Crepitus and Con Artists: Paranormal Fraud

As a dog backtracks to its vomit, and like a rat to the Velveeta, the swindlers are out thereThey’ve been with the thrill seekers, and the ghost hunters from the very beginning, hand in pocket. Or perhaps it would be more exacting to say hand in your pocketThey’re the much-honored underside of serious inquiryThey lurk in the shadows—sometimes in the rays of award winning, cable television, and streaming aplomb—waiting to separate the suckers, and the slow witted from the bacon.  This big top tent is open for commerce for any yokel who is willing suspend their common sense and get hustledThis expose will examine a troika of these ‘investigative’ teams who dined out for years on the dirty low down, and the efforts of a fellow named Erik Weisz who made a noble effort in his lifetime to expose them, and some ingenuous readers will have ardor for his famed alter ego. 

The first of these greedy cabals was a group of sibs from Hydesville, New York who made forgery a family affair; when it came to playing 4D Chess with the Bubbleheads, no one did it better than Leah, Kate, and Margaretta “Maggie”—also known as the Fox sistersAccording to historian Becky Little, their séance arguably sparked the nineteenth century Spiritualist Movement in the United States, and Europe.  Demonstrating an aptitude for bunko brilliance at an early age, they began their career as charlatans by claiming their childhood home was haunted. Of course, this adeo-domos was abandoned by the familyThe gold mine didn’t officially begin extraction until they joined their older sister Leah in Rochester, a hot bed of religious reform, and folks with Swedenborg on the brain.  Leah sensed a huge venture capital in the restless deadBuilding their business upon the backs of an audience that asked for no validity (and as of 2024 AD, they mostly still don’t), the three officially became psychic mediums in November of 1849 at Corinthian Hall—having a dialectic with the long-demised; gossiping with ghostsApproximately 400 people heard the unnatural rappings and ghoulish noises that served as coded responses to these deeply personal queries.  Several attendees suspected they were being duped, and a few were adroit enough to realize that what they were hearing was joint popping—a physical condition referred to as Crepitus—but all things being unequal, the event was a mammoth, money making extravaganza.  Emboldened, future sessions included even more lucrative manifestations of music, spirit writing, and some materializations to the acclaim of howling cultists.    But mediumship is a merciless task master, and soon the demands of travel, and unbelievers alike led to drink, and more drink, and big mouth, and the impromptu confession from Maggie Fox at the New York Academy of Music that it had all been a fast shuffle. 

The next perps to shuffle forward in the Dick Tracy Rogue’s Gallery of the Paranormal are the infamous Davenport brothers, Ira and William.  Like the Fox sisters, they were flesh, and bloodThey were also denizens of New York, Buffalo to be precise.  They also liked the color green, and vied an enormous potential in what the haunts from beyond could do for their bank accounts. Rebecca O'Connell in Spirit Floss tells us that the boys were absolutely inspired by the work of the Fox sisters—so much so that they attempted a copycat session with their father at a young age.  This ‘séance’ was so chilling, and operative that the two decided to take the show on the road.  In 1885 Ira was sixteen, and William was fourteen, but both man enough to present their schtick on stage—with assists from their ghost guide Johnny King who was Harvey, the Rabbit by any other name.  The audience was spellbound as they heard bells and witnessed floating instruments; some even felt the cold embrace of a corpse.  Their spirit cabinet gag served them well for a good, many years.  They were celebrated as bonified mediums for the rest of their illustrious careers.  After William passed in 1877, Ira elected to retire from the medium industry, and enjoy the quieter things in life.  It wasn’t until sometime later when an inquisitive, neoteric performer named Erik Weisz drew it out of him that the world learned of reserving the front row for friends and paying accomplices.  It is notable that some of their most powerful illusions were accomplished by rampant confirmation bias.  There were never any flying instruments.  There was, however, a gullible audience with an overactive imagination. 

Cody ResDesbien & Satori Hawes

So, has the sword of time pierced our skins, and rendered the paranormal community more honest, and self-effacing?  The answer is nope, and that brings us to the ‘Paranormal Couple’ as they are called, Cody ResDesbian, and his wife Satori Hawes.  In October of 2023, searchers from sea to shining sea were given a glimpse of a process used by them to communicate with spirits at the lime lighted, Perron “Conjuring” House in Burrillville, Rhode Island.  The location was the muse for the 2013 James Wan film of the same name.  The procedure is called ‘The Alphabet Method.’  According to Cody, the approach is novel, and the monicker was given it by Satori although there are reports that he was doing this during excursions with The Atlantic Paranormal Society eleven years before.  The manner is a bogus, all too familiar knocking method used by hucksters of the unexplained for over a century.  Satori asks the questions (each, and every time with no variation) while her spouse recites the ABC’s; when a knock, or cracking sound is heard, a letter is selected in an effort to construct a sentence. Sounds scientific enough, and the big reveal of this tactic on the popular, eleven million plus, YouTube series Sam and Colby led to a hulking backlash during the channel’s Conjuring House series.  According to Cody, his gift is the biproduct of having survived Cancer.  Venomous Subreddits bellowed nonsense and mobilized with negative commentary comparing his ‘gift’ to Kate, and Maggie Fox cracking joints in their feet to gull people out of their money.  Generally typical of Paranormal Inc., the ResDesbiens have refused to demonstrate The Alphabet Method under controlled conditions—even those sponsored by other suspect groups like Project Fear.  There are two explanations for this:  Satori doesn’t want her feet sans shoes, and socks available for consumption by internet podophiliacsTrue, this position feels untenable when we see her sporting flip flops in public, and on Instagram.  Also, she was not seen with her husband doing the same flim-flam a decade ago, so inductive reasoning seems to indicate that Cody is the one performing with his hooves.  Second, Jaqueline Nunez—owner of the Conjuring House—stated that skeptics are systemic haters, and cyberbullies, and she doesn’t care what they think which signifies more than anything else that the Conjuring House is a Podunk locality if ever there was one.  The entire affair is an exploded ink cylinder on a Rembrandt, whether the paranormal hive mind chooses to acknowledge it, or not, and they don’t.  It is exacerbated, and dragged to the woodshed by the fact that Satori Hawes is the daughter of one of the most respected members of that lobby—Jason Hawes, founder of TAPS, and the United Paranormal Research Organization.  So far, the latter has declined to comment citing that there is not enough evidence either way.   

The Sounds of Silence 

As the Christian Demonologist and lay investigators can readily see—there are factions in the paranormal community who will cheat you blind, and laugh all the way to the ATM machine, but there have been champions—lone warriors from other backgrounds who have pulled back the black curtain, and gleefully outed the pusillanimous frauds sitting behind them.  As mentioned at the commencement of this piece, Erik Weisz was such a manTo the red handed, Erik Weisz was Harry Houdini’s real name.  According to contributor Bryan Greene in a 2021 article for Smithsonian Magazine, Handcuff King was more than an amazing illusionist, and escape artistHe was a man of conscience who found the spiritualist movement nauseating, and offensiveHaving worked in carnivals all his life, Weisz knew the rudimentary basis of these put-up jobs that left mostly grieving participants brokeHe publicly castigated those sham mediums and perceived the situation as a war against obliviousnessAccording to the Washington Post, he was uproarious in his appearance during the 1926 congressional hearings where he denounced these staves as frauds from start to finish.  Weisz also believed that the ultimate escape was from the shackles of one’s own ignorance. 

Tracy Garnett holds a BA in English, with a minor in Radio & Television from Northern Kentucky University. He also holds certification in Parapsychology from the Koestler Unit at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and is a trained Lay Demonologist with the Fraternity of Christ the King.


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