Pellet Reading (or Billet Reading)

views updated

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, and/or 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, 1976.

About this article

Pellet Reading (or Billet Reading)

Updated About content Print Article