The Rise of Spiritualist Scammers
The spiritualism movement’s ranks included true believers of life after death, those hoping to demonstrate the unique skill of communicating with the dead, and even scientists hoping to prove the spiritual realm as scientific fact. Despite the popularity of spiritualism, there were plenty of skeptics ready to offer evidence that the mediums were nothing but frauds, including celebrities such as P.T. Barnum and later Harry Houdini, both of whom knew the secrets of tricks and magic. Spiritualism also had its share of scammers tricking the public by charging money to “communicate” with their deceased loved ones. Even Scientific American got into the act, offering five thousand dollars to the person who could convince some of the greatest scientific minds at prestigious universities that the phenomenon was real (with reasonable certainty that they would never need to pay out). Spiritualism gave hope to a population who needed it.