Sceptics in the Media Spotlight
August 09, 2013
Back from my holiday now – camping in Norfolk in blissful warm weather.
I was just on Skype with a journalist at Newsweek. He’s doing an article on the sceptics movement, and has apparently spent some time with James Randi, et al, soaking up their wisdom. He admits to being sceptical himself, turned off by mediums like Sylvia Browne and John Edward making big bucks from the gullible public. But he seemed interested and open-minded, and it was a good discussion.
He said that Randi insisted on being referred to as an investigator, not a debunker. I came down on that one hard. I told him what happened when CSICOP, shortly after its founding, tried to suppress news of positive results, and how since then it avoided actual investigation for fear of embarrassment. There are real investigators and for the most part they’re parapsychologists.
He commented on the somewhat authoritarian, ‘Stalinist’ flavour to sceptic websites. Yes indeed. A symptom of the ideological war that sceptics are waging. They can’t allow people to believe this stuff, it’s against their religion.
He also asked why I thought the media tends to shut out people like me who take psychic phenomena seriously. That was an intelligent question, and not something that the media asks itself very often. I suggested that the sceptics’ movement has been effective in ridiculing paranormal belief - professionals just can’t afford to expose themselves to it. Science editors particularly must never seem ‘soft’ – even if they’re secretly interested they just don’t have the confidence, or in most cases the seniority, to be open about it. Actually I think that applies to most writers and broadcasters in the serious news media. It’s just not something one admits to.
I pointed out that people like me aren’t impressed by the celebrity psychics – that’s not why we take it seriously. It’s mostly because we’re familiar with the research literature. That’s where the arguments are. If I happen to think John Edward is a genuine medium it’s because I’m convinced by a century of research that mediumship is a genuine phenomenon, not by Edward’s performance. But, I told him, sceptics aren’t interested in that – their knowledge is limited to the exposes and confessions (whether real or alleged) that help them keep the faith.
It turned out that this is going to be Newsweek’s cover story next week. So there could be more than one article. I might be quoted, but probably not at length (knowing how we journalists work). He mentioned the cover story they ran on Eben Alexander’s NDE a while back, and it occurs to me that they must have got a lot of grief from sceptics about that. So this could be a way of redressing the balance.
But thinking about it, there’s so much that journalists don’t know about this subject, and trying to get handle on it while researching a single article is hardly the way to get a balanced view. Hell, some journalists write an entire book and still seem confused.
Still, it will be interesting to see the mainstream media’s take on sceptics. Something to watch out for.
It seems that the skeptics have a lobby of individuals who keep the media in line and make sure they report the correct bias when reporting on parapsychological stories. If we ever want the media to start reporting things more straight down the line--giving equal weight to both sides--then we're going to need a lobby of pro-parapsychology people ready to chide journalists for not reporting fairly. They need pressure from both sides and then they'll be more careful about their bias in reporting on these issues.
Posted by: Daniel Neiman | August 10, 2013 at 06:31 AM
I would be interested in knowing which mediums you actually believe are genuine. Have you blogged on this? Forgive me if I have missed it. I flicked through your book on Google books, you admitted that many of the 19th century mediums were caught in fraud. I have been researching this field for many years and similar to other researchers have only found a few mediums who are impressive. The whole field seems to be bogged down in fraud. It's a shame because the genuine mediums are then often ignored by the skeptics as they dismiss the entire field as nonsense.
Posted by: Bill | August 10, 2013 at 10:19 AM
I am in agreement with you, but in my opinion some of the believers also misrepresent the evidence. Both sides have problems and misrepresent the evidence sometimes in favour of their agendas. A typical example... would be Mary McGinlay the maid of the medium Helen Duncan confessed to having made her cheesecloth ectoplasm, but if you search online or in books for this confession only skeptic books mention it. Spiritualist books tend to filter out any evidence against their mediums.
Now dogmatic "debunking" books also do the same thing, they tend to filter out any positive evidence for the paranormal. A typical example is the book ESP and Parapsychology: A Critical Re-evaluation by the skeptic C. E. M. Hansel. In the book there is a small section on dream telepathy but he ignores all the known studies on it and just dismisses it as nonsense. Both the believer and skeptic sides usually ignore each other and talk past each other. It is very hard to find the truth on these subjects. We have to go back to primary sources (some of which are even biased), or at least try and look at the evidence from a neutral point of view (both for and against the paranormal). Only a handful of neutral books exploring both sides of the story have been written on these topics.
