Yes, there ARE fraudulent mediums. Fortunately, for me, I have the ability of mediumship, so it’s easier for me to spot a fraud. But this particular experience was so outrageous, that I just feel I must relate it.
When I lived in Seattle, Washington, I attended a Spiritualist Church there. One day it was announced that a well-known medium would be giving a series of “seances” which would eventually culminate in a “physical manisfestation” of spirit, or more commonly called a “materialization,” (physical phenomena in Spiritualist terms) — essentially, a spirit actually taking human form!
Now, that IS a highly unusual feat, so I was quite interested in seeing this, as I had never seen it before, and had only read about it. I will not give the medium’s name but let me just call him “Dave.”
Only 13 people were allowed to attend these seances. (I guess 13 was supposed to be a special number.) I readily signed up, considering the fee was extremely cheap: $15.00 for each seance.
The first seance was held at the church and Medium Dave conducted it. We all sat in a very dark room, we sang a few hymns, and then Dave proceeded to talk from behind a “black box,” (an area of the room surrounded by black curtains taking the shape of a box) about “Hilda” his spirit guide. I don’t remember all of what Dave talked about, however, it was supposedly spiritually-based.
The second seance was about apports. Now, apports, traditionally, are objects that appear fully materialized but come FROM the spirit world. Again, I think this is a highly unusual feat, but I still participated. In the dark seance room, we were suddenly bombarded by falling stones from the ceiling! They landed all over the floor, on us and on the chairs. It was very weird. Okay, I thought, maybe this IS real. So, I suspended judgement, and tried to see it as a learning experience. (But it really DID seem that someone had placed them in the ceiilng panels and with a good flick of the wrist, they were all hurled onto us!)
The THIRD and FINAL seance was the MATERIALIZATION of Dave’s spirit guide, Hilda. This was a particularly exciting event to me, as I had experienced a physical materialization quite spontaneously (and I have never had that happen again). So, fortunately, I actually KNEW what he was talking about. Quite frankly, the experience I had kind of spooked me (!) but I was anxious to see how Dave would create a physical manisfestation at will.
We gathered in the church basement and waited for the seance room to be set up. Dave was downstairs sitting at a kitchen table and I approached him. I began telling him that I, too, was mediumistic, and that I, in fact, had actually experienced a spontaneous materialization! He listened quite intently with an odd look on his face, and then finally excused himself.
Well, in retrospect I realize his expression was one of shock — at the time, I just thought it was happy surprise!
Dave had attended the previous two seances in a suit. This time, though, he was wearing some kind of gown or robe. I sat at the kitchen table in the church basement and watched Dave go into the men’s bathroom. I figured we were getting ready for the seance, so I’d better go to the bathroom, too, and I went into the ladies’ room which was wall-to-wall with the men’s room. I entered the ladies’ room a few seconds after Dave entered the men’s room — there was only room for one person in each bathroom.
In the ladies’ room, I soon heard a sound coming through the wall of the men’s room. It was a “hssssssing” kind of sound. Being curious, I listened more closely. I couldn’t figure out the sound at first. I continued to listen and heard this “hsssssing” sound continuing. I was getting a bit exasperated wanting to know what that sound was, so I actually put my ear to the wall and listened!! It sounded like a “spraying” sound — I figured maybe he was using deodorant, but it was taking an AWFULLY long time for the spraying. This must have gone on for about 10 minutes — yes, I know I should have probably left the ladies’ room earlier, but I just wanted to really figure out that sound.
Finally, I emerged from the bathroom, and Dave was STILL in the men’s room. I couldn’t figure out WHY he was in there so long. A few minutes later, Dave walked out of the bathroom. He was ready to start the seance.
The 13 people who were attending were myself and 12 other people. Most of these people were not very educated, many had terrible grammar, they were older (in their 50s and 60s — I was just about 40 then), and they seemed to adore Dave.
We sat in the very, very dark seance room again, in a circle, in chairs. There was only one tiny light — a little red light from the ceiling.
Dave went and sat in the “black box,” the portion of the room cordoned off with a black curtain around it. Dave sat in that black curtained area and we all began to sing hymns — to “help” the materialization process so that “Hilda” could appear in nearly-human form.
After the singing concluded, the black curtain slowly swung back and there was Dave, CHEESE CLOTH OVER HIS HEAD, in his ROBE, GLOWING — and now talking like “Hilda,” with her lilting feminine voice.
Remember, I had told Dave BEFORE the seance that I had actually personally experienced a physical manisfestation. The rest of the group was in awe. They oohed and ahhhed over Hilda. “Oh, Hilda, it is SOOOOOO wonderful to see you!” “Hilda” (aka DAVE) nearly ‘floated’ around the room. Dave, in his GLOW IN THE DARK SPRAYED ON PAINT on his robe, sash-shayed around the room!!! I could NOT believe it. HE LITERALLY HAD CHEESE CLOTH ON HIS HEAD!!! It was spray painted in Glow-in-the-Dark paint!!!
I was becoming FURIOUS at that point!! People were being duped!! I almost jumped up and turned on the light to expose him! I just couldn’t believe it!
“Hilda” (Dave in his glow-in-the dark cheese cloth) came around and “greeted” each person in the seance. Hilda hugged and told each person how glad she was that they were there. As he came around the circle, “Hilda” stopped near me, looked me in the eye, and PASSED ME BY!!!! Yes, Hilda KNEW that I KNEW that SHE/HE was a FRAUD!!!! Dave/Hilda was BEGGING me NOT to expose him!!! OOOOOOH, I was SOOOO mad!! But, it was ALSO obvious that Dave KNEW that I KNEW the TRUTH!!! And the truth was, not only was Dave a BAD ACTOR, but he was a FRAUD!!
I mean, if this was theatre, it was BAD theatre!!
Finally, “Hilda” had to “return to the spirit world,” and Glow-in-the-Dark Dave returned to the black box to remove the cheese cloth and return to himself!
At the end of the seance, I hurriedly ran out of the room. I couldn’t even bring myself to confront Dave. I wanted to shout to everyone that he was a fraud, but I saw their faces. They actually BELIEVED him!! I couldn’t believe that! Couldn’t they SEE how obvious it was? I mean, it was cheese cloth, plain as day. But at the same time, I knew they desperately WANTED to believe. In that moment of realization, I felt if their belief was that strong and their need so great, that I didn’t feel right exposing the facts and exploding their faith. I think that they really needed to believe and it wasn’t my place to expose him. I guess it was a lesson both in faith and in truth that I witnessed Glow-in-the-Dark Cheese Cloth Dave.
I finally knew what that spraying sound was — glow-in-the-dark paint — and I understood that look on Dave’s face when I had related my own experience — sheer horror that I may expose him.
Needless to say, I NEVER saw Dave again. When I told a spiritualist minister I knew in another town about this experience, she knew who he was and called him “Mr. Cheese Cloth!”
Yes, there ARE frauds out there. But this was so bad — not only bad theatre, but really bad ethics.
So, the next time you see a piece of cheese cloth, or wander into a store with black lights and everything is glowing in the dark…..remember Fraudulent Dave and his lilting role as Hilda.
But you know what….this could actually make a good comedic skit! Saturday Night Live, where are you!!?!