Essay Part 1: The Best Evidence for the Afterlife

Part 1

Yesterday, the winners of the BICS essay contest were announced. Sadly, my essay was not what the judges were looking for, and I didn’t win a prize this time. Still, I hope that what I wrote will deepen your confidence that the spirit world is real, your abilities are authentic, and the love you share with those who have passed is indestructible.

I will release the essay to you in four parts. Part one is below, part two will arrive with you on Tuesday 9th November, part three on Tuesday 16th November, and part four on Tuesday 23rd November. If you are a paying subscriber, you will also gain access to additional commentary released on the Thursday after each segment of the essay.

If you enjoy the essay please share it. I’ve opened up the comments to everyone this time, and I’d love to know your thoughts!


What is the best available evidence for the survival of human consciousness after permanent bodily death?

Understandably, mental mediumship is commonly dismissed and explained away. Beyond the absurdity of the notion that the living and the dead can carry on communicating with each other, it only takes one vague or insensitive sitting for someone to decide it is baloney and tell all their friends.

Whether or not some aspect of your consciousness outlasts your body is of deep importance scientifically and morally. Until we understand the properties of consciousness, its place in reality, and what causes it, we are moving through the world with immense gaps in our knowledge. Despite the fact that it is an uphill struggle to have mental mediumship taken seriously as a tool for studying consciousness, it is a struggle worth undertaking nonetheless. If any cases of mental mediumship are authentic, they can teach us truths about human consciousness that are far removed from our current intuitions. Namely, that your consciousness can survive the death of your body and must therefore have distinct rules and properties of its own.

You may have put mental mediumship neatly in the category of parlor tricks, lucky guesses, or even fraud. You may believe that the content of mediumship sittings are explained by telepathy, or other interactions between the minds of the living. Or perhaps you have promised yourself no more sleepless nights wrestling with the question of survival because it seems impossible to confirm or falsify. My aim is to change your mind and show you that survival of human consciousness after bodily death is the cause of the information in many cases of mental mediumship, and that such contact can be confirmed or falsified.

I believe I am uniquely positioned to offer something of value in response to the question of whether human consciousness survives bodily death. I am a trained critical thinker, having completed an undergraduate degree specializing in philosophy of mind and consciousness studies. And, I am a medium.

Mental mediumship is the process of transmitting factual and helpful information to a recipient on behalf of a deceased communicator. The communicator transfers information to the medium by way of mental, emotional, visual, and auditory signals. The medium then verbally passes these impressions on to the recipient who verifies their accuracy.

The purpose of mental mediumship is to provide the recipient with evidence that could only have come from the communicator, thus indicating survival. Additionally, the medium’s embodiment and representation of the mannerisms of the communicator brings an emotional quality to the sitting and establishes the felt sense that the communicator is present. The deeper purpose of a sitting is to encourage closure, peace, and healing, for both the communicator and the recipient, after the separation of death. Throughout this essay, I will refer to the deceased person as the communicator. I will refer to the medium as the medium, and I will refer to the person receiving the message as the recipient.

My approach in this essay will be to make the strongest possible case against my own mental mediumship sittings. In part one, I will address claims that all mental mediumship sittings are explainable by ordinary means, specifically hot reading, cold reading, and The Forer Effect, and are, therefore, not evidence of survival. I will dissect the evidence in two of my own sittings and try to explain them away. In part two, I will make the case that all data of mental mediumship are explainable by mind-to-mind communication among the living. Despite these persuasive criticisms, I will show that they ultimately fail to explain the most compelling aspects of my sittings. In part three, my goal is to break the scientific stalemate of unfalsifiability that has haunted (excuse the pun) parapsychological research. I will suggest a key experiment that will lead to breakthroughs in our understanding of mental mediumship, and the potential usefulness of this research. In part four I will discuss one of the main reasons we fail to be compelled by good evidence of survival.

