There have always been people who claim they can contact the dead. These people are popularly refered to as "Mediums". But is it really possible that these people are contacting the dead, as they claim, or is it all trickery and deception? Obviously there are plenty of fakes out there. But are some mediums genuine?
How fake mediums and psychics work
Cold reading. Without knowing it, we can give away quite a lot of information about ourselves just in our appearance, our body language and the things that we say. A fake medium will use this means to gain information about us in very a subtle way and then make it seem as though they are delivering this information as though it was gained from the "spirit world". One clue that a medium is cold reading is that they keep asking YOU the questions. They completely rely on your continued input and feedback. Once they have some vague ideas about who it is you are trying to contact, they then offer what appears to be more specific information but what are in reality statements that could apply to anyone, or outright falsehoods. The information they give is often of a trivial nature, but people going to mediums may be in an emotionally troubled state and find it difficult to be rational. The fake medium will watch your facial expressions and body language to see when they are making a "hit" or a "miss". If your input is extremely minimal, expect the fake mediums reading to be extremely poor and very vague.
Hot reading. A fake medium will attempt to research the history of a location or person in whatever way they can prior to giving a reading. Any information they gain will then be delivered to make it seem as though they have an impressive knowledge of that person or building.
Focussing only on the hits.People have a tendency to focus only on the things a medium got right, in other words on their "hits". This could be because people are desperate to believe or do not want to feel as though they wasted their money ect. However, a fake medium will opperate in exactly the same way. Any major misses or false information will simply be swept under the carpet and they will keep throwing out lots of information until they get a hit.
When it comes down to it, there are really two types of "fakers"- there are those who are doing it deliberately and those who may genuinely believe they have this ability but the reality is that they do not. Skeptics believe that ALL mediums fit into one or two of these catagories.
Do real mediums exist?
Clearly if a medium is to have any hope of proving themselves as being real, they need to show they can do the opposite of what a fake medium does.
So heres the kind of criteria a medium should meet to be considered "genuine":
No prior knowledge of the person who is coming to have a reading (other than perhaps, very minimal details such as a first name).
Is able to give accurate information without any input from the person who is having the reading done
Gives detailed and specific information which nobody else could have possibly known except for the person having the reading done
There are more "hits" than "misses" in the reading
The classic problem with mediumship has always been that this skill can be made into a profitable business and this will always leave a claimed medium open to accusations that they are just "doing it for the money" and taking advantage of individuals who are in an emotionally vulnerable state and desperate to latch on to anything that will make themselves feel better.
In their defense, many mediums say they simply find themselves in greater demand as their skills gain recognition and having to devote more and more time to their mediumship abilities and of course, everybody has to make money and earn a living somehow. Also, rather than taking advantage of troubled individuals, mediums in some cases may be providing a great service and providing a great deal of help and comfort where it is needed.
Impressive modern day mediums
So are there any mediums who have impressed me? I have watched many of them and I have to say in a lot of cases I can see how a lot of what a medium does can look like cold reading. But there are a few who stand out as being very impressive. The most impressive medium I have seen to date has to be Lisa Williams. I do not know if her shows are edited to make her ability look more impressive than it really is, but this is about the only explanation the skeptical side of me can come up with that would explain what I've seen on her shows.
I would recommend doing a youtube search for Lisa Williams and watching all of her readings. She is very impressive.
Is it all just super ESP and telepathy?
The only other explanation is that the information being gained is somehow being picked up from the environment or the medium is reading peoples minds (telepathy). Maybe the universe is like one giant tape recorder and records everything that has ever happened, and certain individuals may be "sensitive" to this and able to pick up on past events ect. This is the general idea behind super ESP. To date, I am unaware of anyone actually proving that super ESP is a real phenomena. But are mediums just reading peoples minds?
Proxy sittings- this is where someone will go to see a medium on behalf of another person, who knows nothing about that person. This way the medium could not be mind reading the subject. Many proxy sittings have been carried out and yielded positive results.