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Extracts from two letters published in the psychic press.


From Psychic News, March 10th, 2001

Dear Sir,

As our Hon. Secretary, Professor John Poynton, says opinions about the genuineness of the physical phenomena, which my colleagues and I describe in our very lengthy Report differ, both within and outside the Council of the SPR. No doubt there may be people who think all or some of the evidence is fraudulent. If so, they have yet to publish or provide the authors of the Report with a shred of hard evidence to support that view. They have had more than a year (and every opportunity and incentive) to do so. The reservations of our three principal critics were printed alongside the Scole Report. None either produced such evidence or made the specific charge of fraud. They were concerned to point to the possibilities of fraud in relation to a number of specified events.

Along with virtually everyone who has corresponded with or talked to me about the Report, my colleagues and I consider our rejoiner to these reservations dealt pretty conclusively with those criticisms, both in the Report itself and subsequently in the Study Day held to debate it. Indeed, only one person who claims to have read the Report has written to me in the belief that it was obviously fraudulent, and he did not attend the Study Day when Professor David Fontana and I, as well as a number of members of the audience, gave examples to show the feebleness of the fraud hypothesis when matched against actual evidence. Virtually all my other correspondents have been profoundly impressed by the Report.

What is depressing about the critics is their willingness to construct an upturned pyramid of hypotheses and speculations, all balanced on one improbable assumption after another. What is so remarkable is their unwillingness to accept the oft-repeated challenge to take the scientifically warranted course of viewing all the evidence together, rather than attempting to pick theoretical holes in every individual item.


From Psychic World, June 2001

Dear Sir,

... As the principal author of the Scole Report, and the person who has borne the brunt of criticisms from colleagues, perhaps I could comment on Mr Zammit's attack on Professor Poynton's references, in an extempore radio interview, to magicians' claims. I have no doubt that some magicians, particularly those who have taken the trouble to remain in ignorance of the Report, will say that all claims of physical paranormal phenomena can be explained by clever deception. However, only two persons with professional qualifications and long experience in illusionism have offered public comments. One was Dr Richard Wiseman, a colleague who is a noted sceptic. He had no opportunity to attend any sittings of the group, but his observations were extremely circumspect. He pronounced the report as a whole to be "very impressive" and, at the Study Day meeting where the newly issued Report was discussed confined his remarks to explaining how undesirable it was to have anything happen in darkness, that the absence of infra-red cameras made it difficult to assess what really went on, etc. That view is difficult to dispute, but it does not amount to a claim that all we heard, felt, saw, and were able to a greater or lesser extent to control, could be replicated by skilled conjurors. Any careful reading of our analysis of just what assumptions would have been made to account normally for the evidence will show why Dr Wiseman has prudently remained silent.

The only other qualified magician, Mr Webster, attended three sittings, well before our entry onto the scene. He was and remains quite clear that what he experienced could not have been fake. Another critic, Mr Comell, went to much trouble to show how certain Polaroid pictures produced when I was experimenter in charge could have been faked, and how a so-called apport, in the form of an issue of the Daily Mail for April 1, 1944, carrying a report of Helen Duncan's prison sentence, was nothing but a readily purchasable replica. It is regrettable, but by no means rare, that when evidence was produced, as it has been in our response to critics, showing the faking hypothesis to be inconsistent with the physical conditions prevailing at the time; while the Daily Mail apport was proved to have been printed by letterpress on wartime newsprint, no admission of error has been forthcoming...

Yours sincerely,

Montague Keen



No Fraud at Scole by Montague Keen
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