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SKEPTICS CHALLENGE TRANCE-CHANNELERS TO BE TESTED, URGE PUBLIC TO BE CAUTIOUS LOS ANGELES -- The Executive Council of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) is disturbed by the rapid rise of the latest New Age fad of "trance-channeling." Recent polls indicate that a considerable segment of the American population believes that it is possible "to have contact with the dead." In a poll published in "American Health" magazine (January/February 1987), some 244 of the adult population now claims to have had contact with dead persons, as compared to 27% in 1973. The figure is 67% for widows. Trance-channeling no doubt contributes to this attitude. We submit that trance-channeling is nothing more than a chic renaming of what used to be known as "spiritualism." The spiritualist movement was launched in 1848 when two sisters from upstate New York, Margaret and Kate Fox, claimed that they were able to "communicate with the dead." Through a series of rapping noises, the "spirits from beyond" gave advice, made predictions, and consoled loved ones. The Fox sisters went on tour and performed in large arenas, charging clients for the opportunity to communicate with spirits. Within a few months of the Fox sisters' beginnings, thousands of mediums around the world were claiming the ability to communicate with the dead. Years later, Maggie Fox admitted that she and her sister had been perpetrating a hoax. The movement they created continued. By the mid-nineteen-twenties, however, the scientific community had thoroughly discredited "mediums" such as Eusapia Palladino and Margery Crandon, who were duping an unsuspecting public. Although spiritualism had been on the decline in North American it has now reemerged as "trance-channelling." Included among the well-known trance- channelers is J. Z. Knight, who claims that a 35,000-year-old man named "Ramtha" uses her body to speak words of wisdom. The famous actress Shirley MacLaine's use of channelers to gain information about her "past lives" has led to wide public acceptance of this practice. The Executive Council of CSICOP finds it surprising that trance- channelers have been allowed to make uncorroborated and unverified claims, charge people hundreds or thousands of dollars for public and private audiences, and offer advice on business and personal matters without providing evidence that they indeed have contact with discarnate beings. Many people have been misled by such practices. We challenge the trance-channelers to offer proof of their abilities. The Executive Council of CSICOP is making a public offer to provide scientific inquirers to test, under controlled laboratory conditions, the claims of trance-channelers. We suggest that the public be extremely cautious about these claims unless and until they are corroborated by carefully controlled scientific testing. - 2 - Paul Kurtz, Chairman James Alcock Kendrick Frazier Martin Gardner Ray Hyman Phillip J. Klass Lee Nisbet Mark Plummer James Randi


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