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The Chocolate Factory – Sue Farrow on mediums who bring mediumship into disrepute.

Dr Ciaran O’Keeffe created a fictitious scenario around the life and death of ‘George Bull’.

What matters most to you about mediumship? That it’s defended vigorously from any and all negative comment, or that it’s credible, honest and carried out with total integrity? It’s the “credible”, “honest” and “integrity” bits that do it for me. We do no service to anyone (on this side of life or the other) by pretending everything in the garden is lovely if it isn’t.

Working mediums have colossal power. Power to change people’s lives for the better. Power to convince the bereaved and suicidal, through detailed survival evidence from their ‘lost’ loved ones, that life can actually be worth living again. Power to get it badly wrong and cause untold distress, as happened to physical medium Scott Milligan when, years ago, a medium told him he had HIV, which he didn’t.

A week or two ago I was made aware of a programme called The Chocolate Factory. It formed part of a BBC TV series first broadcast in 2009, and was repeated just a few weeks ago. In case you didn’t see it, I’ll tell you that it featured three mediums – Goldie, Kevin and Philip – and parapsychologist Dr Ciaran O’Keeffe, of Most Haunted fame. Ciaran is certainly sceptical about mediumship but says he’s “open-minded to the possibility”.

The programme’s aim, according to presenter Danny Robbins, was to find out “if my three mediums are prepared to cheat”. Would they receive information from genuine spirit entities, or simply do a bit of internet trawling on the quiet? Genuine mediums would have had nothing to fear from this experiment.

Presenter Danny Robbins

Before the programme was filmed, presenter Danny Robbins had asked Ciaran to construct a fake history of a Victorian chocolate factory, which was then posted on the internet a week before the programme was filmed. It included a detailed description of the chocolate factory’s fictitious former manager, “the fat, aggressive and ruthless George Bull”. An equally fake framed portrait of the non-existent George was hung in the building, complete with prominent name plate.

Invited by Danny to visit the factory, the three mediums were asked to pick up what they could. Within minutes all three had come up with the name George. As the programme progressed, two of the mediums, Goldie and Philip, gave detailed ‘information’ about George’s ‘life’.

Ciaran’s fake history included a reference to George having died as a result of stampeding horses, prompting Goldie to declare: “I feel like I’m on a racecourse here. The horses are not very settled, they’re moving about. It was a horse that put him down in some way. I’m sure about that.”

She was also able to come up with the (strangely appropriate) surname “Bull”, as was Kevin, who declared himself “101 per cent sure” this was correct. Interestingly, he’d just been shown the portrait of ‘George’ – complete with name plate. When Danny Robbins pointed out to him that the name was clearly visible beneath the painting, he insisted: “I didn’t see a name plaque. I can’t see it. I need glasses.”

Medium Philip roars with laughter when told that ‘George Bull’ never existed.
Medium Philip roars with laughter
when told that ‘George Bull’ never existed.

Confronted with the revelation that George Bull had never existed, medium Philip – who had previously said that George “felt like the owner of the place when I linked in with him”, and feeling “quite big” – suggested that he had perhaps picked up the fake scenario telepathically from the presenter. But if that was the case, why didn’t he also pick up the presumably very conscious thought that the whole scenario was a deliberately created fiction? Strange indeed.

Kevin stares at the portrait of ‘George Bull’ complete with prominent name plate.
Kevin stares at the portrait of ‘George Bull’ complete with prominent name plate.

As for Goldie, who at the request of Danny Robbins had earlier slipped into a toe-curlingly embarrassing state of “light trance”, she insisted that her guide had said she was going to be tested. “So does that mean you cheated?” asked Danny. “I did,” said Goldie, “for most of it.”

Wrapping up the programme, Danny stated the glaringly obvious: “Whatever you think about ghost hunting, you cannot get away from the fact that all our mediums contacted a ghost that we entirely made up.”
Good mediums have off days, for sure. We all know results can never be guaranteed. Occasionally there will not be even a whisper of a connection to spirit. And that must be hard. Mediums are only human, and, faced with a crowd of people who’ve come with a barrel load of hopes and expectations, particularly when the cameras are rolling, helping ‘communication’ along might seem tempting. But on the worst of bad days the only thing to do is to take a leaf out of the great Albert Best’s book: say you’re getting nothing and sit down!

Smiling medium Goldie openly admits she cheated.
Smiling medium Goldie openly admits she cheated.

If mediums are prepared to cheat for cameras or crowds, how on earth can they be relied upon not to cheat when giving a reading to a bereaved and vulnerable person? Integrity is not a tap to be turned on and off – it’s a state of being.

There should be zero tolerance for fraud or deviousness in spiritual work. That well-worn phrase ‘Love and Light’ should never be interpreted as “Let it go in case someone gets upset.” Who cares if a fraudulent or devious medium gets upset about being rumbled? My love and light are for the bereaved, the hurting, and the selfless genuine mediums who serve them. Fraud should be confronted. Turning a blind eye makes us as guilty as the frauds.

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