Once again, the Post-Gazette wastes a considerable amount of ink promoting nonsense. Today, we were treated to a two page article in the regional North section on mediums and psychics, without a single word from a skeptic explaining how these frauds take advantage of peoples' grief at $120 to $200 an hour.
So to the editors: If you really must run this kind of story, do you think you could devote at least a paragraph or two showing how these charlatans do their tricks? Try googling "hot reading" and "cold reading." That'll get you started.
With her mind wide open and her eyes tightly shut, a Sacramento spiritual psychic says she can see the future, even predicting March Madness winners.
“It’s like I’m closing my eyes and I’m able to see them play,” she says.
Tammy Adams calls them mini-movies, showing March Madness in action.
She says she can tell who is advancing just by the energy she feels, even though the spiritual psychic doesn’t know a thing about college basketball.
She's predicting that the final two will be Indiana and Gonzaga. Doesn't know a thing about basketball, eh? And yet she's picked the two number 1 seeds! Psychic ability, or mere ability to read the bracket chart?
So far, she's 0-1 as she picked Bucknell over Butler. Lets see how it goes.
14 Tonawanda ghost hunters charged with trespassing.
It turns out that all but one were teenagers, so I don't know how serious they were about hunting "ghosts," but is does point up that you've got more to fear from the people who don't want you traipsing about their property than you do from the supernatural.
Police in the mountain community of Crestline have arrested a psychic and accused her of embezzling money from her clients...
The Crestline resident met with Cindy twice. “She told me that I had a spirit associated with me that was not an evil spirit, but a spirit that was unhappy.”
To rid her of the unhappy spirit, the woman was told she would have to pay $9,000 – that would be returned in nine days.
She gave her a third – the $3,000 – and a month later said she wasn’t able to reach Cindy and wasn’t getting her calls returned. “She said she’d been ill and wondered if we could meet in a couple of days. And I said that was fine. Then a couple of days later, she wasn’t returning phone calls or text messages.”
The psychic was hauled off to face embezzlement charges.
Unfortunately, too many people fall for this sort of nonsense.
Today in "psychic" fraud news, we read about Melanie Barnum in the Connecticut Post. The writer, Deb Keiser, assures us that Barnum is "legit." After all, she studied under James van Praagh (you can read more about van Praagh here)!
Reading the article, its clear that what this woman is doing is nothing more than cold reading, augmented by a little internet research. For example, we read this from the exchange between Barnum and Keiser:
Q: How do you know the answers?
A: When I do a reading, I tune into that person's energy field. Even before they arrive in my office, I sit in a chair and do a grounding exercise, a meditation of my own, and then I write some notes that come to me about what I should share with that person.
That's how I knew you were a petite, energetic and organized brunette even before you got here. (True: she showed me the notes.)
It took me less than five seconds for me to find Keiser on Facebook, her page contains a lot of information about her, including numerous photographs. Wouldn't be hard at all for Barnum to do the same. Deb, you might want to review your privacy settings.
And again, here:
In a different reading, a woman came in who was unsure about her professional direction. Suddenly I felt I had to say, "I have to talk to you about all the soldiers. You are digging up all the soldiers." She was stunned, and asked how I could know that.
That was her moment. It turned out she had started a family research project and every single generation going back to the Revolutionary War had a soldier who'd served in a war, including the Civil War, World War I and II. The soldiers came through to tell her to continue the research, and that she was headed in the right direction by doing that.
I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that Barnum has an account with a service like Ancestry.com, and routinly does a search on whoever happens to be coming in for a reading. Wouldn't be at all surprised either if you have to make an appointment, I doubt she sees "drop ins" (her webpage is silent on the matter, but there's plenty of contact information). Of course, if she really were psychic, she'd know you were coming, right?
As P.T. Barnum is alleged to have said, there's a sucker born every minute!
I'm not a terribly good or skilled photographer, but sometimes, a picture works the way I want it to. I was trying to capture the setting sun shining through the top of the Celtic cross that surmounts the Irish Brigade monument, and I got it! Unfortunately, the picture is marred by a couple of artifacts (the faint red dots near the bottom and to the left, gullible people would call these "orbs" and point to them as "proof" of paranormal activity however I know they're just a result of some slight imperfections with my cheap, pocket digital) but with a little manipulation in Photoshop, I'm positive I can crop them out.
Everyone likes a good ghost story this time of year, but not many of us have actually lived one. Then there is Randy Myers, who not only claims to regularly see spirits but believes he has recorded and photographed them.
Well, looks like we're in for a rough ride into the realm of woo. Buckle up!
After a recent ghost-hunting trip to Quaker Cemetery in Perryopolis, while members in matching black baseball caps munched burgers at a Uniontown McDonald's, they learned that an abandoned house just beyond the restaurant's parking lot was rumored to be a hotbed of supernatural activity. Night-shift employees had heard unexplained voices on the drive-through intercom, and when a medium visited, she reported seven evil spirits, says Josh Shelton, who has been with the group since 2009 and is the unofficial field organizer.
Unexplained voices on the drive through intercom? Here's an explanation for you: Radio interference from other sources like walkie-talkies, CB radios, broadcast communications, and other sources of radio interference. A medium? A medium what? A medium soda pop? A medium coffee? Or one of those frauds that goes around pretending they can talk with dead people to separate gullible fools from their money? I wouldn't put much stock into what a "medium" says, especially if it cannot be independently confirmed.