I have limited the scope of this essay to mental mediumship, and I have chosen to focus only on my own sittings. By analyzing my own work, I am afforded complete transparency with regards to my own intentions, methods, and behaviour.  Whilst I have personally witnessed some amazing evidential sittings, and I am sure the majority of mediums are trustworthy,  I do not have access to their actions and processes. I cannot discuss their work with complete certainty the way I can about my own. Although the sittings you will read about did not happen under laboratory conditions, they are real, my statements herein are truthful; and claims, case studies and events are verifiable.

Let us begin to peel-back the layers of alternative explanations for the data of mental mediumship by examining whether ordinary explanations can explain away two of my sittings.

Part One: Ordinary Explanations for the Data of Mental Mediumship

The task of ordinary explanations is that they must explain away all the evidence either in a single theory, or, if necessary, in a patchwork fashion. If what is problematic about mental mediumship is that it is too absurd to be true, then the ordinary explanation loses its right to become more absurd than the possibility of existence of consciousness after death. ‘Straw man arguments’ are often used to dismiss mental mediumship. The sitting is attacked based on the weakest evidence, with the strongest evidence ignored. This is ineffective reasoning because it leaves the most compelling aspects of the sitting unexplained.

A rational and critically sound alternative is to make a steel man of the sitting, instead of a straw man; to take the strongest evidence and try to undermine it and explain it away. If the strongest evidence of a mental mediumship sitting can be explained away by ordinary means, then I am not justified in claiming that consciousness survives death. If, however, the strongest evidence in the sitting cannot be explained away by ordinary means, then I am, at least, justified in exploring extraordinary explanations.

The following sitting took place on 10th February 2021 and was not for the purposes of this essay at the time. It was conducted on Zoom, and the recipient was a new student that joined my mediumship training circle. There were four people on the call – my three students and me. I have never met the recipient and I knew nothing about her, except what I can perceive in the frame of the Zoom video. Although we both have Scottish accents, I lived in Montreal, Canada at the time of the sitting. I only participate in practice sittings if there are an odd number of students. If there are an even number of students, I simply teach and let them practice with each other. So I did not know I would be participating in the sitting until a few moments before it began. This context is important because it limits some aspects of ordinary explanations.

What follows is a transcript of the sitting, with my statements in italics and the recipient’s responses to each statement in bold. I have condensed some of the phrasing – eliminating ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’ – however, I have not edited the content. A video of the sitting is publicly available to view.1

Do you have a grandmother in Spirit that you knew quite well Jacqueline?

Yes, I do.

(Cont.) Where there was a really strong emotional bond with this person?

Yes.

Was there a period in your gran’s life where she would have been home alone quite a lot of the time?

Yes.

It wasn’t that her mobility was terrible, it’s that she didn’t seem to have the same drive to go anywhere as earlier in her life. Would that make sense to you?

Yes.

This is going to sound really strange … but I’m being shown a bird box – little blue tits in a bird box.

Yes (laughing) I know what that is.

And I want to say there would have been a kitchen towel with all the family’s faces on it.

Oh my God! That’s really good, yeah, I know what that is.

There must have been some discussion about what was to happen with her house. And I’m not sure that was ever resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. I think everyone had different ideas about what was to happen with her house. Did somebody (meaning: a family member) try to buy her house?

Yeah. There was a real fuss over what happened in the end.

I feel as if I want to make the month of April significant in your life. Is there a celebration?

An anniversary.

Did your gran ever have a gold watch? A very thin, dainty, gold watch?

Yes! I actually have it here somewhere.

Does it have a little gold chain next to the catch?

Yes. I was actually looking at it thinking, ‘I wonder if I could get a battery put in there?’

Your gran is not lonely anymore. I know there was a lot of guilt that people had, and the family was like ‘I’m really busy … can someone go see her … can someone help her?’ It wasn’t because no one loved her, and she knew that, it was because everyone was under their own pressure, in their own way, and she knows that. So if your heart has been burdened at all with any feeling of how much you should’ve seen her or how little you saw her, it really is time to set that down now.