Posted by: Bill | August 10, 2013 at 10:38 AM
I think the best way is find out that there is some genuine psychic ability is to get your hands and feet wet so to speak and experiment with psychic techniques for oneself and then one gets a first hand knowledge if you like of the phenomena. I read the book Ancient Techniques for Beginners by Douglas Delong when I first go into it and worked through the exercises for myself. From this I began to get my third eye starting to open up and I saw glimpses of colored flashes around people (commonly called auras) as well as getting feelings off people. This was important because when one hears of "psychics" one immediately thinks of people who look into a crystal ball or can tell the future so there is much (deliberate some times) misinformation about psychics. Also sometimes the information gained from such experiences could be passed off as skillfully reading body language or coincidence if one hasn't experimented themselves so I think that it is utterly important to get first hand knowledge about psychic phenomena.
Posted by: Michael Shell | August 10, 2013 at 12:28 PM
Excuse my poor sentence structure I should have edited it before I posted it. I wrote it late at night ;-) what I meant to say is "I think best way to find out..."
Posted by: Michael Shell | August 10, 2013 at 12:32 PM
I agree Bill that this area is tricky. I wonder what your opinion of Brian Inglis is? He's a historian of parapsychology. He clearly comes down on the side of the authenticity of mediumistic phenomena, but I think he also does a fair job of addressing the skeptical arguments. If you've read his work, do you think he misrepresents the evidence in any way?
Posted by: Daniel Neiman | August 10, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Brian Inglis has written very good books and some very poor (that's just my opinion). Unfortunately he did have a bias when it came to mediumship. I have read two of his books. Here's a review of his book in the scientificexploration journal.
The reviewer wrote:
"Yes, Brian Inglis was a partisan but more than that he was an apologist for claims of the paranormal. Natural and Supernatural
exudes apologetics from the very beginning. At times I felt as if I were in the courtroom of the King and Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. Margaret
Fox's confession was spurious. Henry Slade's conviction was unjust.
There is even an example of spirit photography that "cannot be dismissed out
of hand." Qualifiers abound in this book!
"I found these last few chapters most difficult to read, in that all semblance of critical evaluation had been abandoned."
Inglis ignored any evidence for fraud in the mediums he talked about. Being an "apologist" is no different than a fundamentalist, it's not good IMO to be called that. For example regarding mediums like Helen Duncan or Mina Crandon he didn't cite the evidence where they were caught in fraud. And he attempted to defend the fox sisters and deny their confession!, and even defend the most notorious medium Henry Slade... It's not all negative as there's good evidence for ESP in the book.
But I lost respect for Inglis after I read that book, he slipped up on the mediumship and it damaged the overall status of the book. It's a real shame because his other book called "The Hidden Power" it is one of the only books to contain information about animal psi, possibility one of the best books I have read on that subject, but again he ruined the book by at the end defending fraudulent mediums like Henry Slade. In a review in the British Medical Journal(!) the book actually received a mostly positive review, the reviewer said the same as me, it started off well but ended up being ruined when he was defending table rapping in séances. That sort of thing has been discredited for over 80 years by psychical reseachers, it doesn't make the paranormal look good.
Here's the review http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1341786/?page=1
If you hadn't noticed already, the books of Brian Inglis are now being re-published by a spiritualist company called White Crow Books. Not neutral in my opinion. I guess we all have our biases and there are going to be flaws in books, so we can't expect complete perfection in this area but I personally wasn't impressed with Inglis, but as an introduction to the history of paranormal he has done well in tracing it back to antiquity, far better than most other authors. I would like to see a book written by both skeptics and believers and split into sections, so then the reader can make up his mind, only one book has attempted to do this but each of the authors discussed completely different topics. Most believers and skeptics are at total "war" with each other, so the chances of cooperation are slim indeed.
Posted by: Bill | August 10, 2013 at 03:51 PM
David Fontana's book "Is their an Afterlife" does a pretty good job of putting the skeptical case side by side with the believer case. As well as the historical cases he also looks at contemporary incidents (e.g. the Cardiff Poltergeist, The Scole Report) that he or his SPR colleagues have personally investigated. They effectively and deliberately eliminated standard skeptical objections "at source". I've never seen a skeptic write about The Scole Report, despite it being billed as one of the best examples of postmortem survival evidence ever recorded. Wiseman's silence on it at the time was a source of much derision.
