The Psychic Mafia – Part 2
The Making of a Medium:
How It All Started
Mediums, if you were wondering, do not combust out of a cloud of ectoplasm; they come into the world by the same route as everybody else.
And they are made mediums, not born that way (though, to be sure, mediumship can run in families and, as this book reveals, may even start in childhood).
I wasn’t born with a silver trumpet in my mouth. My parents, ordinary middle-class people in Tampa (my mother died when I was thirteen), had no interest in spooks or spiritualism, and I don’t think I even knew what a medium was until my late teens.
I was raised a Baptist to the age of sixteen and then became a member of the Church of Christ. From my early years I’d felt a strong religious impulse and for a while considered entering the ministry.
However, I ended up going to business college, and working full-time besides to pay for my studies.
My first job was in a grocery store, then behind a soda fountain, then in the restaurant business, where I quickly rose to managerial level and by the time I was nineteen was making $250 a week. Not bad for a teenager.
It was then that came my introduction to spiritualism– one that changed my life more dramatically and profoundly than I could possibly have imagined.
I met a boyhood friend– Raoul, we’ll call him– who had gone away to a Pentecostal Bible school in South Carolina to become an evangelist. But Raoul told me how he had given up the sawdust trail and now had a deep interest in spiritualism.
His interest was sparked, he said, by an elderly gentleman he had met when he was at school (Holmes Bible College in Greenville, South Carolina). The old guy had been a short-change artist for a circus and had attended seances by the score. He knew many mediums, believed in psychic forces, and was a member of the Rosicrucians. In his Bible classes Raoul was being taught that spiritualism was of the Devil, but his elderly friend urged him to look into it for himself.
“Maybe you’ll change your thinking,” he said.
Raoul had attended a few seances, was intrigued and wanted to see more, and invited me to join him. And that’s how it all started. . .
We attended public services at Tampa’s biggest spiritualist church where a married couple, Mildred and Martin Baxter, were the co-pastors and resident mediums.
Looking back, those first encounters with the unseen were quite impressive. Mildred Baxter, a tall, imposing-looking woman with a refined voice (she had trained to be an opera singer but didn’t make it), stood on the platform and gave members of the congregation “messages from the other side.” The accuracy of these often elicited gasps of astonishment and admiration from the recipient. In time Raoul and I received a few spirit messages and they too, though not particularly spectacular, were accurate enough to be impressive.
Besides the regular Sunday services, we attended seances held periodically by the Baxters. In these the manifestations ran the whole range of so-called “physical” phenomena. Virtually always in the dark, spirit faces were “precipitated” on silk; spirit writing appeared on previously blank cards; diaphanous, undulating spirit-forms “materialized” from ectoplasm, a mysterious psychic substance drawn from the medium’s body; and the voices of the dead spoke from a tin trumpet which seemed to float around the room under its own power.
The Baxters were skillful mediums, the seances impressively done, and in the beginning both Raoul and I believed. I was the first to have suspicions about the genuineness of the physical phenomena while still believing that the “mental” phenomena– the clairvoyant messages from the spirits– were real. I probably felt then that the mediums were acting basically in good faith and simply wanted to strengthen belief in what they knew to be true: namely, the philosophy of
It was the first trumpet sitting that convinced me the physical demonstrations were fakes– pious fakes, if you like, but fakes.
When I expressed my conclusion to Raoul, he disagreed. He was still an all-the-way believer, though shaky. I was a part-way believer, in an odd state of mind comparable perhaps to that of the fundamentally sincere evangelist who publicly overestimates the attendance figures at his rallies for the glory of God.
Raoul and I joined private classes the Baxters held for those who wanted to develop their own latent psychic powers (so latent, in most cases, as to be undetectable). These classes were very popular (doesn’t everyone want to be psychic and eventually to be his own medium?) and, for the Baxters, very lucrative.
Mildred dwelt a great deal in her instruction on the importance of reading as widely as possible if we were to become successful mediums. This, she said, would enable the spirit entities to speak intelligently to sitters who came for advice– the principle being that they, the spirits, would draw from our minds.
“It’s like a fine instrument,” she said, “being desirable in the production of a great musical composition. That is to say, one would not expect a great composition to be played upon a broken-down, out-of-tune piano.”
Some of the subjects she suggested boning up on were basic law, diet and nutrition, comparative religion, and medicine. When I became a medium I understood the importance of these, because they are the most common areas in which people ask the spirit guides for advice.
(One of the most alarming things about the mediumistic racket is how completely some people put their lives into the hands of ill-educated, emotionally unbalanced individuals who claim a hot line to heaven. As a medium I was routinely asked about business decisions, marital problems, whether to have an abortion, how to improve sexual performance, and similar intimate and important subjects. That people who ask such questions of a medium are risking their mental, moral, and monetary health is a shocking but quite accurate description of the matter.)
By the time we had sat in the Baxters’ development class for a year (without developing much except an almost infinite capacity for enduring boredom), Raoul and I were ready to launch out on our own.
Were we then sincere spiritualists?
Yes– halfway at least. In the spook business, as we were soon to discover, mediums are divided into two classes: the “shut-eyes” and the “opens.”
The shut-eyes were the simple believers, often sweet little old ladies (although not all old ladies in spiritualism are sweet) who genuinely felt that they were psychic and able to pick up “vibrations.” They were kept around by the others because their transparent sincerity was good for public relations. But the shut-eyes were not let in on the tricks of the trade.
The open mediums, by contrast, were those who knew they were frauds and admitted it– at least in the secret circles of the fraternity.
When Raoul and I started out, we would have had to be classed somewhere in between the shut-eyes and the open mediums. We were in fact what is called in the business “open to ourselves.” This meant we knew that some mediums were total frauds– though we didn’t know how many– but the fraud, we felt, was for a good cause and didn’t do anybody any harm. If it strengthened faith, could it be that bad?
We also believed that some mediums did get genuine vibrations from the unseen world and that that was what really counted. Even if some of these mediums sometimes gave the spirits a helping hand by doing prior research, the important thing ultimately was that the true and noble philosophy of spiritualism be advanced.
We really thought, in the beginning, that we could pick up messages psychically. We decided to set ourselves up as mediums who would teach the exalted truths of spiritualism– the Golden Rule, salvation through character, and eternal progression– and stick to clairvoyant messages. We didn’t intend to stoop to producing physical phenomena. If people want trumpets and ectoplasm, we said, nobly but naively, let them go elsewhere.
We soon discovered that the shut-eye medium, even if his eyes are half-open, doesn’t stand much chance compared to the physical medium in attracting customers. People want spirit forms, spirit voices, spirit photographs, and similar wonders– and isn’t the customer always right?
As I think back now, trying to recapture the mood and the experiences of those early days in the ghost business, I realize afresh how murky the psychology of mediumship is.
Take Raoul and me. We started out, as I’ve said, basically sincere, but our thinking belonged to that dark gray area in which we were willing to remember names and bits of information picked up in conversation and later weave them into spirit messages while at the same time believing that we also got impressions from the psychic ether. We were sincere fakes. Or maybe schizophrenic would be more accurate.
Perhaps our mental state wasn’t all that different from the attitude of the State Department official who lies in the interest of national security, or steals classified information and passes it to the press because he disagrees with government policy. Or from that of the copywriter for a big ad agency who shades the truth in his client’s favor. Or. . . well, there are many other respectable people who, so to speak, do wrong for the right reasons.
None of this is to try to extenuate what I did as a fake medium. Of that I remain deeply ashamed. But perhaps we should see it in perspective as being different in degree, but not necessarily in kind, from much laundered larceny in our society.
At any rate, from a psychological viewpoint I think that Raoul and I were healthier when we renounced our halfway position and became out-and-out frauds, and that wasn’t long in coming.