Okay.

Do you have a son Jacqueline?

Yes.

Do you have two, two boys?

No. I have a son and two daughters.

Is there someone around you who is Ryan or Brian?

Yes, Brian.

Okay. I’m just trying to figure it out. I saw your son, and I saw this other person. It was a name like Ryan or Brian I heard.

Does your son get filthy a lot?

(Laughing) Yes.

Is it because of something that he plays?

Yes – football, and he comes home absolutely covered.

Okay. I feel your Gran is watching over that area of his life in particular. There’s a lot of cheering going to be happening in that area of his life. He might become part of a team … something that has a very special place in his life.

That’s lovely. Thank you.

Would your gran have had a man William that was important to her?

Yes – that was her husband.

So they are together in Spirit again. She just waited, and it was sad because, people felt like she was waiting her life away.

Yes. She never met anyone else. She spent her life on her own.

They’ve been reunited now. The watch is a good talisman. Don’t be superstitious about it, but if you need a little extra courage, or to know that you’re looked after with a love that’s unconditional, take that watch with you.

Okay thank you. I will.

A few minutes after the sitting, the recipient provided photographic evidence showing her grandmother’s watch.

It is reasonable to assume I could have obtained some of this information by researching my recipient. The fact that she has children, how many and what sex, any hobbies they have, and a month that is significant, could be found in the public domain such as social media. Perhaps a more thorough search of my recipient’s genealogy might have turned up the names William and Ryan or Brian.

Hot reading is the act of “obtaining information on a subject ahead of time,” (Shermer, 1999. Pp: 53) by conventional means and attempting to make it seem like the information came from a veridical deceased communicator. There is an intrinsic accusation that a deliberate act of fraud is taking place.

I believe this sitting is resistant to claims of hot reading for two reasons. First, the sitting contains information such as the communicator’s watch, an intimate memory of blue tits in a bird box, and a dish towel with the family’s face on it, that would be difficult to obtain by research. I would challenge any skeptic to try to uncover these details using only ordinary research means. I could only have obtained that information from someone intimately connected to the communicator and/or the recipient. If that were a living person, surely it would have gotten back to the recipient that I was asking odd questions about them prior to the sitting. Detailed, personal research of the recipient was an impossibility since the sitting was unplanned and I had never met her before.

I think the final nail in the coffin (again, apologies) of hot reading as an explanation is in my own biography. I became aware of deceased communicators when I was fourteen years old, and I have been delivering messages since then. From age seventeen, I was conducting thirty to fifty sittings per week. I would have had to save up a lot of pocket money to have a team of people researching my recipients. As a young medium, I was often called at the last minute to give demonstrations at spiritualist churches when they had been let down by another medium. Being called at 4.30pm for a 7pm service leaves little time for detailed research of unknown audience members. Despite this, they received messages with similar detail and specificity as the example above.

Cold reading posits that the content of the sitting is constructed from perceptual cues from the recipient, and high-probability guesses based on those cues. It alleges that I embellish information from the recipient’s responses, using her responses to influence what I should say next. The effect of cold reading is apparently enhanced by my hurrying past any information that was incorrect, thereby making the sitting seem more impressive than it is. (Dutton, 1988)

Is the content of the sitting explainable by my being prompted by cues from the recipient? Here are the things I know for certain about my recipient from visual cues:

If mental mediumship requires no special insight, anyone should be able to arrive at the information I did, starting with these cues and building the information based on the recipient’s responses. Let us eliminate from the sitting each of my utterances that could have been prompted by visual cues and/or the recipient’s responses. It would be fair to assume from her age that the recipient has a grandmother who has passed. I had around a one-in-three chance of guessing that she knew her grandmother and that they were close. It must be true either that she did not know her grandmother; or she knew her but they were not close; or she knew her and they were close. There is a one-in-three chance that she has a son. Either she has no children; or she has at least one child who is a daughter; or she has at least one child who is a son. Perhaps ‘getting filthy from playing sports’ is quite common for sons.

