Tag Archives: Mark Edward

Psychic Methods Revealed: Hot Reading

Detecting psychic scams & debunking mediums is easier when you know how psychic methods like hot reading work. Don’t be fooled by psychic misdirection. Expert mentalists, skeptics, and magicians Penn and Teller, Derren Brown, Paul Zenon, James Randi, and Mark Edward will reveal the secrets of psychics by exposing disgraceful psychic tricks used by psychic Sally Morgan, The Long Island Medium (Theresa Caputo), Rosemary Altea, Peter Popoff, Joe Power, James Van Praagh, and more. Stay skeptical, dare to be curious, but don’t fall for this bullshit, and don’t drink the koolaid.

Is ‘Long Island Medium’ Theresa Caputo A Fake?

Some People Certainly Think So

Laura RosenfeldBy via Bustle

Every show on TLC really knows how to tug at your heartstrings, but The Long Island Medium does it pretty much better than anyone else. LongIslandMedium56That is because the Long Island Medium herself, Theresa Caputo, has an amazing ability to connect strangers with their loved ones who have passed away. By communicating through “spirit,” Caputo can learn how someone died, his or her nickname, and even deliver a message to the living. Her readings are so spot-on, it’s freaky.

Maybe even a little too freaky for some people. When a person has a supernatural ability like this, there are of course going to be skeptics. Caputo encounters them all the time on her show, like when one self-proclaimed skeptic, Brian, started to believe after Caputo’s tape recorder magically stopped without any prompting. Like with most issues in our society, the debate has mainly been alive and well on the Internet, the trolliest of troll-y places, since the show premiered back in 2011. Whether it’s through opinion pieces, blog posts, or videos, there are plenty of people online who make it their mission to debunk Caputo’s ability. So who are these people, and why do they think Caputo is not for real?

Caputo’s main opponent is James Randi, a former magician and escape artist who now spends his days “as the world’s most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims,” according to his website. caputo_250pxRandi is famous for his “One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge,” where anyone who can prove “evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event” will be awarded $1 million.

Randi claims Caputo uses a technique that many mediums employ called “cold reading,” where it may look like Caputo is simply chatting with the person, but she’s actually picking up information that she’ll use to make what she says seem very specific to the person she’s reading. He says Caputo’s questions about initials and life events are basically just guesses that she hopes turn out to be true. Randi, who has also taken on the famous mediums John Edward and James Van Praagh, awarded Caputo a 2012 Pigasus Award, which is awarded to parapsychological frauds who are most harmful to society.

Inside Edition performed an entire investigation on Caputo in 2012, which found that she was much less accurate in her live readings than she is shown to be on her TV show, as she would “strike out time and again.” Inside Edition had former psychic Mark Edward perform the “cold reading” techniques he believed Caputo uses, and the audience believed him.

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Also See: The Long Island Medium – Can She Really Communicate with the Dead? – News from InsideEdition.com

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The Scole Experiment

Said to be the best evidence yet for the afterlife — but how good is that evidence?

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid

Read podcast transcript below or listen here

Turn out the lights and link your hands, for today we’re going to hold a seance and contact the dead, and have them perform parlor tricks for us in the dark. We’re going to look at the Scole Experiment, a large, well-organized series of seances conducted by members of the Society for Psychical Research in the late 1990’s in Scole, a small village in England. The Scole Experiment_300pxReported phenomena included ghostly lights flitting about the room, images appearing on film inside secure containers, reports of touches from unseen hands, levitation of the table, and disembodied voices. Due to the large number of investigators and sitters involved, the number and consistency of paranormal episodes observed during the seances, and the lack of any finding of fraud, many believers often point to the Scole Experiment as the best scientific evidence that spirits do survive in the afterlife, and can and do come back and interact with the living, demonstrating an impressive array of conjuring powers.

There were a total of six mediums and fifteen investigators from the SPR. The Society for Psychical Research, or SPR, is based in London and is more than a century old. Its membership consists of enthusiasts of the paranormal. The authoritative source for what happened in the Scole Experiment is a report several hundred pages long, called The Scole Report, originally published in the journal Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, and written by three of the lead investigators who were present at the sittings, all current or former senior officers of the SPR: plant scientist Montague Keen, electrical engineer Arthur Ellison, and psychologist David Fontana. I have a copy here on my desk. It goes through the history of how the experiments came together, details each of the many seances, and presents analysis and criticism from a number of the SPR investigators who observed.

