In recent years, we've seen the emergence of "celebrity mediums," who are people that have become famous simply for being mediums. This, in turn, has led to some fairly intense scrutiny of those who claim to have mediumship ability. People like the "Long Island Medium," Theresa Caputo and Allison DuBois, who inspired the hit television show Medium, have often been criticized for taking advantage of their clients' grief. Still worse, many are accused of being frauds.
From its earliest beginnings to contemporary times, mediumship practices have had many instances of fraud and trickery. 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. 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. Lewis Spence in his book An Encyclopaedia of Occultism (1960) wrote:
On Fox News on the Geraldo at Large show, October 6, 2007, Geraldo Rivera and other investigators accused Schwartz as a fraud as he had overstepped his position as a university researcher by requesting over three million dollars from a bereaved father who had lost his son. Schwartz claimed to have contacted the spirit of a 25-year-old man in the bathroom of his parents house and it is alleged he attempted to charge the family 3.5 million dollars for his mediumship services. Schwartz responded saying that the allegations were set up to destroy his science credibility.
^ "Glossary of Key Words Frequently Used in Parapsychology" Archived 2010-12-24 at the Wayback Machine, Parapsychological Association website. "Materialization: A phenomenon of physical mediumship in which living entities or inanimate objects are caused to take form, sometimes from ectoplasm." Retrieved January 24, 2006 "Medium – Definition". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 23 March 2007.
In 1954, the psychical researcher Rudolf Lambert published a report revealing details about a case of fraud that was covered up by many early members of the Institute Metapsychique International (IMI). Lambert who had studied Gustav Geley's files on the medium Eva Carrière discovered photographs depicting fraudulent ectoplasm taken by her companion Juliette Bisson. Various "materializations" were artificially attached to Eva's hair by wires. The discovery was never published by Geley. Eugéne Osty (the director of the institute) and members Jean Meyer, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing and Charles Richet all knew about the fraudulent photographs but were firm believers in mediumship phenomena so demanded the scandal be kept secret.