Even one of the pieces of information that seemed the strongest, the name William, could apparently be undermined. Upon hearing her accent, I could have determined that she was Scottish. Quite a lot of people in Scotland have a relative named William. But is it really true that the probability of guessing this name was high? Or are we mistaking the feeling of familiarity with the meaning of high probability? I could have said James, John, David, Frank, or Andrew – these names are in the same range of cultural prevalence as William. But I did not. Just because a fact pertaining to the communicator is culturally common, it does not explain why I said that particular fact and not another common name in the same domain that would have been wrong. If I were randomly guessing among the domain of common male names in Scotland, then the notion that the guess was high probability is an illusion. The odds of correctly guessing one name out of two possible names is 50:50. The probability of guessing William out of the domain of likely names - William, James, John, David, Frank, or Andrew is one-in-six. The probability of guessing correctly is lower than chance. I am sure there are many other male names that could reasonably be added to the domain of ‘common male names in Scotland’, making the probability of correctly guessing any one of them even lower.

If cultural commonality is truly the explanation for my correct ‘guesses’, then sittings conducted with non-Scottish people should fail. I have conducted many readings and public demonstrations for non-Scottish, non-British, and non-Western recipients, many of which have been spontaneous. For example, an Argentinian attending a spiritualist church during a visit to Edinburgh; or being taken on a surprise trip to a mediumship event in Spain where I gave a spontaneous demonstration. High-probability guesses based on cultural patterns become low-to-zero probability when those cultural patterns are non-existent. And yet the specificity and consistency of these readings were not diminished.

It could be argued that a single high probability guess will land once-in-a-while. Perhaps a quarter of people in Scotland have a loved one called William. But how many people have someone called William and own a watch belonging to their grandmother who has passed, and that watch is gold? I do not know the exact number of people in this domain, but I know it must drop off dramatically. Add to this the other details to which my recipient answered in the affirmative and you have a small pool of people. The odds of a person fitting that specific profile being on the call at that specific time, and me guessing greater than ten relevant facts about them and the communicator purely as a result of ordinary cues and guesses is extremely unlikely.

When assessing whether I am making high probability guesses, details matter. The more general the statement, the greater the likelihood that I could have guessed it. As the statements become more specific, the likelihood of my guessing correctly diminishes. If I had said ‘I see a memory … something to do with a kitchen towel,’ it is fair to say that could have been the kind of guess cold reading refers to. But saying ‘I see a kitchen towel with all the family’s faces on it,’ is unlikely to be a lucky guess due to the detail in the description. I wonder if we asked a million people if they have a memory of a kitchen towel with all their family’s faces on it, in connection with someone who has died, what percent would answer in the affirmative? My intuition is the percentage would be low, so this would not be a wise thing to guess. It is fair to assume that, if I had asked, ‘Do you own a watch belonging to someone who has passed?’ I could be guessing. But asking if she has a watch, that is gold, which has a chain on the catch, and which belonged specifically to the person about whom we are now speaking, does not have the character of a guess. Each qualifying detail – item, colour, form, to whom it belonged, and whether it is in the recipient’s possession – is a brand new opportunity to be wrong in a brand new domain with many possible answers.

If my sittings truly consisted in high probability guesses then it would be expected that after fifteen thousand sittings, I would have developed standardized high probability profiles that I could trot out on stage and in sittings with relative confidence:

John, father, heart attack.

James, grandfather, lung cancer.

Mary, grandmother, breast cancer.

Margaret, mother, diabetes.

… and the like. But that is not what is happening. Strange and specific details come to my mind which would be foolish and risky to guess. Add to the mix the reality that I am often working with individuals or small audiences, and the probability becomes exceptionally low that I would guess anything correctly. If one is to attribute to me the intelligence to engage in such finely crafted dishonesty, then one must also attribute to me the intelligence that I would not put myself in situations where I am likely to fail.

