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Tags Eric Dingwall , mediums , psychic researchers

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Old 14th December 2016, 08:33 PM   #1
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Exclamation Skeptic Eric Dingwall was a believer in the paranormal

Eric Dingwall a well known psychical researcher is usually portrayed as a skeptic when it came to the paranormal. However, Arthur Conan Doyle argued that Dingwall was a secret believer in the paranormal, but he pretended to be skeptical to colleagues at meetings.

I would have to partly agree with Doyle. On closer inspection, Dingwall appears to be a big time believer in the paranormal but there is nothing really 'secret' about this, it has just not been widely acknowledged and many later researchers have not really dug into Dingwall's writings.

Dingwall later distanced himself from psychical research and became a brief member of CSICOP before resigning. But he does not appear to have retracted any of his supportive opinions about the paranormal. A read through various articles in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (JSPR) reveals that Eric Dingwall was far from a skeptic. I would go as far as saying he was a staunch believer in the paranormal.

It appears later skeptic writers are unaware about Dingwall's actual writings on such topics. He is mistakenly portrayed as a skeptic.

Gordon Stein for example dedicated the book The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal (published by Prometheus Books) to Dingwall.

I will look at some cases below, these are various mediums or psychics that Dingwall wrote positive things about.

Alexis and Adolphe Didier

Alexis and Adolphe Didier were two French clairvoyant mediums. They were dismissed as frauds by psychical researchers such as Frank Podmore. But Dingwall rejected Podmore's conclusions.

According to Dingwall:

Quote:
The evidence for the paranormal acquisition of information seems to me to be very strong: the travelling clairvoyance also and the discovery of lost objects can be linked with it; and the evidence for thought-transmission cannot just be put on one side. It is true that a good deal of the sealed letter reading and ecarte playing is very suspicious, as ample evidence exists that, in the majority of cases at the time, successes in these directions were almost certainly due to faulty blindfolding and other sources of error. But many of the phenomena with both Alexis and Adolphe seem to me to be of a different order from those reported with other somnambules; and even if we go so far as to assume that the sitters were merely getting back what they told the subject without knowing what they were doing, it would not account for correct facts being given which had to be verified later.
Eric Dingwall. Abnormal Hypnotic Phenomena. pp. 176-193


Einer Nielsen

Einer Nielsen was a physical medium from Denmark. He was investigated by a team of researchers from Kristiania University who considered his phenomena fraudulent and published a critical report on the medium.

Eric Dingwall in a SPR article took issue with their report and rejected any claim of fraud about Nielsen claiming:

Quote:
Although the sittings were unsatisfactory it is difficult to accept the committee's findings as to fraud on the part of the medium.
Note that Harry Houdini dismissed this medium as a blatant fraud. Johs Carstensen an associate of Nielsen even came out against the medium describing his fraud in a booklet.

https://archive.org/stream/journalof...e/328/mode/2up

Kathleen Goligher

Kathleen Goligher was a physical medium from Ireland who was investigated by a physicist called William Jackson Crawford. She held séances in the dark with her family members whilst Crawford would investigate.

Crawford was an eccentric, he had a strange obsession with collecting female underwear. He investigated Kathleen Goligher at her house, took a bunch of strange looking photographs of her ectoplasm (some of which look like cheesecloth or muslin descending from her genital area) and declared the ectoplasm and table 'levitations' to be genuine. Crawford later committed suicide for unknown reasons.

A different investigator Edmund Edward Fournier d'Albe (a well known physicist of the time and inventor) later investigated. He shot down Crawford's conclusions and claimed to have detected Kathleen Goligher in fraud. He reported his findings in a booklet. After the booklet was published, Goligher was not investigated again.

Eric Dingwall rejected the findings of d'Albe in a review and defended Crawford:

Quote:
Whether we may think it just or not, the fact remains that Dr. Fournier's book will be generally taken as a complete exposure of the circle and as a refutation of all Dr. Crawford's findings. Such a conclusion is warranted neither by the book itself nor by common sense. However unfortunate Dr. Crawford's conditions may have been he obtained results for which it is extremely difficult to account on any theory of fraud.
https://archive.org/stream/journalof...ge/18/mode/2up

This is an odd statement from Dingwall. In one of Crawford's own books, he admitted in his own words that none of the hands or feet of the Goligher family were controlled during the séances at any time (his reason for this was that he trusted the family). Fraud was thus extremely likely. Crawford was not reliable at all.