We took over a spiritualist church in a small town not far from Tampa. Soon we wanted to branch out. We knew that others in the mediumistic business were earning big money, but to do the same we needed contacts. The stars of the psychic vaudeville circuit were associated with the booming spiritualist camps, chiefly Camp Chesterfield in Chesterfield, Indiana, and Camp Silver Belle in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, where every summer thousands of pilgrims plunked down cash on the line to talk to their beloved dead. (Later we discovered that the annual take at Chesterfield was a least a million dollars, and that long before inflation!)
Our mediumistic mentor, Mildred Baxter, had a fit when we suggested to her contacting either Chesterfield or Silver Belle. Later we found out why. Years earlier when she was just starting out as a medium, she had gotten into a row with Ethel Post Parrish, the queen bee of Silver Belle, been declared forever persona non grata there, and tossed out on her ear. Twenty-five years had done nothing to cool Ethel’s rage.
Raoul and I decided to dump the Baxters– they had been useful to us, but we were ready for better things– and hitch our ectoplasm to a new star. We determined to get a foot firmly in the door at the camps.
We went to see a noted medium, Viola Osgood Dunne, who was a rival of the Baxters and a pillar of Camp Chesterfield. A hearty, obese woman, neither bright nor stupid (like most mediums28), she welcomed us, when she heard we were students of the Baxters, with open arms. Few things give a medium more joy than stealing another’s proteges.
In our first meetings with Viola and two of her mediumistic co-workers, the question of fraud wasn’t brought out into the open. There was some polite sparring. They tried to feel us out, to discover just how much we knew, and we did the same. Neither of us learned much. We still didn’t know whether Viola and her satellites were shut-eyes (which seemed unlikely), open to themselves (that is, only half-fake), or wide-open.
I was betting that Viola Osgood Dunne was as wide open as you could get. Raoul, however, thought she might be basically sincere. We decided to find out by watching one of her psychic demonstrations. We invited her to “serve” (a spiritualist term) our church. If she used tricks, I was confident I’d spot them.
Well, she came, she demonstrated– and she cheated like hell. There was a large turnout because Viola Osgood Dunne was one of the big names of the spiritualist world. And she gave a very professional demonstration of billet-reading: that is to say, answering written questions submitted in sealed envelopes by members of the audience.
Reading questions inside a sealed envelope takes a little doing, of course, but Viola’s psychic powers were more than up to it. She used the “one-ahead method,” as it’s called, which is considerably older than the hills but, as she showed, still effective when done by a pro.
Her technique was simply to get hold of one of the questions, in any one of several possible ways, and to use that for the first question. In other words, holding the sealed envelope against her forehead, as though tuning into the etheric vibrations, she recited the question she had previously filched as though it were the one inside the envelope. When the question was acknowledged by the person who had written it, she gave some standard spiritualist answer (“The
spirits tell me yes and no and say you will understand it in due time”), then tore open the envelope, scanned the question inside, as though satisfying herself that it was the one she had just answered, and then went on to use it as her next question.29
The good medium, of course, is resourceful and adaptable, and Viola fleshed out her performance by drawing on her previous knowledge of six or seven veteran spiritualists in the audience. Altogether she did a good job.
When it was over asked Raoul; “Well, what do you say now?”
“You were right,” he replied.
That was in 1958. It marked our transition from the twilight of half-fraud into the darkness of total fraud.
The next time we saw Viola, which we made sure was soon, I simply said to her, “You did a very good job for us, but of course we should
have supplied you with advance information. However, we weren’t sure
exactly how you worked.”
That broke the ice. She invited Raoul and me to do clairvoyance in her thriving church, and opened her files to us for prior research. The files were a gold mine. Viola Osgood Dunne had travelled all over the United States and in several other countries calling up the dead, and she had files on thousands of sitters who had attended her seances. These files she made available to members of the psychic mafia in other cities. It is this swapping of information on sitters–many of them seance freaks for whom dark rooms have an irresistible attraction wherever they happen to be– which enabled me in Florida to tell veteran spiritualists from Chicago, say, or Los Angeles startlingly accurate things about themselves and their departed loved ones.
