“The Kids Are All Might” (Indigo children)


Indigo children are said to be youngsters who possess highly desirable supernatural abilities. These awesome offspring are variously suspected to be multidimensional beings, human-alien hybrids, super-evolved hominids, or prophets destined to lead humanity to full enlightenment. While none of these distinctions have been confirmed in indigo children, we can be certain of their parents’ traits, most notably a massive ego.

The concept of indigo children originated with Nancy Ann Tappe, who attributed her discovery to her synesthesia. This is an neurological phenomenon where a person is using one sense but has another stimulated. Everyone does this to some extent. For instance, if someone hears the word giraffe, they likely will “see” this giant animal in their mind. But synesthesia primarily refers to such experiences as hearing a car start and associating it with the color green, or looking at a circle and getting an itching sensation. Tappe, then, attributed synesthesia to her seeing an indigo glow around select children.

A fairly minor point here, but that would not be synesthesia since only sight was involved. Perhaps she was claiming the color was her “seeing” the sixth sense. In any case, whether or not she is seeing shimmering children would be easy to determine. A dozen partitions could be set up, and behind each would sit either a person she considers indigo, a person she does not consider indigo, or an empty chair. She could then tell testers which partitions had an indigo glow rising from them. However, New Agers don’t normally care for these types of tests, instead preferring feelings, intuition, and client gullibility. Boyued by these elements, Tappe writes books on the subject and holds seminars, where hundreds of disciples bathe in each other’s bluish brilliance.

In her writings, Tappe lists traits to look for to know if your child is indigo. It’s unclear why this is needed, since having Tappe look at the kids would seem enough. Also, the list of indigo traits is so long and vague it could apply to everyone and so the Forer Effect comes into play. These descriptions include being curious, headstrong, unusual, driven, intuitive, intelligent, and resistant to structure.

Thinking one’s child is a hyper-evolved multidimensional being is attractive to those whose credulity is matched by their vanity. But author Sarah Whedon suggests the indigo label also appeals to parents who seek to excuse their child’s behavior and their parental responsibility to do anything about it. For instance, pro-indigo authors Jan Tober and Lee Carroll say such children may function poorly in conventional schools due to their rejection of rigid authority, their being smarter than their teachers, and their inability to embrace discipline.

Whedon suspects that many children who have ADHD or autism are instead labeled as indigo by their parents. This also gives a fabricated reason to avoid Ritalin or other medication, a plus in this mostly anti-vax, anti-Big Pharma community. Here, autism is just another word for telepathy. Skeptic author Robert Todd Carroll said, “It’s much easier for them to believe their children are special and chosen for some high mission instead of having a brain disorder.” Anthropologist Beth Singler considers the movement as part of a moral panic about children, parenting, ADHD, autism, Big Pharma, and vaccinations.

From a list of identifiers at indigochildren.com, we learn, “If this seems to describe you, chances are you are an Indigo,” followed by an exhaustive list of personality traits. Most are positive, such as creative, honest, sympathetic, and confident. Like astrology, it is kept general, while also telling the listener what it wants to hear. There are handful of negative traits thrown in – rebellious, antisocial, strange – in order to have cover for ADHD and autism.

I doubt if anyone who has wanted to know if their child was indigo has looked into it and decided the answer was no. If someone has gotten to the point of seriously asking that question, it reveals their motivation and mindset.

“Disregarding Henry” (E! psychic)


Because people will always get sick, there will always be others selling the latest, greatest cure, regardless of how inexplicable or unreasonable it might be. The Old West traveler hawking elixirs from his wagon became Orthomolecular Medicine Man in the 20th Century, promising to remedy aliments with a Vitamin C overload. His descendant today has online stores and holistic health huts from which he sells detoxifying peach-mango mixes, Himalayan salt treatments, and craniosacral rubs.

The seriousness of adopting these methods is parallel to the affliction. If your aunt treats her mild lupus with corticosteroids from her rheumatologist, she will likely get better results than her neighbor who treats the same illness with jasmine-infused owl feathers from a shaman. The latter would likely experience swollen joints and fever, meaning a less enjoyable life, but not an extinguished one. The greatest danger, of course, comes in the form of cancer patients bypassing chemotherapy for ionic foot cleanses and milk thistle.

But whether one goes with what centuries of research and double blind studies show, or with what 30 minutes on Google reveals, both patients will die eventually, either from the disease or something else. And that is when those who prey on the sick and frightened are replaced by those who pounce on the grieving and lonely.

In the past, these charlatans preferred to project an element of mystery. They were septuagenarians with eastern European names, accents, and accoutrements. They resided in rural villages and gave readings in hushed tones with raised eyebrows and eyes opened in amazement. By contrast, today’s mediums are often telegenic, loquacious, eager to help, and easy to find.

The latest example is Tyler Henry. Like snake oil salesman, the conniving ghouls have adapted for the times. Séances with mysterious strangers in darkened rooms have given way to unrealistic reality shows featuring fresh-faced congenial chaps and ladies with immaculate coiffures and snazzy semiformal wardrobes. Having turned 20 this month, Henry brings a youthful exuberance to the art of preying on the grieving at their most vulnerable.

While he is young, there’s nothing original in his techniques. He keeps it vague, jettisoning misses and focusing instead on what his subjects considers hits. He then shuts up and lets his client fill in the significant blanks. For instance, on a reading with Jaime Pressley, Henry insisted he was driven to write the letter B over and over, which he did. Pressley excitedly shouted, “Brittany Murphy,” and indeed, Henry confirmed that’s where the spirit was leading him. 

About this revelation, Bobby Finger at Jezebel noted, “Mediums expect us to believe that the dead, in their desperate attempts to tell their survivors that everything’s just great on the other side, are only able to communicate in single words or syllables. The afterlife is apparently filled with stuttering apparitions of the formerly living.”

Whether Pressley was genuinely impressed or putting on for the camera, I’m unsure. But skeptics recognize what Henry did as a garden variety cold read. But Henry is versatile, as evidenced by his use of a hot read while victimizing retired basketball player John Salley. Henry mentioned “Moses” and Salley knew this was a message from beyond the grave from his friend Moses Malone. That Malone had died four months earlier and was friends with Salley are facts anyone could look up, but Henry added the extra element of procuring monetary gain from his online search.

His versatility is also seen by his purporting to have multiple psychic abilities. Besides speaking with the dead, he also claims clairvoyance, the ability to see the future. Put another way, he knew about the Paris attacks and did nothing to warn the victims. But can you blame the guy? Look how many potential new clients he has now.

He shows some originality by claiming another ability most psychics don’t, the capacity to diagnose medical conditions by merely sensing someone’s energy. What does your silly old oncologist know, I’m getting nothing but good vibes from your aura.

