Scientists Investigate Spiritualist Mediums: Why Some People Report “Hearing the Dead”

Fox Sisters

The Fox sisters: Kate (1838-92), Leah (1814-90) and Margaret (or Maggie) (1836-93). Lithograph after a daguerreotype by Appleby. Published by N. Currier, New York. In 1848, two sisters from upstate New York, Maggie and Kate Fox, reported hearing ‘rappings’ and ‘knocks’ that they interpreted as communication coming from a spirit in their house. These events and these sisters would eventually be considered the originators of Spiritualism. Credit: N. Currier, New York

Spiritualist mediums might be more prone to immersive mental activities and unusual auditory experiences early in life, according to new research.

This might explain why some people and not others eventually adopt spiritualist beliefs and engage in the practice of “hearing the dead,” the study led by Durham University found.

Mediums who “hear” spirits are said to be experiencing clairaudient communications, rather than clairvoyant (“seeing”) or clairsentient (“feeling” or “sensing”) communications.

The researchers conducted a survey of 65 clairaudient spiritualist mediums from the Spiritualists’ National Union and 143 members of the general population in the largest scientific study into the experiences of clairaudient mediums.

They found that these spiritualists have a proclivity for absorption — a trait linked to immersion in mental or imaginative activities or experience of altered states of consciousness.

Mediums are also are more likely to report experiences of unusual auditory phenomena, like hearing voices, often occurring early in life.

Many who experience absorption or hearing voices encounter spiritualist beliefs when searching for the meaning behind, or supernatural significance of, their unusual experiences, the researchers said.

The findings are published in the journal Mental Health, Religion and Culture. The research is part of Hearing the Voice — an interdisciplinary study of voice-hearing based at Durham University and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Spiritualism is a religious movement based on the idea that human souls continue to exist after death and communicate with the living through a medium or psychic.

Interest in Spiritualism is increasing in Britain with several organizations supporting, training, and offering the services of practicing mediums. One of the largest, the SNU, claims to serve at least 11,000 members through its training college, churches, and centers.

Through their study, the researchers gathered detailed descriptions of the way that mediums experience spirit “voices,” and compared levels of absorption, hallucination-proneness, aspects of identity, and belief in the paranormal.

They found that 44.6 percent of spiritualist participants reported hearing the voices of the deceased on a daily basis, with 33.8 percent reporting an experience of clairaudience within the last day.

A large majority (79 percent) said that experiences of auditory spiritual communication were part of their everyday lives, taking place both when they were alone and when they were working as a medium or attending a spiritualist church.

Although spirits were primarily heard inside the head (65.1 percent), 31.7 percent of spiritualist participants said they experienced spirit voices coming from both inside and outside the head.

When rated on scales of absorption, as well as how strongly they believe in the paranormal, spiritualists scored much more highly than members of the general population.

Spiritualists were less likely to care about what others thought of them than people generally, and they also scored more highly for proneness to unusual hallucination-like auditory experiences.

Both high levels of absorption and proneness to such auditory phenomena were linked to reports of more frequent clairaudient communications, according to the findings.

For the general population, absorption was associated with levels of belief in the paranormal, but there was no significant corresponding link between belief and hallucination-proneness.

There was also no difference in levels of superstitious belief or proneness to visual hallucinations between spiritualist and non-spiritualist participants.

Spiritualists reported first experiencing clairaudience at an average age of 21.7 years. However, 18 percent of spiritualists reported having clairaudient experiences ‘for as long as they could remember’ and 71 percent had not encountered Spiritualism as a religious movement prior to their first experiences.

The researchers say their findings suggest that it is not giving in to social pressure, learning to have specific expectations, or a level of belief in the paranormal that leads to experiences of spirit communication.

Instead, it seems that some people are uniquely predisposed to absorption and are more likely to report unusual auditory experiences occurring early in life. For many of these individuals, spiritualist beliefs are embraced because they align meaningfully with those unique personal experiences.

Lead researcher Dr. Adam Powell, in Durham University’s Hearing the Voice project and Department of Theology and Religion, said: “Our findings say a lot about ‘learning and yearning’. For our participants, the tenets of Spiritualism seem to make sense of both extraordinary childhood experiences as well as the frequent auditory phenomena they experience as practicing mediums.

“But all of those experiences may result more from having certain tendencies or early abilities than from simply believing in the possibility of contacting the dead if one tries hard enough.”

Dr. Peter Moseley, co-author on the study at Northumbria University, commented: “Spiritualists tend to report unusual auditory experiences which are positive, start early in life and which they are often then able to control. Understanding how these develop is important because it could help us understand more about distressing or non-controllable experiences of hearing voices too”

Durham’s researchers are now engaged in further investigation of clairaudience and mediumship, working with practitioners to gain a fuller picture of what it is like to be on the receiving end of such unusual and meaningful experiences.

