about it in my mind now. And further two years in order to read and understand Carrington´s discussion, and I can say that I have a valid academic background.... Fanny Moser is also woth to read.

Sweet Article here

http://lifestyle.msn.com/your-life/just-dreaming/article.aspx?cp-documentid=24690540

Paul – I did not, as you say, “…pick a piece of research to review which others are not interested in.”

Robert himself posted the Feilding Report – it was the purpose of the post, his point being, as he said, “The disbelievers' position, by and large, has always been that this is explicable if we accept that Palladino got a hand or foot free here and there. My view is you have to read the report to see just how untenable this is.”

You must be well aware that others posting here have often expressed their (mistaken) belief that I do not bother to read paranormal research, hence I have often been accused of being a “pseudoskeptic.” It was for that reason I specifically read the report, highlighted areas of interest and spent time making notes throughout. I expected that others here would either be familiar with the report already, or would take the trouble to read it.

Not so, apparently. You’re accusing me of “picking” a piece of research “that no one is interested in”? That is unfair and misleading. Robert posted the report for believers and sceptics alike to ponder. Far from it being the case that sceptics don’t read the primary sources, it seems so far that we are the only ones who do. I prepared my annotated copy of the Feilding Report and a list of sources and links to support my contention that the report does not provide convincing evidence of the paranormal claims of Eusapia Palladino. It just happens that I wasted my time. Although no one else is interested, I didn’t know that - I actually expected people to reply to me, armed with their own interpretation of the report.

I imagine Robert might be feeling just a little bit embarrassed that his claim that sceptics don’t read the research is proven false, and that the people he would normally expect to read it and support his views are nowhere to be seen.

I have to say I take exception to your final paragraph: “Complaining because no-one will engage you on a report you have chosen because it is a) easy to access and b) doesn't appear to stand up, doesn't really sound like you want an informed discussion on phenomena to me.”

Again, I did not choose the report. The fact that it is easy to access is a good thing, surely – but I can hardly be faulted if everyone else CHOOSES NOT to read it. And no, it doesn’t appear to stand up, but at least I’ve read it and seem to be the only one here who COULD have a discussion that is “informed.”

As far as Lodge, etc, are concerned, I have no problem discussing their work. But I’ll say again, when people here throw famous names about like confetti, but with no references or links, or even a hint at what they are trying to prove, what is a person supposed to do? You seem unhappy that the Feilding report has “easy access” but if you want to talk about Lodge or anyone else without letting me know what particular research you are referring to or how I can access it, please don’t criticise me for not being able to engage you in the subject. I can’t read minds, after all – just like all psychics.

Joki – the Feilding report itself is not coy about admitting the fact that Palladino cheated. There are also many other sources that list her fraudulent activities. Even many of the pro-paranormal sources have denounced her as a complete fraud. Have you had a look at the bio link that Robert provided?

No one is disputing the fact that she cheated at every opportunity. The fact that researchers could not work out how she was cheating when they thought they were guarding against it, does not suggest that this known fraud could be trusted anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances. They could not know for certain that their safeguards were enough. All they could say for sure was that Palladino cheated every time she could. Examples of her paranormal powers should be regarded as suspect at best; but really she should not be held up as an example of good mediumship.

The Feilding Report merely exemplifies what many sceptics have known for a long time, namely that there is absolutely nothing fraudulent done by psychics that cannot be ignored or glossed over by their supporters.

Your link to the Braude article led me to a “404 error” message, but I still managed to track it down eventually. Unfortunately, it is on the preposterous Skeptical Investigations website. Braude’s article reads like apologetics, and naturally there are no links (even in this age of the internet) to the Wiseman article he is criticising, so I am not in a position to say much about it. (You have to buy his book if you want to get the full references to what he is talking about, but I’m not going to do that.) No doubt the believers will be happy enough to just nod sagely to each other – I don’t suppose they’ll read that, either.

What I can say about his article, though, is this: the article begins with these words: “The case of Eusapia Palladino is a classic example of psychokinesis by a medium. Eusapia's powers were investigated and found genuine by Sir Oliver Lodge in 1895.”

That must be the same 1895 Cambridge experiment I have already referred to earlier (check the link I gave). As I pointed out, the whole thing was regarded as a disaster, and Lodge was the only one out of those present who believed Palladino was genuine. The others concluded she was a complete fraud. Braude must have just forgotten to include the fact that everyone else disagreed with Lodge. Still, plenty of others don’t worry about inconvenient facts either.

If you want to hang on to a proven fraud, fine. In the meantime, if there is to be a discussion about the Feilding Report, why don’t we stick to the report itself, rather than what others have said about it? The question is, does it stand on its own merits as proof of the psychic powers of Eusapia Palladino?

short of the fact skeptical investigations disagrees with your prejudices, what is your overall problem with it Harley

Harley

Whether you deliberately choose to misinterpret comments or not I don't know.