His public readings have so far been limited to the likes of Pressley, Salley, and Dr. Phil. But his stated goal is to fill a specific lowly niche in the pond scum of ghoulish mediums. He plans to specialize in parents whose children killed themselves. No one is more ravaged by guilt, tormented about words said or not said, actions taken or suppressed, than those whom Henry seeks to exploit. Dr. Steven Novella, founder of the New England Skeptical Society, said of Henry’s career ambition, “This is the worst grief a human can suffer. These are people at their most vulnerable. He is not a trained counselor, and working with the grieving is very tricky. The potential for harm is tremendous.”

Henry describes himself as a skeptic. Hold on a second while I hurl into my trash can. OK, I’m back. Henry said, “It’s important to have a healthy degree of skepticism. So in my readings, my goal is to bring up information that there really is no way I could know. I don’t like saying general things. I don’t like saying information that everybody knows. I focus on information that can’t be researched or Googled, and that usually includes inside jokes or sentimental pieces of information that only families really know.”

Skeptic activist Susan Gerbic noted this would be an easy assertion to test if Henry is sincere about it. She said, “If Henry really is a skeptic, surely he’s be up for a carefully designed and controlled test of his powers. I doubt that’s going to happen any time soon.” Indeed, Henry has relayed no premonition of when this test will take place.
Gerbic is correct. If I woke up with a newly-discovered ability to levitate objects, I would want scientists and doctors to examine it. I would want Penn & Teller and James Randi to see it, not to fool them and get a million dollars, respectively, but so that skeptics and scientists could try to deduce what unknown physics phenomenon was being accessed, how it could be controlled, and how it could benefit Mankind. Alas, as of this morning, I still lack this ability. The only thing I’m able to lift is the veil off of Henry’s fraudulent world.

“Psichobabble” (Dean Radin and extrasensory powers)


Polls have consistently shown that about two-thirds of Americans believe in some sort of paranormal phenomenon. About two in five believe in ESP, about the same number who think ghosts are real. Also, just over half think that mind over matter can heal the body. There is another poll, the unscientific one I have taken of paranormal proponents I’ve spoken with over the years. This poll shows that zero percent of believers come to their position after a review of controlled studies employing the Scientific Method and peer review. Rather, it is based on personal experience, a cousin’s anecdote, or regular History Channel viewing.

Of course, the numbers have nothing to do with what is real. If 100 percent of those residing on a remote Pacific Island believe in the same Cargo Cult god, this unanimity of 1,000 worshippers will not equal one deity.

Some psychic promoters attempt to put a scientific spin on alleged extrasensory phenomenon. Author and parapsychologist Dean Radin is one of the more prominent using this approach. His overarching assertion is that, “Information can be obtained in ways that bypass the ordinary sensory system.” He calls this mysterious force “psi.” In presentations, he has never demonstrated that this force works and, in two books, has provided no evidence for its existence.

And while Radin uses graphs, charts, and statistical analysis, the applied mathematics veneer quickly gives way to the babble used by most psychics. He puts a lot of stock in studies, which would be admirable if they were conducted using solid research methods, sound statistics, and a following of the Scientific Method. However, these studies fail to explain how ESP or remote viewing could be falsified, and make no attempt to do so. Moreover, many of them rely on a preposterous ad hoc explanation to shoo away any failure. If people perform better than chance, this is considered proof of psychic ability. But if they perform at, or worse than chance, this is touted as proof that a separate psychic phenomenon is leading the test subject astray.

Radin dismisses skeptical scientists due to the “insular nature of their disciplines. The vast majority of psi experiments are unknown to most scientists.” Indeed, the Nobel Prize committee seems to not know Radin’s e-mail address and he has not sent it to them telepathically.

The numbers Radin presents can seem overwhelming (in terms of their volume and complexity, not in terms of their evidence). But this reveals the problem. Far better than an exhaustive book of graphs would be providing us with one prescient person who can correctly guess what word is scribbled on the note James Randi has in his vest pocket. Show me someone who can fool Penn and Teller by using genuine magic to move a cup across the stage and that will blow me away with more than Radin’s analyses of 1,000 studies.

Being unable to produce such a person, Radin gives us a complex statistical overview of tons of data. Any seeming anomaly is attributed to psi, which skeptics recognize as the appeal to ignorance. In this case, it’s a New Age god of the gaps argument, whereby any unexplained phenomenon proves that psi is responsible.   

In classic pseudoscience tradition, Radin asserts the proof is coming someday. He insists that psi will eventually be explained as part of quantum mechanics. He anticipates people “pushing atoms around with their minds” and our bodies enjoying “mass mind healing” that will end disease and cure paraplegics.

He also anticipates miracles being verified, as we gain an understanding of how Jesus and Krishna used psi techniques to perform them. He also predicts we will see confirmation that mediums talk with the dead, although he failed to clarify if the deceased will finally talk back. He sees us being able to communicate telepathically with anyone, even our friend who now lives in another solar system, which will be possible due to psi’s contributions to the space program. The human mind will become as fast and capable as a supercomputer. Presumably a psychic will finally win the lottery, although the winnings will have to be split 200 million ways.

In his attempt to tie all this into quantum physics, he embraces the concept of entanglement as the key to understanding psychic phenomenon. Entanglement refers to connections between subatomic particles that persist regardless of them being separated by various distances. Radin therefore concludes that this must apply to all entities, be they microscopic, mammals, or moons. He wrote, “The fabric of reality is comprised of entangled threads that are consistent with the core of psi experience.” However, Skeptics Dictionary editor John Renish notes that, “Entanglement can be only of identical elementary particles”

Radin also misapplies the Uncertainty Principle, the idea that observing a particle will affect its behavior. He tries to project this notion onto every other entity in the universe. But the Uncertainty Principle only applies if the observation inputs energy into the system being observed. Put another way, viewing a comet through a telescope won’t cause it to veer off course. And thinking about a long-lost friend won’t prompt him to search you out on Instagram.

Just as astrologers have yet to find an exoplanet and Reiki practitioners have yet to discover any cures, parapsychologists like Radin have yet to make a contribution to neuroscience. Rather, they try to modernize what they consider the wisdom of the ancient mystics by misusing scientific terms and electronic equipment.





“Bad connection” (Ley Lines)


Ley lines emerged from the imagination of author and self-taught archeologist Alfred Watkins. He deduced that straight lines could be drawn that connected geographic features and ancient sites in Great Britain, and he thought these revealed Neolithic trade routes.

However, there are so many prominent geographic features and places of historic relevance in Great Britain that there seems an almost unlimited number of possible starting and connecting points. One could randomly draw a line connecting any two places and inadvertently have geographic or historic points at both ends.

