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She was a controversial figure, with some believing her to possess psychic abilities, while sceptics stated that her performances amounted to nothing more than cold reading, a technique used to create the illusion of clairvoyance, or, according to investigations by Ian Wilson in 1987, prior research or planting of members in the audience.
Early life 
Stokes was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. In her memoirs she claimed that she started seeing spirits and hearing disembodied voices in childhood, and developed these abilities further once she joined a local spiritualist church. In 1944 she was convicted for "conspiracy to pretend that she was in touch with spirits" and given nine months in prison. She was recognised as a practising clairaudient medium by the Spiritualists' National Union in 1949.
During a crisis of confidence in 1962, she gave up her work as a medium and retrained as a psychiatric nurse, but had to retire five years later following an attack by a patient. She returned to her psychic work and in 1975 became the resident medium at the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain.
She first came to public attention in 1978 during a visit to Australia, when she appeared on The Don Lane Show. In the wave of interest that followed her appearance, she played to three capacity audiences at the Sydney Opera House. She was also the first medium to appear at the London Palladium, with the tickets selling out in two hours. In 1980, her first, written with Linda Dearsley, autobiographical volume, Voices In My Ear: The Autobiography of a Medium was published, pulling her further into the public eye in the UK. Over two million copies of her books were sold.
Stokes received much condemnation from the Church of England and other Christian denominations, which objected to spirit communication as an offence to God. She would counter that her work was done for God and in accordance with the Bible's injunction to "test the spirits to see if they (were) good".
She was also accused of using various forms of deception to achieve the effect of communicating with the dead. These included cold reading, eavesdropping, and planting accomplices in the audience. Guardian columnist Simon Hoggart claims that Stokes' husband, John Stokes, would take information from those who called to ask for sittings, offer them free tickets for public performances, then forward their information to his wife to be presented during the show. However, positive testimonials continue to come forward from Eamonn Holmes and Dale Winton.
In her book, Voices in my Ear, Stokes claimed that she had solved two murder cases in England. However, Detective Chief Superintendent William Brooks of the Lancashire Constabulary stated that Stokes made no contribution whatsoever to the detection of either murderer.
Whilst in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, she also claimed that local murder victim Vic Weiss had contacted her with details of his murder. Former magician and high-profile sceptic, James Randi, contacted the LAPD, who informed him that all of the information supplied by Stokes had been available to the media at the time. Stokes was unable to provide any new information to the police and the case remains unsolved.
When challenged, Stokes was observed to defend herself against critics with messages claimed as containing accurate information by her sitters. A 1986 demonstration by Stokes at the Barbican in London was videotaped and may currently be seen on YouTube. In the Barbican video, Stokes is seen during a period of less-than-optimum health following two strokes the previous year. She briefly described her abilities to the audience and communicated many messages to family members about people who'd made the transition to 'the other side.' Three times during the Barbican video Stokes commented that seeing a small light indicated an individual hadn't long "been over" (on the other side). At one point, she indicated that a steady light indicated an individual had been over for some years.
In her first book, Stokes recalled the early stages of her mediumship when she began repeating what 'the voices' said to her. "The more practise I had, the more experienced I became at distinguishing the voices. At first it seemed to me like one voice speaking inside my head, but after a while I realized it was outside me, and then that it wasn't one voice but different voices. Soon I was able to tell if they were male or female, old or young." She became aware of one voice as that belonging to her 'guide'—Ramonov (the nearest she could come to the pronunciation)—and realized she couldn't choose who would speak to her, "I had no control over it."
In her fourth book A Host of Voices, she wrote further about these matters. "I can't bring someone from the spirit world into contact with the earth plane unless there is some sort of bridge. There has to be a bond of affection which links them with someone here." Stokes acknowledged, ". . . only rarely do I see spirits and they're almost always children . . . they are so real to me that I can mistake them for the flesh and blood youngsters who live here on the earth plane." She also recalled that she had once been watching television when she learned more about her guide. "There was a trailer for a programme called Tibet, the Roof of the World when a voice said to me, 'That's where I came from. That's where I lived on the earth plane.' It turned out that Ramonov had been a priest and a very wise one at that."
Her seven volumes of autobiography document the various tests she underwent to determine the source of her information. One examination involved her subject to a lie detector, another required her to undergo hypnosis and be questioned about her methods.