The web of mediumistic espionage that spans the United States and to some extent other countries is what makes the spook racket more than merely a local phenomenon and truly a Freemasonry of evil: a psychic mafia.30
Viola Osgood Dunne’s files were mainly on index cards kept in locked filing cabinets. (Much later, after we’d gotten to know her better, Viola appointed us protectors of her files in the event of her sudden and unexpected demise. In a letter she wrote to me December 29, 1966, she said; “I am leaving in just a few minutes to fly north and in case something unexpected should happen to me I have asked Eliza [her housekeeper] to contact you, so you could take care of certain personal matters for me.
“In the chest in my room are some files; a few boxes and a black, long letter file are in the second drawer of the gray chest in my bathroom; and in the filing cabinet section of the steel desk in my Florida room are some books, etc.”
The discreet wording was in case the letter was read by someone for whom it wasn’t intended. The files were some of her mediumistic records which would have been incriminating if found by friends or members of her family who were not in on the deception. Yes, members of her family. It’s not all that unusual, we found, for mediums to keep their fraudulent practices a secret even from their own spouses!
Another letter before me was written by Jenett Rykert Sadwin of Miami, in her own hand, on August 30, 1967. It contains tips on some of her followers who were planning to come to Tampa for sittings with us– tips which enabled me to wow them at their first seance– and also has some revealing allusions to her new husband, Phil, who obviously wasn’t in on her deep, dark secrets.
“As Phil is out with some friend playing cards,” she wrote, “it is a good time to get this letter off to you. . .
“I have to be careful before Phil. But you know we always find a way, eh?”
Later, she concludes; “Must hurry and mail this before Phil gets home. . .”
Among themselves, mediums often refer to their files on sitters as their “poems” or “poetry.”
Unlike many admirers of the great medium Arthur Ford, I wasn’t shocked to read in his biography (Arthur Ford: The Man Who Talked with the Dead, by Allen Spraggett with William V. Rauscher31) that according to his secretary he kept “poems” which he read before a seance. You see, among the files Viola Dunne gave me were a number of notebooks on sitters in various cities which she said originally had belonged to Ford.
The code used by mediums in their files is simple. Some of the common conventions are: A cross beside a name means the individual is dead; a circle, that he’s alive. A heart next to a name indicates someone with whom the sitter is or once was in love. “G.G.” next to “Blue Star” would mean that a medium had assigned the sitter a girl spirit-guide named Blue Star.
I’m looking at this moment at an index card with “poems” on it, sent to me by a medium in another city in advance of some of her followers coming to me for a first-time sitting. I’ll reproduce some of the “poetry” as it appears:
“Coral Long Hofer. . . Mother O Minnie Averitt. . . Father O Horace Averitt. . .
“Blind in one eye. . . had operation in the bad eye but it was not to restore sight. . .
“Grandmother x Mary Jane Scott. . . Grandfather O has been running around. . . This disturbs Carol’s mother. . . The grandmother
died from a disease that she couldn’t get well from. . . Grandfather’s name is Clifton. . .
“Fr. of Father Herman Whipple X. . . Fr.’s mother was named Wilharber. . .”
This medium’s notes were not as organized and concise as I would’ve liked, but at the time she was just a beginner. Anyway, give a good medium the few bits and pieces of personalia you just read, and he could build it into a monumental case for spirit survival. Think how evidential it would be for an unsuspecting sitter to be told by a medium she had never even seen before that her father was blind in one eye and had had an operation on it, though not to restore sight.
How amazingly detailed! How explicit and accurate!
“There’s no way the medium could have known that,” the sitter would tell her friends in absolute sincerity.
The secret of the medium’s marvellous “hits” were spies, not spirits!
Raoul and I were stretching our mediumistic wings, and our church was too small to hold us. So we simply gave it up and walked away, leaving church and people without a pastor.
Our aim was still to get a piece of the action at Camp Chesterfield, where the financial pickings were best. But becoming a Chesterfield medium wasn’t easy. The establishment there ran a closed shop, and no wonder– the take, as we eventually discovered, was even better than we had imagined. We couldn’t simply gatecrash Chesterfield, bulldoze our way in, because even if we had gotten past some of the dimwits on the board we’d never have handled the incredible woman who ran it all– Mable Riffle.
