Posts Tagged ‘psychics’

Random notes on Lily Dale

August 30, 2010

There were a lot of details left out of my recent article on Lilydale which didn’t really fit into the story that well. We wanted to get to the punchline of having the medium identify Taibbi and Randi as spirits around me before boring people with too much of the minutiae, even if some of it was kind of funny/interesting.

Before we even got into Lily Dale, we stopped at the National Spiritualist Association, which was a small one-story building overlooking the Cassadaga Lakes. It was all very scenic. If I were setting up some kind of pyramid scheme targeting gullible hippies, that’s the kind of place I would pick for a headquarters.

We were only inside for a moment before being escorted out by a nice woman named Paula, but that was just because there was some kind of private class going on and not because we stormed in wearing orange jumpsuits while waving dowsing rods around and yelling about how we were picking up very powerful energy vibes of gullibility in this location. That was something we’d talked about doing but laziness and a lack of funding made that impossible.

This is totally a cliché, but every group setting in Lily Dale just reeked of Patchouli. We’ve all known people who might go overboard with that stuff even as potent as it is, but imagine that times a hundred.

The woman doing the warm-up act said that Lily Dale was on one of the only old growth forests in the Northeast, even though there are 210,000 acres of old growth forests in NY state alone.

Just before I got my reading, two young African-American women raised their hands to get a reading by request from a medium. I was under the impression that doing readings “don’t work that way” and that the spirits are very mysterious about how they go about communicating. But the medium complied and told them that they were being visited by their grandmother, who was – GASP – from the South! And what’s even more surprising is that she was very spiritual and liked to sing a lot. Another Indian woman was told that she was visited by relatives from another country who wanted her to hold on to her cultural heritage.

In other words, anything that distinguished someone from the crowd at all was the basis for their reading. Guys, including myself, were told that it was time to advance their career. Younger people were contacted by the old, and vice versa. If the mark looked confused by a medium’s use of a stereotype, then the medium would tell her that this was a long-forgotten ancestor from several generations back. The rest was just random guesses, which is where confirmation bias did its thing.

I had kind of guessed beforehand that the crowd would be mostly female based on footage I’d seen of similar events, but I had really underestimated the proportion – at least on the day we went. It was at least a 95% female audience. And yet still my smoothest “Lllladies” yielded no positive results.

So lastly we were pretty lucky I guess to get a public reading for a couple reasons. One is that there were tons of witnesses – not that we know any of them and could get them to verify what happened, but still. The other is that according to the official Lily Dale website, the cost of a private reading starts at $40. Maybe that would’ve yielded a lot more funny material, but I’ll have to leave that to other skeptics with bigger bank accounts.

Assaulting psychics, lol

August 23, 2010

There is probably some good Yakov Smirnoff joke appropriate for this story. The best I’ve got is, In post-Soviet Russia, psychics get beat up by some guy who then goes on to kill two witnesses of the assault. Maybe that one belongs here. From the Moscow Times:

A man was jailed by a Kemerovo region court on Thursday for assaulting a Gypsy fortune teller who predicted that he would be jailed, the Investigative Committee said.

It sounds like…

she didn’t…

*takes off sunglasses*

see that coming.

YEEAAAAH!

And by “that,” I mean the assault. You know, the part of the story which is kind of important to her and the two unfortunate witnesses.

Sylvia Browne’s Q & BS

July 21, 2010

Sylvia Browne recently trolled Orange County and the local press were successfully baited into giving her free advertising for her new book about how she lived in “two worlds.”

“I want people to know that I’m a real person,” Browne says of her motivation to write her new memoir.

Oh, and also the money. GIMME GIMME GIMME!!

Q: When will we get a Big One-style earthquake?
A: Thirty years from now.

Browne is now 73. So anything that she’s predicting will happen in 30 years is a pretty safe bet for her. Hopefully we’ll be rid of her long before then.

Q: What do you say to your detractors and skeptics?
A: I say, ‘I don’t give a rat’s you-know-what!’ If you know what’s in your heart is right, and your motive is pure, it’s between you and God.

So since Browne doesn’t keep her “psychic powers” and her raga-to-riches life story between her and God, it can be safely assumed that either her motives are not pure or her heart is not right. Or is she holding skeptics to a higher standard than she holds to herself? And if so, wouldn’t that contradict the “golden rule?” And speaking of Christianity:

Q: How is being psychic not counter to God and the Bible?
A: I’ve read all 26 versions of the Bible. Where they’re getting that from is Deuteronomy: Do not consort with sorcerers. But they forget that in Kings they went to the witch of Endor (who consulted with Samuel’s ghost). And that in Deuteronomy they say Joseph has always been an interpreter of dreams. It’s not the Bible’s fault, it’s people’s fault. They pick out one little piece and they’ll beat you over the head with it.

See, if only people would stop picking out one little piece of the Bible and beat you over the head with it, everyone would understand that the little piece of the Bible which Sylvia Browne uses to beat others over the head is the really important part you need to concentrate on.

If you were to look at the passage Sylvia refers to in context (which is actually in 1 Samuel, not Kings), you’d notice that it’s perfectly consistent with the prohibition of using mediums in Deuteronomy. You see, once the Witch of Endor raises Samuel from the dead on behalf of King Saul (this all sounds like the D&D crap it really is), Samuel’s ghost complains about being woken from his rest and condemns Saul for disobeying the Deuteronomic necromancy ban:

And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.
Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?
And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David:
Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day.
Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.

As it turns out, Saul died in battle three or four days later, not the next day as Samuel’s ghost predicted. But this is a strange kind of mixed message with nuances which are obviously lost on someone like Sylvia Browne. As it turns out, sorcery actually works. Sure, you can raise a ghost or two, but their predictions about your death might be off by a few days.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.