Posted by: MickeyD | August 10, 2013 at 05:21 PM
Apologies for spelling of title of book in last post (those who have read it might think I was making a subtle joke about its numerous typos though I don't think that was one of them!).
Posted by: MickeyD | August 10, 2013 at 05:23 PM
"The Scole Report, despite it being billed as one of the best examples of postmortem survival evidence ever recorded."
You cannot be serious!
Survival evidence in the Scole Report is sadly lacking.
Posted by: Zerdini | August 10, 2013 at 09:38 PM
Quite frankly I think that review you cited may have been a bit biased. Just off the top of my head, Inglis did deal with Eusapio Palladino's "fraud" that was caught by Muensterberg by showing how his explanation could not possibly be correct (The leg or pseudopod that was "caught" could not have tapped him on the shoulder due to the physical impossibility of her moving in it in such a way while she was sitting and her hands and other leg were controlled)
Also, Inglis simply points out that the fox sisters were in decline at the time of their confession, strapped for cash, and the sister who made the confession was paid to do it. Furthermore, he says that a few days later she retracted it.
This is what I'm talking about as far as Inglis dealing with skeptical objections. Do you think he's flat out lying or making things up?
Posted by: Daniel Neiman | August 11, 2013 at 12:41 AM
By the way, thanks MickeyD about the tip on Fontana's book. I've got the book on the Scole report by the Solomon's, just haven't got around to reading it yet.
Posted by: Daniel Neiman | August 11, 2013 at 02:30 AM
As a kind of related aside I was searching for something else online yesterday and came across this blog...with no comments visible I don't know if the author is addressing a regular audience or himself, but it'a quite intriguing to see a lament and analysis of why sceptics are...he estimates...so few in number and so powerless to convince more of the masses to join their cause.
This kind of "us, them and the message" navel gazing exists on pro parapsychology blogs like this too, of course. But its so interesting - to me at least - to hear their frustrations and incomprehension at the wider world not accepting their wisdom, the unquestioning conflation of a sceptic "community" and its positions with "reason" and science ("Just what in the name of Randi is going on that people don't understand we're right!" is the general tone of the article) and above all the underscoring of the concept of sceptics as a community, tribe or lobby that requires converts and congregations.
It got me thinking how odd it is - or is it? - that there should be such a thing as a "sceptical community" at all. To have a sceptical or outright disbelieving outlook on certain matters is reasonable enough, but the idea of self comforting, mutually re-affirming group with agreed outlooks, policies and purposes seems somehow contradictory. The parallels to religious belief or gang membership are obvious and no doubt unoriginal to point out. But it does strike me as just inherently odd on its own terms. Like when learning that civil war Spain had an anarchist trade union....There's a contradiction in terms that you can't quite put your finger on.
Posted by: Lawrence B | August 11, 2013 at 10:22 AM
No I don't think Inglis made things up, he was actually correct about the Hugo Munsterberg incident regarding Palladino, his problem is that he had not read all the skeptical material. I agree it was ridiculous to suggest that Palladino twisted her leg that way. She was not an acrobat! What Inglis forget to mention is that, that issue was resolved by another psychical researcher. Stanley LeFevre Krebs published a book called Trick Methods of Eusapia Paladino which revealed how she would use both her feet and hands to perform the trick. She also used a rubber bulb to move objects in the séance room. None of that is mentioned by Inglis.
Inglis was also off course about a medium called Eva C. He said he couldn't see how Eva C had swallowed and regurgitated huge cardboard cut out ectoplasms of people, so therefore the skeptics are wrong. Firstly no skeptic ever suggested that Eva C swallowed her ectoplasm. She used a secret accomplice called Juliette Bisson, who sneaked all the materials in, through a secret door and hid the materials in a cabinet and under the floor boards of the séance room etc. None of this was mentioned by Inglis. He done the same with many other mediums. Here's some info about Eva C
I am not saying all mediums are frauds like most of the skeptics do, but physical mediumship is not reliable or good evidence for the paranormal in my opinion. It has been exposed over and over as fraudulent. I have no dispute with most mental mediums.
Posted by: Bill | August 11, 2013 at 11:03 AM
Brian Inglis was a first-rate writer of the paranormal, and very knowledgeable on the subject. His 'The Hidden Power' remains one of the best scholarly books on exposing the lies of the CSICOP types, including Randi; their distortions and misrepresentations of the serious work done on psi. It is a book I think superior to Robert Anton Wilson's 'The New Inquisition' which if memory serves me correctly, came out about the same time (1980s). And I'm a fan of Anton Wilson.
