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Psychic detectives=predators?


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#1 plindboe

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Posted 10 March 2005 - 01:30 AM

This rather short article was written by a parent of Polly Klaas:

http://www.klaaskids...-mc-hazards.htm

Hazards

Psychic Detectives are the vanguard of a second wave of predators that also includes tabloid journalists, cheesy defense lawyers and photo-op politicians. They use tabloid newspapers and talk shows to boast about their accomplishments and predict success. They materialize whenever children are kidnapped and circle the cases like vultures on a fresh carcass.

They scan the media for the haunting eyes of desperate parents willing to do anything to recover their children and then they show up on your doorstep, literally or figuratively, to make the pitch. They claim to be on the cutting edge of communications, able to predict future events and reach into heaven and hell with their mind. They hold your hand, massage your psyche and convince you that the only thing separating you from their extraordinary gift is your money. However, some simply require airfare and living expenses, what we call a vacation. They seem to answer the prayer that ends the nightmare, but only if you can afford the ticket.

Frantic parents will do anything and they offer something, which is better than nothing. Few of us posses the resources to underwrite crisis, let alone psychic detectives so they should be reminded that a substantial reward awaits whoever solves the case and returns the stolen child.

Although that strategy eliminates most psychics, some maintain a foothold by appealing to superstitiously vulnerable family members. They make provocative predictions. In California, rolling hills, a road or highway, perhaps a building or a bubbling brook. In Arizona, sand dunes replace rolling hills and cactus substitutes the bubbling brook: In other words, they describe ninety-five percent of the geography of the western United States.

Psychic detectives do not posses supernatural insight, they do not converse with the missing or the dead, they never bring children home. However, their rambling predictions may have filled in enough gaps to pad their resumes and claim the reward.

A few months after Polly was recovered a psychic claimed that she solved Pollyís case on the television program Hard Copy. Not only was she using my daughterís death to promote herself, but she also dismissed all of the wonderful people: police, media, and volunteers who worked so hard and tirelessly to locate my child.

In truth, that psychic detectives contribution to the case was counter productive. As always seems to be the case with psychic predictions, her interference created distraction. Law enforcement resources are diverted toward useless endeavors as phantom leads disappear into thin air. One cold and dark November evening many of us were lurking around somebodyís property because the psychic said that it held the key to my daughterís disappearance. With the heightened sense of paranoia that already existed in the community that property owner would have been well within his rights to blow us away on the spot for trespassing. We were very fortunate that night, because although he did angrily confront us, he had absolutely nothing to do with the crime we were investigating.

In the end, and despite their protests, there is not even one case of a psychic truly assisting or solving a missing child case. Itís just smoke and mirrors. Their references do not support their claims and law enforcement cannot acknowledge their existence. Instead, their wishful thinking collides with your desperate hope and leaves you diminished.

Unfortunately, the next time a little child is kidnapped and mom and dad reach the end of their emotional string the vague, empty promises of the psychic detective will rebound off the stark walls of the missing childís bedroom and a photo or toy will be palmed as the negotiations are engaged. It is inevitable: I predict it.


I'm quoting the entire article in this case, because it's rather short, so you don't have to click the link.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." (Bertrand Russell)

#2 Bobnoxious

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Posted 10 March 2005 - 02:01 AM

Thanks for the article, Peter. I totally agree that these people are parasites feeding off the misery of others. Like the article says, lots of grand claims but no evidence to back any of it up. A lot of people say we skeptics are just a bunch of cranky spoilsports. It's things like this which show just how important a little skeptical thinking can be. It also shows why even something as seemingly innocuous as a guy bending a spoon "with his mind" needs to be shown for the fraud he invariably is. Once you start believing in one kind of nonsense, it's all too easy to believe in another. There may be real psychics out there, but so far every one I've seen step into the public spotlight is just doing the same old sleight of hand and mentalist tricks that other, more honest individuals perform as stage magic. Sorry if that offends anyone, but when I read stuff like this it makes me mad.
"Future events such as these will affect you in the future." - Criswell, 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'

#3 plindboe

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Posted 10 March 2005 - 02:43 AM

Good post , Bob.

