Mina Crandon, best known as “Margery”, was a Boston medium who found herself embroiled in one of the most bitter controversies in American psychic research in the 1920′s.Regardless though, she was perhaps the greatest rival of magician Harry Houdini as he embarked on his own crusade against fraudulent mediums; their bitter sparring and debates almost damaged his career beyond recognition as well.”Houdini suspected that the secret of their craft lay not in any mystical connection with the spirit world, but in clever trickery. And after sitting with more than a hundred mediums, he was sure of it. As he told an interviewer from the Los Angeles Times, “It takes a flimflammer to catch a flimflammer.” With characteristic tenacity, he set out to expose as many mediums as he could.”
Margery the medium. Never in the ambiguous history of spiritualism in the United States has there been a medium who achieved such a world reputation for psychic phenomena and caused such extended controversy as the woman known as Margery, who suddenly manifested her abilities in Boston in the Spring of 1923. Margery, it was claimed, performed under the spirit control of her dead brother Walter. His voice first spoke through her, though later independently of her vocal chords. During a series of her seances extraordinary occurrences took place. Flowers and other objects materialized from nowhere.
Ghostly bugle calls sounded.At time ectoplasmic rods sprouted from the medium’s body that were capable of touching persons in the dark, moving objects, producing lights, and making wax impressions of themselves.There was a great diversity in the phenomena which occurred. J. Malcolm Bird, associate editor of Scientific American, who later wrote a book on Margery and became her partisan as did Hereward Carrington, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and others. Houdini, the magician who attended five of the seances, denounced her most hysterically.
Its safe to assume that some elements of the paranormal were present in Crandall’s seances. But to extricate the real from the fake in her case, is still a mystery she took to the grave with her in 1941.
Hereward Carrington, one of this country’s most noted pioneer psychic investigators, wrote:
“As a result of more than forty sittings with Margery, I have arrived at the definite conclusion that genuine supernormal phenomena frequently occur. Many of the observed manifestations might well have been produced fraudulently . . . however, there remains a number of instances when phenomena were produced and observed under practically perfect control.”
The opinions surrounding the Margery mediumship were as diverse as the phenomena themselves. While the novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was saying, “The phenomena . . . are perhaps the best attested in the whole annals of psychic research,” America’s psychic investigator, Dr. Walter Franklin Prince, was saying, “Now, in my judgment, the Margery case will in time come to be considered the most ingenious, persistent and fantastic complex of fraud in the history of psychic research.’ ”
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