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1    Doris Stokes
2    Taxman Chases Ghost

DORIS STOKES (1920-1987)

(Investigator 114, 2007 May)

The late Dons Stokes, was a world famous British medium who specialised in necromancy (communication with the dead) and was known affectionately to millions as 'housewives clairvoyant', much loved by audiences around the world during her forty-four year career.

As a child she was given medication to stop her "seeing things", and it took some years and some personal traumas before she came to terms with her uncanny psychic powers. She reportedly had flashes of intuition and later developed a fascination for life after death matters.

Attending a seance by spiritualist medium Helen Duncan seems to have been the inspiration for Doris to take up mediumship herself. An unfortunate choice on which to model herself, as Mrs Duncan was a fraud, her ectoplasmic spirit manifestations exposed as cheesecloth, surgical gauze and toilet paper. In 1944, she was prosecuted for "conspiracy to pretend that she was in touch with spirits", found guilty, and sentenced to nine months in gaol.

Undeterred, Mrs Stokes went on to demonstrate her apparent powers to capacity audiences at some of the world's largest auditoriums including the Sydney Opera House.

She claimed to be able to pass on messages from the dead, her first contact being her late father, and thereafter speaking to people beyond the grave became common-place for her. Audiences were amazed as she consistently named some of their dead relatives. Mrs Stokes also claimed to have assisted police in murder inquiries. In her book Voices in my Ear, she claims to have solved two murder cases in England, that of a small girl at Kirkham and another of children at Blackpool. While in Beverley Hills, Los Angeles, she claimed that a local murder victim Weiss, contacted her, and described details of his murder.

Described as a simple, delightful and kind lady, she did much to console and comfort the bereaved, became a best author with Voices in my Ear, and gave most of her money from her books and public appearances to charities.

However, she was surrounded by controversy as to whether she really could speak to the dead, and was once offered £20,000 by British millionaire Mr Gerald Fleming to prove her ability. Despite the claims that she was a fake, she refused to take up challenges to demonstrate her powers under close surveillance. "They have been trying for years to prove that I am a fraud, but they failed because I am not", Mrs Stokes once said, and "the thousands of letters I have had from grateful people prove that I have brought comfort to many of the bereaved."

She was again challenged during her Australian tour in 1978 on the Don Lane TV show, by Canadian magician and skeptic James Randi. There was a sensational outburst when Mr Randi called Doris Stokes a liar, and Don Lane stormed off the show. Don Lane said later, that "although he did not know whether to believe in Doris' spiritual powers or not, he was not prepared to have her insulted as a person."

Michael Edgley, the entrepreneur who promoted her tours in Australia was adamant however, saying, "I truly believe she has an amazing gift which many of us in this day and age are unable to understand."

It was fairly apparent to sceptics however, that Doris Stokes uses a technique known as "cold reading". She would make general statements about a particular person in the audience and at the same time "fish" for information. Her forte, the seeming ability to be able to pick out at random individuals to whom she would pass on messages from their dead loved ones. Leaning heavily on statistical probabilities she would tell an elderly woman that she was a widow, or that a husband and wife had two children, and would cast her net wide making obvious guesses and leaving much open to wide interpretation. The messages would always be of a trite and homely nature and appealed to those recently bereaved.

Typical of the above was Doris Stokes' performance on North East England ITV's Tyne Tees programme, "Friday Live"on December 21, 1979, in which she started with some anecdotal claims and then began to "receive signals" from the departed.

She declared that a person seated in the studio on her right, was named or associated with a dead person named Taylor (in the Newcastle telephone directory there are fifteen columns of Taylors). "This Taylor" she said, "was associated with someone named Elizabeth, or Liza, or Liz, or perhaps Edith, and had been dead about two years." A viewer telephoned in saying that it must be her husband who had been killed in 1943. Mrs Stokes assured the lady that her husband's death had been sudden and painless.

Analysed, we have someone not in the audience replying, with no connection to any of the names mentioned by Mrs Stokes, and a death which occurred thirty-six, years before, not two; hardly indicative of an accurate conversation with the deceased. In the rambling discussion and demonstration which followed, she failed to score a single hit.

Much of Mrs Stokes success can be attributed to "plants" in the audience, or to the fact that there are those in the audience with whose background she is familiar. Ian Wilson exposed Doris Stokes as a fraud in his book, The After Death Experience, published in 1987, in which he proves conclusively that she knew those in the audience she called out, or at least knew of them. They had contacted her and in many cases, she had actually sent them tickets for seats in the front rows of her performances. These "plants" were entirely innocent believers, participating unwittingly in the fraud.

Neither can any credence be had in the claims made in Mrs Stokes' book, Voices in My Ear, to have assisted the police in their investigations.

Detective Chief Superintendent William Brooks of the Lancashire Constabulary, has stated that Ms Stokes made no contribution whatsoever to the detection of either murder. In America, the Los Angeles police said that all of what Stokes reported the murder victim Weiss had allegedly told her was readily available to the media at the time Stokes made details of the "psychic conversation" public.

The murder is still unsolved as the murder victim neglected to inform Mrs Stokes of the names of his assailants or provide an accurate description of them.

After Doris Stokes died, another clairvoyant, Doris Collins stepped into her shoes, and her performances are managed by the same agent Laurie O'Leary. When you are on to a good thing stick to it!


Collins. D.A. 1983. Woman of Spirit. Granada Publishing.

Edwards, Harry. 1987. I Talk to Dead Stars. People, May 18, 1987.

Hammerton. M. 1980. Chats with the Dead. Skeptical Inquirer. 5(1):84-85.

Nicholas. M. 1986. The World's Greatest Psychics & Mystics. Octopus.

Plummer, Mark. 1981. Doris Stokes Wrong - Police. the Skeptic, 1(1):1. Australian Skeptics Inc.

Stokes. D. 1980. Voices in my Ear. Futura Publications. London.

From: Edwards, H. A skeptic's Guide to the New Age.


(Investigator 5, 1989 March)

When psychic Doris Stokes died in 1987, aged 67, she left behind the mystery of her missing fortune.

The Sunday Mail (South Australia) reported:

Superstar psychic Doris Stokes is being pursued beyond the the taxman.

The money-spinning medium's 68-year-old husband John has already been forced to pay out an undisclosed sum to the Inland Revenue.

Now officials are checking Doris' accounts to see if she spirited away any cash before her death.

Widower John and 45-year-old adopted son Terry the main beneficiaries of her will even tried to contact Doris at a seance to see if she could shed any light on her finances.

But Doris, who is said to have earned up to £2000 a night, kept as silent as the tomb when asked: "Is there any money out there?" (1989, February 5, p. 11)

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