The sad thing is that I believe most of these "psychics" actually convince themselves that they are helping. They suffer from fantasy prone personalities, and basically believe that their hallucinations and intuitions depict reality, while in actuality their rather random visions results in confusion and precious time being lost. Often the parents are told that their kids are dead, when in fact they are not. Other times they tell the parents that the kids are alive and well, when the kids have already been killed. :wub: And most often they simply lead the police on wild goose chases, wasting extremely precious time. It's so sad that so many people believe them, without question.

There's also a big problem with how the media report the cases, since they only report the "positive" cases, which nearly always turns out to be quite different than reality when the cases are looked in to.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." (Bertrand Russell)

#4 NocturnalCantaloupe

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Posted 10 March 2005 - 10:07 AM

I'd have to agree for the most part here. It seems in many cases these psychics truly believe in their abilities and therefore as Peter said, somehow create this fantastic fictional (not fictionary in their own mind) story to begind living. This type of belief doesn't just reside in those that think they are psychic, it also covers everything including a divorced parent thinking they are a better parent than their counter part and vise versa, but in reality they are both compitent.

I truly believe many psychic talents are nothing but well exercised and skilled (gifted?) intuitive people. They are empathic to peoples emotions, feelings, desires, and personalities. They may truly have a gift at this kind of "reading" of people, but it's completely natural.

Are there true psychics? I also agree with Bob on this. It's possible, though highly improbable. They won't ever come out into the spot light becuase their "gift" is mundane to them- no need to get all riled up over it.

Now, that sounds like a defense a believer would throw out there, doesn't it? They exist, but they won't ever show themselves.

I dunno.... in all honesty, I don't know.
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#5 Bobnoxious

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Posted 10 March 2005 - 05:49 PM

Self deception definitely plays a role for some psychics. Interestingly, one of the main guys in CSICOP (can't remember which one) had exactly that happen to him. He was a palm reader for years, and because everyone always told him he was so accurate he believed it. Then a friend challenged him to give readings that were exactly the opposite of what the palms "told" him and see what happened. His customers were every bit as astounded by his accuracy.

That said, I think at least a good percentage of professional psychics, especially the ones who constantly chase after publicity, know exactly what they're doing. They'll willingly go beyond the "cold read" and seek out choice tidbits of information they "couldn't possibly have known" through surreptitious means in order to convince people of their powers. They'll fire off scattershot clues in the hopes that at least one of them sticks, and then claim success. And they'll knowingly misrepresent their records to make it look like their success rates are much higher than they are. I just don't have much sympathy for anyone who knowingly prays on the distraught or bereaved, and as much as I'd like to believe people like that are few and far between, history shows us that con artists have never been in short supply. If the two of you haven't already done so, read 'The Psychic Mafia' by Lamar Keene for one former psychic's true tales of life in the spiritualism racket. He started out believing in his own powers, but soon wound up willingly using tricks and deception to keep the cash rolling in.
"Future events such as these will affect you in the future." - Criswell, 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'

#6 plindboe

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Posted 10 March 2005 - 10:29 PM

I truly believe many psychic talents are nothing but well exercised and skilled (gifted?) intuitive people.  They are empathic to peoples emotions, feelings, desires, and personalities.  They may truly have a gift at this kind of "reading" of people, but it's completely natural.


Indeed, psychics are usually very skilled at folk psychology.


If the two of you haven't already done so, read 'The Psychic Mafia' by Lamar Keene for one former psychic's true tales of life in the spiritualism racket.


Will check it out.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." (Bertrand Russell)

#7 Camille

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Posted 10 March 2005 - 11:27 PM

This reminds me of a situation that occurred here recently in Cleveland. About two years ago, a 16 year-old girl suddenly went missing, having never come home from her late-shift job at Burger King. There was virtually no evidence surrounding her disappearance...police did not know if she was kidnapped or if she simply ran away. There were no witnesses. The only thing the police had to go on was a cell phone call from the girl, telling her mother that she had a ride home from work.

After about a year or so with no leads, the Montel Show arranged for Sylvia Browne, "psychic detective" extraordinaire, to investigate and meet with the girl's mother. After much investigative work, I am sure ( :rolleyes: ), Browne told the mother that the girl was dead. Browne went on to say that the girl's "killer" was obsessed with her, and implied to the mother that her daughter's body was "in the water" somewhere. The mother accepted it and was emotionally crushed.

