Psychic mediums perform one-on-one sessions for sitters. Stage mediums typically offer personal readings, but they also perform short psychic readings to an audience. Unless the stage medium performs a hot reading, otherwise known as cheating, the main tool is cold reading. This involves observation, psychology and elicitation to provide the appearance of psychic powers. Let’s look at the typical formula used by stage mediums, and explore some commonly used linguistic and psychological techniques.
Naming is a fundamental part of any psychic medium reading. The medium mentions a common name, in order to find willing subjects for readings. Additional names or initials may be added, to narrow down the contenders to a single subject. I recently witnessed a different technique used by up-and-coming medium Rebecca Rosen at her Denver show. She began her performance by reading a list of names of spirits that had “lined up all day to leave messages for the audience.” This way, the audience was already drawing connections to the names and preparing for a reading. Her list included:
This video is about 34 minutes long. I was hesitant to post it because it’s not the most captivating video. But the information is very good. Judge for yourself.
Karen Stollznow is a linguist, author of God Bless America and the Bad Language columnist for Skeptic magazine, and author of the forthcoming books Language Myths, Mysteries and Magic, and Red, White and (True) Blue. She is a long-term investigator of paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs and practices, a co-host of Monster Talk, and is a Research Fellow for the James Randi Educational Foundation.
- Karen Stollznow has a new book coming out soon (freethoughtblogs.com)
- TAM 2013 Recap… (skepticalhumanities.com)
- Author Explores Odd Beliefs & Peculiar Religious Practices (richarddawkins.net)
by Dr. Karen Stollznow via randi.org
There are many “Most Haunted” cemeteries in America. As the eternal home of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans claims to be the most haunted cemetery. Another location that claims this title is Resurrection Cemetery in Chicago, allegedly haunted by the hitchhiking ghost of Resurrection Mary.Silver Cliff Cemetery is a lesser-known most haunted cemetery. For over 40 years people have reported seeing “dancing lights” that appear between the tombstones in the burial ground at night. Silver Cliff is a three-hour drive south of Denver. The tiny town is nestled in the Wet Mountain Valley of Colorado, with a backdrop of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains. During its days as a mining town Silver Cliff had a population ranging from 5,000 to 16,000 people. Today, less than 600 people live there, but the town draws a large number of visitors in search of the lights. Once it was an attraction for its silver deposits, now it is an attraction for its silvery lights.
The mysterious lights are alternatively known as “dancing lights”, “ghost lights” or “spook lights”. There are varying descriptions of them. They are usually blue in color, but occasionally silver or white. Some say the lights are round and silver dollar sized, others report a kind of glow. The lights appear to “float”, “fly”, “dance” or “dart” around the cemetery and even bounce around the headstones. Sometimes there are just a few lights, while at other times they appear across the cemetery, but they always disappear when you try to get a closer look. The best conditions to witness the activity are dark, overcast nights, with no moon visible.
The discovery of the lights is relegated to folklore. One story tells that drunken partygoers first saw them in the 1920s, while another says nineteenth century miners crossing the cemetery at night witnessed them. Some theorize that the lights must have a natural explanation, while others prefer a paranormal one, claiming that the lights are will-o’-the-wisps, fairies, or ghosts. There are stories that the lights are manifestations of murder victims related to a mining scam; that it is the ghost of a little girl who is buried there, or they are the restless souls of the old miners who died in the town.
Most references on the web claim that scientists who reportedly couldn’t explain the phenomenon have examined the site, but there is no evidence of any scientific studies performed on the land. These sources also state that the lights have been “investigated” or “featured” by National Geographic. Indeed, the story does appear in the magazine in an article by Edward Lineham. In fact, this is the first documented sighting of the lights. However, these people clearly haven’t read it. This is a travel article about Colorado, not an investigation. The phenomenon is merely mentioned in a few paragraphs at the end of the 42-page article.
Here is Lineham’s description of the lights.
We climbed out beside the old burying ground and for long minutes I strained to see something, anything. Slowly, vague outlines of grave markers emerged, in ragged rows. “There.” Bill’s voice was quiet, almost a whisper. “And over there!” I saw them too. Dim, round spots of blue-white light glowed ethereally among the graves. I found another, and stepped forward for a better look. They vanished.
He attempted to catch the source of the lights, “I aimed my flashlight at one eerie glow and switched it on. It revealed . . . READ MORE . . .
by Dr. Karen Stollznow via randi.org
A fellow Twitter user recently asked me for my impressions of the The Dead Files. The Travel Channel show first aired back in September, 2011, and is now into its third season. Here is the network’s glowing blurb:
The Dead Files team approaches every case from their two specific areas of expertise: Steve DiSchiavi is a Homicide Detective and Amy Allan is a Physical Medium. They are a paranormal team like no other, combining their unique, eclectic and often-conflicting skills to solve unexplained paranormal phenomena in haunted locations across America.
Across the internet viewers rave that The Dead Files isn’t like other ghost hunting shows in that they don’t use EMF readers or record EVPs. Of course, this show is more comparable to The Long Island Medium in that regard, and showcases Amy’s alleged skills as a psychic medium, sensitive and empath. Her bio claims that, “Her abilities have been studied and tested by leading parapsychologists.” She claims to have been “mentored” by the late William Roll, a parapsychologist and big believer in mediumship. Amy appears to hold a BA in psychology and other qualifications in business. However, she was working as a massage therapist in Denver before she got her TV gig.
Her bio also states that she has “worked with many private investigators and police agencies.” There is no proof offered to back up these claims. As we know, there are very few documented cases where psychics have assisted law enforcement agencies and ever fewer where the police thought they were of any use. Even then, their help is never proven to be psychic. A Denver cold case detective once said to local investigators Bryan & Baxter, “I wish we had a phone line that was specifically for psychics to call and leave their tips; and then we’d never answer it.” He added, “If someone contacted us with information that led us to a body then that person would become a suspect.”
In The Dead Files, Amy and Steve travel to a “haunted” location and conduct an investigation – independently. “Each investigator’s methods and findings remain hidden from the other team member to preserve the integrity of their findings.” Before Amy visits the premises, cameraman Matthew Anderson performs a “cleaning” of the premises to remove any pieces of “leading information” that could influence Amy’s reading. Of course, removing photographs and collectibles doesn’t prevent a cold reader from gleaning information. In every episode I spotted overlooked clues, including a cross on the wall. At any rate, she is there because the place is allegedly haunted, and not to read the occupants, as such. Each place is invariably found to be “haunted”.
Amy does a walk through of the premises and Matthew films her commentary. In every episode I have watched she asserts immediately, “There’s something here”. Her repertoire of “feelings” is recycled, and in every show she claims to experience a “choking sensation”, and reports the presence of “shadow figures” and “demons” lurking everywhere. Her melodramatic visions are of typical situations that underpin alleged “hauntings”, including physical abuse, family arguments, illness and death. Amy ends the investigations by having a sketch artist draw a picture of one of the “ghosts” she saw on the premises. Alternatively, she draws an image of something she saw or felt.
All in all, Amy is a cold reader.
MORE . . .
- A review of the top paranormal events of 2012 (illuminutti.com)
- 2012 Failed and Forgotten Psychic Predictions (illuminutti.com)
- Dead Wrong: Travel Channel’s The Dead Files (randi.org)
- Paranormal Weekend Haunts Crescent Hotel (arkansasmatters.com)
- Haunting Tales: Texas Poltergeist Ranch (newsfromthespiritworld.com)