Inglis's 'Science and Parascience' is an excellent overview of mediumship between the World Wars.
As far as journalists and the paranormal go, the mainstream media rarely gets it right, if ever. It's just a case of how wrong they get it. The media just echo establishment science across the board, psi is not excepted. The reasons for this are perhaps complex. As far as psi goes, well there are multiple taboos, making an objective assessment of psi all but impossible for a respectable publication like Newsweek.
If these journalists are going to cover psi accurately, there is no substitute for heavy reading of major books and scholarly publications - from Rhine to Sheldrake to Hansen, Radin, Broughton, Morris, Schlitz, Palmer, Hoyt, Alvarez, Braude etc etc. And journalists have neither the time nor the patience for that. And even if they did have the time and patience, if they were then to write an article based on actually knowing the topic of psi and its numerous controversial facets in detail, would any such article then get past their editor/s and actually be published?
The thing is there is an inverse law here - the more the journalist has researched the subject of psi, the more he knows of what he writes, the less likely it is to be published in a mainstream outlet, the more likely it is to be rejected by a senior editor. That's because psi is to be rejected - in the main - by the mainstream media. And like I said the reasons for this are multiple and complex. But to put it simply, psi opens up a Pandora's Box. Psi is subversive, and the mainstream media is about selling the status quo at so many levels. This has nothing to do with conspiracies (I cannot stand that kind of thinking). It is all unconscious, autonomic in a sense.
Posted by: Lawrence | August 11, 2013 at 11:03 AM
IMHO physical mediumship can be the most evidential form of mediumship, far more so than clairvoyance. It has certainly had its share of fraudulent practitioners however so has clairvoyance. In some ways it's a lot easier to determine fraud in physical mediumship than mental mediumship.
When comparing the evidential mediumship of people like Leslie Flint, John Sloan, Alec Harris and Emily French for example, it seems to me much more evidential than the best clairvoyance.
Clairvoyance and other forms of mental mediumship are often littered with vague messages and both cold and hot reading.
As for the Scole report, my recollection (it's a while since i read it and it doesnt have much in it to tempt me back) is that while it contains what seem good reports of physical phenomena, there is virtually no evidence of survival and at the end become fantastic - and not in a good way - with communications from purported aliens.
Posted by: Paul | August 11, 2013 at 12:08 PM
Zerdini wrote:""The Scole Report, despite it being billed as one of the best examples of postmortem survival evidence ever recorded."
You cannot be serious!
Survival evidence in the Scole Report is sadly lacking."
Badly phrased sorry!There are of course better cases of survival evidence per se (I read your site too!). The point I was rather badly trying to make here is that this was a deliberate and I think successful attempt to exclude all the standard skeptical explanations for the paranormal phenomena the investigators saw and experienced. These were produced by entities claiming to be deceased individuals. It's possibly the best skeptic confounding material in the public domain and despite the aliens I've never seen anyone even try to convincingly refute it!
Posted by: MickeyD | August 11, 2013 at 01:48 PM
"Brian Inglis was a first-rate writer of the paranormal, and very knowledgeable on the subject. His 'The Hidden Power' remains one of the best scholarly books on exposing the lies of the CSICOP types, including Randi; their distortions and misrepresentations of the serious work done on psi."
I agree it is a good book, especially the first few chapters on animal and even insect psi.. some of the best stuff I have read and extremely rare and valuable material but he ruined his credibility when he defended fraudulent mediums such as fox sisters, Henry Slade or Eva C.
"When comparing the evidential mediumship of people like Leslie Flint, John Sloan, Alec Harris and Emily French for example, it seems to me much more evidential than the best clairvoyance."
There's solid evidence for ESP, no skeptic has ever been able to refute it. Why do you think most skeptic books spend their time attacking physical mediumship? Because that sort of mediumship is embarrassing, just do a Google search and all the "ectoplasm" looks like cheesecloth with newspaper cut outs of peoples face stuck on it and that is what the psychical researchers found time and time again hidden on the medium or hidden in the séance room, this sort of thing has set back parapsychology 50 years, it's ruined paranormal research. It's embarrassing and not good when some modern psychical researchers still choose to defend it, it gives ammo to the skeptics. Obviously this isn't the place to discuss the cons of physical mediumship but Tony Cornell exposed the fraud of Alec Harris, Harris used to dress up in silly costumes as the spirits. I have never come across a genuine physical medium. If parapsychology is to be taken seriously, then proponents need to come out against it. Most have... check out the books by Harry Price, Eric Dingwall or Tony Cornell.
Posted by: Bill | August 11, 2013 at 03:47 PM
ESP and evidential mediumship are not the same thing. It depends what you mean by 'solid evidence" - I presume you mean for things like telepathy and remote viewing etc - these have nothing to do with evidence for survival, which is the point I was making.
As far as I can see (after many years of research) the evidence supporting the existence of communication with the dead is similar whether one considers considered mental or physical mediumship.
There has been extensive discussion of the mediumship you refer to including by people who actually knew the mediums on here and elsewhere. There have been as many fake mental mediums, if not more, as physical mediums.
As for the people you mention there are other investigators who claim the exact opposite. You seem to be choosing the versions which suit your own view.
Your approach is nicely summarised in your closing comment: because you haven't see a genuine physical medium, they don't exist. Well I have never seen
Well I have never seen decent evidence from either a mental or a physical medium but I don't commit the logical fallacy of dismissing the experiences of those who say they have.
Posted by: Paul | August 11, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Apologies for formatting in last post - damn iPad.
Posted by: Paul | August 11, 2013 at 05:17 PM
"Tony Cornell exposed the fraud of Alec Harris, Harris used to dress up in silly costumes as the spirits."
What utter bilge! I sat with Alec Harris as I explain on my blog.
I have never come across a genuine physical medium.
So it appears.
If parapsychology is to be taken seriously, then proponents need to come out against it. Most have... check out the books by Harry Price, Eric Dingwall or Tony Cornell.
You must be joking. None of them are proponents .... they are well known sceptics!
Posted by: Zerdini | August 11, 2013 at 06:25 PM
"It got me thinking how odd it is - or is it? - that there should be such a thing as a "sceptical community" at all. To have a sceptical or outright disbelieving outlook on certain matters is reasonable enough, but the idea of self comforting, mutually re-affirming group with agreed outlooks, policies and purposes seems somehow contradictory."
It's weird because parapsychology is the only scientific field with a "skeptical" movement out to discredit its results. Now my background is in high energy physics and we have a long list of "discovered" particles and phenomena which don't actually exist. But the field is self-policing. If the result cannot be replicated, we say "oops" and move on and no one calls us pseudoscientists. Plus, I think people like Dean Radin would be shocked by how non-blind analyses are Standard Operating Procedure at some of the major experiments. The major parapsychology results can be replicated. But in reaction to criticism, all funding has been cut. If particle physics had been subjected to the same level of scrutiny as parapsychology, the LHC would never have been built and the field would have been de-funded. It's extreme hypocrisy, treating fields differently based on their compatibility with what some conception of philosophical materialism is.
Though I think there is hope if you come armed with strong scientific evidence. I've been dropping pro-parapsychology comments on militant atheist Sean Carrol's blog and at least got some people thinking.
Posted by: Stephen | August 11, 2013 at 07:50 PM
The unusual fixation of the sceptical cause is well known.. I think my point was more the whole self described community thing that's referenced in their online discussions with each other. Their concept of themselves as members of a side seems thoroughly at odds with the conviction they have about their own philosophical outlook.
I guess what I'm getting at is the contradiction of individuals incessantly claiming they are dispassionate, right thinking objective questioners banding together around a cause or set of views at all. They surely oughtn't to have any around which to band.
People obviously always are drawn to the company of the like minded and those who share their interests but the concept of a ...well...I have to say the word again .."community" with established beliefs about what is and isn't so, leaders to follow, gatherings to attend, and opponents to battle is surely in and off itself hard to reconcile with their convictions about their own rational devotion to objective thinking.
Posted by: Lawrence B | August 11, 2013 at 10:38 PM
@Lawrence - I do think the proponent cause is equally fixated in some areas too. Would you agree?
I suspect what we may be observing is simply a type of group behavior.
Maybe I am deluding myself here, but having reviewed a fraction of the evidence for ESP, Survival etc I don't see how any person who has looked at the same or similar material can be so all-fired certain that such phenomena are not possible.
Posted by: Paul | August 11, 2013 at 10:47 PM
Would it be possible to give examples?
If you don't mind of course!