Note that Charles Marsh Beadnell published a book The Reality or Unreality of Spiritualistic Phenomena: Being a Criticism of Dr. W.J. Crawford's Investigation into Levitations and Raps which completely demolished the Crawford experiments with Goligher.

Eva C

Dingwall wrote supportive things about the medium Eva C (Eva Carrière):


Quote:
There is no proof whatever that the medium possesses the power of regurgitation or has any acquaintance whatever with deceptive methods or contrivances... The materializations are clearly often not made of paper, chiffon, or any similar substance. This is evident from photographic enlargements, besides being excluded by the fact that on certain occasions they changed their shape whilst under direct observation.
Eric Dingwall. (1922). The Hypothesis of Fraud. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 32: 309-331.

Eva C had been caught in fraud by other researchers. For a good review see Georgess McHargue's book Facts, Frauds, and Phantasms: A Survey of the Spiritualist Movement. Much of her ectoplasm was made from cloth, cut out newspaper clippings or magazines.

Stefan Ossowiecki

Stefan Ossowiecki was a Polish psychic.

Eric Dingwall organized a test for this psychic in 1923. It involved the attempt to identify the contents of a sealed letter. Dingwall stated the test was successful. He rejected coincidence or fraud as an explanation. You can read more about the experiment in Dingwall's article in the SPR cited below.

Quote:
The supernormal character of the incident seems to me quite clear and decisive.
https://archive.org/stream/journalof...e/258/mode/2up

Gladys Osborne Leonard

Gladys Osborne Leonard was a trance medium known for conducting 'book tests'. These tests were alleged to have proven she was in contact with deceased spirits.

Eric Dingwall rejected the idea that Leonard was fraudulent. He also rejected the view that her results were the due to chance.

In regard to the book tests, he says:

Quote:
More than five hundred of these book tests were carried out by Mrs. Leonard and her various sitters, with results of varying accuracy. A large number were as suggestive as the one we have quoted, though few probably contained quite as many separate items. In order to get an idea of how chance results would compare, a careful experiment was carried out. Three ideas were selected and a page chosen out of one of a number of books on which something to do with the idea was to be found. Thus one "idea" was an allusion to circles of any kind, and page 150 of Emerson's English Traits was looked up. If there was anything to do with circles on it that scored a success. Of 1,800 trials 1.89 per cent were scored as successes, 4.72 per cent as successes or partial successes, and 7.67 per cent when "slight successes" were added to the others. In Mrs. Leonard's mediumistic tests the percentages were 17.2, 36, and 54.1 for all 532 results and with the best communicator 63.6, 68.2, and 77.2. That should settle the question as to whether the results were due to chance.
Eric Dingwall. The Unknown: Is it Nearer? pp. 162-166

So Dingwall rejected chance and fraud for this medium. A skeptic would not have done this. A notable skeptic at the time Edward Clodd for example dismissed Leonard as a fraud.

Joseph of Cupertino

Joseph of Cupertino was a Christian saint known for his alleged ability to levitate.

Dingwall took the levitation claims about Cupertino from the position of an advocate. He dedicated a chapter to Cupertino and levitation in his book Some Human Oddities. Dingwall took the eyewitness claims seriously. He rejected the hypothesis of fraud or misinterpretation.

Bashing skeptics

Dingwall seems to have taken pop shots at various skeptic writers, many examples exist but I will only cite two for now. A notable example he wrote several negative things about a skeptic book on spiritualism written by the rationalist writer Joseph McCabe.

You can read his review here:

https://archive.org/stream/journalof...e/268/mode/2up

He also criticised another skeptic of spiritualism, the magician Carlos María de Heredia author of the classic book Spiritism and Common Sense.

Despite admitting the book contains useful information on fraudulent mediums. Dingwall goes on to write:

Quote:
On the whole we are inclined to think that he overestimates the fraudulent aspect of the subject and would have done better by a serious consideration of some of the best cases brought forward by psychical researchers. Thus we cannot admit his explanation of Home's accordion test (p. 68), neither do we consider it in the least probable that mediumistic levitation, if it ever takes place at all, should be produced by methods similar to those employed by himself for his own levitation. We would also like to remind Father Heredia that neither Mr. Clodd nor Mr. Joseph MacCabe deserves serious consideration.
https://archive.org/stream/journalof...ge/44/mode/2up

So Dingwall stated that fraud is overestimated, a weird comment from a supposed skeptic. Heredia's book only deals with physical mediums. Physical mediumship is 100% fraudulent to any skeptic and even cautious psychical researchers have admitted this (See for example Simeon Edmunds book Spiritualism A Critical Survey). You can see from the above statement Dingwall was not a skeptic.

