Gordon 1 Stephanie Gordon College Writing 112. 005 Guyant 10/11/11 Psychics reading the gullible Gordon 2 The world today is filled with psychics claiming they can perform tasks involving extrasensory projections. There are people who say they can speak with the dead, read minds, feel energies, and see into the future. It is very easy, when vulnerable and gullible enough, to fall into what these psychics are saying. Most will say what you want to hear in order to gain credibility for themselves, or even to just earn a living.
It is a complicated thing to argue, however, because this science cannot be proven true. It has undoubtedly been proven a hoax time and time again, but there are two sides to every story. Those who believe and buy into what these psychics are saying are the ones who keep this business alive. I think that people will believe what they want to believe, which is why psychics can continue putting on a show to make believers out of the gullible. There is a term used in Psychology to represent when it is actually the subjects who make a reading succeed. It is called the “fallacy of personal validation. This means that when someone is being read by a psychic, the way they interpret the reading to match their own character is what makes them believe in what the psychic is saying (Gordon 48). This is most often true with horoscopes. We usually only read the horoscope that matches up with our own birthday, but when reading ones that are for other months, they can be matched up to anyone. Horoscopes can be very general, such as, “Good things are coming your way”, or “You will meet someone with potential for a relationship next month”. These things could be interpreted in a different way for every person who reads them.
Almost anyone could find a way to fit the readings into their own lives. Most of the time the horoscope “predicts” things that would have happened to a person anyways. Chances are whoever reads it will have something good happen to them or meet someone new any period of time after they have read it. It is the fallacy of personal validation that makes astronomical readings seem so accurate for each individual. Psychics themselves have a lot of confidence in what they do. Though there are some who know they are putting on an act, there are others who truly believe they have a gift.
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One psychic who Gordon 3 makes a living off of being a reader, DeAna, lives in the United Kingdom. She explains in an interview that ever since she was a young girl, her family and friends were baffled when DeAna knew information that she was never directly told. She constantly knew information that she not only should not, but could not have possibly known. Using her skill as a career measure did not come until much later in life. When asked “How have you become a psychic reader? ” DeAna replies, “A lady I worked with was dreadfully distraught about a relative who had gone AWOL.
One day she handed me a coffee and I found information about the person flooding in – as she touched me. I gave her the info and the person was located. She was shocked at first and then thrilled and told an awful lot of people! Before I knew it, after a 12 hour shift – 6 days a week, I would arrive home to find people waiting on my doorstep needing a reading. ” (DeAna) She continues to explain how she helped people before and after her shift at her regular job, for no pay. One day a woman came along who was offended when DeAna would not accept payment.
She scolded the psychic and said that she was offering a service and should expect payment for her skills. DeAna decided to make her readings a full time job, after the woman put things into perspective for her. She thought she should use her gift to help whenever she could, whenever she could. DeAna soon realized this was her calling, and chose to start charging all of her clients and turn her talent into a career. DeAna helps people who are looking for answers. Her clients who now pay her for reading sessions in person and over the phone, come to her because they need help with something in their lives.
DeAna even helps corporate businesses in finding the correct applicant for a job. She states that she wrote out a paragraph for each applicant on their character traits and strengths as she saw it. Perhaps the person in charge of hiring had poor skills in his job area to begin with, which is why other people he had hired did not end up working out for their company. The fact of the matter is, every person DeAna has picked out for the company has worked extremely well in their position. One man, who admits to being a fake, is Henry Gordon.
He calls himself a mentalist-magician, Gordon 4 because his tricks are what he calls slight of mind. His career has been based on debunking those who claim to have magical or psychic powers. In 1977 (Gordon 3), he put on a magic show in his hometown, but performed under the stage name Elchonen and wore a mask so his identity would stay hidden. After performing several amazing tricks, the audience was completely hooked and bought into his entire performance. When it came time for the second act, Gordon walked out on stage without his mask and was instantly recognized by his community.
He told people they had been duped, and proceeded to explain why it is so easy for them to believe his tricks. People in the audience had every reason to be upset. They had put themselves in a vulnerable position and got sucked into Gordon's act. This is also part of the reason people believe so strongly in psychics and their readings. Those who are curious are the ones who are easily pulled into the hoax. After an atmosphere is created with a crystal ball, one or two correct guesses, and just a hint of belief, a psychic can pull a client in and the rest is history.
It is very easy for a mentalist magician like Gordon to pull simple tricks and attract a following. Some members of the audience in Gordon's show were so upset they demanded their money back. Gordon told them they would receive a full refund for their ticket if they asked for it at the ticket office. He later found out most of the people who received their refund came back to find out the tricks of his trade. He calls himself a mentalist magician, because he uses slight of mind tricks, as opposed to sleight of hand. His tricks test a person's mind, rather than how well they were paying attention.
Gordon makes a living off of debunking psychics and anyone who claims they have extra sensory projection. He says that he could make a much better living off of being a magician, but there is something standing between him and a life full of riches. His conscience. Psychics make general assumptions that lead to specific answers, based on the responses of the person they are reading. (75) This is what makes the person believe they are taking part in something outside our natural world. It is what pulls them in and makes them a believer in this phenomenon.
