December 14, 2016
At parapsychology events I sometimes come across Erlendur Haraldsson, the distinguished Icelandic psychology professor and psi investigator who, among many other topics, published a study of Satya Sai Baba (with Karlis Osis). I’m trying to get him to contribute an article for the Psi Encyclopedia on the Icelandic medium Indridi Indridason. I’m sure he will eventually, but in the meantime, here’s a look at his book on the subject that came out last year (co-written by Loftur Gissurarson).
Indridi was a farmer’s son with very basic education. Aged 21, he came to Reykjavik in 1904 to become a printer’s apprentice. He had no notion of becoming a medium, and got into it accidentally after being invited to take part in an experimental table-tipping circle that his sister had become interested in. Things really started rocking when he sat at the table, and from this time he sat frequently for sittings organised by the newly formed Experimental Society, in which a wide variety of strong effects were recorded. In 1909 he became ill, and he died three years later aged 28.
The phenomena were phenomenal, as one might say, rivalling the effects for which DD Home had been famous. Here’s a selection:
- Raps, cracking sounds in the air; knocks responding to the sitters demands, some of them loud and heavy, and knocks heard on the body of the medium.
- Gusts of wind, cold or hot, were common, strong enough to blow paper, sometimes far away from the medium.
- Olfactory (odor) phenomena sometimes occurred: a sudden fragrant smell in the presence of the medium, sometimes other smells, such as seaweed. The odor would sometimes cling to a sitter after being touched by the medium.
- Movements and levitations were frequent, of objects, small and large, light and heavy, and over short or long distances within a room or hall and sometimes quite high. Some of these objects moved as if thrown forcefully, at other times their trajectories were irregular. Sometimes objects were found to tremble. Curtains were pulled back and forth on request by the sitters.
- Levitations of the medium. Many instances of levitation are reported, often with the medium holding onto another person. During violent poltergeist phenomena, the medium was dragged along the floor and thrown up into the air, so that his protectors had difficulty pushing him down.
- Playing of musical instruments as if by invisible hands, and sometimes while they were levitating and moving around in mid-air.
- Light phenomena. Fire-flashes or fire-balls, small and large fire-flashes on the walls. Luminous clouds as large as several feet across, sometimes described as a ‘pillar of light’ within which a human form appeared.
- Materializations. The shadow or shape of materialized fingers were seen, or a hand or a foot, or a full human figure. Sitters touched materialized fingers, limbs or trunks that were felt as solid. Once a monster-like animal (mixture of a horse and a calf) was observed outside a séance.
- Dematerialization of the medium’s arm. The medium’s shoulder and trunk was inspected through touch by several sitters, yet the arm was not detected.
- Sense of being touched, pulled and punched by invisible hands, also of being kissed.
- Sounds heard around the medium, laughter, footsteps, buzzing sounds, clatter of hoof beats and the rustling noise of clothes as if someone was moving.
- Direct writing. Writing appeared on paper without human touch.
Unlike Home's, most of Indridi's sittings were held in darkness. The group tried red light a few times, but dropped it because it caused the phenomena to diminish. However, some violent poltergeist phenomena that occurred during the winter of 1907-8 took place in full light, as did some successful table tipping sessions.
Even Home did not produce some of the effects seen with Indridi, including direct voice – voices, that is, that were clearly independent of his own, coming from different parts of the room. Each had its own characteristics and manner of speech. Some spoke in foreign languages such as Norwegian and French. One frequent communicator, a French-speaking woman, often burst into song. Her identity was eventually revealed as Maria Malibran, a famous mezzo-soprano who sang leading roles in opera houses in Europe and America and died in 1836, and who no one in the circle had apparently heard of before.
More than one voice could be heard singing together, and not just in séances, but spontaneously outside:
Once in the middle of the day, as often occurred, Indridi was at my home. While he was there I played on the harmonium a melody by Chopin. Indridi sat to the left of the harmonium. I expected that Mrs. Malibran knew the melody that I was playing for I heard her humming it around Indridi. Then I saw him falling into trance… I heard many voices, both of men and women singing behind me, but especially to my right with Indridi being on my left. I did not distinguish individual words, but the voices I heard clearly, both higher and lower voices, and they all sang the melody that I was playing. This singing differed from ordinary singing as it sounded more like a sweet echo. It seemed to come from afar, but was at the same time close to me. No single voice was discernible except the voice of Malibran. I always heard her distinctly.The group seems to be have been conscientious about establishing controls and writing up its results, but probably not to a standard that would carry much weight. What gives the claims about Indridi somewhat more authority is the energetic intervention by Gudmundur Hannesson, a highly regarded scientist who later became professor of medicine at the University of Iceland and founded the Icelandic Scientific Society. Gudmundur was known for integrity and impartiality, and also for a strong disbelief in the claims of mediums. To get to the bottom of the mystery he persuaded the group to let him carry out strictly controlled investigations, constantly increasing and varying them to try to catch Indridi out. His reports describe very detailed examinations of the séance room. Every item was scrutinised. The medium was stripped and his clothes examined. The doors were locked and sealed. He wrote: ‘Nothing seems too trivial to be suspected that it may in some way serve the purpose of the impostors. This is no joke, either. It is a life and death struggle for sound reason and one’s own conviction against the most execrable form of superstition and idiocy. No, certainly nothing must be allowed to escape.’
Gudmundur was especially interested in the movement of objects. He ordered from abroad some phosphorescent tape which glowed well in the dark (nothing like this was to be found in Iceland), and fixed it on some objects to enable him to track their movements in the dark. One was a zither, a rather bulky stringed instrument, which he saw move in an entirely unnatural way: at lightning speed or floating with varying speeds in different directions, in straight lines, curved lines, and sometimes spiral lines.
The investigations were interrupted by the medium’s illness, by which time, however, Gudmundur had seen enough. He was completely stumped.
Often I could see no conceivable possibility that anybody, inside or outside the house, was moving the things… the movements were often of such a nature that doing them fraudulently would have been exceedingly difficult, eg. taking a zither, swinging it in the air at enormous speed and at the same time playing a tune on it. This was, however, frequently done while I was holding the hands of both the medium and the watchman [controller], and there seemed no way for anybody to get inside the net.
What do we make of this? I should say, to begin with, that having once spent quite a long time reading up on physical mediumship – and getting horribly tangled up in the controversies – I no longer pay it much attention. I think the effects are real, having been described by enough credible people in circumstances of sufficient control to the point where they can’t be explained away as clever tricks. I’m also aware that those people who have directly witnessed these phenomena find them so totally convincing as to be baffled that anyone else could ever doubt it. Nevertheless, for those who haven’t, these sorts of psychokinetic claims defy belief, and it seems impossible to report them in a manner that lays scepticism completely to rest. It’s easy to get bogged down in claim and counter-claim. (James Randi’s confrontations with Uri Geller in the 1980s arguably helped kick-start the sceptics movement). So although I wrote about Eusapia Palladino in Randi’s Prize, I don’t think that now I’d waste time trying to convince anyone about her or any other physical medium.
That said, features of Indridi’s mediumship make it rather intriguing. One is the location. A thing about Iceland that’s easy to forget is that it’s very small. In 1905, when Indridi’s séance phenomena started, the entire population would have been not much more than 100,000, equivalent to a small city like Oxford or Cambridge. There was no tradition of spiritualism before Indridi. Neither Indridi nor anyone else would have had access to the kind of conjuring equipment needed to stage what would have been extremely complex tricks.
In addition is the fact that Indridi’s mediumship was so short, just five years. With other physical mediums the power of the effects seemed to fall off with time. You also find – often in the later years of the medium’s career – the involvement of a sceptic, who publishes a report on the basis of a cursory investigation (or pure conjecture) that becomes the received text for critics (Kathleen Goligher, Rudi Schneider and Ted Serios all come to mind). In Indridi’s case, the phenomena started strong and, far from falling off, were at their peak when he became ill and had to stop. And although the reports stirred up a great deal of controversy in Icelandic society – as is usual in such cases – by the time he died, of tuberculosis in 1912, no one with sufficient polemical skill had emerged to kill them off for posterity with some damning counter-evidence.
So we’re left with a virtually uncontaminated case that offers evidence of powerful phenomena, some of it witnessed under rigorously controlled conditions, and for which, as far as I know, there are no meaningful documented claims of fraud, or even plausible conjectures. Since Indridi was never on the radar of the sceptic community, there are no handy quotes that can be used to contaminate the Wikipedia article about him, of the ‘Ruth Brandon has written…’ variety. Of course, because most sittings were held in darkness – which sceptics treat as a kind of all-purpose ‘explanation’ – I don’t think Indridi Indridason’s story represents any kind of threat. But for anyone who’s interested in this kind of thing, it’s fascinating reading.