Wow. Stunning. :rolleyes:

The FBI has stated that Sylvia Browne has never solved any of their cases. But, the mother had faith in psychics like Browne and believed her.

Not to sound insensitive, but, given the circumstances, it was reasonable to conclude that this poor girl was dead without the need for a psychic. And it was reasonable to conclude that the girl was last in contact with somebody that she knew, somebody who *may* have been her killer.

Yet, I was disgusted to hear about the Esteemed Ms. Browne telling the mother her speculation over the girl's death. Disgusted not only at Browne's role in this, but also disgusted by the fact that some of Browne's conclusions could have been drawn by anybody in the law enforcement field. Browne draped the facts surrounding the girl's disappearance with a mystic cloak, and presented a tale to the mother that was both horrible and in no way helpful to her emotional healing.

Oh, Peter, do read the "Psychic Mafia" when you get a chance. You will discover a new-found appreciation for taffeta!
"What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite."Bertrand Russell"You're going to go to McDonald's... you'll order an Egg McMuffin and some coffee... WAIT! They're going to forget your extra salt! Remind them to give you salt, please!!"Ed Closser, Trivial Psychic

#8 plindboe

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 12:17 AM

Camille, I agree, that Browne woman is intensely irresponsible. So is most, if not all, of the most reknowned psychics that appear on the telly channeling messages to people from their dead relatives. Here's another case, provided in a rather angry rant by James Randi:

Let's look back to just one particularly cruel hoax perpetrated by this woman Browne. Years ago on Montel Williams' show, she spoke to the grandmother of a local missing child, a six-year-old named Opal Jo Jennings who disappeared from her home in north Texas in March of 1999. Browne told the distraught woman that the child was still alive but had been sold into white slavery and was currently being held in Japan. She even gave a city name, but there is no such city in Japan. Moving ahead three years and nine months, we find that the body of little Opal was recovered ó just seven weeks ago; she had been killed by a blow to the head. Currently, there is a man in prison in Texas who has confessed to, and been convicted of, Opal Jo's abduction and murder.

Think about what's happened here: Sylvia Browne callously raised the hopes of the family of this little child, placing the fictitious location on the other side of the world. She did this well after a comprehensive search had already been performed in Texas, so she was pretty sure that the girl would never be found. She thought she was safe against exposure. She wasn't; the body was found and definitively identified. That was a callous, cruel, manipulative act by Sylvia Browne. But no one calls her to account for it, and her supporters continue on in Lotusland cooing over her wonderful powers. You have to wonder how someone can do such a heartless act. Sylvia can, and does.


Taken from his commentary: http://www.randi.org...ewsweek.html#10
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." (Bertrand Russell)

#9 Camille

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 12:41 AM

Oh, oh, you had to do that. I'm trying to quit smoking, I've now ripped off my nicotine patch and am chainsmoking 2 cigs at a time! Thanks.

That is HORRIBLE. That poor grandmother. How cruel and irresponsible. One wonders what her explanation is for that *minor* error in psychic reading. Did she ever explain that failure? I went to Sylvia Browne's pretty, pink website, but could find nothing when I did a search for "Opal" and "Opal Jo" and "Jennings". I guess this girl has been conveniently forgotten. <_<

Someone once said that psychics are better at finding publicity than they are in finding missing persons.

How true.
"What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite."Bertrand Russell"You're going to go to McDonald's... you'll order an Egg McMuffin and some coffee... WAIT! They're going to forget your extra salt! Remind them to give you salt, please!!"Ed Closser, Trivial Psychic

#10 MoonChild

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 12:46 AM

Someone once said that psychics are better at finding publicity than they are in finding missing persons.

How true.

read that as $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

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#11 Camille

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 12:49 AM

Haha! Indeed, Moon.

I checked out Sylvia's rates. WHEW! She charges $1,000.00 a pop for one of her "salon sessions" which includes discussions with her on the meaning of life.

Shoot, I could come up with a theory on the meaning of life, and charge you half as much.

I am in the wrong profession....
"What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite."Bertrand Russell"You're going to go to McDonald's... you'll order an Egg McMuffin and some coffee... WAIT! They're going to forget your extra salt! Remind them to give you salt, please!!"Ed Closser, Trivial Psychic

#12 MoonChild

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 12:56 AM

Camille, for one - I do believe in psychics, and I have first hand experience how things can be efficiently help a person to understand the unknown - if you know what I mean. But I am a person who also believes the power of the mind is a gift, which is not supposed to be used for monetary gain - for the simple reason that money exchanging hands between the "learned" and the "seeker" boomerangs the purpose. That doesnt mean that the "learned" is not supposed to recieve money, but the amount shouldn't be specified. The "seeker" can give whatever he is mentally comfortable with because the value is in the mind which reinforce the result. (Sorry if I didnt come clear, but the very basic goes back to my favourite quote - it is all in your mind)

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#13 Bobnoxious

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 01:14 AM

After about a year or so with no leads, the Montel Show arranged for Sylvia Browne, "psychic detective" extraordinaire,  to investigate and meet with the girl's mother.  After much investigative work, I am sure ( :rolleyes: ), Browne told the mother that the girl was dead.  Browne went on to say that the girl's "killer" was obsessed with her, and implied to the mother that her daughter's body was "in the water" somewhere.  The mother accepted it and was emotionally crushed.

I know this is going to look like Camevil "set this up" for me so I could comment, but honestly that's not the case. With regards to psychic detectives and water: For some reason, almost every psychic detective claims the missing person will be found "near water". Honestly, if it weren't so sad it would be funny. Why does water come up so often? Here's a quote from an article by Joe Nickell from the Skeptical Inquirer Magazine:

But what about testimonials from experienced homicide detectives who have actually used psychics? Most reported successes appear to be like the one that a New Jersey police captain attributed the late Dorothy Allison. Her predictions "were difficult to verify when initially given," he said. "The accuracy usually could not be verified until the investigation had come to a conclusion." Indeed, this after-the-fact matching--known as "retrofitting"--is the secret behind most alleged psychic successes. For example, the statement, "I see water and the number seven," would be a safe offering in almost any case. After all the facts are in, it will be unusual if there is not some stream, body of water, or other source that cannot somehow be associated with the case. As to the number seven, that can later be associated with a distance, a highway, the number of people in a search party, part of a license plate number, or any of countless other possible interpretations. Many experienced police officers have fallen for the retrofitting trick.


You can read Joe's whole article on psychic detectives Here.
"Future events such as these will affect you in the future." - Criswell, 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'

#14 MoonChild

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 08:56 AM

With regards to psychic detectives and water: For some reason, almost every psychic detective claims the missing person will be found "near water". Honestly, if it weren't so sad it would be funny. Why does water come up so often?

water water everywhere........

maybe they are more often than not, refering to tap water :o j/k lol, but infact water is abundant in nature and this increases the chance for their "true predictions".

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#15 petunia4998

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Posted 11 March 2005 - 11:01 AM

So Sylvia Brown was wrong, NO psychic is ever 100% correct, that is impossible. As quick is Randi is to jump on Sylvia for this "mistake", I am quite sure he is never going to admit to the readings that were right on. He just doesn't do things like that. It doesn't help a skeptic to draw attention to the existence of rightness. And that there have been right ones, I am sure. That's why she can charge as much as she does. Although I'm with Moon about the propriety of charging so much, well, that's between her and god.

As for water being part of many places where dead bodies are found, aren't rivers and lakes good dumping places for them? Where are you going to put them? On a highway or next to a shopping mall? It makes sense to me.

As as for being disgusted with Sylvia regarding the Cleveland case, we were only shown a portion of what went on in Cleveland I'm sure. We have no way of knowing what the mother was told. The police never release all the details to the general public. This helps them differentiate between the crackpots and somone who might really know something. I'm sure you know this. And I know the Montel show was not going to overstep a police investigation. As for telling the mother that her daughter was dead, well, it's not the psychic's purpose to sugarcoat the truth. And if this is also just a scam, how come the great Randi isn't jumping all over this one?

So Camille, I'm with you. If you think you can get $1000 for telling people what you think they should hear, go for it. You're smart enough to figure out a good scam and how to go about it. $1000 a pop is a lot of money.

Plindbo and Bob, here's the rub: you're not going to hear about the good psychics who are not interested in the fame or the money. That's not their MO.
But how do you find a good one? That's the bigger problem. They're out there. And it makes me laugh to think that you believe the FBI is going to admit that they use psychics. I guess I shouldn't laugh: the government always tells us the truth about everything, don't they?
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