He also says Edward Clodd and Joseph McCabe do not deserve "serious consideration". Why? Edward Clodd and Joseph McCabe were too well respected skeptic writers associated with the Rationalist Association.

Conclusion

The list goes on and on. Dingwall also wrote supportive things about the mediums Mina Crandon and Eusapia Palladino and would often contradict himself about these mediums also writing negative things. However, I scan through his name in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (sometimes appearing under the initials E.J.D) shows us he published far more positive things about psychical research than negative.

It is sometimes claimed that Eric Dingwall debunked loads of mediums. I cannot find any evidence to support this allegation. He defended Daniel Dunglas Home in one of his books, I will cover this later.

I find in the (JSPR) he published negative things about the fraudulent mediums Pasquale Erto, Jan Guzik and Maria Silbert (three blatant frauds of physical mediumship). But the mediums he was impressed by outweighs the few he dismissed as frauds.

He wrote many supportive things about Rudi and Willi Schneider. Some of his writings are sometimes contradictory but at a minimum what I have shown above beyond doubt is that this man was far from a skeptic. He was never anything to do with skepticism.

I believe Eric Dingwall is far from reliable. We should look into this mans original writings and not what later skeptics have written about him. History has been distorted. Deep research on this like I have done above, will get us closer to the truth. Please share any of your opinions.

Last edited by PainKiller; 14th December 2016 at 08:36 PM.
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Old 15th December 2016, 07:21 AM   #2
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Eric Dingwall endorsed the séance room phenomena of the medium Willi Schneider:

Quote:
[Note. — By permission the following very important report by Mr. E. J. Dingwall, Research Officer of the English S. P. R., and late Director of the Department of Physical Phenomena in the A. S. P. R., is reprinted from the English Journal of October. It narrates what took place in a few sittings held with the Austrian medium, Willy Sch., in Munich, at which, by the imitation of Baron von Sckrenck-Notzing, Messrs. Dingwall and Harry Price were present. The report is that, although a control of almost unprecedented rigor was maintained over the medium, results were obtained which, in the opinion of these extremely cautious and amply qualified witnesses, “ it is reasonable to suppose ” were" in reality caused by supernormal agencies." — Ed.]
Dingwall rejects the hypothesis of fraud in the sittings and says in the paper:

Quote:
The conclusion, therefore, at which we ourselves have arrived, is that it is reasonable to suppose that the phenomena are in reality caused by supernormal agencies, the nature of those agencies being unknown.
These are not the words of a skeptic.

And ends his article by stating:

Quote:
However monstrous these phenomena may appear to those persons who are not acquainted with the mass of evidence now adduced in support of their reality, to ignore them is impossible for the scientific man. In the case of the medium Willy Sch., the opportunity is presented of again examining phenomena previously recorded as occurring with other mediums under conditions which scarcely ever obtain in mediumistic work.
Dingwall was far from a skeptic, he was a full blown paranormal believer.

Eric Dingwall. (1922). Physical Phenomena Recently Observed with the Medium Willy Schneider at Munich. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 16: 687-698.

As for the medium Willi Schneider what did real skeptics think about him? I share with you a quote from the psychologist and skeptic Donovan Rawcliffe:

Quote:
Rudi, and his brother Willi, had been repeatedly and comprehensively exposed as fraudulent tricksters, yet such is the faith of those imbued with a penchant for the mysterious that both spiritualists and psychical researchers alike continued to believe in the possibility of their supernatural powers. "Ectoplasm" and other "teleplastic manifestations" were their main specialities. These, however, were investigated by Professor Przibram of the University of Vienna and found to be nothing more than deceptions."
Donovan Rawcliffe. (1988). Occult and Supernatural Phenomena. Dover Publications. p. 313