Erlendur Haraldsson & Loftur R. Gissurarson, Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium (Hove: White Crow Books, 2015)
On the topic of mediums, a thing I haven't seen brought up here; my mother informed me the Fox sisters actually faked the banging with wooden balls on strings under their skirts. I've seen it mentioned on blogs like this one that eyewitness accounts say the banging shook the walls, but I thought it needed pointing out that I haven't seen this specific trick discussed here. She may have got them confused with someone else.
Posted by: chel | December 14, 2016 at 11:58 PM
Scrap that, poked through the archives and found an entry mentioning apples on strings.
Posted by: chel | December 15, 2016 at 12:20 AM
Chel there is a lot of fraud in physical mediumship, this seems to have put a lot of people off. There also seems to be a lot of contradictory evidence. It is not easy to see what is genuine and what is false. As Robert says it can often be tiring. It is the sort of subject that may do your head in. I found many contradictory things about William Eglinton. I am left with agnosticism. I have no idea what is true and what is false. I would rather stay out of it, lol.
Anyway someone recently claimed that Eric Dingwall was actually a believer in physical mediums with his supportive claims quoted. Have a look here:
What do you guys think about this?
Posted by: Desmond | December 15, 2016 at 01:53 PM
"What do you guys think about this?"
What can one say? Reading through that is like listening to a woman who has become seriously disenchanted with men and believes they are all self-seeking, untrustworthy misogynists. Nothing you say will convince them that they have a jaundiced view of life and the worth of others.
Anyway, what I really want to know is whether Indridi Indridason could sing. Because if he could then, with a hairdo like that, he would almost certainly have won 'The X-Factor' had he lived in our times. :)
Posted by: Julie Baxter | December 15, 2016 at 03:03 PM
Mediums are odd folks and are often unaware of their ability. In this sense Indians, by and large, accept the phenomena as normal. It is not unusual for families to know another family in their circle in which a member is gifted.
Satya Sai Baba certainly has a very large following. But I find it interesting that opinion, even in my own limited circle (I'm a retired marine engineer leading a happy retired life!) in Mumbai, is often divided between believers and skeptics.
Posted by: Shashanka Choudhury | December 15, 2016 at 04:05 PM
"...there are no handy quotes that can be used to contaminate the Wikipedia article about him..."
Well Robert, now that you've brought it to the public's attention, I'll bet my last Donald Trump Dollar (it's coming, I can feel it in my bones :-) that this state of affairs won't last much longer. I give it a week. Sceptics read this blog too.
Posted by: Rabbitdawg | December 15, 2016 at 04:53 PM
" I'll bet my last Donald Trump Dollar (it's coming, I can feel it in my bones :-) that this state of affairs won't last much longer. I give it a week. Sceptics read this blog too."
And just like Trump, without the need for briefing, they'll come up with something. After all, they're 'smart' chaps and chapesses. :)
Posted by: Julie Baxter | December 15, 2016 at 04:59 PM
Yep Julie, It'll likely be Susan Gerbic and her Wikipedia Guerilla's, or a couple of teenage fake news trolls operating out of Macedonia.
Pretty much the same thing, come to think about it.
Posted by: Rabbitdawg | December 16, 2016 at 01:56 PM
1. Prove that anomalous phenomena happen around the medium.
2. Find out what these phenomena imply about an afterlife.
There is evidence to suggest that anomalous phenomena were occurring around Indridason, and some of that evidence suggests postmortem contacts, but it is a shame that we do not have similar cases today.
Posted by: Juan | December 16, 2016 at 02:48 PM
'Well Robert, now that you've brought it to the public's attention, I'll bet my last Donald Trump Dollar (it's coming, I can feel it in my bones :-) that this state of affairs won't last much longer. I give it a week. Sceptics read this blog too.'
I did consider this, to the point of thinking it might be irresponsible even to post this review. Having come to my senses, I then thought this might be the basis of an informal predictive experiment. You say 'a week'. I could enlarge on that in terms of outcomes. Obviously I'll keep them to myself until after the event, if any :)
'with a hairdo like that, he would almost certainly have won 'The X-Factor' '
My nephew has a barnet like that. A thing of constant wonder.
Posted by: Robert McLuhan | December 16, 2016 at 06:41 PM
If one reads something like Emma Hardinge Britten's "Modern American Spiritualism," we well as the most reliable reports on Home, it seems beyond question that some sort of "macro" physical mediumship was occurring between roughly 1850 and 1900 that simply doesn't occur today. If the phenomena reported by someone of the caliber of Crookes could have been video-recorded or otherwise documented the way they could be today, they would be extremely difficult to dismiss. Alas, the "macro" phenomena dovetailed nicely with the era of "macro" fraud and thus are difficult for most people to take seriously. As always, it seems the Trickster is in charge - plenty of evidence to convince those with a predisposition to believe, plenty of toeholds for debunkers. Across the full spectrum of anomalous phenomena, the "always just on the threshold of believability" aspect is to me as interesting as the phenomena themselves.
Posted by: Lance Payette | December 18, 2016 at 05:34 PM
"the most reliable reports on Home, it seems beyond question that some sort of "macro" physical mediumship was occurring between roughly 1850 and 1900 that simply doesn't occur today"
Daniel Dunglas Home and every single physical medium was caught in fraud.
Posted by: John | December 18, 2016 at 11:48 PM
Posted by: Robbie | December 19, 2016 at 12:10 AM
John, you are wrong.
Posted by: Juan | December 19, 2016 at 08:03 AM
Didn't Rationalwiki also claim at least one investigator had an affair with Eusapia Palladino despite his notes heavily implying he found her personally repulsive? Taking anecdotes not being evidence to extremes there, I feel.
Posted by: chel | December 19, 2016 at 05:41 PM
Again, scratch that; that was the actual Wikipedia: http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2013/06/wiki-whacky.html
I don't have high hopes for RW, in that case.
Posted by: chel | December 19, 2016 at 06:15 PM
Juan why is he wrong?
In Robert's book "Randi's Prize" (page 71) he writes:
"No one doubts that fraud was rife. What we have to decide is whether any of it was sometimes true. But is that a fair question? After all, if most of it was patently bogus, it makes sense to assume that all of it was. Why go looking for exceptions... Since pretty much every medium with the exception of Daniel Dunglas Home was caught out at some time or another, that would rule them all out; even Home was widely suspected of cheating."
So even a psi proponent like Robert:
1. Does not doubt there was a lot of fraud in physical mediumship.
2. Admits that pretty much every medium (apart from D. D. Home) was caught in fraud.
This is not much different than the skeptical position:
1. All physical mediumship is fraudulent.
2. Every medium was caught in fraud or suspected of it (including D. D. Home).
Even parapsychologists like Hereward Carrington who were believers in psi, admitted 98% of physical mediumship was fraudulent. Other parapsychologists have written 99% of it was. Does it make sense that 1% of the phenomena would be genuine? By default that is the position you would have to be pushed into to defend. Does not make sense for a rational or scientific point of view.
But are you claiming otherwise Juan?
How about you name ten genuine physical mediums who were not caught in fraud? No such list exists. Please show us if you think otherwise.
Posted by: FuzzyCatPotato (rationalwiki) | December 19, 2016 at 09:53 PM
"Didn't Rationalwiki also claim at least one investigator had an affair with Eusapia Palladino despite his notes heavily implying he found her personally repulsive."
Rationalwiki does not claim anything. It cites sources, and I believe Michael Prescott's blog was referring to Wikipedia not RationalWiki.
The claim Palladino slept with her seance investigators was promoted by magic historians William Kalush and Larry Sloman:
"The most notorious medium who used her sexual charms to seduce her scientific investigators was Eusapia Palladino... [She] had no qualms about sleeping with her sitters; among them were the eminent criminologist Lombroso and the Nobel Prize—winning French Physiologist Charles Richet. After being discredited, Palladino's career was revived in 1909 when Hereward Carrington, acting as her manager, brought her to the United States."
The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero. Atria Books. page. 419.
Kalush and Sloman list their source as a letter from Eric Dingwall. So the sexual allegations came from a psychical researcher, not from skeptics.
In his book "Immortal Longings: FWH Myers and the Victorian Search for Life After Death", biographer Trevor Hamilton noted:
"As well as being accused of fraud, Palladino was also charged with great powers of sexual enchantment."
Trevor Hamilton has written articles for the new PSI encyclopedia.
Posted by: FuzzyCatPotato (rationalwiki) | December 19, 2016 at 10:05 PM
"Juan why is he wrong?"
Because Indridason was not caught in fraud, for example. But do not respond, it is clear that you are trolls.
Posted by: Juan | December 19, 2016 at 10:09 PM
"Because Indridason was not caught in fraud, for example. But do not respond, it is clear that you are trolls."
Wrong, there were two accounts that accused Indridason of fraud. And throwing around ad-homimen attacks does you no favors. You do not seem knowledgeable about this subject.
Posted by: FuzzyCatPotato (rationalwiki) | December 19, 2016 at 10:13 PM
The book you cited claims that Houdini's death was not from a ruptured appendix but actually a secret murder plot by a cabal of Spiritualists led by Arthur Conan Doyle. This would be like me citing L Ron Hubbard on how radiation works.
