From the archives: media clippings from the death of Doris Stokes The Skeptic The Skeptic

This article originally appeared in The Skeptic, Volume 1, Issue 4, from 1987.

As almost every newspaper reported, Doris Stokes died during the weekend of May 8/9 (coinciding (with no significance, we’re sure) with Mark Plummer’s visit to London. Psychic News caused a stir in a few places by running a large headline on the front page of their issue of May 9, “Doris Is On the Mend”.

Since then , there have been numerous press articles: the Mirror ran a series, “Doris Stokes – Trick or Truth?”; the Lewisham & Catford Mercury reported that her adopted son Terry claimed to have received a message from her after her death; the Sun reported that Doris Collins claimed to have received a message from Stokes as she was dying; the News of the World reported on the journey to the “spirit world” Stokes claimed to have made during a previous illness.

In an interview published in the (Scottish) Sunday Express, 5 January, 1986 , Stokes said she did not expect to act as a guide for other mediums after her death.

Doris Stokes was challenged a number of times to prove her powers were real. In addition to Randi’s standing $10,000 challenge, magician Paul Daniels offered a £10,000 challenge in the Sun, 9 November 1985, and Irish businessman Gerald Fleming, now living in London, offered first $20,000 Australian in 1978 and then later £100,000 if she could demonstrate her powers under properly controlled conditions. She refused the challenges. In an article in the Irish Evening Herald of May 28, 1986, reporter P.J. Cunningham wrote, “Mrs. Stokes has countered Mr. Flemings’ claims by saying he has a vendetta against her and dismissing him as an ‘ignorant Irishman’.” Fleming has made the same offer to Doris Collins, who has also refused to be tested.

Much of what appeared about Doris Stokes in print during her lifetime was uncritical. She published six books of claims with ghostwriter Linda Dearsley, she had a regular letters column in Chat, and there were many newspaper articles about her claims to have received messages from Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy (she even claimed the latter two told her they were “just good friends”).

However, there were dissenters. Magician and former British Committee Chairman David Berglas, in an interview with People, August 24 , 1986, said, “There is absolutely nothing that Doris Stokes can do that I can’t do myself… and I’m not psychic.” Paul Daniels, in discussing his £10,000 challenge, explained Stokes’ methods: “It is a mixture of artful questioning and people hearing what they want to hear.” Daniels also presented the skeptical viewpoint in the Mirror‘s “Trick or Truth” series, where he is quoted as saying, “I condemn those who make money callously from the sad, the lonely and the insecure. “

The Mirror added a brief article about Doris Stokes ‘ involvement in the Lamplugh case: Diana Lamplugh is quoted as saying that she received telephone calls from sixty mediums, all with different stories about what had happened to her daughter. Of Doris Stokes, she is quoted as saying, “Mrs. Stokes sounded like a very nice person , but nothing was found. In the end, I’m very sorry to say, she didn’t help us at all.” The Mirror concluded the series with a selection of readers’ letters, almost all of them in defending Stokes, and a few of them attacking Paul Daniels for taking a strong stand against her.

But the strongest, most detailed articles we’ve seen appeared in the Mail on Sunday on April 20 and 27, 1986, and were the work of journalists John Dale and Richard Holliday, the former of whom was also co-author of a three- part series on Uri Geller for the same newspaper.

Dale and Holliday investigated six of her most widely publicized cases. These were: the Yorkshire Ripper, the case of a boy found dead in the Bronx, two Lancashire murder cases, the New Zealand case of Mona Blades, the Baltimore disappearance of Jamie Griffin, and the Los Angeles investigation of the murder of Joe Weiss. In most of these cases, police officers told the reporters that Stokes gave them either no new information or information that was subsequently proved to be wrong. In the remaining cases, the Lancashire police disclaimed any knowledge of Doris Stokes’ having been involved in any way in the investigation, and the LA police told the reporters that they had never spoken with her.

Reporters Dale and Holiday concluded the first of the articles: “This year her books will once again top the non-fiction lists. After examining the evidence, we have found many reasons why some stories, at least, should be reclassified as fiction.”

Thanks to all who sent in clippings and information, from which this brief composite was compiled.

The post From the archives: media clippings from the death of Doris Stokes appeared first on The Skeptic.

From the archives in 1987, The Skeptic looks at media reporting surrounding the death of noted “psychic medium” Doris Stokes
The post From the archives: media clippings from the death of Doris Stokes appeared first on The Skeptic.