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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

Slade, Dr. Henry (1840-1905) “Dr.” Henry Slade developed the art of slate writing and toured all over the world with his act. Slade was a spiritualist faker who could produce apparently spirit-written messages on school slates that had been washed and then sealed together, face-to-face. The trick was a simple one, but it fooled several scientists, including a prominent German astrophysicist named Zöllner, who even wrote a comprehensive book, Transcendental Physics, based on his observations of Slade's tricks and his firm belief that they were not tricks.
      In 1876, the famous British conjuror J. N. Maskelyne was a prominent witness against Henry Slade when Slade was charged in the U.K. with fraud. The court case caused great excitement, and though the renowned physicist Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919) had publicly declared Slade to be genuine, Maskelyne was easily able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the court that Slade's slate writing was brought about by trickery.
      Slade was convicted and sentenced to three months at hard labor, but a technicality in the way the charge was worded caused a mistrial, and Slade left England hurriedly before a new trial could get under way. He never returned to the British Isles.
      In Europe and in America, Slade was a great success until repeated exposures brought about his downfall. He finally signed a definitive confession of his fakery, faded from view, and at last died in a sanitarium in Michigan.

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