Psychics 2013: the silly, the scams, the failed predictions


Joke...Action News, an ABC affiliate, ran a late-year story with the headline “Psychics interpret pets’ thoughts.” No, it’s not April Fools’ Day: this was December 26. Yet the reporter treated it seriously; just like it was a real story; actual news, rather than a steaming heap of superstitious dung. That reporters for any media outlet treat would such codswallop as “news” calls into question their ability, their competence and their education.

Lorrie The Pet Psychic has been tuning into the thoughts of animals for 18 years, appearing on Oprah after she helped locate a local dog who was blown away by a storm and then found alive.
“I feel very honored, you know, because I get to give animals a voice. Especially with the older pets that are getting ready to cross over and their owners get to say goodbye,” said Lorrie.

I don’t know whether to laugh at Lorrie’s ludicrous statements, or weep at the gullibility of people who have used her “services” for 18 years.

“Cross over”? You mean die. Kick the bucket. Shuffle off this mortal coil. Run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. Pet ghosts talking to former masters? Sheesh… if dead pets could talk, why don’t these “:psychics” get messages from dead raccoons, or other roadkill? The mouse that died in the trap? the bird caught by your cat? Wouldn’t the afterlife ether just crackle with that noise?

Psychics and so-called clairvoyants feed on people’s fear of mortality; they create a culture of alternate realities and other worlds populated with dead people (and pets – or is it all animals?) in order to suck the money from your wallet when they pretend to be in contact with people who “cross over.” Now, it seems, they can contact pets, too, living and dead.

“I think he likes his hair a little longer,” said Psychic Eve. “He prefers it that way. He feels more, I don’t know, macho more desirable.”

That’s what another self-described “psychic” told the credulous reporter, who dutifully wrote it down and printed it. Come on – a dog being “macho” over its hair? What journalism school taught you to be so naive?

To add insult to intellectual injury, the reporter then lists contact information so the simple-minded readers can call these “psychics” and give them their money.

If you want to know what sort of justification “pet psychics” give to their clients before denuding them of their finances, on How Stuff Works, you can get pages full of their gibberish:

According to most pet psychics, you communicate with your pets telepathically all the time, without even knowing it. Your cat hides and your dog gets ready to play because of signals you send with your mind, not because of your actions… According to pet psychics, electromagnetic energy surrounds and penetrates everything in the universe, much like the force in “Star Wars.” This energy is part of the radio spectrum, but scientists haven’t figured out how to detect it. Pet psychics can use energy to contact animals, no matter how far away the animals are or whether they are still living.

Enough to make your brain hurt, isn’t it? The real message, though, is buried in the article:

For a fee, they then relay telepathic messages to and from pets. The pets don’t even have to be present — often, psychics use photographs or descriptions to make contact.

There’s the hook in the worm: a fee. Of course they charge a fee because they make their living fleecing the gullible.

I have a tough time telling my black cats apart some days even when they’re sitting side by side. Who would be dim enough yet willing to pay someone to “telepathically” converse with a photograph of a black cat?

Here’s what my dog would say if a “pet psychic” could communicate with it:

Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark.

Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark.

Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark.

And I learned that without shelling out money to a “psychic!”

“Pet psychics” given newsworthy status by clueless reporters (instead of being derided and shunned) may be the silliest, but certainly not the last of the stories about self-professed “psychics” and their cohorts of con artists this year.

You can read a list of top predictions for 2013 from some of these on this site. You might notice that more than a few of their predictions failed to come true (I’ve selected from the lengthy list at random just to give you a taste of how wrong these folks always are…):