She was the most colorful, fantastic character I met in the zany world of spooksville. Only five feet tall but as tough as steel, with the vocabulary of a longshoreman and the guts of a sword-swallower, she was one formidable customer!
One of my most typical memories of Mable Riffle when we later got to know her was of her, then in her late seventies, scooting around Camp Chesterfield on a golf cart and stopping periodically to have a shouting match with her leg. One of her legs used to swell and pain and she wouldn’t be able to hop on and off her scooter as fast as she liked. So she would pound that bad leg with both fists, commanding it to walk smartly and do what she told it to do, as though the leg were another person and not part of herself at all. She treated other people the way she treated that leg: obey, or else!
There were many great stories about Mable. One told how she and her husband Arthur, with another medium, Edith Stillwell, were driving to serve a spiritualist church somewhere. Arthur lost control of the car, a brand new Chrysler, and it plowed off the road and was totally wrecked.
As always, Mable appeared first, clambering out of the wreckage and inquiring vigorously as to whether Arthur and Edith were all right. Yes, both were fine. But Arthur was bemoaning the accident.
“Mable,” he wailed, “the car’s a complete loss.”
“Oh, shit, Art,” she said, “that’s all right. We’ll get a new one!”
And she hustled them out onto the road to start flagging down a ride so they could get to that spiritualist church that was waiting for them.
I think the only thing Mable would have been afraid of was a real ghost. She herself told me how she and Arthur had arrived home late. While he was parking the car, Mable started up the steps of the front porch. Suddenly, she gave a bloodcurdling scream.
Arthur came running and found her white-faced.
“My God,” she said, “Just as I was going up the steps, I saw this form standing there in the shadows. It was like the spirit or ghost.”
“Well, what’s wrong?” said her husband with nice irony. “You bring them back in your seance room all day and night, so why be frightened?”
“Yeah,” said Mable, “but I just don’t want the damned things jumping out at me!”
But we were not to get to know Mable for a little while, and in the meantime Raoul and I opened a church in Tampa.
It’s very easy to set up a church and obtain the legal right to call yourself “Reverend.” A lawyer was needed who, for three hundred dollars, drew up the articles of incorporation. We had eight charter members (true-blue believers who had attended our seances and were overwhelmed), and that was enough to form a board of directors.
We started holding services in the federated Women’s Club in Tampa, which had a seating capacity of about seventy-five. Almost at once we were filled to overflowing, and by the end of the first year we were purchasing property and beginning to build our own edifice.
We called it the Good Shepherd Universal Spiritualist Church. It was all tax-free, of course, and in the articles of incorporation, approved by the Florida secretary of state, we could give ourselves virtually any power, authority, or title we wanted. I, who had never taken a theological course, proceeded to conduct weddings and funerals, ordain others to the spiritualist clergy (for a price), run a religious school, and certify other congregations that might wish to
affiliate with us. I never gave myself a degree, though many other mediums did and styled themselves “the Reverend Doctor.” In the eyes of the law I had as much ecclesiastical status as the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope– and it was all a racket!
Our church services had a touch of revivalism about them. We emphasized healing, and my partner, Raoul, with his evangelistic background, liked to imitate Oral Roberts, who was then casting out devils and making the lame walk every Sunday on television.
I remember one woman who was a chronic complainer. She had every disease she had read about in her medical encyclopedia. Though she looked fit and strong to me, she always hobbled in on a cane.
Her husband had brought her to one of our healing services, and Raoul decided to do an Oral Roberts on her. He pulled out all the stops. He prayed a dynamic prayer throbbing with emotionalism, then slapped his hands on her brown and shouted, “Be healed! Now put down your cane and walk!”
“I don’t know whether I can,” the woman quavered.
Raoul grabbed the cane out of her hand and broke it in half across his knee. Now that she had no choice but to walk without it. And walk she did– right down the aisle and right out of the church. We never saw her again, but the fun was worth it.
And the money. . .
Well, it poured in. I discovered that people will pay any price to communicate with their dead loved ones.
