Derren Brown vs the Psychic
Medium Craig Hamilton-Parker takes on the sceptic illusionist Derren Brown. Craig was the first psychic medium to take on Derren Brown in the media. This is the debate they had in the Article from the Daily Express 2 June 2004
ALSO SEE VIDEO: CRAIG TAKES ON RICHARD DAWKINS – how they lied
Psychic Craig Hamilton-Parker:
I am sure that many scoffing sceptics loved Derren Brown’s polished use of conjuring and psychological tricks to throw Spiritualism to the dogs. But just because a carefully selected group of students fall for his mind quizzes it doesn’t mean that all Spiritualist séances are chicanery.
On Channel 4 on Monday, illusionist Brown staged a mock séance in front of a live Television audience. He showed how using psychological techniques and hypnotic suggestion, his volunteers could be tricked into believing they were seeing a paranormal event.
People like him are convinced that Spiritualists are at best delusional or at worst all scoundrels. Their great prophet was Houdini – probably the greatest illusionist of all time – who challenged Spiritualists and endeavoured to expose Séances as trickery.
Brown pointed out that the Fox sisters, the first mediums, confessed to being fakes. He neglected to mention that this was retracted; just as the wife of Houdini retracted her confession that she believed his spirit had spoken to her through a medium. In both, the confessions were claimed to have been made under duress.
If I were not a medium myself I would probably be a sceptic. There have been fakes in the past and I have seen fake mediums in action. But Spiritualists are no fools and even recently were prepared to expose cheating mediums through their publication the Psychic News.
Anyone who has met real mediums will know that most are compassionate with a high degree of integrity.
I am a mental medium who uses thought to communicate with spirits, but I have witnessed physical miracles at séances that cannot possibly be explained by any of Brown’s methods. At my own circle I have seen small tables tap out messages and – although Spiritualists rarely use Ouija boards – have witnessed one spell out specific information. For example, it wrote: “Robin will live in Rose Bank Cottage.” The next week Robin, who had been at the session, received a call to say that a house had come on the market called Rose Bank Cottage. There was no way he could have known about this in advance. He bought it.
I have seen ectoplasm appear over the face of mediums and according to some in my circle it has occasionally transfigured over my own face during trance sessions. One of my most trusted friends, a member of Mensa and a down-to-earth person, saw her dead mother materialise at a séance with a medium. When you see these things with your own eyes a million Derren Browns will not convince you that these are tricks.
Brown’s programme was more about showing the power of hypnotism than debunking spiritualism and psychic readings. He deliberately chose suggestible students and there was evidence of direct hypnotism.He used breathing methods, word patterns and post-hypnotic commands to have the students respond when he said key words. An innocent phrase such as “Keep your finger on the glass” may be the trigger to elicit a response from the participants. The CIA and KGB are understood to have used similar techniques when training assassins.
My job as a medium is to give proof of survival of the personality after death. Mediums use their gift to bring comfort to the bereaved and to be of service to humanity. We are like a telephonist who makes the call then relays the information received to the person on the other end of the line. A medium must always strive for accuracy and not be satisfied with woolly “cold reading” statements that could apply to just about anyone.
I have told people very specific things about their dead loved ones such as their pet name, repeated word for word the text of a note placed in a coffin or described other specific incidents shared with the communicating spirit that would rule out guesswork.
And since many mediums do not charge for their services I cannot see what possible benefit there would be in cheating. I have seen people who have been close to taking their own life after losing someone they cherish, and then had their life turned around after seeing a medium. Many times I have had people say to me: “I feel that I can now begin again.”
Mediums often have to put up with a lot of stick If we demonstrate on Television we are expected to have a skeptic. on the show to add balance – unless it is billed as entertainment, which to most Spiritualists is abhorrent. But don’t believe what I say; the proof comes when you are given personal rock-solid proof that your loved one has communicated with you. A medium may tell you things about your dead loved friends and relatives that they could not possibly uncover through research or trickery. When you get this sort of proof – and there are many thousands who have had unshakeable personal proof – then you will understand.
- Craig Hamilton-Parker is author of the book What To Do When You Are Dead (Sterling, £9.99).
- MORE: SEE AN EXAMPLE OF REAL SPIRITUALISM AT WORK DERREN
… but I’m still a sceptic., says the master of tricks Derren Brown:
THE séance show wasn’t about ”attacking anyone’s beliefs: it was about seeing how the techniques used by fraudulent Victorian mediums would work with a modern audience. I presume no one is arguing that there weren’t plenty of fraudulent methods practised in those days.
Personally, I have huge issues with people who dishonestly claim to be in touch with the dead yet who know very well the reality of what they’re doing. I imagine most mediums would agree with me. In areas this important to people’s lives, such a fraud should be thought about in the same way we would think of – a fraudulent doctor. It’s despicable.
I have less of an issue with people who sincerely believe in what they’re doing; though I would still be sceptical of their claims, and worry about people being encouraged to make life decisions based on what I would feel was false information.
However, I’m not interested in personal attacks or out-and-out debunking. I’d be happy, to just encourage a more questioning approach and one of intelligent open-mindedness: which is where you balance things such as false memory, suggestion and auto-hypnosis, cold-reading, language tricks and charlatanism with the’ evidence in favour of the paranormal, in order to make a more informed decision about its veracity. I would hope that most spiritualists would agree with me there, too.