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.
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The Polish medium Stanisława Tomczyk's levitation of a glass beaker was exposed and replicated in 1910 by the magician William S. Marriott by means of a hidden thread. The Italian medium Lucia Sordi was exposed in 1911, she was bound to a chair by psychical researchers but would free herself during her séances. The tricks of another Italian medium Linda Gazzera were revealed in the same year, she would release her hands and feet from control in her séances and use them. Gazzera would not permit anyone to search her before a séance sitting, as she concealed muslin and other objects in her hair.
The questions floated around in my head for awhile, but it wasn't until last Sunday that I decided to act on them. Inspired by Houdini, I made up a basic pass/fail test that I could apply a few times to see if someone was actually in tune with all the truths in the universe: If I made up a dead sister and asked a bunch of psychics to connect with her, how many wouldn't be able to tell I was full of shit?
Many 19th century mediums were discovered to be engaged in fraud. 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."