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A little addition to my earlier post:

On April 12, 1871, Crookes experienced what he called the most exciting and satisfactory sitting, probably because two other mediums were present and added to Home’s “psychic force.” At first, they had very rough manifestations, chairs knocking about, a table floating above the floor and then being slammed down, loud and unpleasant noises, what Crookes termed “phenomena of a low class.” It was well known by this time that harmony among the sitters was necessary for good results and this harmony could often be achieved by singing. Thus, they began singing in hopes of improving conditions. After the group song, Home sung solo, what Crookes referred to as “a sacred piece,” after which one of the other mediums “was carried right up, floated across the table and dropped with a crash of pictures and ornaments at the other end of the room.” When Home sang again, both of the other mediums were lifted up by the invisible spirits and placed on the table. Crookes surmised that the other two mediums brought low-class influences with them and Home’s singing drove them away, allowing his good ones to enter.

There seems to be an immense amount of confusion about events here. Browning never caught Home cheating. He wrote a very long, detailed letter to Elizabeth Kinney two days after the seance in question. While he claimed not to be impressed (although stating he had no idea how things were managed) he never made any mention of catching Home cheating. Over time, Browning heard reports and rumors (mainly from sitters in Florence) and may have conflated that into his own experience in his later years. Moncure Conway spread the story around that Browning himself caught Home cheating.

As for the accordion, Home could have used a music box to make the sounds on occasion...Professor Hoffman (Angelo Lewis...a famous conjurer at the time) said as much. However, in many instances the keys of the accordion were seen to be depressed which suggests another method must have been used. And as for a "thread" there were instances when sitters felt around the accordion while it was in the air and didn't encounter an attachment.

It is very important to examine the original accounts and not rely on summaries when dealing with these matters. Most "explanations" when compared to the original sources fall short in completeness.

Michael Tymn writes:

"I invoke Occam's Razor. The point is that Bill has to consider all the phenomena, not just one phenomenon."

I'll second that! But arguing with a fundamentalist of any kind is a complete waste of time and hardly conducive to optimum mental health. Have you ever known a Jehovah's Witness change their mind? Or known one such return from base without a new spin?

As no one has asked I'll volunteer regardless that I attended the Spiritualist church last night. You may rightly wonder what relevance anything I might have witnessed has to this discussion of Home being found cheating or not. On the surface, none. And I wasn't going to mention it at all as it was in effect a complete wash elderly local medium providng (including to ME!) the most flagrant display of shameless warm and cold reading you could witness. All the generic "applies to all older men of a certain generation" character traits in the book were offered to each person she addressed, and she was certainly changing her statements in reponse to the punter's reactions and answers to her questions. It was, to use the vernacular, crap. HOWEVER....

Here is where we come back on topic. As always there was that small percentage of material that had me scratching my head to explain away and which leaves a crack open in the door of mystery.

Firstly to two sisters she was addressing she suddenly threw in "Who's Margi..not Marjorie or Margaret, but Margi?" (hard g). By this time bored and cynical and waiting for them to say they weren't sure, my head spun in their direction when one of them replied "I'm Margi" , adding that she hated when people called her Margie (soft g). Now what just happened there?! The name is too specific and relatively uncommon to be a pure lucky guess. The only prosaic explanation I could think of is if the medium had passed them sometime earlier and heard them address each other. Hmm. And on its own I would have left it a mere curiosity in a sea of dross. Until...

The man addressed after me, sitting somewhere behind me, identified his grandfather as the source of a description being offered. And he not only acknowledged but identified specifically every name she mentioned..each and every one of them, a good 6 or 7, as a direct relative of the deceased. Who are Harry and George? The grandfather's brothers. Who is Doris? That's my mum. And so on.

I won't stretch this post out longer than necessary by explaining why the "obvious" cynical explanations that he was a stooge, or beign spied upon or that she knew him are unconvincing. I can only say that I can think of no practical explanation for it.It stands out all the more because everything else was so unimpressive.

So here is where I make the link and come back on topic. A notion occurred to me. Interpreting "mediums" and the like as either real or frauds may be a great mistake. Maybe they're nearly all both. Let's suppose that typically they are individuals who have genuine "psychic" experiences..not necessarily via spirits, but some form of clairvoyance of esp will do..and in so experiencing these things convince themselves they are gifted or chosen in some way. So they try to make a living out of it or give public demonstrations. Problem.. it doesn't actually work that way, on demand. So how do you fill in an hour in front of an expectant audience, or 30 minutes with a paying client, while waiting for something "genuine" to happen? You fake it.. you just start talking, consciously or unconsciously indulging in cold/warm reading until some genuinely anomalous cognition presents itself. Perhaps as the medium you can't even distinguish the difference.

