The White Crow Readings

The White Crow Readings

by Claus Larsen

Introduction

There is no question that the history of mediumship is a deeply tarnished one. We would be hard pressed to find a field where so much deceit, trickery and chicanery have been found. From the early days of spiritualism, starting with the Fox Sisters01 in the late 1840s, to the heady days of photographic contact with mediums, ectoplasm and dancing tables, to the modern day media mediums, utilizing the newest technology to ensnare their victims, the entire field is littered with fraudulous mediums, engaging the some of the most vile forms of deception imaginable.

It is therefore no wonder that few people in academia have been interested in testing mediums. Not only is there precious little to work from, the mediums themselves are not helpful either. Once they discover what true scientific testing means, they run away, offering a variety of excuses, ranging from the laughable to the ridiculous. They are simply not willing to let themselves be tested under controlled conditions, because they rely so much on being in control of their environment, in order for their tricks to work.

However, a professor at the University of Arizona, Gary Schwartz, not only succeeded in persuading a handful of mediums to undergo scientific testing in 2001, he also found what he presented as compelling evidence of an afterlife: At least some psychics have actually been able to communicate with the dead.

This is a critique of that experiment. It is divided into three parts: The first part will describe the world of mediumship, how it works, and some of the pitfalls researchers need to be aware of. The second part will look at the setup for the experiment: Who participated, and why they were doing it. The third part will look at the White Crow experiment itself. The focus will mainly be on some of the biggest flaws and problems with the experiment.

Other critiques are also available, and cover other aspects. They are highly recommendable, if the reader wishes to get to the bottom of this.

Some are listed here:

How Not to Test Mediums – Critiquing the Afterlife Experiments
by Ray Hyman

Follow Up – How Not To Review Mediumship Research
by Gary E. Schwartz

Follow Up Reply
Hyman’s Reply to Schwartz’s ‘How Not To Review Mediumship Research’
by Ray Hyman

Part 1: Mediumship

Fraud, fraud, and more fraud

As mentioned in the introduction, the mediumistic scene is fraught with deception. This is perhaps best exemplified in the different types of mediums.

There are two types of mediums: The “shut-eyes” and the “open-eyes”. The “shut-eyes” are genuine believers in their own abilities, who really think they can communicate with dead people. They have picked up on a number of cold reading methods, but don’t realize what they are doing. The “open eyes” are those mediums who are frauds and admit to it, but only in a close circle of trusted people02.

Which mediums belong to which group? Without hard evidence, it is naturally difficult to tell. It is, however, possible to venture an educated guess, based on the reaction from the medium when confronted with the natural explanations. Is the medium willing to accept that the methods are just cold reading? Or does the medium know about cold reading, but rejects this and any other possible natural explanation, in favor of the only answer: That the medium really can communicate with dead people?

If the latter is the case, it seems hard to accept that such a reaction is not a tell-tale sign of an “open eyes” medium. Given the fraternal, protective and secretive nature of the mediumistic scene, it does strain one’s credulity to accept that it would be possible to become a top psychic without being in on the scheme. Psychics never work entirely alone, in total seclusion.

That fraud is all too common in the world of mediums is brutally clear. In the many exposés of mediums over the years, it has been discovered that mediums use a wide variety of tricks: Chiffon, gauze or other types of flimsy fabric play the role of ersatz-ghosts. Trumpets, floating in the air, purportedly conveying spirit messages, are in fact operated by live mediums03. Tables are not moved by spirits, but by all too human hands. Cheap stage magic, such as billet-reading04, or moving objects (by strings), have fooled many a believer.

One of the most cruel ways to deceive is the use of file cards. Mediums have not only kept detailed records of their victims, with the names, addresses, family relations, hobbies, medical history, and so on, but also shared the file cards with fellow mediums. That makes it easy for a medium whom the sitter has had absolutely no contact with beforehand to provide stunning “insight” into the sitter’s most personal life.

In his book, “The Psychic Mafia”, former medium M. Lamar Keene, known as “The Prince of the Spiritualists”, describes how another well-known medium, Viola Osgood Dunne, did it:

“The files were a gold mine. Viola Osgood Dunne had travelled all over the United States and in several other countries calling up the dead, and she had files on thousands of sitters who had attended her seances. These files she made available to members of the psychic mafia in other cities. It is this swapping of information on sitters– many of them seance freaks for whom dark rooms have an irresistible attraction wherever they happen to be– which enabled me in Florida to tell veteran spiritualists from Chicago, say, or Los Angeles startlingly accurate things about themselves and their departed loved ones. The web of mediumistic espionage that spans the United States and to some extent other countries is what makes the spook racket more than merely a local phenomenon and truly a Freemasonry of evil: a psychic mafia.”05

Keene was a medium for 13 years, after which he gave up on the deceit, and wrote a tell-all book. When the book came out, it caused a sensation, leaving the mediumistic world in turmoil. Keene himself was repeatedly harassed, and finally dropped out of sight, after a botched attempt to kill him.

What is cold reading?

Remarkably few people have heard of cold reading, and even among those who have, many hold grave misconceptions of what it really is. Cold reading is not just body language, it isn’t just observation, it isn’t just fishing for information, and it isn’t just throwing out vague guesses. While all of these can play a part in any cold reading session, there is not one single, or just a few, factors involved. Ian Rowland, one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, explains:

“Cold reading is a deceptive psychological strategy. Among other things, it can be used by someone who is not psychic to give what seem to be a very convincing psychic readings. Cold reading is neither one single technique, nor one single procedure. It is better to think of ‘cold reading’ as the collective term for a set of techniques which can be used in different contexts to achieve different goals.”06

Depending on the circumstances, a psychic will use the best suited method, to achieve the illusion that there is contact to “the other side”.

The biggest surprise may be that gullible people are not more likely to fall for a cold reader than smart people. People who fall for psychics are not (necessarily) weak-minded oafs. They are merely ignorant, not in the sense that they are stupid, but merely in the sense that they simply don’t know. If you are not aware of what is going on, you will not catch on, regardless of your level of education, or how intelligent you are. Even the smartest people can still be fooled by a simple magic trick.

There are four major themes that psychics usually stick to:

  • Health
  • Money
  • Career
  • Love

Health is a big concern with most people. We worry about getting sick, we worry about getting well again, we worry about our loved ones going through the same.

Money may not make us happy, but they sure are nice to have. Are we doing as well as we would like, or is expected of us? Will we be able to make rent? How can we afford that cruise, or just new clothes for the kids? If we have money, will we lose it?

Career is what defines us in society. We are valued by society for a large part by what we do for a living. Is that big promotion coming up, are we in danger of being sacked, or should we just seek a new job?

Love is fundamental to all of us. Will we find that soulmate we seek, will we stay in the relationship, or are we better off leaving our significant other?

What is crucial in all cold reading sessions is that it is not up to the psychic medium to verify what is said. It is solely up to the sitter to make the connections that make it seem as if the psychic medium has spirit contact.

A psychic might say something like:

“There is a connection to some female figure. I get the impression of a white-haired lady, quite stern, but loving, in her own way. There’s an “S”-name, “Susan”, “Susie” or “Sascha”. That “sch”-sound. I also get something about a special event, at the local fair, or circus. This is some time back.”

The sitter can now search her memory, to see which of the statements she can fit to her own life. Maybe the female figure could be her dead mother, grandmother, or even an aunt, or maybe just a friend. The S-name would be pretty easy to find, but it doesn’t have to relate to a dead person, or even the “female figure” first mentioned. Fond memories of an outing of any kind could be fitted to the “fair/circus” statement.

