18 December 2014

Are Psychic Stage Shows Entertainment?

All the world is a stage, according to the bard, and all the men and women merely players. Well, in the second decade of the twenty first century the stage is big business. Once the arena of Shakespeare, Alan Bennett and Tennessee Williams, it is not just the play-write who can make a living: the stage show can earn good money for the modern psychic. If people are willing to shell out for pure entertainment that is one thing, if they are shelling out for the promise of distress-mitigation or greater understanding of the unknown then that is quite another. Big claims, especially attracting big money, are bound to attract the skeptical.

There is a growing body of people who want a justification for a practice that seems to have passed from helping the bereaved come to terms with their loss to entertainment. If there is something in it, fair enough, but prove it. If possible scientifically. It must be in the interests of all for what seems on the surface to be an unlikely phenomena to justify itself. Especially if it is raking in the big bucks.

Psychics unhappy free speech works both ways
When the skeptical activist Mark Tilbrook wanted to issue leaflets to people planning to attend psychic shows by Sally Morgan, the UK’s biggest stage show psychic, he was approached by members of Sally’s “team”. After publishing footage of these ‘approaches’ in later shows, he was then further approached by Sally’s “legal team”. Psychic shows on stage are now something that is big enough to pay for, and indeed require, a legal team. As a result of Tilbrook’s publications Sally Morgan was forced to sack her manager and her tour manager. Especially embarrassing for her as they were her husband and son-in-law respectively. That’s show business. 

Academia gets involved too. London’s prestigious Goldsmith’s college, founded by Goldsmiths in 1891, staged a Halloween Challenge for two mediums to undergo scientific tests. The tests were designed by Professor Chris French who at the time, October 2012, was Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at the college. An interesting degree to have on one’s CV. In 2009 Professor French hosted the James Randi Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge. One Million dollars! Presumably the Educational Foundation is confident they won’t have to pay up.

It is not just the skeptics who are querying the validity of psychic stage shows. The Daily Mail took great delight in reporting the two medium’s failure to pass what they saw as fair tests. Psychics, and the attending skepticism, shifts copy.

The problem with psychics as a stage show
In the UK the TV popularist Derren Brown has made a name for himself, among many other things, for testing the authenticity of psychic phenomena. Brown tends to concentrate on the stage show aspect of psychics rather than the healing one-to-one. Professor Richard Dawkins, too, likes to wade in on the side of the skeptics, and he comes with a harder line than Brown but both are interested in putting science in front of those who are driven to engage in stage shows, now firmly in the world of entertainment by presentation if not by content, so are open to examination and, if by failing without proper justification, to ridicule. The heartache being the lonely people reaching out for comfort. 

Why are these shows so popular? Curiosity may well attract some; some may attend for the entertainment value alone. Often, however, the audience is people lost in the aftermath of bereavement. There are many stresses in life and although moving house or losing one’s job are particularly painful none compare with the heartache of bereavement.

Is it right to make money from bereavement?
Bereavement  can make people vulnerable. Vulnerability within the human condition is dangerous for not only can it lead to a position of victimization, it can lead us to unhealthy ways of ameliorating the vulnerability.

There are two issues, equally powerful forces. The ache or loss in the first place and then the recognition, even if subliminal, that there is a vulnerability. If low self esteem sees this as a weakness then the hole is too often filled by turning to substances that help us forget. Alcohol, tobacco, drugs may not make the vulnerability go away, but often they help us forget. 
For some contact with a psychic may provide solace, but for many this is not enough. When human beings find themselves on the painful side of the human condition it is incredibly important that those offering to help are doing it for the right reason and genuinely helping. Not just doing it for the cash. There is already enough snake oil in the world.


Article by freelance writer Helen Hunter

2 December 2014

Robert W. Lester Gets a Reading from a Psychic/Medium

By Robert W. Lester

Barely educational, but fits the bull by the fact that such tricks are passed off as ESP, whether it's psychics or other traders it makes little difference, it's easy to learn methods to read a person, and in this case a debunker gives wrong responses in order to see how the reading works, although body language may have nearly given the game away. By giving the medium bad information the so-called psychic gives the client bad information, which is strange if she as a medium claims to speak for my dead grandmother.

Note that this Medium, Psychic, Healer, is a teacher/master of Reiki, this is why she pushed the angle of the Reiki healing, well that and the idea of a link to Asia that was assumed by the box.

