Psychics, Pies and Challenging Lies


I love a psychic story. It’s like catnip to me. Give me a local reporter shamelessly pandering to the nonsense of a purported sage or mystic, and I’m instantly all fired-up with lovely apoplectic ire. ‘Talks to the dead, does he?’ ‘See the future, can he?’ The irritation caused by yet another credulous, fact-free, pseudoscientific puff-piece just feeds me. Which is why I was delighted to find a report in local paper Wigan Today reported this week on the psychic pieman. ‘Oooh’, I thought, ‘Here we go’. So, who or what is the psychic pie-man? Well, apparently, Wigan-based baker Kevin Warrilow has put aside the pastry knife and taken to the crystal ball after undergoing an ‘unexplainable’ transformation in his life. The paper explains:

“Things changed dramatically after the pie shops hit financial problems and he began to be guided by the spirit of a beautiful Afro-Carribean (sic) woman called Lisa, whose face would materialise in curtains, doors or tables to tell him of the new direction his life must take”

I think the key phrase there is ‘financial problems’ – after converting his pie shop into a Love and Light Spirituality Centre and flogging crystal, tarot readings, Angel Cars and incense, I think it’s safe to say his income is somewhat flourishing. The article continues:

“He then began to give private readings to friends and family who were profoundly impressed with how accurate they proved to be.”

Which sounds either like he’s a really gifted and genuine psychic, or he’s using simple cold reading tricks that anybody can easily pick up. Also, it’s worth noting, it’s REALLY easy to give accurate personal readings about the people you know really well. ‘Hi Mum, welcome, take a seat. OK, the spirits are telling me that you have a son called Kevin who used to sell pies, and now he sells lies*…’ Amazing.

The prescient pasty-maker says of his kooky career change:

“Friends were amazed at how I had changed almost overnight to a deeply spiritual person and how I had this amazing gift, which I can’t explain and have given up trying to”

It seems to me like Kevin has given up trying to explain things a little early, so to help him out I’m happy to have a go at explaining it – he’s using simple cold reading techniques that anybody can pick up, and he’s turned to them after the bottom fell out of the pie business. There, that’s just one possible explanation, and I barely spent any time on that one.

“I had no more interest in this subject from your average fella off the street. I remember going to a developmennt (sic) circle and cracking up with laughter and thinking I was surrounded by looneys, (sic) because I was as sceptical as the next man. But I was then guided by spirit to transform one of my former bakery shops into a spiritual shop” (original spelling in Wigan Today preserved – nice spell-checking, professional journalists…)

I would venture that the main spirit he’s in touch with is the spirit of entrepreneurship.

Still, there may soon be more money in the psychic business than Kevin could predict, because in keeping with precedent set by Randi’s million dollar challenge, a new $50,000 challenge has been issued to psychics and mediums to prove genuine spirit communication. What’s unusual about this new challenge, however, is that it’s not being run by a bearded and seasoned skeptical debunker like dear Randi, but instead by a purported spiritualist and medium.

Eddie Benitez of Arizona is issuing the challenge to psychics to prove that what they’re doing is genuine – which is pretty odd given that he purportedly believes he is able to see and communicate with spirits and with angels himself. Eddie sees no inherent dilemma in this – his firm belief in his own mystic talents have led him to challenge others in the field in order to weed out the fakes and phonies, apparently. If only all psychics were so noble in their intentions, I seem to remember a certain Liverpudlian mystic who admitted to knowing fraudulent psychics personally, but refusing to out them or to challenge them to prove themselves.

Eddie, unlike Joe Power, believes that the frauds in his industry are conning vulnerable people out of money and hope with false claims to communicate with their deceased loved ones, or claims to predict their futures. I can’t say I disagree, as Tim Minchin so excellently puts it:

“These people aren’t plying a skill,
They are either lying or mentally ill”

Psychic Eddie hopes someone will be able to rise to the challenge and prove once and for all that psychic connections and talking to the dead is real. Which we can safely presume it isn’t – based on current evidence, scientific knowledge, logic and common sense. Still, fair play to Eddie for making the effort.

