Britain’s 10 Most Controversial Psychics of All Time

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Psychic mediums have their fans and detractors, and some rise to the top and people can’t stop talking about them for various reasons – good and bad. Here ANN MASSEY takes a look at Britain’s 10 most controversial psychics in history.

controversial psychics: Doris Stokes

The authenticity of psychics and mediumship have heralded debate over centuries.

I firmly believe there are a very few gifted individuals with intuition, second sight and the ability to reach beyond the veil.

Unfortunately it is the questionable antics of others claiming to have the same ‘abilities’ that make the headlines.

I took a look at the 10 most controversial psychics of Britain over the years.

What are your thoughts? Tell me in the comment sections below!

Here are our controversial psychics

William Eglinton

Born in 1857, William Eglinton  became interested in mediumship through the work of his father. He went to India and studied Theosophy and the work of Madame Blavatsky. When fraudulent claims started against Eglinton she was accused of being complicit in faking Mahatma papers. The Islington born medium used slate writing as his tool and had many supporters, however accusations of fraud were rife. Damning evidence was published from the Society of Psychical Research (which caused a division among members) and Harry Houdini himself.

Helen Duncan

Also known as Hellish Nell, this Scottish Medium began at school, making frenetic predictions to terrified pupils. She went on to claim she brought forth the spirits of loved ones via ectoplasm discharged from her mouth and had spirit guides. Photographs proved her guides were man-made. Psychic researcher Harry Price proved that her ‘ectoplasm’ was cheesecloth. In 1944 Helen Duncan was accused of deceptively claiming she could communicate with spirits. Helen Duncan convicted under the Witchcraft Act of 1735 and received a prison sentence, although there are still those who believe she was genuine.

Estelle Roberts

This 19th century born spiritual medium Estelle Roberts was deemed most credible by many of her peers. She claimed to have a Native American Guide called ‘Red Cloud’ at her side and began her career in church halls around the South East of England. Estelle gained notoriety by performing a séance and ‘communicating’ with Arthur Conan Doyle at his memorial service at the Royal Albert Hall. It was suggested that photographs showed the medium herself pretending to be her guide and ‘Red Cloud’ gave false information. Estelle steadfastly refused to be tested under scientific conditions so neither fraudulence or authenticity could ever be proven.

Robert James Lees

Writer and spiritualist Robert James Lees has a prestigious blue plaque paying homage to him in his hometown of Hinckley in Leicestershire. He was said to have been ‘psychic advisor’ to both Queen Victoria and Scotland Yard. It has been documented that Robert James Lees knew the identity of Jack the Ripper through his visions but was dismissed as a lunatic. While many have suggested the man was simply suffering poor mental health, he has been featured in many books on Jack the Ripper, immortalised in the pages of Alan Moore and played by Donald Sutherland in ‘Murder by Decree.’

Daniel Dunglas Home

Coming from a family who seemed to have the gift of second sight, Daniel Dunglas Home emigrated from Scotland with his aunt and uncle as a teen. He became very religious and at the same time his visions and experiences increased. The church believed he was possessed by a demon however Home declared his talents as God given. As well as communicating with the dead, Home often appeared to levitate. He was never exposed as a fraud publicly, but many including Harry Houdini spoke of Daniel using tricks, lighting techniques and showmanship to produce results during seances.

Sybil Leek

Born in Staffordshire during the First World War, Sybil Leek was a psychic, astrologist and above all, a witch. From a well to do family of astrologists, Sybil was introduced to Aleister Crowley as a sixteen-year-old as he was a regular visitor to the family home. Outlandish claims include her being recruited for the war effort during WWII to provide false horoscopes for the enemy. Famed Paranormal investigator Hans Holzer (Amityville Horror) advocated the use of mediums in his work and brought Sybil Leek to the prestigious Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin where she and Holzer declared the premises haunted. In later years her eccentric behaviour meant the truth was difficult to determine.