She also said I could call her any time to get help, I think she wanted me to buy into her Bullshit training in psychic and reiki abilities, luckily I'm not a moron. Her mistake was to assume of my clothes and speech that I was an educated person who travels for work, as an improve I made up my higher education, I was never in university, yet by spinning a series of ideas I was able to let this idea grow from nothing, and I only offers small bits to feed the psychic. Her description of my Grandmother was not anything like anyone I know, and was yet another display of nonsense from the gifted, but note the way she avoided responsibility for the reading by saying it's up to you(me) while saying my nan (grandmother) was telling her this information. Interestingly she didn't seem to give names, dates, ages, or anything any good, and works with a crystal ball at this event, so she was simple very poor at what she claims to have and do. The box is old, repaired, part restored, 19th century, but not worth much, and was purchased off ebay for a small sum, and is Chinese, not Japanese, nor Tibetan, and is not a family antique at all, yet I chose to trial out this deception to see how the psychics medium reacts, see if she has any gift, or if she is taking people for a ride.

Note that she asked am I a sceptic, about 21 minutes into the video, I avoid exposure myself by staying with the act, but note she seems to think scepticism was drummed into me by religion, and that there opinion is they are "all mad, need to be drowned, burn, or hung". Odd as it may seem most religious folks in the UK don't think this at all, nor do non-believers, and yet many spiritualists do say their critics think they are evil and should be abused or even killed, as if any rational human being in this century in Britain would think that is a good idea. The thing that sparked the idea of sceptic or scepticism in this reading was wondering about the questions, she thought maybe this intelligent guy who is recording this reading may have questions, when I didn't fire a dim question about the points of the reading she may have assumed some doubt on how the reading is going. Any discussion on this event is highly hypothetical, and not the way to be sure of the facts.

Next time, I will see a new psychic and spirit medium, he will get honest responses from me, I won't tell him hardly a thing, BUT I will tell him I got the box of the internet as a haunted box, the ghost story will only be suggested and little information given, unless pressed for information. If pressed I will claim I have only had a few bulbs blow at home in the last few weeks, and this was a reported idea that the previous owners said happened to them, I will say I'm open-minded and not a sceptic, because in the end that's half true, I am open-minded and a sceptic.

30 November 2014

The Skeptic Zone Podcast #319 - 30.November.2014



http://www.skepticzone.tv

The Podcast from Australia for Science and Reason. Join Richard Saunders and the crew for interviews and reports from around the world.


0:00:00
Introduction
Richard Saunders and Stefan Sojka

0:03:35
SGU in Australia
Interviews with Evan Bernstein, Steve Novella, Postie Linley, Michael Marshall, Jo Benhamu, Ross Balch. Jo Alabaster and more!

0:24:10
A Week in Science
The Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus) is a national scientific not-for-profit organisation with a mission to bring science to people and people to science.

0:27:00
Ghost Adventure Part #2
Join Maynard, Alethea Dean and Richard Saunders has they wonder around the Field of Mars Cemetery.

Skeptic James Randi challenges psychics

We’re joined by James Randi, the magician and escape artist who has spent most of his career debunking the claims of psychics and paranormalists.

27 November 2014

The Psychic World Newspaper Interviews Jon Donnis

A few months ago I was approached by John Sutton, a former associate of Derek Acorah, who now runs The Psychic World Newspaper, this is a Newspaper that is sold and distributed around various Spiritualist Chuches.

A few people have asked if I could publish the interview here on BadPsychics as they are morally against purchasing a Newspaper that helps fund a fraudulent industry and a cult, so I thought I should oblige.

The interview appears in the December 2014 edition of The Psychic World

--

THE JOHN G. SUTTON COLUMN
Off The Cuff

Jon Donnis: Badpsychics.com

There has over the last decade or so been a great deal of bad publicity leveled at professional psychics/mediums and whilst such adverse criticism in itself is nothing new the orchestration behind a lot of this has been refined using the internet to spread the bad word. One of the main exponents of this deliberate, somewhat disturbing phenomena, is a gentleman called Mr. Jon Donnis the webmaster of BadPsychics.com  Jon is a man who is rather forthright in his description of those that he selects to discuss on his site. 