  • A global U.N. tax will be enacted this year to help fund disaster relief and poverty.
  • A mind-to-mind telepathic telecommunication device will be developed for the mentally ill to help people communicate better.
  • Philadelphia, New Hampshire, and/or Connecticut will experience the affects of an earthquake after church bells ring from the aftershocks this year.
  • A truce is seen in the Middle East before late summer after one or more spiritual leaders emerge in the region to bring stability to several countries now in conflict.
  • A political revolution will attempt to bring down the Saudi Arabian dynasty this year after another King or Prince dies.
  • Square or tubular UFOs will be commonly reported, with more sightings around military installations, including the Middle-East and Israel.
  • Congress will deal with gun control: Automatic weapons and high-powered rifles, semi-automatics that belong in war zones will be removed, and only used in situations where they are absolutely necessary.
  • Tom Cruise will leave the church of Scientology. It has something to do with his daughter and recent divorce.
  • Nuclear attack on New York.
  • The map of the world will change due to catastrophic events happening around the globe.
  • Experimental monkeys escape from a lab causing a pandemic.
  • Giant prehistoric sea monsters under the sea.
  • A possible landing of a spaceship.
  • An attack on the Vatican and Pope.
  • A new, odd, unexpected source of fuel for cars, trucks and/or machinery is announced.
  • A plague-like pandemic affects populations in Europe and to some extent in the USA. Much of it ironically occurs in hospitals.
  • Apple announces and releases a “mini iPhone” geared toward children and also under-served populations around the world. Apple finally launches a “smart TV.”
  • Meditation proves to be the gateway to contact loved ones on the other side.
  • Fashion tragedy: I predict the return of mesh shirts for men.
  • A massive space collision or accident affecting satellites and communications.
  • In the early part of 2013 – possibly January of February – there will be war in the Middle East. Israel with strike Iran with a full on attack at its nuclear programme but fail to destroy some of the more heavily entrenched facilities leaving quantities of uranium available for dirty bombs. The Israeli/Iranian conflict will escalate and conflicts will spill over to Syria.
  • 2013 will continue to see terrible climate and in particular I see a major landslide on the English Coastline. I believe that this will be at Black Gang Chine in the Isle of Wight. I also see severe weather around the world with an unprecedented and severe storm devastating Hawaii.

A year ago, Sun reporter Mike Strobell listed the 2013 predictions of three of the top kooks in the psychic world, most of which didn’t come to pass (as expected) including:

  • …Seattle in ruins after an earthquake. I see a huge earthquake in the Caribbean. Major earthquake in Russia. Gigantic earthquakes hit St. Louis, Chicago and Tennessee. Earthquake in the Middle East. Earthquake in Egypt destroys parts of the pyramids …”
  • A snow superstorm will hit New York, Boston and Toronto with 25 feet of snow.
  • …the small asteroid DA14 nearing Earth on Feb. 5. NASA may have to “shoot” it to avoid damage to satellite…
  • Cures for MS and other diseases.
  • Another cruise ship breaks in half.
  • Prince William and Kate will have a baby girl, whom many will believe is the reincarnation of Princess Diana.
  • The Blue Jays have a great year.
  • Brad and Angelina finally get hitched,
  • Wills and Kate have a boy, or twins.
  • “When the Eiffel Tower topples — ye God! — what violence there will be. ”
  • …machines designed to stimulate the pleasure parts of the brain, so lazy sex will be the norm.
  • …the world’s first brain transplant, between monkeys.

The hard-of-thinking still flock to these charlatans, despite their dismal record in predicting actual events. Americans, at least, are a superstitious lot (I suspect slightly lower but similar results apply in Canada).  A 2009 Pew Research study found one in seven Americans has consulted a psychic or clairvoyant, one in five believe in ghosts and goblins and a quarter believe in astrology:

…24% of the public overall and 22% of Christians say they believe in reincarnation — that people will be reborn in this world again and again. And similar numbers (25% of the public overall, 23% of Christians) believe in astrology. Nearly three-in-ten (29%) Americans say they have felt in touch with someone who has already died, almost one-in-five say they have seen or been in the presence of ghosts, and 15% have consulted a fortuneteller or a psychic… Nearly one-in-five say they have been in the presence of a ghost (18%)…

That’s scary enough, but it gets worse:

Similar numbers profess belief in elements of New Age spirituality, with 26% saying they believe in spiritual energy located in physical things such as mountains, trees or crystals, and 25% professing belief in astrology (that the position of the stars and planets can affect people’s lives). Fewer people (16%) believe in the “evil eye” or that certain people can cast curses or spells that cause bad things to happen to someone.

