Posted by c. wagner on November 4, 2009
I crashed through an interesting book the other day, The Psychic Mafia by M. Lamar Keene. Keene was a popular medium in his day, famed in spiritualist circles for his clairvoyance and ability to summon spirits into the seance room.
He was a fake.
His “clairvoyance” depended on filching information from subject’s purses and pockets, secretly listening to conversations, and reading notes on the subjects from other mediums. This is called hot reading. The “spirits” were produced by basic magic tricks: hidden rods, balls of fabric, ventriloquism, and so forth.
He was never caught faking and quit the business when his conscience got the better of him. But that was after he’d raked in huge sums of cash and all sorts of gifts from those who availed themselves of his “psychic” skills.
It was all a business. A very lucrative business. One taking advantage of human weakness. He writes,
One of the most alarming things about the mediumistic racket is how completely some people put their lives into the hands of ill-educated, emotionally unbalanced individuals who claim a hot line to heaven. As a medium I was routinely asked about business decisions, marital problems, whether to have an abortion, how to improve sexual performance, and similar intimate and important subjects. That people who ask such questions of a medium are risking their mental, moral, and monetary health is a shocking but quite accurate description of the matter. [page 22]
To me, of course, sex in the seance room is merely a logical, though particularly nasty, extension of the basic premise of fraudulent mediumship: give the customer what he (or she) wants. What it is doesn’t matter; what it pays does.
Another reaction, of course, is pity for those who are so lonely and alienated from normal human companionship that they have to cohabit with a ghost. Here, as in other areas of life, the services of the phony medium do not help the sitter–they hinder him or her in developing the inner resources to face life realistically. [page 140]
Lamar Keene held out hope that some mediums really could summon spirits and communicate with the dead, even though he never met one of these.
No one has.
Watch the Penn and Teller: Bullshit! episode on “psychics”.
Watch Richard Dawkins interview Derren Brown about “psychic”‘s techniques.
Posted in Recent reading | Tagged: "psychics", clairvoyance, fraud, ghosts, M. Lamar Keene, mediums, seances, spiritualism | 2 Comments »
Posted by c. wagner on October 30, 2009
Okay. My head hurts from this one.
A recent article in the Telegraph starts out talking about how Dr. Richard Wiseman, a well-known psychologist who has investigated the paranormal for years, conducted an informal experiment into remote viewing over Twitter. Remote viewing is the supposed ability to “see” things that are happening at a distant place or at least something that they should have no prior knowledge of. Wiseman recruited about 7,000 people, traveled to a location in England, and sent a tweet using his mobile phone. Participants were supposed to use remote viewing and choose from five photographs to locate him. 15% got his location right. That’s less than chance would allow.
More formal experiments into remote viewing (which is a type of ESP), including one conducted for the CIA by Ray Hyman and Jessica Utts, have also shown that remote viewers have a no better than chance … chance of success. Wiseman’s Twitter test only added to the pile of negative reports on remote viewing.
But the Telegraph pairs the summary of the Twitter test with stories about how remote viewing is supposedly “helping” to find missing persons and medical diagnoses. The author cites a person who shows only 2 letters of congrats for finding the bodies of missing persons. No mention of how many times the remote viewers had tried to find missing people.
Then the author relates that remote viewers were asked to apply their skills to her life.
Before my ex-husband died two years ago, I had discovered that he’d been unfaithful. I wanted to know if he’d had any illegitimate children. I waited more than a week for the reply. Four remote viewers came up with colourful, jerky impressions: the effect was like reading blank verse. They did not answer my question but they described my husband, scenes from his life and mannerisms with such accuracy that it made me cry.
This sounds like the Barnum Effect to me.
Besides, an single, personal anecdote doesn’t cancel years and years of research. And like any crappy “psychic” technique, it can distract from more productive avenues of research.
Read the article at the Telegraph.
Watch the Penn and Teller: Bullshit! episode about ESP and remote viewing.
Posted in Recent reading | Tagged: "psychics", ESP, medicine, remote viewing, Richard Wiseman | Leave a Comment »
Posted by c. wagner on October 20, 2009
When I saw this over at the JREF blog, I had to read it a couple of times. From anyone else (and even without another source for confirmation), I would have thought it was made up. Nextweb.com asks:
Always wanted to talk to Houdini, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain or Michael Jackson? Well, now you can, and via Twitter no less. This Friday (October 30th) Medium Jayne Wallace is hosting the world’s first interactive Twitter Séance aptly titled ‘Twéance’.
You can nominate your favorite dead celebrity via Twitter before Friday and even pass on your questions. On friday morning Jayne will start her ‘Twéance’, not by tweeting the questions (”Hey @JohnLennon! Whazzup!?!?!?!”) but by asking the questions the good old ‘traditional’ psychic way. The replies she will apparently tweet, on @Tweance.
Does anyone think this isn’t a scam? This has to be the lamest attempt at talking to the dead I’ve ever heard about. It’s not even cold reading, which takes serious skill to do well. Anyone could do this ‘Twéance’ crap.
Besides, I’ve cut out the middle-woman. I’m already following Charles Darwin.
Posted in News | Tagged: "psychics", lame, twitter, WTF | Leave a Comment »