Some people tend to believe when they need an answer that they cannot seem to find on their Gordon 5 own. Local law enforcement has been known to use a psychic when they have hit a dead end during a case. This happens rarely. Often times the psychic is brought in by the family of the victim, and not law enforcement directly. Law enforcement will comply with the psychic if they feel they have no other options and need help taking a step in a new direction. The psychics, however, can be more of a problem than a help. Police may be looking for a step in the right direction, but what if the psychic sets them on a completely wrong path?
Time is of the essence in the majority of these cases and a psychic may throw off the entire investigation. If a psychic chooses to help in a search, officials may decide to ignore their claims. One man, Mr. Earl Curley, is extremely confident in his psychic abilities. He brags to his followers about how his help led to an arrest in a murder investigation. Curley states that he gave a composite drawing of the alleged killer in the investigation of the Atlanta Child Murders. He then claims that because of his help, a criminal named Wayne Williams was apprehended four and a half days later.
Since Curley seemed to be so confident in his help, Henry Gordon went to investigate how much he had really helped the investigators on the outcome of this case. When Gordon contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigations about Curley's help with the case, he received a direct quote from the Press Information Office. “Mr. Earl Curley contacted our Atlanta office (voluntarily) in 1980 and 1981. He sent in some kind of write-up of what he thought the subject would look like, and he sent in some sort of a drawing. However, there was no impact on the case as a result of what he sent in. (Gordon 88) This goes to show that psychics can brag about using their abilities, but unless someone digs deeper in the matter, they will not know how much the psychic really helped. Psychics may have helped law enforcement with their two cents worth, but it does not mean that they led to any kind of conclusion in a case. Suppose the FBI had used Curley's drawings. They might have arrested a man who matched the picture, but who was not the criminal who committed the murders. Any set of circumstances resulting from Curley's voluntary help could have sent the entire investigation in a completely wrong direction.
Luckily the Bureau was smart enough to ignore this psychic and stick with their own set of techniques. Gordon 6 Having confidence in their work is part of what makes them so believable. If they believe in it themselves, others are sure to follow in the hype. Psychics use all sort of ways to show their skills. Whether it is using a reading to predict an outcome, predict the future, communicate with the afterlife, they all have their own set of ways to create believers. A popular method some psychics use when attempting to contact someone who has passed on, is the Ouija board.
It is a board with numbers from zero to nine and all of the letters of the alphabet on it. A game piece in the shape of a triangle with a plastic center is used to spell out the answers to questions asked. When the piece goes over a letter or number, it is supposed to spell out a word of phrase that is from a spirit. This board was considered a game in the United States. It sold extremely well, mostly to people who had lost a loved one in World War I. The woes of someone dying, going missing, or simply being affected by the tragedies of war, drove some people to turn to magic.
These were people who needed answers from their loved ones and had no way of getting them elsewhere. The man who created the Ouija board, Isaac Fuld, was a toymaker. He attempted to say the game was a scientific instrument, so that he would not have to pay a ten percent tax on toy sales. This was even argued all the way to the Supreme Court. There is no way to test that connecting with those in the afterlife is a scientific measure, so the board was ruled a toy. How surprising. To make a point as to how the toy could not possibly be magic, Henry Gordon, once again was there to help us out.
He taught a class on the paranormal at McGill University. He brought in a woman who claimed to be a psychic and used the Ouija board as a tool to contact spirits from the afterlife. Since Gordon made his living off of proving psychics to be fakes, she was one of his star guest speakers. She wore a long green dress and a turban, which made her appear as someone who you would see behind a crystal ball in a dimly lit room. This was obviously a part of her performance. She demonstrated how the board worked, and allowed Gordon to ask a few questions to someone he knew who had passed.
After receiving a few answers from the “spirits” (Who knows if they were right? ), Gordon tested the woman’s skills. To Gordon 7 prove the board, and the woman, who truly believed in her gift of communicating with spirits, were both fake, he placed a piece of brown paper wrapping over the board. The game piece moved around over the paper, so the numbers and letters were hidden. This way the woman could not see what characters her hands were moving over. He asked a few more questions, but the game piece only spelled out gibberish for answers. Gordon 110) If the spirits really were speaking to Gordon and the class through the Ouija board, would it matter if there was paper covering it? This throws the Ouija board in with the crystal balls, tarot cards, astrological charts, and any other tricks a psychic may use to convince the world of their talent. Another way the public is pulled into psychic hysteria is with animals. Some pet owners claim that their horse or dog or pig have psychic powers. The most well-known psychic animal came around in the 1920s. (Milbourne 40) She was a benign mare named Lady who performed in a red barn near Richmond, Virginia.
Mrs. Claudia Fonda, Lady’s owner claimed she could spell, add, subtract, multiply, divide, tell time, and answer questions. Reporters who visited Lady to see the Wonder Horse with their own eyes wrote that she could predict the future and read minds. Mrs. Fonda charged a fee of fifty cents for children and one dollar for adults for admission to see Lady and her talents. People would ask the horse a wide range of questions. Lady was asked anything from “When will I marry? ” to “How should I invest my money? ” (41) Lady even took part in helping find the body of a missing boy in Norfolk County, Massachusetts.