Face PalmOne in four Americans believe in crystals? That has to be a national face-palm moment. No wonder these charlatans make the big bucks.

Sadly or even tragically, some media increasingly cater to them and grant them legitimacy. Giving space for a story on “pet psychics” that doesn’t question their sanity or motives is on par with the supermarket tabloid stories about how Kim Kardashian was kidnapped by Bigfoot and aliens stole the royal baby…

Even the names these scammers use for themselves should be put in quotation marks or be attached to adjectives like alleged, self-professed or unproven. No professional, credible media should call them psychics, mediums or clairvoyants without such adjectives. It’s no different from me calling myself a doctor or an engineer without proof of doctorate and diploma.*

Slyvia BrowneSylvia Browne, one of the more infamous of the con artists in this field, died in November. Her legacy is a litany of failed predictions, including her own death (she predicted she would die at 88; she was 77). Like most self-described “psychics” her record at getting things right was abysmal:

Although Browne claimed to have a psychic success rate between 87-to-90 percent, a 2010 analysis of of 115 predictions she made on “The Montel Williams Show” by Skeptical Inquirer magazine put her success rate at zero.

In some cases, she charged a police department $400 for her services.

Despite this, Browne claimed an accuracy rate of “somewhere between 87 and 90 percent,” for herself, although CSICOP found:

…by examining the criminal cases for which Browne has performed readings. The research demonstrates that in 115 cases (all of the available readings), Browne’s confirmable accuracy was 0 percent.

Browne will be remembered most of all for drastically wrong predictions about abductions and kidnappings that had enormous human, emotional consequences. The two most famous are:

In 2002, she told the parents of missing 11-year-old Shawn Hornbeck  that he had been kidnapped by “a dark-skinned man with dreadlocks” and was dead. He was kidnapped by a short-haired Caucasian man, Michael Devlin, Shawn’s stepfather. Hornbeck was found alive in 2007.

In 2004, she told the mother of Amanda Berry her kidnapped daughter was dead. In 2013, Berry was discovered alive – held captive by Ariel Castro for nearly a decade.

You can read about other failed predictions and their human cost, here. All those people she misled and scammed… the emotional wreckage she left behind… few will mourn her passing.

Like most “psychics” Browne simply exaggerated or even lied about her success. And conveniently forgot or just ignored her many failures.

It’s interesting reading how many “psychics” rationalize failures by pointing to some unrelated event that wasn’t what they predicted, then try to make it look like that’s what they said. Or how some simply rewrite their past predictions online to shoehorn actual events into them.

Psychics were in the news in 2013 when two were successfully sued (in New York and Flordia) for fraud. The AP story reads:

Best-selling historical-romance novelist Jude Deveraux paid psychic Rosa Marks about $17 million over 17 years, she testified at Marks’ recent federal fraud trial in West Palm Beach, Fla., according to newspaper reports. The psychic said she could transfer the spirit of Deveraux’s dead 8-year-old son into another boy’s body and reunite them, among other claims, the writer said… Marks, based in New York and Florida, was found guilty and could get up to 20 years in prison on the top charge alone when sentenced this year.

Two weeks later, a Manhattan jury convicted seer Sylvia Mitchell of bilking two clients out of tens of thousands of dollars. Mitchell linked their problems to past lives and “negative energy” and prescribed cures such as giving her five-figure sums “to hold,” according to testimony… She’s due to be sentenced this month, with the top charge carrying up to 15 years in prison.

Self-professed “psychics” decried the judgments and anti-quackery anti-soothsaying laws that got these two convicted, calling them insults to their self-esteem and “professions”.

But Bravo, an investment banker who moonlights as a medium, rues the disclaimer he’s compelled to give clients: Readings are for “entertainment only.” Unless solely for amusement, telling fortunes or using “occult powers” to give advice is a misdemeanor under New York state law.

“It’s a little insulting,” he says. “I believe in what I do, and the people who are coming to me believe in what I do. … But that’s OK — the state doesn’t have to believe in what I do.”