If this is typical of what may happen, could we not extrapolate backwards to explain the seeming contradiction in physical mediums (or experiencers of pk, as perhaps they may be) of the victorian age. Perhaps doing impossible things in front of observant men of science is not at all at odds with sometimes being caught out cheating. Now to a sceptic of course, if you're caught cheating "sometimes" then all those other occasions are just times when you weren't caught. But maybe that is not hte case. Maybe the kind of thing I saw last night is a template for how people sincerely experiencing "psychic" phenomena inevitably have to pad these things out with bluff and trickery when people are waiting to be amazed on demand. So perhaps Home was perfectly genuine but nontheless sometimes caught out.

Thanks for that information, Doug. A little more info on the Browning seance can be found here:

According to this source, Browning did not claim (at least initially) that he had exposed Home by grabbing his foot. Instead he speculated after the fact that two spirit hands (not a face) had been simulated by fake hands attached to the medium's feet.

Here's an excerpt from another source, an online article about the controversy:

//The séance infuriated Robert, who saw outrageous sexual innuendo in the placing of the garland on Elizabeth’s head; this was, he concluded, simply a conjurer’s trick. As Martin Ebon writes, “with Home on the scene, an exploitative, pseudo-erotic element” entered into the séance. Still, Robert, giving an account of the sêance not long afterward to Elizabeth Kinney, an American friend, expressed bafflement at just how all these things could have been done. He had seen a heavy lamp moving all alone on the table and admitted, “I don't know how it was done.” He saw Elizabeth’s dress “slightly but distinctly uplifted in a manner I cannot account for—as if by some object inside.” He could not fathom just how a hand “appeared from the edge of the table opposite to my wife and myself; was withdrawn, reappeared and moved about, rose and sank—it was clothed in loose white folds, like muslin, down to the table’s edge—from which it was never separated—then another hand, larger, appeared, pushed a wreath, or pulled it, off the table, picked it from the ground, brought it to my wife . . . and put it on her head.”

In a letter written to a friend sometime later, Browning angrily dismissed this “whole display of ‘hands,’ ‘spirit-utterances,’ etc.” as “a cheat and imposture.” He could not keep himself from bursting out in personal invective against Home, declaring that the medium was “acting like a child around the Rymers, affecting the manners, endearments and other peculiarities of a very little child indeed,” addressing his hosts as “Papa and Mama,” and “kissing the family abundantly.”

A few days after the séance, when Home and Rymer called on the Brownings, Robert pointed in a rage to the way out and told Home, “If you’re not out of that door in half a minute, I'll fling you down the stairs.” Before the medium left, Elizabeth (according to Home) placed both her hands in his and said in a voice filled with emotion, “Oh, dear Mr. Home, do not, do not blame me. I am so sorry but I am not to blame.” Robert responded by calling Home “a dungball” to his face.

Years later, Home, responding in his autobiography to the vicious accusations seemingly leveled against him by Browning in Mr. Sludge, ‘the Medium,’ claimed the poet had reacted to the séance in the way he did because he was jealous that the disembodied hands were placing the garland on Elizabeth’s head and not his own.//

Frank Podmore admits in his account of the Crookes experiments that “it is not easy to see how the investigators of a generation ago could have been deceived, and repeatedly deceived, by any device of the kind suggested”. Podmore then explores the hallucination angle, after noting a number of incidents with Home that, to explain in conventional terms, require the witnesses to be under some kind of spell to have claimed to see what they saw. Where Crookes tentatively hypothesized that Home possessed a psychic power that could move objects and cause him to levitate, Podmore suggested that "some power possessed by Home in common with other mediums" caused Crookes and other reliable witnesses to report seeing impossible things.

Where hallucination fails in the experiments with Home is that instruments were recording on paper the pressure exerted on the apparatus, confirming the accuracy of visual observation. To resort to Podmore's threadbare argument that Home was pulling strings while under the watchful eyes of investigators, requires an enormous stretch of imagination that is, itself, a form of self delusion.

"Years later, Home, responding in his autobiography to the vicious accusations seemingly leveled against him by Browning in Mr. Sludge, ‘the Medium,’ claimed the poet had reacted to the séance in the way he did because he was jealous that the disembodied hands were placing the garland on Elizabeth’s head and not his own." - Michael Prescott

Professional jealousy too? Elizabeth and Robert were both poets. And some thought Elizabeth's work finer than Robert's. Some dark threads running through this psychological menage et trois.

" elderly local medium providng (including to ME!) the most flagrant display of shameless warm and cold reading you could witness." Lawrence

Lawrence, I have had two sittings with a real medium that involved no cold or hot techniques, no fishing, etc and plenty of accurate idiosyncratic personal detail offered without hesitation by the medium.

Highly impressed by this medium my wife and I went on to test some mediums at local spiritualist churches. Our experiences in these churches were the same as yours; very disappointing. I would even go so far as to say that the churches mediumship is fraudulent.

