All the Afterworld’s a stage

by Luke T.

During a debate on telepathy at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA) in London, England, a participant was asking a question of a critic when he suddenly collapsed. With his heart failing, his wife rushed to his side as he struggled for life. Paramedics were called, but rescue was to come too late. Montague Keen, aged 78, husband to Veronica Keen, was dead.

Montague Keen was the author of numerous papers, books, and articles on the paranormal . He served as the scientific advisor to the Center for Crop-Circle Studies, serving to validate that crop circles were not man-made. He then began to concentrate on the study of life after death and served as a lifelong member of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). As a member of SPR, he was the principal author of The Scole Report in 1999, which was the study of mediums who “based on two years of regular séances, their chief claims were that they had established contact with a ‘team’ of spirit communicators comprising, or in contact with, a number of former scientists.”1
In light of Keen’s own status in some circles as a scientist, and as the principal author of The Scole Report, one can imagine any bait which claimed Montague Keen was communicating from the afterlife must have been simply irresistible.

February, 2004. The month after Montague Keen’s death, his widow Veronica, telephoned Dr. Gary Schwartz of the University of Arizona with enticing news. According to Veronica Keen, she had been contacted by mediums claiming to be in spirit communication with Montague. The mediums further

“claimed that MK (Montague Keen) wanted GS’s (Gary Schwartz’) laboratory to conduct research with him since he passed, especially involving cross-correspondence.”2

Why should Montague Keen want to communicate with someone at the University of Arizona? Because Keen and Schwartz were well-known to each and shared common interests in the paranormal.

“GS knew MK and VK (Veronica Keen) professionally and personally. He and MK were in regular email contact since 1999 when they first met at a Society for Scientific Exploration conference. MK came to Tucson, Arizona to attend a survival of consciousness conference in 2001. At the conference, he served as a secret sitter (since he was unknown to most of the American audience) for medium Laurie Campbell (LC) who performed a demonstration of how the Human Energy Systems Laboratory at the University of Arizona conducted mediumship research.

The Keens served as GS’s host in 2003 when GS participated in a study day in England sponsored by the SPR that focused on the topic of survival of consciousness. MK served as a member of the international advisory committee to the second author (Julie Beischel)’s William James Postdoctoral Fellowship in Mediumship and Survival Research, though she did not get to meet him in person before his death. GS came to consider MK and VK as dear friends as well as colleagues – MK as an SPR psychical scientist, VK as an individual who had substantial personal experience with exceptional mental mediums. 2

Note the interesting use of the phrase “secret sitter” in the above quote. The author, Gary Schwartz, considered Keen to be a secret sitter since he was unknown to the audience, and not the medium!

It appears Schwartz, Keen, and the medium, who were all known to each other, were trying to convince the audience that what the medium was “reading” from this “secret sitter” was revealed through paranormal means. It appears this does serve as an excellent “demonstration of how the Human Energy Systems Laboratory at the University of Arizona conducted mediumship research.”

March 2004. The SPR announces to its members there is to be a tribute to Montague Keen to be held in June at the RSA. What could possibly be better than to grant the departed Keen’s request to conduct an experiment and to present this momentous communication at a tribute dedicated to the man himself? How could Dr. Schwartz possibly resist such a serendipitous opportunity? Apparently, he couldn’t.

“When he was contacted in March of 2004 to participate in MK’s tribute, he decided to title his talk “Montague Keen’s vision of survival of consciousness: Then and now.” The title was chosen with the hope that some research data could be collected prior to the Tribute.” 2

Let’s quickly review the chain of events so far:

  1. Montague Keen dies.
  2. Mediums initiate contact with Gary Schwartz through Veronica Keen.
  3. Gary Schwartz agrees to conduct an experiment with mediums to contact Keen so that he may present the results at an announced tribute to Keen.

Sometime between April 2004 and the tribute to Keen in June 2004, Dr. Gary Schwartz, and his research co-author Dr. Julie Beischel, conduct an ADC experiment with four mediums. As of this writing, only the data relating to the contact with Montague Keen have been made available by Dr. Schwartz on the internet. Dr. Schwartz’ data and the paper he presented at Montague Keen’s tribute are the basis of this report.

Here is how Dr. Schwartz describes the experiment set-up2:

“The first phase was double-blind. VK served as the absent sitter; JB (who had minimal knowledge of MK’s professional and personal history), served as the proxy sitter and experimenter for the readings (the first which was done at the University of Arizona). For this double-blind phase, VK was not told who the mediums were or when the research readings were scheduled.”

