15 June 2024

Famous Psychics and Mediums from the UK and North America Caught Cheating

The realm of psychics and mediums has long fascinated people, offering the promise of contact with the spirit world or glimpses into the future. However, the field is not without its controversies, particularly when some practitioners are caught engaging in fraudulent activities. Here are some notable examples of psychics and mediums from the UK and North America who were caught cheating.

1. Mina "Margery" Crandon (1888-1941)
Location: USA
How Caught: Margery Crandon, an American spiritualist medium, was one of the most famous mediums of the 1920s. Her séances were attended by prominent figures, including members of the American Society for Psychical Research. However, in 1924, the Scientific American magazine offered a prize for any medium who could demonstrate genuine supernatural abilities. Margery was investigated by the magazine's committee, which included the famous magician Harry Houdini. Houdini exposed her tricks, such as using her foot to manipulate objects and producing "ectoplasm" made of animal liver. Despite some ongoing support, the exposure significantly tarnished her reputation.

2. Helen Duncan (1897-1956)
Location: UK
How Caught: Helen Duncan, a Scottish medium, was famous for her physical mediumship, particularly the production of ectoplasm during séances. In 1931, she was caught by Harry Price, a renowned psychical researcher, who took flash photographs during her séance. These photos revealed that her ectoplasm was actually made of cheesecloth, paper, and egg whites. Despite this, she continued her practice until she was arrested during World War II under the Witchcraft Act of 1735, in 1944, for supposedly revealing naval secrets. She remains a controversial figure, with some arguing that her arrest was more about her wartime revelations than her fraudulent practices.

3. Peter Popoff (1946-)
Location: USA
How Caught: Peter Popoff, an American televangelist and self-proclaimed prophet, gained fame in the 1980s for his televised faith healing services. In 1986, magician and skeptic James Randi exposed Popoff's fraudulent activities on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." Randi demonstrated that Popoff's wife was transmitting information to him via a radio transmitter, which he then used to give the impression of divine insight. This revelation, along with a subsequent investigation by Randi, led to Popoff declaring bankruptcy in 1987, though he later returned to televangelism.

4. Sylvia Browne (1936-2013)
Location: USA
How Caught: Sylvia Browne was a well-known American psychic who appeared on numerous television shows, including "The Montel Williams Show." Her career was marred by several high-profile inaccuracies. In 2004, she told the parents of missing child Amanda Berry that their daughter was dead; Berry was found alive in 2013, having been held captive for years. Additionally, in 2001, she claimed on the "Larry King Live" show that a missing man named Shawn Hornbeck was dead and his body would be found near "two jagged boulders." Hornbeck was found alive in 2007. These and other inaccurate predictions damaged her credibility significantly.

5. James Hydrick (1959-)
Location: USA
How Caught: James Hydrick, an American psychic and self-proclaimed telekinetic, gained attention in the 1980s with his ability to move objects without touching them. In 1981, he appeared on the television show "That's My Line," where he was challenged by magician and skeptic James Randi. Randi designed a simple test involving small pieces of styrofoam to detect any air currents that might be causing the movement. Hydrick failed to perform under these conditions, ultimately admitting his abilities were fraudulent.

6. Derek Acorah (1950-2020)
Location: UK
How Caught: Derek Acorah, a British medium best known for his work on the television show "Most Haunted," faced scrutiny for his practices. In 2005, Richard Felix, a historian on the show, and parapsychologist Ciarán O'Keeffe conducted a sting operation. O'Keeffe planted fake information about a non-existent ghost named Kreed Kafer (an anagram of "Derek Faker"), which Acorah later claimed to contact during a séance. This revelation led to significant criticism and questions about the legitimacy of Acorah's mediumship.

7. Theresa Caputo (1966-)
Location: USA
How Caught: Theresa Caputo, known as the "Long Island Medium," has been accused of using cold reading techniques to gather information about her clients. Skeptics like James Randi and mentalist Derren Brown have suggested that her detailed readings are the result of careful observation and generalizations rather than genuine psychic ability. Though she has not been formally "caught" in the act of fraud by a specific individual, numerous investigations and critiques have raised substantial doubts about her authenticity.

The allure of the supernatural and the desire to connect with lost loved ones make people vulnerable to those claiming psychic abilities. The cases above illustrate how, over the years, both skeptical investigators and the public have exposed fraudulent practices among psychics and mediums. While these revelations often lead to damaged reputations and legal consequences, the demand for psychic services persists, underscoring the complex interplay between belief, hope, and skepticism.