M. Lamar Keene
Morris Lamar Keene (10 August 1936 – 11 June 1996), was a spirit medium in Tampa, Florida and at Camp Chesterfield Indiana, where he was known as the "Prince of the Spiritualists". He was also the trustee of Universal Spiritualist Association. He is best known for his 1976 book The Psychic Mafia, in which he coined the term "true believer syndrome."
The Psychic Mafia
In 1976, Keene co-authored The Psychic Mafia, "as told to" Allen Spraggett, a well-known Canadian writer on paranormal topics. The writer William V. Rauscher, himself a believer in psychic powers, contributed a foreword and a bibliography and wrote that he conducted 75 hours of interviews with Keene, during which Keene admitted that all of his psychic activities were done by fraudulent means. Keene revealed how he got rich by tricking thousands of people in séances (Randi 1995:135). James Randi, a professional magician, interviewed Keene in 1977, and discovered that Keene was quite unsophisticated in fooling people with magic, but Keene explained that his spiritualist clients were easy to fool (Randi 1982:246). Keene described how the victims fell for the most transparent ruses. Keene coined the term true-believer syndrome in the book (Keene 1997:151).
In The Psychic Mafia, Keene explicitly professed a belief in God, life after death, psychic phenomena and ESP, even after making his case against true believers and renouncing his trade as a phony medium.
Keene not only confessed that he himself was a fraudulent medium, but also that many of his colleagues were as well. He wrote that it was common practice for mediums to share information on clients, to help one another fool the clients into believing that the knowledge about them came from the spirit world. The book caused a storm among his former associates in spiritualist circles. There were telephone calls threatening his life. One night, while walking across his front lawn in Tampa, an unseen shooter fired at him and missed, and he later dug the rifle bullet out of the wall of his house (Keene 1997:156–57).
Keene changed his name, moved to another city, and entered the warehouse and storage business. In 1979, as he was leaving his office, a car drove up and an assailant fired several shots, hitting Keene and severing his femoral artery, resulting in an extended hospital stay (Randi 1982:246)
- The true-believer syndrome merits study by science. What is it that compels a person, past all reason, to believe the unbelievable. How can an otherwise sane individual become so enamored of a fantasy, an imposture, that even after it's exposed in the bright light of day he still clings to it — indeed, clings to it all the harder?… No amount of logic can shatter a faith consciously based on a lie. — M. Lamar Keene and Allen Spraggett
- M. Lamar Keene (as told to Allen Spraggett), The Psychic Mafia, Prometheus Books, 1997, ISBN 1-57392-161-0 (Originally published in 1976 by St. Martin's Press and published by Dell (publisher) in 1977.)
- Joanne D. S. McMahon and Anna M. Lascurain, Shopping for Miracles (Los Angeles: Lowell House, 1997) 43, 49.
- From Rauscher's forward to The Psychic Mafia: "It is precisely because I believe so deeply in in [sic] the psychic dimension that I detest those who pervert and misuse it to their own advantage: namely, phony mediums."
- M. Lamar Keene and Allen Spraggett (1997). The Psychic Mafia, page 162, 163: "I believe in God. I believe that God is the sustaining power of the universe and that everything expresses this power. Even evil, I believe, is potential good — a learning experience… Life after death? I believe in it. I believe that human beings maintain their individuality after death. I believe that we go on to higher and better expressions of ourselves than those which we are now expressing. I believe that evolution, growth, is the whole thing: mankind evolves, it doesn't regress. I believe that, in spite of all I've seen and experienced… Extrasensory perception and psychic phenomena? I believe that the individual can have his or her own private psychic experience — that there is such a thing as ESP. But when it comes to paying a medium to do it for you — beware!… Find your own uncertainties of life. With God's help you can do it."
- Joanne D. S. McMahon and Anna M. Lascurain, Shopping for Miracles (Los Angeles: Lowell House, 1997) 49.
- Keene, Lamar (1997), The Psychic Mafia, Prometheus Books, ISBN 1-57392-161-0 (Republucation of 1976 edition by St. Martin's Press.)
- Randi, James (1982), Flim-Flam!, Prometheus Books, ISBN 0-87975-198-3
- Randi, James (1995), An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural, Prometheus Books, ISBN 0-312-15119-5 (Online Version)