My opinion is that the world of psychics and mediums lends itself to charlatans and the delusional. I think all of the TV mediums fall into that category. Their performances are so shoddy compared to the real deal.

However, just because these types tend to set up shop it doesn't mean that all who have a shop are frauds. You have to see mediums that have been tested by reputable individuals or organizations.

Yes, Julie, I'd vaguely remembered that Browning was said to be jealous of his wife because Home (or the spirits) paid her a higher compliment than he (or they) paid to Browning himself. I have the impression that Browning was a vain, ego-driven man, and that his wife may have been more grounded and centered. Personally I find Browning's poetry, including "Mr. Sludge," unreadable, while his wife's poetry, such as "Sonnets from the Portuguese," is charming.

no one .. yes, I appreciate the probable distinction. Until about 3 years ago my attitude to the idea of mediums, stage or otherwise, was very much a presumption that they were fake or deluded. I didn't believe it with any vehemence, simply in a passive taking it for granted kind of way. Then I read Ian Rubenstein's book Consulting Spirit and subsequently corresponded with him. Two things were clear to me: he, a doctor who was now a practicing medium, was sincere and honest and accurate in reporting his experiences (he remains uncommitted to the idea that they are actually coming from the dead, but that the experiences themselves are real is a certain fact) and secondly, that if he was experiencing those phenomena mediums claim to experience that he can't be the only one. Hence I now beleive thre are such people out there.

Further I've personally experienced more than one bizarrely complex series of "coincidences" so highly suggestive of attempted communication from specific deceased individuals, that I'm all but convinced of survival and hte possibility or desire to communicate. All but. That final irrefutable experience is what we all seek I think. Hence being curious enough to visit the spiritualist church. If certain things had been said there would be no room left for doubt.

The difficulty with all paranormal material is the difference between the incredible anecdotes you hear or read from other individuals and the dull examples you find when you look for yourself. The lady in attendance last night actually has reviews on certain websites which make her sound even said she was one of the best mediums she'd ever seen.. but as I say she was very much a dud, barring the mysterious business of hitting on several names. Even then she never told anyone anything remotely of interest. So how does one find the "good" ones, when people are so easily impressed...recommendations won't necessarily get you very far in locating them!

It does occur to me writing these words that as I "know" Dr Rubenstein I ought to obviously consult him...but of course my correspondence involved a lot of swapping stories so he already knows too much!

I agree with you 'Laurence' about "filling in the hour" to a point. I'm sure it happens sometimes- we are all human, particularly when in front of an audience.

With regard to 'performance expectations'. I think back in Home's time, physical manifestations and channeled voices were expected of a medium then. So some may well have produced party tricks to add to the performance, regardless of natural ability.

I don't feel that 'all' TV psychics are inept either. Being under lights and 'on cue' so to speak is hardly relaxing. A bit like trying to have an OBE on call. So I can see how that may affect a reading. Cheers

@Lawrence B: years ago, when I lived in a small town, I used to visit the local Sipritulist Church - which, in fact, has a very good reputation, or at least did at the time. I witnessed things there that were absolutely incredible. In some cases I knew the messages to be true because I had connections with the people concerned.

But then my own experiences, of which there have been very many, should be enough to convince anyone of the objectivity of these phenomena. But I suspect one of the major barriers is our suggestibility to wider outside influences. It's a bit like the placebo effect in reverse.

No sooner had I written my last post when, as if by magic, this very relevant article about both succesful dealings with a medium and the kind of signs and messages that preceded it, came to my attention. It's really worth reading.

Lawrence, Fortunately Julie Beischel has,at her website, a list of mediums that have been scientifically tested in her research and have passed. I have not contacted any of them, but one could presume that they are competent.

I personally recommend Georgia O'Connor. She is the medium who my wife and I sat with twice; both times anonymously (first in person using a fake name when scheduling and second on the phone, again using a fake name and a phone number from a new track phone). Others here, including MP, have had impressive sittings with Georgia, though it should be mentioned that one or two commenters here did not. Otherwise, I think one is flying blind and more likely to encounter a fraud or wannabe than the real deal.

Lawrence B wrote,

||Let's suppose that typically they are individuals who have genuine "psychic" experiences..not necessarily via spirits, but some form of clairvoyance of esp will do..and in so experiencing these things convince themselves they are gifted or chosen in some way.||

Depends on one's template for such things. To me and my friends, being psychic and serving as a medium are very ordinary things, and we just talk about it as we would anything else.

||So they try to make a living out of it or give public demonstrations. Problem.. it doesn't actually work that way, on demand.||

Yes and no. I feel I can almost always get "something" on demand, but the specificity and depth of the impressions I receive when I "look" can vary widely. I think this is true for most psychics. The trouble arises when psychics demand "big hits" from themselves every time they are "on."

||So how do you fill in an hour in front of an expectant audience, or 30 minutes with a paying client, while waiting for something "genuine" to happen? You fake it.. you just start talking, consciously or unconsciously indulging in cold/warm reading until some genuinely anomalous cognition presents itself. Perhaps as the medium you can't even distinguish the difference.||

Is there such a thing as "warm reading"? "Hot reading" is when you cheat outright, looking up facts about the person, having someone else gather information, etc. I think the whole "cold reading" template is problematic. The point of a reading is to deliver the truth, and that truth comes from the totality of information at one's disposal, regardless of the source. So of course we pay attention to people's expressions, reactions, etc. The only way to eliminate any such "contamination" is simply not to have people influencing each other in a conversation.