Posted by: chel | December 19, 2016 at 11:38 PM
Eric Dingwall called Palladino "vulgar" and "amorous", I've not been able to find sources in which he said the investigators actually had affairs with her. I am told the investigators went on at length about how disgusting her slovenly appearance, crude language, and foul smell were. I see the "magic historians" provide no source, and I can't help but be amused how (even if he actually said it, which you haven't shown) Dingwall is obviously talking nonsense when he proposes psi and yet totally trustworthy when he says this. Any other commenters better informed than me want to weigh in with detail?
Posted by: chel | December 19, 2016 at 11:45 PM
Also, if you'll forgive my spamming here, "accused of" does not equal "caught in".
Posted by: chel | December 19, 2016 at 11:46 PM
"Wrong, there were two accounts that accused Indridason of fraud. "
Being accused of fraud is not the same as being caught in fraud.
Posted by: Juan | December 20, 2016 at 08:24 AM
Rationalwiki selectively picks things that support the skeptica worldview, and sneers at and insults those on the proponent side of these sort of issues.
Not sure why anyone would bother to take it seriously, it's not a journal, it's not scientific, it's just another website to intellectually look down at and insult others.
Posted by: Robbie | December 20, 2016 at 11:19 AM
"The book you cited claims that Houdini's death was not from a ruptured appendix but actually a secret murder plot by a cabal of Spiritualists led by Arthur Conan Doyle"
Chel, let's be honest you have not read Sloman's book on Houdini. Neither has Prescott. The authors do not claim Conan Doyle was behind his death. That is Prescott's misunderstanding. Doyle threatened Houdini on a number of occasions and there is certainly dirty tactics used by Doyle but the authors do not believe he was behind Houdini's death.
80% of Sloman's book on Houdini has nothing to do with his death, that stuff only comes at the end and has unfortunately been sensationalized. The book documents Houdini's involvement with Spiritualism and his possible relationship with the British intelligence. Houdini was involved with Scotland Yard, just how much we will never truly know.
If you had looked into Houdini's death you would see he died in very suspicious circumstances, there are even some very conflicting witness reports. He was murdered there is no doubt about that. I have no idea what was the truth behind it but Houdini was sent several death threats from spiritualists before his death. Who knows what happened.
The book is considered a masterpiece by modern Houdini historians (John Cox, for example). It is far from 'wacky' like Prescott alleges.
"Eric Dingwall called Palladino "vulgar" and "amorous", I've not been able to find sources in which he said the investigators actually had affairs with her."
" I see the "magic historians" provide no source"
How would you know? You have not read it.
The source is Eric Dingwall. Go and buy the book and check the source for yourself :)
Posted by: James the Houdini fan | December 20, 2016 at 02:27 PM
If Houdini's death is suspicious, present actual evidence. I refuse to go spend money on a book on a random stranger's say-so. Tell me what the book says about Houdini. Tell me where Eric Dingwall said these things. Provide me with links to the exact quotations. Otherwise, I have no reason to believe you.
Other commenters, can you please weigh in? I'm not an expert here.
Posted by: chel | December 20, 2016 at 04:59 PM
Concerning the Fox sisters the favored fraud hypothesis is toe cracking, e.g., see Coover's essay "Metaphysics and the incredulity of psychologists"
The paperback ed. of The Secret Life of Houdini does not include the references or footnotes, they are gathered here:
Posted by: NCM | December 20, 2016 at 06:27 PM
Posted by: NCM | December 20, 2016 at 06:30 PM
FuzzyCatPotato read the wrong line, here is the correct source:
page 419. Pallandino had no qualms... Harry Houdini, Houdini A Magician Among
The Spirits (New York : Arno Press, 1972), 64-65. Lombroso, C., After Death-What?
(Boston : Small, Maynard, 1909), 112-113, cited in “The ‘Margery’ Affair” by Thomas
R. Tietze, Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, no date, 352.
Posted by: NCM | December 20, 2016 at 06:40 PM
I'm aware of the toe cracking theory, and I'm also aware that cracking joints doesn't sound a damn thing like a rap on a wall, and I'm fairly sure that for it to be loud enough to be heard it would have to be very obvious where it was coming from.
That notation is useless to me because I do not have the book, which I will not buy on your say-so, and you haven't provided the full quote. Typing out a full sentence is not hard.
Posted by: chel | December 20, 2016 at 08:20 PM
Sorry, your first comment concerning the Fox sisters came across as an implicit question.
FuzzyCatPotato provided the full quote - reading his/her comment is not hard.
Posted by: NCM | December 20, 2016 at 08:38 PM
I am referring to the quote from Dingwall. A quote effectively saying "Some guy said this" isn't a useful quote unless one sees the exact words the guy in question said.
Posted by: chel | December 20, 2016 at 10:01 PM
"I do not have the book, which I will not buy"
I have never came across a paranormal believer who will actually go out and buy a skeptic book with his/her own money to see the other side of the story. Not open minded. Houdini himself must have spent close to £10, 000 on paranormal and spiritualist publications. That was a lot of money in those days.
By the way that book on Houdini by Sloman is about £3 on eBay. Is that a lot?
Richard Wiseman in his book "Paranormality" says
"Margaretta silenced those Spiritualists who had been sceptical about her confession by appearing before a packed auditorium at the New York Academy of Music and demonstrating her remarkable ability to produce raps at will"
As for apple and strings (Wiseman again):
"According to [Margaretta], the strange noises initially experienced at Hydesville were actually due to nothing more than an apple, a piece of string and a naïve belief in the honesty of children."
Margaretta in her own words:
"When we went to bed at night we used to tie an apple to a string and move the string up and down, causing the apple to bump on the floor, or we would drop the apple on the floor, making a strange noise every time it would rebound."
As Wiseman noted the apple and string could only be used in dark séances. The joint cracking was used in daylight séances. According to Margaretta "the rappings are simply the result of a perfect control of the muscles of the leg below the knee, which govern the tendons of the foot and allow action of the toe and ankle bones that is not commonly known."
What is exactly left to explain? The Fox sisters confessed their methods and demonstrated them to a packed audience at a hall. Occam's Razor is thus not on the believers side.
Posted by: Skeptic from JREF | December 21, 2016 at 12:31 AM
As I wrote the correct source for the Palladino claim is NOT a letter from Dingwall as FuzzyCatPotato claimed. No one is forcing you to get any books, but please read the comments.
The sections about the psychology of deception, and a few other sections in Wiseman's Paranormality are OK, but I have reservations concerning the rest. It is not worthwhile for me to elaborate.
Margaretta's confession also contains the claim "Such perfect control is only possible when a child is taken at an early age and carefully and continually taught to practice the muscles which grow still in later years. A child at twelve is almost to old" She claimed that she had been 8 and her sister 6,5 in 1848 .... The sisters were however, in fact, 14 and 12 in 1848! (As Robert notes in Randi's Prize).
Posted by: NCM | December 21, 2016 at 03:45 AM
This troll has been posting (under various handles) this kind of claptrap for years now. He or she likes to reference late-nineteenth/early twentieth century skeptical literature. The problem for them is that such writings are just as polemical and sloppy as most skeptical work today. Don't take my word for it, ask Cambridge University historian of science Andreas Sommer who is an expert on early psychical research and the long history of intellectually bankrupt skepticism.
Posted by: Troy | December 21, 2016 at 11:56 AM
Do YOU buy stuff on the recommendation of random strangers? If I half-heartedly referenced a random book, would you either go out and buy it or take my word for it that it said what I said it did?
What is the source, then? Quote it. Tell me exactly what was said. To make a convincing argument, you should not demand the opponent seek out the information for themselves, because they probably won't, and when I tried I found nothing. I found no hint that this evidence exists and the writers you reference were not just making up whatever they wanted.
Posted by: chel | December 21, 2016 at 12:12 PM
May I ask why the devout sceptics post here anonymously? If you aren't happy to put your name behind your words then why should anyone take notice of them?
That aside, I've read the sceptic arguments over-and-over-and-over again. It's always the same load of flim-flam. For those who have experienced psychic phenomena first hand it's utterly risible - embarrassingly so. Who in their right mind asks others to deny their own experience by listening, endlessly, to those who haven't a clue on such matters?
And, as a matter of kindness, might I suggest that you waste no further energy on matters that you believe to be unworthy of serious study.
Now, off you go. :)
Posted by: Julie Baxter | December 21, 2016 at 04:10 PM
"May I ask why the devout sceptics post here anonymously? If you aren't happy to put your name behind your words then why should anyone take notice of them?"
Because skeptics have been attacked and stalked by paranormal proponents. M. Lamar Keene, Joseph Rinn, Harry Houdini and other debunking legends of spiritualism in the past have all been sent death threats. If online skeptic activists release their real name or details about themselves, they may receive such abuse from paranormal believers that will put their own safety at risk. It only takes a name and then someone can stalk them on Facebook or something like that. The only way to stay safe online is to remain anonymous if you are involved in debunking or skepticism. Susan Gerbic founder of Guerrilla Skepticism has received abuse from psi proponents.
