The exposures of fraudulent activity led to a rapid decline in ectoplasm and materialization séances. Investigator Joe Nickell has written that modern self-proclaimed mediums like John Edward, Sylvia Browne, Rosemary Altea and James Van Praagh are avoiding the Victorian tradition of dark rooms, spirit handwriting and flying tambourines as these methods risk exposure. They instead use "mental mediumship" tactics like cold reading or gleaning information from sitters before hand (hot reading). Group readings also improve hits by making general statements with conviction, which will fit at least one person in the audience. Shows are carefully edited before airing to show only what appears to be hits and removing anything that does not reflect well on the medium.
Some scientists of the period who investigated spiritualism also became converts. They included chemist Robert Hare, physicist William Crookes (1832–1919) and evolutionary biologist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913). Nobel laureate Pierre Curie took a very serious scientific interest in the work of medium Eusapia Palladino. Other prominent adherents included journalist and pacifist William T. Stead (1849–1912) and physician and author Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930).
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In 1891 at a public séance with twenty sitters the medium Cecil Husk was caught leaning over a table pretending to be a spirit by covering his face with phosphor material. The magician Will Goldston also exposed the fraud mediumship of Husk. In a séance Goldston attended a pale face materialization appeared in the room. Goldston wrote "I saw at once that it was a gauze mask, and that the moustache attached to it was loose at one side through lack of gum. I pulled at the mask. It came away, revealing the face of Husk." The British materialization medium Annie Fairlamb Mellon was exposed as a fraud on October 12, 1894. During the séance a sitter seized the materialized spirit, and found it to be the Mellon on her knees with white muslin on her head and shoulders.
By being able to see things from different angles, and indeed, realms, clairvoyant mediums can provide insight that you might not be able to perceive yourself. What makes clairvoyant readings extraordinary is that the clairvoyant psychic is able to connect you to memories, events, emotions, and predictions that would remain inaccessible to you otherwise. In other words, clairvoyant mediums provide a bridge between you and the spiritual realm – whether it’s your own subconscious knowledge, the greater collective unconscious, angels, spirit guides, or the powerful energies all around you.
To up the difficulty for me and to make it easier for the psychics (it's one thing to lie over an email or call, but another to lie to someone's face), I decided to see my next psychics in person—who knows, maybe getting readings via email didn't provide a strong enough spiritual connection or clues to see I was lying. I also looked for people who charged for readings (maybe you get what you pay for?) and settled on one for $20 and another for $40. Both told me to bring a photo so I pulled one off a (very much alive) friend's Facebook and, armed with Emily's backstory and a few years of high school acting/improv experience, headed out for my third reading of the day. At the point, I was almost hoping to be called out soon—it was too easy.
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I don't think any of these women intentionally bullshitted me. I'm sure they believe they possess abilities to communicate with the dead and tap into people's lives. But, again, out of four psychics—people who claim to have special powers to know greater truths—not one noticed that the very premise I approached them on was phoney. Maybe it's because I sprung for the cheaper ones. Maybe it's because I found them on Kijiji. Maybe I'm fantastic enough of a liar that, like Psychic Three said, I managed to conjure up enough spiritual energy to bring Emily into existence. (I guess there's also the possibility that they all knew I was lying but didn't care because I was paying them.) Or maybe psychic powers don't really exist.
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Mom was a believer, but of the discerning variety. She had taken me and my brother to see a man with ESP years earlier. He had audience members use a variety of blindfolds and masking tape to cover his eyes, and then he would read aloud from books by running his hands along them. He hypnotized a shy woman to parade around as a chicken. He didn't make predictions, but he obviously had something special that we marveled at.
No doubt a great importance in the paranormal field is the problem of fraud. The field of psychic research and spiritualism has been so notoriously full of charlatans, such as the Fox sisters and Eusapia Palladino–individuals who claim to have special power and gifts but who are actually conjurers who have hoodwinked scientists and the public as well–that we have to be especially cautious about claims made on their behalf.
Besides reaffirming my belief that I'm a great liar and should do it more, my test also gave me some insight on how psychics work. They're talented when it comes to finding ways squeeze emotions out of you and make general statements that allow you to fill in the blanks yourself—you're contributing to your own deception (example: They say they sense a female presence watching over you, at which point you say, "Oh shit, my aunt/grandma/mom/friend/cousin/sister/teacher died a little while ago—it MUST be her!"). I think so many people turn to psychics because they help ease the fear of the great unknown that is death and give meaning and purpose to seemingly unfair and random events in our chaotic universe. To me, that's a form of preying on the weak and exploiting people at their most emotionally vulnerable, but if you believe in the afterlife and psychic powers, I can understand how the experience would be comforting - after all, who doesn't want to know that a loved family member, living or dead, is doing okay?
I learned to read tarot using the Celtic spread, which offers interpretations on the recent past and near future. I flipped over the Disc and Cup cards, and told the woman over the phone that a Capricorn man was sucking her dry. This was the strongest detail I'd provided and it absolutely dazzled her. At that point she broke her character as interviewer and revealed that a Capricorn man had, indeed, drifted in and out of her life over the last 30 years. The next day, she approached my friend in HR and said, "You're so lucky to be friends with someone like Angela."
