Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Christmas Humbug

Yes, I'm working on Christmas night. Uncle Ebenezer would be proud of me.

I've been looking for good examples of apports and asports. You know when you have so many books, and you're certain you read a particular passage in one of them, but maybe it was another...

Anyway, I decided to have a rummage on the internet instead. I recalled some instances of apports associated with Daniel Dunglas Home, one of the most famous psychics of his day, but can't find specific references (I've been involved with a bottle of very fine vintage port today, so one blurred screen looks more appealing than several hundred blurred books).

However, I did find an interesting thing, on the stage magician Randi's site. D.D. Home is referenced here. Note that it begins with a disparaging comment on the man's name. Then look at Paracelsus. See a similarity? If you want to turn the public against someone, begin by pointing out they have a made-up name. Reducing the argument to insults just makes you look silly, Mr. R.

Of all the remarkable stories concerning D.D. Home, witnessed by many respectable people, Randi picks out one small item and shows how it could have been faked. On that basis, D.D. Home is denounced as fraud.

Every item on Randi's site is a denunciation. Some are rightly so, others are done just because the magician doesn't like the supernatural and picks out an isolated incident to prove the subject entirely false. Often, as with D.D. Home, the subject is denounced on the basis of a theoretical idea of how one item could have been faked. The word pseudoscience appears in the title of Randi's site. Many of his entries are perfect examples of it. There is no impartial consideration here.

I will not open myself to litigation by quoting from the site. However, if you have a moment, read the last line of this entry. The final sentence, as it references magicians, says it all.

Now, as anyone who's been following this blog for a while will realise, I'm not going to state that D.D. Home was entirely genuine, entirely fake or anything in between. He died in 1886, quite some time before I was born, so all I have to go on are the writings of the time. There are many records, often by people of sincerity and credibility. I don't think it is right to dismiss the man on the basis of 'Oh, I worked out how he might have done one of his tricks even though he was never observed doing so'. Nobody has yet worked out, for example, how Home floated out of one window and in through another, some eighty feet above the ground.

Once a medium such as Home comes to light, they are under pressure to perform. Their abilities are not always easily reproduced. Under such pressure, they might be forced to cheat. The Fox Sisters were caught producing raps by cracking their toe joints. Once this was discovered, they were blasted as frauds. Quite how they produced raps that shook a room by the movement of their toes has never been explained. They must have had impressive toes indeed.

Yes, there are fake mediums. Huge numbers of them. They use cold reading, hidden items that they pretend to apport, assistants, special lighting, etc etc etc. Some can be pretty convincing even when you watch carefully. They won't like you looking under the table, I guarantee, but then neither does any stage magician.

Yes, there are real mediums. A few. Well, there are a lot who report meetings with their individual spirits, but only a few who can, it seems, chat at will with the dead. They do not use any theatrical crap to augment their communications. They don't care whether you believe them or not. When you've seen something that really matters, you stop worrying about trivia. Incidentally, this is one of the things that makes the best mediums hard to find. They are not on TV, on the end of a phone line, on the Internet or in your local paper. They really, really aren't interested in material gain. For a true medium, this life is not the be-all and end-all. This is just the waiting room. An offer of a million dollars to 'prove' themselves evokes nothing but laughter. You really can't take it with you, you know.

There are those between. Real mediums do not--cannot--perform to order. Under pressure, they might cave in and fake something, especially if some 'helpful assistant' wants to give them the suggestion. One faked item, caught, apparently negates all previous and subsequent unexplainable events.

It will come as a surprise to some 'investigators' that mediums are human. They crack under pressure, just like everyone else. Some investigations involve levels of tension that would not be out of place in a Gestapo interrogation room. Investigators, you are dealing with people, not lab rats. In fact, if you subjected any laboratory animal to these stresses, you'd be prosecuted.

Some people will never see beyond their own closed minds. That's fine with me. I'm not here to convince you one way or the other. I'm not going to waste time arguing with those whose position is unmovable. Believe what you like. Speak your opinions. You have that right. Just don't describe opinion as science when it clearly is nothing of the kind.


Southern Writer said...

Great post! That was a lot of work. Thanks for sharing it. You did a magnificent job for someone enjoying a fine old bottle of port.

I didn't know that about the Fox Sisters. The part about making rooms shake, that is. I haven't read much about them.

I really didn't mean to spend this much time here, but the subject is just irresistable to me. I came to tell you that you should go over to Cheryl's blog at


and see her pictures! Yes, I know how you feel about orbs, but maybe keep that mind open and ask her about the time difference between the shots. Besides those, there's one picture I think you'll really like. It's very impressive! I'm insanely jealous!

Romulus Crowe said...

Thanks for the tip - that's an interesting photo. I'll ask a question or two when I've found the most diplomatic way to introduce myself.

Southern Writer said...

She knows who you are. Just say "hi, Southern Writer sent me." She's expecting you.

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