In fact quite recently Jon very kindly referred in writing on his Blog at BadPsychics.com to me in the following terms: ‘I see no problem in humiliating a criminal, someone like yourself who is a grief vulture.’  Jon Donnis went on to indicate that in his opinion I was a ‘nutter’. This intrigued me as I had spoken to Mr. Donnis in the past and tried to help him so I thought maybe there is something that he needs to say. 

(Note: When John Sutton claims he tried to help me in the past, he is referring to him trying to expose Derek Acorah, I refused his help, as I have a problem with any fake psychic trying to expose another fake psychic, I told John Sutton at the time I was not interested, he then went to another Skeptic who happened to be a former member of my forum going under the name Echolima/Emma Gee, and helped her in her Doublexposure website - Jon Donnis)

After all, a man of his undoubted erudition would surely not want to waste his life just posting abusive insults on a website for all to see when he could be doing something constructive. So I contacted Jon and asked if he would consider an interview with myself as the feature editor of the Journal of Spiritualism ‘Psychic World’. I am delighted to say that Jon agreed. Here is my interview in which Mr. Jon Donnis of  www.badpsychics.com answers the questions I put to him. Please note these questions and Jon’s answers are exactly as given and received.


Q1.
Jon you are the founder and main researcher for the website Badpsychics.com please advise me of your mission statement:

I am not the founder, that would be Nik Donnis my cousin, and the originator of the BadPsychics brand. I took over from him in 2004.

My mission statement is one that we should all agree on, to expose fraudulent psychics and mediums, and educate the public as to the methods behind fake mediumship.

Q2.
In pursing your research into the work of professional psychics have you at any time found evidence to support the claims made for paranormal phenomena by these professionals.

Never, not once, in 100% of cases whereby I have had readings from mediums (well over 200 personally), I can explain exactly how they do it. I also have a 100% record of explaining how every reading given to someone else and analysed by myself is done. From Gordon Smith, to Derek Acorah, from Colin Fry to Sally Morgan. I have never been stumped by a medium, I have exposed the methods of every single one ever put in front of me.

Q3.
Are you stating that it is your belief that all psychics and all mediums are frauds, fakes and deliberately misrepresent themselves for whatever purposes.

My beliefs do not matter, all I deal in is facts. Historical and Scientific fact dictates that mediumship is statistically improbable, and to a level where someone could confidently state it as being impossible.

There are two types of mediums, and here are two terms you will be well aware of John Sutton, that being "Eyes open" and "Eyes closed", for the readers unaware of these terms, Eyes Open refers to mediums who are deliberately defrauding their clients, using cold and hot reading as well as other methods to create the illusion of mediumship. Eyes Closed refers to mediums who really do believe in what they do, usually due to client verification, and a general misunderstanding of psychology and what they are actually doing. Only one fact remains though, that being that no medium in history has ever been able to prove a single paranormal claim under credible controlled conditions. Not one. All have failed when the chance to cheat is removed. Usually you can tell the difference between an Eyes Open medium and an Eyes Closed medium straight away as the Eyes Closed (deluded) medium is more than happy to try and prove what they do is real. The Eyes Closed mediums, will always have excuses and try to blame the operator of any test, or the conditions of the test itself as flawed. The reality is that any claim of mediumship is incredibly easy to prove if the claim was real.

In the past many Eyes Open mediums would happily take tests under the assumption they were too smart for the operator, or that they could fool them. Other examples of such tests will be when there is blatant bias by the person conducting the test, usually they claim to be psychic themselves, or they are part of the psychic industry. And such tests always lack credibility, and the conditions are seriously flawed.

Q4.
You are aware that all religions in every corner of the globe have as the basic tenets of their belief systems an absolute faith in life after death. How do you explain this.

One word, Ignorance. Human evolution and history shows that when we do not understand something we give it a supernatural meaning, from people looking up at the Sun and Moon, and see them as Gods chasing each other, to people praying to trees.

Religion is often a way to cope with this ignorance, as well as the sheer terror for some of not being able to accept we are just Apes on a planet that really doesn't matter.

Q5.
In some of your statements published on your Badpsychics.com website you state that professional psychics are in effect obtaining money by false pretences. Given that you understand all religions are founded on a belief in the paranormal, communication from beyond i.e. The Holy Ghost etc do you therefore hold that all religious practices are essentially fraudulent.

