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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

spirit portraits Certain spiritualists claim that they can produce a drawn or painted portrait of a departed person that will be specifically identified by the intended sitter. Many tests of that claim have been made, one of them on a television series in the U.K. for Granada TV in 1991.
      Coral Polge is a U.K. spiritualist who makes her living producing pastel portraits of people who she vaguely defines as some sort of ambiguous entities. During her demonstration in Manchester for Granada, Ms. Polge skillfully drew in brown chalk the face of a middle-aged, rather ordinary lady that could be any one of a half dozen such women that the average person has encountered at one time or another. However, no one in the studio audience of ninety persons was able to identify with both the portrait that Coral Polge drew, and the description that she had verbally offered in a rambling, disconnected series of guesses and try-ons.
      When a vote was asked for on whether anyone could recognize the face Ms. Polge had drawn, the response was eleven percent yes. No two people in that audience should have recognized that person——unless they both had known her——and the generality of the drawing served to bring enough recognition votes that the scenario Ms. Polge was trying to build——that of a distinct person “coming through” for a specific member of the audience——was not at all established.
      The production of spirit portraits is a form of Rorschach ink blot test.

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