Veronica Keen (VK) is the “absent sitter” who does not even know when the readings are scheduled. Julie Beischel (JB) is to sit in the presence of the medium as a proxy representative of Veronica Keen, for whatever reason. JB knows who the deceased is and who she is sitting for. One can’t help but wonder, since it was mediums who initiated this whole thing, if the mediums also know who the “absent sitter” and the departed are.

To continue:

“Part 1 of the experiment contained two subparts, A and B. In Part 1A (“Free-form,” FF), the mediums were simply asked to report whatever they could about the deceased. They were not told anything about the deceased or the sitter, just that there was an absent sitter. The late Susy Smith, who had participated in multiple experiments since she passed in February of 2001 (e.g., Schwartz et al., 2004), served as a departed hypothesized co-investigator and was requested by GS (i.e., in his mind) to escort MK to the readings. This is termed the “double-deceased” paradigm.”

Dr. Schwartz’ audience is expected to believe the mediums had no idea who it was that had departed that they are supposed to read! And a new character is introduced. A deceased “Susy Smith” who had taken part in other Schwartz experiments after she had died. Not mentioned in the report is that Susy Smith is Schwartz’ dearly departed “adopted grandmother”3 , and that she also participated in experiments with Schwartz when she was alive and well4. Her role for this particular experiment is to escort Montague Keen to the reading. Apparently, MK was able to find the mediums who then contacted his wife, but is not able to find the mediums when they are at the University of Arizona, and must have a spirit guide escort him there at the mental request of Dr. Schwartz.

Sorry, not “spirit guide”. That is so last century. “Departed hypothesized co-investigator.”

Not only is Dr. Schwartz pre-supposing the existence of ghosts, he is placing himself in the experiment by personally requesting his dead “grandmother” to escort Montague Keen to the reading. And Dr. Schwartz is the one who would be scoring the success of the experiment. Dr. Schwartz refers to this as a “double-deceased” paradigm. Others may call it undeniable rater bias.

Further evidence of Dr. Schwartz’ bias is found elsewhere in the same document:

“Unbeknown to AD or JB, GS privately prayed that if MK’s consciousness survived, that clear if not definitive evidence for his continued existence would be uncovered in this particular reading (since it was being professionally documented by a TV producer as well as professional writer). “

To continue:

“In Part 1B (“Deceased-directed,” DD), the mediums were given some specific information related to the deceased. Since “Montague” and “Monty” are not common first names, the first medium, AD, was given the first name of the absent sitter (Veronica) and told that she wanted to hear from her deceased husband. [During the subsequent readings, the mediums were told that the absent sitter wished to contact her husband and that he usually called her “Darling” rather than using her first name.] It was hypothesized that more focused and detailed information regarding MK would be obtained in Part 1B compared to Part 1A.”

At this point, the mediums are given solid evidence they are supposed to be communicating with Montague Keen. They are given his wife’s first name. This plainly moves into the area of “hot reading.”

A little about the medium, AD. Allison Dubois:

“AD has participated in multiple previous experiments in the Human Energy Systems Laboratory where the blinding conditions were virtually cheat-proof. “

More on Allison Dubois later.

So Dr. Schwartz was no stranger to Allison Dubois. Everyone knows everyone. A nice, cozy family. Dr. Schwartz and his “grandmother” who, when she was alive, worked with her “grandson” with other “departed hypothesized co-investigators”, among who was her departed mother, Elizabeth.4

In the included transcripts of the single-blind reading (no transcripts are available for the rest of the experiment) and the associated commentary by Dr. Schwartz, there is no clear point shown when the medium was given Veronica’s name. And yet, not far into the transcript, both Schwartz and Allison refer to her by name. In other words, there is no delineation between Part 1A and Part 1B.

This is the first spoken mention of Veronica:

“Schwartz: Is there any message that he has specifically for Veronica related to this session? …Because there will be other sessions as you know. But for this session, does he have any messages for her?”

Shortly after, Allison Dubois refers to Veronica by name:

Dubois: Yes, Veronica knew better than he did of what life after death was, or that there was life after death.”

Before continuing, let’s do another review of events up to this point.

  1. Montague Keen dies.
  2. Mediums contact Veronica Keen and urge her to contact Gary Schwartz to conduct ADC with Keen.
  3. Schwartz contacted by Veronica.
  4. Tribute to Keen announced.
  5. Schwartz contacts mediums and arranges “experiment” for use at the tribute to Keen.
  6. Schwartz conducts experiment as active participant, informs mediums that “Veronica” is the sitter and she wishes to hear from her husband.