But basically, yes. Sometimes you get a lot of high-quality impressions, sometimes not. I think what happens is that some psychics, when they are getting lower-grade impressions, try to squeeze them for all they're worth. So you get crap statements to the audience like, "I'm getting an R name."

Being psychic (and everyone is to some extent) doesn't automatically give you an approach to using that ability. It doesn't come with a built-in philosophy. So I've heard of psychics actually telling people what they are fated to do and stuff like that--a big no-no! Someone could get a very high-quality impression and extrapolate all kinds of garbage from that based on their idiotic way of processing information--as is possible in any field.

In the case of the Spiritualist Church, the "Margi" hit sounds quite convincing indeed, and the rest sounds like the person struggling with very low-grade information or perhaps no information at all.

Matt Rouge "Is there such a thing as "warm reading"? "Hot reading" is when you cheat outright, looking up facts about the person, having someone else gather information, etc"

Yes there is... and we have no lesser authority than our own Michael Prescott.

Till a few days ago I was using "cold reading" to include what I have in mind, but revisiting one of Michael's old essays on John Edwards, he took exception to people's over use of "cold reading" without understanding its proper meaning.

Cold reading is offering out statements gleaned from interpreting or responding to the reactions and replies of the sitter. Hot reading is as you say making use of actual information about the person that you possess via normal, though underhand, means.

"Warm reading" however is, according to MP and I'm happy to accept it, the term for what I witnessed most of the other night...offering up facts likely to be accepted as true simply because they typically - or even universally - ARE true, without any knowledge or interpreting required. Eg "You still sense her round you at times, don't you", "There's one particular photo you often look at", "He was in hospital before he died" "Your grandmother was a no-nonsense tell it like it is sort of woman" and so on.

I can now say I know exactly how the accordion experiment was performed, it was not a music-box. It was done by utilizing a false-keyboard. This has been confirmed to me by a long time member of the magic-circle who sent out a joint email to a number of magicians. This feat has been replicated apparently for many years, it is an old conjuring trick. I will have all the details on this by Friday. So I will let you know Home used it.

Bill wrote, "I can now say I know exactly how the accordion experiment was performed, it was not a music-box."

But earlier, on Oct. 16, Bill wrote, "I am 100% convinced the accordion experiment with Home was a music-box - Frank Podmore, Ruth Brandon, Milbourne Christopher etc have all said the same thing in their books."

It seems Bill is very quick to conclude that he knows exactly, with 100% certainty, how something was done. And to switch effortlessly from one explanation to another, always with the same degree of certainty. His conclusions may vary, but his absolute certainty in each one of them at any given time is unwavering.

This is apparently the explanation Bill now finds 100% convincing:

Read it for yourselves. It is obvious that the procedure described does not tally in any way with the experimental controls Crookes employed. (Hint: Home could not have taken the accordion out of the cage, and both of Home's hands were observed while music played.)

"It seems Bill is very quick to conclude that he knows exactly, with 100% certainty, how something was done."

Good point, Michael. That degree of certainty can be problematic, as I well know from my many years of being 100% certain that psi is hogwash.

Nevertheless, sometimes the phrase is appropriate, don't you think? As in: I'm 100% certain that I look forward to hearing Bill's reply.

I have a lot of trouble generally when people say 'I know with certainty'. With the Home's experiment, none of us were there, so its all hearsay. Unless you performed the experiment to definitively show an effect, it's all just belief.

I tend to think the universe is very uncertain. I was watching a video recently of an Australian physicist on measuring any data. He said, as our intent is shown to effect an outcome (as shown by the double slit experiment), we can never be sure of a precise measure.

Even channelling data psychically as it comes into the mind it's possibly tarnished by ones own thoughts, interpretations. I know Lyn Buchanan said of remote viewing, that first data is often influenced by the critical mind so is discarded. Even with subsequent remote viewing, people are shown to add data not there. As people add their own interpretations of the information in an effort to understand.

So with consciousness, I feel by nature its somewhat fickle, like working with children and animals at times. And as we don't measure and haven't an understanding of consciousness, its all anecdotal belief thus far :).