Sally Morgan

With her own TV show and stage performances, Sally Morgan has been plagued by accusations of cold reading and fraud, yet she has a large following of fans who believe in her abilities. Psychic Sally infamously communicated with the ghost of a woman at a live event after being handed a photo. The woman turned out to be alive and well sitting in the audience and the show became a farce. Many sceptics have tried to set up Sally to catch her in the act of cold reading and she has been dogged by public ridicule and news stories.

Derek Acorah

First appearing as a television psychic in the mid-nineties, Derek Acorah’s career has been overshadowed by controversy. Most noted for his appearances on TV’s ‘Most Haunted’, he left the show in 2005 after a falling out over fraud claims and there have been public slanging matches between Derek and other show participants including host Yvette Fielding regarding accusations of fakery. In 2009 Acorah attempted a live séance to reach Michael Jackson. Derek publicly claimed to have been in contact with the spirit of Madeline McCann and had to apologise for his poor judgement. Lately the controversial ‘psychic’ has been participating in ‘haunted’ public events and touring. He was recently a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother.

Uri Geller

Israeli-born Uri Geller is a British citizen famed for his illusions and spoon bending. Whilst Geller claims power of the mind, some believe these acts are magic tricks. He declared himself to be psychic and that his paranormal gifts were granted from extra-terrestrial beings. A television documentary claimed Geller was enlisted as a psychic spy for the CIA for such tasks as discovering if Lee Harvey Oswald really did shoot JFK.

Doris Stokes

Doris Stokes was Britain’s first real television psychic celebrity. In her youth she joined a spiritualist church and began channelling her abilities. Doris played to sold out theatres and appeared on television across the globe from the late seventies. The Church denounced her as offensive to God in her work. Coming across as warm and down to earth, it would appear the lovable Lincolnshire lass was a con artist who used audience plants and cold reading. As with her predecessors, Doris refused to have her abilities tested and fled an interview when challenged by professional sceptic James Randi.

Have we missed anyone? Tell us in the comments section below?


  1. What a sorry history. Napoleon locked up Mme Lenormand, she spooked him so badly. No proof could ever suffice for the avowed ‘skeptic’, whereas true scepticism means being genuinely open to possibilities, just as Quantum physics allows for the possibilities here.
    What we call ‘psychic’ visions and experiences are by their very nature, not likely to be susceptible to proof in controlled (hostile?) beta state environments. The person is the conduit of manifestation, and the more relaxed they are, the better their chances of achieving that mind state in which meditation is entered into, or at least a mild alpha state, in which insights spontaneously occur. Who doesn’t get their most startling ideas out of the blue, often while functioning on auto pilot doing something unrelated to whatever is on their mind? Which does not mean to say forecasts etc could not be verified, but that verification could always be called into doubt by a third party not directly involved in the reading.
    That hypothetical third party however, is a fly on the wall, irrelevant to the reading in the case of the quiet, everyday reader whose concern is to deliver in a clear and timely fashion something MEANINGFUL for the person consulting them, that person being the only person ultimately qualified to evaluate the experience, and the question remaining, WHAT actually is the reader delivering?
    This comes down to the individual abilities and stated remit of service of the psychic reader. Do they offer fortune telling, or psychically sourced help and guidance, or bereavement counselling/mediumship experiences?
    There is no one size fits all. If thinking of having a reading, choose your reader with care and exercise your own instincts and judgement. Go by word of mouth where possible. Study how the reader presents themselves and sets out the stated service. THAT is what they are ethically obliged to deliver.
    But ‘psychic’ simply means ‘of the soul’ or ‘of the mind’ – the root Greek. Humans have been doing this stuff from the year dot, as part and parcel of survival, mobilising to engaging with and articulate their submerged instinctive knowing in seeking to position themselves to meet threats or opportunities, natural or man made. Everyone can do it, it’s only a question of to what degree, ‘psychics’ often having trained this innate human faculty over many years before they start doing it for others.


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