Do I falsely enhance the apparent accuracy of the sitting by hurrying past incorrect statements? I say a small percentage of incorrect statements in almost every sitting I participate in. But no more than normal human conversation among the living. Contrary to the criticism that I minimize wrong information, I actively try to understand why I got the information wrong and correct it. In the sitting we are now analyzing, the thought came to me that the recipient had two sons, but she did not, she only had one. I tried to mention the other person by name, to help both myself and the recipient understand to whom I was referring and why he presented to me as a son. Granted, this was not conclusively resolved, however, I did not ignore this error or skip past it.

The strength of cold reading as an explanation for the data of mediumship relies heavily on large audience numbers. According to critics, presenting to a large audience gives the medium a substantial pool of facts from which to guess. Shot-gunning is when an alleged medium throws out a piece of information to a large audience. The claim is that even if the information seems obscure and specific, the probability of it being taken is high because of the size of the audience. If there is an audience of 200 people, and they each have 10 people who have passed, each of whom have rich life stories, then there is a potential database of 2000 people with a large number of facts attached to them. (Dutton, 1988). In the case study above, there were only three possible recipients on the call, so the probability of anyone else’s relative fitting the profile of my recipient’s grandmother is almost nil.

The Forer Effect, also known as warm reading, is the use of statements that seem specific, but which apply to many people, such as, ‘I see you looking through a box of old photographs’. These statements may also depend upon the confirmation bias of the recipient who fills in the blanks or overlooks errors in the medium’s statements to make the information fit (Forer, 1949. Pp. 118). Let us examine another sitting to establish whether removing statements which seem specific but could apply to many people, can explain it away.

The following sitting took place on 25th March 2021 on Zoom. Sally attended my Spirit Sessions event along with approximately 30 other people. I went directly to Sally and did not ‘throw the message out’ to the audience.

Throughout the sitting, Sally’s computer audio was not working, so for the entire sitting, she could hear me but I could not hear her. I delivered the message without any audible responses from Sally. After the session, I sent a transcript of my statements to her. I asked her to read it carefully and fill in her responses to the assertions I made, which are detailed below. My statements are in italics, and Sally’s responses are in bold. A video recording of the session is also available to view.

I would like to speak to you about a man in the spirit world. Would he have been a romantic partner of yours?

Yes that would have been James, my previous partner.

I want to go somewhere where there was a fishing port or a fishing town that was significant to you and this person. Does this make sense to you?

Yes, that is Key West, Florida, or could have been Molokai, Hawaii. James and I were in both places.

There must have been someplace you liked to go that had a big, roaring open fire. It may have been a restaurant. The fire was the same height as you if you were standing.

I believe that is somewhere my son was who has also passed. It would have been the Coast of California, Big Sur where he spent some time. He and James were very close.

Regarding this man who was a partner of yours in the past, would he have had an aneurysm or an embolism? His passing would have been sudden and I feel there would have been a haemorrhage or bleeding involved.

Before passing he had an operation on his heart which was unsuccessful and he died on the operating table.

Did you remain in touch with this person even after your relationship ended?

Yes, our love relationship ended and we continued our friendship.

This man is very close to you, and he shows me you two walking on a beach. Is that somewhere that’s particularly important to you?

I lived on Maui for eleven years and before that Michael and I lived in Florida. All beach places so yes, the beach and those places are important to me and to James.

I feel that you just walk up and down the beach and talk to your son there. I’d like to speak about your son now, if I may?

Yes.

Was your son a young adult when he passed?

He passed at thirty unfortunately.

I feel he would have been very handsome, charming, and charismatic, and people loved him. I feel he was involved in a lot of activities, causes, and things that were important to him. Does that make sense?

Yes. He was very handsome, charming and charismatic and people still love him and miss him like crazy. He spent a lot of time in India and befriended many Indian people too.

He loved everyone. He was an amazing person. He also helped the Indian people with getting them fresh water by testing the water for them. He did many things to help others for which I am very proud to have been his mother.