First in the queue of prominent self-professed mediums he hopes to call to task are James Van Praagh and Sylvia Browne, who he’s issued personal challenges to. Surprisingly, neither have accepted the challenge – which is weird, because Sylvia’s usual modus operandi is to accept the challenge and then make up crappy excuses not to go through with it.

The most important factor, of course, is the criteria on which the challenge will be judged – this hasn’t been announced yet, and it’s quite possible that Eddie’s parameters will be loose enough for someone like Sylvia Brown, James van Praagh or John ‘Biggest Douche In The Universe’ Edward to slip through with a mix of bluffing and cold reading – until the criteria is announced it’s not possible to place much stock in the challenge. Yet, if the methods are suitably rigorous, and the testing done honestly and with as much involvement from cold-reading and psychology experts as possible, maybe it’ll be worthwhile. I hope Eddie’s first in the queue to take his challenge – that will go a long way towards proving it’s not just a poor PR stunt to allow one claimed medium to expose out his rivals and lessen the field for his own benefit. Still, it’s an interesting take on the challenge nonetheless.

*Please note, in the hypothetical scenario above, the spirits are claiming Kevin sells lies. I make no such claim, nor do I desire to.

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  1. #1 by Dave on October 20, 2009 - 18:17

    As a native St helens-er Im more concerned with this apparant downturn in the NW pie industry, Sayers and greggs just dont cut it!!

  2. #2 by Danny on October 21, 2009 - 10:21

    Dave……Do you think he foreseen the closing of Pimmies Pies?

  3. #3 by Gittins on October 21, 2009 - 13:20

    “Things changed dramatically after the pie shops hit financial problems and he began to be guided by the spirit of a beautiful Afro-Carribean (sic) woman called Lisa”

    Sounds like the plot from a bad 80s sitcom

  4. #4 by AexMagd on October 21, 2009 - 14:04

    Marsh, you are a wonderful man. You’re got to admire his spirit of entrepreneurship though. I’m worried though what with all the Sayers shops closing – does this mean we’ll have even more shops selling questionable healing items instead of questionable meat products?

  5. #5 by Marsh on October 21, 2009 - 15:31

    Genius. I think there’d be some hilarious consequences involved, guaranteed. Given the legendarily inappropriate racial sensitivities of the sit-com genre throughout history, they’d probably call it ‘Baker and the Black’ or something… simpler, less enlightened times.

  6. #6 by Marsh on October 21, 2009 - 15:33

    Perhaps they’ll combine the two, and have questionable meat-based mystical items. Like a dowsing rod made of sausage. Or a pack of corned beef tarot cards.

  7. #7 by Dave on October 22, 2009 - 00:44

    I still cant quite beleive Ill never again be able to enjoy a pimmys steak pie in a barmcake 🙁

  8. #8 by kate rogers on October 22, 2009 - 11:52

    i want to comment on the psychic pieman story, he is a fake, he may not like people saying it but it is true, i think it is a disgrace papers editing out the complaints about him on their site, people that have worked for him for over 2 years have told how he asked them to lie to paying clients, to make things up! people should be warned about him, as he is dealing with many vunrable people and to lie and make the readings up gives all other psychics a bad name, as well as can be very damaging to his clients, their is a very good psychic on frog lane that helps people, does not lie and has a proven track record so why should people not be warned about this fake, he could end up with a suicide on his hands soon,

  9. #9 by Gittins on October 22, 2009 - 16:12

    Kate, I noticed that someone posted almost exactly the same comment on another site, under a different name.

    http://www.topix.com/uk/wigan/2009/10/meet-wigans-psychic-pieman

    I’m starting to suspect that both you and Marie Townsend were telepathically manipulated into posting the same poorly written comment by an unscrupulous psychic. One possibly based on frog lane.

  10. #10 by Trystan on October 22, 2009 - 19:45

    Has the medium on Frog Lane undergone any form of scientific testing? If not, do you feel they may be willing to undergo it? All it takes is one medium to prove they have genuine abilities to change the skeptical status quo.

  11. #11 by Michael on October 25, 2009 - 15:12

    How is it possible to give ‘Other psychics a bad name’????????????????????????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    All psychics are DELUDED or LIARS. That is it. Full stop.
    PSYCHIC = PROFESSIONAL LIAR, or PSYCHIC = MENTAL PATIENT (on the loose)
    So I say that ALL psychics are criminals. And I am absolutely CORRECT. No one can prove it otherwise.