The idea vanished until author John Mitchell took a break from decoding UFO messages to announce that Watkins was partially correct. The lines were not trade routes, but rather sources of magic energy portals. Since this revelation in the late 1960s, several other similar mystic interpretations have been drawn. Since these mystery spots exist solely in the minds of devotees, they can be anywhere, but usually involve major ancient sites such as Stonehenge, the Pyramids, the Nazca Lines, and the Moai. One could even draw a line from one of those sites to your kitchen and get Wonder Twin powers along with your sloppy joe.

The most costly example of this belief was when the Seattle Arts Commission gave $5,000 to a group of New Age dowsers to do a ley line map of their city. For its money, the commission received this Seattle ley line map, which I suspect was plagiarized from a preschooler’s connect the dots book: http://www.geo.org/qa.htm. They were also given this pronouncement: “The vision of the Seattle Ley Line Project is to heal the Earth energies within the Seattle city limits by identifying ley line power centers in Seattle, neutralizing negative energies and then amplifying the positive potential of the ley-line power centers.” As a bonus, this would lead to Seattle being “a center of power for good on Spaceship Earth.”

To believers, alignments of monuments and natural features are responsible for magic, psychic awareness, and special abilities. But the randomness and subjectivity of deciding which points to include was demonstrated by archaeologist Richard Atkinson who drew a set of similar lines, with each one including telephone booths.

These energies are said to be laid out around Earth in grid form, with significant geographic and manmade features being used to access this energy. This requires accepting that ancient cultures built these massive features without passing onto subsequent generation the reason for doing so.

Ley line energy cannot be detected by magnetometers or other measuring devices. Besides this lack of scientific evidence, there are other disqualifying considerations. How big a hill counts as an important one? Where is the historically relevant cutoff? Drawing these lines can require selecting a point of marginal historic importance while bypassing one of more relevance in order to make it fit. Plotting these lines requires pareidolia, determination, and use of artistic license with a psychic twist.

So what had been a novel but ultimately incorrect hypothesis involving Great British archeology transformed into a worldwide search for secret energy. But the significant ancient sites at the center of these searches were based on practical considerations of geography, culture, and available supplies. Builders of Angor Wat were unaware there was Stonehenge to intersect with. The Great Pyramid was built to ensure a pharaoh’s safe passage to immortality, not so future advanced societies could complete the magic energy triangle with Machu Picchu and the Eiffel Tower.

Some believers, primarily those at ancientwisdom.co.uk, have tried to tie ley lines into other New Age concepts. They introduced Feng Shui in an attempt to establish that major sites were built in order to interact with springs and rivers. Here’s the logic behind that, from the website: “Earth’s natural magnetism was believed to have been used to re-fertilize the soil. Water is extremely sensitive to electromagnetic fields, and as the fields are changed or influenced, so the chemistry of the water may be altered too.” To summarize, castles were meant not to protect from invaders, but from negative liquid energy.

These ideas are too spacey for astrology to not rear its celestial head. The site also tells us, “The St. Michael Ley is aligned along the path of the sun on May 8, which is the spring festival of St. Michael. It can therefore be considered astronomical. This line passes through several megalithic sites before it reaches Glastonbury and Avebury, both significant English landscape features.” There are also many important features it does not pass through, as well as passing though areas without significance.

In fact, it happens that this alleged astronomical ley line does not include Stonehenge, which New Agers consider ancient Great Britain’s most significant astronomical feature. No worries, ad hoc thinking to the rescue: “Stonehenge, whilst not being a part of the St. Michael ley, is connected with both Glastonbury and Avebury through geometry, and also forms the crossing point of several prominent ley lines.”

So even though it passes through other lines, it still counts as being a part of the one they want it to. As we’ve seen, it’s easy to come up with any connection using ley lines, and even easier if you ignore the rules you established in the first place.

“My return trip to the psychic fair” (Undercover at a paranormal expo)


This past weekend, the second annual Quad Cities Psychic and Paranormal Fair was held. Sponsors encouraged attendees to keep an open mind, but I did leave room in there for three questions for those plying their mystic merchandise: What is this? How does it work? How do you know it works?

We’ll take one merchant at a time, followed by analysis of their psychic prowess.


What is this?

I can talk with animals, I can do Akashik readings, and I do intuitive readings.

What is an Akashik reading?

An Akashik record is an energetic record of your soul across all lifetimes. It goes a little deeper than other types of readings.

How does it work?

We open your records by saying a prayer and then you I ask you questions and we have a conversation and I give you the information that comes to me, and we have a dialogue.

How do you know it works?

Because I feel the energy coming in and it makes me shudder.

Analysis: Sounds like a draft.


What is this?

I do animal spirit readings

What is that?

You pick out the cards and based on what animals you pick, it tells me about you. For instance, the turtle represents Mother Earth, so that would show you’re concerned about the environment.

How does it work?

We pick one card for each of the directions and one card for the middle, and we can reference what that says about you. Then my guides come through and protect against negative energy so we know the reading is accurate.

How do you know it works?

Because people ask me, “How did you know that?” And I say, “I don’t.” I never know what’s going to come through. I’m just a conduit for the animal guides.

Analysis: I recommend the zoo instead. You get more than five animals and you cut out the middle man since they can guide themselves.


What is this?

Angel-reading cards

How does it work?

We let you know what the angels have to say. She has her deck and I have mine, so you two angel readers for the price of one. It reveals what they want you to know. Angels are around us all the time. The archangels will come and let you know who or what can help you.

How do you know it works?

Because I’m certified.

Analysis: She’s winging it.


What is this?

Craniosacral therapy.

How does it work?

It has to do with the cerebral spinal fluid, which is what houses all of the nerves in the nervous system. This therapy bathes and nourishes and protects it. It’s it the meninges, in the cranium, and goes all the way to the sacrum. And the idea is that there’s a rhythm that’s involved in the expansion and contraction of the craniosacral system. The sutures in the cranial bones allow for some flexibility and the idea is to make sure the system is able to expand and contract without any restrictions.

Is it for specific issues like a sore arm or for general health?

It works for everything.

How do you know it works?

It’s similar to massage or chiropractic, but focuses on the scalp. It balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. One is for fight-or-flight and the other is for digestion, rest, and immune system functioning. What craniosacral therapy does is beneficial in resetting those two contrary nervous systems.

Analysis: Recommended for dandruff.


What is this?

Crystals and stones.

How do they work?

They have different aspects for healing. For instance, this chart shows that agate is for bringing stability to your life, or that topaz makes you more financially stable. You just put them in your pocket and use them as a focal point.

How do you know it works?

Because different people have channeled information about them.

Analysis: Change the channel.


What is this?

Biofeedback and chakra imaging. It’s going to tell me what your chakras look like and how balanced everything is inside of you, and I get intuitive information as well.

How does it work?

