In the late 19th century the fraudulent methods of spirit photographers such as David Duguid and Edward Wyllie were revealed by psychical researchers. Hereward Carrington documented various methods (with diagrams) how the medium would manipulate the plates before, during, and after the séance to produce spirit forms. The ectoplasm materializations of the French medium Eva Carrière were exposed as fraudulent. The fake ectoplasm of Carrière was made of cut-out paper faces from newspapers and magazines on which fold marks could sometimes be seen from the photographs. Cut out faces that she used included Woodrow Wilson, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, French president Raymond Poincaré and the actress Mona Delza.
In 2013 Rose Marks and members of her family were convicted of fraud for a series of crimes spanning 20 years entailing between $20 and $45 million. They told vulnerable clients that to solve their problems they had to give the purported psychics money and valuables. Marks and family promised to return the cash and goods after "cleansing" them. Prosecutors established they had no intent to return the property.
The physicist Kristian Birkeland exposed the fraud of the direct voice medium Etta Wriedt. Birkeland turned on the lights during a séance, snatched her trumpets and discovered that the "spirit" noises were caused by chemical explosions induced by potassium and water and in other cases by lycopodium powder. The British medium Isa Northage claimed to materialize the spirit of a surgeon known as Dr. Reynolds. When photographs taken of Reynolds were analyzed by researchers they discovered that Northage looked like Reynolds with a glued stage beard.
One frequent obstacle with spiritual reading is the question of where to start. There are so many writings of saints, magisterial documents, and enough devotional books and pamphlets to fill a library. Choosing what kind of books to read should have a multi-pronged approach, depending on each individual. I think a great way to organize it is an adaptation of St. John Paul II’s recommendations in Pastores Dabo Vobis. The encyclical was on the training of priests, and he called attention to four basic areas of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. Even though most of us aren’t ordained priests, we can still apply this to our spiritual reading habits. Good spiritual reads will ideally aid us in all four of those elements—or at least focus on one or two.