Medium Stephen Wakeling Answers Your Questions
Date: 30 August 2012
Dear Mr Wakeling,
I have recently read the inspiring account by Arthur Findlay of the mediumship of John Sloane. I went to see my first demonstration by a medium in my local Spiritualist Church, expecting to find a John Sloan-like performance. The magicians' tricks I saw the medium instead quite shocked me:
- blatantly obvious ‘cold reading’;
- blatant fishing for information;
- blatant reliance on Barham Effect;
- the praising of people (in a obvious attempt to coach the audience) who 'worked with' her ‘and the spirits with an open heart’;
- the getting of people to compete to accept a spirit she named (by first name only, of course), only to switch back from the winner to a former competitor because the erstwhile winner's support was proving not enthusiastic enough.
There was also the medium's 'will you accept (name)' question to one man she picked; when he declined to recognise that name, and the three ensuing descriptions of the named spirit, the medium disciplined the man with 'but know that she (the not-accepted spirit) is standing behind you'.
Apart from all this very unconvincing carry-on, what I cannot understand is why spirits do not present to the medium with a placard carrying their full names and last earth-time street address. Are spirits assumed to be not clever enough to think of this simple strategy? Surely that is a strategy that would obviate the need for antics like ‘I’m getting the name “Jim” ... will you accept him? ... He’s showing me a sewing machine ... who did a lot of sewing?’ (A clairvoyant who can see Jim with a sewing machine can surely read a name on a placard.)
In fact, this Spiritualist Church endorsed medium was no different from the obvious TV-performing frauds.
Please believe me when I tell you that I badly want to believe in the afterlife, for my very personal reasons. But (like Houdini?) I am daunted rather than helped by the sort of medium behaviours I have just described that appear to me to be fraudulent. Sadly, experienced followers of mediums are surprised by my criticisms of this medium, and rather give me the impression that hers is their expected style. Please help me sort out these concerns.