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Controversial Psychic Doris Stokes
Doris May Fisher Stokes, a British spiritualist and psychic medium, claimed she could see spirits and hear their voices even as a child. Some people swear she was a gifted psychic, while others thought she was nothing more than a cold, calculating fraud and an expert at cold reading. Cold reading is a technique of reading an audience to glean obvious or probable facts. It is used by many psychics to create an illusion of clairvoyance.
Doris was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England on January 6, 1920 as Doris Sutton. She first gained national prominence when she appeared on the Don Lane Show in Australia during a 1978 visit. From thereon, she played to capacity crowds often with tickets selling out within several hours. Author Linda Dearsly wrote Stokes’ first autobiography in 1980 titled, Voices In My Ear: The Autobiography of a Medium. The book sold over 2 million copies.
Stokes suffered from cancer throughout much her life and endured 13 operations. But, even after her death on May 8, 1987, controversy over whether or not she was a true psychic still raged. One fan said “Doris is the most genuine person you could ever know and she would not traipse around theatres when she was severely ill just to "con" people. She is for real, and she gives me great inspiration and hope.”
At the other end of the spectrum another person commented “Doris Stokes was a charismatic woman. However, she was also a fraud. She was a skilled cold reader and had numerous stooges placed in the audience or working for her before and during her shows. It is possible,though incredibly unlikely, that she was deluded and genuinely BELIEVED she was hearing dead people's voices but it is far more likely, considering the evidence, that she knew full well she was conning people.”
Stokes has been described in many various ways. Some have said she was "…an individual of great personal warmth," or "the Gracie Fields of the psychic world." Others denounced her as "…a ruthless moneymaking confidence artist.”
As with many in her profession, Stokes was condemned by many Churches and denominations on the grounds their belief communication with the dead was against bible scripture. But Stokes, in her defense, would cite the bible’s injunction to "test the spirits to see if they (were) good.”
Stokes underwent many tests to determine where her information came from, such as polygraph tests and hypnosis since she had to defend herself from outspoken critics accusing her of deceptive practices. A noted columnist claimed Doris’s husband, John Stokes took information he had gotten by offering free tickets to her exhibitions and handed it off to his wife prior to a show.
But, despite convictions of her being a true psychic medium by loyal followers, much evidence to the contrary exists. In one of her many books Stokes claims she solved two murder cases in England. But those claims were vehemently refuted by a constabulary spokesman who stated she made no significant contributions to either case.
And in another murder case in Beverly Hills, California, Stokes maintained the victim had contacted her and gave details about his murder. Again, another detractor stepped forward, a former magician and noted skeptic James Randi. Randi was informed by the Los Angeles Police all information Stokes had provided was already public knowledge at the time. In actuality, the case still remains unsolved. However, Stokes always declared her messages from the spirit world were accurate.
In April 1987, following the removal of a brain tumor, she died in Lewisham, London.
Was Doris Stokes a gifted psychic or a fraud? Perhaps, the only way the world will ever know is if she is able to contact her peers from beyond the grave.