Whatever is recognized is referred to as a “hit”. These hits determine the success of the reading: The more hits, the more convinced the sitter is that the psychic really did connect to the dearly departed.

If a psychic cheats by gathering information about the sitter in advance, it is called hot reading. Warm reading is when a psychic makes guesses based on visual, auditory, or other clues. However, all three forms are various forms of cheating. And cheating is cheating, no matter how you do it.

The secret to success: Remember the hits, forget the misses

Something quite astounding happens during and in particular after a reading: The sitter will leave with the impression that there were hits after hits after hits. Often, you will hear the sitter declare with absolute confidence that “everything the psychic said was true!”

It turns out that the psychic has to be more than abysmal at cold reading, before the sitter thinks that the reading was a failure. The urge for us to make the connection is so strong that we are more than willing to forget the many misses, while we find it easy to remember the hits, even if they are few, and we have to work hard to make the connections ourselves. We do it, because we are humans – and because we don’t recognize what is really going on.

Psychics are successful for one reason only: Not only do we want what they say to be true, we need it to be true.

Part 2: The Setup

The cast

While there were other people involved in the experiment, three major players were pivotal.

Gary Schwartz
Schwartz is a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona. He is the director of the VERITAS Research Program of the Human Energy Systems Laboratory in the Department of Psychology, also at the University of Arizona.07

During the 1990s, his studies outside psychology led him to claim (and write a book about it) that contemporary science leads to the conclusion that everything in the universe (humans, water molecules, even rocks) not only has memory, but is also eternal, alive, and evolving. Yes, rocks have memory and evolve, according to Schwartz08.

Thus not a stranger to making fantastic claims, Schwartz then turned his attention to mediumship. Prompted by the wish of his former wife-andsoulmate, Linda Russek, to communicate with her dead father, he embarked on a quest to find scientific evidence of an afterlife09.

Laurie Campbell
Campbell was the medium whom Schwartz tests. She lives in Irvine, California10, and was introduced to Schwartz by a friend of his, Don Watson. Watson had for years been involved with a broad range of New Age ideas, which crystalized into Watson’s own theory, called Enformy11. Watson had become convinced that Campbell was the real thing, and was eager for Schwartz to meet her.

In his book “The Afterlife Experiments”, Schwartz described his first meeting with her:

“In the fall of 1997, I was invited to give a keynote address to the Biofeedback Society of California. The meeting was being held south of Los Angeles in Irvine, near the home of a friend, psychiatrist Dr. Donald Watson. Don had told me about a woman he had met who, he said, seemed to have the powers of a medium-a person who claims to be able to receive information from individuals who have died-and had been remarkably accurate in receiving communications about his deceased son.

Of course I was curious. So Don took me to visit Laurie Campbell. No sooner had we met than she said to me, matter-of-factly, “I sense your mother is here.” She then described my mother’s loud and loving personality and her large physique: a verbal portrait of a woman remarkably like my strong-willed, devoted, heavyset mother, Shirley Schwartz.
I wondered how Laurie could even know that my mother was dead. Had Don Watson told her enough in advance to have given her the time to do research about me? Did she somehow get detailed information about my past in some other way? Was Laurie reading my mind telepathically? Or was something else going on here?

I had come to meet Laurie as a scientific observer, and steered the conversation away from anything personal. But within minutes, Laurie said she felt compelled to share an urgent message from my mother. She said, “Your mother wants you to call your brother-he needs to talk to you.” She correctly described him as living on the East Coast and also talked about his children. She then spoke of a short, quiet male standing behind my mother. Her detailed description resembled my deceased father, Howard Schwartz, both in personality and appearance.”12

After the experiments, Campbell appeared on various shows, such as Sensing Murder, where she and another psychic medium tried to solve murder cases13.

George Dalzell
George Dalzell is a psychotherapist-turned-medium. According to his website, he treats anxiety, depression, life transitions, addictions, trauma, as well as HIV/AIDS. He specializes in bereavement treatment with the use of evidence-based mediumship to help reduce and eliminate depression14.

After the loss of his German friend, he began to ask for spiritual contact, and noticed flickering lights15, alarm clocks that got moved, rose petals seemingly in the pattern of an angel16, and other well-known tell-tale signs that spirits were trying to communicate with him17. This blossomed into a career as a medium, which he was penning a book about, when he got involved with Schwartz and the research Schwartz was doing. The White Crow experiment, together with the publication of his book, catapulted him onto the psychic scene. Like Campbell, he appeared in various paranormal shows both on TV and radio, and as a mental health expert on “The Leeza Show”18.

Why “White Crow”?

Schwartz is a great admirer of William James, a doctor, psychologist and philosopher, who lived from 1842 to 1910. Schwartz in particular is fond of a famous quote of James’:

“In order to disprove the law that all crows are black, it is enough to find one white crow.”

We may deduce that, since all the crows we see are black, all crows are, in fact, black. But it only takes one crow to prove us wrong.

William James19 was one of the founding members of the American Society for Psychical Research20, an organization devoted to finding evidence of mediumship. He became convinced that Leonora Piper21, a famous American medium of that time, was the real thing. She was tested by a group of scientists for an extended period, and was able to convince quite a lot of people that she really had psychic powers.

The White Crow experiment was named due to the findings that Schwartz had made before the experiment was carried out: Schwartz was already convinced that the medium, Laurie Campbell, could communicate with dead people. All he needed to do, was to prove it scientifically. Campbell would be the “White Crow”, the one medium who didn’t turn out to be a fake. And the skeptics would be wrong.

Schwartz is missing the point, though: Skeptics don’t say that all mediums are fakes. Skeptics argue that it isn’t up to skeptics to prove mediums wrong. It is up to mediums to prove themselves right. The onus is on the claimant.

Description of the White Crow experiment

The premise of the experiment was relatively simple: Could a medium receive highly accurate and specific information under laboratory controlled blinded conditions, both prior to the actual reading, and during the reading itself, if there were no visual, auditory or other potential sensory clues?

The experiment would be conducted in three phases:

Phase 1, where the medium would try to receive information about the sitter’s deceased loved ones before the reading began.

Phase 2, where the medium and the sitter would be connected over a telephone, but where the sitter couldn’t hear what the medium said.

Phase 3, where the medium and the sitter would be connected over a telephone, and where both could hear and talk to each other.

Before the experiment began, the sitter would not know who the medium was, and the medium would not know who the sitter would be. Twenty-four hours before the experiment began, Dalzell would spiritually “invite” four dead people in his circle of friends and family, so they would be ready.

Schwartz described the results as following:

“Specific information regarding names and relationships during Phases 1 and 2 were more than 90% accurate; the conditional probability of guessing the primary information by chance was less than one in 2.6 trillion. Information obtained during Phase 3 extended the findings, increasing the p value to 1 in 17,000 trillion, including four pieces of specific information unknown to the sitter and later confirmed. The design rules out conventional explanations of fraud, cold reading, vague information, statistical coincidence, selective sitter memory, and sitter rater bias. Three anomalous mechanisms may be involved: telepathy with the living, network memory resonance with the living (a superpsi hypothesis), and the existence of intentional, organizing consciousness.

