Psychic Fraud

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Psychic Fraud is an article written by Arthur Conan Doyle published in The New-York Times on 22 september 1928.

Psychic Fraud

The New-York Times (22 september 1928)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Resents a Test of His Credulity.

Buckingham Palace Mansions, London, Sept. 10, 1928.

To the Editor of The New York Times:

You have several times given me space in your columns for remarks upon psychical subjects and have shown a spirit of fairness in dealing with the question. This encourages me to narrate a recent experience.

A couple of years ago I received a letter from a New Jersey town which aroused my compassion. It was from a young lady bewailing the loss of her brother. After his death she had received a psychic photograph of him, still engaged in his favorite hobby of grinding lenses. She thanked God for the consolation this afforded her.

As I am very particular in verifying all psychical claims I answered her letter, condoling with her in her loss, and asking her to furnish me with the name of the photographer and other details. To this I got no reply. After some months I wrote again, and again got no reply. This seemed strange, and finally, by the help of friends, local inquiries were instituted. Under pressure the young woman confessed that the letter had been suggested or dictated by a neighbor, who had also faked the photograph.

On inquiring into the identity of this ingenious but unscrupulous neighbor, his confederate admitted that he was a member of the editorial staff of The Scientific American. As his proceedings were not scientific and certainly were not American, I am hopeful that his colleagues upon the staff of his paper knew nothing of his wicked trick. Fraudulent photographs are equally hateful whether done by a medium or by an editor. It is, however, unfortunate that this well-known journal has been recently investigating spiritualism and exposing the alleged frauds of various mediums. I would suggest that they make their studies nearer home.


It was explained at the office of The Scientific American, when this letter was shown there that the member of the editorial staff mentioned. was now abroad.

"In his absence," it was said, "we can of course neither deny nor verify the statements in the letter, but on its face it would seem that he was himself testing the well-known proclivity of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to accept as genuine almost anything that is sent him in the line of psychic matters."