  12. #12 by wiganer on November 2, 2009 - 10:02

    I know the guy personally, and obviously this bad press hurts him. Everyone has their right to an opinion and obviously a ‘skeptic’ website is only going to provide negativity.

    However, your whole basis of your argument is his ability to turn around his finances and an ‘entrepreneur’. Well, I can promise you this Kev is far from wealthy, in fact he is struggling like the rest of us. Most of us have families and a mortgage and Kev is no different.

    So the reason for his career change has nothing to do with earning big bucks but because he has an ability, that I certainly do not have.

  13. #13 by kathleen on November 2, 2009 - 20:05

    I hope this doesn’t provoke any apoplectic ire, I can only speak from personal experience and I found Kevin to be a lovely warm caring man. I know there are fakes out there and of course if you don’t have faith and do not believe then there is not much anyone can do to convince you. I am very wary of strangers especially ones who I am paying money to but I felt totally at ease with Kevin.

    He did pick up on some very relevant and personal points and I do believe that he was in contact with passed love ones, and that is all he claimed to do not make predictions or work miracles.

  14. #14 by Hazel on November 3, 2009 - 13:15

    Don’t get me wrong, I can be a very sceptical too and have a hard time trusting people.

    I have met quite a few mediums/psychics over the past few years and Kevin has become a good friend of mine. He is one of a few I can trust and find it very hurtful that people can make such nasty comments about Kevin and others before him before even meeting them. Your hurtful words can have a painful impact just because they wanted to share or was approached (like Kevin) to share their amazing story.

    I still hope by Kevin sharing his story that it will help others going though similar changes that they are not alone.

    You carry on doing what your doing Kevin, I’m very proud of you.

  15. #15 by Marsh on November 3, 2009 - 15:28

    It seems Kevin has a lot of friends on here then! Interesting. The aim of my article was not to call into question Kevin’s personality – he might well be a lovely chap. But the claims he makes are unscientific and deserve great scrutiny before they are to be accepted.

    In terms of his claimed powers, I think the points I’ve made here are valid – there appears to be nothing in the reports of what he can do that can’t be explained at least initially as basic cold reading, whether knowingly or not. (Actually, what CAN Kevin do? Does he contact the dead, give insights into the future or give readings on personality? Those are all distinct areas, totally separate, yet it appears he can dabble in each). Also, the story of his amazing talents seems to have been overlooked by scientific journals and major international, or even national, news outlets – if he was truly able to show promising results in the field he claims, it would be amazing that the attention of the world wouldn’t be caught up in the revelation.

    Still, I’d be happy to give Kevin the chance to set the record straight about his abilities and his motives, we can offer him an interview slot on our podcast or our sister podcast Righteous Indignation. Contact me at press@merseysideskeptics.org.uk and we’ll be delighted to set that up.

    What’s more, we’re happy to endorse Kevin and his talents if he’d like to submit himself to impartial, scientific testing. If he can reproduce what he claims to be able to do under clear conditions, then that’s precisely all it would take to convince me what he’s doing is real. It’s not a matter of faith, it’s a matter of proof. Again, if one of Kevin’s friends could find some way of passing this message all the way to Kevin himself, please tell him to email me and we’ll happily discuss a system of testing where we can eliminate any possible outside influences and ascertain that it is indeed his psychic powers that are giving him such results.

  16. #16 by kathleen on November 8, 2009 - 16:32

    I would like to add to my comments I do not know Kevin in a personal capacity other than the contact I had with him through his shop.

    It’s good to have debate and question things but some of the comments on here about Kevin are very scathing. They sound very personal and degrading and that is not scientific either. It’s also very unkind and unpleasant and not something I would want to associate myself with.

    Incidentally my Grandmother used to ‘see’ spirits, she wasn’t a liar or a psycho; she didn’t do it for money or fame and treated it very matter-of-factly. I don’t suppose she would have any way of proving this scientifically nor would she have wanted to.

