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Well, the chapter on skepticism sure demonstrates how little has changed over the years.

Her opening exchange with 'Dr. H' is almost identical to the story Neil Grossman relates of a conversation he had with a colleague. Grossman was discussing compelling NDE accounts, and the colleague continually explained everything away with pat answers. An exasperated Grossman finally asked if it would require the man to experience an NDE himself to consider the subject to have genuine validity. To which the colleague replied that even if he were to experience an NDE himself, he would consider the experience a hallucination before he would accept the idea that he had actually survived death.

The incomplete rendering of the Sitwell story does demonstrate how difficult it is to find impartial accounts of paranormal phenomena. The writer's agenda is expressed in her title in this case, and it appears (from this example at least), that she wasn't above omission of details in support of her premise. Which makes one wonder if she was above embellishment either.

I'm afraid that hasn't changed much either. Writers still love selective fact sharing, and it's also true that most people look for information that supports what they already accept as true anyway.

Lets get this straight the medium and her mother get in touch with the most respected scientist in England at that time and ask him to verify her daughter’s mediumship. Yea that’s smart if you are fraud. They are smart enough to pool the wool over people eyes but dumb enough to move into Crookes house and let him verify their séances.

Then Florence Marryat is asked by her paper to investigate these séances and she replies she does not want to but her editor asks her to do it so she goes to her priest and he gives her permission to investigate. She discovers over time (3 years I think) that this medium is for real and spends the next 20 years going to mediums in England and America. She is a respected journalist in her country.

Also a famous doctor is invited to attend these séances and he even takes the pulse rate of Florence Cook and Katie King. And writes a statement attesting to what he had witnessed. Also Dr. Crookes invited many of his peers to witness these séances most refused to attend. I.e. confirmed materialists.

If they were fake and he was in on it I am sure Dr. Crookes was not dumb enough to invite fellow scientists. Also maybe (see I used maybe) Florence Cook was losing her abilities and was caught faking it near the end of her abilities.

This was some kind of 15-year-old girl with great magical abilities to fool that many people for years. From my point of view Crookes and Marryat do not spend enough time explaining where the mother and sister where during these séances. Once it is mentioned they were always asked to be seated with the sitters. Me I would have gray taped them to their chairs.

Again materializations are just too phenomenal for us to get our minds around but if we come to understand the thin veil that must exist between the astral and physical worlds this phenomena is I suspect entirely possible. I think our greatest fear is of being taken in my fraud. I.e. embarrassment. Interesting to me is that embarrassment may be one of our greatest opportunities for personal growth but we avoid it like the plague.

Look at the video just linked in the last post. Can we really believe anything an ultra skeptic states about the paranormal. *Sir George Sitwell appears to have been one of those ultra skeptics. Do I trust ultra skeptics probably much much less than mediums that want money for their séances or do I trust the most respected scientist in England at the time. He never recanted.

I lean in the direction they were the real deal but what is more important to me is that there appears to be many such cases of physical manifestations and that gives I believe a greater probability that the white crow exists.

And the Sir in front of Sitwell’s name does not impress me more than the word of a great scientist, journalist, and medical doctor. Besides in 1880 I think Florence Cook may have been on her own by then and not being researched by Crookes. My trust for the word of an ultra skeptic is near zero. Ok it is a minus number. Have you seen them on TV explaining phenomena? It is a joke. They pick and choose what phenomena to explain. And of course the journalists never asks the right follow up questions. Never.

Michael P did you like her writing style? I thought she was a very good writer. Ok I think a wonderful writer; loved her style of writing. I would love to be able to write like that. I love the writing style during that period of time in the world.

"Writers still love selective fact sharing, and it's also true that most people look for information that supports what they already accept as true anyway."

This is something I may be reminding you of in the future.

This is something I may be reminding you of in the future.

I'm certainly not immune to looking for information that supports what I already accept, Teri. I know I tend to do this, and I don't think I've ever known anyone who doesn't.

I do try to be careful about selective fact sharing, though. What bothers me about examples such as what MP demonstrates here, is that Marryat is apparently sharing only enough information to limit damage to her premise from the incident. I realize the purpose of writing is to communicate ideas, but it seems to me that a writer crosses a line when they decide to manipulate information to suit their purpose.

I think it's also true, though, that writers are not immune to looking for information that supports what they accept themselves. They are looking for data to back up whatever premise they are putting forward. In other words, I'm not at all sure that Marryat intended to deceive her readers. I think it's more likely that she may have convinced herself that the omitted details were suspect in some way, and reported what she actually believed to be the case.

I also think that it's incumbent upon the reader to exercise additional vigilance when exploring controversial topics. It's fine to take any writer at their word, but probably not a bad idea to check their sources, if at all possible.

I don't see how it matters whether or not you trust Sitwell. Given that (1) the scandal was based not on his testimony but that of other eyewitnesses;
(2) the sitter responsible for securing Florence admitted it was deliberately arranged so she could free herself, and (3) Florence's defenders explained it as a case of unconscious fraud, rather than claiming inaccuracies in the reports...

...it seems that everyone involved was agreed on the account of what happened. They disagree on why it happened.

So it doesn't matter whether Sitwell stole toys from children and was Houdini's secret lover; the account of events (which was independent of him in any case) was undisputed even by Florence's defenders. Calling him an evil super-skeptic bogeyman doesn't change that.

(There's an article on Sitwell http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/01/12/1041990178094.html>here; he was 20 at the time of the séance, and seems to have been quite the eccentric.)

"I don't see how it matters whether or not you trust Sitwell. Given that (1) the scandal was based not on his testimony but that of other eyewitnesses;
(2) the sitter responsible for securing Florence admitted it was deliberately arranged so she could free herself, and (3) Florence's defenders explained it as a case of unconscious fraud, rather than claiming inaccuracies in the reports..."

marcos do you have a link to your source for this information.

thanks
william

Michael P did you like her writing style?

She was a very good writer with a wry sense of humor. But I don't trust her. In her chapter on Rosina Showers (a.k.a. Mary Showers) she never mentions the fact that Showers failed one of Crookes' tests and was almost certainly a fraud. Even Victor Zammit acknowledges this, citing Brian Inglis's book Natural and Supernatural:

Showers failed the dye test (which Cook passed). Crookes met her privately to discuss her alleged cheating; her mother Mrs Showers went berserk and fraudulently forged letters over Crookes' name and spread scandals about him. Crookes had no alternative but to commence legal action to stop the dirty rumours and all allegations made by Rosina's mother were immediately withdrawn (Inglis1974:275-6).

Also see this excellent article, which includes this detail:

Mary Showers confessed to the professional medium Mrs Fay that she had been cheating, and Mrs Fay informed Crookes. At about this time, too, Showers was caught out at a public séance standing on a chair in her cabinet, wearing a ghostly headdress purporting to be the ‘spirit form’ of Florence Maple.

Not one word of any of this in Marryat's lengthy chapter on Showers, whom she presents as incontestably genuine.

marcos do you have a link to your source for this information.

I think Marcos was referring to the quoted material in my post.

There's an article on Sitwell here

That was a fascinating and funny piece. Sir George may have been right about novel-writing ...

There's a very good article on Florence Cook at answers.com . It includes a long quote from Sergeant Cox, who assisted Crookes in his investigation of D.D. Home. Cox's observations of a seance involving Florence Cook and Rosina Showers are most interesting.

Sitwell did seem pretty fruity (eccentric)if you ask me. Who would stencil white cows for a certain look, or remove a lake and then restore it later out of boredom. More money than sense is the thing that comes to mind.

“Following Cook's death in 1904, her husband married her sister, Kate Cook, also a materialization medium.”

He sure liked to cook. :-)

“French researcher Camille Flammarion wrote in a satiric vein that the medium D. D. Home "gave it to me as his personal opinion that Miss Cook was only a skillful trickster and has shamefully deceived the eminent scientist, and as for mediums, why there was only one absolutely trustworthy and that was himself, Daniel Dunglas Home."

Well my research indicates mediums are not usually the best people to evaluate other mediums.

“Over the years, increasing attention has been given to the hypothesis that Crookes was either highly incompetent or, more likely, infatuated with Florence Cook to a point that weakened his judgment or integrity.”

Maybe Florence Marryat and Dr. Gully were also infatuated or had affairs with Florence Cook. She must have been one interesting lady. Please note the word hypothesis.

I suspect ok know that our materialistic paradigm can be so powerful we will even accuse someone being so infatuated with a young girl they would lie and cheat for her and of course be dumb enough to invite fellow scientists and medical doctors and a respected journalist to witness the séances.

Crookes was naïve to think that when he got involved in the paranormal that these kinds of stories would not happen to him. Whether these materializations were real or not I cannot know with certainty but I lean in the direction that they were but what I find most interesting is the levels people will go to protect their cherished beliefs.

The human mind is a fascinating phenomenon.

the levels people will go to protect their cherished beliefs.

It works both ways. Those of us on the pro-paranormal side are no less prone to confirmation bias. That's why we have to try our darnedest to maintain our critical thinking skills, especially when our "cherished beliefs" are at stake.

That's why we have to try our darnedest to maintain our critical thinking skills, especially when our "cherished beliefs" are at stake.

That's about as concisely as it can be expressed, MP. It's at those moments that our critical thinking skills are most likely to abandon us!

As I was shaving it came to me that even if Jesus was asked to attend a séance and materializations were produced then if Jesus came out and supported the validity of these materializations he would be accused by some of either lying or having an affair with the medium.

Critical thinking skills? Bet Hitler thought he had them.

That would be an interesting dialog how do we come face to face with our cherished beliefs. Meditation? I think the universe has the answer, significant emotional events. Americans appear to be going though one of these significant emotional events now with high gas prices. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this significant emotional event on our cherished beliefs.

Critical thinking skills? Bet Hitler thought he had them.

Oh, come on.

William, I honestly don't think you realize how hostile you sometimes come across.

I stand by my comment if someone where to ask Hitler when he was alive if he had critical thinking skills what would his answer be. It was an extreme example to make a point.

Have you ever met anyone that felt they did not have critical thinking skills?

Areas that we are emotionally attached to such as, politics, religion, and sex tend to overwhelm our critical thinking skills. Until we come face to face with the influence our cherished beliefs have on our lives we will continue to mislead ourselves into thinking we have an open mind and above average critical thinking skills in all situations. Myself included.

We have a much higher level of critical thinking skills if the subject matter we are working on is not a personal emotional issue but once it challenges our cherished beliefs (due to a multitude of causes) and therefore emotional such as politics, religion, ultra skepticism, or sex then our critical thinking skills usually takes a dive. Myself included.

“William, I honestly don't think you realize how hostile you sometimes come across.”

Oh but I do Michael P and I have alluded to that aspect of my writing several times on this blog.

“That would be an interesting dialog how do we come face to face with our cherished beliefs.”

That was my point how do we improve those critical thinking skills in ourselves especially on emotional issues without giving unsolicited advice to others lack of critical thinking skills.

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