“SPIRIT TELEVISION” – Latest Trick of Fake Spiritualists (Sep, 1939)

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“SPIRIT TELEVISION” – Latest Trick of Fake Spiritualists

QUICK to adapt their technique to modern styles, fake spiritualists have now introduced “psychic television” to cajole money from those who have suffered bereavement. Promised a view of a loved one who has passed away, the medium’s intended victim is seated before a window in a small, ornate cabinet resembling a television receiver. He writes the name of the dead person upon a blank sheet of paper, which is handed to him on a frame and then placed in the machine. The room darkens. A humming sound is heard from the apparatus. Twinkling lights appear and disappear. Mysterious rapping sounds, and the crackling of an electric arc, heighten the drama. The screen begins to glow. A face appears upon it—first dimly, then clear and sharp. It is the image of the lost relative.

Pictures on these pages show how the deception is performed. Gaining entrance to a prospect’s home—on such a pretext as testing the telephone —one of the medium’s agents contrives to find and rephotograph a portrait of the member of the family who has died. A trick frame makes it easy for the medium to insert an enlargement in the “television” machine along with the blank paper, which serves as a screen. Illuminated from the rear, the photograph is drawn . forward along a track toward the screen by a concealed thread, so that it gradually becomes more clearly defined. The rest of the apparatus—lights, arc, and humming motor—is simply for “atmosphere.” Glib-tongued showmanship, aided by what the medium and his agent have been able to learn about the deceased through secret investigation, help make the fraud convincing enough to yield rich returns.

This series of photographs, made with the cooperation of Sam Grossman, of the Society of American Magicians, is designed to protect the public by exposing the methods used in this heartless exploitation of grief.

  1. Michael Patrick says: April 25, 20086:58 am

    That’s a lot of work to fleece someone….. the old cursed money scam is a lot easier.

  2. Gary says: April 25, 20089:29 am

    Wouldn’t they notice that the picture was identical to one they have in their living room?

  3. nlpnt says: April 25, 20083:41 pm

    Exactly. A scam that requires investment in a great deal of equipment, and more effort each time that it’s run than would a lot of honest jobs, is basically useless.

  4. sonny p fontaine says: April 27, 20081:10 pm

    pre-steam punk steam punk t.v.

  5. KHarn says: May 3, 20089:28 am

    Reversing the photo, or touching and other distortion tricks will make it look diffrent. The “mark” wouldn’t be alowed to see it for more than a couple of seconds anyway.

    As for making such efforts in an “honest” business instead, some people think just getting away with a scam is worth it. I’ve known people like that; they were often inspired by the “crooks are heroic, police are evil” culture of the sixties and early seventies.

  6. Village Idiot says: May 9, 200810:47 am

    So how do the REAL spiritualists do this? I bet it’s cheaper!

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