I feel that your son has a very adventurous spirit, and he always wanted to go places and do things, and he was a bit of a risk taker in that regard.

Yes he was.

Would there be someone with the name Adam who was important to your son, like a friend?

Perhaps. I believe that was the name of a friend who passed in an automobile accident a few years before Michael did.

He comes forward because you have had a lot of difficulty, Sally (and of course, it’s understandable) returning to anything like joy, or even normality, since he died. Before he died, your life was so full, and you were so easily brought to joy. You have to try to move forward into something like joy again.

Yes I have been sick and nearly died in hospital due to deep grieving.

Do you paint, Sally?

Yes, I do pastel painting.

Have you stopped painting and creating?

Yes. I had to stop painting because I do not have my own space. I hope soon I can have my own space and start again. It’s kind of messy and you need open air.

I see you going deep, deep, deep into painting sunsets and sunrises, and suns on horizons. The sun on the horizon seems to be a very important image to you. Getting back into your creativity is really very important.

Yes, it is, and my skies were very beautiful.

Do you still have a sweater that belonged to your son?

Yes, it was a jacket of his.

Does it have a logo on it, like a sports team or something like that?

Yes.

Do you wear this item sometimes?

Sometimes.

Please put it on and have a good cry.

Thanks, I do.

Did your son ever play a musical instrument? Did he dabble in the guitar?

He played the guitar, wrote music, sang, acted, danced.

I want to go back to this roaring fire. Was there a fire on a beach where there would have been playing guitar?

Yes in Big Sur, California once of his favorite places. I’m sure it was a bonfire.

He wishes to let you know that he’s well. He says you’ve heard his voice. He was trying to let you know that he was with you.

Yes I’ve seen him too, just as I wake up at around 3 AM.

Please forgive me for straying into an area that may be difficult to talk about. Was your son’s passing accidental?

Yes, he was killed on a motorcycle.

I feel this is partly why it’s been so hard to heal. There wasn’t a journey to death, no journey to goodbye. There was a sense that he was ripped away.

Yes, it was super intense and unthinkable grief took over for a long time.

Was something overturned? Was that how he passed?

Probably his motorcycle overturned.

He was met in the spirit world by a lady who loves you. Did you have an aunt that you were close to?

That would be my mom. He was very close to her.

I want to say ‘May’. I’m not sure if May is a person, or if he’s asking me to mention the month of May as being significant.

My mother passed on my birthday, May 5th.

I got the sense that your son is with a lady in spirit who is a bit eccentric. I see her with birds all around her and I hear the birds chirping. Do you know who that is? This lady must have opened her curtains of a morning, and there were birds all around her, making noise where she lived. She was an elderly lady when she passed. Can you think who that is?

That would be my mother. He loved his grandma. Not surprised they are together a lot. She sang all the time and had studied opera. Maybe that’s where the birds came in. She was constantly singing.

Do you have a daughter, Sally? Do you have any other children?

No

Was there a woman in your son’s life, who he left behind? Who would have been like a daughter-in-law to you?

Yes

Do you see her?

Yes

She has the feeling of being like a daughter to you. I see the letter ‘R’ being drawn as significant to her.

Yes, her name is Rayne.

He doesn’t want to say much more, except that he’s okay, and just speaking about this golden sunshine – sunsets and sunrises – that seem to be really important. So please, if you paint, get back to it, let it help you. Get crazy, get creative, get expressive with it.

And connect with that young lady – she suffered terribly as well when he died. She’ll never get over it. We don’t get over unfixable losses. But somehow, if we put ourselves together with other people who shared in the loss, we can help to fill in each other's gaps and the holes that have been left.

Rayne is having a hard time, as am I, getting over Michael.

I see her with a little seashell necklace around her neck.

Yes, I gave her that. It was Michael’s.

Please take your son’s love (and this other gentleman who still fancies you, by the way). Those that care for you are very close to you in the spirit world. Thank you for letting me work with you Sally, God bless you.