From here, the transcript and Dr. Schwartz’ comments speak for themselves, like a scripted play for the benefit of an audience. Keep in mind the chain of events just described.

“GS: Have things happened since he [MK] died that were surprises or different from what he expected in his life?

AD: He’s referencing either a book was dedicated to him but he’s referencing a dedication to him that he didn’t expect or some sort of an acknowledgement publicly of him as being important and he’s acknowledging the person paying homage to him, so to speak.

GS: Okay, so he’s surprised by the reactions since his death?

AD: Yes.

COMMENT Mediums sometimes mention tributes or honors that take place after someone dies. However, it is a rare event for a psychical scientist to die and then for a day long scientific tribute to be conducted in his honor. MK’s “surprise” at the public acknowledgement of him, that this is “important” and his “acknowledging the person paying homage to him” fits (1) the context of this unique research reading as well as (2) the character of the deceased. Recall that the medium did not know who the deceased was.”

In addition to the announced tribute, the rater uses the fact this reading is taking place to score the “dedication” statement as a hit!

“GS: Was he expecting that today was going to happen?

AD: Yes.

GS: Um… and has he conveyed this to anyone or to the wishes about what’s happening now?

AD: His family there knew that today was going to happen. Is that what you mean?

COMMENT The wording of GS’s question was not clear (even to the transcriber).”

The mediums contacted Veronica urging Schwartz to do this experiment, and he asks if the family knew today was going to happen…

“GS: No, let me reframe this. Um… has he communicated to anyone else, and if so how, activities that relate to this research project?

AD: Again, he’s showing something being named after him or dedicated to him.

COMMENT This is important because it was surprising and persistent. It appears that MK was communicating to AD that somehow this research project was related to a dedication to him. As will be clear, AD had no idea who the deceased person was and had no idea that these readings would be presented at MK’s memorial.”

Surprising and persistent. Maybe because the medium had limited material?

But she’s about to really milk what she has:

“GS: Can he show you any images… [AD interrupts again, this time very strongly]

AD: He went down at a podium or… No [looks up and ponders]. No [holds her face in her hands].

GS : What?

AD: Um… he’s showing a man falling at the podium. Like [snaps her fingers]. Like [snaps her fingers again] and falls, and he goes down at the podium.

GS: Okay.

AD: Uh… this is important. So like an assembly. And he goes down at the podium. Is that odd? That’s what he’s showing. The man that died at the podium.

COMMENT This was one of the most important and clearly evidential moments in the reading. AD interrupted GS asking a question, and said, seemingly out of the blue, “He went down at a podium” at a place “like an assembly.” It happened “snap” – that quickly. AD subsequently conveyed information (see below) that the man’s knees buckled, he was seen falling of a heart attack or that his breathing stopped. GS knew that MK had died suddenly, of a heart attack, at an “assembly” – at a meeting held at the Royal Academy of Art. He knew that MK and Veronica sat in the front row. However, he did not know that there was a podium at the meeting, and that the two speakers spoke at or near the podium [he learned this a few days after the reading was completed]. AD was incorrect about the precise details regarding the podium – MK did not go down “at” the podium, he went down facing the podium. Save for that misperception, the other set of facts was all correct. And AD was emphatic that the deceased was saying that this information was important for GS (see below).

GS: Have you ever seen that before?

AD: No, never.

GS: How many readings have you done?

AD: Well over a thousand.

GS: Okay, and how often does this happen? [AD looks pained, and says “Oh… phew”].

AD: No, I don’t even know what it means. He’s making me feel like either he had a heart attack or [snap] his breath was taken from him. But he’s showing [snap] his knees buckling and going down.

GS: And he’s showing you something about a podium, and a man falling down at a podium?

AD: Like he was talking at the podium, he was at the podium, he went down, it was the podium… walking to the podium, or at the podium, but he went down.

GS: And this is important for me to know?

AD: Yes [looks confused]. There’s an acknowledgement of this man being important.

GS: Okay. So this is a way of answering the question that I would know that it’s him?

AD: Yes [is confused, and laughs].

GS: And you don’t know what’s going on?

AD: No…

GS: It’s very important that this be recorded.

JB: So he wanted to tell Veronica about the curtains…

GS: Right.

JB: And Gary about the man at the podium?

