William Marriott (magician)

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William S. Marriott (fl. 1910), also known as Dr. Wilmar, was a British magician who became well known for exposing fraudulent spiritualist mediums.[1][2]

William Marriott
William Marriott magician.jpg
Marriott demonstrating a method of producing fake "spirit" hands
OccupationMagician, debunker of fraudulent mediums


Marriott, who observed spiritualist mediums at séances, detected many of them in fraud. He stated that he could produce by natural means all the effects produced by spiritualists.[3]

Marriott reveals the trick of the medium Stanisława Tomczyk's levitation of a glass tumbler. Pearson's Magazine, June 1910

Marriott had published four articles for Pearson's Magazine in 1910 exposing mediumship trickery. In these featured a number of fake spirit photographs, to reveal to the public how they could be made.[4][5] He duplicated the phenomena of the Bangs Sisters.[6]

In 1910, Marriott with the psychical researcher Everard Feilding investigated the Italian medium Eusapia Palladino in Naples. Unlike the 1908 sittings which had baffled the investigators, this time Feilding and Marriott detected her cheating, just as she had done in the USA. Her deceptions were obvious. Palladino evaded control and was caught moving objects with her foot, shaking the curtain with her hands, moving the cabinet table with her elbow and touching the séance sitters.[7]

In 1921, Marriott had produced 'spirit' photographs whilst the journalist James Douglas and spiritualist Arthur Conan Doyle were present. He explained how he had manipulated the photographs. Doyle admitted in a public statement that "Mr. Marriott has clearly proved one point, which is that a trained conjurer can, under the close inspection of three pairs of critical eyes, put a false image upon a plate. We must unreservedly admit it."[8]

British rationalist author Edward Clodd suggested that Marriott was "the most experienced exposer of mediums in this country."[9] Marriott was friends with the psychical researchers Harry Price and Everard Feilding.[10] In February 1922, Marriott with Price, James Seymour and Eric Dingwall demonstrated that the spirit photographer William Hope was fraudulent.[8]

Gambols with the GhostsEdit

Marriott became known for publicising a rare private catalogue of fake spiritualist medium equipment titled Gambols with the Ghosts: Mind Reading, Spiritualistic Effects, Mental and Psychical Phenomena and Horoscopy, issued by Ralph E. Sylvestre in 1901. It was designed for private circulation amongst fraudulent mediums.[11] Sylvestre stated in the catalogue that "our effects are being used by nearly all prominent mediums." It contained equipment to produce fraudulent materialisations, slate-writing, table-turning, and a "complete spiritualistic séance."[6]

A copy is preserved in the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature at the University of London.[6]

Selected publicationsEdit

  • Feilding, Everard; Marriott, William (1910). "Report on Further Series of Sittings with Eusapia Palladino at Naples". Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. 15: 20–32 – via Internet Archive.
  • Marriott, William (1922). "Statement by Mr. William Marriott". Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. 20: 263–266 – via Internet Archive.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Haining, Peter (1974). Ghosts: The Illustrated History. Sidgwick and Jackson. p. 90. ISBN 978-0283981784. William Marriott, a professional magician and illusionist, who investigated many famous occult photographs and was also responsible for the exposure of a highly confidential organization supplying apparatus to fake mediums for their 'psychic tricks'.
  2. ^ Polidoro, Massimo (2001). Final Séance: The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle. Prometheus Books. p. 91. ISBN 1-57392-896-8. William S. Marriott was a London professional magician who performed under the name of "Dr. Wilmar" and who, for some time, interested himself in Spiritualism. In 1910 he had been asked by the SPR to take part in a series of sittings with the Italian medium Eusapia Palladino, and had concluded that all he had seen could be attributed to fakery. That same year he published four articles for Pearson's magazine in which he detailed and duplicated in photographs various tricks of self-claimed psychics and mediums.
  3. ^ Anonymous (18 April 1910). "Spiritualistic Frauds". Colonist. Vol. LII, no. 12771. p. 4 – via Papers Past.
  4. ^ Tuckett, Ivor Lloyd (1911). The Evidence for the Supernatural: A Critical Study Made With "Uncommon Sense". London: K. Paul, Trench, Trübner. p. 91 – via Internet Archive. The whole subject of spirit-photography is also most concisely and convincingly treated by Mr. William Marriott in the August number of Pearson's Magazine, 1910, where it is shown that by trickery spirit-photographs can be produced under "test conditions," that is, in an apparently inexplicable way to the ordinary man, who is not a conjurer. The article is illustrated with reproductions of such photographs.
  5. ^ Stein, Gordon (1996). The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. p. 517. ISBN 1-57392-021-5.
  6. ^ a b c Polidoro, Massimo (March–April 2003). "William S. Marriott's Gambols with the Ghosts". Skeptical Inquirer. Vol. 27, no. 2. pp. 33–36.
  7. ^ Christopher, Milbourne (1971). ESP, Seers & Psychics. Crowell. p. 201. ISBN 978-0690268157.
  8. ^ a b Polidoro, Massimo (2011). "Photos of Ghosts: The Burden of Believing the Unbelievable". Csicop.org. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  9. ^ Clodd, Edward (1921). Occultism: Two Lectures Delivered in the Royal Institution on May 17 and 24, 1921. London: Watts & Co. p. 29 – via Internet Archive.
  10. ^ Price, Harry (1942). Search For Truth: My Life For Psychical Research. Collins. p. 246.
  11. ^ Haining (1974), p. 91.

External linksEdit