Thank you so much.

After the sitting, Sally sent me the following photographic evidence which confirms several of my statements:

  I noticed a pattern in the statements that could apply to many people, which is that they were the least evidentially concrete. When a recipient has children, lovers, family members, certain emotional states become likely. Although they seem specific because they are personal and privately experienced, they are also common among humanity. This makes it difficult to discuss emotional states in concrete, verifiable terms. Similarly, the experience of walking on the beach alone or with loved ones is fairly common, so let us set that aside as well. Even after we have removed emotional states and common, shared experiences, much of the content of the sitting remains unexplained. In particular, Michael’s sweater and the shell necklace. Information that is detailed; which refers to objects in the world; and which refer to states that are decidedly uncommon to humanity, seem to hold their ground in the face of The Forer Effect as an explanation.

I would like to address a sub-section of The Forer Effect that has come to be known as the Rainbow Ruse. The Rainbow Ruse states that a false psychic/medium makes statements that contain both a given statement and its opposite, so that one or the other must be correct, rendering it impossible to say no to (Forer, 1949. Pp. 120). An example of this might be: “I see that you have a great sense of humour but if you’re worried about something, you can become reserved and introverted. Would you agree with this?”. The statement asserts that the recipient is both funny and reserved, extroverted, and introverted. Most people agree with one of these assessments of themselves, so the recipient will say ‘yes’ ignoring the opposite aspect which may or may not be true.

Another way this can be interpreted is that the recipient will say ‘yes’ because they are bound to have experienced both states at some point in their lives, or perhaps even the last week, such is human nature. I do not think I committed this offense at all in the sittings we are currently critiquing.

Whenever I participate in a sitting, the recipient and I put a great deal of trust in each other. They trust that I am honest in my claim that I am speaking on behalf of a communicator, and good in my intentions to help and not harm. I trust that they will be honest in their responses, and not be deluded by a desire to receive a message, or afraid to say ‘no’ if a piece of information is wrong. Human communication and memory recall can go wrong at the best of times, and the question of whether both parties are being honest and remembering correctly is at the core of the widespread distrust of mental mediumship.

Confirmation bias is often cited as the cause of sittings seeming more accurate than they are. The strongest pieces of evidence against confirmation bias as a sufficient explanation in these cases are: the gold watch, the sweater, and the shell necklace. The recipients immediately produced these as concrete objects in the world for all to see. The mention of a tangible, public object in a sitting closes the gaps of doubt created by the flaws in human communication. The gold watch, the sweater, and the necklace eliminate the need for onlookers to merely trust the word of the medium and the recipient, providing better-quality evidence that they can see with their own eyes.

No single ordinary explanation succeeded in accounting for all the evidence presented in these sittings. A patchwork approach, deploying different ordinary explanations at different parts of each sitting, could be adequate for some of the information, but not all, and not without reaching into realms of absurdity that seriously challenge the soundness of these explanations.

There remain three aspects of these sittings that defy explanation by ordinary means. The first is the physical evidence - the watch, sweater, and necklace - and the concreteness of these items being immediately produced. The second is the repeated instances of detailed descriptions of the communicators which make it implausible that I could have guessed these facts. The third is the volume of correct information, and the corresponding miniscule likelihood of this information neatly fitting anyone else on the call, other than the recipient for whom the communication was intended.

Crucial questions remain: How did I know she had a gold watch belonging to her grandmother? And where did this information come from? How did I know that Michael played the guitar, and that his girlfriend’s name began with ‘R’? The persistence of these questions beyond ordinary explanations justify enquiry into extraordinary explanations to account for the data of mental mediumship.2

To be continued…

1

The sitting can be viewed here: https://fb.watch/5YnEoWg3TP/ . Note that I have edited the style of the video for social media. This does not affect the content.

2

With heartfelt thanks to Jacqueline and Sally for granting me permission to share and discuss their readings.