To clarify here, any medium who uses a disclaimer of "For Entertainment Purposes Only" or something similar, is effectively admitting they are a fraud, but they do so with a nod and a wink to the client/audience, as if they are somehow forced to add this disclaimer. This is not true, there is no European Legislation that dictates that any such disclaimer needs to be shown, in fact if you are a real medium you can call yourself a real medium. But if we are to look at psychics/mediums broadly, they all take money by performing an act, which they claim is real, when it clearly is not. This is fraud, and this is why so many mediums use such disclaimers.

All religious practices are based on ignorance, and if money is accepted, then there is an element of fraud involved, however more so than that the tax exemptions that religious groups get to me is much more of an issue.

Q6.
You are aware that Spiritualism is a recognised religion that has ministers and churches throughout the world. Do you believe that all the mediums standing on the platforms of these churches are deliberately misleading their congregations.

I am aware that Spiritualist is a recognised religion, but then so is Scientology, a religion dreamed up by a Science Fiction writer!

It is relatively easy to become recognised, however this does not make it real. Did you know you can legally put your religion as Jedi on the census?

I would say the vast majority of Church mediums are indeed deliberately misleading their congregation, we know they use prior research, we know they have the "Blue Book" method of cheating. Ever wondered why they get you to leave messages in a remembrance book when you attend a Spiritualist Church!? The sad thing is that often the very people who run the church are often not even in on the scam, and believe it wholeheartedly, that is very sad to me.

Q7.
You have on your website created a list of your top Bad Psychics is it the intention of your website to expose these individuals and if so why them in particular. Please give examples.

In the beginning we would expose the big name mediums like, Derek Acorah, Colin Fry, Tony Stockwell, Gordon Smith, Sally Morgan and so on, because they were the easiest to expose, plenty of material, and a large fan base meant that we would reach more believers by exposing these people. Let me make it clear, I have exposed each of those mentioned, and not one has ever tried to sue me for calling their mediumship fake.

These days although we will write about a big name medium if a story comes up, we actually prefer to expose smaller time mediums, and on a more personal basis with direct victims of the crime, we help them get their money back, we help them go to Trading Standards and we help them with any other issues they have resulting from the financial and emotional scarring of being the victim of fraud. Sometimes just using my name and the name of BadPsychics is enough to scare the medium into giving a full refund. 

So many victims of these types of crime are embarrassed and do not want to speak out, they put it down to just being "a foolish old woman" or something similar, in fact people like this we want to help the most.

Q8.
The Top Bad Psychics list is effectively made up of all the most successful professional psychics in the UK. All of those listed have been featured on TV, written books and toured the major theatre circuit in the UK. All their work is promoted as being for entertainment purposes only.  What are your thoughts on this.

As I mentioned earlier, by saying this they are effectively admitting they are frauds, it is a way to cover themselves legally, as they can claim that they are working in the same capacity as a mentalist/magician, it is a cop out, and disgusting that people can get away with causing such potential harm with a one sentence disclaimer. They take no responsibility for the problems they cause. These people are grief vultures.

Q9.
What will be your response when you eventually make the inevitable transition between this material world and the next. What are you going to say to your guardian angels when they welcome you Jon into the next dimension.

Nothing, because I will be dead.

14 November 2014

The Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge 2014 featuring Fei Wang

The Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge 2014 featuring Fei Wang that took place at The Amazing Meeting 2014 in Las Vegas


4 November 2014

Most Haunted Ratings - The Final Word



At long last the ratings are finally in for all 10 episodes of Most Haunted.

Episode 01 - 362,000
Episode 02 - 371,000
Episode 03 - 324,000
Episode 04 - 318,000
Episode 05 - 229,000
Episode 06 - 286,000
Episode 07 - 199,000
Episode 08 - 196,000
Episode 09 - 262,000
Episode 10 - 265,000

So what do these ratings tell us then? Well it does show there was a genuine interest in the show coming back, and it started off with strong ratings, but those ratings fell and fell throughout the series. Only the last two episodes of 9 and 10 picked up. Almost the audience saying we lost interest but we want to see what you do to finish off with.

If you look at the show as a whole, they lost nearly 100,000 viewers from episode 1 to 10, that is a HUGE number to lose.

Most weeks they were beaten in the ratings by Ghost Adventures, and despite Ghost Adventures airing two episodes before Most Haunted each Thursday, people still turned the channel.

Those are the negatives, but there are positives too, despite losing a third of their audience from episodes 1 to 10, they still consistently remained in the top 3 shows in the ratings on REALLY.

