Two weeks ago I wrote here about the 1993 “Nova” special, “Secrets of the Psychics,” and about its relevance to the current trial of “psychic” fortuneteller Rosa Marks, still under way in South Florida. Last week the prosecution brought their star witness to the stand, romance novelist Jude Devereaux, who has written more than 60 novels, at least half of which have become worldwide bestsellers. Of the $25 million that prosecutors are claiming Marks and her personal mafia of storefront psychics scammed from various clients who are testifying in the course of the trial, it is estimated that $17 million of that total came from one sole victim: Jude Devereaux.
Devereaux took the stand for three days of testimony and may be called again. Under oath she recounted how when she walked into her first visit with a woman she came to know as “Joyce Michaels” (actually Rosa Marks), she did not believe in psychic powers, but was in need of a comforting and sympathetic ear. Over time, however, Marks managed to convince Devereaux of her psychic abilities, making a case that some of her predictions had been correct. Meanwhile, Devereaux was in the midst of a painful and contentious divorce, about which the psychic advised her.
Many victims have testified that the psychic’s strategy was not only to charge substantial fees, but also to convince victims to loan her large quantities of money and valuables which the psychic would then promise to hold for a period of time while she “cleansed” them of evil curses and vibrations, after which the riches would be returned to the rightful owner. Trouble is, nothing was ever returned. In Devereaux’s case, after an initial fee of $1200, Marks eventually got the wealthy writer to “loan” her a million dollars in cash, which she promised could be returned any time it was asked for. But the author would never see her money again.
In addition to Devereaux’s debilitating divorce, she also suffered the tragic loss of her eight-year-old son in an ATV accident. Such events are the doorways through which predators like Marks are masterful at marching through, rendering a weakened person eventually helpless and dependant, and virtually taking over a victim’s life.
Is there a more heinous moral crime than preying on a parent’s grief over the loss of a child? I once saw talk-to-the-dead medium John Edward confront a mother who had lost a young son. The woman, uncertain of what she was feeling and not convinced she was or even could be in touch with a dead spirit, told Edward that sometimes she would enter a room and feel a strange sensation. “Is that him?” she asked?
Of course a grief counselor, or anyone who sincerely desired to help this woman eventually shoulder the reality of her tragic circumstance and yet somehow eventually find a way to move forward with her own meaningful life, would have told her, no, that is not him, your child is dead, but it may be your understandable desire to try to imagine that he is still somehow with you. He is with you, however, only in your memories, and these are what you must turn to in your grief, and treasure, and carry with you as you eventually take hold of your own life to live.
But instead, John Edward, inhuman predator, jumped at the momentary opportunity to take advantage of the woman’s grief. “Yes! That is him!” he assured her. And further, he insisted that whenever she feels that sensation she most focus on it, attend to it, and reach out to the spirit of her dead son.
And thus a terribly vulnerable and wounded person was further entrapped in her grief by a self-aggrandizing, manipulative profiteer. Instead of being supported and encouraged to regain control of her life, she was being frozen into her grieving state, her precious genuine memories being polluted by artificial ones.
At least natural predators in the animal kingdom tend to kill their victims swiftly. Inhuman predators like Rosa Marks and her ilk think nothing of slowly bleeding a victim for twenty years if they can manage it. Like a true grief vampire, they would prefer to keep their victim debilitated and helpless, the better to provide a long-term source of blood and sorrow.
Marks also convinced Devereaux that her clients included Colin Powell and Brad Pitt, and duped Devereaux into thinking she was engaged in a long-running potentially romantic correspondence with Powell over a period of four years. It probably takes a vivid imagination to write romance fiction, and Marks knew how to prey on that feature of Devereaux’s vulnerable personality. A woman in Marks’s employ testified that she typed up the phony letters that Marks dictated to her, allegedly from Powell. Marks had Devereaux convinced for a time that in a fantastical scenario, Powell was destined to become Vice-President of the U.S., and Devereaux would eventually become his wife.
It is a terrible and tragic story. And it is easy to blame the victims for their credulity, rather than the victimizers for their unrestrained cupidity. Devereaux was willing to pay at first for what seemed like a friendly ear, then a knowing one, along with the profound relief provided by bold assurances for a “peaceful divorce,” and that she could be spiritually “reunited” with her dead child. A person can desire such relief every bit as much as the dying wish to live. It is a shame that the court ruled against the presentation of testimony by any expert witness to explain the psychological and emotional weaponry that these deadly predators use to destroy their victims financially and take control of their thinking and behavior. Despite being denied access to these critically important insights, I hope the jury sees fit to lock Rosa Marks away for a long time. One thing I can be sure of: It won’t be long enough for my tastes.
Jamy Ian Swiss is Senior Fellow at the JREF. He blogs regularly at randi.org.
Here are several news accounts of the testimony of Jude Devereaux: