“I see dumb people” – Learn to cold-read like a so-called “psychic.”
I don’t believe in psychics, palm readers, telekinesis or mediums. Not because I’m a huge skeptic but because I’ve been researching them for years and have found NO evidence that their skills are real. And what’s more, I’m seriously angry that these frauds prey on people who are mourning, and very open to suggestion, just to make money. It’s sick. Now, I’ll show you some of the fruits of my labor and how you, yes you, can cold read just like a psychic. Maybe this will help prove once and for all that it’s all bunk.
By the way, I’d like to point out that I don’t think people who go to psychics are dumb. Far from it, I’m trying to protect them. The title of my article is more aimed at how psychics see their stooges. Hope that all makes sense. Ok? Good, let’s continue.
When I first saw a psychic at work I was in my early teens. I saw a documentary on Uri Geller (a favorable one) and was blown away. What a guy, what power, what an amazing man. “How does he do that dad?” is said. “Must be magic” my dad replied, in a sarcastic tone I never picked up on at the time.
Then I grew up and saw another Geller documentary, this time featuring James Randi. He systematically shattered every single “power” that Uri had demonstrated. And of course, there’s the infamous Johnny Carson clip (below) in which James Randi simply made sure Uri Geller could not gain access to any prop before the show. Sure enough, he just wasn’t feeling strong that night. He sucked. He was powerless. Coincidence? I think not.
The James Randi Educational Foundation offers $1 million to anyone who can prove psychic, paranormal or supernatural powers. Thousands of people have applied for it; no one has ever come close to collecting the money. Why? Because the tests are done under strictly supervised conditions, where these people with magical powers have no access to props, stooges or hidden devices. James Randi also has a secret object placed in a vault, which he changes out every two weeks. Not one psychic or mental projectionist has ever been able to see it. How strange, when they can see other things so clearly. Could it be that their powers are weaker when under duress? Or that they have no powers at all?
Mr. James Randi, founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation.
I have heard people say, “well, why should these psychics have to prove anything to anyone?” But think about that for a second. They are offering a service, aren’t they? Just like your local plumber, or to use a better analogy, your average psychotherapist. They couldn’t root around in your head without proof that they know whet they’re doing. But psychics can confidently claim your dead relative has a message for you with absolutely no proof whatsoever, and then take your hard earned cash for the “service.” I call it not only unfair but also more closely related to a crime. In fact, carnivals and sideshows have often been the breeding ground for these super-beings, until TV legitimized them and gave them fame into the bargain. Well, my strong stomach can only take so much.
I could write a book on the phony methods and scams used by psychics, but lets just keep it to the most well known and easy to master – cold reading.
Note: There is a more foolproof method called “hot reading” which has been utilized by the likes of magicians and phony faith healers like Peter Popoff. Here, a stooge surreptitiously gains real information about the “mark” and passes it to the faith healer or magician, who then recounts it to the astonishment of the crowd. Palm readers can go through wallets and purses. Some will even dig through your garbage before your appointment. But this is a difficult method for most people as it requires more people and more preparation.
You can, however, garner very successful results from cold reading. Anyone with a modicum of common sense and a good eye for detail can cold read. And I know you can do it to. I’m revealing these techniques not so that you can go out and use them on other people (unless you do it as a party trick for no money) but to show you how easy it is to do. There really is no such thing as a psychic, I assure you. And if you say I’m lying, don’t tell me…apply to the James Randi Foundation and claim the $1 million. Something tells me that won’t be happening though.
Cold reading – the art of being vague
Have you ever wondered why dead relatives are so vague? Why is it that psychics don’t get information that’s solid, but more “sketchy?” Well, the answer is simply that they’re not really getting messages from the dead. They’re cold reading. It’s a simple technique that magicians have used for centuries and it’s very effective, especially when you’re in the presence of people who genuinely want to believe what you’re saying. As Wise Bread readers, I suspect most of you were wise enough to have figured this out already, but here are the details, step by step.
1: People WANT to believe you – tell them what they WANT to hear.
This one is a basic premise but one that’s based on the human condition. We don’t want to hear negative things about ourselves. If someone says to you “you’re a very honest person, but it takes people a while to really get to know you” then you’re almost certainly going to agree, because it’s not negative in any way. Turn that around and say the opposite – “you’re deceptive and people can read you like an open book” is awful. No one wants to hear that, it makes him or her sound shallow and evil. Other vague information, often referred to as the Forer effect, uses statements that apply to almost anyone.
“You have a box of old, unsorted photos at home.”
“As a young child, you had an accident near water.”
“You’re having some emotion problems with a friend or relative.”
In the psychic realm, the same applies. People who go to see a psychic usually want to heal the pain left by a deceased loved one. If that’s the case, no one wants to hear that grandma was a crabby old bag that hated everyone, even if it was true. No, best to stay generically positive and let you make it apply to your loved one.
Example of vague, positive readings:
“Your mom was dearly loved by everyone, although she often had a difficult time of expressing her true feelings.”
“I sense a lot of frustration from this person, he was clearly meant for bigger and better things than he was doing.” – this applies to anyone, even the President.
“This man dreamed of things before they happened and often had a strong sense of Déjà vu.”
2: Use the SHOTGUN technique.
Sylvia Browne (more on her later), James Van Praagh and John Edwards are some of the many psychics that have been accused of using this technique. It basically involves throwing enough questions and suggestions out at the audience that some of it is bound to stick. You’ve often seen this parodied in comedy sketches.