Unfortunately, the Scole Experiment was tainted by profound investigative failings. In short, the investigators imposed little or no controls or restrictions upon the mediums, and at the same time, agreed to all of the restrictions imposed by the mediums. The mediums were in control of the seances, not the investigators. What the Scole Report authors describe as a scientific investigation of the phenomena, was in fact (by any reasonable interpretation of the scientific method) hampered by a set of rules which explicitly prevented any scientific investigation of the phenomena.

The primary control offered by the mediums was their use of luminous wristbands, to show the sitters that their hands were not moving about during the seances. I consulted with Mark Edward, a friend in Los Angeles who gives mentalism and seance performances professionally. He knows all the tricks, and luminous wristbands are, apparently, one of the tricks. There are any number of ways that a medium can get into and out of luminous wristbands during a seance. The wristbands used at Scole were made and provided by the mediums themselves, and were never subjected to testing, which is a gross dereliction of control by the investigators. Without having been at the Scole Experiment in person, Mark couldn’t speculate on what those mediums may have done or how they may have done it. Suffice it to say that professional seance performers are not in the least bit impressed by this so-called control. Tricks like this have been part of the game for more than a century. Since hand holding was not employed in the Scole seances, the mediums effectively had every opportunity to be completely hands free and do whatever they wanted to do.

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Still Getting Hosed: Starfire Water

by Mark Edward via Skepticblog

The quest for the ultimate in hydration has now reached a high-water mark in surrealchemy. After the hype of fog-drip, coconut water, charcoal water, smoked water, vitamin water, gogi water and even “black water,” America continues getting hosed with a steady stream of scientific claims and the height of medicine show quackery. Can you say “snake oil?” One of my favorite episodes of Penn & Teller’s “Bullshit”  is “The Truth About Bottled Water.”  That classic featured a  ”Water Sommelier” at a high-end restaurant.:

Penn & Teller video. Language alert!!

The national obsession with water was beautifully skewered. That should have been the end of the story. Not by a long shot apparently.

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The label design on Aquafina (the best-selling water brand in the U.S.) implies Aquafina is sourced from a mountain spring. In reality, Aquafina is bottled at Pepsi plants as far away as Vietnam using a public water source (tap water). [sources PDF]

The purveyors of woo knew that few of the people searching for the Fountain of Youth would pay much attention to to scallywags like Penn & Teller, and so the river flows on. Take the claims of “Isklar,” Norwegian glacier water:

The people behind Isklar claim that while most of our planet’s water evaporates into the atmosphere and is recycled in a seven-year period – picking up pollutants on the way – the water frozen inside  glaciers was formed thousands of years ago when the air was far cleaner. But some reviewers on Amazon say Isklar water (£8.44 for 24 500ml bottles) never tastes better than when mixed with whisky. ”

I suppose the “frozen inside” theory makes sense of a sort and the taste test from Amazon would depend largely on the whisky and amount you drink. We all have blind spots. Back in my single malt drinking days, I had to have that special bottle of Scottish “Highland Spring Water” to truly complete my solemn drinking ritual. I bought into the hype. What garden hose it came from didn’t matter to me as I fancied myself a connoisseur of fine regional “waters of life” and wouldn’t think of sullying my fine dram with mere tap water.

Today you can even get genuine “Loch Ness Water.”  Never mind what the locals say when you read about the loch. They warn visitors boiling for 5 minutes before drinking any loch water owing to the algae and other pollutants present in the murky depths. Visitors are further advised to take any water from the center of the loch rather than the surrounding edges for that reason. I’m not sure how far out in the loch or what part of  the purveyors of “Genuine Loch Ness Water” syphon their bounty from, but I’m guessing it’s close to the shore.

But now we are assured have the ultimate:

Starfire Water!

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Some kind of a new age, double-talking description from the Starfire website:


«… Starfire Water™, a proprietary alkaline, performance water produced using breakthrough 21st-century quantum water technology. Starfire Water™ is treated with ultraviolet ozonation, infrared stimulation and electromagnetism for a negative ion charged water, as in nature, allowing deep, cellular intake through aquaporins, the floodgates to hydration.»

Yes, it’s here – and no less a personage than Mayor Villaragosa himself heartily endorses it!