The silly part is in the latter part of the story: misled US courts have decided stifling people from telling fortunes or connecting to someone’s imaginary dead relative stifles these con artists’ “freedom of speech:”

A federal appeals court upheld a psychic-licensing law in Chesterfield County, Va., this February. But courts recently nixed fortunetelling bans as free speech infringements in other places, including Alexandria, La., and Montgomery County, Md.

“Fortunetelling may be pure entertainment, it may give individuals some insight into the future, or it may be hokum,” but Montgomery County’s prohibition on paid psychic readings has “a chilling effect on constitutionally protected speech,” Maryland’s Court of Appeals wrote in 2010.

It got so silly in 2013 that a Houston lawyer sued a “psychic” this year over a failed “love ritual” for which he shelled out $3,200:

According to the plaintiff’s petition, Busby went to Thorn on Dec. 4 for a $30 tarot card reading.

After the reading, Thorn recommended a ritual “to unite husband and wife” and sold it to Busby for $500, the petition states.

Part of the ritual involved “chakras,” or centers of spiritual power in the body, which required use of special lights.

For the lights, Busby paid Thorn $2,700, which was placed in a box. Thorn allegedly told Busby she would cleanse the money and return it to him within four hours, along with dolls to represent the man and the woman.

Finishing the ritual involved placing the box under the marital bed and saying prayers, the petition states.

The money and the box were given to Thorn at 5 p.m. Dec. 6, but had not been returned to Busby when the suit was filed 10 days later, the petition states.

Thorn said through her in-laws, Sonny and Christine Nicholas, that no money was ever placed in the box, according to the petition.

Busby’s petition states he will show that more than 100 people have been defrauded by the family or business in the last four years.

Personally, I’d say he got exactly what he paid for: a scam. The lawyer, on the other hand, wants to make it a class-action suit. You want to come forward and admit you’ve been duped by an ancient con game? And would you use a lawyer who fell for this sort of thing?

Over at Relatively Interesting, there is a list of major events that not a single “psychic” predicted for 2013, including:

  • The surprising resignation of Pope Benedict XVI…
  • The revelation of PRISM and the NSA spying scandal revealed by Ed Snowden, which is still arguably one of the biggest news stories of the year…
  • The meteor which exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, injuring 1,491 people and damaging over 4,300 buildings. It was the most powerful meteor to strike Earth’s atmosphere in over a century…
  • The Boston Marathon bombings…
  • Typhoon Haiyan “Yolanda”, one of the strongest tropical cyclones on record, which hit the Philippines and Vietnam, causing devastation with at least 5,653 dead…
  • Iran agreeing to limit their nuclear development program in exchange for sanctions relief…
  • William and Kate’s royal baby – a boy, named Prince George… (more details below)…
  • The Bronx train derailment…
  • The Rob Ford crack cocaine scandal, which was on just about every North American TV network…
  • The recovery of Amanda Berry, who was a 16-year-old girl when she went missing in 2003, and was rescued from an unassuming house in Cleveland. She was held captive for a decade.
  • A number of high profile deaths: Ed Koch, Hugo Chavez, Margaret Thatcher, Roger Ebert, Tom Clancy, Lou Reed, James Gandolfini, Cory Monteith, Jean Stapleton, Lisa Robin Kelly, Paul Walker, Nelson Mandela…

That speaks volumes for their so-called abilities. The site also lists other failed predictions, including:

  • Another cruise ship breaks in half.
  • An earthquake of great magnitude wiping out Mexico City.
  • An assassination attempt around Queen Elizabeth.
  • Expect an upset at the Academy Awards: Bradley Cooper for best actor over Daniel Day Lewis. Sally Field for best actress. Lincoln for best picture and Quentin Tarantino for best director.

CartoonNot one “psychic” seems to have mentioned the major Canadian events of 2013: What about the Lac Megantic train derailment? Rob Ford’s surprising, public admissions? Mike Duffy and the Senate scandal? The removal of the elephants form the Toronto Zoo? The Montreal mayoralty scandals? The gas plant scandal?

So many darts thrown, so few that hit the board (let alone the bullseye…).