You complained nobody wanted to discuss this report as though there was some obligation to do that. There wasn't, unless, as with Joki, someone had an interest, the rest of the readers and posters didn't. So what?

Those who care about the report will engage you in discussion about the content. I objected to your premise that it necessarily meant all the reported phenomena were false. A premise that was patently illogical.

In the case of Lodge I recommended the "Raymond" book. A long while back as an example. It is online as well. Now the difference is this.. whilst I agree there are fraudulent mediums and that Palladino may have been one, you were not prepared to read material and discuss evidence for the existence of genuine mediumship and engage in a meaningful conversation. Now you have found an example of fraudulent mediumship that you can read from your armchair, you're all over it. I am sure you can see the difference.

No one is faulting you for having an opinion on the report - once again you raise accusations that no-one has levelled at you. This is a very curious strategy. Why do you do this?

Of course I don't have a problem that the Fielding report is easy to access. What a preposterous suggestion.

Of course sceptics read material that opposes their views. I consider myself to be sceptical, but not cynical.

What I pointed out (and this is my final comment because frankly you seem to have some kind of mental block on the matter), is an alternative view of the Palladino report, and the fact that to be found fraudulent in one (or several) instances does not mean that investigators who found some evidence of genuine phenomena were wrong.

You say to Joki that Palldino could not be trusted. The investigators knew that. How many times does the point have to be made?

I actually think you get a good hearing on hear Harley and people do listen to the points you make and respond to them. It is a shame that you seem to have some urge to pose as a martyr when you don't get the answers you want or ignore the points made by others when it suits you.

You also appear to believe that you are talking to an audience of confirmed believers in the phenomena. You are not. I do wonder why on earth you bother.

Apologizes, for what.
The problem of this way of sceptical thinking is that the possibility to fraud could be raised in every part of science. Because fraud is always possible. Regarding this possibility that this would lead to a form of nihilism in science. BTW I would say much more scientific article (esp in bioscience) are PARTLY hoaxed than we think. But would not say that it means that every fact is a fake.
Further we have to differentiate between the fact that Palladino was caught she cheating and the possibility that she has really cheated. Regarding the the Lodge incident Braude has nicely shown that did NOT cheat there. Please again and again you have to carefully read all details (which I am doubting). And as Braude always states and btw a lot of other investigators from the history take the best cases, whére Palladino was investigated under brillant conditions like excellend light. As I discussed the possibility of cheating does not mean that she always cheated. Carrington (if you have read his books) has intensively discussed this that Palladino tended to cheat when she was under emotional pressure (btw she always requested from the investigators to be careful of her when sh was in trance). BTW Braude has Further shwon that there were in history more medium who were excellently controlled and who produced similar phenomena strengethening Palladino´s phenomena). At the end it is waste of time to go on with this discussion. I think everything is said over the century. It is like everything about science: Believe or leave it. If you Carrington´s work and the hard discussion about here (An american profi conjurer also stated that her phenomena were at least partly real) that we have to conclude that produced genuine psychic phenomena (like D D Home or Slade).
Read Braude´s book and try to explain him why the best cases (what is we have to show in every field of science) were hoaxed. But to argue that the possibility of hoaxing is a reason to dismiss all phenomena means that we can quit every part of science, because it is always possible.

One more point: In the Fielding report as well in others there were several passages, where both hands were holded as well both feet (by at least three investigators) and Fiedling was sitting in front of them. Touches were witnessed, hand were seen, LARGE objects like a table was moved or even levitated. This happened in secured rooms or institutions of the investigators (like in Morselli´s labaratory). To conclude that someone else has faked all this, is absolutely absurd. Someone had to be hidden in all these different accomodations and the all of them had to close their eyes. If we take a look at the photos from all these investigations I think it is clear that this would have been seen. An accompliance is obviously a possibility, which can be raised, but I would doubt that it would happen kind of lab research. Someone, who is going into a lab in order to prepare a computer or replace probes is a possibilty of hoaxing results.

Ok I have actually started reading this report. No way can one person do all this. How could a table be levitated two feet off the ground in full light? That happened on the 11th seance on pg 15.

I'm new to all this, but having read through the document, one thing that strikes me is a very real weakness of evidence collected under circumstances dictated in large part by the subject of the research. When the subject's demands were met, the results were favourable for the subject's claims. This is a recipe for deceit.

Despite the huge amount of cheating by the subject, I'm surprised that the investigators were so trusting and accommodating, and actually seemed to become more rather than less trusting over the course of events, culminating in a summary in which objectivity has been abandoned.