Bill, it's very unfortunate that you're not engaging the arguments-- that you're not addressing the reasons your proposals are implausible.

- Pat

Bruce wrote, "Nevertheless, sometimes the phrase is appropriate, don't you think? As in: I'm 100% certain that I look forward to hearing Bill's reply."

Yes - as in: I'm 100% certain I won't be seeing the new Star Wars movie till it comes out on video.

Suck on that, J.J. Abrams!


Well I am upset! Not one of you has acknowledged and praised my uncanny powers of prediction. Didn't I predict that the messenger would return with a new spin?

I will now make a second prediction: When the 'experts' have thoroughly scraped the bottom of their barrel, the messenger will disappear without even a puff of smoke. You see if I'm not right. ;)

No One

I also had an interesting experience with Georgia O’ Connor. Unfortunately mine, ultimately, did not go as well as yours. Since I lost my mother a few months ago, I have tried several mediums. Georgia was one of them. During the early part of the telephone “reading” I could tell she had researched the obituary. She literally gave me the facts back in the same order as they appeared in the obit. I gave her a “pass’ on this, as I figured she was just using it to “warm up.” She then appeared to hit her stride, giving me many family facts and happenings, even describing old pictures etc. These were things no one could ever guess at, or find, or so I thought. I decided to try and dig these facts up myself, via the internet. It did not take long. Everything she told me, even the spectacular hits were accessible on a family members facebook page. In fact,every single item she came up with was on facebook, and she came up with no items that were not listed there. So I must conclude that I was the unwitting “victim” of a researched reading, not the sort of thing to bolster my faith in mediums, to say the least. Anyhow, forewarned but undaunted, I am scheduled to try again, with a medium recommend by Dr. Julie Beischel. Hopefully this one will work out a little better.


Here is a link to about 30 pages of William Crookes' notes of séances with D. D. Home available on Dean Radin's site. It seems to me that these notes by Crookes are the definitive documentation of Crookes' perception of what was going on at séances with D.D. Home.

I don't know but it boggles my mind. - AOD

GregL, I guess this the sort of thing (Georgia) that confounds research into the paranormal and widens the gulf between "believers" and "skeptics". You had your experience and I had mine and they are polar opposites.

The first time I went to Georgia I did so using a pseudonym and an untraceable phone number and wasn't active on social media and she provided plenty of facts that could not have been known to others. Just one example is that a spirit spontaneously began to discuss my wife's missing pink wallet - specifically saying "pink wallet". My wife had, indeed lost her pink wallet recently and where it could be and how strange it was that it had gone missing had been a frequent topic of conversation between my wife and I. Neither of us on social media, no friends in common with Georgia, discussed the wallet with nobody else. There were many "hits" like this.

And yet I believe you - and hope you believe me.

Downright frustrating

Are you positive that everything she said was on social media and that she would be able to make links from you to these others?

I ask only because I have noticed that even a mind experienced with paranormal events tends to doubt the experience and seeks to find a safer more rational explanation. We're all susceptible to it.

Thanks for that, AOD. Very interesting!

I found that Cesare Lombroso, who in the XIX century was one of the most prominent positivist scientists, later in life became interested in spiritualism and changed his mind. He wrote a book that is available online, seems interesting:

"It seems Bill is very quick to conclude that he knows exactly, with 100% certainty, how something was done. And to switch effortlessly from one explanation to another, always with the same degree of certainty. His conclusions may vary, but his absolute certainty in each one of them at any given time is unwavering."

This is why I had to separate myself as a true skeptic from the materialist/naturalist cultists.

The dishonesty and fanaticism masquerading as rationality is too disgusting to endure for long.

No One

I am pretty sure my reading results were researched. I understand that there is a “boggle” threshold where we may reject such results. I actually left this reading fairly certain the results were valid. I had one nagging problem. My wife asked a simple question that my “father” could not answer. Even though “he” was just giving amazingly accurate and detailed info seconds before. This bothered me and set me off investigating the reading myself. In the end I discovered “facebook” and the rich source that it can be for mediumistic research. The primary source was a family member who made a big mistake in posting old family pictures and stories and neglecting to set the proper privacy settings.

I do believe your results though, and others here who have used this medium. I am beginning to believe, however, that the only way you can be certain of any such results is to do an in person reading. No name information and no internet to contaminate the proceedings.


"The dishonesty and fanaticism masquerading as rationality is too disgusting to endure for long." - SPatel

And yet it does have its lighter side. Take, for instance, the mouth organ in the moustache. Can you imagine trying to have a serious conversation with a man who is attempting to conceal a musical instrument in his moustache? And could you sit comfortably next to a man playing a music box from within his trousers? I suppose it's the British temperament to pretend one hasn't noticed such things. But even so . . . . . .


