Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Fraudsters and Families

I love supernatural fiction, which is why I publish it. But I have no time for those who tout their supposed real-life expertise in the paranormal as a way of conning vulnerable and/or foolish people. So-called psychics are particularly contemptible in this regard. And this week's startling news item about three young women rescued from captivity in a house in Ohio has only underlined the point that psychics and mediums can do tremendous  harm.

You probably know the basic facts. Three teenagers were kidnapped about ten years ago. They were rescued when one of them managed to attract the attention of a neighbour in Cleveland. (And the interview with that neighbour, Charles Ramsey, is well worth seeing - he may be the coolest person in the world right now.) 

For me, though, one of the saddest aspects of the case is that the mother of one of the victims found alive this week was told by a psychic that her daughter was dead. The psychic, Sylvia Browne, was just playing the odds, of course. A teenage girl vanishes, no clue is discovered by the police or the FBI - chances are she's dead. So she told a distraught, vulnerable woman she would see her daughter 'in heaven'. Louvana Miller, Amanda Berry's mother, died from heart failure in 2006. I've no idea if she would have lived to see her daughter rescued if she hadn't put her faith in a psychic's assertion that Amanda was dead.

It's easy to dismiss psychics are mere entertainers who provide us all with a bit of harmless fun. Cases like this prove that they, are at best, deluded, publicity-hungry idiots. At worst they are cold, manipulative people who make their money by preying on the emotional frailties of others. And that makes them psychopaths, not psychics.


Oscar Solis said...

The only time I have found psychics to be interesting are in movies and in literary fiction (and that in small doses). Plus the show "Psych" (but that one is about a fake psychic and it's hilarious).

I'm sure you know about The Amazing Randi's million dollar challenge to the "psychic" you mentioned. She's always had an excuse for not going for it, although the money is there in the bank. Unless, of course, she really is "psychic" and foresaw herself failing :)

What saddens me far more is that millions (if not billions) are spent by people looking for answers.

If anything, news programs and "ghost hunting" shows that feature "psychics" should carry a disclaimer that the average "psychic" has a low batting average and the correct guesses are just that: "correct guesses". The old "even a broken clock is right twice a day" bit.

valdemar said...

We are an innately credulous species. I think we're programmed to believe first and think second, and it's not easy to overcome that impulse. Obviously millions never really manage it.