Paraphrasing William James, the present findings represent a genuine “white crow” research reading in mediumship science.”22

Schwartz and cold reading

Schwartz should be well aware of the dangers of engaging in conducting scientific experiments on cold readers posing as genuine psychics. To his credit, he did consult with skeptics and other people with a knowledge of cold reading and other forms of trickery. To his shame, he either didn’t pay attention, or chose deliberately to ignore the advice he got, because he flat-out refuses to acknowledge, even to this day, that what he saw during the experiments amounts to nothing but cold reading. He won’t even acknowledge that the protocol allowed for huge security holes.

In his book “The Afterlife Experiments”, Schwartz gave an example from a reading John Edward23, another psychic medium, did. Schwartz claimed that it was not cold reading, but a reading which the sitter rated as about 70% accurate. To Schwartz, John Edward is (also) the real thing.

John Edward started with his usual rapid-fire patter:

“The first thing being shown to me is a male figure that I would say as being above, that would be to me some type of father image. . . . Showing me the month of May. . . . They’re telling me to talk about the Big H-um, the H connection. To me this is an H with an N sound. So what they are talking about is Henna, Henry, but there’s an HN connection.”24

Schwartz listed the hits:

  • The male figure was the sitter’s father, Henry, subsequently known as a “gentle giant”.
  • The sitter’s mother was called Henrietta.
  • The father died in the month of May.

Schwartz claimed that the chance of getting this “pattern of hits” was on the order of a million to one. However,

  • The medium did not say anything about the male figure being the father.
  • The medium did not say that the father died in the month of May.
  • The medium did not say anything about the sitter’s mother.
  • The medium did not say anything about the male figure being tied to the H-connection.

All these connections were made by the sitter.

The reading went on:

“Very strong symbolism of teaching and books… The books come up where there may be something published.”25

Schwartz called this a “clear hit”, because the sitter’s late husband had been a “distinguished scientist who published two hundred papers, edited seven books, and was a well-known educator.”

However, the medium said nothing about this being connected to the sitter’s husband (or whether whoever this was about was dead or alive). Nor did the medium say anything about a scientist, or actual publishing – only that there “may be”. Now, it was suddenly about the sitter’s husband, and not her father. The connections were, again, all made by the sitter.

“An out-of-state tie … They’re talking about the Gemini or the sign of the twin, so whenever I’m shown this, they want me to talk about actual twins, like they’re in the family, or they want me to talk about someone who is now the sign for Gemini…”26

This time, this “hit” concerned the sitter’s daughter, who lived out of state, had twins, and was born a Gemini. But the medium didn’t say anything about it being about the sitter’s daughter, or that anyone was born under the astrological sign. It could be anything that could be related to “twins”: Actual twins, someone who is the sign for Gemini, or something else entirely.

The medium then asked a direct question:

“Are you the twin?”27

Had this been the case, it would have been a hit, even though it was really just a question. But, since the sitter was not the twin, Schwartz accepted this as a “clear miss”, but did not recognize it for what it really was: A brazen attempt of fishing for information.

“There’re telling me to bring the Big S. Also that comes up around Henry or the H. There’s a big S that comes up they’re making me feel that it’s important that I acknowledge this…28

Amazingly, Schwartz counted this as a hit, too: The sitter’s daughter, and mother of the twins, was named Shelley. But the medium did not say anything about who or what the “Big S” was: It could be a person, a pet, a place, or anything with the letter S.

Note that, earlier, the “Big H” was interpreted as someone being physically big. In this case, however, the “Big S” was interpreted as just a name, without any reference to physiognomy.

“They show me lab-related stuff, so whether there’s someone who works in the health care field or they’re in some kind of lab-related function, but they’re coming from a lab background.”29

Again, this fitted not a dead person, but the daughter, Shelley, who had a Ph.D. in molecular biology and psychopharmacology, and ran a laboratory at Boston University Medical School. And again, the medium said nothing about who this “lab-related stuff” pertains to. It was up to the sitter to determine that.

“But I need to tease you from the H, tied up to the going to the beach and having something funny happen at the beach….This is going back, this is not a recent thing, but I feel it’s a funny thing that I have to like memorialize or kind of bring up… Going back, and I’m feeling that you have pictures or were reminiscing about it but there’s that kind of connection.”30

This shows just how far Schwartz is willing to go, in order to accept that at least some psychics really do communicate with dead people. He describes why this is a “hit”:

“The sitter, who had been a professional singer, had been a beautiful young woman but had thought her legs were not perfect enough and was very shy about them. During her courting days, she went to the beach with the young physician whom she would eventually marry, and didn’t want to take off the cover-up over her bathing suit because it would reveal her legs. He was left wondering whether she was scarred or was the victim of some disfiguring ailment. When she finally overcame her reluctance, he told her, “Your legs are beautiful.” It was a story the sitter’s daughter had heard repeatedly through her childhood.”31

The medium said nothing about legs, or who the “something funny” happened to at the beach, or what the situation was. The “Big H” (the sitter’s father) was not tied to the incident at the beach. Instead, the sitter’s future husband was. All these “hits” were created, rather voluminously, by the sitter.

And finally:

“And enjoy the tea”. . . I have no idea what that means, “enjoy the tea”-like I feel like, I’m having tea but “enjoy it.” Like “drink” … I have no idea what this is but I feel it’s kind of inside humor, “Enjoy the tea.”32

The medium said nothing about who or what the tea related to. In this case, the sitter had only begun to drink tea after her husband had died – which made it not a “kind of inside humor”. This miss was, of course, ignored, and instead turned into a hit.

To Schwartz, this constituted real evidence of mediumship, when in fact, it was nothing but the usual patter from a skilled cold reader. It is therefore no surprise that he accepted as evidence what also turned out to be nothing else than cold reading from the medium he tested in the White Crow experiment, Laurie Campbell.

East Coast

In Schwartz’ book “The Afterlife Experiments”, Campbell was particularly fond of using a particular phrase, which she also used during the White Crow experiment:

Laurie Campbell (reading Gary Schwartz):

She said, “Your mother wants you to call your brother-he needs to talk to you.” She correctly described him as living on the East Coast and also talked about his children.33

Laurie Campbell (reading Patricia Price):

Was she from the East Coast? From back . . . ? Because it doesn’t feel like…oh, that’s her [inaudible]. It feels more like from the East Coast. Was she from back there, like Florida or somewhere? Back that way? ‘Cause she keeps giving a warmth., you know. Yes or no.34

Laurie Campbell (reading George Dalzell):

The amount of totally correct information Laurie reported was mindboggling. All these statements were correct: That the reading was for a person named George and that the primary deceased person was Michael. That there was an East Coast and a California connection (George comes from the East Coast, and he currently lives in California).35

John Edward also used it (reading Elayne Russek, mother of Linda Russek):

…a father dying in someone else’s family, on the East Coast…someone who has his ties and done something funny with it, like frame it-but I feel I need to joke about this tie thing.36

There was, however, a conspicuous absence of any reference to the “West Coast”.

Wackiness

Schwartz may have published hundreds of papers on psychology, but whatever impact they may have made in the field, he will go down in history due to two most impressive feats.

The first is to invent the mind-boggling concept of the “departed hypothesized co-investigator”37:

In order to scientifically prove that there is an afterlife, that psychic mediums can really communicate with the dead, why don’t we get a dead person to validate what the psychic medium says?

Yes, Schwartz is trying to scientifically prove the existence of an afterlife, by having dead people validate the information the psychic gets from other dead people. He is using ghosts to validate the existence of ghosts!