Maybe - just maybe - a third possibility is that in the absence of a spirit with the strong ability (or possibly will) to communicate, we get some kind of psi happening that scans for information from whatever alternate source is available. Just like a remote viewer can lock onto map coordinates and produce information about what is located there.

So, in your case, the correlate of coordinates is the person and the information that is returned in the absence of a communicating spirit is from Facebook; albeit quite paranormally.

If not paranormally obtained, how would Georgia know whose FB page to start with (is your name unusual? are there others with the same or similar name? If easy to pick the right "GregL" on facebook, how easy to then understand the familial associations on other FB pages? How easy to know who in which pics is whom?)

It may seem that I am stretching in defense of Georgia, but it is important to keep in mind just how risky the researched approach would be. She actually encourages sitters to use false names. If went to sit with her and said my name is Michael Prescott and she had researched Michael's FB page, other than getting my politics mostly right :-), she would be totally wrong. For one thing, I'm not an author!

So how would Georgia know that you are safe to research based on the name you gave?

While we're on the subject of Crookes, this was posted today by Leslie Price, Archivist at the College of Psychic Studies, London on Facebook. There's a further (embedded in the text), link to an interesting Royal Society page on Crookes, that I've included separately below, anyway.

"Can you imagine trying to have a serious conversation with a man who is attempting to conceal a musical instrument in his moustache?"

LOL, Julie.

I suppose for me it would depend on how successful he was in concealing it. It can be really distracting when that sort of thing is poorly done.

In discussing the book 'Lights and Shadows" Leslie Price (?) wrote that, "Its revelations may well have contributed to the decision of Crookes to largely withdraw from involvement with Spiritualism. . . . " I wonder what he meant by that statement. I tried to read the book on my god-awful tablet and what I could read seems to be just a very comprehensive discussion of paranormal phenomena through the ages. I will try to buy the book as it seems to be an excellent history of spiritualism. Thanks Steve. - AOD

@Bruce: In actual fact, I woke up in the middle of the night in a helpless fit of giggles trying to picture the scene at that seance table as proposed by our Bill here. I don't know what brought it to mind, perhaps I was dreaming of the possibilities.

But only in the most English of English homes could one even begin to imagine such absurdity. And even it's just too silly to contemplate for long. Where ever do these fundamentalist sceptics get their ideas from? I bet John Cleese could make a wonderful sketch out of the possibilities for that scene!

BTW, am I the only one who read some of Bill's contributions here and wondered 'which of us is bonkers - because one of us certainly is?'

Oh well. Time to adjust the old reality button again. :)

In fairness to Bill, some fake mediums (especially physical and materialization mediums) did resort to pretty elaborate ruses to fool their clients. I just don't find the explanations he's offered very credible in light of the precautions taken by Crookes in this case. Some of the ideas he's suggested might have worked in darkness or with a medium who was being watched by only one sitter or if the accordion had not been secured inside a cage; but given the conditions as described by Crookes, I don't think what he's suggesting is feasible.

"given the conditions as described by Crookes, I don't think what he's suggesting is feasible."

Yes, that's exactly the thought that occurred to me, Michael. ;)

Anyway, it seems Bill's taken his ball and gone playing on Robert's blog (Paranormalia).

Actually if one reads Crookes' notes (linked above) of the séances with Home one will find many examples of the 'accordion' playing above the table or moving around on the floor. At times it would move up against the legs of the sitters while it was playing (according to Crookes). Crookes sketchily diagrams the 'accordion' starting out on top of the table at times. Crookes does not clearly define the type of 'accordion' so one can not tell if it was a concertina or a rectangular one with piano-like keys as well as buttons. When I search for pictures of Victorian accordions I find several different types from simple small rectangular types to large ones similar to the one seen on the Lawrence Welk show. He notes that he and some sitters visualized the accordion playing at times, sometimes with Home no where near it. Personally I have a difficult time believing Crookes notes but then again, these antics are what make Home Home. - AOD

@Julie: Thanks your post gave me a much needed laugh.

@Michael: I can appreciate the need for thoroughness, and none of the historical medium cases are definitively convincing to me. I think Bill is fulfilling a needed skeptical role by providing alternative explanations, I just think he needs to check his own certainty that a naturalistic explanation suffices.

At one I did think materialism of some variety had to be obvious, that the universe must be a machine, but I've come to lean toward a neutral monist position even as I accept that some other metaphysics might be true.

My disgust for the materialist cults isn't their presentation of materialist explanations but rather their religious missionary work in insisting materialist must be true and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded. (Note the shaming tone - admittedly more subtle than some of other the naturalist cultists - in Bill's evangelism.)

My Pleasure, AOD

I'm not sure if those comments were Leslie's, or those of someone else at the CPS.

Whoever it was, I presume that what was meant was that Crookes may have realised that some of the phenomena that he'd witnessed and endorsed after his work with Home (Cook, Showers, Fay) may well have been fraudulent, once he'd read Home's accusations against other mediums.

