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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Crookes, Sir William (1832-1919) This very prominent scientist was one of sixteen children of a wealthy tailor. His contributions to science were numerous, involving radioactive devices (the Crookes tube was named after him) and he is credited with discovering the element thallium. He was knighted in 1897 for his scientific work.
      His beloved brother Philip died at sea in 1867 at an untimely age, and Sir William did what many another intellectual has done: He embraced an unlikely but satisfying set of beliefs that removed from him the pain of the loss; he became dedicated to spiritualism. That also appears to have been the reason that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose son Kingsley and brother Innes also both died at early ages, avidly adopted spiritualism and in fact devoted the rest of his life to promoting it among the public. American Episcopalian Bishop James A. Pike, whose son Jim was a suicide at age twenty, went through a similar process in 1966.
      Sir William was a member of the Society for Psychical Research from its founding in 1883 and served as president of the society from 1896 to 1899. During his investigations, Crookes discovered that a very successful spirit medium, Mary Rosina Showers, was a fraud, but said nothing and reported nothing about his discovery.
      He and spirit medium Daniel Dunglas Home were on a very close personal basis, and his endorsement of Home's powers has always been a strong point made by the spiritualists to support their claims about Home. However, Crookes has been shown to be a dupe of such other mediums as Florence Cook and others exposed or confessed as fakes, so his validation of Home is highly suspect.
      Crookes was a devoted follower of Éliphas Lévi, as well as a Theosophist.

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