Tag Archives: Australia

James Randi: Debunking The Paranormal

By Studio 10 (Australia) via YouTube

Skeptic James Randi joins us on Studio 10, ahead of his tour around Australia in December: http://thinkinc.org.au/jamesrandi

James Randi An Honest Liar

10 Amazing Stories Of Australian Paranormal Phenomena

By Pauli Poisuo via Listverse

Whenever Australia comes up in a conversation, we usually remember to mention how absurdly dangerous the place seems to be. We talk about its diverse, dangerous fauna, and the harsh, unforgiving climate. However, what we often forget is that the continent also has a rich history of creepy myths and ghost stories. From UFO sightings to government secrets and frightening urban legends, Australia can scare you in almost as many ways as its animals can maim you.

Let’s take a look at some of the stranger stories from the “most dangerous country in the world.”

10 • Fisher’s Ghost

1-frederick_250pxThe legend of farmer Frederick Fisher is one of the most popular ghost stories in Australia. On a calm June evening in 1826, Fisher left his house in Campbelltown to run some errands, never to return. He was gone without a trace, leaving no clues that could explain his sudden disappearance.

Four months after Fisher vanished, a local resident stumbled into a Campbelltown hotel, pale and shaken to his very bones. He told the assorted audience that he had just encountered the ghost of Frederick Fisher. The spectral farmer had been sitting on a fence by the road, pointing with his finger at a paddock near the river that ran nearby. Then, the startled man watched the apparition fade away in front of his eyes.

The man who had seen the ghost was a wealthy and well-respected member of the community, so the police decided to investigate the paddock the ghost had pointed at. To their shock, they found the body of Frederick Fisher, dead and hidden from view. His murderer was soon found to be one George Worrall, Fisher’s neighbor and friend who had been taking care of his legal matters in the past. Worrall had already raised some eyebrows after Fisher’s disappearance, as he told everyone that Fisher had sailed to England and soon started selling the poor farmer’s belongings. The emergence of the body soon caused Worrall to confess, and Fisher could finally rest in peace.

Or could he? Some sources say that Fisher quite liked being a ghost . . . to the point that he still haunts the hotel mentioned in the legend today.

9 • Wycliffe Well

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Photo credit: tm-tm Tallinn

Wycliffe Well is a roadhouse and holiday park near Wauchope in the Northern Territories. The area is said to be one of the biggest hotspots for UFO activity in the entire continent. There have been many reported sightings in recent decades by locals and visitors alike, and this has made the relatively remote location surprisingly popular among UFO enthusiasts and the occasional tourist.

Why do UFOs congregate in Wycliffe Well? Nobody knows for sure. Some say the place lies at an intersection of two major LEY lines, which attract alien vessels and cause them to pass the place quite often. Others maintain the mysterious sightings are actually secret experiments by the Pine Gap US military base, which, according to some theories, is Australia’s answer to Area 51. Others still say the UFOs, if stories of them are true at all, are merely the desert sun’s reflection on birds and other tricks of light.

Whatever the truth may be, the roadhouse—stuffed to the brim with alien kitsch and UFO memorabilia—certainly benefits from the rumors.

8 • The House Of Miracles

Haunted House #1In the suburbs of Sydney, there is a small house where miracles are said to happen. In 2006, three months after their 17-year-old son died in a car accident, George and Lina Tannous were shocked to notice that the walls of the deceased boy’s room were mysteriously weeping aromatic oil. They soon became convinced that the oil was of supernatural origin, sent by their son from heaven to communicate with them.

As news of the mysterious “House of Miracles” started spreading, its fame grew and the faithful came knocking at the Tannous family’s door. They even noticed that the oil, combined with prayer, seemed to have healing properties. Pilgrims kept on coming, so the Tannous turned their house into a 24-hour chapel. A local Catholic priest became convinced that the phenomenon was clearly a miracle, and even started anointing people with the oil. Even Mr. Tannous’ trouble with the law in 2010 (curiously, he had been involved in a forgery case) didn’t stop people from coming.

