From its earliest beginnings to contemporary times, mediumship practices have had many instances of fraud and trickery. Séances take place in darkness so the poor lighting conditions can become an easy opportunity for fraud. Physical mediumship that has been investigated by scientists has been discovered to be the result of deception and trickery. Ectoplasm, a supposed paranormal substance, was revealed to have been made from cheesecloth, butter, muslin, and cloth. Mediums would also stick cut-out faces from magazines and newspapers onto cloth or on other props and use plastic dolls in their séances to pretend to their audiences spirits were contacting them. Lewis Spence in his book An Encyclopaedia of Occultism (1960) wrote:
The British medium William Roy earned over £50,000 from his séance sitters. He confessed to fraud in 1958 revealing the microphone and trick-apparatus that he had used. The automatic writings of the Irish medium Geraldine Cummins were analyzed by psychical researchers in the 1960s and they revealed that she worked as a cataloguer at the National Library of Ireland and took information from various books that would appear in her automatic writings about ancient history.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s there were around one quarter of a million practising Spiritualists and some two thousand Spiritualist societies in the UK in addition to flourishing microcultures of platform mediumship and 'home circles'. Spiritualism continues to be practiced, primarily through various denominational spiritualist churches in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, over 340 spiritualist churches and centres open their doors to the public and free demonstrations of mediumship are regularly performed.
Being a half-ass psychic, I wondered whether he meant business partner or sex partner. He soon revealed she was both—and they were starting a company together. My intuition/magical powers told me this woman was about to leave him high and dry, but common sense told me that news might offend him and blow my chances of landing this job. Fortune-telling has no solid ethics, so I told him what I believed he wanted to hear. And I got the job.
The fraudulent medium Ronald Edwin confessed he had duped his séance sitters and revealed the fraudulent methods he had used in his book Clock Without Hands (1955). The psychical researcher Tony Cornell investigated the mediumship of Alec Harris in 1955. During the séance "spirit" materializations emerged from a cabinet and walked around the room. Cornell wrote that a stomach rumble, nicotine smelling breath and a pulse gave it away that all the spirit figures were in fact Harris and that he had dressed up as each one behind the cabinet.
Not that I believe in this psychic stuff, but at one point in my life I was spending so much money having my tarot cards read at occult bookstores that I decided to do it myself. I bought a deck and discovered I had the gift. Each time I posed a question about my life, the cards so unerringly forecast frustration and disappointment that I finally stuck them in the bottom of a trunk.