Archive for category cold-reading

Pull A Fast One: Honor Between Psychics and Pseudomedics

Dwain ChambersThis week saw Bridlington-born psychic Honor Broxap make some really geuininely totally 100% amazing predictions about Dwain Chambers.  ‘East Riding’s answer to Mystic Meg’ managed to correctly predict that Chambers would make it to the final of the World Championship 100m in Berlin.  Oh yeah.  Take that, James Randi.  The report says she also apparently claimed he would beat his personal best.  ‘Fast runner to run really fast’ – she really is astounding alright.

Now, two things are going on here – the first is that she’s playing into confirmation bias: if Dwain made the final as she predicted, the hit gets remembered and she looks mildly decent; if he fails, it’s a non-story and it doesn’t get reported. It’s the publisher’s drawer selection-bias.  Secondly, Dwain Chambers was hardly a huge outsider to make it throught the heats! Looking at his opponents, you’d have been pretty confident Chambers would make the final. It’s like predicting Man Utd will win the league – they’re going to be somewhere around there, so it’s not that remarkable.

Honor did, however, impressively predict he would break his personal best though – which he didn’t. The article skims over this minor point, but he actually broke his seasonal best with a run of 10seconds dead. His personal best is 9.97 seconds, so she was wrong. But we won’t dwell on that too much, because she also made another amazingly accurate claim… Read the rest of this entry »

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Feeling Jaded: Psychics in the Sun

In a story which appeared in the Sun on August 3rd, Jade’s mum Jackiey Budden has met with medium Jayne Wallace to find out what her deceased daughter has to say about such a range of topics as her widower Jack Tweed, the custody of her children, musical theatre and Oprah Winfrey.

In a 2-and-a-half-minute video on the Sun’s website – the highlights of a two hour seance – we see the so-called psychic performing a combination of tarot-reading and straight-out clairvoyance with Jackiey, who’s daughter lost a very public battle with cancer four months ago.

Now, I’m never one to speak ill of the dead.  Fortunately, there are mediums like Jayne Wallace who are happy to do that for me, making really disgustingly distasteful claims like:

  • Marrying Jack ‘was the biggest mistake [Jade] ever made’
  • ‘[Jack]’s gonna by a pub or a club with [Jade]’s money’ – a claim that gets swiftly re-written when the so-called psychic is told that he’s not getting any of her money, and the claim is suddenly adapted to mean ‘money he has made by selling out her memory’.  Selling her memory.  A bit like, say, the money Jayne the psychic and Jackiey the grieving mum would be making from the Sun for conducting a public and ghoulish seance, you might say?

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Astrology 101: Debunking The Dirty Dozen

As we were sat around MSS HQ (which, being skeptics and all, you’re no doubt 100% aware of the fact it doesn’t actually exist), it occurred to us that there is an awful lot of woo out there, and not everyone can be expected to be fully versed in every bit of it.  I’d never heard of Pascal’s Wager (as Mike charmingly announced to the world).  People we’ve spoken to had no idea why homeopathy and acupuncture were pseudomedicine.  Some forms of woo are so obscure people may not have even heard of them (please please please spend 5 minutes looking up Breatharianism, for your next ‘what’s the harm?’ conversation).  We’ll be giving a basic intro to the pseudoscience and fuzzy thinking behind some of those in the near future, as part of our ‘Skeptic 101‘ series.

Then there are the other topics – the ones where everyone knows it’s nonsense, but you might not have the facts to hand next time you’re accosted by a woo-peddler on the subject.  Bigfoot.  Crop Circles.  Dowsing.  For me, Astrology falls firmly into this second category.

Twelve signs, twelve months, twelve types of people.  In the whole world. From looking at the positions of the stars and planets at precisely the moment of birth, it’s possible to predict character, future events, love life and a whole manner of cold, hard facts about a person.  Except it isn’t.  Because that’s ridiculous.  We all know that.  So here’s your at-a-glance guide to the woo that is astrology. Read the rest of this entry »

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