  17. #17 by Peter on November 9, 2009 - 19:08

    personal i think the lot of you are bunch of time waster with time on your hands who have nothing better to do kevin is a personal friend of mine and he has many testimonial to his name just because you yourself have not got the gift doe not give you the right to criticise other people especailly if you not prove or disprove it. So why don’t you get off your arsess and do something useful.

  18. #18 by Marsh on November 11, 2009 - 18:44

    Hi Peter

    Thanks for your comments. We’d love to get off our arses (I presume you meant) and get involved – in fact, in every test ever run on psychic powers under controlled, scientific conditions, the psychic powers have been shown not to work. But we are such a bunch of time waster(s) with time on our hands, we’d love the opportunity to be proven wrong – as science fans and skeptics it’s really important to us that if we’re wrong, we can be shown it, and then we’ll change our minds immediately. How about you send me Kevin’s email details and we’ll chat to him about how to set up a test for him to prove us wrong? If you’ve the time on your hands to send us an email (to press@merseysideskeptics.org.uk) to start the procedure off, I mean.

    Again, thanks for your colourful and unpunctuative feedback – we look forward to hearing more from you. Really excited about the test, too!

    M

  19. #19 by beka on November 15, 2009 - 16:26

    I am adding a comment regarding The Psychic Baker , Kevin. Firstly, I did not know Kevin personally when I approached him for a reading. He was very very accurate in his reading and gave me both personal details of things that only I could have known and also made predictions, which have actually happened since my visit. He accurately named members of my family that have passed away first time with no error. Im not talking about one or two names, more like 15 names. Very impressive for a cold reading technique!!! Since then I have got to know Kevin and a more genuine and honest bloke you couldnt wish to meet. He is far from making a killing doing this. He does it because he cares about people and about what he does. And I know you will say , well if he cares why doesnt he do it for free? Simple . He has to house, clothe and feed his children. Oh and for the record if you arent happy with the reading he doesnt take a penny. He is a normal bloke that has been given an amazing gift. Unfortunately he has met some people along the way who wanted to take advantage of Kevs kind and generous nature, but who got found out. They are plain nasty and jealous of Kevins gift because they clearly dont have what it takes to be a genuine and good human being, let alone a good medium. So before you take anymore time and wasted effort to post a comment in reply to this and dog both Kevin and spirituality, why dont you use a modicum of intelligence and take as you find. Book yourself into see Kevin . Open your mind as wide as your gob.
    Many thanks for reading this and I do look forward to your reply 🙂

  20. #20 by cheely monkey on November 15, 2009 - 21:39

    The psychic baker, well after reading the not so flattering article in the local press, i was intruiged to google him and found his website, well i have seen his you tube videos..what a joke, this man seems to have his head so far up his arse, i would love to see what happens to him if he really had to perform, i have seen mediums that would blow him out the water..he is sooo out of his depth lol

    enjoy

    http://www.psychicbaker.com/main/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7&Itemid=6

  21. #21 by maria on November 16, 2009 - 16:54

    I know kevin , what a load of crock! he is a down and out liar and fraud, my dog has more spirituality than him, he is a free loader, pays for nothing (not even his taxes) i posted a comment on his ‘web site’ stating so and the whole forum was shut down immedietley (someone else was also questioning him) it opened up a few days later and hey presto would you beleive it, all the posts had ben lost! He has told staff to lie to clients and make stuff up, people go to psychics when they are low and vulnerable, ive spoken to people who felt cheated and riped off after seeing him and worried when their ‘relatives didnt come through’ ive met with soemone who has suffered a great deal of heartache after encountering kevin he is playing god with peoples lives and WILL CAUSE SOME SERIOUS PSYCHOLOGICAL DAMAGE before he is stopped, the sooner that shop and kevin dissapear the better.

    As for seeing faces in curtains, i wouldnt tell my closest friend that never mind the paper even if i was psychic, has anyone been in touch with his doctor?

  22. #22 by m.mcconville on November 17, 2009 - 08:21

    Replying to Kate Rogers, its very obvious to me that you have joined in on a vey clear witch hunt for kevin warrilow, you sound very bitter and twistedt, if you dont like what he does then why get involved.
    How can you say that one is better than the other, surely its down to who you feel comfortable with and own personal choice.
    I find your choice of wording disgracefull.