The miracle oil, which was tested in 2007 and found to be a combination of oil and water, is still on the walls of the house today, and its true origins remain a mystery. The Tannous maintain its origin is divine, but although they have always refused to take any money from visitors, the president of the local sceptics’ association has his own suspicions about the mystery substance’s authenticity: He says the House of Miracles looks a lot like someone had been, and we quote, “running around the house dabbing oil and water on the walls.”

7 • Gosford Glyphs

4-hiero_250pxThe Gosford Hieroglyphs, or “Gosford Glyphs” for short, are a series of strange, deep-cut markings on a rock in Hunter Valley, New South Wales.

Since their discovery in the 1970s, this set of 300 pictures has achieved widespread notoriety due to their resemblance of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. What’s more, the area also seems to have a large, labyrinthine structure of strangely straight caves and tunnels underneath the stone. Does this mean that ancient Egyptians somehow managed to travel to Eastern Australia, and brought their rock-working tools along for the ride? How did they manage that? Was it magic? Were they helped by aliens?

It depends on who you ask. Steven Strong, the leader of a group of amateur archeologists researching the area, says that the amount of existing evidence (along with a second series of glyphs that his team has recently found) means the area still clearly has many strange mysteries to hide. Meanwhile, Egyptology expert Boyo Ockinga, from Sydney’s Macquarie University, has stated that the site has nothing to do with Egyptians. According to him, the glyphs are poor imitations that were most likely made by Australian soldiers who visited Egypt during World War I and developed a fascination with the culture.

6 • Picton

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Photo credit: Bluedawe

The small, rural town of Picton is located 80 kilometers (50 mi) southwest of Sydney. It’s a quaint little township, full of small-town charm and named after one of the generals at the Battle of Waterloo. It’s so quaint, in fact, that many of its residents choose to stay even after life has left them. Picton is said to be crawling with ghosts, from strange, spectral ladies that move shopkeepers’ signs around to invisible swimmers by the railway viaduct. The maternity hospital is haunted by ghostly, crying babies and an evil matron who attempts to strangle people at night. The Imperial Hotel’s jukebox sometimes starts to play by itself, even if it isn’t plugged in.

Some of the more well-known of Picton’s ghosts are the children who haunt the (surprise, surprise) cemetery. Two ghostly kids, a boy and a girl, apparently stalk the burial grounds dressed in old-fashioned clothes, disappearing behind the headstones and appearing in photographs of the otherwise empty cemetery.

The most famous of Picton’s specters, however, lurks in the Mushroom Tunnel, an abandoned railway tunnel that is thought to be haunted by the ghost of Emily Bollard, a woman who was taking a shortcut through the tunnel in 1916—only to be greeted by an oncoming train. The locomotive struck her and carried her mangled corpse in its cowcatcher all the way to the town’s railway station. According to legend, you can still encounter her ghost in the tunnel, forever trying to run from her oncoming doom.

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The Disappearance of Frederick Valentich

A young pilot who disappeared in 1978 might have been having a little fun, Spielberg style.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via Skeptoid: Critical Analysis Podcast. Read transcript below or listen here.

Today we’re going back to 1978, when a young private pilot named Frederick Valentich rented a single-engine Cessna and literally flew off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Sadly there’s nothing unusual about that; the fact is that small planes crash every so often. But something was different this time. The case of Frederick Valentich has been called Australia’s most famous aviation mystery; not because he disappeared, but because his final radio transmissions reported a UFO. Ever since, a subculture of Australians, notably including Valentich’s own father, believed he was abducted by aliens and may yet be alive somewhere.

Valentich and his aircraft

Valentich and his aircraft

The Australian Department of Transport’s official accident investigation summary report gives a single line: The reason for the disappearance of the aircraft has not been determined. And that’s all; a sparse epitaph for a young man’s tragedy.

Frederick was only 20 years old, a member of the Air Training Corps, a volunteer youth cadet program sponsored by the Royal Australian Air Force. He’d had his private pilot’s license for a little over a year, and had a corresponding amount of flight experience. He lived with his parents, and by all accounts was a fine young man with no serious problems and was happily pursuing his career of choice. One day in October 1978, he showed up at Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne to rent a plane in order to fly out to King Island, a round trip of some 560 kilometers, about three and a half hours worth of flight time. He was turned away due to bad weather over the ocean. So he returned a few days later to try again, and this time got his plane, a single-engine Cessna 182L.