"The picture reading shows me what goes on in the past life and in this life ... So if it shows me she was your guardian angel at one point, she was a guardian angel," she said. She added that the reading wasn't accurate because I had come in with the intention to trick, that the energy I came in with was one about my sister which is what she picked up on, that the whole thing wasn't very "civilized" of me and that she'd be calling other psychics and warning them about me. She told me she's been tested by people who declared their intentions and passed their tests, and offered to give me a reading that would reveal secrets about me that not even my closest friends know. I declined.
One day I travelled to a witch village in Sedona, Arizona. Once I entered a psychic boutique, the woman told me I was a gifted light bearer and that I would help people that would require my gifts. So I started from there, getting seriously into it and learning to understand what I could do with my gifts. My biggest rewards were knowing that I could help people understand their situation.
The company that hired me boasted they only hire two out of 100 potential psychics. I felt excited, nervous, and mostly terrified I'd be exposed as a fraud. I was confident enough dealing with strangers at parties whom I'd probably never see again, but now I had an entire corporation to report to. They let me pick my psychic name and I did my best to choose something less stripper, more gypsy (which I'd love to reveal but cannot due to an ironclad NDA).
“Hi, this is Natalie. How can I help you?” I asked, unable to give the recommended opening for fear it would be held against me in my next life. “Hi Natalie,” the caller said. “I want to see what’s going on in my relationship in general.” I asked “Cindy” to think about her boyfriend while I shuffled the cards and did the spread. Things looked bleak—among her cards were the devil and death, and the final outcome card was the 10 of swords, described in my deck as the card of “ruin.” I wondered how to break this to Cindy, particularly since I hadn’t a clue as to what was really going on in her relationship. I blithered for a few minutes about her concerns that she was investing a lot in a relationship she was worried was going to eventually hurt her. Then Cindy started talking. She said her relationship was very good, and they’ve been talking about marriage for two years, but according to her boyfriend, the time was never right. It soon became clear that she didn’t care what the cards said; she just wanted someone to talk to.
5. Terminate any session that doesn’t feel right. No reputable psychic will ever predict your death, foretell a tragedy, give you winning lottery numbers or inform you that you have a curse put upon you and your family and that to remove it, you need to return repeatedly. A reputable psychic will also not keep increasing their fee with each visit, or expect that you buy ancillary merchandise from them on a regular basis. Run, don’t walk, from anyone who conducts business with you in a manner that does not feel authentic. On rare occasions, I may be challenged in connecting with a client. In the past ten years, this has happened about four or five times. In those situations, I will stop and ask the client how they’d like to handle it, an option of which may be to end the session at no charge to the client. An inauthentic psychic will bluff their way through for being focused on making a buck.
After about 15 minutes, our call was interrupted with a recording saying she had one minute left. Then a recording said she had added more time to her call. I had done some Web searching to see how much my potential callers were paying for my advice, and my best guess was that it was about $1.99 a minute. Cindy came back on, and we talked for 15 more minutes. For her $59.70 I told her that she had conceded all the power in the relationship to her boyfriend, and she had to find a way to make the decision whether they would marry more mutual. I realized that she wanted confidence from me—I remembered how much I disliked wishy-washy psychics.
Jennie Marie has the unique spiritual gift to receive messages from loved ones who have passed on from our world. Mediumship is a part of Jennie Marie's everyday life and meditation is a big factor in balancing her energy. The core of Jennie Marie's practice is communication; her readings are guided by an array of spiritual resources spanning God, past relatives, and guardian angels.
I'd heard about the job through a friend of mine, who worked in Human Resources for one of the most prominent phone psychic companies in the world. She knew that I'd learned to read tarot in college and that I often booked events and comedy clubs. Sometimes I was accurate, but mostly, I was entertaining. Once, at a New York Fashion Week party in SoHo, I read the cards for a nonbeliever who edited what many fancy fashion folk refer to as "the Bible." He was making fun of me when I leaned in and whispered, "Don't cheat on your wife."
In 1876, William Eglinton was exposed as a fraud when the psychical researcher Thomas Colley seized a "spirit" materialization in his séance and cut off a portion of its cloak. It was discovered that the cut piece matched a cloth found in Eglinton's suitcase. Colley also pulled the beard off the materialization and it was revealed to be a fake, the same as another one found in the suitcase of Eglinton. In 1880 in a séance a spirit named "Yohlande" materialized, a sitter grabbed it and was revealed to be the medium Mme. d'Esperance herself.
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. Scholars have described Leonora Piper as one of the most famous trance mediums in the history of Spiritualism.
In 1880 the American stage mentalist Washington Irving Bishop published a book revealing how mediums would use secret codes as the trick for their clairvoyant readings. The Seybert Commission was a group of faculty at the University of Pennsylvania who in 1884–1887 exposed fraudulent mediums such as Pierre L. O. A. Keeler and Henry Slade. The Fox sisters confessed to fraud in 1888. Margaret Fox revealed that she and her sister had produced the "spirit" rappings by cracking their toe joints.