In 1917, Edward Clodd analyzed the mediumship of the trance medium Gladys Osborne Leonard and came to the conclusion that Leonard had known her séance sitters before she had held the séances, and could have easily obtained such information by natural means.[119] The British psychiatrist Charles Arthur Mercier wrote in his book Spiritualism and Sir Oliver Lodge (1917) that Oliver Lodge had been duped into believing mediumship by trickery and his spiritualist views were based on assumptions and not scientific evidence.[120]
^ John Casey. (2009). After Lives: A Guide to Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. Oxford. p. 373. ISBN 978-0-19-997503-7 "The poet attended one of Home's seances where a face was materialized, which, Home's spirit guide announced, was that of Browning's dead son. Browning seized the supposed materialized head, and it turned out to be the bare foot of Home. The deception was not helped by the fact that Browning never had lost a son in infancy."

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Some people ask if I, much like a doctor, chose this specialty as my service. On a basic human level, the answer is no...it chose me. On a soul level, though, I am certain this is what I signed up to do in this lifetime. My responsibility lies in simply acknowledging my "gift" and what comes naturally for me, and embracing the calling to serve as a messenger for Spirit.

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Mediumship became quite popular in the 19th-century United States and the United Kingdom after the rise of Spiritualism as a religious movement. Modern Spiritualism is said to date from practices and lectures of the Fox sisters in New York State in 1848. The trance mediums Paschal Beverly Randolph and Emma Hardinge Britten were among the most celebrated lecturers and authors on the subject in the mid-19th century. Allan Kardec coined the term Spiritism around 1860.[12] Kardec claimed that conversations with spirits by selected mediums were the basis of his The Spirits' Book and later, his five-book collection, Spiritist Codification.
In a series of experiments holding fake séances, (Wiseman et al. 2003) paranormal believers and disbelievers were suggested by an actor that a table was levitating when, in fact, it remained stationary. After the seance, approximately one third of the participants incorrectly reported that the table had moved. The results showed a greater percentage of believers reporting that the table had moved. In another experiment the believers had also reported that a handbell had moved when it had remained stationary and expressed their belief that the fake séances contained genuine paranormal phenomena. The experiments strongly supported the notion that in the séance room, believers are more suggestible than disbelievers for suggestions that are consistent with their belief in paranormal phenomena.[51]
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On 4 February 1922, Harry Price with James Seymour, Eric Dingwall and William S. Marriott had proven the spirit photographer William Hope was a fraud during tests at the British College of Psychic Science. Price wrote in his SPR report "William Hope has been found guilty of deliberately substituting his own plates for those of a sitter... It implies that the medium brings to the sitting a duplicate slide and faked plates for fraudulent purposes."[131] The medium Kathleen Goligher was investigated by the physicist Edmund Edward Fournier d'Albe. On July 22, 1921 in a séance he observed Goligher holding the table up with her foot. He also discovered that her ectoplasm was made of muslin. During a séance d'Albe observed white muslin between Goligher's feet.[132]
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Physical mediumship is defined as manipulation of energies and energy systems by spirits. This type of mediumship is claimed to involve perceptible manifestations, such as loud raps and noises, voices, materialized objects, apports, materialized spirit bodies, or body parts such as hands, legs and feet. The medium is used as a source of power for such spirit manifestations. By some accounts, this was achieved by using the energy or ectoplasm released by a medium, see spirit photography.[26][27] The last physical medium to be tested by a committee from Scientific American was Mina Crandon in 1924.

Cold reading also explains why psychics have consistently failed scientific tests of their powers. By isolating them from their clients, psychics are unable to pick up information from the way those clients dress or behave. By presenting all of the volunteers involved in the test with all of the readings, they are prevented from attributing meaning to their own reading, and therefore can't identify it from readings made for others. As a result, the type of highly successful hit rate that psychics enjoy on a daily basis comes crashing down and the truth emerges – their success depends on a fascinating application of psychology and not the existence of paranormal abilities.[50]
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From its earliest beginnings to contemporary times, mediumship practices have had many instances of fraud and trickery.[55] Séances take place in darkness so the poor lighting conditions can become an easy opportunity for fraud. Physical mediumship that has been investigated by scientists has been discovered to be the result of deception and trickery.[56] Ectoplasm, a supposed paranormal substance, was revealed to have been made from cheesecloth, butter, muslin, and cloth. Mediums would also stick cut-out faces from magazines and newspapers onto cloth or on other props and use plastic dolls in their séances to pretend to their audiences spirits were contacting them.[57] Lewis Spence in his book An Encyclopaedia of Occultism (1960) wrote: