Magic psychic powers might be fake. Supernatural powers honed by Derek Acorah and Psychic Sally are extremely questionable. It has been proven that lucrative charlatans are cashing in on psychic fraud. Whether or not psychic powers actually do exist is debateable(?), however, what is not debateable is the stone cold truth that many psychic mediums the world over are quacks.
Our fascination with the supernatural dates way back to a distant time in history. We are mesmerised by the enigma of an afterlife and transfixed by the possiblity of other-worldly life forms; extra-terrestrial aliens, gods, ghosts, demons etc. Life on this planet is truly ineffable and it’s precious. Our relationship with this world is precious. Feelings, thoughts, emotions, ideas – what becomes of them after one has passed away? Such frightening questions leave us gasping for answers.
The art of mediumship rose to popularity in the 19th century. Since then many psychic mediums have been found guilty of fraud yet many continue to ply their ‘bogey’ trade today. Personally, I am a sceptic. I find it hard to believe that there are individuals out there that can communicate to the deceased by means of magic powers. Maybe I’m stubborn in my doubts on psychic abilities but that doesn’t unhinge the fact that I was a firm believer in mediumship until early adulthood and it doesn’t unhinge the fact that I am willing to change my stance again if something magic comes along and takes me by storm. It just so happens that nothing magic has yet come to take me by storm.
As a youngster I inherited an interest in the supernatural from my mother. I remember being terrified after the first time I ever saw The Shining. I was about 7 years of age and had convinced myself that I’d be receiving a visit from the disturbing “come play with us” twins. I was afraid of going to bed in the dark for a while afterwards and I was scared of going to the toilet during the night because I was sure that the twins would pop up out of nowhere to frighten me. Although I grew to enjoy the thrill of a good scare I firmly believed that some things were not to be trifled with and amongst those things were ghosts and spirits.
When a person close to us passes on it can be indelibly heartbreaking. The hope that there is something benign at the end of this life is comforting, and, it is heart-warming to think that there might be peace and love and joy on the other side. As I was growing up I often heard tales of haunted houses, ghosts and psychic mediums communicating with spirits. I was always engrossed by these tales and never doubted their sincerity until I was an adult. I saw TV shows and ‘documentaries’ about psychic mediums and even heard about people that had personally availed of psychic services. Needless to say, I became slightly upset and perturbed when my suspicions grew large enough for me to renounce my belief in magical psychic powers.
One of the most well known TV series’ on the subject of psychic abilities is Most Haunted. Most Haunted follows Liverpudlian Derek Acorah and his team of ghost hunters to some of the spookiest dwellings in the UK where they attempt to communicate with lingering spirits. Most Haunted acquired a popular following in the 00’s and ran for several seasons. The first time I ever saw Most Haunted, I was somewhat intrigued and optimistic. I never got into watching it regularly but I caught whiff of a few episodes over the years. Of course nowadays when I watch segments on YouTube I think it’s laughable. In fact, I can’t believe they actually had the gall to make such a show! Derek Acorah gets possessed by a dead person in every single episode, his psychic technique has a 100% success rate. If his powers were actually real, this would be very impressive, but of course his powers are not real. No matter who possesses Derek, he never fails to lose his thick Liverpudlian accent. Some of his possessions are so outrageous that they are comical.
Another famous figure in the business of psychic powers is Psychic Sally. Psychic Sally usually flexes her mediumship in front of a live audience. Many of her shows can be seen on YouTube. Psychic Sally presents amazing abilities at her shows. She surveys her audience and accurately picks out random attendees that have lost people near and dear to them. She then uses her powers to channel the spirits of deceased individuals and the deceased individuals then communicate, through Sally, to the audience members that befriended them before death. In actual fact, Sally uses a psychological technique known as ‘cold reading’ instead of actual magic powers. There are actually some videos (on YouTube) of Sally performing extremely poor cold readings amongst many of her impressive cold readings.