It has biosensors. You put your hand here and it reads your heartrate and it tells me exactly what you look like. It’s very accurate. It’s less influenced by the things around you than is the Kirlian photography. Whatever is vibrating close to you in your auric field will be the most prominent.

What does it reveal?

It gives you confirmation for the things that are going on that you need validation for, that you maybe didn’t want to look at. I channel spirits a lot so I can see what a person is going through.

How do you know it works?

The validation of the people that I’ve read over the years.

Analysis: Valid reports of those seeking validation reporting being validated.


What is this?

Past-life readings

How does it work?

The spirit gives me a vision and I start describing that and it goes into more detail. I ask the spirit to show me what is most important for you to know right now, just look for patterns, things that need healing, or help you understand why you are the way you are.

How do you know it works?

Some people I can see are lighter when they get up out of the chair because a weight has been lifted. For instance, if you have a phobia about snakes or closed spaces, you go back to when that began, then it cures it all the way down the timeline.

Analysis: Not recommended for weight loss.


What is this?

Shamanic healing

What is that?

Your energy body sometimes picks up energy that is heavy. It can be the result of accidents, traumas, or a childhood experience. What we do is detect them and clear them out of your field. We get information along the way so as we’re reading somebody, we might get information about what is going on.

Is it physical healing or more mental?

That depends on the energy in your field. You might have physical pain in the back of your shoulder because there’s some heavy energy directed toward it. If someone stabbed you in the back metaphorically, you can feel it physically.

What is the healing process like?

We remove that heavy energy and return it to normal. Sometimes it’s in thought form and caused by our belief systems and the way we were raised. We hold onto that but it doesn’t really serve us. The energy comes from our ancestors. It’s in our DNA.

How do you know it works?

We see the change in our clients. Do you sense energy here that is stuck in your back?

My back seems fine, but I’ll remember to be on the lookout for energy blockage there.

Analysis: Won’t be back.


What is this?

Essential oils. They all do good stuff for the body.

How does it work?

Smell it. That gets it into your system. You can put a dab in your palm or your wrist. That puts it in the bloodstream that takes it to the rest of the body. Normally we say put it on the bottom of your feet because it has all the reflex points.

(Looking at chart) So if you have frankincense, you could use it on these illnesses?

Frankincense is an excellent oil, yes.

How do you know it works?

Young Living is the only essential oil that has the research behind it.

Such as what?

Here is a reference book that talks about the basics of essential oils and their purity. It shows photos of some of the farms where the plants are grown. We own the majority of our farms. The soil is completely organic and completely pure. There hasn’t been any chemical touching it. We repopulate, we replant, you can look up each oil and find out tons of information about it, and its constituents. It also tells you historically how it was used, it has information on the various blends you can create and what those are good for. I could just go on and on.

(She could go on and on, although apparently without addressing the research my question was about). But you’re saying they’ve done studies about this?

Young Living is full of doctors and researchers and scientists constantly doing research. We lead the world in frankincense research for cancer and tumors.

You can use frankincense for cancer?

Frankincense is one of the best cancer fighters around, and lemon is also very anti-tumoral and fights cancers.

I was thinking chemotherapy for cancer patients, and here they should have been gardening.

If a cancer patient had started using frankincense 10 years ago, chances are things could be different. Even if they’re in chemo now, adding this to their regimen could help. Ours are pure, the other essential oil companies’ products are chemically made.

And these don’t contain chemicals?


They’d have to have chemicals in them.

Young Living oils do not have chemicals in them, no compounds, nothing.

Anything beyond a pure element is going to be a compound or a mixture.

Young Living uses plant products.

But they still contain chemical compounds. Even water is a chemical compound.

I’m not a scientist. (This won the day’s “No Shit” Award)

Well, what is this graph here with the chakras?

The oils have very high frequencies and energies. Some of them are better at promoting chakra health depending on where you use it. This tells you frankincense is very good for the head or that lavender works around the heart. If you want to anoint each chakra as you’re mediating, this enhances that. And then there’s a blend called White Angelica that repels negativity and increases your frequency and your spirits.

Do you use them?

Oh yes. I threw out all that junk – medicines, cleaning supplies, makeup, and it just took a weight off the house. The negativity of those chemical products was not there.

Analysis: Compound fracture


What is this?


How does it work?

I massage your hands and feet and feel for the pressure points. I can sometimes tell what’s going on in your body and adjust it or help you overcome your issues or detect the energies.

How do you know if something needs fixed?

(Takes my hand). Do you feel that little pop there? That’s what I feel for and know that something is stressed.

How do you know it works?

My clients say, “That feels better.”

Analysis: Good if you need to outsource your knuckle-popping.


What is this?

Thomas Edison’s spirit phone, the spirit phone to the dead. You turn it on and can her your loved ones’ voices come through.

How does it work?

I’m going to talk a little more about it in a presentation at 1 p.m. (I’m sensing he wants me to pay. I foresee not doing so).

How do you know it works?

Thousands of people have heard the voices come through. (Or sounds that were voices with the help of apophenia and a tremendous amount of conditioning and prompting).

Analysis: Hang up.


What is this?

Energy readings.

How does it work?

I just read your energy and a lot of things come up and I can provide guidance. It’s like most other readings except that I don’t use cards

How do you know it works?

I’m usually right on with what’s going on with people. And it doesn’t necessarily have a lot of detail about them. It’s just kind of where you’re at and what kind of balance you need. Do you come to these kind of events very often?

Well, they’ve had two and I’ve been to both of them, so I guess I’m a regular.

You must have some kind of an interest in this stuff.

You’ve got me down. You ARE an energy reader, you know me.

That’s what I sensed from you, that you had an interest in this kind of stuff. (She sensed it within two minutes of meeting me at an event that focused entirely on the topic!)

Analysis: Weakly reader


What is this?

Past-life Hypnosis.

Who is Elizabeth?

She is who I was in a past life.

How does this work?

I do it as a therapy. If someone has a lot of weight they can’t get rid of, we delve into why, and sometimes it will be several past lives. One woman had 100 pounds she could not get rid of. In a past life she was a small child and her father left them, then her mother died. She was scrounging for food and starved to death. That had happened to her in a couple of lifetimes. Her compensation in this life was to always have her refrigerator and cupboard full, and to eat constantly, from her previous life’s fear of starvation.

How do you pick up their past lives, or do the clients pick them up?

I tell them, go back to whatever, and tell me what you’re experiencing.

How to you know it works?

It could be just that their subconscious mind venturing to some area that help them resolve issues. Can I proves there is such a thing as reincarnation? No. Can I prove it doesn’t exist? No.

Oh, you’re a Ph.D. What in?

Chemical hypnotherapy.

Analysis: Doctored credentials.


What is this?

Paranormal investigations

What is it?

We do mostly residences. We check them out and see if there’s a ghost there.

How does it work?

These are some of the tools we use. This is an EMF reader, and this is a K2. We also have motion detectors and cameras.

When you pick something up, how do you know it’s a ghost as opposed to something else causing the frequency or electronic disturbance?

If it’s a ghost, it will have a lot more electricity and it has a lot of dead space around it. You can tell because it will answer your question. You can ask it to beep once for yes or twice for no.

Can they ask you questions?

For that, we use a radio to detect what’s going on and you can pick up the voice.

Analysis: There’s a 50 percent chance they’re right about it being a ghost. The only other voices that come through the radio belong to the living.


What is this?

Rune readings. They come out of Viking culture. The runes were given to them by the gods to help clarify their mind.  

How does it work?

I have people put their hands in the bowl and spin around, until one feels good. They do that five times. Each symbol has a different meaning and they play off of each other. I just tell the person what it says. It’s up to them to relate it to their question.

How do you know it works?

Because I’ve done it for myself many a time. If I have trouble or questions or need clarification, I pull them out and think, yeah. It helps to clarify the situation, and sometimes it reveals something you didn’t want to acknowledge. Sometimes it’s what other people have told you many times.

Analysis: I can relate because other people have told me stories just like this many times. It’s called subjective validation.


What is this?

I’m an astrologer

How does it work?

When you’re born, all the energy is tattooed onto your soul and that’s what we read, your energetic soul. It tells me a little bit about where you left off in your past life, you soul’s intent for this lifetime, and some of the major areas you need to focus on.

How to you access it?

I just need the time and place of your birth.

How do you know it works?

Because I’ve lived through it and heard a lot of testimonials. It’s been scientifically proven that every planet, star, and asteroid has its own energy, so that energy comes down and effects all of humanity.

What kind of energy is it?

I don’t know, other than we each have our own specific energy that we’re made of. The cosmos are very chaotic right now and so it’s very chaotic down here, with the earthquake in Nepal and riots in Baltimore. The earth is absorbing all that energy.

Analysis: Baltimore Flop.


What is this?

This is acupressure and reflexology, and we also have a biomat.

What is a biomat?

It’s cleansing and energizing. It has amethyst crystals woven throughout it. Even to just lay on it for a while is refreshing. You feel yourself sinking, sinking, sinking into the sea of warmth and you’ll feel it penetrating. What happen is, the far infrared heat passes deeper into your internal organs.

What is acupressure?

The pressing of certain points on your body, and I know where they are. It stimulates those acupressure points and relaxes the muscles and helps you feel better. Or if you have the flu, it would help boost your immune system.

What is reflexology?

I have this handy-dandy chart here. You can see here that your internal organs are represented on your feet. So just by pressing the corresponding point, it stimulates the healing process to these organs. It increases the flow of chi, which is your life force energy that flows through these energetic chakras called meridians. The ideas is to stimulate so your body release neurochemicals.

How do you know it works?

Well, women who can’t get pregnant can get pregnant. People with huge sinus issues walk out and can breathe, a person has a headache and it’s gone. People don’t understand how it works. But reflexology goes way back to Egyptian times. Acupuncture goes back to Chinese medicine 3 to 5,000 years ago. If it didn’t work, people wouldn’t be using it.

Analysis: Seems to be working in reverse. I only got a headache after hearing all this.


What is this?

I paint your soul. It takes about an hour and a half.

How does it work?

You give me your name – it has to be your birth name – and your birthday, and the spirit guides me to create these. It talks to me and that’s how it happens. It’s been happening since I was very young. Some people say, “I don’t like this or that,” but that’s just it. That’s what God told me to paint. The spirit tells me what you are, not what you want.

How do you know it works?

Because I always see it. I don’t question it any more.

Analysis: Souled out.


What is this?

Aura photography. Everybody has an aura energy that is around them. We have a camera that takes a picture of it.

How does it work?

It’s based on Kirlian photography and you put your hand here and it gets the feedback off of it, and you can see the colors. It means different things depending on what’s going on. It’s energy that’s put off and it also gives details as to what’s going on in your chakras. You can see your energy throughout your entire body.

Analysis: Aura of gullibility.


What is this?

Attunement. This pyramid will connect to the universal vibrational energy field being emitted to our planet. You will be attuned to an amazing, powerful, and more highly-refined spiritual energy by opening your upper chakras to receive those given to you.

How does it work?

Pyramids have been around for many centuries. This is a model of the Giza pyramid, and the energy of a Giza pyramid is as a transmitter. Then this over here is a 4-4-4 pyramid, meaning it is four feet wide, high, and deep, and you sit inside it. Your body is an electromagnetic field and on a daily basis, it collects harmful debris from the environment, from X-rays, from cell phones, and from things we don’t even think about. The worst is people energy. Everybody’s intuitive, so if you’re in a group and they’re all negative, you can feel it. When you’re in the pyramid, it reverses the polarity of the negative charge that’s attached to you.

How do you know it works?

Scientists figured it out.

Analysis: My intuition feels negative about this.

I will close by relating that I found one merchant I believed in, one who proved she could deliver as promised. Consistent with her claimed ability, the concessionaire handed me a 7-Up and popcorn. And I’m pretty sure the corn was GMO.

“Sounding a little horse” (Pet psychics)


All of us can talk to animals, but only a select few can get the critters to reply.

One such Dr. Doolittle is Aimee Morgana. She owns N’kisi, a parrot whom Morgana credits with talking back in a mix of English and chirps. She also ascribes to him a sense of humor and an ability to improvise language. For instance, rather than saying aromatherapy, the birdbrain comes up with “pretty smell medicine.” That is rather amazing language versatility, either for a parrot or for the person interpreting it.

Morgana keeps a clip of herself talking with the parrot. I encourage people to listen first without using the accompanying transcript. Comparing that transcript with what was chirped, some of it seems pretty close, while other lines require a lot of twisting. It is mostly unintelligible unless the listener is told what to hear. It is similar to listening to music backwards, with suggestion, anticipation, and pareidolia filling in the auditory blanks.

The parrot’s shrieks become sentences and his squawks become jokes, but it’s all through Morgana’s attribution. In reality, the parrot’s responses are likely due to stimuli provided by Morgana or other persons or objects nearby. If the bird had the language skills claimed of him, he could carry on a conversation with any English speaker.

Morgana and Rupert Sheldrake also put N’kisi to the psychic test. The idea of tackling the resultant article, “Testing a parrot for telepathy,” causes me to salivate in a Pavlovian manner. But it’s a little beyond this post’s topic, so we’ll drive on.

One of the earliest documentations of supposed language in an animal focused on a 19th Century horse, Clever Hans. If asked what 2+3 was, Hans tapped his hoof five times. Hans was a sensation for over a decade before Oskar Pfungst deduced that the horse was responding to his owner’s subtle movements.