GS: Right. About the heart attack and falling down or something. [AD interjects]

COMMENT AD was clearly confused about this. She had never experienced such a death scene before [i.e., a man dropping dead of a heart attack at an assembly involving a podium]. She felt like she was being pressed by the deceased to communicate this information. In her experience, no one, in more than a thousand readings, had died like this.”

After the experiment, Gary Schwartz graded the medium. Here is his grading scale2:

“-3: definite miss
-2: probable miss
-1: possible miss
0: rater cannot judge
+1: possible hit

+2: probable hit
+3: definite hit “

Of 126 “items” in the transcript, Schwartz handed out five -3’s, two 0’s, and eleven +2’s. He gives the remaining one hundred and eight items a +3.

But psychic mediums prefer percentages, and for that, Schwartz awards Dubois a hit rate of 94.4%

Dr. Schwartz has worked with Dubois in the past. He has given her ringing endorsements. Gary Schwartz was kind enough to write the foreword to Dubois book Don’t Kiss Them Goodbye. 3

“Sometimes people not only have gifts, but they themselves are gifts. Allison DuBois is not only a gifted psychic medium, she is an extraordinary gift for others. She gifts not only her husband, children, family and friends, but the clients who call her for help and counsel in her role as an evidenced-based psychic medium.
In my role as an evidence-based scientist investigating the possibility of survival of consciousness, I have witnessed Allison do things that I would have thought, just a few years ago, must be impossible. “

“I must confess that Allison holds a special place in my heart. The reason is that I first met Allison, coincidently, just two days following the passing of my “adopted” grandmother, the late Susy Smith, who died unexpectedly from a massive heart attack. The truth is, I loved Susy, and I was not prepared for her sudden passing.”

If the name Allison Dubois rings a bell, perhaps that is because of the new NBC television series Medium that is based on her life.

For those who are curious to know what sort of controls Dr. Schwartz placed on the experiment to ensure no hanky-panky occurred, let Schwartz tell you in his own words1:

“First, the double-blind experiment began with GS asking AD if she had any idea who the deceased is (she said no). Moreover, she was asked if she was aware of what would happen if we caught her cheating (she said yes, knowing we would expose her.) The issue of potential cheating, and the exposure of any cheating so discovered, is regularly and openly addressed in our research.
Second, AD is a very visible medium (e.g., a TV series based on her life was recently created for the NBC network). Cheating (especially as revealed as part of a TV documentary) would ruin her locally and nationally.”

Considering that Dr. Schwartz’ reputation is inextricably tied to Dubois’, is this simple “Are you cheating?” “No I’m not” act good enough for you, dear reader?

Surely, Dr. Schwartz had other safeguards in place? Yes, he did.

“Our current on-going studies involve novel designs that include:

  1. long distance experiments conducted over the telephone where the mediums, experimenters, and sitters are separated by hundreds or thousands of miles;
  2. proxy-sitter experiments where the experimenter serves as the proxy sitter and the absent sitter does not hear the reading before scoring, and often does not know when the actual reading is taking place;
  3. double-blind email experiments where even the experimenter does not know the precise time that the actual reading is taking place; and
  4. “double-deceased” designs were one deceased person (a departed hypothesized co-investigator) is requested to bring a second deceased person to a given medium.”

Dear reader, please take a few minutes to surf the web and look up Allison Dubois. And visit her web site. Read what you wish.

After you are finished, write a small play in your mind that you are telling Dr. Schwartz everything you know about Allison Dubois while pretending you had gained it through messages from The Beyond. Then ask yourself, how would Dr. Schwartz’ safeguards in any way prevent you from acting out this play? Could you act out your play with Dr. Schwartz and Allison Dubois over the telephone? Could you act out your play with Dr. Schwartz and Julie Beishcel while Allison Dubois was thousands of miles away and unaware you were talking about her? Could you act out your play if Allison Dubois was dead? Could you act out your play if Dr. Schwartz asked his dead grandma to help a dead Allison Dubois help you?

Or would your stomach be turning in revulsion at the level of dishonesty required? How much money and/or adulation would it take for you to overcome that revulsion?

References

  1. No Evidence of Fraud at Scole  
  2. Survival is in the Details: Emerging Evidence for Discarnate Intention from Mediumship Research  
  3. Allison DuBois  
  4. Potential Medium to Departed to Medium Communication of Pictorial Information: Exploratory Evidence Consistent with Psi and Survival of Consciousness