Investigating Mediumship: The 'Dazzle Shot'

In my book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife (Amazon US/Amazon UK) I devote a chapter to the subject of mediumship, and how science should best approach investigation of this controversial area. One of the elements that I talk about is the so-called 'dazzle shot', where a medium hits on a single, idiosyncratic piece of information that is so specific that the sitter is convinced the reading is coming from a loved one, even if sometimes the rest of the sitting is non-evidential in tone. I feel that previous research which did not take these dazzle shots into account (by scoring readings on the total number of pieces of information that were correct) may have resulted in unnecessarily negative assessments of some mediums, and that future experiments should concentrate on comparing sittings on the overall reading, rather than tallying the number of accurate hits.

The above video of a 'non-believer' (Chad) receiving a reading has an excellent example of a dazzle shot, when medium Chris Stillar (at 10:45) seems a little confused by the "bizarre" and "cryptic" communication coming from the 'deceased personality', asking Chad quite simply "what's pickles?" As you'll see on the video, the sitter at this point is quite overwhelmed emotionally, and it turns out that his deceased friend was obsessed with pickles, to the point where Chad would buy him a jar every week. I'm unfamiliar with this particular experiment, and the researcher doing the work, so I can't vouch that everything was truly anonymous and the medium was definitely 'blind' to the sitter - but it does make you sit up and take notice, and it certainly grabbed Chad's attention.

Skeptics would see other things in the video that might portray things in a more negative light, such as the medium noting at another point that the sitter's eyes seemed to be saying "yes" in response to his question - perhaps evidence that he was at least subconsciously reading and reacting to Chad's body language and subtle cues. The two debrief videos below - the first with Chad, the other with Chris Stillar - also show that some of the information in the first video wasn't as accurate as it seemed (such as the mode of death of Chad's friend). But overall, I think it's a nice group of videos to get a feel for how mediumistic sessions can be so convincing to sitters, and also for a more personal 'chat' with a medium, rather than the usual sensationalised presentation of celebrity mediums that is the norm on television these days.

Here's Chad's debrief:

And here's the post-sitting interview with medium Chris Stillar:

Fascinating material, and well worth viewing if you're at all interested in this topic. And of course, for more on mediumship and other areas of 'afterlife' research, such as NDEs and death-bed visions, make sure you grab a copy of Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife.

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pov's picture
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16 July 2013
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2 days 15 hours

Let's say that everything is on the level and the medium is tapping info from non-physical. This doesn't mean that the medium is actually contacting an entity "post-death." It could be that certain info is there and available without the entity's participation. Sort of the concept of the "Akashic records"

emlong's picture
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18 September 2007
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2 hours 48 min

I have been enjoying the "Stop Worrying" book. Highly recommended - many instructive anecdotes and very well written.

emlong's picture
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I might also mention that the better mediumistic TV shows such as "Long Island Medium" and Kim Russo's "The Haunting Of..." are chockablock full of "dazzle shots." The most entertaining part of these shows is watching the reactions of previously skeptical people getting their minds blown by the intimate detail. A lot of them just sort of wander through the interview in shock after the first dazzle.

red pill junkie's picture
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12 April 2007
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4 hours 2 min

He's reading the sitter's mind.

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

pov's picture
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16 July 2013
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2 days 15 hours

That would qualify as "not on the up-and-up" since I think the reader would know, or be able to assess, the difference.

emlong's picture
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A dazzle shot is a dazzle shot whether the medium is talking to a person's deceased relatives or just reading the sitter's mind. Either thing is mind blowing to us rational materialists.

red pill junkie's picture
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12 April 2007
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4 hours 2 min

Totally agreed.

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

Anthony McCarthy's picture
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20 March 2013
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17 hours 11 min

If that were the case, why didn't he read other things there at the same time?

emlong's picture
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It is funny to me how many people automatically assume that mediums are super humans capable of great mental feats and high intellectual prowess. That is not the case at all for any of the good ones I have watched extensively. Lisa Caputo and Kim Russo are just very ordinary people with otherwise ordinary lives - they are not mentally equipped to do lots of many faceted explorations of their ability. They don't ask very intelligent questions about their ability or subject it to rigorous testing. They are like natural athletes who take their ability for granted and just "do" it without thinking very hard about it. It just comes to them. Nor are they always infallible in their impressions which is just what you would expect from average human beings. They may have what looks to us like a superpower, but to them it is not so. Most of then growing up with the ability just assumed that everyone has it. They make mistakes - they don't know much about the dynamics of their ability, and they tend not to ask a lot of deep questions. Some of the really good and genuine mediums like Caputo and Russo are very heart centered people who don't think very deeply. They are dedicated to performing a service and helping people - that is all - and they do indeed help people greatly.

jupiter.enteract's picture
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21 January 2005
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8 min 59 sec

I think there are times when the skeptics' claims of cold reading are entirely possible; but when a medium comes up with a word like "pickles," as this one did, that pretty much blows that theory out of the water IMO. The next line of defense would be to dismiss it as coincidence or just a lucky guess, of course, but that seems equally far-fetched to me.

emlong's picture
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There are loads and loads of cold readers out there plying their trade, and the skepticoids like to focus on them because they are easy to discredit. People like Caputo.Russo, and Amy Allen are not cold readers.

Anthony McCarthy's picture
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20 March 2013
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17 hours 11 min

I watched again because Chris Stillar seems like such a nice man and I find his voice relaxing. I used to be the kind of person who would only accept the conventional type of scientific research into theses kinds of topics - and they are what convinced me that there is no valid scientific disconfirmation of them - but now I find this kind of thing, extremely complex and unpredictable information being brought out that the person being read for finds overwhelmingly convincing, is far stronger form of evidence, though far harder to quantify.