Saturday, September 24, 2005

Keep a hand on your wallet

One of the smaller newspaper in New Zealand is the Taranaki Daily News. But in today's editorial they take on the fraudsters and con men who use claims of the supernatural to fleece "believers".

It notes how Princes Diana consulted with three psychics "and they told her she would find happiness, marry again, have more children and all the usual warm, fuzzy stuff that clients desperately want to believe. Not one of them mentioned anything about a Mercedes."

The paper wrote: "Quite simply, seeing the future – really seeing it, rather than the flukes and educated guesses of which anyone is capable – and talking to the dead are just not possible. It is probably the second oldest profession, but antiquity does not add to its bona fides. Indeed, this far into the age of reason and science, its status diminishes day by day. Its lingering allure, at least among its target demographic, has more to do with a faded genetic imprint, in which our ancestors tried to put all experiences into human-sized packages, than to modern, rational thought. Keeping this perspective, it cannot do much harm. Just remember that when you meet a ghost or a prophet, keep one hand on your wallet."

That's pretty much on the mark.

I remember two incidents with psychics that I found amusing. One woman who claimed to be a psychic and had that reputation was someone I knew. I remember one telephone conversation as she complained about going bankrupt and her partner leaving her. I was tempted to ask her why she couldn't see any of this herself before it happened.

Another time I was listening to a psychic on a radio call in show doing cold readings with the usual techniques. A Hispanic woman called in and the psychic talked around things for a bit and then says: "Does the name Maria mean anything to you?"

I thought to myself that was a pretty safe bet. And normally it would have been. But not this time. The woman said she couldn't think of anyone she knew named Maria. The psychic got desperate. "It could be a friend, someone you work with, a relative. Think hard." Still the woman insisted that she didn't know anyone named Maria. The psychic then pulled out the final trick. "It could be someone in your future" she said as she cut the caller off.


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