An artist's conception of Valentich pursued by a UFO

An artist’s conception of Valentich pursued by a UFO

He took off at about a quarter after 6pm in the evening of October 21, for what would be his first (and only) night flight over water. The weather was clear. King Island is about halfway between Australia and Tasmania. To fly there from Melbourne, you typically don’t fly a straight line, because that would mean you’re over water nearly the entire way; and flying over water is, of course, riskier than flying over land. So pilots typically go from Melbourne, southwest along the coast, to Cape Otway, which is the closest point on the mainland to King Island. This longer route is mostly over land. However even this safest route includes a stretch of 85 straight kilometers over water.

Frederick’s flight proceeded uneventfully. About twenty minutes after sunset, he turned away from the coast at an altitude of 4500 feet and began the long stretch over water. It was at that moment when he made his first radio call. Recordings of the actual radio conversation do exist; but for whatever reason, there aren’t any publicly available copies, and documentary films of the disappearance have always made dramatizations from the printed transcripts, which are available.

Valentich: Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet. Is there any known traffic below five thousand?

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet, no known traffic.

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, I am, seems to be, a large aircraft below five thousand.

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet, what type of aircraft is it?

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, I cannot affirm, it is four bright, it seems to me, like landing lights.

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet.

Valentich: Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet, the aircraft has just passed over me at least a thousand feet above.

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The conversation continued this way for some five minutes:

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne. It seems like it’s stationary. What I’m doing right now is orbiting and the thing is just orbiting on top of me. Also it’s got a green light and sort of metallic, like it’s all shiny on the outside.

The conversation finally concluded after Valentich reported engine trouble:

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, the engine is rough idling, I’ve got it set at twenty three twenty four and the thing is coughing.

(Twenty three twenty four means his engine power settings were typical.)

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, what are your intentions?

Valentich: My intentions are to go to King Island. Melbourne, that strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again… It is hovering and it’s not an aircraft.

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet.

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne…

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne.

His final transmission was at 7:12pm and 28 seconds. Melbourne declared an alert, which was escalated to a distress situation 21 minutes later.

Before we accept the popular explanation that Frederick and his airplane were abducted by a UFO, it’s necessary to point out that a few things were fishy.

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Psychics Boost Believers’ Sense of Control

Benjamin Radfordby Benjamin Radford via Discovery News

A new study has found that people who believe that psychics can predict the future tend to feel more in control of their lives than those who don’t.

A group of Australian researchers from the University of Queensland led by Katharine Greenaway offered the hypothesis that belief in psychic prediction would be positively correlated with a sense of control over one’s life.

psychic 1208“If it is possible to predict what the future holds, then one can exert control,” the study reports. “Having insight into what will happen in the future would therefore allow people to control their outcomes in a way that would guarantee personal success and survival.”

Several experiments were done to examine this phenomenon. In one of them, two groups of people were asked to read passages either promoting or disputing the idea that scientists have found evidence of precognitive psychic powers.

Afterwards, each group was asked to rate how much they agreed or disagreed with statements about how much control they feel they have over their lives and circumstances.

Those who read the information confirming the existence of psychic powers agreed more strongly with statements such as “I am in control of my own life” and “My life is determined by my own actions” than those in the other group.

The Psychology of Prediction

What’s behind this psychology of prediction? Humans are a pattern-seeking species, and we constantly look for ways to make sense of the world around us. Many superstitious people, for example, find — or, more accurately, believe they find — ways of knowing and even influencing the future. Gamblers may wear a lucky shirt to a casino, for example, or an athlete might perform a small ritual before a game to assure good luck.

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GMO pigs study – more junk science

mark-lynasBy Mark Lynas via marklynas.org

When I saw on Twitter that a ‘major new peer-reviewed study’ was about to reveal serious health impacts from GMO corn and soya, I was intrigued to say the least. Would this be Seralini 2.0, a propaganda effort by anti-biotech campaigners masquerading as proper science, or something truly new and ground-breaking?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence – and it would take a lot of extraordinary evidence to confound the hundreds of studies showing that GMO foods are just as safe as conventional, as summarised in this recent AAAS statement:
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“The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe. The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.”