Posted by: Llewellyn James | August 11, 2013 at 11:52 PM
Stephen said:Now my background is in high energy physics and we have a long list of "discovered" particles and phenomena which don't actually exist. But the field is self-policing. If the result cannot be replicated, we say "oops" and move on and no one calls us .....
Ignore my other post, no idea what happened there!
Would it be possible to give examples?
If you don't mind of course!
Posted by: Llewellyn James | August 12, 2013 at 12:11 AM
Here are the biggies:
1) Faster-than-light neutrinos measured by an Italian group, contradicting Einstein. Later found to be an analysis error.
2) Pentaquarks, particles made up of 5 quarks each rather than 2 or 3. Discovered by Spring-8 in Japan
but higher-statistics replications failed at Jefferson Lab
and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider.
Posted by: Stephen | August 12, 2013 at 01:34 AM
Carlo Rubbia, who went on to get the Nobel prize in physics for discovering the W and Z bosons, had previously made three "discoveries" which were later retracted. His scientific behavior was recklessly aggressive. But he hit the jackpot with the W and Z, which is what everybody remembers, rather than his mistakes.
Posted by: Stephen | August 12, 2013 at 02:29 AM
To Bill re Inglis: not going to argue this endlessly, but the Fox sisters and Henry Slade have never been definitely proven to be hoaxers. Hardly. A little knowledge... The confession from Maggie Fox of trickery was later rescinded by her, both sisters had sunk into penury and alcoholism by that time, and may well have faked later phenomena. As older women, nothing they said could be taken at face value. They were in conflict with their sister Leah (a whole complicated thing), and Maggie was in all likelihood paid a fair sum by a journalist to make her confession, at the time she was destitute and both sisters would die in poverty. When one looks at *the actual phenomena* reported at Hydesville from reliable witnesses in the bloom of the Fox sisters' youth, and the explained confession of using the cracking of toes and knuckles to create the effects reported, it is simply laughable. But it was telling the skeptics what they desperately wanted to hear, and so it was a case of relief from respectable society, who then closed the book on the Fox sisters and moved on. A deeper look however reveals facts that the skeptics didn't care for. Then and now.
In fact Robert M has some interesting things to say about the Fox girls over here
The trial of Henry Slade was nothing but a disgraceful kangaroo court replete with all the tactics of an ecclesiastical court and the debunkers' playbook of bullying, intimidation and presumption of guilt. Lankester (an assistant of T H Huxley's) and Donkin who set the trail in motion, simply contradicted one another. Maskelyne's smoke and mirror demonstrations proved nothing, neither here nor there. Just because slate writing can be faked, nobody would dispute that, then and now, doesn't mean it was faked by Slade.
Could have taught CISCOP a thing or two, maybe it did. That whole trial is one of the definitive events in the history of nineteenth century so-called mediumship, that set Darwin against Alfred Russel Wallace. Slade suffered badly from the stress of the trial, falling into extreme poverty (losing his wealth), alcoholism and being forgotten, dying a pauper.
Parallels with the Fox sisters.
One sees this whole modus operandi repeated later with Eusapio Palladino, where the respectable line is that she was exposed as a fraud. The non cherry-picked facts say otherwise (although she could cheat on occasion, consciously or not. A well-known thing with mediums then and now). But the scientific establishment and respectable society was desperate as with the Fox sisters and Slade to have Palladino exposed, and so things proceeded accordingly...
Again with Uri Geller in modern times (who can also cheat on occasion perhaps). As with Palladino. And as with Palladino, Slade, the Fox sisters, he became too famous and it's the nature of his fame, as with theirs, that demanded a debunking (not his or their fame per se). That is these characters, by virtue of their alleged paranormal feats, threaten the status quo of scientific materialism, and so they have to be taken down. And examples have to be made of them. So that's what we get.
Posted by: Lawrence | August 12, 2013 at 10:24 AM
@Stephen: Thanks for the info!
Posted by: Llewellyn James | August 12, 2013 at 01:13 PM
I just discovered this:
It is a list of over 60 mediums caught in fraud. Feel free to let me know when a genuine "physical medium" pops up.
Posted by: bill | August 12, 2013 at 02:52 PM
Posted by: Paul | August 12, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Bill said:I just discovered this:
It is a list of over 60 mediums caught in fraud. Feel free to let me know when a genuine "physical medium" pops up.
Well if wiki says so then it must be true lol!
Posted by: Llewellyn James | August 12, 2013 at 05:56 PM
@llewellyn - quite! I read a couple and they looked like they were they subject of some pseudo-skeptical editing. They should be ashamed of themselves.