The second feat is to argue that, if we start thinking about something, it becomes a tangible reality. This second idea isn’t his own, though: It forms one of the basic tenets of all New Age thinking. But Schwartz is one of the few with a background in academia to argue that science proves this Tinker Bell paradigm (readers of J.M. Barrie’s story about Peter Pan will recognize the powers of the impish fairy).

In his book “The Living Energy Universe”38, Schwartz elaborated on this idea. He called it “information-energy systems” which we create by thinking about something. Those “systems” can then take on a life of their own. Writer and Schwartz observer Marc Berard described how this must mean that Schwartz believes in the Tooth Fairy:

“In my review of the book, I mentioned how that would mean that Santa, Ronald McDonald, Freddy Kruger, and Romeo, would then all exist as these info-energy system “spirits.” In private correspondence with Schwartz, he agreed with that statement, that his theory predicts the existence of such beings.

Now, the Tooth Fairy has been in many cartoons, jokes, stories, and commercials over the years. Therefore Schwartz’s theory actually predicts the existence of the Tooth Fairy. As it is fairly certain that Schwartz believes in his theory, and his theory predicts the existence of the Tooth Fairy, therefore Schwartz must believe in the Tooth Fairy.”39

To that, Schwartz responded:

VERITAS – The theory of systemic memory predicts that informed energy can take on a “life of its own.” Hence, imaginary beliefs such as the toothfairy, even Santa Claus, can potentially exist as dynamical infoenergy systems.

However, this does NOT mean that I believe in the tooth fairy or Santa Claus. Once again, skeptics make the mistake of confusing theory and predictions with personal belief.

I believe in observations, and I entertain hypotheses. For the record, I have never seen a tooth fairy, I know of no research on tooth fairies, and therefore Randi’s abuse of language in making such a claim is irresponsible, inaccurate, and seemingly nasty.40

Schwartz denied believing in the tooth fairy, but agreed that his theory predicts its existence. What more needs to be said?

Part 3: The White Crow Experiment

Experimental design

Schwartz decided to split the experiment into three parts: A “blind” reading, where Campbell didn’t know who she was going to read, a “silent” reading, where she could listen to the sitter, but the sitter couldn’t hear her, and the reading over the telephone, where both Campbell and Dalzell knew who the other party was, and could hear and talk to each other.

Phase 1: The not-so-blind reading

“Phase 1: Pre-Reading (Campbell) Procedure. One-half hour before a scheduled time, LC would conduct her pre-contemplation period, in seclusion and silence. She would write down the information she received during the pre-reading period.

[Note that the blinded pre-reading contemplation phase eliminates all possible visible and auditory cues (as well as olfactory cues), and therefore eliminates conventional explanations of cold reading, subtle cueing, and medium fraud, as possible explanations of the findings.]”41

Not true. There were plenty of opportunities for cold reading, since it was, as always with mediumship, the sitter who did the validation, away from any experimental control. There was also the risk of medium fraud, since both medium and sitter were mediums, with a vested interest to see the experiment succeed.

Since the sitter was told before the experiment began when the second phase would start, he could have told Campbell in advance, before she left for Arizona, at what time he was expected to be ready by the phone in California. When Campbell was told in Arizona when to start the precontemplation 30-minute period, she would know who the sitter was, merely by looking at the time.

Phase 2: The not-so-silent silent reading
Schwartz described the sitter-silent part of the protocol in detail:

“Phase 2: Sitter-Silent (Russek) Procedure. At the appointed time, depending upon the specific sitter, either the sitter telephoned the experimenters (GESR answered the phone) or the experimenter telephoned the sitter. A Sony digital video tape recorder was used to record the initial reception of the sitter and the conduct of the Russek Procedure.

The sitter was reminded that the telephone would be placed on mute (hence the sitters would not be able to hear LC speaking), and that they were to hold the telephone to their ear for the duration of the ten minute sitter-silent period. We confirmed empirically that the mute button worked effectively, and that the sitters could not detect words spoken by GERS before he handed the muted telephone to LC.”42

How did Schwartz “empirically” confirm this? He couldn’t do it himself, since it was completely up to Dalzell to do this for him: Dalzell was sitting at home in California, while Schwartz was in Tucson, Arizona. If Dalzell could hear what was happening in Arizona, why would he tell Schwartz?

And if it was muted, how could he tell? Since Dalzell was not supervised, Schwartz could never find out if Dalzell wasn’t answering because he couldn’t hear what was being said, or because he could hear what was being said, but chose not to answer.

“Moreover, LC sat a few feet from the answering-machine that contained the mute button. She held the phone with her left hand, and wrote notes with her right hand. There was no possibility of her secretly attempting to manipulate the mute button.

When the telephone was placed on mute, the telephone was handed to LC. Since the sitter’s telephone was not placed on mute (not all sitters had a mute button, and we wanted the sitters to focus their attention as if the telephone was being used in this phase of the reading), sporadic noises generated by the sitter and his or her environment could sometimes be heard by LC if she held the telephone in a normal listening and speaking position. The sporadic noises were distracting to LC.

Hence, LC held the telephone with the instrument turned away from her ear, thus minimizing potential distractions.”43

Schwartz introduced an unnecessary device – for what? The only thing he managed to achieve was providing a huge security hole:

[Note: One reviewer suggested that LC could have used cues such as breathing coming from the phone as feedback for cold reading. However, since the sitters could not hear LC, the “feedback” would have to be from sitters unconsciously receiving information from LC via telepathy, and then communicating agreement through subtle changes in breathing. This speculation would be a novel super-psi cold readingtype hypothesis.]44

There is an old parlor trick that magicians such as Houdini and Dunninger were famous for: The “medium” or “mind reader” sits on stage, while the assistant, walking among the audience, continuously feeding him clues, either by carefully selected words, or giving signals by hand gestures or body movements. The impression is that the “medium” can read the minds of people in the audience45.

In this setup, it was even easier. Campbell didn’t need to have Dalzell respond to her guesses. All she needed from him was some kind of sign that it was him. Since she could hear him, and nobody was watching him, he could make all sorts of audible signs, innocuous to those not in the know. E.g., a cough, followed by a sliding chair:

And then, Campbell could rattle off what she already knew about Dalzell.

If people don’t know what is happening, they will never catch on. If you have plenty of opportunity to set up a trap, and know that the dealer has stacked the cards in your favor, there is no way you can lose.

Phase 3: The not-so-extraordinary reading

“LC then introduced herself and explained how she conducted a normal medium-sitter dialogue reading. LC then read, item by item, the content received during the pre-reading contemplation, and asked the sitter to confirm, question, or disconfirm the information.”

“The purpose was to document whether the pre-reading procedure generated discrete and specific accurate information under single-blind laboratory conditions.”46

Once the medium is allowed to communicate with the sitter, the experiment isn’t blinded at all. It makes no difference under what conditions the previous phases were conducted: The moment the two are allowed to talk together, all pretense of the experiment being blinded goes out the window. There are so many ways they could employ verbal clues, hidden codes, and other secret messages – all part of the trickery so common in the world of mediumship – that whatever goes on from then on must be considered very possible collusion.

Of course, the standard cold reading explanations also apply, should no collusion exist:

“Phase 3 (Actual Reading) – Content outlined as it emerged, including four examples of information not previously known to GD. After reviewing Phase 1 with GD, LC began the reading by focusing on M. She also mentioned that J had passed recently (in the past 6 months, which was true), and that A was also strongly present. LC described M as a partner (which was true) and that M was GD’s “muse” (an interesting phrase – remember that LC was blind to the identity of the sitter, though she now knew that the sitter was male and that the names she had received previously were accurate and important to the sitter).”47

Anything that Campbell could get out of Dalzell by “reviewing” Phase 1 together could be used in Phase 3. It should not be surprising if a skilled cold reader could easily pick up on who the main character (Michael, Dalzell’s dead friend) was.