So when I found the paper, again via Twitter, I determined to read it as I would a climate ‘denier’ paper which aimed to overturn the scientific consensus in that area – with an open mind, but a sceptical one. I could see that it was already generating news, and the anti-GMO crowd on Twitter were also getting excited about some new grist to their ideological mill. Here’s what Reuters wrote:

“Pigs fed a diet of only genetically modified grain showed markedly higher stomach inflammation than pigs who dined on conventional feed, according to a new study by a team of Australian scientists and U.S. researchers.”

Really?

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How did the psychic know that?

Actually, he didn’t.
The Great Psychic Con

via The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com

There’s no way he could have known my grandmother’s name?” “How do you explain his predicting the lights would go off at the shop?” “How did he know my uncle’s name?” “There’s no way he could have known my father died of a heart attack.” “How could he possibly know that my brother collects cuckoo clocks?

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John Edward has been described as a fraud by James Randi [Skeptic, v. 8, no. 3] and Leon Jaroff [Time, March 5, 2001].

These and millions more like them represent the kinds of statements we get from people who say they’re skeptical, but who’ve been to a psychic and have come away as believers in the paranormal. Many times I’ve been asked to try to explain the “paranormal” experiences of people who tell me they’re skeptics, but who can’t think of any other explanation for something than that it was paranormal. I call it the “Explain That!” game. I’ve posted responses to some of these requests, but I can’t say I’ve been able to persuade any of the believers to consider alternative explanations, even though they ask me to provide them with one. [Some of my explanations for various psychic readings are here, here, here, and here.]

George Anderson, a former switchboard operator.

George Anderson, a former switchboard operator, now claims he talks to the dead via his psychic switchboard.

How do psychics know so much about me? I’ve heard or read many times variants of that question asked by people who are intelligent and educated, but naive. For example, a local sports writer visited a psychic to get a story about her predictions for the local high school athletic teams. He ended up writing two stories. I didn’t read the second one, but the first revealed how amazed he was at how much she knew about him and how accurate she was. It made him think, he wrote, that maybe there’s something to this psychic business. There is, but it’s not what he thinks. In my letter to the editor of the local paper where the sports writer plies his trade I said:

Bruce Gallaudet is an experienced journalist, but he seems to know nothing about cold reading and subjective validation, the two tarot cards up the sleeve of a working psychic. He’s dazzled within 60 seconds and befuddled when she tells the old man that she’s sorry he had to cancel a trip. Did she ask about your knee injury? Or about the outdated calendar you keep at home, along with the box of newspaper clippings? Did she mention your business venture setback (but you’ll do well in new endeavors) or the health problems a loved one is having?

Stick to local sports, Bruce. You were in way over your head with Ms. Mertino, the Davis Psychic.

James Van Praagh plays a kind of twenty-questions game with his audience.

James Van Praagh plays a kind of twenty-questions game with his audience.

The fact is, psychics may know certain things about you in the same way that many people know many things about others by knowing their age, sex, occupation, education, where they live, how they dress, what kind of jewelry they’re wearing, or their religion. Does anyone have perfect knowledge of others based on what are sometimes called warm reading techniques? Of course not. We’re dealing with probabilities, not absolute certainties here, but it doesn’t matter. The psychic is not obligated to stop the reading when she makes a mistake. If she misinterprets your wearing black as a sign of grieving for someone who has died, she doesn’t have to say “oops, wrong again.” No, she just slithers on to the next question or statement, ignoring her “miss” and counting on you to ignore it as well. Eventually, she’ll hit something that resonates with you, that you can validate. The key to a psychic reading is not the psychic’s ability to tap into a world you are not directly privy to. The key to a psychic reading is your willingness to find meaning or significance in some of the statements she makes or questions she asks. If mentioning the death of a loved one evokes no response from you, the psychic will move on to another statement, another question.

“Psychic” Sally is seen removing a microphone from her right ear, and what appears to be an earpiece from her left ear.