I'm afraid there's little value we take from this document other than as a historical curiosity to add food for thought, but certainly not as reliable evidence of paranormal abilities.

Paul – if I am misinterpreting comments it is not deliberate. But I have not, anywhere, claimed that all alleged psychic phenomena are faked just because some have been shown to be so. Perhaps you are misinterpreting my own comments. My contention is that if a psychic is real, he or she has no excuse for resorting to trickery. If they say they cheat only to please their sitters when the “energy is weak” or some such excuse, then they are being dishonest even then. I don’t see how that attitude can be justified, or why anyone other than a credulous believer would go along with it.

Of course there is no obligation on anyone to discuss the report. It did seem, however, an ideal opportunity to discuss the alleged phenomena, given the fact that Robert had presented it for all to see, and everyone would be on an equal footing. Yes, I could read it from my armchair, but so too could anyone else if they wanted to. No one is interested, as you say. So what, indeed.

I was not saying that all of Palladino’s alleged phenomena were false just because some were. That could not be proven with deductive logic, but inductive logic leads one to the conclusion that it is more likely that Palladino was a fraud who fooled well-meaning investigators who simply did not uncover all of her tricks.

In logic, I am aware of the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions if one wants to use formal logic in the form of modus ponens or modus tollens; but inductive logic is the form that would have to be applied in this context, which leads only to a tentative conclusion on the basis of what is the most likely scenario, given the available facts. (And I don’t believe for a moment you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

I’ll probably look for the “Raymond” book if it is online as you say, but I notice that you did not provide a link. Few people here ever do. All I can say is that you will have noticed in the past that when I make a relevant point, I do provide links to make it easier for others to see why I make those points. OK, you’ve given a reference of sorts, but without a link, you make it harder for me to follow up.

You say there are fraudulent mediums? How do you know? What evidence do you consider acceptable to declare a psychic a fraud? You think I have a “mental block on the matter,” and say, “the fact that to be found fraudulent in one (or several) instances does not mean that investigators who found some evidence of genuine phenomena were wrong.”

It doesn’t mean they were right, either.

If you have a reliable method for separating the frauds from the real psychics, I am keen for you to tell me about it, but I am not holding my breath. Those who believe in the paranormal cannot provide proof it is true, and even though they are embarrassed by the fact – for a fact it is - that there are innumerable examples of fraud, they also cannot show us how to separate the frauds from the real psychics.

Some researchers claim to have proven that the paranormal is real. They should also be able to prove that those who are not real psychics are not, in fact, real. Why don’t they? In fact they are as weak at proving the existence of the paranormal as they are at proving that any of its practitioners are not the real thing. It’s as simple as that. Hence Palladino is accepted as real despite the fact that she was cheating. And I am sure that if she were alive today, most of the commenters here would be crying “foul” if she could not get her hands on Randi’s million dollars.

I did indeed say to joki that Palladino could not be trusted. And of course the investigators knew that. But they seem to have ignored that fact and looked only to confirm their personal belief that psychism is true. It’s easy to find evidence to support a belief, and just so easy to ignore or dismiss evidence against it. And that is what people do when they are motivated by belief, which, for the majority of people, always overrides logic.

Am I talking to an audience of confirmed believers? Mostly, I think, yes. I’ve thrusted and parried, as it were, with many of them, and been belittled and abused by some who cannot justify their beliefs in any meaningful way.

But why do I bother? I’ll tell you why I bother. I bother because I care. I bother because I see people I know being bilked by charlatans. I bother because I see a friend of mine running up thousands of pounds of debt in personal loans and credit card bills because she is so desperate to contact her father who died suddenly. I see a woman who goes from one psychic to the next, and whose grief cannot be subdued by the platitudes of cold reading frauds – frauds who churn out the usual “He’s fine and he wants you to know he loves you” nonsense. I assume that they, like Palladino, produce their finest psychic performances when they are not restrained in any way. (Disclaimer: For entertainment only; no refunds)

As you quite rightly point out, I can’t prove it false. But I also cannot find compelling evidence that any psychic claim is true, either. We don’t know each other personally, but if I claimed to be psychic and declared your surname here, would you believe me to be psychic? Would the fact that I might list scores or even hundreds of names before I hit the right one make you believe in my psychic powers? By the reasoning of the report, all of the misses can be disregarded, and if you count only the hits, then I can be declared to be the real deal.

(By the way, I would have replied earlier but I have been distracted by a family bereavement. My father died, but to be honest, he was an evil man who will not be sending any “messages” from “the other side” unless anyone knows a psychic who has a hotline to Hell, and can prove it.)

Harley - here is a link to "Raymond" by Oliver Lodge:

http://survivalebooks.org/#Raymond

Zerdini – Thank you for the link. I’ll follow it up.

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