  23. #23 by beka on November 19, 2009 - 19:48

    Dear God….. Have you pathetic people not got enough going on in your own lives? Why dont you ask for one for christmas perhaps, and then maybe, just maybe you can leave Kev alone to get on with his.

  24. #24 by maria on November 22, 2009 - 16:03

    I have a very full and active life, its why i dont pretend to be something im not or rip people off…….oh wait hang on it has nothing to do with having a life its all to do with the fact im a decent honest caring person who hates seeing people made fools of!

    still we all have lessons to learn and yours is obviously about who you trust and what you believe, hope you dont find to bad the day you find out you were suckered in, plenty were and probably still 🙁

  25. #25 by maria on November 22, 2009 - 16:04

    just to add, it should say ‘feel’ bad in the next to last line not ‘find’ bad 🙂

  26. #26 by Mary on November 22, 2009 - 20:29

    Oh my god guys…this report? was supposed to be about Kev’s psychic ability and not about him as a person…a psychic reading is a personal thing and you shouldnt be telling people who to and not go to…as for you spiritual people you knock me sick…if you have a problem deal with it yourselves and move on…all this hate and revenge attacks stagnate inside you and make you all bitter…as previously mentioned GET A LIFE!!!

  27. #27 by Marsh on November 22, 2009 - 22:14

    Hi Mary – sorry to see spiritual people make you sick, I suppose that’s the thing about people claiming to talk to the dead – it’s very hard not to be sickened by the way they use the memories of deceased loved ones in order to sound like what they’re doing is magical, when it’s a simple parlour trick anyone can learn with the right basis in cold reading and the will to be seen as someone who pretends to talk to the dead.

    Ironically enough, the one thing a psychic reading isn’t is ‘a personal thing’ – 70% of what you’re told will be identical to what the next person would be told, and the other 30% is just stuff you tell the psychic yourself, spoken back to you in a way that makes it falsely look like it was derived by magical means.

    As always, if you could email me directly with Kevin’s email address we’d be delighted to chat to him about setting up a reading in order to test his skills, and we’d be even more delighted to endorse him as the world’s first ever actually-psychic person if his reading was based on anything beyond the standard psychological factors used by every other non-psychic ‘psychic’.

    Will await your email!

    Cheers
    Marsh

  28. #28 by maria on November 23, 2009 - 22:27

    mary its very much about him as a person, a person who dupes people, people who are sometimes in desperate need of answers and not in a good place, he told some of his staff to lie and make it up as they went along, what does that say about his spiritual motives??????

  29. #29 by Mary on November 28, 2009 - 21:42

    This is my final post…because this is pathetic! I didnt say i hated spiritual people…i meant that spiritual people posting on this site knock me sick…its an absolute disgrace that people feel they have to air their inadequacies on this site rather than dealing with there issues with the person in question face to face if they have real concerns…you are very cowardly. Were is this going to get you other than minutes of your life wasted…lol…toodles you bunch of saddoes!!!

  30. #30 by Mary on November 28, 2009 - 21:46

    Sorry forgot to say…which staff would that be???

  31. #31 by Marsh on November 29, 2009 - 11:44

    Please, send me a contact email for Kevin if you have it, we can put some fair testing together and then see once and for all. It’s that simple.

    Marsh

  32. #32 by me on March 3, 2010 - 02:25

    he has gone bankrupt

    http://www.insolvency.gov.uk/databases/ddirector/viewdisqdirectorcasedetails2.asp?compno=04354663

    bet he didnt see that comming

    false email address for fear of reprisals – sorry

  33. #33 by jo russell on April 19, 2014 - 19:42

    I don’t think you need to be sceptical to doubt those who claim to talk with the dead,etc. Nobody can talk with the dead. Why? Because they’re DEAD!
    Some people have egos so vast they can stuff themselves with the flesh of dead animals but claim that they,useless Joe Bloggs,who never did anything worthwhile when he was alive,will somehow survive death and live forever.It’s just a shame that they won’t wake up on the slab and be disappointed that there actually isn’t an afterlife. People-it’s just a fable invented to provide folk with a reason for continuing a hard and thankless life. Try and change things now-there’s no pie in the sky!

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