In 1876, William Eglinton was exposed as a fraud when the psychical researcher Thomas Colley seized a "spirit" materialization in his séance and cut off a portion of its cloak. It was discovered that the cut piece matched a cloth found in Eglinton's suitcase.[82] Colley also pulled the beard off the materialization and it was revealed to be a fake, the same as another one found in the suitcase of Eglinton.[83] In 1880 in a séance a spirit named "Yohlande" materialized, a sitter grabbed it and was revealed to be the medium Mme. d'Esperance herself.[84]
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^ Joseph Jastrow. (1935). Patience Worth: An Alter Ego in Wish and Wisdom: Episodes in the Vagaries of Belief. D. Appleton-Century Company. pp. 78–92. Lyon Sprague de Camp. (1966). Spirits, Stars, and Spells. New York: Canaveral. p. 247. Robert Goldenson. (1973). Mysteries of the Mind: The Drama of Human Behavior. Doubleday. pp. 44–53. Milbourne Christopher. (1970). ESP, Seers and Psychics. New York: Crowell. pp. 128–29
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The medium Henry Slade was caught in fraud many times throughout his career. In a séance in 1876 in London Ray Lankester and Bryan Donkin snatched his slate before the "spirit" message was supposed to be written, and found the writing already there.[78] Slade also played an accordion with one hand under the table and claimed spirits would play it. The magician Chung Ling Soo revealed how Slade had performed the trick.[79]

In 1991, Wendy Grossman in the New Scientist criticized the parapsychologist Stephen E. Braude for ignoring evidence of fraud in mediumship. According to Grossman "[Braude] accuses sceptics of ignoring the evidence he believes is solid, but himself ignores evidence that does not suit him. If a medium was caught cheating on some occasions, he says, the rest of that medium's phenomena were still genuine." Grossman came to the conclusion that Braude did not do proper research on the subject and should study "the art of conjuring."[183]


The same week that the Thomas John sting revelation was made in The New York Times, John's claimed mediumship abilities portrayed in the Lifetime reality TV show called Seatbelt Psychic were challenged by Gerbic in an article published by Skeptical Inquirer. In the show, John is a ride-share driver who surprises “unsuspecting” passengers when he delivers messages from their deceased relatives. Gerbic investigated and revealed that John's passengers are actually actors, several of which are documented in IMDb. Gerbic concluded that the riders were likely hired to ride with John, but were probably not acting when talking with him. She concluded that the details about their lives mentioned by John were easily found on social media sources, and likely fed to John, making the readings actually hot readings. One rider, Wendy Westmoreland, played a character on Stalked by a Doctor, a TV show also produced by Lifetime.[213][214]
Colin Fry was exposed in 1992 when during a séance the lights were unexpectedly turned on and he was seen holding a spirit trumpet in the air, which the audience had been led to believe was being levitated by spiritual energy.[186] In 1997, Massimo Polidoro and Luigi Garlaschelli produced wax-moulds directly from one's hand which were exactly the same copies as Gustav Geley obtained from Franek Kluski, which are kept at the Institute Metapsychique International.[187]
No doubt a great importance in the paranormal field is the problem of fraud. The field of psychic research and spiritualism has been so notoriously full of charlatans, such as the Fox sisters and Eusapia Palladino–individuals who claim to have special power and gifts but who are actually conjurers who have hoodwinked scientists and the public as well–that we have to be especially cautious about claims made on their behalf.[61]
In 1966 the son of Bishop Pike committed suicide. After his death, Pike contacted the British medium Ena Twigg for a series of séances and she claimed to have communicated with his son. Although Twigg denied formerly knowing anything about Pike and his son, the magician John Booth discovered that Twigg had already known information about the Pike family before the séances. Twigg had belonged to the same denomination of Bishop Pike, he had preached at a cathedral in Kent and she had known information about him and his deceased son from newspapers.[172]
In 1891 at a public séance with twenty sitters the medium Cecil Husk was caught leaning over a table pretending to be a spirit by covering his face with phosphor material.[90] The magician Will Goldston also exposed the fraud mediumship of Husk. In a séance Goldston attended a pale face materialization appeared in the room. Goldston wrote "I saw at once that it was a gauze mask, and that the moustache attached to it was loose at one side through lack of gum. I pulled at the mask. It came away, revealing the face of Husk."[91] The British materialization medium Annie Fairlamb Mellon was exposed as a fraud on October 12, 1894. During the séance a sitter seized the materialized spirit, and found it to be the Mellon on her knees with white muslin on her head and shoulders.[92]
According to James Randi, a skeptic who has debunked many claims of psychic ability and uncovered fraudulent practices,[205] mediums who do cold readings "fish, suggest possibilities, make educated guesses and give options." Randi has a standing offer of $1 million US dollars for anyone who can demonstrate psychic ability under controlled conditions. Most prominent psychics and mediums have not taken up his offer.[206]
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).[166] Lambert who had studied Gustav Geley's files on the medium Eva Carrière discovered photographs depicting fraudulent ectoplasm taken by her companion Juliette Bisson.[166] 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.[166]