PSYCHIC: “I’m getting the name John. Is there someone with a connection to John in the audience? Maybe Johnny? Jonathon? Perhaps he worked with a John, or spent a lot of time in the John? Did he go to a supermarket with a cashier named John? Or Jenny? Or Jimmy? Or Timmy? Or Sammy? Samantha?”
AUDIENCE MEMBER: “My mom’s cat’s name was Samantha!”
PSYCHIC: “Ah yes, she’s coming through clear.”
Okay, so I took it a little more to the level of parody than it usually works, but seriously it’s not that far fetched. When you watch shows by Edwards or Van Preach, you’re seeing edited content. You don’t get to see all of the countless “misses” that the psychics make. They can often throw hundreds of questions out before hitting a target. And it’s just another series of shotgun questions from there. Basically, they’re playing guessing games and your reactions and body language provide the answers for them. You should see the contracts people have to sign before going to these shows, too. They’re huge, and are basically non-disclosure agreements. What happens in the show, stays in the show. Just like David Blaine and his “flying powers”, this stuff looks way more convincing on TV. But unlike Blain, Penn & Teller and even Copperfield, there is no admission of magic or trickery on the part of the psychics. Nope, they are the real deal. Trust them!
Anyway, here are a few nice shotgun methods to get you started…
“I see a father-figure with chest pains.” (A nice way to combine the very vague with a very common illness).
“I see a woman who was very important to you, but you often disagreed.”
“I’m getting the powerful memories of cancer.” (1 in 3 people get cancer, what are the odds?)
Like I said at the start, these are not intended to arm you with anything other than knowledge. Next time you see someone pulling these comments out of thin air, you at least know where they’re getting them from.
3: The rainbow ruse
This one covers all the bases. It’s so transparent it’s very easy to see through later, but at the time it gets you. Basically, the psychic gives you both sides of a personality trait in the same sentence. Usually, a very positive statement but with the addition of a negative Here’s a typical example…
“ You have a bright, cheery disposition but there have been times when you have been a little down, upset and closed off.” (duh!)
Try this with anything, on anyone, and it works. Just remember, tell people what they want to hear. No one wants to be a misery-guts with occasionally moments of happiness, even if they are!
4: Gimmicks are a psychic’s best friends.
Tarot cards, bones, crystal balls, palm reading and tealeaves give the psychic a nice crutch to hold onto. If they can think of nothing to say, they can be studying the messages in their prop of choice. The props also come with some terrific psychic baggage, people do believe in their mystical powers. And regardless of what kind of palm you have, it relates to your life as much as the lines in your car parking space. Look up palm reading, learn the techniques, and then say the exact opposite things to your test subject. You will still be accurate. Try it.
5: Include the “magic” of current polls & surveys and study people well.
I’m sorry to say that quite often, judging a book by its cover works very well. If you’re a young lesbian woman with tattoos and a penchant for outlandish clothing, it’s doubtful you’re a Republican. You may well be, but it’s doubtful. Psychics will use these visual clues to guess your background, voting preferences, likes and dislikes. And they’re very good at it. Someone like Derren Brown can guess your phone’s ring tone just by looking at you. But he’s no psychic, as he himself tells you at the start of each show.
6: Flattery gets you everywhere; stay positive.
People don’t want negative reviews of themselves or their relatives. If your granny was an old bag, you don’t want to hear it. Luckily, you never will. Psychics are great at giving you the happy news, they rarely sprinkle in the bad stuff. Although one who does is Sylvia Browne, who has told troubled relatives all sorts of horrible things that turned out not to be true. Watch these clips and see if you can figure out why she’s still around, or why Montel would ever have her back on his show.
7: Use the co-operation clause.
This is a great way to put the blame for incorrect statements back on you. Simply tell your test subject in advance that you may not interpret or convey the messages you get as intended. Thus, your subject needs to make sure that he/she concentrates to make that interpretation work. End result – if you say you’re seeing an old man called John, and her father was an old man called Robert, it’s her fault for not getting the translation! Huh? The psychic always puts the onus on you to grab onto the generalities they spew out and make them your own. Don’t fall for it.
Always go back to part 1 when you’re in doubt. People want to believe you, and will tell you things, subconsciously, to make part 1 come true. For instance, they’ll often tell you that they want to talk to their dead mom and just want to know she’s ok (gee, I wonder if that will happen?) Many psychics will spend half of their time listening to what you have to say, then use that information against you. When it comes down to it, you’re actually doing your own reading. The psychic is simply validating what you say. Clever? Yes? Paranormal? No way.
9: Be confident, and give it some drama.
Psychics could teach used car salesmen a thing or too about believability. They use great facial gestures, expand upon their points and make it seem like they genuinely are talking to the dead. There’s nothing wrong with being hammy. I believe it was Adolf Hitler who said “the bigger the lie, the more the people will believe it.” Well, these are some pretty big stinkers you’ll be telling, so add a little acting to the role. Remember, they want to believe you so ham it up.
10: See rule one.
If there’s one thing you can learn about cold reading, it’s rule one. They are hanging on your every word, they want to believe you, like you want to laugh at a favorite comedian who’s telling a poor joke.
That’s it. Long article I know. And I also know I will get a ton of abuse from people on this one. To anyone who is a psychic or medium, I’m sorry. Not because I apologize, I’m just really sorry you’ve taken that ridiculous avenue in life. Stop deluding people and get a real job.