Posted by: Paul | August 12, 2013 at 07:06 PM
What can I say?
Bill has a lot to learn and he won't find it in the JREF or Wiki.
Posted by: zerdini | August 12, 2013 at 07:54 PM
To reference Wikipedia is just lazy skepticism at least reference primary sources there are plenty in the literature
Posted by: Ray | August 12, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Here's some references.
David Abbott. (1907). Behind the Scenes with the Mediums. Chicago, IL: Open Court.
David Abbott. (1908). The History of a Strange Case. Chicago, IL: Open Court.
David Abbott. (1913). The Spirit Portrait Mystery: Its Final Solution. Chicago, IL: Open Court.
John Henry Anderson. The Magic of Spirit Rapping, Writing Mediums, and Table Turning, Being an Expose of the Frauds of Spirit Rappers and Descriptive of the Mechanism of the Rapping Table. London: R. S. Francis Printer.
Samri Samuel Baldwin. (1879). Spirit Mediums Exposed. Melbourne: M’Carron, Bird.
Samri Samuel Baldwin. (1895). The Secrets of Mahatma Land Explained. Brooklyn, NY: T. J. Dyson & Son.
Charles Marsh Beadnell. (1920). The Reality or Unreality of Spiritualistic Phenomena: Being a Criticism of Dr. W.J. Crawford's Investigation into Levitations and Raps. Watts & Co.
John Booth. (1984). Psychic Paradoxes. Los Alamitos, CA: Ridgeway.
Ruth Brandon. (1983). The Spiritualists: The Passion for the Occult in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Alfred E. Knopf.
Hereward Carrington. (1907). The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism. Herbert B. Turner & Co.
Hereward Carrington. (1913). Hindu Magic: An Expose of the Tricks of the Yogis and Fakirs of India. Kansas City, MO: The Sphinx.
Milbourne Christopher. (1970). ESP, Seers & Psychics. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.
Milbourne Christopher. (1973). The Illustrated History of Magic. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.
Milbourne Christopher. (1975). Mediums, Mystics & the Occult. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.
Milbourne Christopher. (1979). Search for the Soul. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.
Bob Couttie. (1988). Forbidden Knowledge: The Paranormal Paradox. Cambridge, England: Lutterworth.
Amos Norton Craft. (1881). Epidemic Delusions: Containing an Exposé of the Superstitions and Frauds which Underlie Some Ancient And Modern Delusions, Including Especial Reference to Modern Spiritualism. Walden and Stowe.
Stuart Cumberland. (1918). That Other World: Personal Experiences of Mystics and Their Mysticism. London: Grant Richards.
Stuart Cumberland. (1919). Spiritualism: The Inside Truth. London: Odhams.
Eric Dingwall, Trevor H. Hall. (1958). Four Modern Ghosts. London: Gerald Duckworth.
Eric Dingwall. (1966). The Critics’ Dilemma: Further Comments on Some Nineteenth Century Investigations. Crowhurt, Sussex, England.
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Posted by: Bill | August 12, 2013 at 09:57 PM
How would anyone show you a genuine medium Bill?
Even in respect of the mediums you accuse of fraud such as Alec Harris etc, you're only prepared to consider the reportage that suits your own view. If you're not aware of the evidence in their favour then you're badly-informed, if you are and are simply ignoring it, you're dishonest as far as I can see. You've made up your mind on the subject and now as a 'believer' you're only focused on reinforcing your decision it seems to me.
It seems clear to me you're not here to debate but waste our time cutting and pasting references that support your own view. I'd be astonished if you'd personally read any of the above references yourself. You seem to be simply spouting what others have written.
You've ignored Zerdini's comment for example and he knew some of the people you refer to personally (both mediums and reporters).
To be honest your efforts look a bit sad. It's interesting that you cite precisely zero references from any investigators who found in favour of the mediums you criticise - it's almost like they don't exist which is patently not true. Your slip is showing. I'm not going to waste any more time responding to your disingenuous posts. Perhaps others will.
Posted by: Paul | August 12, 2013 at 10:37 PM
You have David P Abbott on that list he investigated one of the best cases of survival and found a direct voice medium Elizabeth Blake to be genuine.
this endorsement of Abbott is particularly important since he exposed many fraudulent mediums
Posted by: Ray | August 12, 2013 at 10:56 PM
Hereward Carrington is also on your list. He admitted that some of Palladino's mediumship was genuine but I don't he was a fan of the spirit hypothesis more of the "psychic force" amongst the living.
I guess my point is a true skeptic would actually read the listed publications and learn about the men who wrote them. Most people though would be too lazy to dig deep into the list you provided and would just leave it at that.
I suspect "Bill" is our old friend forests, who is now posting as Lucy on Michael Prescot's blog. Same arguing style and content.
Posted by: Ray | August 12, 2013 at 11:03 PM
"You've ignored Zerdini's comment for example and he knew some of the people you refer to personally (both mediums and reporters)."
Email or contact Robin Foy, or Victor Zammit. Zerdini has a prison record for harassing mediums, he's not to be trusted.
Paul, I'm not criticising mental mediums or direct voice mediums. Physical only. If you want to believe rolled up cheesecloth is scientific evidence for an afterlife then that is up to you. But I do not. As for the books I listed, I have read all of them, most of those on the list were not "fundamentalist skeptics" many of them believed some mediums were genuine or ESP is a reality such as myself, just not physical mediumship which is fraudulent, it is dishonest to claim these books are complete dogmatic skeptics and dismiss them. Those researchers were there and exposed the fraud in the séance room. Zerdini was not. You can find many of those works free on archive. Unfortunately people such as yourself never read the material which caught the physical mediums in fraud, you only read 100% believer material, this isn't open minded.
Anyone who believes in physical mediumship is anti-parapsychology and has not read the literature. I can name over 400 parapsychologists who have opposed physical mediumship as they exposed it as fraudulent, whilst only a handful taken it seriously and played into the materialist skeptics hands. Even Michael Prescott is a critic of physical mediumship, and the owner of this website Robert claimed much of it is fraud. You need to research the correct literature by psychical researchers, not fundamentalist spiritualist publications. Cheers.
Posted by: Bill | August 12, 2013 at 11:06 PM
There may be much fraud in modern spiritualism, in fact, I am disposed to believe that fully 98 per cent, of the phenomena, both mental and physical, are fraudulently produced, but a careful study of the evidence, contemporary and historic, has convinced me that there must have been some genuine phenomena at the commencement of this movement, in order that the first mediums may have copied them by fraudulent means, and that a certain percentage of the phenomena occurring to-day is genuine."
Posted by: Bill | August 12, 2013 at 11:09 PM
Independent Direct Voice is physical mediumship. Of course you'd know that if you'd really read up.
Posted by: Paul | August 12, 2013 at 11:47 PM
Ps I have zero interest in Spiritualism.
Posted by: Paul | August 13, 2013 at 12:08 AM
Just tealised! You're Forest or Daryll or whatever you call yourself lol
Posted by: Paul | August 13, 2013 at 12:10 AM
I was just having a chuckle at Bill's source list. Trevor Hall accused Harry Price of fraud, and Hall was caught with his hand in the cookie jar himself on many occasions. Both, of course, accused a number of mediums of fraudulent behaviour.
But Bill seems to feel that both are reliable sources. It reminds me, a bit, of that Tom and Jerry cartoon where a vacuum cleaner sucks itself out of existence.
And that was just after the briefest scan down the list - don't get me started on the rest.
Let's face it folks: human beings have a tendency to behave unreliably and stupidly - 'fraudulently', if you like. I've been waiting for an awfully long time for a sensible explanation from someone in this field as to why 'mediums', 'skeptics', or members any other social group should qualify as being an exception to that rule.
Posted by: Steve Hume | August 13, 2013 at 08:29 AM
>"But Bill seems to feel that both are reliable sources. It reminds me, a bit, of that Tom and Jerry cartoon where a vacuum cleaner sucks itself out of existence."
Now that's funny lmao
Posted by: Paul | August 13, 2013 at 06:13 PM
Here's the problem as I see it. Many mediums were capable of producing numerous incidents of genuine phenomena which nobody could explain. Then, one day they are caught cheating and based on this one incident, their entire history of mediumship is deemed fraudulent.
Another problem is in making up allegations of how a particular medium could have cheated--and sometimes asserting that this must have indeed been how they did it--without any direct evidence that this kind of cheating did in fact occur. It's just like saying, "Well this is how they could have done it, and since I know doing it without trickery is impossible, it must have been done this way." Stamp--Fraud!
Posted by: Daniel Neiman | August 14, 2013 at 04:39 AM