Posted by: Jack Wagner | December 21, 2016 at 09:47 PM
NCM in those sources you list there is no mention that Palladino slept with Charles Richet. The references in a nut shell claim Palladino was a bit of a sexual deviant who tried to seduce her male seance sitters. She had displayed some erotic behavior similar to Eva C. I have no idea why Larry Sloman then jumps the gun and thinks she slept with Lombroso or Richet. It's possible but I see no conclusive proof of this or am I missing something?
Lombroso by the way was not a well man. He had arteriosclerosis and his eye-sight was failing him. I find it funny how believers think he was a reliable witness in a dark seance room.
Posted by: Jack Wagner | December 21, 2016 at 09:54 PM
" Lombroso, C., After Death-What?
(Boston : Small, Maynard, 1909), 112-113, cited in “The ‘Margery’ Affair” by Thomas
R. Tietze, Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, no date, 352. "
TCM do you have any ideas about this source? Thomas Tietze's book is a biography of Mina Crandon? Are these the sources for the sexual allegations against Lombroso and Richet? Seems very strange.
And the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, no date, 352?
Posted by: Jack Wagner | December 21, 2016 at 10:01 PM
Pages 112-113 here of Lombroso's book online
Does not mention any sexual behavior. Like I said I have read references that describe Palladino as a bit of a sexual deviant who would try and seduce her male sitters but none that she slept with Richet. And none of these references you listed support this.
"[She] had no qualms about sleeping with her sitters; among them were the eminent criminologist Lombroso and the Nobel Prize—winning French Physiologist Charles Richet"
This statement from Sloman may well be bogus. Can you let me know what you think? You may know more about this.
Posted by: Jack Wagner | December 21, 2016 at 10:08 PM
"Because skeptics have been attacked and stalked by paranormal proponents. M. Lamar Keene, Joseph Rinn, Harry Houdini and other debunking legends of spiritualism in the past have all been sent death threats. If online skeptic activists release their real name or details about themselves, they may receive such abuse from paranormal believers that will put their own safety at risk. It only takes a name and then someone can stalk them on Facebook or something like that. The only way to stay safe online is to remain anonymous if you are involved in debunking or skepticism. Susan Gerbic founder of Guerrilla Skepticism has received abuse from psi proponents."
Oh please! This gets beyond silly. If you really feel that you are in some kind of danger then just take up another sport. I don't think many psychic researchers stalk sceptic forums. So why are you here and why not just do one and find a subject that is of genuine interest to you.
You people are sad beyond belief. And you're not even in the least bit important in the great scheme of things. Moreover, I suspect you're not significant in any area of life - otherwise you wouldn't be here, hiding behind your mother's skirts and squealing about the dangers of speaking out about a subject that means noting to you.
Get a life. :)
Posted by: Julie Baxter | December 21, 2016 at 10:18 PM
It is difficult to know what to believe about the Fox sisters. Even their birthdates as found in various accounts vary by as much as 10 years.
Robert Dale Owen wrote about the Fox sisters and their initial encounter with sounds, knocks, and other noises which manifested at their house in Hydesville, New York in 1848. His book “Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World” published in 1875 twenty-seven years or so after the spirit of ”Charles B. Rosma” began rapping on the walls and floors of the Fox house provides around twelve pages about the “mysterious noises” even reporting that the noises were heard by previous residents before the Fox family moved into the house .
It appears that Owen’s information came from various published accounts at the time and signed certificates from people closely involved with the case. It does not appear that Owens had any first-hand knowledge of the occurrences. He does report though that on the night of the 31st of March 1848 that “On that night the neighbours, attracted by the rumour of the disturbances, gradually gathered in, to the number of seventy or eighty, so that Mrs. Fox left the house for that of Mrs. Redfield, while the children [Margaret and Kate] were taken home by another neighbor. Mr. Fox remained.” At that time, responsive raps continued to be heard by the crowd of neighbors which reportedly eventually led to the discovery of a few human bones and hair buried in the basement of the house and assumed to be that of a peddler, Charles B. Rosma.
It is interesting to note that the next day, Saturday night according to Owens quoting from a pamphlet of forty pages entitled “A Report of the Mysterious Noises heard in the house of Mr. John D. Fox in Hydesville, Arcadia, Wayne County, authenticated by the certificates and confirmed by the statements of the citizens of that place and vicinity, p. 15” (Whew!) that, “. . . there were some three hundred people in and about the house.”
If that is an accurate account, that is, that Margaret and Kate were not in the house at the time the rapping was heard by the neighbors, then I think that the apple-on-a-string hypothesis for the sounds is a moot point. Neither child was present to make the sounds either with an apple or by cracking their toe joints. Nevertheless, one may be wise to take these old accounts with a grain of salt surmising that reporters and writers in those days, probably were no different from those of today ---always looking for a good story that would attract sales of their newspaper, pamphlet or book as the case may be. Readers in the 1800s were not any more immune to ‘fake news’ in their day than we are in ours. - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 22, 2016 at 03:49 AM
"" If online skeptic activists release their real name or details about themselves, they may receive such abuse from paranormal believers that will put their own safety at risk. It only takes a name and then someone can stalk them on Facebook or something like that. "
Get over yourself. Troll.
Posted by: Troy | December 22, 2016 at 08:12 AM
'It is difficult to know what to believe about the Fox sisters.'
Interesting topic! I wrote about it in Randi's Prize and also here:
Compared with other controversies of the period, the documentary evidence about the Hydseville incident is clearer than one would think. The 1948 pamphlet (I thought I had the text somewhere, but frustratingly can’t find it) was originally written by EE Lewis, an enterprising local (may have been a journalist) who went round getting signed statements from the parents and about 20 other witnesses just ten days after the main events. I quoted from them in my earlier post, and they make it look pretty much like a poltergeist episode with a strong responsive element, of the kind that has been reported elsewhere with the added feature of a hysterical mob. I don’t think anyone could reasonably claim these responses were caused by two little girls bumping apples on the floor. And unless we suspect Lewis of having made up the statements, we can't call it fake news - it's a bunch of people clearly reacting to the same event.
The mother states the girls ages as 14 and 12. Then we get all kinds of elaborations and variations until the ‘confession’ forty years later, in which they’re said to have been much younger. As I pointed out in RP, Margaret Fox makes a big deal about this – too young to know wrong from right, mother did not suspect such young children of playing tricks, etc. Fishy, or what?
If sceptics are right to make a big deal out of the corruptibility of memory, and they probably are, they should surely consider a detailed statement made days later more accurate than one made forty years later. Oddly in this case it’s the opposite.
Posted by: Robert McLuhan | December 22, 2016 at 01:00 PM
“Mysterious Noises“ by E. E. Lewis is reprinted here:
Sorry Jack, I don't have time to do any research right now. I need to get work done before Christmas, but if challenged I believe that Kalush and Sloman would argue that they made two claims:
"Palladino had no qualms about sleeping with her sitters [claim 1]; among them were the eminent criminologist Lombroso and the Nobel Prize—winning French Physiologist Charles Richet [claim 2, i.e. Lombroso and Richet sat with her]"
Posted by: NCM | December 22, 2016 at 02:35 PM
"Then we get all kinds of elaborations and variations until the ‘confession’ forty years later," - Robert
I seem to remember it being reported that one of the sisters became a hopeless alcoholic in later life and made the 'confession' of fraud in exchange for a considerable amount of money which she needed to fuel her alcohol addiction. If my memory serves me well, I think the late Colin Wilson reported that incident too in one of his books - probably 'Mysteries' or 'The Occult'. I could look up his comments, if anyone here is interested.
Posted by: Julie Baxter | December 22, 2016 at 03:17 PM
Thanks NCM. It is always nice to have access to original documents. - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 22, 2016 at 04:15 PM
Source for info on Lombroso's physical condition? How was the health of the other investigators?
Posted by: chel | December 22, 2016 at 04:32 PM
"It is difficult to know what to believe about the Fox sisters"
They were frauds:
"Three investigators Austin Flint, Charles E. Lee and C. B. Coventry from the University at Buffalo examined the raps produced by the sisters and concluded they were produced by cracking their bone joints such as toes, knees, ankles or hips. From a control, they discovered the raps did not occur if the sisters were placed on a couch with cushions under their feet."
"The modern unearthing of the Fox cottage’s foundations did nothing to support the claim that in 1848 schoolgirls had communicated with the spirit of a murdered peddler. Instead, the excavation made it possible for everyone to see that no “false wall” had been built to hide the legendary peddler’s remains but that it was merely part of an earlier, smaller foundation. The best evidence indicates that the 1904 “discovery” of the peddler’s bones was a hoax; ditto the later appearance of the tin trunk. Therefore, the Fox sisters’ confessions stand, corroborated by independent evidence that the spirit rappings they produced were accomplished by trickery."
Posted by: JREF poster | December 22, 2016 at 05:56 PM
“Mysterious Noises“ by E. E. Lewis is reprinted here'
thanks - I had a similar link to Psypioneer, but it didn't work when I tried it, so must have been moved.
I agree the stuff about the peddler is quite unreliable. But you see what I mean about quotes like this:
'I do not know of any way to account for these noises, as being caused by any natural means. We have searched in every nook and corner in and about the house, at different times, to ascertain if possible whether any thing or any body was secreted there, that could make the noise, and have never been able to find any thing which explained the mystery. It has caused a great deal of trouble and anxiety.'
How do you get this from little girls bumping apples?
Posted by: Robert McLuhan | December 22, 2016 at 07:03 PM
Interesting debate here.
I noticed Rinn was mentioned already. If you read Rinn's book Searchlight on Psychical Research he claimed to have detected the Fox sisters in outright deception. Rinn apparently visited the sisters himself and observed a few seances. How do proponents get around this?
I have not covered the Fox sisters but I have covered the fraud of Helen Duncan on my blog if anyone is interested.
Posted by: GV | December 22, 2016 at 08:56 PM
What are your thoughts about the certifications that NCM provided in his link above? - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 22, 2016 at 09:55 PM
I think that there are two separate things to consider here about the phenomena at the Fox house in Hydesville. One, is the phenomena heard in March-April 1848 and the second thing is the 40-year careers of the three Fox sisters. Reportedly, in signed certifications, the raps etc. at the Fox house occurred a year or so before the Fox family moved in and were heard by other families living there. The maid saw an apparition of a man in the bedroom adjoining the kitchen prior to Kate and Margaret's involvement with the phenomena. Reportedly the noises occurred at times when the Fox girls were not present in the house. Now perhaps this is all fabrication but it seems to me to be truthful testimony of people who were present during the first several days following the initial interest in the case and the early development of communication by means of raps with the 'spirit'.
The second thing is that Kate and Margaret as well as their sister who promoted them could have just taken advantage of the notoriety surrounding this case, seducing people to think that they had psychic powers and seizing the good fortune that had befallen them to make some money. Apparently they made a career fostering that belief that they could contact spirits. The Fox sisters may have been frauds during their careers but that doesn't necessarily mean that the phenomena vouched for by many people in 1848 was all fraudulent. - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 22, 2016 at 10:27 PM
"The Fox sisters may have been frauds during their careers but that doesn't necessarily mean that the phenomena vouched for by many people in 1848 was all fraudulent." - AOD
Excellent point, Amos!
But, getting back to Indridi: It occurs to me that it's almost certainly the case that his mop of flamboyant hair was the colour of coconut matting. I have an instinct for these things. :)
Posted by: Julie Baxter | December 22, 2016 at 10:46 PM
Joseph Rinn was not entirely reliable. His book was reviewed in the SPR journal by W. H. Salter:
"It would be tedious to correct all Mr Rinn's minor inaccuracies: here are a few jotted down as I read the book. Barrett was not ' head of the British S.P.R.' at the time of his American visit in
1885, or anywhere near it (p. 15). J. H. Hyslop is made (p. 294) to speak in 1910 of ' the English branch of our association ', which he would certainly not have done, as he had negotiated on the American side the complete separation of the British and American Societies in 1906. Ivor Tuckett was not at any time a ' prominent member ' of the S.P.R. (p. 309) : in 191 1 he was not a member at all. It is correctly stated (p. 599) that in 1938 the ESP cards used by Professor Rhine were unsuited for experimental purposes : see S.P.R. Journal for May 1938. Professor Rhine was by that time quite aware of the defect, and was arranging for the use of a better type of card in his later experiments: Mr Rinn does not mention this. Nor does he, after mentioning (pp. 596-7) the negative results of Dr Soal's earlier experiments as tending to disprove Professor Rhine's claims, anywhere refer to the positive results that Dr Soal and Mrs Goldney later obtained through Shackleton (S.P.R. Proceedings XLVII)
A large part of the book is taken up with one-sided accounts of conversations in which Mr Rinn scores off the other fellow. One's confidence in the accuracy of these accounts is shaken by Mr Rinn's exaggerated bias, and the prevalence of blunders large and small destroys it entirely, beyond hope of restoration by the most copious extracts from the American press, to which he freely resorts.
The pity is that Mr Rinn, whose knowledge and experience of mediumistic trickery would have qualified him to write an interesting book of value to psychical research, if he had confined himself to matters that he understood and that had come under his own observation, has been so unwise as to go outside these limits."
Even the militant skeptics who control Wikipedia like Susan Gerbic admit his books contains errors:
Posted by: debunking the skeptics | December 22, 2016 at 11:02 PM
Why do there have to be 'militant skeptics'? What are these modern-day Luddites afraid of? I really don't understand them, or their negative and destructive fascination with orthodox research into the well-documented issues relating to psi phenomena. Why not simply get on with making some kind of inroad into the areas in which they are qualified to comment and which they believe to be worthwhile areas of study? This is not a matter of peer review; it's ignorance on stilts.
Any healthy-minded individual leaves aside that which they believe to be nonsensical. But these militants appear to be fanatically absorbed in carving an identity on the back of others by power of ridicule. Again, what are they afraid of? I see no intellectual courage in any of them. The mere fact that most hide behind pseudonyms is evidence of their guerrilla tactics. And even those like Augustine, who lend their name to the cause, simply trot out thoughtless, mindless arguments that contain about as much intellectual worth as the average Christmas cracker joke. :/
Posted by: Julie Baxter | December 23, 2016 at 12:38 AM
I can't bring myself to fully believe any of this stuff until I see it for myself, and I suspect I never will if it seems to avoid those who don't believe as has been said several times. (Though my sceptical mother and grandmother have been witness to a haunting which doesn't seem easily explainable by the usual methods, but mother was only seven so I obviously wasn't there and can't comment.) However, I'm closer to believing it than I was a year ago because of the sheer sloppiness of a lot of the sceptical explanations. If it was truly so easy to explain away, surely they would actually look at what's being claimed in order to do so properly?
Posted by: chel | December 23, 2016 at 02:18 AM
Didn't a sceptic actually succeed in stabbing Rupert Sheldrake?
And fer eff's sake, sceptic, I'm a woman. I risk death threats for saying I like a specific cartoon or political opinion and I still express those thoughts. I don't use my full name because I'm not comfortable being traceable. I do, however, use the same username for all comments on the same site, which I suspect isn't what our sceptic(s) is/are doing.
Posted by: chel | December 23, 2016 at 12:12 PM
Skeptics like Donnis also do selective bias when it comes to certain sources. For example he uses Harry Price to dismiss Helen Dunan as a fraud on his website and on Wikipedia but he does not cite Price's supportive conclusions of the physical medium Stella C. This is a well known fallacy called cherry-picking. It's almost as if he will read a book for anything negative, but deliberately ignore any supportive evidence for the paranormal.
Posted by: Roberta | December 23, 2016 at 12:19 PM
I do recall being told the girls hid the apples on strings under their skirts where nobody would be rude enough to look, but surely it would be fairly easy to tell where the sound was coming from in that case? If it wasn't loud enough to be immediately obvious, wouldn't layers of skirts prevent the noise from being heard clearly at all? And that would hardly shake the bed, as their mother reported happening.
Posted by: chel | December 23, 2016 at 03:00 PM
"Didn't a sceptic actually succeed in stabbing Rupert Sheldrake?"
Leslie Price and Tom Ruffles keep posting on their facebook's that Rupert Sheldrake was stabbed by a skeptic. There is not an ounce of truth in this. I wish Price would retract this charge.
The man who stabbed Rupert Sheldrake was a paranormal believer, he was also mentally ill:
"Sheldrake, an expert on mental telepathy, was stabbed in the leg April 2 as he finished his lecture at the 10th International Conference on Science and Consciousness at a Santa Fe hotel. Sheldrake had said that Hirano told him the day before that he heard voices and thought people were trying to communicate with him telepathically. "
He was a believer in telepathy. He has nothing to do with skepticism, he was very much a believer in psi.
Posted by: Amazing Atheist | December 23, 2016 at 04:45 PM
Just think for a minute. In the late winter or early Spring of 1848 just how many hard apples do you think would have been available to young girls in Hydesville, New York when snow probably would have still been on the ground? Fresh hard apples, hard enough to bounce around on the floor, just were not available at that time of year in 1848 in New York. There were no supermarkets with apples flown in from Argentina in the winter. Any apples from trees in the back yard would have been rotted by the end of March unless they were canned as applesauce or pie filling. And multiple knocks caused by an apple, hard enough to vibrate furniture, certainly would have been detected by the multitude of onlookers as well as eventually destroyed the apple.
