Boulder Sunday Daily Camera, August 4, 2002
PSYCHICS’ CRYSTAL BALLS ARE CLOUDY
A skeptic finds his free psychic reading less than illuminating – and Boulder rather gullible
By Dean Moore
‘Aren’ t your a bit surprised that the only message that the dead seem to be able to give us is someone had a nickname of Miss Piggy? And they can only tell you, you know, I had a heart condition? … I want to hear just one of the psychics today tell me when there is going to be the next bus bombing in Tel Aviv so we can avoid going on that bus.”
– Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, on “Larry King Live,” March 6, 2001, quoted on “The Skeptics Dictionary.
Are psychic phenomena real?
I have been a skeptic most of my life. My teens saw me influenced by skeptics such as Martin Gardner and James Randi; no one in my family believed in anything beyond a liberally interpreted deity. A tolerance of religion tempers me, and I accept that much remains unknown of this strange, uncertain world.
At the 2002 Boulder Creek festival, I won a free psychic reading. Perhaps the psychics did not intuit that they had offered a free psychic reading to a confirmed skeptic, or … perhaps it was not random chance. Perhaps it was ordained. We met July 13.
Would my skepticism be compromised? Would they divine something beyond the stock cold-reading scam for which psychics are infamous, for which I was prepared, or something more notable than my childhood nickname? Foreknowledge that could have prevented Boulder’s July 19 Wonderland Lake fire, of which I learned on July 19?
There were five readers. The reading lasted about an hour, which they kindly taped. All quotes are verbatim.
They began by looking at my energy, epitomized as the physical description of a rose. Descriptions varied, but I have potential to “open up further.” My rose stem “curves in several different directions,” thus my life has taken “several different distinct turns.” There are “a lot of new things on the horizon” for me. New adventures.
I decided to tell my fiancée that we could postpone my life insurance for awhile – I still have time to live.
My past lives were quite interesting. In one I was a “religious person,” revered in my community in India, ultimately shamed by abusing my power for sexual gratification. Another saw me a warrior in Africa, feeling unappreciated for my brave deeds in battle. Unfortunately, my tribe was mostly wiped out by rivals, though I survived to attain higher spiritual levels. No word on the people I killed in battle. Both relate to my current life, if which the psychics said little except it “is to be one of grace, as you approach your spiritual awareness,” and I must not be afraid to “pursue whatever spiritual path feels appropriate.”
Past lives are such fun. No one was ever boring; you were invariably an important person. I have heard of reincarnation parties where everyone who was Napoleon gathers in one room – you figure it out.
Shortly they read my auras and their colors, which were quite bright. Why didn’t they all see the same colors? I learned that there is “pressure” in my life. “Playfully being in a creative space” would be very nourishing for me. I am a spiritual being. In the beginning of relationships, I am reluctant to show who I really am. A reader saw me as an inquisitive little boy, playing knee-deep in a stream, chasing butterflies and tadpoles (which I was at one point, about the only thing they got right).
One reader saw dogs. They may be relating to me on a spiritual level. They were talking to me. My fiancée owns a dog – a “hit!”
Vague generalizations and evasions abounded, language like “may indicate,” “perhaps,” “it seems like,” “there is a possibility,” “I think that,” “there might be,” etc. I often clenched my teeth trying not to burst out laughing.
I wanted a sold apple to bite, and all they gave me was applesauce. It was all gobbledygook. When my fiancée listened, she asked how I maintained my composure. She wondered if the readers had done drugs to see my colorful auras.
At the end, there was time for questions. I asked them about the future. They told me they do not do future readings; they were looking at my current “space, though earlier they said, “there are new things on the horizon” for me (whatever that means). I’m getting married August 17, an important part of my current “space,” on the immediate “horizon,” which they missed completely.
I politely thanked them and went to a meeting of the local skeptics and freethinkers.
I have heard that psychic phenomena cannot be manifested in the presence of a skeptic, so perhaps there is an explanation, A less genteel alternative is that psychics can’t divine a thing beyond lucky random guesses.
I await the headline, “Psychic wins lottery,” or better yet, “Psychic gives crucial information to prevent terrorist attack.” One may always dream.
The experience left me with three conclusions:
1) There remains no evidence of psychic phenomena, despite frauds like Edgar Cayce, Uri Geller, James van Praagh, John Edward, the (probably fictional) Mother Shipton – the list goes on. Astrology, the Bermuda Triangle, the “You only use 10 percent of your brain” myth, Nostradamus, Atlantis – same story.
2) If (I stress that word) the paranormal exists, it is a small needle in a haystack of lies.
3) There are a lot of gullible people in Boulder.
Dean Moore in a local resident and member of Rocky Mountain Skeptics. He is often found in coffee shops in western Boulder, where he happily gives free psychic readings to any and all, reasoning the values exchanged are equal.