Archive for category cold-reading

Psychics: Why Believe Them At All?

Psychics and their antics are a common presence on our blog. Whether it’s Joe Power being grumpy on a Liverpool street or Jayne Wallace contacting the spirit of Michael jackson through twitter, we’ve covered it. It’s not surprising, really. Psychics make so many extravagant claims that they’re bound to attract those of us with a Skeptical bent.

Except me.

For some reason, I’ve never been that bothered about psychics, even though as woo goes, psychic powers are up there with the best. Psychics claim extremely ridiculous and hard-to-believe powers, yet are incredibly popular with the public. And they’re everywhere! People reading fortunes through crystal balls and tarot cards, others contacting the dead or reading your mind. You find them at seaside towns, in circuses, on the internet and on phonelines. You even get travelling fairs that run the full gamut of ‘spiritual’ woo. Most people will have heard of the ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’ festival. Read the rest of this entry »

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Handwringing Over Handwriting In The BBC

This week the BBC reported on the condolence letter written by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to the mother of a fallen soldier. Labelling a spelling mistake in the note as ‘disrespectful’, the BBC then decided on report on other inferences the note could betray about the PM’s mental state.

But what does Mr Brown’s handwriting style, and those of other prime ministers, betray about their state of mind?

That’s right – we’re on that little known nonsense that is Graphology – with the BBC running the letter by Elaine Quigley, former head of the British Institute of Graphologists.  In case you’re not familiar with it, graphology is the pseudoscience of examining handwriting – size, shape, slant, angularity, form of the letters and more – and using the analysis to gain insights into the personality and mindset of the writer. Which doesn’t work. But why let that stop a good feature? Read the rest of this entry »

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Twittering The Dead: 140 Characters Of Crap

In the wake of Derreck Acorah’s derisable attempts to pretend to be contacting Michael Jackson last weekend, it occurred to me just how busy Jacko has been of late. Aside from having his barely-cold corpse mawkishly pecked at by dear Derreck, and all the shameless cashing in on his death by film companies with the new flick ‘This Is It’, he recently was the subject of a seane. Well a Tweance. (And yes, I do feel horrible even typing the word. Tweance. Has there ever been an uglier word? Besides ‘groin’, I don’t think so. Still, on I’ll go – the lengths I’m willing to go to for you guys, really…)

Users of Twitter (are they called Twusers?) will already be familiar with the notion of a ‘Tweance’, but for anyone who’s been hibernating for a fortnight, here’s the deal – a ‘Tweance’ is a seance on Twitter. Yeah, Twitter. A Twitter seance. Ponder that for a moment, if it’s new to you.

In fact, supposed-psychic (Twychic?), medium (Twedium?) and utter prat (…?) Jayne Wallace on Halloween night tried to convince people she would be able to contact the spirits of dead celebrities and take questions from users of the social networking site Twitter to put to the deceased. Readers of our blog might remember Jayne from a little while ago when she claimed to have contacted Jade Goody’s spirit while conducting a reading with the dead reality TV star’s grieving mother for the Sun newspaper. Yeah. Still, why exploit the memory of one dead celebrity when you can cram four into a single night. Read the rest of this entry »



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. Read the rest of this entry »

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Testing Psychometrics

People I know, know what I’m like. I’m easy to read, in that respect, if you know me. People know I’m a bit of a talker, and I can be pretty tenacious with an idea (ie stubborn and loud, OK, I’ll admit it). They also know I write for a skeptical website, and as such I often get presented with things to look at, and explain. Sometimes it’s an ‘explain this then, Mr Skeptic!’, sometimes it’s more of a ‘What’s your thoughts on this?’ In the past I’ve been given contact details of tarot card readers, flyers from religious organisations who pray away HIV (more on that coming soon, by the way), palm readings, horoscopes, Chinese stem cell therapy and everything in between. I really am that easy to read.

Which brings me to an appeal I received from a colleague, who sent me a link to a 5-minute personality test he found on a recruitment website. “Mine was pretty accurate,” is all he said. He’s a man of few words, my colleague. So, obligingly, I gave it a whirl, skeptical as to the claims the site made:

Internet Based Psychometric Testing at Internet Prices…  Professional, personality profiling for recruitment, delivered entirely online… No consultants, no trainers, no sales people… Easy to use, fast and delivered at Internet prices… Complete the personality questionnaire and discover the power and simplicity of PeopleMaps personality profiling for yourself. Read your own report. You be the judge.

Testing at Internet Prices
Professional, personality profiling for recruitment, delivered entirely online.
No consultants, no trainers, no sales people.
Easy to use, fast and delivered at Internet prices.
Complete the personality questionnaire and discover the power and simplicity of PeopleMaps personality profiling for yourself. Read your own report. You be the judge.

“Oh”, says I, “I’ll be the judge alright”. But then again, they knew I was going to say that, they can measure my personality, apparently. Read the rest of this entry »



Psychic Predicts Princess Di’s Death, Twelve Years Too Late

As anyone who knows me by now knows, I do love a good story of about psychic. Barely a day goes by without Google News throwing up another lovely tale of a medium, clairvoyant,  tarot reader of psychic detective making yet more unprovable claims. Which is why I was struck with more than a frisson of interest by the headline ‘‘I predicted Princess Di’s death’, says her psychic‘. Lovely. This particular gem appeared in the South Yorkshire Star – god bless Google News feeds, I say.

Essentially, the medium Sally Morgan‘s claim is this: she saw the death of princess Diana a year before it happened. So far, so standard. But apparently, she misread the message as a prediction of  the death of the queen, which is why she didn’t failed to warn Di.   Read the rest of this entry »