I remember a woman who came to our first service, Bertha Jenkins, who had lost her only son. She was thrilled beyond measure to find that through my mediumship she could talk to her beloved Jack. Until then her life had been hopeless. We put the stars back in the sky–and she repaid us amply.
Though she wore tennis shoes and dressed like a rag-picker, she gave large amounts to the church– which is to say, to Raoul and me. If she was pleased with a sitting, she would leave two hundred dollars. And when we started talking about building a church edifice, she called me to her home and handed me a paper bag. It contained six thousand dollars. (She believed there was only five thousand dollars, but we kept the extra and didn’t tell her.)
In eight months Bertha gave us another five thousand dollars and, of course, her son in spirit, Jack, always encouraged her in the good work she was doing. Before Jack was through with his mother, she had given us thousands of dollars.
Eventually she became a little suspicious of Jack’s repeated urgings that she give even more to the church. Possibly I was overeager and had pushed too hard. At one point during a seance she said, “Jack, I want you to call me what you used to call me.”
I knew it was a test. The only thing I could do then was to laugh and put her off by having Jack say, “I’m going to surprise you one of these days and do that.”
When Bertha left I thought, How the hell am I supposed to find out what it is she wants to hear? She was too good a touch to lose, so I was determined to give her what she wanted. But what was it?
Both Raoul and I dug desperately. We tried to find out her ethnic background, the origin of her name, but that didn’t yield any clues. Meanwhile Bertha’s givings, we noticed, had dropped off.
Finally, one night a group of us from the church went to her house for a social evening. During the proceedings I became conveniently ill, a headache you know, and Bertha insisted I take an aspirin and lie down in her bedroom to rest. As soon as she left me alone, I was out of bed. Somewhere in that house, I knew, probably in that very room, there had to be the information I needed.
Well, I found it. In Bertha’s family Bible, which was in the dresser drawer next to the bed. Her middle name, Lona, it turned out, was a nickname for Apalonia. That, I felt sure, was the clue I needed.
I researched Apalonia and found it to be the name of a saint who was famous for curing toothaches. My hunch told me that this was it! I decided to gamble.
At the next seance her departed son, Jack, recited the names of all the other members of her family– which I’d copied from her family Bible– and then called her Apalonia, saying he was getting “the vibrations of a toothache.”
That did it! She was completely satisfied and, her faith in my mediumship reconfirmed, the generous donations resumed. And her case was typical of many.
With practice, of course, my mediumistic skills improved. I made a habit of carrying a small notepad in my pocket and jotting down every casual remark which would help provide evidential messages. Rarely did I use such information soon after picking it up. The rule was to wait– until the individual had forgotten everything about the conversation and then out of the blue, spring on him some juicy evidential morsel which he himself had provided.
Early in my mediumship I decided to excel over other emissaries of the unseen by the detailed and explicit nature of my clairvoyance. I went in for social security numbers, insurance policy serial numbers, and even numbers of unlisted bank accounts!
How did I get such information?
Simple. I became an expert pickpocket.
I was even easier than that, most of the time, when all that was required was for Raoul or me– depending on which of us was conducting the seance– to lift a woman’s purse in the total darkness while she was occupied listening to spirit voices from the trumpets, take it into another room, and go through it. Later the purse was returned to the same spot, and when the seance concluded and the lights came on, the woman suspected nothing.
The method yielded not only social security card numbers and other confidential data, but also many of the personal objects which the spirits later returned as “apports.” The sitter probably didn’t miss the tiny religious emblem we removed from her purse for– what?–a few days, a week? By the time she couldn’t possibly connect its disappearance to the seance, but would assume that she had lost it somewhere while pulling other objects out of her purse. We let a few
weeks or months elapse, and then one night during a seance the spirits would announce, “We have a gift for you,” and the missing religious item tumbled into the woman’s hands.
The miracle was even more spectacular if, as often happened, the sitter asked the spirits for help in finding her missing cross or necklace or jeweled pill box or whatever. Sometimes, if we were prepared, we returned it on the spot. That really wowed them: Ask the spirits about a lost article, they said, and it materializes a moment later! In other cases the spirits would promise, “We’ll see what we can do,” and at the very next seance the missing object was delivered by astral express.
