Are Clairvoyants Any Better Than Snake Oil Salesmen?
A snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is themselves a fraud, quack, or charlatan.
Many people would agree that this is a perfect way to describe clairvoyants, psychics, tarot card readers, tea leaf readers, palm readers, and generally anyone who practices any of the esoteric arts for a living.
The Urban Dictionary gives a nice little list of synonyms that define the term “snake oil salesmen”, which you can see here
In his book, “Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium”, Mark Edward, 62, from Los Angeles, explains how he became a spirit medium and psychic entertainer, then later used these skills to ‘scam the scammers.’
He says that by examining their client’s body language and observing what he says are their, “random generalities,” the mediums can quite easily find that person’s vulnerability.
“Once you get the hook, everything else falls into place,” he said. “It’s all pretty standard stuff.”
Edward goes on to say:
“It’s not a gift, it’s maybe a skill. I call it fraud. I have met people who are very intuitive and sensitive but there is nothing supernatural about them. They just assess information that most people don’t think about.”
He also explained how he held séances for purposes of the book, to prove how easy they are to create the illusion that there are supernatural powers.
“It’s a lot about darkness. In pitch black you can suggest all sorts of things. Linking hands creates incredible tension. People want stuff to happen. It’s easy to feel a cold breeze or tap on the shoulder and think no one is in the room. It’s a simple but traditional con.”
Basically, being a good clairvoyant/ psychic/ whatever, is all about how well you can read people.
This piece in Skeptic Report talks about sceptic Timothy Campbell, an executive of the Ontario Skeptics Society for Critical Inquiry.
“Cold reading is no single feat, but rather the use of several tricks and skills to subtly coax information from a person – information which can later be fed back to the subject, repackaged as a new and amazing insight. It involves deductive reasoning, quick thinking, a sense of psychology, a reasonable grasp of statistics and demographics, and a healthy dose of modest charm. With a little practice, skeptics say, anyone can be a “psychic.”
And Campbell knows that of which he speaks: he was once a “psychic” himself.
Psychology Today, in their article entitled “Tricks of the Psychic Trade (How Psychics talk and manipulate)”, they talk about “naming”. Here’s an excerpt:
Naming is a fundamental part of any psychic medium reading. The medium mentions a common name, in order to find willing subjects for readings. Additional names or initials may be added, to narrow down the contenders to a single subject. I recently witnessed a different technique used by up-and-coming medium Rebecca Rosen at her Denver show. She began her performance by reading a list of names of spirits that had “lined up all day to leave messages for the audience.” This way, the audience was already drawing connections to the names and preparing for a reading. Her list included:
Joe, Robert or Bob, Dan, Jerry, Nick, Chris, Ben, Jesse, Corey, Katherine, Jim, Betty, David, Bill, Dale, Kevin, Julie, Carol, Seymour, Tyler, Taylor, Sherri, Rose, Abe, Ozzy, Joan, Doris, Dorothy, Shirley, Helen, Bernie, Pete, Don, Tom, Ed, John, Al, Scott and Pauline. (1)
This catalog of common names would resonate with any English-speaking audience. But as Ian Rowland, author of the Full Facts Book of Cold Reading once said to me, in a large audience “The hard part would be to be find a name that wouldn’t work.” To safeguard against this slim possibility, Rosen also resorted to the generic “Mom”, “Dad”, “Grandma” and “Grandpa.” Merely hearing familiar names personalises the performance for those who don’t receive an individual reading.
Tell you what… Let’s give you a reading right now!
I’m getting the sense that you’re the type of person who places great value on being liked and admired. At times, you can be prone to doubting whether or not you’ve made the right choices in your life. You can be excessively critical of yourself. You aren’t a perfect person, but for the most part, you’ve made up for your weaknesses. You’ve got a lot of potential that has not been used to your advantage yet. You’re an independent thinker. To a certain degree, you need some change in your life—too many restrictions make you uncomfortable. That said, finding security is one of your main goals. There have been times when social anxiety has been a problem for you.
Do you identify with this?
Of course you do. MOST people do, and that’s the thing!
However, it’s not magic. It’s called The Forer Effect (also called “the Barnum Effect”), and it’s one of the simple tools that so-called psychics and mediums use to convince you that they can talk to the dead, look into your soul, and have you hand them the keys to your wallet.
Bertram Forer was a psychologist who gave his students a test, saying it would help him create a personality profile for each of them. Secretly, he gave every student the exact same profile, regardless of their answers, and asked them to rate how accurate they thought it was. The majority of the students said it was right on-the-mark.
You can read more about Bertram Forer here
We like Cracked.com at ShowWorld Towers, not only for their humorous way of making sense of things, but because of well researched pieces like this:
And the article they wrote on Animal Rights charlatans, PETA, that was the basis for this post
Another notable sceptic, James Randi, has even offered, prior to his retirement, a prize of US$1,000,000 to eligible applicants who can demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event under test conditions agreed to by both parties.
To date, not one single person has been able to provide any.
You can read about that here
If human beings can make money out of gullibility, whether it’s through esoterica or getting celebs to pose nude covered in red paint while tailing an animal skin, then you bet your bottom dollar that they will, every time an opportunity arises!
Now, just to be clear, this post was written form a sceptical point of view because the writer is a sceptic.
We at ShowWorld are not saying we agree, or that we disagree – just that it’s good to hear different viewpoints that, in turn, enable conversation. The keyword here is “conversation”, not arguments!
In fact, we have clairvoyants and psychics on our books, and so it’s up to YOU to decide whether they’re peddling snake oil or not!
If you’d like to book one for your event, you can contact us here:
Tel: +44 7973 416596