UKTV who own REALLY, only paid £5000 to show the whole series, that is pennies in TV world, so really they are the winners here, as they got the show for virtually nothing.

So the question is will Most Haunted return for another series? My guess would be yes, UKTV will probably offer more money knowing they will have a guaranteed top 3 show for their REALLY channel.

Rumours are flying around that Karl Beattie wants to bring back pretend medium Brian Shepherd to the show, Brian happens to be one of our favourites mainly due to the fact he is so awful, that he becomes funny.

The question is can ANTIX afford to buy the rights back from Sky TV for the old format for Most Haunted? Because without the old format, we will have to put up with the same nonsense again.

But the only true question everyone wants answering is, if Most Haunted does return, will the legendary Melanie Crump come back, or will the green eyed monster known as Yvette Fielding get her way (again) and see Mel Crump quietly disappear and never to appear on TV again!

BadPsychics Archive - Tony Stockwell Exposed - I'm Famous and Frightened 2 - LivingTV - 16th July 2004

Over the years we have exposed many psychics, but one psychic always seemed like the ugly fat bloke who gets put through on X-Factor as a bit of a joke, and that person is Tony Stockwell. Completely devoid of any talent whatsoever, back in the mid 2000's by riding on the backs of the likes of Colin Fry and Derek Acorah, Tony Stockwell managed to carve out a little career for himself. And he even managed to weasel his way onto a TV show!

Now as expected the TV show was the lowest of the low, a celebrity reality show! But during that show, he was accused of being a fraud. So here from the famous BadPsychics Archive, we take a look back at what happened.

--

Tony Stockwell

Location: I'm Famous and Frightened 2 - LivingTV
Date: 16th July 2004


On the first day of this Live celebrity investigation of Aberdeen's Fyvie Castle, Celebrity Mockney Medium Tony Stockwell conducted a Table Tipping demonstration.

The usual rountine took place, all the celebs had their fingertips on the table, at first nothing happened so celebrity medium Tony Stockwell put his hands on the table.

As soon as he did the table started rocking, at this point celeb believer Daniella Westbrook left the table and stood back to watch. Every time the table started rocking Tony Stockwell moved back, as soon as he did the rocking of the table diminished.

Later on, after the main show had gone off air, there was an extra live show, celeb believer Jeff Brazier stated that he believed that Tony Stockwell was pushing the table, Daniella Westbrook also admitted that something dodgy was happening although she did not accuse Tony Stockwell.

A bit later on in the night Jeff Brazier made this comment.

"He was definately blaggin' it, and if he blags that, who's to say he doesnt blag it all"

To sum up, two people who took part believed something dodgy was going on, one even stated he was sure that Tony Stockwell was rocking the table.

Again keep in mind Jeff Brazier is a self confessed believer of the paranormal and a fan of Tony Stockwell.

So was this an instance of psychic fraud?

I will as always let you make your own mind up.

Source: LivingTV's I'm Famous & Frightened 2 Live Television Broadcast

3 November 2014

Exposed: Magicians, Psychics and Frauds - AKA James Randi An Honest Liar


Renowned magician James 'The Amazing' Randi has been wowing audiences with his jaw-dropping illusions, escapes and sleight of hand for over 50 years. When he began seeing his cherished art form co-opted by all manner of con artists, he made it his mission to expose the simple tricks charlatans have borrowed from magicians to swindle the masses.

This entertaining film chronicles Randi's best debunkings of faith healers, fortune tellers and psychics. It documents his rivalry with famed spoon-bender Uri Geller, whom Randi eventually foiled on a high-profile television appearance. Another target was evangelist Peter Popoff, whose tent-show miracles and audience mind-reading were exposed as chicanery when Randi revealed a recording of Popoff's wife feeding him information through a radio-transmitter earpiece.

In telling Randi's strange, funny and fascinating life story, the film shows how we are all vulnerable to deception - even, in a surprising twist, 'The Amazing' Randi himself.

Watch on BBC iPlayer for the next month for free

1 hour, 25 minutes

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04ndsb3

29 October 2014

Caught on hidden camera: 'Psychics' claim to banish harmful spirits

Have you ever wondered if your house is haunted? You can hire self-described psychics who claim they can channel the dead and remove bad spirits from your home but their services don't come cheap.

The Rossen Reports team set up appointments with several psychics, then rented a brand-new home in a New Jersey suburb where no one has ever lived, and rigged it with a dozen hidden cameras.