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 23, 2016 at 05:45 PM
I'm not sure; apples can keep for six months in a cold storage room. (Brit here, we don't have air-con and just let the storage room go unheated. New England's pretty chilly too.) Didn't sailors take barrels of apples on voyages, implying they kept pretty well? Obviously a moot point if the sound described couldn't be created with an apple anyway, which I don't think it could. Even a very hard apple would be bruised and softened by being repeatedly dropped, so it would only work for a couple of raps if it did at all.
My mother's version had it as wooden balls. If the girls themselves said apples, I'm inclined to think my mother's the one who misremembered. I don't think that would make it much better; as I said, the sound would either be muffled by their skirts or very easily located, plus they wouldn't be as loud as the sounds were described.
Posted by: chel | December 23, 2016 at 06:41 PM
No need to argue the point Chel. Just pick an apple from a tree in September, place it in the refrigerator and see if it lasts until March. Apples today purchased from a grocery store have been treated with preservatives to help them to remain edible for a longer period of time. And, fallen apples under a tree, even though they may have been in a cool or cold climate, by spring are quite rotten.
I always thought that old-time sailors took limes, not apples, with them on a voyage to prevent scurvy, hence the name "Limey" as applied to British sailors.
And, are you assuming that the little girls skirts hung down to the floor? -AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 23, 2016 at 07:04 PM
Not trying to argue with you, just to pick out the holes in the theory to fully take it apart. I find it interesting.
Apples certainly don't last six months in my home. Om nom nom more apples.
That's a good point. If they were as young as they say they were their skirts would be above their ankles. If they were fourteen and twelve they'd be longer, but still a bit off the floor. Presumably they'd be in their nightdresses when the noises first started, but those would be thinner than day dresses and the sound's origin would probably be more noticeable.
Posted by: chel | December 23, 2016 at 07:40 PM
Michael E. Tymn claims here that the spirit photographs of William Mumler and Frederick Hudson were genuine:
There is no mention in his article that Hudson was exposed as a blatant fraud.
I can't take the PSI encyclopedia seriously because of this. Die hard spiritualist believers writing articles claiming long debunked nonsense is genuine? Who else thinks that spirit photograph of president Lincoln is genuine? It makes no sense, anyone can see it is bogus. Skeptics will have a field day with this. I would trust Wikipedia any-day over anything Tymn or his buddies write. I have never seen such such a credulous display in my life.
Posted by: Waller Joel the skeptic | December 23, 2016 at 08:07 PM
Amos Oliver Doyle, the bangs sisters were caught in fraud by Stanley LeFevre Krebs and Hereward Carrington https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangs_Sisters
You are doing yourself no favors by going around the web claiming their paintings were produced by spirits.
Posted by: Waller Joel the skeptic | December 23, 2016 at 08:09 PM
There's no mention in a lot of the sceptical literature of times when your lot were caught in fraud either, or is it well-known that Randi's lied about, among other things, a Geller fan's alleged death by suicide which didn't actually happen?
Posted by: chel | December 23, 2016 at 09:49 PM
Chel do you believe William Mumler's blatantly fraudulent 'spirit' photographs were genuine? Do you not find it odd that in the 21st century someone is still claiming such nonsense is real evidence for spirits? What do you have to say about this? Any thoughts?
Posted by: Martin | December 24, 2016 at 02:56 AM
"Michael E. Tymn claims here that the spirit photographs of William Mumler and Frederick Hudson were genuine:
There is no mention in his article that Hudson was exposed as a blatant fraud."
That's not what I read:
"I definitely remain a skeptic and would say the evidence does not meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of our criminal courts, but I still hold that the evidence for exceeds the evidence against and therefore it meets the “preponderance” standard of our civil courts. "
Posted by: Juan | December 24, 2016 at 08:35 AM
Martin; no, I don't, but I also disbelieve basically everything that comes out of James Randi's mouth, pen, or keyboard. Do you?
Posted by: chel | December 24, 2016 at 10:06 AM
Wrong Juan. You quoted a comment from Michael E. Tymn not his article piece. But let's look at the rest of the comment you quote from.
According to Michael E. Tymn:
"I admit to being skeptical, but as I now see it, the evidence favoring Mumler is more credible and outweighs the testimony against him."
"The evidence favoring Kluski as a genuine medium is overwhelming."
"It may very well be that thoughtography (as with Ted Serios) was involved"
"It may be that earthbound spirits got involved and were intentionally muddling up the process, perhaps projecting their own images when the image wasn’t recognized."
These are not the words of a skeptic Juan. They are the words of a devout spiritualist and die-hard believer. Franek Kluski was caught in fraud, so its unlikely he was a genuine medium. And Ted Serios was debunked as a charlatan. As for evidence supportive of Mumler outweighing the negative, that is ridiculous. Mumler was a blatant fraud.
As for Frederick Hudson, Tymn does not mention Hudson's name. He writes:
"On March 14, 1874, Wallace visited a professional photographer in England with Mrs. Guppy, a medium and personal friend, in hopes of obtaining a spirit photo."
Yet the photograph Tymn uses in his article is found directly on Hudson's wikipedia article. Therefore Tymn must have known the photographer was Hudson but chose not to mention his name. Why?
The answer is because Tymn like's to hide negative evidence. Hudson was a blatant fraud, who utilized a trick camera. Funny how Tymn chooses to ignore these things. This is called confirmation bias.
His statement that you quote that he believes "the evidence for [spirit photography] exceeds the evidence against" is pure nonsense. The evidence is so negative that most modern day parapsychologists don't even mention this stuff anymore.
Posted by: Michael Ashley | December 24, 2016 at 08:23 PM
"I also disbelieve basically everything that comes out of James Randi's mouth, pen, or keyboard. Do you?"
What is the obsession with James Randi? He has retired from skepticism. If you want a reliable skeptic who investigates paranormal claims in person look up Joe Nickell, Benjamin Radford and Massimo Polidoro who are all well educated on the history of psychical research. Do I believe everything they write? No, we all make mistakes. But the majority of their publications contain a lot of rational and reliable research.
Posted by: Michael Ashley | December 24, 2016 at 08:30 PM
He's the most prolific liar I can think of, and I don't see how his being retired from scepticism is remotely relevant given that you keep quoting people who've been DEAD for at least a century.
Unconnected, but in the spirit of the season I must complain about stupid Facebook macros. See, I do get the potential humour in pointing out most of the current Christmas traditions originated in paganism, but the people who make the smug macros pointing this out seem to be the type of atheists who hold pagans in contempt as much as Christians if not more so. I know a lot of pagans and I think they'd be more annoyed by being co-opted for bashing Christians now than being co-opted by Christians centuries ago. I also don't see any way that pointing this out actually makes Christians look bad. "We thought this tradition was a fun idea and used it" doesn't seem either heinous or stupid to me.
Posted by: chel | December 24, 2016 at 09:59 PM
As Juan pointed out, I didn't say that I believed Mumler's spirit photos to be genuine. I said I was skeptical, but that the evidence in favor of Mumler outweighed the evidence against him, at least it does for anybody digging deeply into Mumler's story, as I have. Joel Waller says that Mumler and Hudson were debunked, but so supposedly was every other medium in the history of mediumship, if you want to believe Wikipedia writers.
Waller also says that it is obvious that the photo of Lincoln is a fake. If it had been a perfect likeness of Lincoln, it would have been a fake., but a poor likeness was equally a fake. The pseudoskeptics have their cake and can eat it, too. There's no winning on that one.
As I explained in one of the comments at my blog, I tend to look at the evidence favoring a particular medium. There were many testimonials from credible people to the effect that the spirit image on both the negative and the print was the likeness of a deceased loved one and that there is no way Mumler could have obtained a photo of the person beforehand. In some cases, the person had died before photography came into existence and was never photographed. Yet, the person was identified. Of course, that does not rule out the possibility of thoughtography, i.e., the sitter projecting the image of the loved one onto the photographic plate, but that also defies the known laws of science, even if it doesn't lend itself to the spirit hypothesis. On the other hand, there were images of "spirits" unknown to the sitter, so not likely produced by such thought projection of the sitter.
I would suggest that Waller look beyond the usual debunking sites before writing off someone as a fraud. I'm still skeptical on Mumler, but if I were a betting person, I would bet that he produced some genuine spirit photos. He may also have produced some fraudulent ones to justify his fee when nothing happened, but that lends itself to his credibility on the genuine ones. Why couldn't he produce fake images on every plate? If you look at 50 or so photos produces by Mumler, you will see a wide range of quality, which is what one might expect given the varying abilities of spirits to project thought or image through the veil. I realize that all that is a bit too much for the pseudoskeptics to grasp. Most of them can't think outside the terrestrial box.
Posted by: Michael Tymn | December 25, 2016 at 04:24 AM
"if I were a betting person, I would bet that he produced some genuine spirit photos"
Dam, have you honestly listened to yourself? Claiming Mumler might have produced 'some' genuine spirit photographs is rather absurd I am afraid!
