Posts Tagged cold-reading

Disturbing Reports From ‘Psychic’ Sally’s Theatre Tour

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.

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Psychic Joe Power And The Two Man Mob – Revisited

Joe Power - psychic or not? You decide.

Joe Power - psychic or not? You decide

In the wake of Derren Brown’s stinging exposé on ‘Psychic’ Joe Power, I thought it worth sharing with the world a conversation I had with Joe back in June 2009, when the MSS was still young, and I was but a naive, innocent skeptic with a dream, and an application form for Randi’s $1million Challenge…

Cool drizzle fell onto the grey Saturday streets of Liverpool, a light breeze tumble-weeded a sweet wrapper down the road in a clichéd fashion, and I was becoming increasingly aware that this would be the strangest conversation of my life.  And I didn’t need psychic powers for that.  For I was in the company of ‘Psychic’ Joe Power, fresh from his latest in-store book-signing (signed copies of which, I add, are still on the shelves of Waterstones – supply quite exceeded demand it seems), and things were getting weird.

“The thing about you sceptics,” he said, standing on the step of a plus-size lingerie shop to raise himself to my eye-level, “is that you sit there, festering in front of your computers at 3am, thinking up ways to get at people.  What if I were to sit in front of your house and tell people you’re a paedophile?”

“Well,” I say, “that’s for you to decide to do if you want to but it’s not really the same thing – I’m raising questions over what you do and the service you claim to provide; insinuating I was a paedophile would be just a personal attack, and wildly baseless.  It’s not really the same thing.  At all.”

“Oh I think they’re very similar,” he answers, “because you’re there festering, at 3am, plotting to get at me, in the same way that paedophiles fester and plot to interfere with children – you both have to be sick in the head to do what you do.”

With Herculean effort to suspend my natural what-the-fuck? reaction, and with a curt politeness that in retrospect now seems other-worldly, I manage a swift retort:  ”Sorry, can I just clarify – are you comparing sceptics to paedophiles?  Could you explain that?  I mean, are you saying that paedophiles also ask questions of you, or what exactly?”

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Joe:  ”I think most sceptics probably are paedophiles. I mean you’re sat around at 3am, plotting, aren’t you?  Do you deny that?”

An-incredulous-Marsh: “Do I deny what?  That I ask questions?  That I’m sometimes awake at 3am?  Or that I am a paedophile?  Could you please be clear what you’re asking me, Joe?”

It’s not often that you’re 5 minutes into a conversation with someone you’ve never met before and they’ve already played the paedophile card.  I had a feeling it was going to be one of those days.

>> Read the full account

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Another Psychic, Another Dead Celebrity: Deb Webber ‘Meets’ Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin, taken from http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://www.webwombat.com.au/spotlight/images/steve-irwin-dead.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.webwombat.com.au/spotlight/steve-irwin-dead.htm&h=400&w=300&sz=24&tbnid=R1MbS6VVuGNALM:&tbnh=124&tbnw=93&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dsteve%2Birwin&usg=__vjtdDv3HNg75OiPhFElyNRFNQEI=&ei=-mWrS9TvB5v40wTKosiPDg&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=1&ct=image&ved=0CAkQ9QEwAAIn recent weeks and months we’ve seen many celebrities contacted from beyond the grave – including Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith, Kurt Cobain and Jade Goody. Or rather, we’ve seen psychics claiming to contact these people, as there’s never been anything to suggest for a moment that they were actually in contact with the dead.

Well we’ve a new name to add to the list – crocodile hunter and all-round Aussie legend Steve Irwin. Irwin died in 2007 after being struck by a stingray, and has been sorely missed since then, not least of course by his family. Which makes it all the more terrible that psychic Deb Webber is claiming to have made connection with the Steve whilst doing a reading for his father Bob.

In an article featured on the Sunshine Coast Daily site, and picked up by our very own – you guessed it – The Sun newspaper, the so-called psychic’s amazing insight was explained:

“We talked about so many things, some too personal to talk about,” Mr Irwin said. “He told me everything is OK, not to be sad and to keep up the fight, to continue looking after the animals.”

Obviously Deb’s powers are pretty accurate there, because I remember Steve Irwin being on TV and he definitely seemed like the kind of person who’d advise you to look after animals, so her reading definitely sounds like him. Therefore it’s true. Yeah. Read the rest of this entry »

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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 »

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