Pellet Reading (or Billet Reading)
A popular means of demonstrating psychic ability in Spiritualism.
Sitters at a séance or other gathering are each requested
to write the name of a deceased person or persons whom
they wish to contact or know about, andor questions to which
they seek an answer, on a slip of paper. The slips are either
folded into billets or tightly screwed up into pellets, which are
sometimes sealed in envelopes. The medium would hold each
billet or pellet (often to the forehead) and give a message relating
to the deceased individual or question on the slip of paper.
The American medium Charles H. Foster specialized in this
type of clairvoyance.
Variants of this performance are common with stage magicians
and the very nature of the procedure suggests a conjuring
trick. The psychical researcher Harry Price described in his
book Confessions of a Ghost Hunter (1974) how he bought the secret
of the trick from a man from Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
As practiced by fake mediums, such billet-readings sessions
begin with the medium taking a piece of paper, holding it in
his or her hand (or at the forehead for dramatic effect) and giving
an initial reading. The first reading is not for the person
who wrote the billet but for a person in cahoots who agrees with
whatever is said. The medium then reads the billet and places
it aside. The process is repeated and the answer is now given
to the first billet, pretending it to be a reading for the billet in
hand. By this manner the medium is always one billet ahead.
After the session, the billets are collected and become part of
a file on those persons who are regular attendees at the medium’s
public events.
Keene, Lamar. Psychic Mafia. New York St. Martin’s Press,

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