Last edited by PainKiller; 15th December 2016 at 07:25 AM.
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Old 15th December 2016, 07:30 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by PainKiller View Post
Eric Dingwall a well known psychical researcher is usually portrayed as a skeptic when it came to the paranormal. However, Arthur Conan Doyle argued that Dingwall was a secret believer in the paranormal, but he pretended to be skeptical to colleagues at meetings.
<snip>
Hmmm...
Originally Posted by Eric Dingwall
Since I gave up nearly all active work in psychical research, I have often been asked why, after more than sixty years' work in the field, I have finally lost most of my interest in it. There are two answers to the question. First, I have come to the conclusion that the present immense interest in occultism and in the grosser forms of superstition is due, to a certain extent at least, to the persistent and far-reaching propaganda put out by the parapsychologists. In this they have, I think, a very grave responsibility. With the gradual decline in the West of belief in Christianity has come not, as one might have hoped, a leaning toward the rational way of looking at the world but a decided tendency to adopt the magical way. Thus Christianity, unbelievable as it may be to the rational mind, has been supported by the occult superstitions of darker ages. One reason, therefore, for my ceasing work is that I do not wish to be associated with persons who actively support such superstitions as are today everywhere apparent. I cannot accept such responsibility...
So no then.
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Old 15th December 2016, 07:49 AM   #4
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Lets see what skeptics have written about Eric Dingwall shall we?

Skeptic James Alcock writes:

Quote:
Eric Dingwall, who has become preeminent in parapsychological circles, though quite skeptical of most things in parapsychology, is a skilled magician familiar with some of the most outstanding magicians of modern times, and a member of member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.
(Parapsychology-Science Or Magic?: A Psychological Perspective, 1981 p. 176).

Skeptical of most things in parapsychology? Not according to his own writings cited above.

Alexander Sutherland Neill writes:

Quote:
About forty years ago, I experimented with table-rapping; Eric Dingwall, an investigator of psychic research, was present at the time. Eric was a sceptic about anything psychic, yet he told me that on more than one occasion he had received answers that no one taking part at the table could have known.
(Neill! Neill! Orange peel!: An Autobiography, 1972 p. 250)

Skeptic of anything psychic? Not according to his own writings cited above.

Skeptical writer Paul Edwards writes:

Quote:
Dr. Eric Dingwall, a British investigator who started his professional life as an assistant to Houdini and who has spent many years exposing fraud and unscientific practices among psychical researchers.
(The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal, 1996 p. 630)

Spent many years exposing fraud? Where?

2016

The 2016 version of CSICon hosted an In-Memoriam presentation:

Quote:
One of the “traditions” that occurred at TAM every year was the In-Memoriam segment highlighting those who had died during the previous year; notable skeptics and what were termed “cultural competitors” (those who were opponents of skepticism or noteworthy) were remembered for their deeds in a short presentation shown during the conference.
Guess who was on the list?

Quote:
Christopher R. Evans 1931-1979
Bart J. Bok 1906-1983
George Abell 1927-1983
Norma Guttman 1920-1984
Richard Kamman 1934-1984
Milbourne Christopher 1914-1984
D.O. Hebb 1904-1985
Ernest Nagel 1901-1985
Eric J. Dingwall 1890-1986
http://www.csicop.org/specialarticle...om_csicon_2016

Yet no mention Dingwall was a paranormal believer or any of the above quotations from his publications cited.

Why is the modern skeptic community claiming Dingwall was a skeptic? Are they aware of his writings on the paranormal? Have they read them?

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Old 15th December 2016, 07:51 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by catsmate View Post
Hmmm...

So no then.
This thread is for serious research, not just copy and paste 10 second job from his Wikipedia page.

I have shown directly from his own writings he was a believer in the paranormal. He never retracted those claims. He did give up psychical research in his later years and lost interest in it, I admitted that in my first post.
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Old 15th December 2016, 09:27 AM   #6
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What you have shown is that sceptics are still excited by that which can not be explained easily, and the prospect of genuine discovery.

This is a long way from actual belief. Nor is it unexpected. Why would a man spend so long in a field he had no interest and found no joy in?

Besides, you should not cherry pick which quotes are or are not worth discussing. His views on why he left are as important as why he joined the field.
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Old 15th December 2016, 09:58 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by PainKiller View Post
This thread is for serious research, not just copy and paste 10 second job from his Wikipedia page.

I have shown directly from his own writings he was a believer in the paranormal. He never retracted those claims. He did give up psychical research in his later years and lost interest in it, I admitted that in my first post.

The quote I posted as from Dingwall not long before his death, at the culmination of his career and summarised his opinions.
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Old 15th December 2016, 10:30 AM   #8
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Quote:
The quote I posted as from Dingwall not long before his death, at the culmination of his career and summarised his opinions.
You are missing the point of this thread. It is claimed by modern day skeptics that Eric Dingwall was a skeptic and debunker of the paranormal during his career in psychical research. Not the case. He had openly written supportive things about psychics in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research and even bashed skeptics in this journal (Edward Clodd, Joseph McCabe). Is that normal behaviour for a skeptic?