Sometimes, in a variation that was particularly impressive, the spirits told the sitter exactly where she had lost the missing article. When the sitter hurried to the spot– in a busy downtown drugstore, perhaps, where we knew she often shopped– she found the object right where we had planted in a short time before. Sometimes people wouldn’t even miss the object we pilfered, and when it was apported back to them they assumed that the spirits had dematerialized it out of their purse or wallet or wherever and rematerialized it before their eyes. That was how I did the trick with the businessman (mentioned in the first chapter) who swore that his lodge card, which “never leaves my wallet,” had been miraculously transported from it into the pages of the open Bible before him.
Recently, while watching television, I heard a psychic who’s very popular with show business people relate how a well-known pop singer called him for help in finding a lost ring. The medium said he had told her the ring was frozen in an ice cube in her refrigerator– and guess what? It was.
This reminded he of a couple of minor miracles we pulled. We hired a guy to deliver flowers to a family we were setting up for a demonstration of spirit power with instructions that he lift some small object and bring it to us. He pocketed an expensive religious medallion. Later, the spirits returned the medallion to the owner, who expressed very generous thanks.
Even better, and closer to the incident the television psychic described, was one in which we instructed our stooge to pick up some small object while he was delivering flowers and hide it somewhere in the house where the occupants would be very unlikely to find it. He took a diamond dinner ring and slipped it into a crevice behind the stone mantel in the living room.
It wasn’t long before the ring’s owner, a devoted follower of ours, called me almost in tears because she had lost something that meant a great deal to her. Could the spirits possibly find it?
Over the phone I tuned in to the etheric vibrations and told her that what I was getting sounded strange, but nevertheless, she might take a peek behind the top of the mantel.
She returned to the phone ecstatic, filled with praises for her wonderful spirit people and for me their humble servant.
The apports in full light which numerous witnesses said came “out of thin air” were produced by misdirecting the onlookers’ attention–raising one hand dramatically or, simpler still, having them reverentially bow their heads– while I skillfully dropped or tossed the object with my other hand.
I sounds incredibly easy, I know– too easy– but I was never caught. Believe me and all the magicians who’ve told you so: the hand is quicker than the eye!
Strange as it may sound, we had a Catholic nun once at a group seance, and she received an apport which was a small statue of the Virgin Mary. She was thrilled, took it to a priest, and he began attending our seances. He received evidence which, he gave us to believe, convinced him of the truth of spirit communication.
Clergy of other churches attended our seances, too, though often, like Nicodemus visiting Jesus, they came by night. Many of them became believers in the great truth of spirit return.
Eventually our success grew until we were able to open a glittering new church of our own in Tampa. And about the same time the gates of Camp Chesterfield swung open for us. With a little encouragement from our side.
That ushered in a whole new episode in my adventures in the spook business. . .
28. I’m still trying to decide whether this is a pun or not.
29. As Keene says, this is an old one, but effective. Magician and psychic investigator James Randi tells of the same routine being used at Camp Silver Belle in his book Flim-Flam!. Randi was attending the camp with a friend– ironically enough, William Linsey Gresham, the author of Nightmare Alley— who believed in psychic phenomena. To prove that the mediums were hoaxing the customers, Randi `marked’ his friend’s envelope by folding it in half. When the folded envelope was chosen by the medium, Randi’s friend sat up to take notice. . . but, when the medium recited someone else’s question, Randi’s friend had to
admit the truth. Most professionals, Randi remarks, wouldn’t touch a folded envelope for the “One Ahead.”
30. I don’t quite share Mr. Keene’s appraisal of mafia, but then again, I didn’t have anyone shoot me in the stomach for writing this book. But Keene’s description of these billet files — and the photos of billets he’d included in the original edition of this book — illustrates a network of files on many hundreds of people. One wonders whether mediums use computers and electronic bulletin boards today.
31. Plug, plug.