Weird Worm lists five gargantuan psychic failures in the past decade or so. Smosh has a list that dates back even longer (remember the “Mayan Doomsday” of 2012?). There’s a list of the predictions for 2012 here, and, as expected, here are a few that never happened;

  • Giant prehistoric Sea Monsters under the sea.
  • A Stock Market crash like 1929 worldwide.
  • North Korea attacks South Korea and Japan.
  • The Holy Grail will be found.
  • Breakthrough in the cure of Lyme disease.
  • The strongest sandstorm in the history of the Arab world.
  • I predict that the Republicans will win the Presidential election.
  • There will be a bombing on a cruise ship this year.
  • Movies will come out of Hollywood that will change the world, unite the world, and create a futuristic vision of oneness, bringing down divisions by countries.

Read here for a more comprehensive analysis of the failed predictions of 2012. You have to chuckle when “psychics” toss in fantasy like the Holy Grail, or nonsense like UFOs and prehistoric monsters: why set yourself up to fail? Unless you’re catering to an audience that’s already suspended rational belief and steeped itself in claptrap and codswallop… oh wait…

Despite the discredit the high frequency of failure brings to these fakirs and cons, people seem to forget their mistakes – happily and eagerly; it’s cognitive dissonance – and even overlook the lies when these “psychics” say they have a track record of successes and it can be proven otherwise!

Since it seems a lucrative career,  for 2014, I am stepping into the ring to make my predictions:

  • Most “psychics” who make predictions about 2014 will be proven as wrong in 2015 as they were about every other previous year but their followers won’t give a tinker’s damn;
  • There will be a municipal election in the fall;
  • I will bake more bread;
  • A UFO will land on the outskirts of Collingwood and the aliens open up a deli and sell galactic hot sauce at premium prices.

Nuff said, just send me the cash. I don’t want to make too many predictions, and be proven wrong, but it likely that won’t eat into my profits. (Okay, the last one is a bit dodgy, but I’m playing to the galleries here…)

Should you wish to read what the other “psychic” con artists have predicted for 2014, here’s one list compiled by a reader. There are many easily accessed by searching. They’re always good for a laugh.

~~~~~

* Being a “psychic” or a “clairvoyant” isn’t a profession or career, although you can make money from it. It’s a hobby, not something you study for, take classes, go on field trips and pass exams. There is no apprenticeship; there are no proofs required, no certificates, no peer reviews. It’s something you make up, like a nickname for yourself. It’s not a title, or an honorific. Dog groomers get more training than the average “psychic.”  And just a casual sweep through the thousands of “psychic” websites shows that rarely do two even agree on simple things they should have in common.
It’s all made up, all fantasy. “Psychics” are as real as Hobbits, Harry Potter and the Loch Ness monster, just sillier.

One thought on “Psychics 2013: the silly, the scams, the failed predictions


  1. Some 2014 predictions from “psychics” for your amusement:

    • Obama will slowly be stripped of power before his 2016 exit, but we will be kept in the dark (who’s “we”?)
    • Queen Elizabeth takes ill in the springtime (typical vague stuff – is this a cold?)
    • Massive grave with many children will be discovered in desert area (Mexico?) (they’re so good they can’t even identify the country… leaving it vague enough that any mass grave will make them claim success.)
    • UFOs: a mass UFO sighting in the near future over a major U.S. city will have everyone abuzz. I will discuss this on future interviews. Red and orange fireballs/orbs will be seen everywhere this year. ETs are making themselves known and watching events as they unfold on our planet, especially earth changes. (ETs and UFOs? Conspiracy theory hogwash….)
    • Geoengineering: Our weather is now controlled by certain governments worldwide. Hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy were manipulated to create mega storms. Chemtrails in our skies are also alter our weather and in blocking the sun, cancer has increased. We are not getting the Vitamin D from the sun needed for our bodies. This is especially true in children were cancer of every kind are taking children’s lives. (pure paranoia – this isn’t a prediction, it’s mere conspiracy theory gibberish…)
    • Italy’s Mount Etna will see a huge eruption and Rome could shake. I see structures falling in Rome–large earthquake. (We’ll see – but since Etna is active and erupts frequently, it’s pretty safe to predict… )