I have just shown you he believed in paranormal phenomena throughout his career (1920s-1960s). This is not a single isolated case we are talking about.

The quote you cited is from 1971. In no place in that article did he retract his previous endorsements of the paranormal. He merely stated he had left the field and he was no longer impressed with it.

Dingwall had written supportive statements about the paranormal as late as 1968. See his Abnormal Hypnotic Phenomena four-volumes (1967–1968). He never retracted any of his statements.

Dingwall was on record for claiming that fraudulent mediums were genuine and that supernatural phenomena had occurred in countless psychical papers. Are you claiming he was a skeptic?

Skeptics do not publish papers in psychical journals claiming fraudulent psychics or mediums are genuine. Please do not claim otherwise.

Quote:
Besides, you should not cherry pick which quotes are or are not worth discussing. His views on why he left are as important as why he joined the field.
I'm the first skeptic to have acknowledged his support for paranormal phenomena. Like I said Eric Dingwall is cited by modern skeptics as some kind of debunker. I have just shown you he believed in the paranormal. Not just one or two cases, loads.

He was a paranormal believer, no different than those duped by paranormal claims like Gustav Geley or Albert von Schrenck-Notzing (two men he greatly admired). Yet history has been distorted.

Modern day skeptic books do not mention any of his endorsements of the paranormal. He is presented as some kind of cautious skeptical researcher, but this is false as I show above and will continue to show

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Old 15th December 2016, 02:30 PM   #9
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Quite a few early-mid 20th century paranormal researchers - which very typically implied research into spiritualism - came to believe that phenomena previously attributed to ghosts was, in fact, better explained as telekinesis, telepathy and so-on. Then they set about studying the phenomena from the perspective, developing testing protocols and gathering experimental data, etc.

There wasn't much of an identifiable "ah-ha! moment" in that field; rather, over a period of years, the majority of serious reserachers simply proved to their own satisfaction that the phenomena were better explained through natural means (including trickery) and the study of parapsychology gradually shrank back to the fringes.

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Old 17th December 2016, 04:56 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Mackenberg View Post
Quite a few early-mid 20th century paranormal researchers - which very typically implied research into spiritualism - came to believe that phenomena previously attributed to ghosts was, in fact, better explained as telekinesis, telepathy and so-on. Then they set about studying the phenomena from the perspective, developing testing protocols and gathering experimental data, etc.

There wasn't much of an identifiable "ah-ha! moment" in that field; rather, over a period of years, the majority of serious reserachers simply proved to their own satisfaction that the phenomena were better explained through natural means (including trickery) and the study of parapsychology gradually shrank back to the fringes.
Totally agree with you.

Early parapsychologists like Charles Richet, Rene Sudre and Eugéne Osty all declared the spiritualist hypothesis of mediumship phenomena to be unscientific. Instead they preferred to endorse alleged paranormal forces such as telepathy or PK to explain séance room activities, believing one day these phenomena may become 'natural' and known to mainstream science. They were wrong. Their position was just as unscientific as the spiritualists. Ignoring Occam's razor for superstition and wishful thinking.

But none of those men are described as skeptics in any of the literature on parapsychology. They were all believers in the paranormal. So why is Dingwall any different? That is what I am trying to get to the bottom of. He is portrayed a skeptic when he was a gullible paranormal believer like the rest of the parapsychologists.

Another example, demonstrating my point.

This is from The Guidebook for the Study of Psychical Research, 1972 by Robert H. Ashby on page 118 who described Dingwall as:

Quote:
A highly critical and astute investigator, he has been involved in many of the most significant cases, such as that of Ossowiecki, "Eva C," "Margery," Rudi and Willi Schneider, and the re-examination of the Borely Rectory haunting reported by Harry Price.
Yet Ashby does not give us Dingwall's conclusions on those cases which were supportive.

How was he a highly critical investigator? Where has this myth come from?

Above I pasted in his conclusions about Ossowiecki, Eva C and Willi Schneider. He claimed Ossowiecki and Willi Schneider had performed genuine supernatural ('supernormal') feats. A highly critical investigator does not do this.

It is clear to me that not many people have actually read Eric Dingwall's writings. Our knowledge about this man seems to come from later writers who have misrepresented his position.

Last edited by PainKiller; 17th December 2016 at 05:00 PM.
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Old 17th December 2016, 09:12 PM   #11
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Relevant to the general progression of skeptical thought on this subject, if not to Dingwall in particular: http://theghostracket.com/2016/12/02...ookology-1891/.
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