Archive for category Psychics
Last week, we offered ‘Psychic’ Sally Morgan the opportunity to demonstrate to all that she is able to talk to the dead, and therefore does not rely on well-known illusions and trickery in her stage shows. As I’m sure many people are aware, she declined the opportunity – however, we wanted to leave things as open as possible for her, which is why we kept our word and gathered at the Adelphi Hotel at the appointed hour, in case she changed her mind.
The challenge we offered to Sally, which she did not take up, is still open – if at any point Sally feels that demonstrating to her critics, and indeed to her fans, that the services she sells are genuine, she need only get in contact and we’ll happily arrange for the test to take place. Collaborating with the JREF, we had the test set up as an official preliminary test for their $1m challenge, and a future test for Sally would fall under a similarly official remit.
Each Halloween, we intend to give those with paranormal claims the opportunity to demonstrate what they believe they are able to do. More details of the focus of next year’s challenge will be announced late next year.
Below you can watch the press conference we held, including talks from Simon Singh, Chris French and myself.
Part 1: Introduction from Mike Hall, and talk from Dr Simon Singh:
Part 2: Talk from Prof Chris French
Part 3: Prof Chris French Q&A
Part 4: Talk from Michael Marshall and Q&A
Note: Although it shouldn’t need to be pointed out, it’s worth clarifying that the Merseyside Skeptics Society don’t condone or support people publishing contact details for Sally, her office, her lawyers or anyone, nor do we support anyone sending her abusive phone calls or emails (if indeed anyone has done this). Our challenge was offered in an open and respectful way – we wish Sally no personal harm, we just want to establish whether the extraordinary claims she makes and the wholly-unproven services she sells are genuine, or not.
Simon Singh – supporter and friend of the MSS and all-round skeptical legend – has had the unfortunate and somewhat masochistic experience lately of seeing ‘psychic’ Sally Morgan at one of her many lucrative live shows. His latest report from one of the shows, which can be found on his blog, is well worth reading in full, but for those pushed for time I’ll quote here what appear to be the most disturbing elements of a ‘psychic’ Sally live bonanza:
In the first half, in a pained and distressed voice, Sally linked to a spirit who had committed suicide. She linked the spirit with a woman in the audience. She then proceeded to explain that the deceased man had tried to commit suicide four times. This was news to the woman in the audience. Sally also said that the spirit was “furious at the reason” he had to commit suicide. Not only does the woman in audience have to consider telling her family that their deceased relative is still angry, but she also has to explain that they might have missed three previous attempts at suicide, which could be interpreted as three cries for help that were ignored by his family and friends.
In the second half, Sally spoke to another woman in the audience and revealed that her uncle had drowned many years ago. As far as her family were concerned, the uncle had gone abroad as a boy to live with relatives and had never returned to Britain, but now Sally was filling in the gaps by introducing a tragic event. She had also removed any hope that the relative might still be alive. Again, it is easy to imagine how such a message could cause upset within a family. Indeed, it is quite possible (based on something else that was mentioned by the woman in the audience) that the elderly mother of the deceased boy is still alive. She might now have to cope with this revelation.
Scary stuff. Scary, but unfortunately not uncommon, as Simon goes on to point out:
The impression I get from others who see Sally’s shows is that a spirit who committed suicide is a fairly standard part of the show. (Of course, Sally has no control over which spirits will choose to speak to her.)
It may well be that suicide victims are disproportionately likely to be drawn to a genuine psychic. Or, it may well be that those who have lost a loved one to suicide find it exceptionally hard to deal with their grief, seeking out ‘psychics’ to offer some scant and empty comfort for their loss. And it may well be that a non-genuine psychic would be well aware of the particular vulnerability of someone whose loved one committed suicide, and will therefore play the odds by ensuring at least one suicide connection per show – be it an open question of ‘I’m sensing someone lost someone close to suicide’, a vague hint with ‘and, in some ways, he was partly to blame for his death, wasn’t he?’, or even through a good old-fashioned hot reading (where the psychic has read for the sitter before, and invites them along to the theatre show to ‘connect’ with their loved one further – feeding back snippets of past readings amongst unremarkable details, astonishing the rest of the audience with their insight).
It is, of course, impossible to tell how Sally Morgan’s regular claims to contact the spirits of suicide victims come about – we can but speculate. However, what we can do is put Sally’s wider claims to the test – can she really contact the dead? Do the spirits of the deceased really reach out to her?