If you ask me, though, I think it's more likely that the whispering campaign that was undoubtedly going on about the nature of his relations with Cook and Showers (and his probable - IMO - 'cover up' of fraud with the latter) persuaded him to get back to normal science, at least for a while, for the sake of his reputation.

For what it's worth, although Crookes' involvement with mediums post Home was undoubtedly, relatively speaking, murky; I do not believe that Trevor Hall's 'evidence' that he was sexually involved with Florence Cook, really bears much scrutiny.

I view Crooks' work with Home as being truly groundbreaking and relatively sound, being relatively well reported and witnessed. But, IMO, he was later incredibly naive with the other mediums, maybe because the nature of Home's phenomena had lulled him into a false sense of security.

Steve Hume wrote, "But, IMO, he was later incredibly naive with the other mediums, maybe because the nature of Home's phenomena had lulled him into a false sense of security."

Maybe what tripped him up was the same thing that seems to have influenced Arthur Conan Doyle's acceptance of the Cottingley Fairies photographs. In that era there was a widespread belief, at least among men of a certain social class, that innocent young girls simply would not lie or engage in chicanery. They were too sweet and pure and wholesome for such dirty business.

This is silly, of course, but no sillier than the widespread claim in the 1980s that young children never lie or exaggerate about abuse - a claim that led to the groundless prosecution of the McMartin preschool staff and other innocent victims. Every era has its delusions.

I think it's clear that Crookes did become emotionally involved with Florence Cook, but I doubt it was a romantic relationship. After all, Mrs. Crookes doesn't seem to have objected to the girl living in their house. Instead, I think Crookes developed a fatherly affection for the girl. It's possible there was some sublimated sexuality involved, but it's equally possible that he really did just see her as akin to a favorite niece. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But even this level of affection could be enough to bias him, especially when dealing with a crafty semi-professional medium producing phenomena in complete darkness.

They do say there's no fool like an old fool. And old men are often manipulated by young, especially attractive young, women because they underestimate them. It's a form of chauvinism, I suppose.

Doubtless, there's something in that, Michael.

I actually used to feel a bit annoyed with Crookes in some respects over all this aspect of things.

However, I think we also have to realize that he was operating around a decade before the formation of the SPR, and the beginning of a more formal approach to research, the advent of modern psychology, sociology, and a whole lot else.

I've learned since that, of course, research into PM in particular involves an incredibly difficult balancing act, even now.

If you separate yourself too much socially from the proceedings, and sit there with a face like a smacked arse at séances, then you'll pretty much guarantee that any phenomena will be compromised.

But, get too cozy with the 'subjects', join in with the 'fun' too much, and you'll be accused of collusion, gullibility, or worse.

Michael is being unfair to Florence Cook, in calling her a mere “crafty semi-professional medium”. If she snookered Crookes and bamboozled a host of others, she was the professor Moriarity to his Sherlock Holmes. In such case, she would likely have derived a sadistic pleasure from cruelly twisting and manipulating the distinguished gentleman of science in her vile witchy web. Oh, she wasn’t then a mere crafty little trickster, for to convincingly carry off her shameless act of sweet innocence, deceiving her trusting friends and family time and time again, then she must have been an unfeeling psychopath. Perhaps, even the handmaiden of he who shall not be named. A very, very, naughty girl. And to never come clean and admit her filthy fraud, to leave us twisting in the heated air of speculation 150 years later, well, that’s just downright evil. Let’s call a witch a witch and give her a proper roasting.

Of course, I am being melodramatic and deliberately misogynistic for effect, but if you follow the thread of the fraud angle, then you can’t escape the conclusion that what she allegedly did was wrong in the extreme. “Crafty” is a wholly inadequate adjective to describe such revolting, wretched rottenness. Of course, we could let dear Florrie off the hook, and blame it on the deceitful jugglery of her subliminal self, where the “devil” that made her do it was the evil twin of the unconscious. And if you like that explanation, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that you also might be interested in.

When bereft of adequate facts, the mind has a tendency to fill in the blanks with speculation. Take our friend Leslie Price who innocently opines that D. D. Home’s tittle tattle on the supposed fakery of other mediums “may well have contributed to the decision of Crookes to largely withdraw from involvement with Spiritualism.” When I see the words “may well have” or the acronym “IMO” preceding a statement of presumed fact, a bright yellow warning tape unspools in my mind to enclose the usually unenlightening words that follow. “May well have” can be appended to any crock of b.s. like a little splash of cologne, to lend an air of probability to a claim otherwise entirely bereft of evidence. “Facts please,” is what the little voice in my head asks for, as the stench of the slaughterhouse of truth wafts my way.

