Did These Tests Prove a Seance Is Only Power of Persuasion?

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TO believers, seances are a valued way of communicating with the 'other side'.

Thousands of people a year go to meetings at which mediums claim to make contact with the spirits of loved ones who have died.

But the mediums' power is all in the mind of the participants, according to scientists.

They say even sceptics can become convinced that they are experiencing something mysterious in the environment of a seance.

Dr Richard Wiseman, Britain's leading paranormal investigator, said: 'The phenomena reported at seances, from the turn of the last century when they first became popular until today, have a normal explanation, in my view.

People are very suggestible.' Dr Wiseman and a team at the University of Hertfordshire set up a series of fake seances at which an actor played the part of a medium.

One hundred volunteers took part in the seances, which were held in darkened rooms and secretly filmed with infrared cameras.

The volunteers sat round a table covered with objects, including a hand bell, a tambourine and a ball.

They were asked to link hands and try to move the objects and levitate the table with mind power. The actor told them they were doing well and that the table was indeed levitating or objects were moving.

Afterwards, the participants were asked if they had experienced anything unusual.

'We were surprised to find that a third reported that the table had levitated,' said Dr Wiseman. …