The article about this phenomenon in Encyclopædia Britannica places emphasis that "… one by one spiritual mediums were convicted of fraud, sometimes using the tricks borrowed from scenic "magicians" to convince their paranormal abilities". In the article it is also noted that "… the opening of the wide ranging fraud happening on spiritualistic sessions caused serious damage to reputation of the movement of a Spiritualism and in the USA pushed it on the public periphery".[205]
In 1907, Hereward Carrington exposed the tricks of fraudulent mediums such as those used in slate-writing, table-turning, trumpet mediumship, materializations, sealed-letter reading and spirit photography.[107] between 1908 and 1914 the Italian medium Francesco Carancini was investigated by psychical researchers and they discovered that he used phosphorus matches to produce "spirit lights" and with a freed hand would move objects in the séance room.[108]

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In the late 19th century, the fraudulent methods of spirit photographers such as David Duguid and Edward Wyllie were revealed by psychical researchers.[92] Hereward Carrington documented various methods (with diagrams) how the medium would manipulate the plates before, during, and after the séance to produce spirit forms.[93] The ectoplasm materializations of the French medium Eva Carrière were exposed as fraudulent. The fake ectoplasm of Carrière was made of cut-out paper faces from newspapers and magazines on which fold marks could sometimes be seen from the photographs.[94] Cut out faces that she used included Woodrow Wilson, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, French president Raymond Poincaré and the actress Mona Delza.[95]
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In the 1860s and 1870s, trance mediums were very popular. Spiritualism generally attracted female adherents, many who had strong interests in social justice. Many trance mediums delivered passionate speeches on abolitionism, temperance, and women's suffrage.[22] Scholars have described Leonora Piper as one of the most famous trance mediums in the history of Spiritualism.[5][23][24]
In the 1930s Harry Price (director of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research) had investigated the medium Helen Duncan and had her perform a number of test séances. She was suspected of swallowing cheesecloth which was then regurgitated as "ectoplasm".[148] Price had proven through analysis of a sample of ectoplasm produced by Duncan, that it was made of cheesecloth.[149] Helen Duncan would also use a doll made of a painted papier-mâché mask draped in an old sheet which she pretended to her sitters was a spirit.[150] The photographs taken by Thomas Glendenning Hamilton in the 1930s of ectoplasm reveal the substance to be made of tissue paper and magazine cut-outs of people. The famous photograph taken by Hamilton of the medium Mary Ann Marshall depicts tissue paper with a cut out of Arthur Conan Doyle's head from a newspaper. Skeptics have suspected that Hamilton may have been behind the hoax.[151]
Between 8 November and 31 December 1920 Gustav Geley of the Institute Metapsychique International attended fourteen séances with the medium Franek Kluski in Paris. A bowl of hot paraffin was placed in the room and according to Kluski spirits dipped their limbs into the paraffin and then into a bath of water to materialize. Three other series of séances were held in Warsaw in Kluski's own apartment, these took place over a period of three years. Kluski was not searched in any of the séances. Photographs of the molds were obtained during the four series of experiments and were published by Geley in 1924.[123][124] Harry Houdini replicated the Kluski materialization moulds by using his hands and a bowl of hot paraffin.[125]
Psychologists and researchers who studied Pearl Curran's automatic writings in the 1930s came to the conclusion Patience Worth was a fictitious creation of Curran.[152][153] In 1931 George Valiantine was exposed as a fraud in the séance room as it was discovered that he produced fraudulent "spirit" fingerprints in wax. The "spirit" thumbprint that Valiantine claimed belonged to Arthur Conan Doyle was revealed to be the print of his big toe on his right foot. It was also revealed that Valiantine made some of the prints with his elbow.[154]
In March 1902 in Berlin, police officers interrupted a séance of the German apport medium Frau Anna Rothe. Her hands were grabbed and she was wrestled to the ground. A female police assistant physically examined Rothe and discovered 157 flowers as well as oranges and lemons hidden in her petticoat. She was arrested and charged with fraud.[102] Another apport medium Hilda Lewis known as the "flower medium" confessed to fraud.[103]
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An experiment conducted by the British Psychological Society in 2005 suggests that under the controlled condition of the experiment, people who claimed to be professional mediums do not demonstrate the mediumistic ability. In the experiment, mediums were assigned to work the participants chosen to be "sitters." The mediums claimed to contact the deceased who were related to the sitters. The research gather the numbers of the statements made and have the sitters rate the accuracy of the statements. The readings that were considered to be somewhat accurate by the sitters were very generalized, and the ones that were considered inaccurate were the ones that were very specific.[193]
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Many 19th century mediums were discovered to be engaged in fraud.[61] While advocates of mediumship claim that their experiences are genuine, the Encyclopædia Britannica article on spiritualism notes in reference to a case in the 19th century that "...one by one, the Spiritualist mediums were discovered to be engaged in fraud, sometimes employing the techniques of stage magicians in their attempts to convince people of their clairvoyant powers." The article also notes that "the exposure of widespread fraud within the spiritualist movement severely damaged its reputation and pushed it to the fringes of society in the United States."[62]
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