This was not fraudulent, as the owner really believed in the horse’s ability, as did many scientists. The owner was unconsciously adjusting his position slightly once the “answer” had been tapped. Pfungst figured this out by noticing that when the correct answer was unknown to anyone, Clever Hans was likewise mathematically challenged. Also, when the horse was unable see the person who knew the answer, he responded incorrectly.

In the ballpark of reason, comedic parrots and math whiz horses are out in left field with a hockey stick. But a seemingly more plausible animal language claim centers on gorillas and chimpanzees employing sign language. This comes across as more reasonable since the animals are intelligent, and the language is through hands, not voices. To split ape hairs, primates can manage communication, but not language. This was best documented in Joel Wallman’s book, “Aping Language.” Here’s the book condensed into a paragraph: “Apes in these studies acquired merely crude simulations of language rather than language itself. A survey of the communication systems of apes and monkeys in nature finds that these systems differ from language in profound ways. Language is a uniquely human attribute.”

In the interest of balance, I here introduce Chris, a woman I found online who touted her ability as an interspecies telepathic communicator.

Her website includes glowing testimonials, which disappointingly, are all from homo sapiens. One satisfied customer lauded Chris’s ability to communicate with the woman’s Terrier. “Chester was hit by a car, and they didn’t know if he was going to make it. Chris told me, “Chester is going to be OK,” and he was.”

If your mutt is less fortunate that Chester, that’s OK, because Chris claims the ability to channel dead animals as well.

Talking with animals is the least Chris can do, since a horse told her which career path to gallop down: “He enlightened me to how I was to bring my blessing to the world and what I was to do with my life: Bring people and animals closer in their relationship.”

Prompted by this Mr. Ed revelation, Chris now offers private consultations, coaching, and a series of classes on animal communication, animal Reiki, and animal Shamanic healing. She also offers telephone consultation, so I signed up for my 15 minutes of lame. I have no pets, but figured she could give me some advice for my daughter, who was sick a couple of days last week.

It starts with a simple form: Contact information and the pet’s name. Customers rave about the animals being able to relate to Chris their complex mental, physical, and spiritual concerns, but none of the pets can tell her their name. In the animal dropdown menu, there was no human option, so I selected CAT, for Continually Animated Tyke.

Here’s how some of the conversation went:

“I get the feeling that you have something that’s bothering you about Isis and you’d like to fix it.” She’s figured that out already and all she knows about me is that I’ve filled out a form addressing that very issue.

“Well, she’s been sick a couple of times in the last week, and that’s unusual for her.”

“How old is she?”


“Has she been spayed?”


“That might be worth considering. At her age, pregnancies can became complicated.”

“She’s not the ideal age for it, that’s for sure. ”

“How has she been sleeping?”

“Fine, but she hates getting woke up. She can be very feisty then.”

“Sounds like you want to make sure you stay free of her claws when she get roused.”

“Man, you’ve got her down.”

“Isis is telling me that she may have stomach problems. How has her appetite been?”

“Well, I sometimes have trouble getting her to eat in the morning.”

“What are you feeding her?”

“Just the usual for someone of her age and species.”

“So much of what you find in stores is lacking in nutrients and are full of chemicals. I would recommend some homemade recipes I will e-mail you. You could also try changing where she eats. Try taking her bowl off the floor.”

“That’s probably a good idea. My wife has never much cared for that approach anyway.”

“If she’s getting enough sleep, but is lethargic and has a poor appetite, her illness may be psychosomatic. She needs some new excitement. I’m sensing she would like a ball with bells or a scratching post.”

“She does love toys, but doesn’t have any of those. That might be worth a try.”

“This just came to me. I’m seeing very clearly that her tail has been drooping a lot.”

“Now that you mention it, I haven’t seen her with a tail in the air much lately.”

“This means she needs more time to herself. I know you love her and want to spend time with her. But they are very solitary animals. She needs that time alone and wants to feel that she is in charge.”

“Yeah, she makes that’s last part pretty clear. Another problem is that she tears up things around the house.”

“That’s her way of reaching out. Respond with love. Do not declaw her. That is so cruel.”

“Yeah, that would be mighty rough. Well, thanks, you’ve suggested a lot of things for Isis that I would have never come up with on my own. Oh, and when you send those recipes, could you include something with Reese’s Cups?”

“Dead nor alive” (Between Lives therapy)

inbetweenWhile I enjoy blogging about skeptic issues, there’s only so many times I can write about Bigfoot, tarot cards, and curing rabies with coconut juice. So it was with glee that I unearthed the ideas of Dr. Michael Newton and his application of hypnotherapy.

Hypnosis can be used to help persons deal with their present life, but some of the more ambitious hypnotherapists use it to delve into past lives. There are also future life readings. But Newton rushes in to fill the gap by examining what the hell we do between incarnations. And it’s more than just floating in another dimension or showing up in poltergeist form is someone’s drapes.

Newton claims that between-life specifics have been revealed to him by 7,000 patients. He has pieced together what they told him and put it together in four books. Despite the trepidation most people have about death, Newton finds that most end up embracing it since the afterlife is so pleasant. But there are a smattering of exceptions. A few bitter souls prefer to stay on Earth and annoy us as ghosts. Then there are souls who suffer from what Newton dubs “criminal abnormalities.” These cursed types “are not activated along the same travel routes as other souls.”

But it works out in the end. Newton lets us know that, “All souls eventually arrive at a central staging area where returning souls are conveyed in a spiritual form of mass transit.” Pretty sure he stole that from Defending Your Life. Or they stole it from him.

The next stop on the Soul Train is an appearance before a Council of Elders, who pepper the undead with questions about decisions made in the previous life. The unexamined death is not worth living, I suppose. From there, souls are dispatched to join their appointed clan. Newton says of the clans, “These tightly-knit clusters are composed of like-minded souls with common objectives and they continually work though issues with each other.” The gist is, you reunite with your old drinking buddies.

Newton said his sessions are designed to awaken dormant memories of the time between incarnations. He sprinkles his work with esoteric goodness, such as “reconnect with your soul self,” “understanding your immortal identity, and “incredible support offered by countless Higher Beings in the inter-life.”

Those in the Beginner Soul state keep working at it until full maturity is reached, an idea pilfered from Buddhism and Hinduism. At the intermediate level, souls are akin to student-teachers, as they start working with netherworld neophytes. However, Newton cautions, “Only if this preliminary training is successful are we allowed to function even at the level of a Junior Guide,” which seems to be the Tenderfoot equivalent in these Cosmic Boy Scouts. Some never gain competence and are sent to do some other, unspecified task. Apparently none of the 7,000 patients got around to telling Newton what this is.