“She described M as seeing the “world” through “lots of glass.” She returned to this fact at various points in the reading. LC could not interpret what “M was showing her.” It turned out that M was an international purser and flight attendant for Lufthansa Airlines. He flew all over the globe, literally seeing the world through the glass windows of airplanes.”48

That was clearly cold reading, where the sitter had to fit the information to what the medium says. Had “M” (Michael, Dalzell’s dead friend) worn glasses, or lived in a house with big windows, or were fond of greenhouses, or anything related to glass, it would also have been a hit.

“She described M’s personality accurately – not only as loving and caring, but obsessively neat and “pristine” (true).”49

In Dalzell’s book – an unpublished manuscript at the time, which Campbell supposedly hadn’t seen, but Schwartz was in possession of – Michael was described as one of the youngest pursers in Lufthansa’s fleet, in charge of the flight crew. His demeanor was described as “precocious and willful”, “filled with self-determination”. He would visit Dalzell in Florida, where he lived at the time, bringing surplus champagne and caviar from the first class pantry50. Such a person would hardly be a slob with dirty fingernails.

“LC claimed that M showed her an old, stone “monastery” on the edge of the river on the way to his parent’s home. This information was not known to GD prior to the reading. After the reading, GD telephoned M’s parents in Germany and learned that there is an old abbey / church along the river’s edge on the way to their house, and that they had held a service for M in this monastery-like stone building a few weeks prior to the experiment.”51

Here, we really must begin to suspect foul play by Dalzell. In his book, he wrote:

“I visited Michael in Germany in the fall of 1993. I met his parents, Ludwig and Annabel Keller, over coffee and cake at their home in Kirschfurt, Germany, a picturesque village just off the River Main.”52

After receiving the news of Michael’s death, Dalzell called Michael’s parents:

“I immediately phoned Michael’s parents, who were in shock. They related that the funeral had already taken place, but that a Requiem Mass would be held for Michael at Laurentius Cathedral in Kirschfurt on July 5, 1996.”53

Dalzell knew before the reading that there was an old abbey/church close to where Michael’s parents lived. Why did he pretend he didn’t know?

Missing parts

“The Sony video camera recorded the Russek procedure during which time LC shared out loud what impressions she was receiving. Note that at no time did the experimenters refer to the sitters by name, and LC had not yet heard the sitter’s voice. Phase II lasted approximately 15 minutes.

[Note that the blind sitter-silent phase eliminates possible visible and olfactory cues (and hence cold reading, subtle cueing, and fraud) as well as useful auditory cues (the sitter could not hear LC; and LC was not using sporadic distracting auditory cues to shape her responses).]”54

The whole experiment took almost two hours (Phase 1 took 30 minutes, Phase 2 approximately 15 minutes, and Phase 3 about an hour), yet Schwartz told very little about what Campbell actually says. He told about the fantastic hits (for small values of “fantastic”), but given the many hooks that mediums usually throw out, we hear next to nothing about the actual wording.

There must still be missing considerable chunks of all three readings. Many things were clearly discarded, but what? And why? Why are we today only allowed to see a highly edited version of the reading, one where the hits have constantly been emphasized? We are only allowed to hear what Campbell says through Schwartz. We don’t see all the words that Campbell actually uses, which is crucial to determine what methods she is employing.

Schwartz can’t cherry-pick the dots that Dalzell then can connect (sometimes in a very strained way) and do his calculations based on that only. He has to take the whole reading into account, and have an independent person verify Campbell’s statements.

What, me writing down the names in advance?

“[Note: It is unfortunate that we did not think to have GD write down the names of the people invited 24 hours before the reading, and have this document notarized.”55

Yes, very unfortunate. And incredibly incompetent, too. Because this means that Schwartz now had to rely entirely on Dalzell for this decisive part of the experiment. Whatever Dalzell said, went. If Dalzell said that Campbell talked to his dead great-great-great grandmother’s dog’s fleas, she actually did. If Dalzell said that she got in touch with the most remote of his acquaintances, in the most spectacular fashion, she really, really did. Really!

Thus, the entire experiment hinged on one person, someone who had an acknowledged vested interest in mediumship, and who had a book coming out about his psychic powers. How could anyone suspect Dalzell of cheating?

“One reviewer suggested that maybe GD was deceiving us and / himself about the people he invited to the reading so as to help the sales of his book when it was published. This speculation has no basis in fact, and is entirely inconsistent with GD’s professional and personal history. If this was the case, it could not explain other facts in the data, such as the 4 pieces of information obtained by LC, unknown to GD, that he subsequently confirmed after the readings.]”56

To Schwartz’s shame, he refused to acknowledge this rather obvious possibility. He merely brushed aside that Dalzell could deceive him, by referring to other results, later confirmed – by Dalzell himself! Dalzell couldn’t have deceived Schwartz, because Dalzell later assured Schwartz that he didn’t!

Schwartz excused the lack of this obvious control by explaining that the findings were “unexpected” and of “unusual nature”57. But if Schwartz didn’t expect that this fantastic evidence could emerge, why was he even conducting the experiment? If he was already convinced that Campbell could communicate with dead people, and went through all the trouble of designing and setting up an experiment, why didn’t he think of this fundamental safeguard against cheating? The excuse rings hollow, especially when we consider that Schwartz was already convinced of Campbell’s abilities.

Methodology

The name game, part 1
Psychic mediums play a game with names, but Schwartz did, too.

“If we estimate that there are at least 15 common American male names (e.g. common male names of people well known by the experimenters include Al, Bill, Bob, Edward, Gary, George, Harry, Howard, John, Larry, Michael, Mark, Sam, Steve, Tom), and 15 common female names (names of people well known by the experimenters include Alice, Beverly, Cathy, Jane, Joyce, Joan, Kate, Karen, Linda, Lynn, Mary, Margaret, Martha, Rita, Susan), we can conservatively estimate that the probability of LC getting a specific name correct for a given sex is 1 in 15.”58

The names Schwartz listed are not the 15 most common male and female names. These are the 15 most common male names, in order:

James, John, Robert, Michael, William, David, Richard, Charles, Joseph, Thomas, Christopher, Daniel, Paul, Mark, Donald.59

These are the 15 most common female names, in order:

Mary, Patricia, Linda, Barbara, Elizabeth, Jennifer, Maria, Susan, Margaret, Dorothy, Lisa, Nancy, Karen, Betty, Helen.60

Only 6 of the male names (if we allow “Thomas” for “Tom”) and 5 of the female names Schwartz lists are to be found among the top 15 lists (shown in bold).

How did Schwartz pick the 30 names?

“The specific examples of male and female names listed above were selected after the experiment was completed and the experimenters decided to attempt to calculate conditional probabilities for the findings.”61

This is nothing but scientific fraud. You do not conduct an experiment where you intend to calculate the chance of names popping up, and then select the comparison data, after you perform the experiment. You determine what the comparison data should be before you start the actual testing, in order to avoid bias.

