18 Apr 2021

How Do They Do That

Loren Pankratz. Mysteries and Secrets Revealed: From Oracles at Delphi to Spiritualism in America. Prometheus Books
(1 April 2021)
Mysteries and Secrets Revealed uncovers the science behind mysteries of nature and secrets of frauds who have been fooling us for centuries. Beginning at the Greek oracle in Delphi, author Loren Pankratz, PhD. guides us through the mysteries of the ancient world, the rituals of the Renaissance Church, and the readings of early mystics and spiritualists of the modern world to expose the deception of those claiming to tap into supernatural realms. 

Quite often these deceptions were the product of powerful institutions, like Roman Oracles or the Church of the Enlightenment, used to suppress free-thinking and maintain a tight grip on power. From Galileo's scientific discoveries of the cosmos to Bernard Fontenelle's popular philosophical dialogue that helped common people understand the sun-centered universe, Pankratz profiles those who used reason to challenge the authority of their time. Soon after, mesmerists and hypnotists paraded subjects who demonstrated insensitivity to pain and powers of clairvoyance. One such clairvoyant, a Frenchman named Alexis Didier, was so compelling as to provoke claims that if a case for clairvoyance could not be made for him, then no case can be made for anyone. This declaration has not been previously challenged, and Didier's secret methods are unraveled here through information in rare documents and privately printed pamphlets for the first time. 

Modern spiritualism started with simple rapping noises created by the Fox sisters, but these quickly escalated into an arms race of psychic manifestations like levitations and mysterious writing on slates. Scientists like Michael Faraday conducted clever experiments with magnets to show the deception at work -but the captivating power of the spiritualists was too much to overcome, and his results were shrugged off. We follow more individuals who devised tests to debunk these hucksters, even as mediums did everything possible to avoid exposure. Each story in Mysteries and Secrets Revealed captures the tension of mysterious conflict, the thrill of discovery, and the power of science to unmask frauds and fakes.