The final stage is advanced status. Newton says he can tell us little about these beings because souls this far along would never seek a between-lives therapist. If that’s his standard, there are about 6 billion advanced souls wandering the planet.

Whatever level a soul is at, it eventually must return to Earth. To prepare for departure, souls are mentored by guides and are then shown various lives in a setting similar to a movie theatre, presumably complete with extra-butter popcorn. After further consultation and a return trip to the Council of Elders, the souls decide which body to occupy. Yep, you chose your current circumstance as opposed to being born again as Mikhail Prokhorov or Jennifer Lawrence.

With regard to the plunge into amniotic fluid, Newton reports that, “You begin to cross this bridge between your current life and your soul’s true home.” Sounds like Dr. Kevorkian.

Newton’s claims could be true. But it could also be true that a long series of highly relaxed patients, on a comfortable couch and in a suggestable state, who were there with the intent of accessing these memories, would come to these conclusions, while satisfying their desire to please the cordial doctor with a pleasant voice.

Furthering the likelihood of this development is that Newton’s ideas come with the promise of an eventual home “where only pure, unconditional love, compassion, and harmony exist side by side.” There is also no sickness or injury, so you can leave the coconut juice behind.

“Rend me your hand” (Palmistry)

BETTERSEVEREDHANDIn the Middle Ages, palm reading was used to detect witches. These days, it is used to detect the gullible. The lack of studies, empirical evidence, and explanation for how it works are no match for the thrill of hearing one’s future revealed, and of having one’s personality dissected by a mysterious stranger.

Palmistry was practiced in ancient China, Egypt, and India, and modern-day practitioners make a big deal out of this. The practice is also synonymous with Romania, and a big deal is made of this as well.

Palmists, also known as chiromancers, read fortunes from lines, marks, and patterns on the hands. Like most good pseudosciences, palmistry varies by practitioner. Depending on the reader, they key factor can be the size of the hand, its shape, or which one is dominant. Others put emphasis on bumps, intersections, fingers, fingernails, texture, flexibility, or skin patterns. Color was once considered crucial by some palmists, but they ceded to the KKK the ability to determine a person’s character based on melanin levels.

For some readers, the left hand indicates inherited personality traits and potential, while the right hand indicates individuality and accomplishments. The reverse is true for southpaws, and it’s unclear what the ambidextrous are to do. What the hand reveals is up to the reader, which indicates the practice is invalid. The same person will get very different readings depending on which palmist they see.

While there are different schools and philosophies, most palmists base their practice on the idea that hands show three main lines. The Life Line reveals physical vitality, the Head Line shows intellectual capacity, and the Heart Line correlates to emotions and passion. Chiromancy is based on sympathetic magic, the simplistic metaphysical belief that like affects like. For instance, if the line that is supposed to reveal romance is broken, it means the person has a tough time committing to relationships.

Without any explanation for how this would work or why we should believe it, palmists assert, as another example, that those with fan-shaped hands are sensitive. Readings like this leave the customer open to self-fulfilling prophecies or self-delusion. The practice is built on communal reinforcement, confirmation bias, and cold reading. A cold reader employs high-probability guesses and infers details from facial or vocal cues from the person being duped. Cold readers mostly tell people what they want to hear, while keeping it generic enough that the description applies to most people. With these loose standards, a 70 percent success rate is almost guaranteed, and that will be enough to convince a person who wants to believe.

Some try to put a modern twist on it by comparing palms to DNA or cells, pointing out that no two people are identical. But a person’s career path cannot be determined by examining their saliva in a laboratory or from their cell sample. Nor can it be deciphered through the palms. You might be able to guess that a man with calloused hands is a laborer, or that a woman with wrinkled hands is elderly, but you could find that out by asking them, so palmistry is useless in determining traits.

The conflicting interpretations of what various lines and features tell, along with the lack of empirical evidence for palmistry, cement its place among the pseudosciences. In a real science, such as biology, there will be agreement of the basics because they are empirically proven and continually tested. There will be disagreements in specialized areas, which is where experiments, peer review, and analysis come in. Palmists, meanwhile, bicker about which hand tells what, or reach vastly different conclusions on what a Life Line shows. This would be like biologists arguing over whether babies are the result of sex or the stork.

Chiromancy is still practiced everywhere, and it has adapted to the modern day by offering online readings where a person sends scanned handprints for analysis. I decided to keep it old school and go for a reading in person. My palmist asked for my dominant hand, which she said would serve as a window to my conscious mind. I was unsure why I would need someone to tell me what my conscious mind was thinking. However, my dominant hand would also reveal what she called my “realized personality,” while my opposite hand would show my subconscious and my potential. As a test of her ability, I went undercover as a southpaw and presented my left hand as dominant.

She assured me that hand shapes are either Earth, Air, Water, or Fire. I was told that I have Air Hands, consistent with long fingers, protruding knuckles, and dry skin (I forgot to put on my Patchouli Essential Oil that morning). Oh, and the key point is that my middle finger is the same length as my palm, so I’m squarely in the Air Hand category.

Gazing at my Life Line, she let me know that I have great potential and a sense for adventure. She didn’t say potential for what, but I hope to tap into my ability to expose ridiculous ideas. I love to travel, so she nailed that one. Her opening sentence, then, was a microcosm of the divination charade: Tell the customer what they want to hear and sprinkle it with open-ended ideas that will apply to most people.

My Head Line is telling her that I think before acting. I asked to get this one in writing so I could show my wife. However, she cautioned, there were some breaks in this line that might represent a lack of focus. Or it might suggest something else, but I can’t remember what since I was watching a fire engine go by.

My Heart Line indicated a combination of sentimentality and good instincts. But I instinctively know that I’m not sentimental, so she only scores 50 percent on that one.

She gazes with more intensity at some of my minor lines, then asserts that major changes might impact my life and that I should pay attention to my diet. Each handprint that chiromancers examine might be unique, but the advice they give is universal.

Looking at something called the Line of Apollo, she tells me, “Your success is almost guaranteed, but some effort must be put forth.” So if I succeed, the palmist’s advice worked. If I fail, it’s because I didn’t try hard enough. Of course, I’m unsure exactly what it is I will be succeeding or failing at since she didn’t tell me. But I can see her failure, as she was unable to detect that she was reading the wrong hand.

“Off point” (Ennegram personality test)

The enneagram is a personality test that has gone through many incarnations while maintaining its inherent flaws. The original was part of the Fourth Way, a thieving reworking of Buddhist ideas created by George Gurdjieff in the 19th Century. Gurdjieff also incorporated Christian mysticism and, owing to his fixation on the numbers three and seven, featured them prominently in the enneagram. Besides the test, ennegram also refers to the image that is used to read the results.