Was there bias? Definitely:

“Subsequent analyses of first name frequencies at the University of Arizona and the US Census bureau, reported in Appendix A, document that 1 in 15 is a conservative estimate.]”62

In Appendix A (in “The Afterlife Experiments”), Schwartz explained further how the 15 male names were chosen. He asked 88 students at the University of Arizona a set of questions concerning first names of family members and friends. One of the questions was what their father’s first name was. He also used data from the 1990 US Census. Based on that, he chose these four names:

First, the data is not correct. “Jerry” and “George” are not ranked 16th and 39th in the 1990 US Census. “Jerry” is ranked 39th, while “George” is 16th. The Census percentage of “Michael” is not 1.63%, but 2.63%.63

Second, “Jerry” is not just an independent name, it is also a diminutive of “Jerome”, “Jeremiah”, “Jeremy”, and names beginning with “Ger”, like “Gerald” or even “Geraldine”. By choosing “Jerry”, Schwartz increased the chances of the sitter being able to make the connection, because it isn’t just one name, but many.64

Third, none of the students listed “George”, the name being the 16th on the US Census list. Why would Schwartz would pick “George”, if he wanted to pick 15 of the most common names? Because that was the first name of the sitter.

Why draw the line at 15?

“Increasing the estimated number of possible common names would only make the conditional probabilities all the more improbable by chance. For example, the conservative 1 in 2.6 trillion estimate would be multiplied by at least 5 * 5 * 5 * 5 * 5 * 5 (an increase of 15,625 for the six names given), to less than 1 in 41,000 trillion ).”65

But, as we have seen, names aren’t just names. One name can be interpreted as many different names. The relationship of the names on Schwartz’ list of 30 names is not 1 to 1.

The name game, part 2
Campbell did not just throw out names. In true cold reading style, she also threw out mere letters, which the sitter then had to identify for her.

In Phase 1, the female who came through was identified only as a B-name. Campbell did not even attempt the “sound-alike” ruse: She left it completely open what the B-name could be, Becky, Barbara or Betty, which Dalzell identified as a living friend (Schwartz scored this as a 1, “known, but not close”).

The examples that Campbell offered is clear evidence that she was playing the odds:

Barbara is not only the 4th most popular female name66, there are sufficient of variations to increase the chance of a hit:

Babara, Barabara, Barb, Barbar, Barbera, Barbie and Barbra.67

As for Becky, there are also plenty of variations. Being a short form of Rebecca, we find these possibilities:

Becki, Beckie, Reba, Rebbeca, Rebbecca, Rebeca, Rebecca, Rebecka and Rebekah.68

Betty is literally a gold mine of opportunities:

Babette, Bathsheba, Batu, Batya, Bea, Beata, Beate, Beatrice, Beatrix, Beatriz, Beauty, Berta, Bertha, Bertille, Beth, Betha, Bethan, Bethania, Bethany, Bethari, Bethesda, Bethwyn, Betrys, Betsy, Bette and Bettina.69

In case Dalzell couldn’t find anyone in his life with the above names, there was little chance that he couldn’t find it at all, since the B-name itself lends to wide interpretation:

Baara, Baba, Babette, Baby, Bach Yen, Baden, Badu, Bai, Bailey, Baina, Baka, Baker, Ballari, Bambi, Bambina, Bandana, Banji, Banks, Banner, Barb, Barbara, Barbie, Barbra, Barr, Barras, Barrett, Basanti, Basma, Bathsheba, Batu, Batya, Bayan, Bayarmaa, Bayle, Baylee, Bea, Beagan, Beata, Beate, Beatrice, Beatrix, Beatriz, Beauty, Bebe, Becca, Becka, Beckett, Becky, Bede, Beecher, Begum, Behitha, Bel, Bela, Belen, Belicia, Belinda, Belisma, Belita, Bell, Bella, Bellatrix, Belle, Bellini, Bellona, Belva, Bem, Bena, Benecia, Benedetta, Benicia, Benita, Bennett, Bentley, Beonica, Berdine, Berenice, Berit, Berkeley, Bern, Bernadette, Bernadine, Berne, Bernice, Berta, Bertha, Bertille, Beryl, Bess, Bessie, Betelgeuse, Beth, Betha, Bethan, Bethania, Bethany, Bethari, Bethesda, Bethwyn, Betrys, Betsy, Bette, Bettina, Betty, Beulah, Bev, Beverly, Beyla, Beyonce, Bhavna, Bian, Biana, Bianca, Bibi, Bibiana, Bibiane, Bice, Bidaban,
Bidelia, Bienna, Bienne, Bijou, Bikita, Billie, Billy, Bima, Bimala, Bina, Binder, Bindi, Birdy, Bisma, Bjork, Blaine, Blair, Blaise, Blake, Blakeney, Blanca, Blanche, Blaze, Blenda, Bliss, Blissany, Blithe, Blodwyn, Blondelle, Blossom, Blue, Bluebell, Bluma, Bly, Blythe, Bobby, Boinedal, Bolormaa, Bona, Bonfilia, Bonita, Bonnie, Bozica, Bracha, Bracken, Braddock, Brady, Braewyn, Braith, Brandee, Brandi, Brandice, Brandie, Brandy, Branka, Branwen, Branxton, Brasen, Brasilia, Brayden, Braylin, Brazil, Brea, Breahna, Breanna, Breckin, Brede, Bree, Breeda, Breena, Breindel, Brencis, Brenda, Brendy, Brenna, Brett, Brevyn, Bria, Briallen, Briana, Brianna, Brianne, Briar, Bricen, Bridget, Bridgit, Bridie, Brie, Brielle, Brienda, Brier, Brigette, Brighid, Brigid, Brigit, Brigitte, Brilane, Brileigh, Briley, Brilliant, Brina, Brinda, Brinkley, Brinly, Briony, Brisa, Briseis, Bristol, Brit, Brita, Britain, Britannia, Britany, Britney, Britt, Britta, Brittania, Brittany, Brittnee, Brittney, Brocky, Brody, Brogan, Bron, Bronte, Bronwen, Bronwyn, Bronx, Brook, Brooke, Brooklee, Brooklyn, Brooks, Brunonia, Bryanne, Bryce, Brye, Brygida, Brylee, Bryna, Bryndis, Brynja, Brynn, Bryony, Buana, Buenaventura, Buffy, Bulan, Bunny, Bushra, Busy, Butch, Buthainah, Butterfly.70

The deceased dog with an “S”-name

“Also important is the dog with an S initial. LC did not provide information about the sex of the dog, though she later described the dog accurately (see below). If we estimate that of 26 letters in the alphabet, picking S by chance is conservatively 1 in 15 (clearly names starting with Q’s, X’s, and Z’s are highly improbable, whereas names like Alice, Bob, Charles, Debbie, Edward, Frank, Gary, Harry, Jerry, Kathy, Larry, Mary, Peter, Susan, Tom), and the selection of dog is maybe 1 in 2 (dogs and cats are the primary pets that mediums seems to mention), reporting a deceased dog with an S name is at least 1 in 30 (p <.03). Add the S dog to G, M, J, B, A, and T brings the conditional probability to 30 * 180 * 180 * 30 * 30 * 100 * 30, or 1 in 2,624,400,000,000.”71

One morning, you see an ad in the paper, where your grocer has 5 apples for $2. When you enter the store, the grocer says he doesn’t have any apples. He does, however, have 5 bananas for $2.50. Why not buy the bananas? It’s still fruit – isn’t it?