She also knew a lot about baseball, and even had a more success in picking winners than most professional sportswriters. Everything in Lady’s career left everyone astonished, and in 1956 (43), Mrs. Fonda shortened Lady’s time with the public to afternoons only. A man named John Kobler was being sent to write an article on Lady for the Saturday Evening Post. He asked Christopher Melbourne if he was available to come along as a consultant, because he was one who was familiar with the techniques of deception. Since Melbourne had written articles on the horse before, he introduced himself to Mrs.
Fonda as John Banks, so that she would not be upset by his Gordon 8 presence. Banks carried a camera, so that he would be accepted as a photographer associate to Kobler. When they arrived at Lady’s Barn, Mrs. Fonda assumed her position to the left of Lady. Lady communicated through a giant typewriter-like machine. When she pushed down a plank with her nose, a letter popped up. Mrs. Fonda instructed the men to ask Lady whatever they wanted. Banks asked the horse “What is my name? ” Lady spelled out B-A-N-K-S on her typewriter, but his name was not really Banks.
He also asked when his brother would return from Europe, and Lady answered “S-U-M-M-E-R”. Banks did not have a brother. After Kobler asked several questions of his own, Mrs. Fonda handed each of the men a long, skinny pad of paper, and a long pencil. She instructed them to write down a number, and Lady would read their minds and know the number. Kobler did as he was told, and Lady guessed everytime. Banks, however, would write the number one, but act as though he was writing the number 9. He would only push the pencil to paper as the spine of the 9 came down. He used this technique for almost every number, and Lady guessed wrong every time.
It was obvious that a technique called pencil reading was being used. Mrs. Fonda had given the men skinny pads, so that the stroke of the pencils could easily be seen. This is the same reason for giving them longer pencils. Had a large pad of paper and short, stubby pencils been used, pencil reading could not have occurred. At the end of the visit, Melbourne had come to the conclusion that Lady had indeed been trained very well by Mrs. Fonda, but Lady was no psychic. Mrs. Fonda stood on Lady’s left side. Horses cannot see what is in front of them, only what is on the side.
Therefore the only thing in Lady’s sight was Mrs. Fonda, and the stick she held in her hand. The stick is what Fonda used to direct Lady for which plank she should push. This means that Lady was simply doing as her master instructed, and that Fonda was really answering everyone’s questions. Although it has been proved that Lady was not a psychic animal, it leaves us with the question as to how Mrs. Fonda knew all of those answers? One way researchers attempted to discover just how many people believed in Psychical Phenomena, was with a survey called the Sheep-Goat scale.
In the late 1970s (Haraldsson, Journal of Gordon 9 American Society for Psychical Research 2), a group of researchers set out to discover how belief in psychical phenomena may be related to attitudes, experiences, and activities in the domain of religion and politics. The survey asked questions about belief in the existence of telepathy, ability to know the future, spiritual experiences or dreams, and whether the person read books or articles on psychic phenomena. (2-3) Subjects were scored on their answers and only taken into account if they had answered every question.
This scale was used in four different to obtain information on the public’s knowledge on psychical phenomena. The first study was done in Iceland on persons ranging from 30-70 years old, selected at random. About 80% of the original sample size returned the survey, which was enough to use the results as a representative of the Icelandic population in that age range. (3) The other three studies were done at the University of Iceland. All of the studies concluded that belief in the psychic and religious beliefs have common facts to some extent. 9) This positive correlation may be due to the fact that the respondents read often. Belief in one item may lead to a belief in the other. As a result of this research, I feel it is clear that psychics can absolutely be proven to be fakes. They cannot, however, be proven to be real. Their profession relies solely on belief, most of which is from vulnerable, gullible people. Psychics use their props, tricks, and performances to pull in people and turn them into believers. Depending on the type of hoax they use to attract a clientele, they can make an entire living off of other people’s gullibility.
I feel it is wrong to be able to do this, but am happy there are people such as Henry Gordon who continue to work on proving them wrong. There are still some questions left unanswered, like how Claudia Fonda, knew all of the answers to everybody’s questions. The fact of the matter is that there will always be questions left unanswered, because there is no science developed to prove or disprove a psychic’s abilities. Gullible people will continue to be fed on by psychics. Only a look into the crystal ball will tell when the hoaxes will all come to an end. Gordon 10 Christopher, Milbourne.
ESP, Seers & Psychics. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1970. Print. DeAna. Interview. Jacob. Parapsychology articles and blog. 3 May. 2007. Web. Gordon, Henry. Extra Sensory Deception. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1987. Print. Haraldsson, Erlendur. “Representative national surveys of psychic phenomena: Iceland, great Britain, Sweden, USA, and Gallup’s multinational survey. ” Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 53(1985) pg. 1-14. Web. Haraldsson, Erlendur. “Some Determinants of Belief in Psychical Phenomena. ” The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 75(1981): pg 1-10. Web.
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