The only people who take you seriously are a small niche of old spiritualists who comment on your blog. You remind me of Arthur Conan Doyle, willing to believe anything and defending all these fraudulent mediums. Mumler's spirit photographs were heavily criticized in the SPR journal. (Sidgwick, Eleanor. (1891). On Spirit Photographs: A Reply to Mr A.R. Wallace. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 7: 268-289). Not only do skeptics disagree with you, so do the majority of psychical researchers.
Just run a Google Image search on Mumler's photographs. Even a fool can see they are bogus!
He destroyed all the negatives of his photographs before his death.
Simeon Edmunds in his book "Spiritualism: A Critical Survey" writes:
"His career came to an end when it was proved that some of his spirits were likenesses of living persons whose photographs he had taken in the past."
But sure apparently some of his photographs were genuine :)
Posted by: Simon Reynold | December 25, 2016 at 06:12 AM
Michael what do you think about the trick camera that Hudson used? You do not mention it on your blog post.
The Alfred Russel Wallace spirit photograph is obviously a fake because he had a trick camera.
Posted by: Simon Reynold | December 25, 2016 at 06:17 AM
"I realize that all that is a bit too much for the pseudoskeptics to grasp. Most of them can't think outside the terrestrial box." - Michael Tymn
Yes, bless their little cotton socks. And that's precisely why they launched rabidwiki in an attempt to nail down the lid. I love your writing, Michael. It always projects a calm, rational willingness to look deeply into the subjects you research rather than apply the knee-jerk approach of these mediocrities who can't see beyond their own limited view. I wouldn't dream of visiting one of their forums and I have no understanding of why they visit forums such as this. Do they *really* have the naive temerity to believe that the intellectuals who read and post here have any need for their input?
Why is it always the case that those whose minds represent the lowest common denominator feel somehow entitled to appoint themselves the Thought Police over others? Pedestrian thinkers always imagine that others can see nothing more than they can; just as tricksters imagine that everyone else is playing games and liars see nothing but lies. Sad and tedious people. :(
Posted by: Julie Baxter | December 25, 2016 at 10:19 AM
Thanks for that excellent link to the photography museum. I found the account of Moses Dow with Mumler extraordinary. I suggest that those who are interested in spirit photography should read about Dow's experience. Of course Dow could be making it all up but his testimonial seems to me to be important documentation supporting Mumler's credibility. - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 25, 2016 at 03:27 PM
Are we to assume that all spirits are accomplished graphic artists?---that somehow there is a spiritual mechanism whereby spirits can transfer an accurate image of themselves from an immediate previous incarnation that is recognizable by those who knew them in life, even when they had lived at a time when no image of them existed and there may have been few or no quality mirrors for reflection of their full likeness for reference? Few of us see ourselves as others see us and perhaps we all see a reflection in the glass which we fabricate to some extent.
I am thinking just how I would produce an accurate picture of myself while now alive that everyone would recognize as me. Even with the best artist materials of pen, ink, pastels, oils tempera etc. I know that my completed picture which probably would take many hours to complete would probably not be recognizable---even to myself, that is, unless I had a photograph of myself to copy. Do we expect that I, as a spirit, would suddenly gain artistic ability to render a picture of myself with photographic accuracy?
I think that a complication would be that, if a spirit had multiple incarnations in life, then maybe those body forms and associated images would tend to blend together so that whatever image was produced would not be recognizable as any one incarnation. Spirits have no physical form so to expect a photographic likeness of one is expecting a fabrication of sorts from the ‘git-go’. - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 25, 2016 at 04:11 PM
Any explanation on how the "trick camera" would have had to work to do this thing, or is "trick camera" just a catch-all?
Posted by: chel | December 25, 2016 at 10:10 PM
All of this reminds me of something that happened many years ago. An older, widowed, friend of mine told me how, some months after her husband's death, she found an undeveloped roll of film in his camera.
When that film was developed, commercially, it was found to contain photographs of a family celebration of their 25th wedding anniversary which had taken place not long before his sudden death. Superimposed on one of the photographs was a rather wispy image of her husband's face. It was turned slightly away from the camera and appeared to be looking straight ahead.
He bore a melancholy expression, as if in deep contemplation. My friend showed me that photograph and I can say with all honesty that it was indeed a truly haunting image. No one knew how it got there - especially since no one but he ever operated that camera.
Strange but true.
Posted by: Julie Baxter | December 25, 2016 at 10:41 PM
"Any explanation on how the "trick camera" would have had to work to do this thing"
"Hudson introduced spirit photography to Britain in 1872. He varied his methods through the years. Though frequently caught practicing deception, he was never arrested. Hudson at one time used a trick camera, made by a craftsman who sold conjuring apparatus. Harry Price described how the camera worked in his book, Confessions of a Ghost-Hunter, published in London in 1936. When the plate slide was inserted, this action brought the paper positive of the "ghost" up against the sensitive plate. When the shutter bulb was pressed, this image and the picture of the sitter were captured on the plate. Thus a single exposure on this plate carried both images."
Milbourne Christopher (1975). Mediums, Mystics & the Occult. Thomas Y. Crowell Co. pp. 115-116
Posted by: John Shaw | December 26, 2016 at 03:34 PM
"When the shutter bulb was pressed, this image and the picture of the sitter were captured on the plate. Thus a single exposure on this plate carried both images."
What, the image of someone who died before the age of photography? Sheesh! that's some trick camera. :)
Posted by: Julie Baxter | December 26, 2016 at 06:31 PM
Like so many reports of paranormal happenings, one has to pay attention to the details. The account of Moses Dow referenced above in the link to the photography museum while seemingly an impressive report by Moses Dow perhaps is not really actually by Dow. At the bottom of the report one reads the following note: "--Moses A. Dow, as quoted in The Personal Experiences of William H. Mumler in Spirit-Photography. Written by Himself. (Boston: Colby and Rich, 1875, pp. 31—40.) "
I may be misinterpreting who the "himself'" is as one might think that the account of Dow was either written by Dow himself or Mumler himself. My guess is that it was written by Mumler himself. - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 26, 2016 at 07:02 PM
As Robert McLuhan says above in his post on Indridi Indridason, the sceptic is never going to be convinced unless he witnesses it himself, and even then he might question his own sanity -- or words to that effect. The pseudosceptic always seems to rely on the hearsay evidence of people who didn't really understand what was going on in physical mediumship and came up with various theories, such as "trick cameras" that took pictures of people who had never been photographed or invisible wires that levitated people like Indridi. Highly respected scientists like Crookes and Wallace report running their hands over and under levitated objects to rule out invisible wires, but then the sceptic begins attacking the scientist, e.g., Crookes had a romantic interest in Florence Cook and became good friends with D. D. Home, so was biased; Lodge was grieving the loss of his son and so had a will to believe; Crawford killed himself so must have been humiliated when he realized he was wrong about all his findings, etc., etc. There is no end to the "could have," or "might have" theories surrounding various mediums and researchers.
Personally, I can't bring myself to believe that highly respected scientists and scholars like Edmonds, Hare, De Morgan, Wallace, Zollner, Crookes, Barrett, James, Hodgson, Hyslop, Richet, Geley, Schrenck-Notzing, Flammarion, Moore, Hamilton, Crawford and countless others were duped over and over and over again. If they had reported one or two observations as was the case with most of the debunkers cited by the pseudosceptics, there would definitely be cause for considerable doubt; however, we are talking hundreds of observations in many cases. And we are talking very strict controls, even to the point of Geley and Schrenck-Notzing examining the rectum and other orifices of the body to confirm that nothing was smuggled into the research room, which was locked behind them.
Some of the most hokey phenomena were produced by by Marthe Beraud, aka Eva C., and the pseudosceptic, in all of his or her wisdom, need not go beyond the hokey nature of it to offer guffaws as to how ridiculous it all is, how obviously fake. But as Geley explained it: “To build up in a few seconds an organ or an organism biologically complete – to create life – is a metapsychic feat which can but rarely produce a perfect result. That is why the great majority of materialisations are incomplete, fragmentary, defective, and show lacunae in their structure…but in these attempts we find almost always the marks of creative power, the sign-manual of life. In these rough forms the enigma of universal life – the relations of the Idea to Matter – is revealed in the splendor of its beauty.” The same may be said of spirit photography.
Several of those mentioned above rejected the spirit/survival hypothesis in favor of what might now be called Superpsi, but there was no doubt in their minds that the physical phenomena they witnessed was genuine. As Richet, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, put it: "This ectoplasmic formation at the expense of the physiological organism of the medium is now beyond all dispute. It is prodigiously strange, prodigiously unusual, and it would seem so unlikely as to be incredible, but must give in to the facts."
But, as has often been said, it is clear that some minds are not yet developed enough to understand all of this and we must tolerate them and have patience with them.
Posted by: Michael Tymn | December 27, 2016 at 04:00 AM
"But, as has often been said, it is clear that some minds are not yet developed enough to understand all of this and we must tolerate them and have patience with them."
But to engage with such minds is to cast one's pearls before swine.