It is also possible that the psychic you are dealing with is a very sleazy professional fraud who investigates her clients before she does the reading. Doing a hot reading, however, is not likely if you are a drop-in. Although, even drop-ins can be conned by distracting the client and looking through her purse or wallet. Some psychics who work fairs, for example, have a colleague who walks by those in line trying to pick up information about various clients who are in conversations. The colleague passes on the info to the “psychic” via a wireless device. Most people who visit psychics on a whim are probably not going to be a victim of someone using hot reading, however. Why? Because it’s really unnecessary. Cold reading works just as well. (For a special case of using hot readings by sharing information in order to con wealthy clients who go from psychic to psychic, see Lamar M. Keene. The Psychic Mafia. Prometheus, 1997).

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Calling all diviners (Australian Skeptics Inc)

via Australian Skeptics Inc

Australian Skeptics are again organising a major test of water divining, repeating an exercise last undertaken 11 years ago at the Mighty Mitta Muster in Mitta Mitta, northern Victoria.

Organised by the Borderline Skeptics with input from Australian Skeptics Inc and the Victorian Skeptics, diviners putting themselves up for the test will, depending on their results, be in the running for the Skeptics $100,000 challenge. (In fact, the amount for the Mitta event has been boosted by a further $10,000 from Borderliner Russell Kelly.)

The Mighty Mitta Muster is an annual event, held on the Victorian Labour Day weekend, featuring the usual range of events at rural shows – woodchopping, tent

2002 Test

pegging, stunt riding and egg throwing – but it hasn’t had a water divining test since the last time the Skeptics rolled up in 2002. (A previous trial was run in 2001, and a third was planned for a year later but was cancelled – as was the entire Muster — due to bushfires.)

At the 2002 event, 30 diviners put their skills to the test, but out of 20 bottles containing either water or sand (a 50/50 chance of being correct), the highest score was only 13, which is well within the realms of chance alone.

The excuses used post-trial to explain away the failures were many and varied. A video report on the event by Richard Saunders can be seen on YouTube.

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Phrenology and the Grand Delusion of Experience

Geoffrey Dean via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI

In the nineteenth century, phrenology was hugely influential despite being totally invalid. Its history shows why we must be skeptical of any belief based solely on experience.

In the nineteenth century, phrenology was hugely influential despite being totally invalid. Its history shows why we must be skeptical of any belief based solely on experience.

Today, phrenology (“head reading”) is usually seen as the fossilized stuff of cranks and charlatans. But in the nineteenth century it had a huge influence at all levels of Western society, more than all of its later competitors (such as psychoanalysis) put together. It was in­fluential because of its attractive philosophy and because practitioners and clients saw that it worked. But we now know that it could not possibly work; personal experience had led millions of people astray. Indeed, few beliefs can match phrenology for its extent of influence and certainty of invalidity. So it has valuable lessons about any experience-based belief.

Phrenology’s Influence

In the nineteenth century, phrenology affected all levels of Western life and thought. In Britain, Europe, and Amer­ica, its influence was felt in anthropology, criminology, education, medicine, psychiatry, art, and literature. In France, it eroded established power and led to wide social changes. In Australia, it rationalized the violence against Abo­rigines and explained the criminality of convicts. For ordinary people everywhere a head reading was often required for employment or marriage.1 But how could this happen if phrenology was totally invalid? For answers, we need to start at the beginning.

First Steps to Delusion

Around 1790, the German-born anatomist Franz Joseph Gall, one of the founders of modern neurology, put together his skull doctrine that later led to phrenology. He held that behavior such as painting or being careful had their own specialized organs in the brain, and that they influenced the shape of the skull. So the skull’s bumps would indicate behavior and abilities that were innate. Gall spent eleven years examining hundreds of heads to test his ideas: “If … he observed any mechanician, musician, sculptor, draughtsman, mathematician, endowed with such or such faculty from birth, he examined their heads to see whether he might point out a particular development of some cerebral part…. He also called together in his house common people, as coachmen and poor boys, and excited them to make him ac­quainted with their characters” (Spurz­heim 1815, 271).