Sadly, today’s mediumship is not nearly as interesting as the marvels of yesteryear. Our battleground has shifted largely to the psychic realm, where the sages of skepticism can brush off NDEs as a clever trick of the dying brain (there goes that sneaky unconscious again) and where mediums have become fodder for cable TV. And yet, here we are in the 21st century, revisiting the melodrama that shrouded the intersection of science and mysticism 150 years ago. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. We live in an interesting time. I’m feeling optimistic, or is that optimystic?

You may well be right, IMO.


Important update

The accordion experiment is discredited due to false and supressed information from Crookes' report.

The details on the accordion experiment contain errors have been missed. For example you wrote there were five observers present during the experiment. There was more than this.

Barry Wiley notes that Crookes' wife and daughter, his laboratory assistant (Charles Henry Gimingham, only 17 years old at the time of the experiment), and a Mrs Humphrey and another séance sitter were also present during the accordion experiment. These were not scientific observers.

Here is what Wiley writes:

"In his public report, Crookes does not name the other observers present that evening... Crookes' report gives the impression that only scientific observers
were present, and only male observers at that. Crookes does not mention the four women who were also present, and most importantly, he does not mention that instructions were given the group through Home's altered spirit voice, or through spirit raps on the dining table around with they all sat-instructions that were never challenged."

More importantly from Wiley:

"The presence of the spirits was not mentioned at all in the QJS article,
as that would have detracted from Crookes' scientific staging, reducing his investigative account to just one more séance report. The presence of the spirits and the women in the sittings with Home were not revealed until 1889, when Crookes published Notes of Séances with D. D. Home."

(Wiley, The Thought Reader Craze)

So Crookes had deliberately supressed the names of the observers from the experiment until after Home died. He waited over 10 years to publish the names of those present in the experiment. He also radically changed the series of events of what happened during the experiment. The experiments were actually directed by Home's 'spirit' voice. So it was Home who actually directed the proceedings of the experiment not Crookes. This is not scientific.

Please read Crookes' report again, it is utterly useless in regard to the above.

Where were these sitters located during the accordion experiment? Who is Mrs Humphrey? Why did Crookes invite in his family members. There is no mention of these sitters movements in the original report, what were doing during the experiment? How far were they sitting from Home? We are totally left in the dark here.

I now understand why Wiley believes a secret accomplice was involved in this experiment. After reading all this, the experiment does not have a leg to stand on. How can you have a scientific experiment but not include their movements in the original report and suppress for many years the names of these observers?

Crookes claims psychic force in his original report but then changes it to spirits years later.

We know Crookes has lied here, so what else has he lied about? How can we trust anything Crookes has written? There is absolutely no reason to.

Music-box, fake keyboard-trick, secret accomplice - none can be ruled out. There were people during the experiment and we have no idea what they were up to. All three explanations are much more believable than the unreliable report of Crookes.

Interesting, Bill.

Any chance you could supply Wiley's sources for this information? You seem to be 100% convinced about it, so I'm presuming you've checked that out?

FYI, here is the source of Bill's info on the Home seance:

The link takes you to a Google Books preview of "The Thought Reader Craze," by Barry H. Wiley - specifically to the chapter on Home and Crookes, which can be read in its entirety online.

To me, the most interesting thing about the chapter is Wiley's statement, based on Crookes' notes, that "The tune played, 'Home Sweet Home,' ceased the moment that Crookes touched Home's hand." This is contrasted with Crookes' earlier published report: "Whilst this tune was being played, I grasped Mr. Home's arm, below the elbow, and gently slid my hand down it until I touched the top of the accordion. He was not moving a muscle."

The two statements are not necessarily in conflict, if Crookes means that the tune kept playing while he was in contact with Home's arm and stopped only when he actually reached Home's hand. Still, if the music stopped at this moment, one could reasonably wonder if Home was producing it with his hand under the table in some way (exactly how is still unclear).

Wiley also raises legitimate questions about Crookes' attentiveness.

The presence of other witnesses, who may not have been considered important enough to mention in the official report, doesn't trouble me too much, though I suppose it could raise the possibility of an accomplice. Since Home performed in many venues and often came alone, this possibility seems unlikely.

The omission of the spirit raps from Crookes' formal report isn't terribly surprising; Home attributed all his phenomena to spirits, while Crookes, at least at this stage, was inclined toward a "psychic force" explanation. The extent to which the spirit raps actually directed the sitting is a legitimate question, though. Did Home effectively take control of the proceedings?

Overall, I agree that Wiley's chapter brings up some interesting points, though I wouldn't rate it quite the slam-dunk that Bill does.

Bill and Michael,
Have you read Crookes notes in the following link?

I am sorry to say it but I am beginning to find Bill's comments rather tedious. I don't know why I should give more credence to comments written in 2012 by Barry H. Wiley, an avowed anti-paranormalist than to the notes written by Crookes documenting séances he actually had with the living Home in the later part of the 1800s. - AOD

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