Medium William Roy

OR

 Medium William George Holroyd Plowright

 

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 William Roy Medium

Almost 50 years after Abbott wrote about this “question and answer” trick, a British Medium made a small fortune by very similar methods but using equipment that was more sophisticated. William Roy has been described as one of the most audacious fake Mediums of the modern times. Before his exposure in 1955, he was one of the most popular Mediums in England --- only to be denounced by the Spiritualist publication, Two Worlds

According to accounts, much of Roy’s success came from duping sitters using a microphone-relaying technique that demonstrated “direct voice” communications from the spirits in full light, an achievement that was beyond the abilities of his rivals. To do this, he ran a wire under the carpet from the microphone and amplifier to two brass tacks, the heads of which protruded above the carpet. He adapted a hearing aid as a miniature loudspeaker and attached it to the cuff of his sleeve, running wires to it up his sleeve, inside of his jacket and down his trouser leg to his shoes. Here, they connected to the soles with two metal plates, one on each shoe, so that when he stood on the tacks, the circuit was completed and an assistant could produce voices through the miniature loudspeaker. The voices would then come from Roy’s wrist, far enough away from his mouth to avert suspicion.

Roy, whose real name was William George Holroyd Plowright, was paid quite well by a British tabloid, the Sunday Pictorial, for a five-installment confession in 1958. He shamelessly posed for photographs with his “Spirit Voice” apparatus, which eventually found its way to the Metropolitan Police Detective Training School.

He also boasted of the way that he had gained his wealth by taking advantage of grief-stricken people, researching their histories and lives. He examined voter’s lists, visited the National Registry office to look over birth, marriage and death records and used newspapers to scan obituaries and the details of wills. He kept all of this information in a card file index and one swap information back and forth with other fake ediums. “We phony Mediums traded information --- like swapping stamps,” he admitted.

When sitters arrived for one of Roy’s seances, they were asked to leave their coats and handbags in a waiting room. Roy listened to their conversation by way of a concealed microphone before they entered the seance room. Meanwhile, an assistant searched their bags and coat pockets for further clues in letters, tickets and receipts --- any information that Roy could use to confirm his “psychic” powers. His seances were “high-tech” for the time, using the latest special effects to create Spirit Voices, music and mysterious lights. Masks and cheesecloth were also used by Roy to create “materializations”.

Spiritualists knew that Roy was a fraud as early as 1951 but agreed not to reveal it in return for his promise to stop conducting seances and leave the country. Roy did so for a time, but then came back to England and started back to his old tricks. After Two Worlds exposed him as a fraud in 1955, he sued them for libel and with the case in the court system, the newspaper was prevented from saying anything else. When Roy abandoned the lawsuit in 1958, he agreed to pay court costs to the magazine editor and immediately after, Two Worlds released all of its evidence concerning his fraud. At first, Roy continued to deny the charges and then when the Sunday Pictorial offered him a large sum of money, he cheerfully confessed. By the time the story was published, Roy had left the country once again.

In the tabloid article, he ended the story with this statement: “Even after this confession, I know I could fill seance rooms again with people who find it a comfort to believe I am genuine.”

In 1968, he was given the chance to see if this was true --- it was. A Medium using the name Bill Silver was discovered to be William Roy. Once again, it was a Spiritualist newspaper, Psychic News, which exposed him. The story revealed that some of the sitters even know the Medium’s real identity as William Roy, but were still convinced by his phenomena, which included voiced communications from beings who lived on Venus. The sitters included a Catholic Bishop and some of the members of the Beatles! When challenged by the newspaper, Roy had the nerve to claim that his earlier confession had been a “pack of lies” and that he had always been genuine.

With slight additions from prairieghosts

 

 

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