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Authors: Richard Matheson

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A typical one follows:

The sitters—all educated men of great social respect—drew up a message in Latin so that Mrs. Piper could not possibly understand it. The message was directed to a similar group of deceased investigators.

We are aware of the scheme of cross-correspondence which you are transmitting through various mediums and we hope that you will go on with them

Try to give to A and B two different messages between which no connection is discernible

Then, as soon as possible, give to C a third message which will reveal the hidden connection

Mrs. Piper was A.

This experiment extended from December 17, 1906, to June 2, 1907.

The dictation of the first sentence of the message (in Latin) took place over four meetings.

The second part of the message—sent to a different medium—came through by the middle of February, again in Latin.

By June 2, the entire message had been transmitted through Mrs. Piper and to the other two mediums, all in Latin which none of them understood.

The message turned out to be an elaborate poem by Robert Browning.

Both Mrs. Piper and Mrs. Leonard retired from mediumship at relatively early ages.

Ironically both lived far beyond the period of their greatest achievements.

Mrs. Piper died in 1950.

Mrs. Leonard in 1967.


It is appropriate, at this point, to bring up the subject of fraud in mediumship.

While the accounts of genuine psychics have their interest, it would be unbalanced to not take into consideration the opposite aspects of parapsychology’s beginning; that they were marked by—if not riddled by—dishonesty and outright swindling.

Of the Fox sisters, Houdini had the following to say. “They used Spiritualism as a means to ‘get while the getting was good.’

Fortunately for the general public, Spiritualism received a severe jolt in the confession of Margaret Fox.”

Of D. D. Home, Houdini said, “His active career, his various escapades and the direct cause of his death indicate that he lived the life of a hypocrite of the deepest dye.”

Of Palladino, he said, “In her crafty prime, she may have possessed the agility and abundant skill in misdirection, together with sufficient energy and nerve, to bamboozle her scientific and otherwise astute observers.”

Of the Davenport brothers, Houdini claimed to be an intimate friend of Ira Davenport who, he said, revealed to him that the brothers had practiced fraud and trickery throughout their careers.

And even told Houdini how their rope trick worked.

Describing Mrs. Piper’s so-called spirit guide Dr. Phiniut, C.E.M. Hansel wrote: “He was adept at fishing for information and often contradicted himself. Also, he often displayed signs of temporary deafness when posed with a difficult question. Much of his ‘communication’ was garbled, incomplete or merely gibberish.”

Describing Mrs. Leonard, Hansel wrote: “Her pronouncements were seldom impressive to anyone without a belief in Spiritualism,” and that “When asked why she had remained so long with the Society for Psychical Research, she replied, ‘Because of my desire to learn if I were possessed or obsessed.’”

The field of psychic mediumship is crowded with examples of fraudulent behavior in the séance room.

A male medium, holding a sealed envelope, rubs a palmed sponge—soaked in odorless wood alcohol—over it which makes the envelope temporarily transparent, revealing the question on the sheet inside:
What about Uncle Shelby’s will?

The psychic clears his throat, declaring in sepulchral tones, “Your Uncle Sheldon—no, Shelby—sends his love and says—yes, yes—seek out the Kingdom of the Lord, not gain from mortal legacy. Does that make sense to you?”
“Oh, yes,”
the sitter answers.

A sitter hands a female medium a multi-folded slip of paper—one inch by two inches—which the female medium slips into an envelope. She seals the envelope and holds it up so the sitter can see the folded note inside the thin envelope. She then proceeds to burn it all to an ash; leans over; concentrating on the ashes.

“This message comes from your …father, yes, your father.
, he says. Be thou a believer. Not like me. You understand this?”

“Oh, yes,”
the sitter answers.

The explanation: the sitter hands the folded slip of paper to the medium. There is already a similar folded piece inside the envelope, glued in place opposite a two-inch slit in the envelope, then removed and palmed by the medium as she ‘shows’ the note to the sitter. Then she burns the envelope. The palmed note reads
Am I a skeptic like my father?

A darkened séance room. The male medium’s voice is heard declaring gravely, “I feel cold water, surges of cold water and the splash and roar of angry sea.” He sits beneath a large black hood, using a pen-size flashlight to read the message in a sealed envelope.
Brother Harry, did you suffer much when you were washed overboard and drowned?

“I see a storm raging on the ocean now,” the medium goes on. “I get the influence of a man—a blood relation—a father, no, a brother, a brother. He speaks his name. Ha …Ha …Harry. Do you understand?”

“Oh, yes,” the sitter answers. Sobbing.

Later, the medium replaces the hood and flashlight under his shirt and his associate turns on the lights. The medium is still “in trance.”

“As you can see,” the associate says, returning the envelope. “It is still completely sealed.”

“Oh, yes,”
the sitter says.

“Even if it weren’t,” says the associate, “who could read it in the dark?”

“Oh, yes,”
the sitter says.

A male sitter and a female medium sit across a table from each other, the sitter sponging off the surfaces of six slates. The medium’s associate, standing to the left of the sitter, takes each slate in his left hand as it is cleaned and stacks the slates on a corner of the table.

There is a mantel behind the associate and sitter. As the fourth slate is being cleaned by the sitter, the associate retrieves another slate from a hiding place on the mantel. As he takes the cleaned slate from the sitter with his left hand, he instantaneously switches the slates and adds the prepared one to the pile on the table, placing the cleaned slates in the mantel hiding place.

The medium then slips a rubber band around the pile of six slates. “You are certain, are you,” she rejoins, “that you have thoroughly cleaned each slate both back and front?”

“Oh, yes,”
the sitter answers.

Later, the prepared slate is “come upon” and handed to the sitter. On it is the message:
I greet you from the Life Beyond—send you my devotion, Mother

“Praise the Lord!” the associate cries.

“Oh, yes!”
the sitter answers.


The sitter stares at a cabinet in front of which is a blank canvas on an easel, a light shining through it from behind. The illumination in the room is low. Organ music plays mysteriously.

Inside the cabinet, the male medium is using a tiny hole in the curtain to spray an atomizer on the back of the canvas.

A face begins appearing on the canvas, that of a little girl.

The sitter sobs.

“Hallelujah!” cries the mediums associate.

Sulphocyanide of potassium is used for red, ferranocyanide of potassium for blue and tannin for black, the chemicals remaining invisible until sprayed with a weak solution of tincture of iron.

“You recognize the face?” the medium’s associate asks.

“Oh, yes!”
the sitter answers.


BOOK: Mediums Rare
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