Op-Ed: The Psychic and the not-so-haunted house

Posted Sep 7, 2013 by Alexander Baron
Heard the one about the ghost who wore designer jeans? That may sound silly, but it is no worse than some of the stunts that have been pulled by psychic charlatans over the past hundred and more years.
Yesterday's London Metro freesheet contained a rather amusing story about the spirit medium who asked a ghost to knock twice to let him know if anybody was there. The ghost obliged. As might be expected, the medium was not alone; Chris Date, the self-styled Knight Guider, was showing a group of 14 guests around a haunted hotel. For a modest fee, of course. A couple of people were suspicious - one of the punters and a member of the staff - and before long the source of the knocking materialised. Rather than being a visitor from beyond, the entity secreted in the attic of the hotel's stable was a fellow who identified himself as "homeless". How many homeless people wear designer jeans? He was turfed out, as for Mr Date, he left of his own volition, in great haste, it appears.
The story of this close encounter of the terrestrial kind has been widely reported; it is said to have happened the previous Friday, but this sort of psychic flim-flam is nothing new, indeed it is par for the course.
Spirit mediumship has been around in its modern form for a surprisingly short period of time; if you want to learn more about its dubious origins, run the term "Fox sisters" through your search engine. A modern phenomenon it may be, but it has a long history of fraud. Like these foxy lasses, spirit photographer William Mumler was American born and bred; the law caught up with him in 1869.
The 20th Century saw a veritable parade of charlatans like Mumler; loony feminists often complain about the glass ceiling, but they never mention this field of human misfeasance in which women rise to the top with the greatest of ease, some of its most outrageous con artists have been women. Indeed a spirit medium may be defined as a small-minded woman with a large imagination. One of the most notorious was Scottish widow Helen Duncan - who is not to be confused with any contemporary Scottish widow who has proven psychic powers (snigger). Although she died in 1956, Mrs Duncan has her own official website, which presumably she edits from the astral plane. Then there was evil old woman Doris Stokes; on the other side of the Atlantic there was and is Sylvia Browne, who claimed Amanda Berry was dead. Neither her terrible track record nor the fact that she is a convicted fraudster detracts the true believers, who include at least one talk show host. But the number one psychic scam artist is a man, the charismatic but totally unbelievable Uri Geller, though it has to be said that Geller owes it all to the media, because the slightest critical examination of his professed psychic powers by the tabloid press would have banished him forever from our screens.
Chris Date is a relative newcomer to the psychic world; he registered his company, Knight Guider Ltd, only in September of last year. According to his official website: "Knight Guider is a talented television psychic medium" - self-praise is no praise at all.
Apparently he worked previously as a firefighter during which time he saw "a lot of people passing over during this time and he realised he could see energies passing over."
That must be some sort of calling, in truth. Mr Date also has a number of testimonials on his website, all of them anonymous, and you really didn't need any psychic powers to tell you that.