Described variously as "an individual of great personal warmth", "the Gracie Fields of the psychic world" and "a ruthless moneymaking confidence artist", she continued to give free consultations or "sittings" until a month before her death, when she left only £15,291.
Stokes's health was poor throughout her life. Her thirteen or so cancer operations included a mastectomy, and the April 1987 removal of a brain tumour, after which she did not regain consciousness. She died in Lewisham, London on 8 May 1987. At the end of her last memoir, published after her death but completed before her final operation, she reported a disembodied voice telling her "Your life on Earth is over, your life in spirit has begun."
Her death coincided with publication of Ian Wilson's The After Death Experience which included Stokes in the exposure of the methods of mediums. Wilson proved that Doris not only had previous knowledge about the people she called in her shows, she had actually sent invitations to some of them and placed them in reserved seats.
- Randi, James. "The Art of Cold Reading". James Randi Educational Foundation. Retrieved 2007-02-03.
- Alien worlds Reuben Stone - 1993 "In The After Death Experience, published in 1987, author Ian Wilson described how he found out that Doris Stokes packed her public appearances with people (whom she placed in reserved seats at the front of the auditorium) whose personal ..."
- Jane Hardy (March 19, 2010), "we've yet to hear from doris ...", Belfast Telegraph (registration required)
- "Stokes, Doris May Fisher". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. June 2004.
- Young, Robin (2004-09-23). "Frauds who dealt in cheesecloth and charm". The Times. p. 3.
- "A nice little earner in the futures market". The Sunday Times. 1997-08-17. p. 3.
- Fanshawe, Simon (2005-09-17). "I know what you're thinking There is, says the US 'mind reader' Marc Salem, no such thing as reading minds. But being able to read people's signs and signals, he tells Simon Fanshawe, can be elevated to an art form where science meets our enduring need for mystery". Financial Times. p. 1.
- Lewis Smith, Victor (2001-07-20). "He's just Telly Pathetic". Evening Standard. p. 35.
- Hoggart, Simon (2004-09-25). "Looking for a seat? Let a Lib Dem help". The Guardian. p. 14.
- "Be my guests: One week to go countdown to Christmas". Daily Mail. 2005-12-17. p. 74.
- Winton, Dale (2002-09-01). "We broke down the door ... my beautiful mother was lying dead on the bed". The Mail on Sunday. p. 49.
- Plummer, Mark (1981). "Doris Stokes Wrong - Police" (PDF). The Skeptic 1 (1): 1. Retrieved 2007-01-03.[dead link]
- Connelly, Michael (1989-06-11). "Who Shot Vic Weiss". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2007-01-03. "Ten years later, Weiss' killing remains unsolved and one of the San Fernando Valley's most puzzling mysteries."
- Calman, Stephanie (1984-06-25). "Doris calls heaven and makes them happy". The Times. p. 9.
- James, Keith (2003-09-16). "Letters: My message from Doris". Daily Mail. p. 57.
- John Bowker, John Westerdale Bowker The Meanings of Death Page 27 1993 "Even such well-known mediums as Doris Stokes were devastatingly exposed in the recent investigation by Ian Wilson: For the television journalists [who had accompanied him with a view to making a programme] it was now transparently ..."
- Voices In My Ear, Doris Stokes with Linda Dearsley (1980)
- More Voices In My Ear, Doris Stokes with Linda Dearsley (1981)
- Innocent Voices In My Ear, Doris Stokes with Linda Dearsley (1983)
- A Host of Voices, Doris Stokes with Pam and Mike Kiddey (1984)
- Whispering Voices, Doris Stokes with Linda Dearsley (1985)
- Voices of Love, Doris Stokes with Linda Dearsley (1986)
- Joyful Voices, Doris Stokes with Linda Dearsley (1987)
- Voices: a Doris Stokes Collection, Doris Stokes
- A Host of Voices: The Second Doris Stokes Collection, Doris Stokes
- Doris Stokes Compendium, Doris Stokes with Linda Dearsley (1988)
- A Tribute to Doris Stokes, Linda Dearsley (1988)
- Spiritualist's National Union of the United Kingdom
- Article by James Randi
- Doris Stokes at the Barbican video (1986)