Posts Tagged cold-reading

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 »



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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Clairovoyant Cabbie predicts pregnant passenger’s due date! Or ‘How basic cold reading can be used to monkey with strangers’

According to The Sun, a mysterious taxi driver has predicted the due date of a passenger’s unborn child, with a level of insight labeled ‘Spooky’ by the mum-to-be.  As the article explains:

“The cabbie said: “You’re expecting a baby” — and at that stage she was not even showing a bump.  He then said the tot was due on August 9 — which is the date she had just been given by her gynaecologist.  The mystic cabbie then went on to tell her the baby would be born five days late, at 11.10am on August 14.”  Source: The Sun: 01 June 2009

Quite the miracle, indeed. Or is it?  Let’s break the story down piece by piece.

First of all, the cabbie guessed the mum-to-be was pregnant.  Cool.  After having picked her up from her first ultrasound scan.  OK.  Which, unless I’m mistaken on these things (I’ve never been pregnant and have never had an ultrasound), takes place at a hospital.  Convenient. In an Obstetrics and Gynaecology ward.  Ah.  So a cabbie charged with picking a woman up from the Obs & Gynae entrance speculated she may be with child – perhaps not the greatest stab in the dark to have made.

Read the rest of this entry »

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