Gall’s seemingly logical approach had two fatal defects. First, his claims were often based on a single striking case, for example “Cautiousness” was placed above the ears because an extremely cautious priest had a large bump there. Second, Gall looked only for confirmingcases and ignored disconfirming cases, a flaw not lost on his critics. Thus David Skae (1847), a physician at the Royal Edinburgh Asylum, noted that once the truth is “fixed upon our minds,” looking for confirmation is “the most perfect recipe for making a phrenologist that could well be devised.” But to Gall and the thousands of phrenologists who came later, personal experience mattered more than procedural defects. Phren­ology had taken its first giant step on the road to delusion.2 Note that the delusion of experience is not limited to artifacts of reasoning such as the Barnum effect.

How to read heads. For each “brain organ” (whose number and location depends on which book you read) you guess its development (no yardsticks here) and thus its meaning (based on speculation), which you juggle (more speculation) against all the other speculative meanings and the all-important temperament based on external signs such as build and vulgarity (i.e., on even more speculation) to obtain a final assessment of character and destiny. If unsatisfactory, try again. This was phrenology’s secret weapon—it was based on an experience that could never be wrong.

How to read heads. For each “brain organ” (whose number and location depends on which book you read) you guess its development (no yardsticks here) and thus its meaning (based on speculation), which you juggle (more speculation) against all the other speculative meanings and the all-important temperament based on external signs such as build and vulgarity (i.e., on even more speculation) to obtain a final assessment of character and destiny. If unsatisfactory, try again. This was phrenology’s secret weapon—it was based on an experience that could never be wrong.

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Psychopaths Have Poor Sense of Smell, Study Finds

Megan Gannon via LiveScience

New research suggests we may be able to sniff out psychopaths by their poor scores on a smell test.

In the study, psychologists at Macquarie University in Australia tested the noses of more than 70 college-age participants, all without criminal records. The researchers had the subjects try to identify common odors (like orange, coffee and leather) and distinguish between different scents.

The participants then were given personality tests to check for their level of empathy and psychopathic tendencies. For example, the subjects were asked to rate on a 5-point scale how much they agreed with statements such as: “I purposely flatter people to get them on my side;” “People sometimes say that I’m cold-hearted;” and “I have broken into a building or vehicle in order to steal something or vandalize.”

Psycopathy is a personality disorder marked by superficial charm, a lack of empathy and impulsive tendencies.

The researchers reported a correlation between a poorer sense of smell and psychopathic personality traits.

They say this makes sense because previous research has shown that people with such traits have decreased function in the brain’s frontal lobes, a region associated with impulse control and acting in accordance with social norms — and dysfunction in that part of the brain is associated with an impaired sense of smell.

Keep Reading: Psychopaths Have Poor Sense of Smell, Study Finds | LiveScience.

Guide to Cold Reading

By Ray Hyman via Australian Skeptics Inc

There are many people who promote themselves as psychics or clairvoyants, and who claim that their powers enable them to read your character, make contact with dead relatives, or provide insights into your life and your future.

Despite their claims, there has never been a successful demonstration of these powers in a laboratory, under properly controlled conditions. Indeed, the National Committee of Australian Skeptics offers a cash prize of $100,000 for any PROVEN demonstration of such powers. See The Prize.

By far the most common method employed by psychics who have been put to the test is called cold reading. This method involves the psychic reading the subject’s body language etc, and skilfully extracting information from the subject, which can then be fed back later, convincing the subject that the psychic has told them things they couldn’t possibly have known!

The following is our 13 point guide to cold reading — Study them well, then amaze your friends with your new found psychic powers!

1. Remember that the key ingredient of a successful character reading is confidence.

If you look and act as if you believe in what you are doing, you will be able to sell even a bad reading to most subjects. One danger of playing the role of reader is that you may actually begin to believe that you really are divining your subject’s true character!

2. Make creative use of the latest statistical abstracts, polls and surveys.

These can provide you with much information about what various subclasses in our society believe, do, want , worry about etc. For example, if you can ascertain a subject’s place of origin, educational level, and his/her parents’ religion and vocations, you have gained information which should allow you to predict with high probability his/her voting preferences and attitudes to many subjects.

