Sunday, July 24, 2005

I Foresee That You Are Going To Give Me All Your Money

Have you ever seen ‘Most Haunted’ on TV?

What a pile of complete and utter crap.

For those who’ve not seen it, ‘Most Haunted’ is a show that takes a selection of psychics and so-called other ‘experts’, around some of the most haunted places in the world. They stay overnight and have encounters with ghosts.

The only problem is, the show consists of ‘experts’ insisting that every noise is a ghost, and usually ends with a ‘psychic’ being possessed.

Now I absolutely detest psychics. To me, they’re nothing but psychological rapists who get rich by playing on people’s emotions.

Now this is the point where a lot of you say: “But my Aunt Martha saw a psychic and he knew she’d recently lost her husband and guessed her sister’s name!”

Ok, time for a little explanation.

So called ‘psychics’ use a method called ‘cold reading’. In other words, they use a series of vague generalizations, and use them to home in on more specific details. They also use a much older method of learning about people.

They cheat.

Let me give an example. Let’s start with psychic ‘shows’, delivered to a group of people.

Usually, there are a couple of stooges milling around before the performance. They’ll start conversations like “I lost my Billy two months ago, I hope the psychic can let me talk to him. How about you?”

Then they pop off, and tell the psychic that the guy in the red shirt in row B recently lost a family member.

If you don’t believe me, you don’t have to. Psychics don’t actually have to use stooges. Let me explain how a cold reading works in this situation.

Let’s say the psychic is performing in front of 50 people.

“I’m getting a message. Is there someone called John here?”

50 people, and a very common name. That pretty much guarantees a hit. However, if it doesn’t:

“Oh, wait, my spirit guide isn’t looking for someone here called John, I have a message for a John that isn’t here. Does anyone here know someone called John?”

Ok, 50 people. 50 people with family and friends. Even if we forget friends and just include everyone’s parents and siblings, we’re looking for a ‘John’ among roughly 200 people. In other words, we have a selection of at least 200 people, in the hope that one of them has a very common name. Even if that doesn’t work:

“I’m sorry. It’s not John. It’s Joan/James/Jenny.”

Then we come to the message:

“I’m seeing a woman. She says to tell John that she’s alright.”

Woman? Anyone reading this that hasn’t had a female family member die? Grandmother, Great Grandmother? Also, depending on the age of the person being ‘read’ it’s easy to guess the chances of their parents having died. It’s less likely for a 20 year old to have lost a parent than it is for a 60 year old.

Think of it this way. The psychic can supposedly speak to the dead.

Imagine if you, yourself died, and wanted to give a message to a loved one. What would you do? Give cryptic references to jewellery, your spouse’s initials, or tell the psychic that you used to like to go fishing?

No, you wouldn’t. You’d give your full name, address, mention a birthmark…you’d be as clear and specific as possible


“This is someone whose first initial is P, I want to talk to someone who had a nickname beginning with S when she was 5. I used to occasionally watch TV.”


But Paulius! I hear you cry. That explains how fakers work a crowd, but what about one on one readings?

Simple. It’s just another version of cold calling.

The ‘psychic’ can gain a lot of information just by looking at you. A wedding ring tells his that you’re married. Scars tell of accidents. What clothes you wear can tell how rich you are.

Also, if you’re paying good money to visit a psychic, he doesn’t need to be ‘told’ by the spirits that you recently lost someone, or that you’re in need of guidance. It’s like a police officer ‘miraculously’ knowing that the person who just ran into the police station, covered in blood, was recently attacked. Plus, by the fact you’re actually there, you obviously believe in psychic powers, and the one thing everyone who believes in psychics wants to believe is that they’re a little psychic themselves. That’s a psychic favourite. They tell the ‘customer’ that they’re a little psychic themselves.

Usually they’ll mention the old chestnut “I bet you’ve thought of someone, and within seconds, the phone has rang, and it was them.”

Let me take a little aside to explain this. You think of, say, your mother, and seconds later, the phone rings, and lo and behold, it’s your mother. Miraculous, no?

Well, actually, no. Think of how many times you think of your family members and the phone doesn’t ring. Think of how many times you have and will talk to your mother over the phone. The laws of probability state that at some point over the course of your life, you will be thinking of your mother, and she’ll call you at the same time. It would actually be more remarkable if this never happened.