Schwartz way playing the same game here, one of the oldest in the book: He had previously listed human names, so he continued with that type, even though he wasn’t talking about humans anymore, but dogs. Based on this “bait-and-switch” technique72, he fooled us into believing that picking S by “chance” was “conservatively” 1 in 15. But if you want to determine such probabilities, you have to include the biggest possible pool of possibilities, and not draw the line arbitrarily at a mere 15. Of the 200 most common names for dogs (male and female)73 “S” is the most common first letter in the names, which gives a “chance” of 1 in 6 (30 out of 200). Obviously, Campbell was not randomly picking one letter out of the 26 in the English alphabet, but picked by far the most common letter of a much larger group. Again, she is simply playing the odds, emphasized by the fact that she didn’t provide information about the sex of the dog. Include both sexes, and you increase your chances.

Distribution of first-letters in names of dogs, both sexes

There are more cats than dogs in the United States74, which could lead us to think that Campbell was taking a chance (albeit a tiny one) by choosing a dog instead of a cat. However, there are more households with dogs than cats75. Choosing a dog over a cat would therefore increase the likelihood of a person being in contact with a dog, rather than a cat. We have to remember that Campbell was not cold reading about the number of dogs vs. cats, but simply choosing the largest group of people who would be likely to “connect” to a pet – which would be a dog, of no particular sex. It wasn’t the pet who was doing the connecting – it was the person who was the sitter.

What about the dog being dead? As we have seen, it is not important: Cold readers can’t even see if those they are talking with are dead or not. If Campbell got a hit this way, Schwartz counted it as such. If she got a miss, it wasn’t particularly important: It was either “possibly a mistake” or just “unknown to sitter”. He may have called it a “miss”, but he did not count it as such.

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon
Did you know that the actor Kevin Bacon can be linked to every actor in the movie industry, dead or alive?76 If not directly, then by not more than six “degrees” apart: E.g., Bacon has never filmed with Val Kilmer, but Kilmer did “Top Gun” with Tom Cruise, who did “A Few Good Men” with Bacon. That’s merely a “Bacon number” of one.

This was exactly what happened in the reading Campbell did in Phase 3:

She connected to a certain “Albert” or “Alfred” (again, she could not tell?), whom Dalzell recognized as a friend of a friend – which prompted Schwartz to give the hit a perfect score.

If that much latitude is allowed, then anyone with a smidgen of cold reading experience can get very high scores, merely by throwing out vague guesses and letting the sitter do all the work, by connecting the guesses.

The longer you live, the more people you will have been in contact with. If your deep desire is to find connections to the afterlife, it won’t take much to make the connection to just about any “spirit” – living or dead – which any given psychic medium “communicates” with.

To illustrate the point, the author of this critique is one “Bacon number” from former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush Snr., and hence two degrees from just about any world leader alive today.

Ah, the zero

“The sitter used a 0-3 ratings scale: (0) unknown to sitter (possibly a mistake, e.g. Joyce), (1) known but not close – e.g. GD knows of a “Shermer” but doubts that “Sherm” (LC’s spelling) is important to the reading, (2) known and moderately close – e.g. sitter knows a “Fred” and LC might be referring to him, and (3) known and close (e.g. the names GD, M, B, A, J, “Talya”, S, and K).”77

This was arguably the most damning part of Schwartz’ experiment. He was in reality constructing a scale that would guarantee the success of the medium: He did not allow for misses, but instead described those as “possibly a mistake” or the very permissive “unknown to sitter”. Nowhere did he allow for the possibility of the medium providing a guess that could be just that, or simply acknowledge that the medium could be flatout wrong. Whatever happened, it would be interpreted as if the psychic was right – or, at the very least, not wrong.

There were no negative ratings in Schwartz’ scale. He only counted the hits, and threw away the misses.

This cannot be an oversight. Schwartz is a professor of psychology, medicine, neurology, psychiatry, and surgery at the University of Arizona. He knows perfectly well how to design an experiment with a scale that includes all possibilities. In this particular case, he just chooses not to.

That is fraud. Pure and simple. Schwartz knowingly designed an experiment that ensured that the psychic would pass – with flying colours.

The number game
Schwartz loves to throw big numbers around. Again and again, he pointed to the improbability of the whole thing merely being random guessing:

“Specific information regarding names and relationships during Phases 1 and 2 were more than 90% accurate; the conditional probability of guessing the primary information by chance was less than one in 2.6 trillion. Information obtained during Phase 3 extended the findings, increasing the p value to 1 in 17,000 trillion, including four pieces of specific information unknown to the sitter and later confirmed.”78

But cold readers do not work by “chance”, and Schwartz knew this. Cold readers do not just throw out random letters or names, they operate from a wide variety of techniques, where carefully selected names is just one of them. Cold readers work exactly like Campbell worked during all three phases: She threw out guesses, some clearly attuned to achieve high probabilities, and then, she let the sitter do the connecting. To top it off, she had all the chances needed for a setup she could possibly want.

The unwise 100%
If Campbell had prior knowledge of Dalzell, perhaps even colluded with him, why not provide an astoundingly accurate reading, where she simply threw out one accurate hit after another, without resorting to cold reading?

Campbell knew that Schwartz was familiar with her procedure: He had worked with her several times before, and had seen her in action before he began his experiments with her.

“At the time this report was written, LC had recorded data on over 100 readings using this pre-reading contemplation procedure (termed the Campbell procedure in HESL); her accuracy ratings range from 50% to 95%.”79

Schwartz knew that Campbell wasn’t anywhere near 100% accurate. If she had in any noticeable way changed her procedure or dramatically increased her hit rate when doing the readings in this particular experiment, she would run the risk of Schwartz noticing this, and have him start wondering why. All she had to do was stick to her routine, and then throw in just enough hits once in a while to really impress Schwartz.

If psychic mediums are too accurate, it raises suspicions of fraud. Better to pepper the usual patter with a few, well-chosen facts.

Did Campbell and Dalzell know each other beforehand?
Schwartz is, at least to some degree, aware of mediumistic trickery, so he made a big deal out of how separated the medium was kept from the sitter. He assured us that, at the time of testing, Campbell and Dalzell had never met, in person, by telephone, letter, or email.

How did Schwartz make sure of this? He merely asked both mediums, and relied entirely on their responses. Sure, Schwartz wagged his finger, telling the psychics that, if they cheated, the experiment would be over, and their reputations would forever be tarnished. Such a stern warning has, naturally, proven ever so effective in the past – no psychics would ever resort to cheating. No, siree!

However, there were serious breaches of security before the experiment began, all committed by Schwartz:

  • Schwartz told Campbell of Dalzell.
  • Schwartz told Campbell that Dalzell was interested in his research.
  • Schwartz told Dalzell of Campbell.
  • Schwartz told Dalzell that Campbell was involved in his other experiments.
  • Schwartz told Dalzell that Campbell might be the medium in this particular experiment with Dalzell.

What Schwartz did not tell us, is that, at the time of testing, Campbell and Dalzell both lived in the same area in California, about an hour’s drive from each other.80

If Campbell and Dalzell really did cheat, by secretly keeping the other informed of what the other was doing, the only ones who could expose them would be either one of them – which would result in the other also being discredited. The incentive for both mediums to keep quiet was obvious, as Keene also points out in his book:

“Mediums live under great tension. They are estranged personalities because of the nature of their work– cheating people. Loneliness and secrecy are a way of life for them. They can’t afford to have close friendships, except with other mediums, and these are rarely if ever true friendships. The spirit of professional competition is too great.