This image features nine points around the edge of a circle. These points are connected by two lines: One connects points 1-4-2-8-5 and 7, while the other connects points 3, 6, and 9. Gurdjieff ascribed numerological meaning to all this, but that has been dropped by modern practitioners. Still, the circle and connecting lines are maintained because it hints at ancient wisdom. Some add colors and symbols to maximize mysticism.

The enneagram is used in one of three ways in personality tests today. In one utilization, it has adopted psychological terms and is presented as a straightforward test. Other than a few employers, its only users are enneagram businesses. Another form is a New Age feel good version. Finally, we have the type that purports to find out what is wrong with you.

According to the enneagram hypotheses, there are nine personality types. These distinctions are either good or bad, depending on which school of thought one subscribes to. They are either a vice to eradicate or a positive energy to be encouraged. Almost everyone has these nine descriptors to some degree, so it’s easy to shoehorn people into whatever category the test results indicate they belong in.

The idea that the personality types are faults to be worked on is championed mainly by Oscar Ichazo. He reworked the Catholic Church’s Seven Deadly Sins, then added fear and deceit to get up to the requisite nine enneagram points. He claims each of us is born with an essence that conflicts with our personality. As our personality is a large part of our essence, this would seem a most foul pickle indeed. No worries, since customers can purchase Ichazo’s system and overcome this. The system’s use of malleable terms also guarantees that there will always be more improvement needed and more solutions sought and bought.

There is value in self-reflection and learning what one’s strengths and weaknesses are, but the enneagram is a poor vehicle. Most test results resemble horoscopes, spewing out advice that could apply to anybody.

Another issue is that, like most personality tests, it ascribes just one allegedly dominant trait to a person. A person is revealed to be an achiever, investigator, loyalist, or some other distinction. This ignores the complexity of people.

One enneagram business issues this pronouncement for those who have finished testing: “Does this fit you? If it does not, go back over the test, rethink some of your answers, and see if you come up with your style.” In other words, if it doesn’t match, change your answers and cram that square essence peg into that round enneagram hole. The only limit of the enneagram is the imagination of those working with it.

Another site had the following breakdown of test results, which I will paraphrase.

If the test shows you have one primary personality trait: It works!

If three traits are lumped at the top: It still works. You just need to figure out which of the three is the most dominant. Lucky for you, we have subsequent tests to discover this.

If it’s a nine-way jumble: There are two possibilities. It’s either because you are a spiritual seeker who has honed all nine traits, or it’s because gave wrong answers since you have yet to discover yourself. So you’re either too self-aware or not near self-aware enough. Either way, we’ve got books and charts to fix this.

This site also informs us that, “Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide what your basic type is,” rendering the entire exercise meaningless.

“Psychic awareness” (Mediums)

The surest sign that a psychic is fraudulent or self-deceived is if they identify themselves as a psychic.

Here are some other hints. They call a plumber when their pipes burst, not the day before. They go for medical checkups, which would be superfluous for someone who knows their current and future health. If they want information on Benny Goodman, they use the Internet or library instead of summoning his spirit.

But the above instances aren’t there for us to see, so we’ll delve into some psychic techniques and see how they are used to fool people. Some psychics still use Tarot Cards, crystal balls, and palm reading to maintain an air of mysticism. Many others work without these accouterments, especially when doing readings on TV or before an audience. Then we have telephone psychics, which I will believe in when they call me.

Whatever the method, the most frequent technique is cold reading, in which the psychics glean information from the victim, then feed it back to them while talking credit for uncovering it. A trained medium has learned how to read body language and facial expression, as well as gauge speech inflection. They know when they’ve made a connection, and are prepared to pounce and build on this. They ask very open-ended questions, get the victim to talk at length, then portion out bite-sized information back to them as if it were coming from the psychic’s mind. A concise definition of cold reading would be, “a succession of generalizations about someone meant to elicit a response, followed by a series of educated guesses.”

The reason it can seem successful is because psychics use broad statements that apply to most people. Before an audience, the psychic might ask if there is someone present who lost a family member prematurely due to heart disease, which a common method of demise. In a personal reading, it might be, “You’ve had some difficulties with romance,” “You think about your health,” or “You worry about your family.”

Then we have hot reading, where information if gained beforehand through books, the Internet, or acquaintances of the victim. Before being exposed by James Randi, preacher Peter Popoff would have his wife get victims to enter prayer requests on a card, then have her read it back to him through an earpiece. Researching information beforehand has also been used by psychics before TV appearances, with the host stunned by the accuracy of a reading done on them.

The type of question asked will vary depending on the audience. Before a group of 2,500 believers, it would be along the lines of “Whose grandfather worked at a gas station?” With 5,000 potential grandfathers, at least one hit is probable. During a private reading, “Did your grandfather work at a gas station?” is far less likely to score, so the psychic will change it to, “Who worked at a gas station?”

One of the easier techniques to spot is shotgunning, where the psychic throws out a long series of guesses, hoping for a hit, and further hoping that misses will be forgotten. It goes like this: “I’m seeing him in transportation, like a pilot, or bus driver.” This is wrong, so the psychic meanders into, “Or maybe a bus driver or ship captain?” Still coming up empty, the psychic barely keeps the ship connection by delving into, “I’m still seeing water, though, maybe SCUBA diving, or snorkeling, fishing perhaps?” Nope. “Not fishing? How about hurting, did he like to hunt?” “Oh, he loved to hunt.” So the medium is all over the psychic landscape, from pilot to hunter, with several misses in between, but counts this as a hit. Meanwhile, the victim’s allows this, owing to confirmation bias and a desperate desire to connect with a deceased loved one.

Besides changing the subject, another furtive move is casting a wider net. If “Who was born around Christmas?” fails to register, it evolves into “What significant event happened around Christmas?” Or if “Did your mother smoke?” fails, it morphs into, “Did she like campfires? I’m definitely seeing smoke.”

Another common method is using contradictory information that virtually guarantees a hit, such as “You enjoy being with friends, but also appreciate your alone time.” I saw a psychic guess that a 20-something woman was “a mother, maybe mother-to-be,” which is going to apply or appeal to virtually any woman that age. Or the person might be told, “Your father was well off, or at least took good care of the money that he did have, or if not a lot of money, ensured he and the children had enough.” This is going to apply whether the father was poor, middle class, or wealthy.

Another technique is to ask a question, then claim you knew the answer when it was revealed. The psychic might ask, “What were his hobbies?” and when told they were chess and woodworking, will be offer, “That’s what I thought, I was seeing board games and working with his hands.”

If they completely blow it, they might blame bad energy that day. Some have even been known to berate victims for failing to do their share, or to fault skeptics in the audience for negative vibes. When proven utterly wrong, such as when Sylvia Browne said Amanda Berry was dead, psychics will resort to saying that, like all professions, their success rate is less than 100 percent. And, to be sure, 0 is less than 100.