Psychics have gone by many different names throughout history but their abilities have not changed.
Some people believe that they can move beyond the temporal plane and see and do things that extend beyond our natural awareness. These people are called psychics. Wanting and searching for truth in the form of talking to dead people, using tarot cards to tap into the human subconscious and using ESP, or telepathy are all things these people claim to do; often they are getting out of their earthly shell.
Other names for psychics are mediums, necromancers and spiritualists. These people believe they can read farther into humankind's mass unconscious and bring to light things about ourselves that we did not know, things which we may not wish to know. The history of psychics is shaky at best.
Dr. Franz Antoine Mesmer (1766-1815) was one of the first acclaimed psychics, and one of the initiators of the 1900's Spiritualist movement. He claimed "thought transference, of clairvoyance, and 'eyeless vision'" as well as other psychic phenomena in subjects, which he "mesmerized." He was called upon for his healing powers, however the strength of his claims was not strong.
The next public figures which are prominent in history are the Fox sisters, Margaret, Leah, and Kate, three visionaries of the psychic movement in Hydesville in 1948. They announced that they could speak to the dead and had strange rapping noises and other mysterious moving of objects included with their show. They were prominent public figures of the day, much like movie stars now and many people paid to see their séances.
However, in one séance the grammar of Benjamin Franklin was surprisingly poor and poor Margaret cried out "You know I never understood grammar!" In 1888, Margaret, having seen such deception in her life, denounced Spiritualism as a sham, and the strange rapping noises were attributed to the popping of the girls’ ankles and toes. The all died penniless, having drank their money into the ground.
There had been established some Spiritualist churches which featured speaking with the dead, and other assorted manifestations of spirits. There were many critics, such as the Harry Houdini, who knew about shows such as his and decided they were fake.
A scientific viewpoint on spiritualist practices became prevalent in 1882. The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was founded by Sir William Barrett (1844-1925), Cambridge professor Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) and "the St. Paul of Spiritualism," Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1858-1930). The tried to "science" the mystery behind the history of psychics.
The tested telepathy, hypnotism, mesmeric trances, haunted houses and the method behind the messy madness. However, the tests administered mostly fed the debunking fuel, finding many of the reported spiritualists to be frauds. This was hard on sold believers. One member of the Society was so distraught over finding certain persons to be false that he committed suicide in a Brighton hotel in 1888.
Madame Blavatsky (1831-1891) was one of these tricksters uncovered by the Society of Physical Research. A believing disciple, wishing to show that fraud was not possible hit the rear wall of Madam Blavatsky's cedar shrine and the panel fell open revealing Blavatsky's boudoir. Many of the psychics of the day were fraudsters, women asking to grant sexual favors in return for aid in a séance or palm reading. Although there were failures on the part of the psychics of the 19th and early 20th century there were always willing believers of the great beyond.
The history of physics just gets more interesting. There were other instances of societies created to investigate scientifically psychic phenomenon. Arthur Ford (1897-1971) was a Disciples of Christ minister who gave up the cloth to lead a life of prominence through contacting a spirit named "Flecher." He also gained media recognition through contacting the dead son of Bishop James Pike in a televised media event. Throughout history physics have been garnering our support if just for their ability to make us believe in other worldly possibilities, which we want so much to believe in. Some sort of explanations for why we are here and what we are doing on this earth. It's up to each person to find out. And though a history of psychics may not show us what we want to hear that there are people who can communicate with our dead relatives and tell us what we need to know for the future, each person had to make their own believable dream for that unique individual.
"Psychics." James K. Walker. The Watchman Expositor. Vol 14, No. 2 1997. Jan. . <http://www.watchman.org/profile/phsyicspro.htm>
"The Fox Sisters: The Rise and Fall of Spiritualism's Founders." Troy Taylor. 2003. The Haunted Museum. Jan. . <http://www.prarieghosts.com/foxsisters.html>