If you aren’t sitting down while you read the next paragraph, I would advise it. I haven’t seen such a load of non-stop woo bullshit since the power bracelet hit the streets. Here’s the label in it’s entirety:

THIRST THE FIRE

“Legend has it that the mystical “Starfire” was the liquid manna of the divine, used by the ancients for ultra-focus, extreme performance, and even enlightenment. In that vein, we introduce STARFIRE WATER, a propiratary alkaline performance, bio-holographic “living” water produced using breakthrough 21st century, quantum water technology. STARFIRE WATER is treated with ultraviolet, ozonation,infra-red stimulation and electromagnetism for a negative (-) ion charged water, as in nature, allowing deep cellular intake through your aquaporins, the floodgates to hydration.Vortex induced, using a solar -helix and pyramid-grid system. to give it a hexagonal structure, and infused with monatomic elements, we are able to achieve a water with cosmic healing energy. This water is amplified with psionic wave oscillation tuned to the Universe’s frequency, helping to synchronize you with the heartbeat of our Earth. STARFIRE WATER is treated with Sacred Sound Resonance Transmission to vibrationally transform you on the deepest molecular level. Altogether we’ve created the world’s first premium alkaline . performance, “living,”” hexagonal super-structured water.”

It isn’t just water – it’s structured water. It’s also infused and energized.

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The Long Island Medium – Can She Really Communicate with the Dead?

via InsideEdition.com

LongIslandMedium_250pxShe’s one of the most popular reality stars on TV today. For three seasons now, Theresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium, has amazed viewers and brought people to tears by communicating messages from beyond.

“I have a very special gift. I talk to the dead,” Caputo says on her hit series.

[…]

So is the Long Island Medium really communicating with those who have passed on, or is she simply using trickery to fool the living?  INSIDE EDITION decided to see what happens at her popular live readings across the country. What we saw was starkly different from what viewers see on her TV show.

On TV, she’s almost always dead right, but at her live shows, we watched her strike out time and again.

Caputo asked one audience member, “Is your mom also departed?” “My mom? No, she’s with us,” said the audience member.

“Is your mom departed?” she asked another fan. The woman responded, “My mom? No, she’s still with us.”

Caputo asked another audience member, “Did they pass one right after the other?” to which the audience member responded by shaking their head ‘no.’

She asked one person, “Was this on your mother’s side.”  “No, my dad’s,” she replied.

“I know a trick when I see one,” said Mark Edward, after watching the L.I. Medium’s live show.   Edward once made a living as a psychic, but he’s now coming forward to reveal the secrets that he says some psychics use to convince people they really do communicate with the dead.

Edward believes one technique Theresa Caputo uses is a classic trick called “cold reading.”  It’s done by firing-off open-ended questions that someone in a large audience will surely relate to, like a number.

“How do you connect with the number 2? Is it the month of February?  The day?” Caputo asked an audience member.

Inevitably someone raises a hand.

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Is Caputo Kaputo Yet?

I have one question for this Long Island psychic: Did she predict the absolute devastation hurricane Sandy would bring to Long Island? No? Really? But, but, but … she’s psychic!!! Right? 😉

– Mason

by Mark Edward via Skepticblog

Together at Last!

If you didn’t watch the Nov. 8th episode of “Inside Edition,” you missed an expose of “America’s favorite psychic” and star of the popular “Long Island Medium” television “reality” series, Theresa Caputo. A few weeks ago I was asked to take part in a “sting” on Caputo with several IE investigative reporters who had been singling out Caputo for a serious takedown for months. We worked hard to reveal her for what she is – a fast talker of the lowest order. There was no question she was doing old cold reading bits, but her other methods were less obvious to the untrained eye.  I was put on the case in New York City for four days. It was a eye-opening experience and great fun watching Caputo going through her histrionics, but I quickly learned that mediums and psychics are getting more and more slippery and hard to catch red-handed than they were only a decade ago.

Like many of the latest crop of bullshit tossers making the rounds, Theresa and her savvy crew have learned from the mistakes of others like Sally Morgan, John Edward and Jimmy VanPraagh. Instead of taking chances with too much guessing, Theresa bumps-up her percentage of hits and avoids bad misses by front-loading her stage shows with a combination of techniques; some time tested like cold reading and planting previous clients they have already read for in specific seats in the audience, (ala Rosemary Altea on the Penn & teller Bullshit!” episode I worked on) but also making use of the latest social media outlets.