Regular followers of the Guardian online will already have read that Simon Singh is working with us to devise just such a test for Sally. Very soon we’ll be offering Sally the opportunity to silence her many critics, and demonstrate that communication with the deceased is indeed possible. More details to come very soon – watch this space.
Project Barnum has caused a bit of a stir within the skeptical community in recent days.
Detractors claim that Project Barnum is illiberal and seeks to censor those they disagree with. Supporters say that it is about consumer protection, preventing the unscrupulous (or even merely misguided) from making money by telling people they can do things that they can’t.
Parallels have been drawn, by both sides, with the 10:23 Campaign. Critics of 10:23 similarly claimed the campaign was illiberal, and supporters claimed that it was about consumer protection, preventing the unscrupulous (or even merely misguided) from making money by telling people their pills can do things that they can’t.
Read the rest of this entry »
With the issue of data security and information privacy very much in the news here in the UK with the ongoing public airing of a decade of dirty, dirty News International laundry, it’s almost too convenient that another case of information intrusion is currently being investigated over in America – and though it may be a lot less high-profile, there’s a neat little pseudoscience element too it.
Lori Neill is a former occupational nurse in Colorado Springs, who recently resigned from her job. She is also, she believes, psychic. And she believes those two facts are related, and I’m inclined to agree, though doubtlessly for very different reasons.
Lori’s story is that her psychic abilities made her supervisors uncomfortable, and that on the occasion she had told her supervisor he might be suffering from a life-threatening illness, and that he should seek medical help, he was so angered that he made up allegations about her, to force her out of work.
Officials at the hospital and city, however, tell a different story. They have accused Lori of accessing the medical records of around 2,500 patients. Given that Lori worked not for the hospital but for the city, they argue she had no medical need to look at those records. Especially given that most of the accessing happened outside of work hours. Their implication is that Lori is not actually psychic, or able to spiritually intuit the illnesses of people by tuning into the other side (where diagnosticians are ten a penny, I’d presume). They claim instead that the reason she was able to accurately tell people what ailments had befallen them, was that she’d read their medical records. Read the rest of this entry »
(I’d just like to point out that this story is sponsored by Schadenfreude – for all your laughing-at-people-who’ve-gotten-their-comeuppance needs)
This is actually a story that’s been covered in many other places, including by Steve Novella, and I wasn’t going to add to that… but then I saw a few people on Twitter actively saying they were looking forward to what I had to say about it, so how could I disappoint?
So, three guesses which lovable Liverpudlian fraud I’m going to talk about now? That’s right – Joe ‘just popping to your toilet‘ Power. And, to be clear, I can say fraud, as Joe’s served time in the past for fraud. Oh, and ABH, of course. Nice, friendly Joe Power. I’m not saying any of his act involves fraud at all. But then again, I don’t need to, given the fact that Joe Power’s career is going to pieces so fast that people are getting hit by the bullshit shrapnel. Read the rest of this entry »
Just the other week, I touched on the amazing story of Robin Alexis, the psychic who claims to be able to psychically shoehorn the spirit of Michael Jackson into the unborn foetus of a couple of strangers. You’d think that would be as ridiculous as psychics can get, right?
Well, you’d be entirely wrong. I present to you exhibit A – Lisa Greene, and exhibit B – Ellen Kohn. Both are perfect examples of their trade, and both featured in newspapers in the last couple of weeks. Let’s take Lisa first.
What’s your Pooch Thinking?
Sorry, should have mentioned – Lisa is a pet psychic. Which doesn’t mean she’s a psychic you keep in a cage and feed dead mice to now and then, she’s a psychic who specialises in contacting pets. Which makes me wonder if Newsweek should have changed their title from ‘what’s your pooch thinking’ to ‘what’s our editor thinking?’
“Horses are the most gossipy,” says Lisa Greene, a pet psychic from Houston. “They’ll always tell me everything that’s going on in the barn. Snakes usually have a pretty bizarre sense of humor. And rodents like to spell for me.”
Recently on the schedule: a reading for a whale.
I’d call this whole thing batshit crazy, but Lisa would probably point out that bats are in no way crazy and they actually most love to test her with fiendish logical brainteasers. Read the rest of this entry »