The cold reading technique involves a psychic presenting some meaningless generic data (for example: a name [Patrick]), the audience then scans the data for meaning, if an audience member attributes meaning to the meaningless data (for example: an audience member lost a brother ‘named Patrick’) then the psychic will zone in on that audience member and further manipulate them via information that they themselves are unknowingly providing to the psychic. If one is to deconstruct a cold ‘psychic’ reading then the illusion of magic quickly dissipates. The data used at a cold reading is usually quite vague; the psychic might say something like “I’m making contact with a P, a Pete, a Peter, a Patrick” – bingo! At that point an audience member might stand up and say “that’s a guy I know, I have a brother called Patrick who died last year.” This degree of obscurity begs to question; if these readings are actually real then why does a psychic throw out 4 or 5 or 10 wrong names before they hit a right name? Why do they often play around with vague words and initials? Surely if Patrick the deceased wants to speak to his brother he’d say something more like “My name is Patrick,” rather than something such as; “my name is P. My name is Pete. My name is Peter. Actually, just kidding, my name is Patrick.” When one can easily perceive the trickery involved it becomes totally transparent.
The ethics of the psychic business are perhaps ambiguous. One might defend the ethical principals of clarvoyance by proposing that it provides clients with comfort and peace of mind. On the other hand, however, it can easily be argued that lying about matters so sensitive is unjustifiably immoral. In my opinion, the level of immorality can be suggested by the profits accrued in the business. I personally know of an individual who visited a psychic medium a few years ago. The psychic charged in the region of €50 – €100 (a nominal fee for a psychic consultation), she chanelled a dead relative and of course reassured her client that everything was fine. Conveniently, the psychic lived in the same locality as her client and she had access to an overwhelming amount of information prior to the consultation. Also, the consultation had to be booked well in advance, giving the psychic time to research her client! Billing somebody €50 – €100 in exchange for lies is arguably unfair.
Furthermore there are individuals that become heavily addicted to psychic services. I stumbled upon a story on the internet (amongst many stories) about an Australian man named Paul. Paul became addicted to psychic services after a lady named Alannah performed a $60 tarot card reading for him. Subsequent visits revealed that Paul had an evil curse put on him by a dead person, Alannah offered to help. First, she charged him $1000 for a magic stone in a glass of salty water. Then, she removed a curse on the family dog for $700. The cost of her services kept racking up until she orchestrated a special ceremony involving a bathtub. The bath water was bottled and sent overseas for prayer by a psychic guru, – the cost of cleansing Paul’s soul through the use of sacred bath water came to a whopping $18,000. Paul drained his family bank account and handed over $50,000+ over the space of a short few weeks, the psychic also urged him not to tell anybody about the money he’d been spending because doing so would reactivate the curse. Finally, after Paul realised he’d been conned, he went looking for a refund. To his dismay he discovered that there would be no refund as Alannah had packed up and dissapeared like magic. An irate Paul wanted his money back, but, due to the fact that no receipts were ever issued, Alannah was able to slip through legal loopholes and avoid prosecution under a Fair Trade Act. She was later found to be trading in a different locality under the pseudonym Carina. The story of Paul and the $50,000 curse poses a very valid question – should the largely unregulated business practice of clarvoyance be more strictly regulated?
There are many charlatans when it comes to the psychic industry. There are even people out there that are excercising psychic powers on animals and babies, these people claim that they can read babies’ minds and that they can communicate to dogs in dog language via a mystical sixth sense. Wheter one chooses to believe or not to believe in psychic powers is up to the themself, but, I think it might be important to know that nobody in the history of the world has ever actually proven that magic psychic powers exist. In fact, there actually does exist a $1,000,000 paranormal challenge open to anybody in the world. The challenge has been open for 30+ years, it was set up by the James Randi Educational Foundation and it offers the generous prize of (U.S.) $1,000,000 to anybody that can prove that they have paranormal abilities.
On another note, if a deceased loved one wants to say “hello” from the other side, surely he/she would do it through a ‘medium’ that doesn’t charge a monetary fee, surely he/she would rather say “hello” for free? Bearing that in mind perhaps a psychic consultation fee would be equally well spent on a counselling session with a professional that specialises in counselling for the bereaved? Lastly, it’s important to remember that a lie is still a lie even when it’s a comforting lie, and, in some cases a comforting lie can create a lot of discomfort if and when it is found to be untrue.