As a matter of fact, the rivalry and jealousy among mediums is almost unbelievable. Each one wants to be better than the other and, of course, to make more money. And I was no different. The only reason mediums band together is for mutual protection. “Let’s face it,” Viola Osgood Dunne said after the great Chesterfield expose, “if we don’t hang together, we’ll all hang separately.””81

Yet, Schwartz wanted us to believe that it was entirely impossible that Dalzell, while establishing himself as a psychic, had any contact with one of the well-known stars in the trade, who lived close by?

What, exactly, was Schwartz scoring?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how Schwartz was scoring the “hits” that Campbell got. All that matters is that he was scoring the wrong thing.

Schwartz was not scoring Campbell’s ability to connect to dead people:

Schwartz was scoring Dalzell’s ability to connect what Campbell said, to people Dalzell (says he) knew – whether they were dead or alive:

The only way Schwartz could score Campbell’s ability to connect to dead people was to have the connections verified by an independent investigator, who had to stick to all of what Campbell actually said, without trying to “fit” the the guesses. If Campbell could not provide an unambiguous hit, it had to count as a miss. The statements in such experiments have to be binary, either true or false.

Schwartz chose not to do this, solely because he trusted Dalzell not to cheat.

The aftermath

The sound of one hand clapping
The response from the scientific community has been less than enthusiastic. Despite the magnitude of the (supposed) discovery – actual proof of an afterlife – Schwartz’ study has received little, if any, attention from the academic world. The study was roundly criticized for the many flaws, and Schwartz’ conclusion was dismissed as unfounded.82

Characteristically, the talk show circuit was much more responsive: A real scientist, who could prove what all those psychics were saying! Schwartz made a number of daytime shows, and even got on a few of the major networks, mostly for the usual 30 second soundbyte “journalism”. Completely unopposed, he was free to say what he wanted. And he said what people wanted to hear.

Today, Schwartz is still trying to persuade people that he has provided, and continues to provide, evidence of an afterlife. The scientific world is still thoroughly unimpressed, and understandably so.

What happened?
Did we see a scientific experiment which proved the existence of an afterlife? Did we see a well-orchestrated con job? Or something else entirely?

The persons involved with the experiment were all convinced in advance that mediumship was real, all with a vested interest in mediumship being proved scientifically. The person in charge deliberately designed an experiment that would guarantee a positive result.

Since when was that good science? If we allow this experiment to be acceptable scientific procedure, then we also have to allow any kind of biased, sloppy and fraudulous “research” to be called “science”.

This experiment was an abomination. It was designed, from the start, to provide evidence of an afterlife, with no possibility of failure. It was conducted under such lax conditions that a herd of elephants could waltz through it, singing “When The Saints Go Marching In”, without anyone noticing. The experiment was not blinded, it was sloppily executed, and the results were wildly overstated and based on carefully selected parts of the readings. Valid criticisms were either ignored or downplayed.

This experiment was not scientific. The findings were bogus. But, since there will always be some who want it to be true, who need it to be true, the charade can continue.

Terminology

Medium: A psychic who specifically claims to communicate with dead people by means of psychic powers. Often, psychic and medium are used interchangeably.

Psychic: A person who claims to get information by supernatural means (mediumship, telepathy, extrasensory supernatural perception).

Reading: When a psychic medium communicates with a sitter’s dead relatives.

Sitter: A person who the psychic is doing a reading for.

Note
Whenever the terms “psychic”, “medium” or “psychic medium” are used, it is not to say that these people really do communicate with dead people. The terms are used for consistency only.


References

  1. http://skepdic.com/spiritul.html
  2. Keene, M. Lamar: The Psychic Mafia, Prometheus Books, p. 23
  3. Keene, M. Lamar: The Psychic Mafia, Prometheus Books, p. 43
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billet_reading
  5. Keene, M. Lamar: The Psychic Mafia, Prometheus Books, p. 27
  6. Rowland, Ian: The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading, p. 14
  7. http://www.drgaryschwartz.com
  8. Schwartz, Gary: The Living Energy Universe
  9. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 3
  10. http://www.lauriecampbell.net/services.html
  11. http://www.enformy.com
  12. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 31
  13. http://www.lauriecampbell.net/
  14. http://www.georgedalzell.com/
  15. http://skepticreport.com/psychicpowers/phasecontrol.htm
  16. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia
  17. Dalzell, George: Messages: Evidence for Life after Death
  18. http://www.georgedalzell.com/
  19. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_James
  20. http://www.aspr.com/
  21. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonora_Piper
  22. Schwartz, Gary: Evidence of Information Retrieval Between Two Mediums, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 2001
  23. http://skepticreport.com/general/m-psychicpowers.htm
  24. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. xix
  25. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. xix
  26. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. xx
  27. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. xx
  28. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. xx
  29. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. xx
  30. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. xxi
  31. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. xxi
  32. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. xxi
  33. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 32
  34. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 83
  35. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 229-230
  36. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 137
  37. http://www.enformy.com/mediums.htm
  38. Schwartz, Gary: The Living Energy Universe
  39. SWIFT, http://www.randi.org/jr/03-23-2001.html
  40. http://survivalscience.50megs.com/torandi.htm
  41. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 338
  42. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 338
  43. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 338-9
  44. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 339
  45. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/383596/mind-reading
  46. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 339
  47. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 343
  48. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 343
  49. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 343
  50. Dalzell, George: Messages: Evidence for Life after Death, 2001, p. 3
  51. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 343
  52. Dalzell, George: Messages: Evidence for Life after Death, 2001, p. 4
  53. Dalzell, George: Messages: Evidence for Life after Death, 2001, p. 6
  54. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 339
  55. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 342
  56. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 342
  57. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 346
  58. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 352
  59. http://www.census.gov/genealogy/names/names_files.html
  60. http://www.census.gov/genealogy/names/names_files.html
  61. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 353
  62. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 353
  63. http://www.census.gov/genealogy/names/dist.male.first
  64. http://www.baby-names-meanings.net/meaning/jerry.html
  65. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 353
  66. http://www.census.gov/genealogy/names/dist.female.first
  67. http://www.babynames.com/Names/Alpha/index.php?let=B&g=F
  68. http://www.babynames.com/Names/Alpha/index.php?let=B&g=F
  69. http://www.babynames.com/Names/Alpha/index.php?let=B&g=F
  70. http://www.babynames.com/Names/Alpha/index.php?let=B&g=F
  71. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 354
  72. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bait_and_switch
  73. http://www.babynames.com/Names/Pets/
  74. http://www.avma.org/reference/marketstats/ownership.asp
  75. http://www.avma.org/reference/marketstats/ownership.asp
  76. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Degrees_of_Kevin_Bacon
  77. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 340
  78. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 334-5
  79. Schwartz, Gary: The Afterlife Experiments, p. 336
  80. http://www.mapquest.com/maps?1c=Irvine&1s=CA&1y=US&1l=33.669399&1g=-117.822197&1v=CITY&2c=Glendale&2s=CA&2y=US&2l=34.142502&2g=-118.254204&2v=CITY
  81. Keene, M. Lamar: The Psychic Mafia, Prometheus Books, p. 47
  82. How Not to Test Mediums – Critiquing the Afterlife Experiments
    Ray Hyman
    http://www.csicop.org/si/2003-01/medium.html

    Follow Up – How Not To Review Mediumship Research
    Gary E. Schwartz
    http://www.csicop.org/si/2003-05/follow-up-schwartz.html

    Follow Up Reply: Hyman’s Reply to Schwartz’s ‘How Not To Review Mediumship Research’
    Ray Hyman
    http://www.csicop.org/si/2003-05/follow-up-hyman.html


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