Damaged by fire and left to rot in a jungle of knee-high weeds and poison ivy, the two-story clapboard Colonial certainly screams "haunted house," especially at dusk, when the group convened in its side yard with a reporter and photographer. Besides evil spirits, the house is a rumored hideout for drunks, crack addicts and bums, says Mr. Shelton. That explains why, in addition to flashlights, batteries and walkie-talkies, Mr. Myers and fellow ghosthunter Fred Broerman came armed with paintball guns.
"A rumored hideout for drunks, crack addicts and bums." Well then, I think we just found the source of the things that might be going bump in the night. I also have to wonder who in their right mind thinks that a freaking PAINT BALL GUN is sufficient deterrent to a potentially armed and dangerous person who might be inside an abandoned building??? And why go in at night? Wouldn't it make more sense to go in during daylight when it might be easier to determine if the noise you're hearing is caused by something perfectly normal, like the wind blowing through a broken window, or a drunk, crack addict or bum squatting in the structure?
The most commonly reported paranormal experiences are the sounds of voices and that eerie, unsettling feeling of being watched. So the group brings tape recorders and digital cameras that sometimes capture a ball of light known as an "orb," shadowy figures and unexplained blurs. Among the questions thrown out in the darkness in hopes of a ghostly answer are: What's your name? How old are you? How did you die? How can we help you? ... When is the apocalypse?
The sounds of voices and the feeling of being watched." My guess is those voices might just be from the "drunks, crack addicts and bums." They're probably watching too, or its more likely just your overactive imagination going into overdrive while wandering around an abandoned house in the dark. As for "orbs," they're just the reflection of the flash off dust or water vapor. Shadows and smudges are likely artifacts caused by flash reflection of glass, insects, your own breath (if its a chilly night) and other photographic anomolies caused by using a camera in a dark house at night. As for shouting out random questions to the nothingness, make sure you see a qualified mental health professional if you get an answer. Then again, it might just be me hiding in the basement messing with you.
Finding evidence of ghosts requires more specialized equipment, too, including night-vision goggles and heat guns to detect changes in temperature (it will suddenly get colder when a ghost is nearby).
Of course, if you went looking in the daytime, you wouldn't NEED night-vision goggles. And you know what else makes something feel suddenly cooler? A draft. But back to the night vision goggles, which work by detecting infrared (heat) radiation. If it gets cooler when a "ghost" is about, what good are the goggles, which detect a body's heat? They might be good for detecting that family of raccoons living in the crawl space though.
East Hills Paranormal also uses EMF meters, which measure fluctuations in electromagnetic fields. If the meters trip near plugs and fixtures, you know you've got a live one, technically speaking, especially if it happens in a house like this one, which hasn't been connected to Allegheny Power for years.
EMF meters detect fluctuations in electromagnetic fields. Yes, you'll see a fluctuation around power sources. They also indicate electromagnetic fluctuations from power lines, microwave radiation, cell phones, radios, door bells, etc. There's quite a bit of electromagnetic activity out there, a wiggle of the needle is indicative of nothing. Why would a spiritual manifestation emit an electromagnetic field anyway?
All of the gathered information will be taken home and carefully analyzed over the next week.
After an anxious five minutes to determine that the Uniontown house is indeed empty, as least of other people, members with flashlights and strap-on headlamps head up the broken staircase one spongy, damp step at a time. The smell of mold, urine and musty plaster permeates the air, and there's so much debris on the floor, the group has to tiptoe around the room. Then whosh! A bat flies out of the rafters, setting everyone atwitter.
The group seems even more unnerved by an inverted pentagram scrawled on a bedroom wall, along with references to Anton LaVey, an occultist who founded the Church of Satan in 1966.
"Obviously, someone worships the devil here," says Mr. Broerman, noting that such activity can bring out demons (evil) rather than spirits (lost souls).
Or its a bunch of teenagers goofing around in a "haunted" house. What proof does Broerman have that demons or spirits even exist?
For the next 45 minutes, they wander from room to room, taking pictures, hollering questions, feeling for cold spots and shining their lights into closets and corners. The last time Chad Opfer was in the house, he says he saw an apparition in a doorway -- a full body with a "red glare." He's really, really hoping for a replay.
Hmmm...could that red glare come from the tail lights or brake lights of a passing car, or the lighted McDonalds sign refracting through a window at night? See "pareidolia."
"Can you make yourself appear again?" he calls out at one point. "Use my energy!
"Just don't make me sick," he adds, noting how spirits sometimes can give you headaches or flu-like symptoms.
Earlier in the story we learned that the house smelled of mold, urine, musty plaster, and was infested with bats. I suspect Opfer's symptoms might have been caused by the unsanitary conditions common to abandoned buildings, especially ones frequented by drunks, crack addicts, bums, and guano.
They also sometimes follow you home, which is why Mr. Shelton always offers a cleansing prayer before the group leaves a property. Later, they play and replay the tapes to see if they've managed to catch any electronic voice phenomenon, or ghost voices that you can't hear until you play back a recording, Mr. Myers says.
They find no voices on the Uniontown tapes, but the group takes back to Pitcairn several photos of ghostly orbs, proof positive, they say, of life after death.