It’s easier to think of it this way: If you were playing poker and got a perfect royal flush three times on the run, you’d be astonished. However, think of how many games of poker are played worldwide each day. The chances of three royal flushes on the run happening are million to one, but considering there are billions of poker games being played yearly…it’s more unlikely that this won’t happen sooner or later.


So here’s the reading. Bear in mind that I can’t see you, and you didn’t come here you actually get a reading, so this won’t be nearly as accurate as I could do face to face, but let me try.

“You’re a very sensitive person, but you may not like advertise that fact to everyone. You sometimes feel that you’re misunderstood. School wasn’t the easiest thing in the world for you. You would like to travel and there may be travel in store for you in the future. You sometimes wish you could be a little more assertive or outgoing. Money is an issue for you. You have a scar on your left knee.”

Ok, there are a couple of the basics, and a lot of you may be surprised at how closely that describes you. Let me explain:

Sensitivity. Everyone feels that they’re a good sensitive person, even when they’re not. As for not advertising it, everyone hides their feelings to a certain degree. Everyone has been in a position where someone has said something that hurt them, but not shown it.

‘School wasn’t the easiest for you.” Sounds specific, doesn’t it? Fortunately for the psychic, it applies to everyone. If you were unpopular, it was hard in the social sense. If you were popular, there was probably a subject you found difficult. If you were a genius, you probably got teased a little for being a swot or brainiac. Notice the wording as well. ‘wasn’t the easiest’. Either the psychic is understating the worst period of your life, or is accurately describing how you found it a little difficult.

Travel is a psychic staple. Travel can mean anything from moving to a new job, to going on vacation. Most people go on vacation at least once a year, even if it’s just a 2 hour drive to the coast. That it’s in the ‘future’ is wonderfully vague. The person being read, by this point is thinking “That’s right! I just booked a vacation/I’m visiting relatives next year!/I was considering going on a trip.” The truth is, everyone who has a job wants to go on vacation.

Being more assertive or outgoing. Most people wish that they’d told their boss to shove it, told them they were not going to work late. Almost everyone wishes they were more outgoing and assertive.

‘Money is an issue for you’. This is pretty self explanatory. Money is an issue for everyone! 90% of people struggle with bills or wish they had more money. If you’re rich as Donald Trump, investments, and money management is an issue.

‘You have a scar on your left knee.’ Now this one is different, isn’t it? Very specific, and how could the psychic know? Well this is just one of those weird statistics. About 60-70% of people have a scar on their left knee, playing all the time when you were four left a mark. It’s also useful because even if you didn’t, if you look hard enough, you’ll find something that at least looks like a scar. It’s one of those things, like if you ask a male to think of a playing card, he’s likely to pick the Ace of Spades or the Jack of Clubs, whereas women are most likely to think of the Queen of Hearts. The same as if you ask someone to think of a number between 1 and 4, most people choose 3.

Of course, if it is a total miss, you’re already so astounded by all the others, it’s easily dismissed.

The main thing is that people who visit psychics, want to beleive. They will desperately try to make whatever the psychic says work. It’s human nature.

I once saw a TV show where they took a group of people and gave them psychic readings. 15 people were ‘read’, and each and every one of them was astounded at how accurate the psychic was. It was, however, a set up. The psychic had no psychic powers whatsoever, and gave each and every one of them exactly the same reading.

Their answer? “She must have psychic powers and not know about it.” Despite the fact she was reading from a script.

“To those who believe, no explanation is necessary. To those who do not believe, no explanation will suffice.”

People want to believe, and these psychological rapists use people’s vulnerabilities to get rich. It’s as simple as that.


MC Etcher said...

I sensed that you were going to blog about this, a week ago.

I woke up in a cold sweat screaming "Paulius, No!!"

Cty said...

I think you really hit on the issue that people who want to believe find evidence that supports their beliefs. It's true with religion, with (some) alternative healing and arguably with politics as well.

I guess the question then becomes whether belief is bad or good. If people are getting scammed because of their beliefs, then it's probably bad. But if it helps them cope with life and have a positive outlook, maybe it's okay to sometimes look through rose-colored glasses and believe that's reality.

Litany said...

If a deceased loved one wants to chat, I hereby invite them to give me a call anytime.

No, please don't drop by, a call will be fine, thank you.

Paulius said...

Cty raises a good point, but I don't agree.

What gives a 'psychic' the right to lie to someone, even if it makes them feel better?

There are people who go to see psychics for peace of mind, but end up paying around $200 dollars a visit, twice a week to get lied to.