Sunday, October 7, 2012


The typical image of a psychic is of a gypsy woman with tarot cards. While that sometimes does fit the image, the average psychic doesn't dress like this but just looks... normal. On TLC's "Long Island Medium", the psychic comes in form of a mother with a Bronx accent. As my family watches the show in fascination, I roll my eyes.

They're nothing new, of course, and have been around for ages. They range from palm readers to diviners to mediums. These people either admit to learning the trade or having a "gift" starting from a young age. And the world loves them.

At this point, I'm hearing all of the voices saying that I'm being too "cold" and clucking at my skepticism. I even have heard, "So what? It doesn't hurt anyone." Sometimes, the former was the truth. I even find getting my tarot cards and palms read to be enjoying and interesting as well as my horoscope. Though I don't put stock in any of it, I find it interesting. My biggest problem is that it's pretty much a scam for those who really do believe it but whatever, it's all in good fun. That's fine.

I only start to care when I see people starting to get exploited. And that is the case when people go to "mediums" in particular to deal with grief as well as a variety of other kinds of emotional problems. The idea of someone taking advantage of that makes me sick.

Of course, I recognize that there are a variety of people who believe what they are saying. Either they have deluded themselves or they truly "hear" these spirits. These people need help. The show "Psychic Kids" actually demonstrates this pretty well especially when it's clear that many children are suffering from conditions such as schizophrenia. However, most of the time, this is not the case. Most of these psychics are deliberately deceitful (in other words, frauds).

A lot of people don't know about something called "cold readings". This is a technique that many psychics use in order to look believable. In this, psychics manipulate people into believing that they are picking up signals from "spirits". Mostly, they make a bunch of indirect general statements or ask a bunch of indirect general questions. It's all probability pretty much. They can tell if they are in the right direction by the expression on the subjects' faces.

For example, I just saw a cold reading done by the woman on that show.
Woman: I'm sensing a car with a hole in it...
(Note the fact that she is using "I'm sensing". She also says "I'm feeling" or "something is telling me" on the show quite a bit, which are vague terms that allow her some access. If she's wrong, she is given a little bit of leeway on this usually).
Man in group: My girlfriend died in a car accident.
Woman: I sense that it was quick and she didn't suffer....

Does anyone see what she did? She made a general statement and someone from the group ended up filling in the information for her. The person fills in the information for these psychics and then the psychics feed off of that, sensing what the person wants to hear.

Why is this wrong, you might ask? Isn't this "helping the person feel better"?

It does "help the person feel better" but under false pretenses. These people are grieving and desperate and often guilty over something. Psychics are exploiting their vulnerability just to make money or to have a show. It's sick. These grieving, vulnerable people are especially prey to cold readings because they will be especially willing to contribute the cold reading and fill in the details that the psychic needs in order to make it work for them.

Basically, while psychics can be fun, they are pretty much frauds and that needs to be recognized. When this is taken seriously, that is dangerous. People deserve better than to be taken advantage of.


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