In combination with selling seats through Ticketmaster and the use of credit cards, Facebook, Fousquare, Twitter and all the rest of the latest places people post private information, our own egocentric fascination with ourselves makes it easy for the techie-smart-agent or producer to make seeming miracles happen. Like the old days when the gypsy only needed to tell her sitters what they wanted to hear about themselves, we are now in an era when anyone can tell you more about yourself than you might ever want to know.

At the show we saw, at one point Theresa asked a woman, “…Why am I picking up baby clothes?” To which the woman replied, “Oh, that’s weird. I just put up a bunch of pictures of baby clothes on my Facebook page!”

Not weird at all really. With five or six  gathered bits of information like that placed beforehand on a seating chart of the show  it’s easy to be cued by her staff of roving  microphone and camera people. All seats are numbered and the sections are far enough apart so even Theresa can’t screw up: a red shirt is a fireman, down in front under the lights is the missing child, on the left is the suicide’s mother, etc.

After watching this crew with their equipment  move over to a person who was next called upon by Theresa, it became apparent that only one of two things could be happening.  The only two logical reasons for the roving crew to move  BEFORE Theresa points out the person in the audience they are standing near are:

1.  Theresa has already planned with her crew what people she is going to be talking to before the show.
2.  The crew is psychic and knows who Theresa is going to be calling on.

I leave it to the reader to decide which option is more likely.

On the heavily edited segments for Caputo’s so-called “reality” program, everyone who happens to apparently casually “bump into” Theresa on the street or in supermarkets or beauty parlors, each is a carefully choreographed set-up.  In classic mentalist style, everyone must sign a pre-show waiver or agreement to have their image used on television. It’s only a standard form to those folks. Why would they suspect anything? They should. All the staff needs is a laptop, a name, an address and a willing victim.

The slippery part is this perfect storm of information availability seems to make no sense when you watch Theresa live doing nothing but asking a non-stop machine gun scatter shot of questions, one after the other. It would be so much easier for her to just stick to a list of sure-fire pre-show information. That’s what I would do… So why doesn’t she stick to that strategy?

I’ll tell you why: She’s not a professional mentalist for one, and also because if she did use all the information available all the time, she would be far too accurate and her audience of adoring believers would begin to smell a rat.  She has to play that “odds” part down to a believable minimum. It’s the “less is more” angle mediums have been using for centuries.

It was amazing to see her act “surprised” by her hits, as if she had no idea how she did it. Maybe  a few times she was genuinely surprised

MORE . . .

An excerpt from The Jeff Probst Show. With the help of Mark Edward, Jeff Probst goes undercover as a fake psychic:

The Long Island Medium – Can She Really Communicate with the Dead?

via InsideEdition.com

She’s one of the most popular reality stars on TV today. For three seasons now, Theresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium, has amazed viewers and brought people to tears by communicating messages from beyond.

“I have a very special gift. I talk to the dead,” Caputo says on her hit series.

[…]

So is the Long Island Medium really communicating with those who have passed on, or is she simply using trickery to fool the living? INSIDE EDITION decided to see what happens at her popular live readings across the country. What we saw was starkly different from what viewers see on her TV show.

On TV, she’s almost always dead right, but at her live shows, we watched her strike out time and again.

Caputo asked one audience member, “Is your mom also departed?” “My mom? No, she’s with us,” said the audience member.

“Is your mom departed?” she asked another fan. The woman responded, “My mom? No, she’s still with us.”

Caputo asked another audience member, “Did they pass one right after the other?” to which the audience member responded by shaking their head ‘no.’

She asked one person, “Was this on your mother’s side.” “No, my dad’s,” she replied.

“I know a trick when I see one,” said Mark Edward, after watching the L.I. Medium’s live show. Edward once made a living as a psychic, but he’s now coming forward to reveal the secrets that he says some psychics use to convince people they really do communicate with the dead.

Edward believes one technique Theresa Caputo uses is a classic trick called “cold reading.” It’s done by firing-off open-ended questions that someone in a large audience will surely relate to, like a number.

“How do you connect with the number 2? Is it the month of February? The day?” Caputo asked an audience member.

Inevitably someone raises a hand.

MORE . . .

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation. While some psychics are known to cheat and acquire information ahead of time, these ten tips focus on what is known as “cold reading” — reading someone “cold” without any prior knowledge about them.

Click Here For All 10 Lessons (PDF)


Click Here For All 10 Lessons (PDF)

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.

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