Reference: “When spirits speak: absorption, attribution, and identity among spiritualists who report “clairaudient” voice experiences” by Adam J. Powell and Peter Moseley, 18 January 2021, Mental Health, Religion and Culture.
DOI: 10.1080/13674676.2020.1793310

6 Comments on "Scientists Investigate Spiritualist Mediums: Why Some People Report “Hearing the Dead”"

  1. You represent a “scientific publication” yet You make no mention of residual bioelectromagnetism transmissed by brainwaves which continue to make round trips without expiration (which then become capable of propagating a retrievable message that spurs an associated vibration upon meeting a bioelectric circuit whose phase aligns with and keys into the left-behind bioelectromagnetic signals of “the departed”)

  2. (DNA is a fractal antenna in electromagnetic fields) (electromagnetic signals from bacterial DNA) (integrating information in the brain’s electromagnetic field)

    gut bacteria (the receiver) form a phased array antenna for absorbing surrounding bioelectromagnetism which then act as a “satellite dish” that relays encoded signals to a cluster of neurons (the transmitter) for decoding and subsequent transcription which then propagate outgoing brainwaves (creating a retrievable resonance in life whose outgoing brainwaves share a phase alignment with incoming signals) of the incoming signal picked up by gut bacteria

  3. QUOTE:
    These events and these sisters would eventually be considered the originators of Spiritualism.

    Spiritualism is a religious movement based on the idea that human souls continue to exist after death and communicate with the living through a medium or psychic.

    TYPICAL WHITE EUROPEAN CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE: this idea “originated” with them. Claiming that peoples have had this perspective worldwide for 1000s of years (going back to at least 5000 years in traditional Taoist China, the first peoples of the Americas, African tribes, etc. etc. etc.) But Europeans had to kill them off, or not give them credit for 5000 years of perfected philosophy, so their beliefs were made to be “unreal”.

    I experience the “spiritual” dimension regularly. Not voices, or visions, or whatnot. E.A.Poe called it irony. Christians call it the hand of God or Angels (or demons and the Devil for that matter). Taoist, Wiccans, others call them spirits – not necessarily departed souls. Some call them the departed souls (as in Mexico’s Day Of The Dead), some call them “guides” (as some “Shamans” say they look for spirit guides to teach them about this world).

  4. I don’t know how else to contact you but the website Free Republic has been republishing all your articles in full without permission or licensing. They have been sued by big media outlets like the Washington Post before and don’t care. You may want to get some licensing fees from them. Example.

  5. Sparkie –
    I would like to respond to your comment regarding typical white European Christian perspective.

    I have not read the original article on Spiritualist Mediums, so my understanding is based on the scitechdaily article.

    In that article, I did not read anything about white European Christians stating or implying that this idea originated with white European Christians. Instead, it was confined to a discussion of Spiritualist mediums (in North America or Europe). Where in the scitechdaily or original article did you get your information about: origination; killing off non-European spiritualists; or not giving credit to non-European Spiritualists?

    Every ethnic/racial/socio-economic/religious group has its own perspective on things. If the original article did not state that living persons in touch with dead persons only occurred in European persons, then your extrapolation of the article (in your paragraph starting with ”TYPICAL WHITE EUROPEAN CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE”) is not justified by the actual article, and may lead astray other readers.

    Please clarify your sources and your reasoning. Thank you.

  6. Bad Mediums on Social Media .
    Lying Scamming always and how they are still working on a lie GOD knows .
    Here is one on Facebook who claims she has Pass Sole connections with people and states she is many of histories top people in past lives ( QUEEN OF SHEBA just one of many) and speaks to the living and makes them belive they are helping real people not dead at all pass over . Now this story is beyond us all and when having words with God my mind is still seeing a HOAX .
    Ann Murphy (BAD MEDIUM ) on Social Media
    This is another TRUE STORY so help me GOD and will be on all Social Media Networks as this is one for the books of all times how meduims get away with saying anything .
    This is not fake story please do read on.
    She belives she is a Spirit Indians Daughter called White Eagle and has sole connections with local people and named a person by an indians name called shooting Star and this was a true story and her daughter was their daughter in a past live called shining star .
    Anne Murphy then was asked by this person is their father passed or alive and Ann Murphy stated her Father was now working with this persons farther now in spirit as that person never saw their real farther for years that is why the question was asked at the time.
    Fascinating but true that this so called medium Ann Murphy states these very serious accusations towards innocent people in life and to hear this now that this persons father was alive at the time and this person was so very upset known he was well and alive and told otherwise.
    Read on as this is true so help me GOD .
    After meeting with Ann Murphy her son Michael a drug dealer then needed help to escape the men who he owed money to for drug sales and Ann Murphy needed HELP so he let Michael Murphy stay at a property far away from serious harm . Then after a while he and a few friends turned up to live with Michael and turned to burglary and theft of from local residents and wrecked the property his mother Ann Murphy wanted to keep him safe and left the person destraught looking at what used to be a fine property in a private estate looking like a Doss house that squatters lived in .
    This persons story is so real it makes us very startled that one person called Ann Murphy from North Shields in the North of England can lie to another stating their father is dead in spirit working hard with her father that is in passed in spirit then state that the person has a past life connection as an indian with Ann Murphy together with her Daughter .
    Does this not seem odd in how all contions lead to her son’s escape from Drug Dealers rather than dealing with real life and real people and real spirit that is why we are launching a website to alert others across the U.K with many good honest people to print their own true stories .
    so you tell us all who is reading what is FAKE and what is not in these words and we can leave many thousands of people in this real world of ours not to trust in any medium , spiritualist or other unless your medium or other is confirmed from others they are quality people to put their trust.
    Are you still looking at these words …..
    Now here she is and do call her to ask who is her past life real or other and why not ask herself what happens when lies are told to her spirit guides that she might of had or just her wisdom in scamming others and as bad as it is we wish those people BAD MEDIUMS scam the best of luck and GODS blessing and we hope these mediums are dammed for life as they do distrupt innocent and kind people and Ann Murphy is one of them in the list of many that we have for the website and we have to work fast in alerting all who know what to do when searching.
    Do keep safe and well to you all.

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