Posted by: Julie Baxter | December 27, 2016 at 04:42 AM
"I can't bring myself to believe that highly respected scientists and scholars like Edmonds, Hare, De Morgan, Wallace, Zollner, Crookes, Barrett, James, Hodgson, Hyslop, Richet, Geley, Schrenck-Notzing, Flammarion, Moore, Hamilton, Crawford and countless others were duped over and over and over again."
Michael, what does a highly respected scientist or philosopher have to do with detecting seance room trickery? This is exactly the problem. None of those men you list were trained magicians or experienced in the art of deception. These (most elderly) men were deceived in the dark seance room. They were not reliable on the subject of mediumship.
Ivor Lloyd Tuckkett explains this:
"The fact of the matter is that scientific men, who are accustomed to accurate laboratory conditions and instruments, which do not lie or give rise to error — at any rate consciously are no match for the subtle degrees of deception practiced by media like Home, Moses and Eusapia"
Ivor Lloyd Tuckett. (1911). The Evidence for the Supernatural: A Critical Study Made with "Uncommon Sense". K. Paul, Trench, Trübner. pp. 62-63
Just because a man may be an experienced chemist or physicist does not mean he is a reliable in the seance room. By the way eyewitness testimony in the seance room is often unreliable.
"In 1887 Richard Hodgson and S. John Davey held seances in Britain (in which phenomena were faked by trickery) for unsuspecting sitters and requested each sitter to write a description of the seance after it had ended. Hodgson and Davey reported that sitters omitted many important events and recalled others in incorrect order. Indeed, some of the accounts were so unreliable that Hodgson later remarked: The account of a trick by a person ignorant of the method used in its production will involve a misdescription of its fundamental conditions . . . so marked that no clue is afforded the student for the actual explanation (Hodgson and Davey 1887, p. 9).
In a partial replication of this work, Theodore Besterman (1932) in Britain had sitters attend a fake seance and then answer questions relating to various phenomena that had occurred. Besterman reported that sitters had a tendency to underestimate the number of persons present in the seance room, to fail to report major disturbances that took place (e.g., the movement of the experimenter from the seance room), to fail to recall the conditions under which given phenomena took place, and to experience the illusory movements of objects."
Both Besterman and Hodgson's studies were published by the SPR.
I believe you are putting too much faith in the above list of names you cite. Like I said none of those men were experienced magicians. They were deceived I am afraid.
Posted by: Jack | December 27, 2016 at 11:58 AM
"As Richet, a Nobel Prize winner in medicine, put"
This is an argument from authority. Nobel Prize winner in medicine has nothing to do with investigating mediumship. The only people who should be investigating mediums are trained magicians. Charles Richet was not a magician, nor educated in deception or trickery. He was duped by many mediums.
Joaquin María Argamasilla known as the "Spaniard with X-ray Eyes" duped Richet https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joaqu%C3%ADn_Argamasilla
It was up to a trained magician (Harry Houdini) to expose Argamasilla's methods.
And even if he was a noble prize winner, this does not mean he should be automatically trusted or should make him immune from criticism. Richet was a racist who claimed that black people were apes and not human. He also wrote about eugenics and that disabled people should be sterilized. He was not a nice man by any means. Yet spiritualists such as yourself are happy to quote him as a reliable source when it suits your needs.
Posted by: Jack | December 27, 2016 at 12:06 PM
"He also wrote about eugenics and that disabled people should be sterilized. He was not a nice man by any means. Yet spiritualists such as yourself are happy to quote him as a reliable source when it suits your needs."
LOL! So only 'nice men' who are not 'most elderly' should be regarded as reliable? That leaves Randi well out of the permutation then.
Anyway, it's interesting to read what other old duffers have to say on the subject. For those who are all-consumed with phenomena studied over a century ago, the following might offer a more up-to-date perspective on the survival of consciousness issue:
"Related to the Superstring Theory is the Quantum Hologram (QH) theory which provides another theoretical perspective on the continuity of consciousness after death. This "Holographic Concept of Reality" was first suggested by Miller, Webb and Dickson in 1973 , and supported by David Bohm (1980) , Ken Wilber (1982) , Karl Pribram (1991)  and others. In this theory, this world is not transcendent to matter, but underlies it as a coherent unity—much like ecology underlies biology. The QH theory states that our universe, instead of being a 3-dimensional spatial construct, is actually more like a holographic image built up by interacting vibratory waves, like colliding ripples on the surface of a pond. Holography is a way of encoding and recording vast amounts of information by using intersecting bundles of cascading and reflecting waves. Subatomic particles, which continually wink in and out of existence, appear in wave/particle form. "
Professor Fred Alan Wolf sums up this view: “I believe that the findings of quantum physics increasingly support Plato [who taught that there is a more perfect, non-material realm of existence]. There is evidence that suggests the existence of a non-material, non-physical universe that has a reality even though it might not as yet be clearly perceptible to our senses and scientific instrumentation. When we consider out-of-body experiences, shamanic journeys and lucid dream states, though they cannot be replicated in the true scientific sense, they also point to the existence of non-material dimensions of reality.”
It's a very interesting article describing just how much we really don't know yet about life and the Universe. So what is the justification for a staunch anti-survival stance - other than head-in-the-sand bigotry?
Posted by: Julie Baxter | December 27, 2016 at 12:44 PM
Isn’t it a fallacy of some sort to site oneself as evidence that what one said is fact? That’s like saying “It’s true because I said it is true.” It is tiresome when Skeptics cite Wikipedia and CSICOP for evidence that mediums were frauds. And I don’t see how ‘magicians’, many of whom have very limited formal education and are in the business to trick people--- that is, to lie--- are more qualified and trustworthy to investigate paranormal activity than those who have been educated and experienced in investigative procedures; and why should I believe what magicians say, since I don’t believe what they do as entertainers. And some revered debunkers, e.g. Joe Nickell , are not magicians nor trained scientists yet anything and everything they write trashing paranormal activity is regarded as gospel by Skeptics. Apparently it is not important ‘who’ says it . What is important to a Skeptic is that what is said alleges fraud. Apparently that makes it true! - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 27, 2016 at 01:50 PM
Regarding Charles Richet and racism one should keep in mind that there are certain topics which are currently taboo. One taboo subject of discussion is whether or not humans consist of more than one species. It is only within the past 100 years or so that anyone who thinks that there may be more than one species of humans is called ‘racist’ for his thoughts on the subject. Apparently there are some topics (including eugenics) that are not allowed to be discussed and those who even attempt to consider them are demeaned and ostracized---or worse. DNA evidence shows that not all races of humans are genetically the same, implying that not all humans may be equal in abilities including intelligence. That seems obviously to be the case to me but that view is unspeakable, that is, it is taboo! - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 27, 2016 at 02:20 PM
I have spent the greater part of my life considering life forms on planet earth and I have come to believe that all life forms provide a vehicle for consciousness and that consciousness is the same in all life forms---a spark of that greater consciousness that some might call God--- and that all of them are connected. I don’t regard one consciousness as less than another just because the form in which it is housed is different, genotypically or phenotypically, from the form in which my consciousness is housed. However different life forms have different abilities and perspectives of reality. Perhaps that is what makes embodiment in a physical form desirable and balances any boredom experienced by a consciousness in a spiritual realm. - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 27, 2016 at 02:49 PM
Amos writes: "One taboo subject of discussion is whether or not humans consist of more than one species."
Unless we find that any two groups of the human race are unable to procreate together then, surely, we are left with the obvious conclusion that all humans are the same species?
Posted by: Julie Baxter | December 27, 2016 at 03:06 PM
AOD, there's more variation within races than between them. Human races are the same species. That said, racism isn't connected even remotely to anyone's opinion on psi, and there are plenty of racist sceptics. Note Dawkins using Muslim women as a stick to beat a sceptical woman who offended him by politely requesting to be left alone and insisting Islam being a religion instead of a race made him not racist. (Yes, I'm sure it's pure coincidence he exaggerated the misogyny and referenced dangerous and hurtful practices not at all unique to Islam [no faith advocates FGM and it's practiced by Muslims, Christians, *and* members of tribal faiths] in order to bash a faith mostly practiced by non-white people.)
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Posted by: chel | December 27, 2016 at 03:18 PM
No, No Julie. Perhaps you might want to research a little more about interspecies crosses. - AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 27, 2016 at 04:00 PM
Check out crosses between species in the feline family, between species in the equine family, within the canine family just to name some of the obvious. Take a look at crosses between sheep and goats and crosses among the gallinaceous birds. Just browse for 'hybrids'. And, I think that there are some viable hybrids among fish too.- AOD
Posted by: Amos Oliver Doyle | December 27, 2016 at 04:14 PM
As for the comment about magicians, I think the opinions of people who would know how the tricks could be faked are important because then one knows what to look for, but haven't there been several cases where accomplished conjurers said they had no idea how the tricks could be done?
Posted by: chel | December 27, 2016 at 05:38 PM