3. Set the stage for your reading.

Profess a modesty about your talents. Make no excessive claims. You will then catch your subject off guard. You are not challenging them to a battle of wits – You can read his/her character, whether he/she believes you or not.

4. Gain the subject’s cooperation in advance.

Emphasise that the success of the reading depends as much on the subject’s cooperation as on your efforts. (After all, you imply, you already have a successful career at character reading — You are not on trial, your subject is!) State that due to difficulties of language and communication, you may not always convey the meaning you intend. In these cases, the subject must strive to fit the reading to his/her own life. You accomplish two valuable ends with this dodge — Firstly, you have an alibi in case the reading doesn’t click; it’s the subject’s fault, not yours! Secondly, your subject will strive to fit your generalities to his/her specific life circumstances. Later, when the subject recalls the reading, you will be credited with much more detail than you actually provided! This is crucial. Your reading will only succeed to the degree that the subject is made an active participant in the reading. The good reader is the one who , deliberately or unwittingly, forces the subject to search his/her mind to make sense of your statements.

5. Use a gimmick, such as Tarot cards, crystal ball, palm reading etc.

Use of props serves two valuable purposes. Firstly, it lends atmosphere to the reading. Secondly, (and more importantly) it gives you time to formulate your next question/statement. Instead of just sitting there, thinking of something to say, you can be intently studying the cards /crystal ball etc. You may opt to hold hands with your subject — This will help you feel the subject’s reactions to your statements. If you are using , say, palmistry (the reading of hands) it will help if you have studied some manuals, and have learned the terminology. This will allow you to more quickly zero in on your subject’s chief concerns — “do you wish to concentrate on the heart line or the wealth line?“

6. Have a list of stock phrases at the tip of your tongue.

Even during a cold reading, a liberal sprinkling of stock phrases will add body to the reading and will help you fill in time while you formulate more precise characterisations. Use them to start your readings. Palmistry, tarot and other fortune telling manuals are a key source of good phrases.

Keep Reading: Guide to Cold Reading | Australian Skeptics Inc.

Man sues psychic for fraud

A complaint filed in court alleges the psychic took more than $30,000 from the man

via KCPQ News Online – September 12, 2012

AUBURN.—Unsatisfied customer Abraham Char filed suit against an Auburn psychic, according to the Seattle P.I. The Sept. 5 complaint alleges the psychic took more than $30,000 from Char while claiming to pray for his relatives, according to the P.I.

Char’s attorney told the court the psychic known as “Mama Tanya” had “wrongfully induced Abraham Char to provide her with monies in return for her representation that she would pray for his relatives claimed by her to be suffering,” the P.I. reported Char claimed he had loaned the money to the psychic, then sought spiritual help from his client until the psychic refused to repay.

The psychic disputed basic claims in the lawsuit. Her lawyer told the P.I. that Char consulted with the psychic once or twice a month for eight months and appeared satisfy with her work.

The psychic even disputes the name “Mama Tanya,” telling the P.I. that Char labeled the psychic with the name himself. The lawyer refused to provide the psychic’s real name.

A response to the suit will be filed at a later date.

via Man sues psychic for fraud – KCPQ.

Secret UFO files released

It is probably the closest Australia has come to scrambling fighter jets to intercept a UFO.

Documents that have just become available under the 30-year rule at the National Archives of Australia reveal how two RAAF Mirage jets were placed on the second highest level of alert to determine the cause of unidentified radar contacts seen on screens at Mascot.

The ”X Files” viewed in Canberra also give details of other unexplained sightings, some of which are supported by witness statements to police.

Mysterious … a colour-enhanced photo of a UFO seen from Bendigo. One caller dismissed it as a rock band’s laser show. Photo: National Archives of Australia

In the Sydney alert, the papers stamped ”restricted” tell how operation ”Close Encounter” was launched by No.3 Control and Reporting Unit at RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle on June 30, 1983, after the phenomenon was first noticed earlier in the month.

Senior air controllers at Mascot said the contacts were mostly located between 70 and 150 nautical miles north of Sydney at ”alleged speeds of 1100-6500 km/h that suggested high altitude”.

Keep Reading: Secret UFO files released.

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