5 fraudulent psychics that sceptics debunked brilliantly

5 fraudulent psychics that sceptics debunked brilliantly

Are psychics real? It's an interesting question. I've never believed in psychic powers. To me, it doesn't matter what you call yourself, whether it's a soothsayer, fortune-teller, medium or prognosticator, I simply don't believe that the power of faith or the energy of the mind makes one capable of bending spoons, communication with the dead or the ability to pick the right card out of a deck. But what do I know anyway? Perhaps there really are real-life psychics out there, like Professor X from X-Men, who have incredible telepathic abilities? Maybe there really are men and women with extraordinary abilities; people who have been touched by God, or who have unlocked secret skills within their minds. But I've never yet encountered a psychic that I believed without question, or one who convinced me that paranormal powers are a legitimate phenomenon.

Unfortunately for all you believers out there, time and time again rationality and thorough investigation has proven that so-called psychics are simply ordinary people who possess no mysterious gifts or special abilities whatsoever. In fact, many of them have been self-consciously duping their own followers for the sake of fame or profit, taking advantage of the sick, the gullible or the less fortunate. Luckily, some of these apparent con artists have been publicly exposed by those sceptics who knew all along that they were pulling the wool over our eyes.

1. Uri Geller

Israeli-born Uri Geller is probably one of the most famous psychics in the world, and has been referenced and parodied in popular culture numerous times since he made his US television debut back in the 1970s. Geller claimed that he was capable of, through will of the mind alone, bending spoons, stopping watches and mind reading. He was a popular act on stage and on the small screen, with thousands of people flocking to see the man who claimed that his psychic abilities were the result of alien abduction. However, in 1973 Geller was asked to appear on an episode of The Tonight Show by Johnny Carson who, a magician himself earlier in his career, was sceptical of Geller's paranormal abilities. Carson prepared his own props before filming began, and did not allow Geller or his staff to interfere. When Geller joined Carson on stage, he was asked to display his psychic abilities before the audience and failed every time.

2. Rosemary Edwards Altea

British psychic Rosemary Edwards Altea is a self-described medium and healer who claimed to be able to cure the sick and speak with departed souls. Altea says that she has experienced psychic visions since she was an adolescent, and was committed to a mental asylum for a short time after she reported hearing voices to her parents, who were so startled that they feared she had schizophrenia. However, when she appeared on the ShowTime documentary series Penn and Teller: Bullsh*t, the duo of former stage magicians revealed that Altea had utilised a number of cold reading techniques in order to glean information about members of the audience, as well as using plants she could select at random to make her guesses look more accurate.

3. John Edward

John Edward is a television medium, best known for his appearances on shows such as Crossing Over: With John Edward and The View. Edward claims that he does not investigate any audience members before they come on the show, although he does ask them to fill out brief questionnaires before the cameras roll. James Underdown of the Independent Investigative Group was sceptical of Edward's methods and attended a 2002 recording of Crossing Over as a member of the studio audience. Underdown claims that many of Edward's misses were edited out of the final broadcast and that there were numerous occasions where his reading of audience members did not elicit a response.

4. James Van Praagh

James Van Praagh has been a practicing clairvoyant for the last twenty years, and also claims that he is capable of communicating with the dead. In addition to his numerous live television appearances, he has also written a number of books, including such bestsellers as Talking to Heaven and Living with the Dead, and was even portrayed by actor Ted Danson in a biopic miniseries which aired on CBS. In a 2013 issue of Skeptic Magazine, science historian Michael Shermer claimed that numerous television producers have confirmed that Van Praagh uses hot reading techniques. Apparently, producer Leah Hanes told him: "I recall him asking about the profession of the deceased loved one of one of our guests, and I told him he was a fireman. Then, when the show began, he said something to the effect, 'I see a uniform. Was he a policeman or fireman please' Everyone was stunned, but he got that directly from me."

5. Peter Popoff

Televangelist and self-described faith healer Peter Popoff rose to prominence in the 1980s, when his broadcast ministries in megachurches throughout the deep south drew hundreds of sick worshippers into his hands ... and their charitable donations into his pockets. Popoff claimed to be able to channel the Holy Ghost and alleged that he was capable of curing arthritis, gout, cancer and other ailments by touch. However, stage magician, performer and professional sceptic James Randi doubted that Popoff's "miracles" were genuine, and decided to out Popoff as a fraud. To that end, he employed radio monitoring equipment to determine that Popoff was using electronic transmissions to receive private and personal information about his audience members. Popoff's ratings and donations declined significantly after Randi exposed him on national television and he was declared bankrupt in September 1987.

If you really want to talk to people who have passed on, then don't believe in some random shyster who bends spoons. Put your faith in science instead. Did you know that soon you'll be able to talk to dead people online? Who would have ever thought that The Sixth Sense would turn out to be a documentary in the end?