Down the street from me there’s a psychic storefront. It’s the kind of thing you pass so routinely it eventually becomes invisible. But the other day, I was meandering down the block, eating an ice cream cone, and something about it caught my eye.
There’s a banner above the store that reads: “Clairvoyant.” Beneath this, along the awning, it says, “Tarot Reader” and “Spiritual Advisor.” And then there’s a big neon sign in the window that declares, “PSYCHIC.”
And then I noticed there’s a little sign by the door that says, "Please Ring Bell."
Anyway, lots of psychic stuff in the news these days it seems, and I suppose the psychics among us already know that. As for the rest of us quintasensory types, here now, the news:
Last week I reported that Rose Marks was convicted on all 14 counts of her prosecution for mail fraud and other charges related to her and her family psychic operations. She won’t be sentenced until December, but her eight relatives who previously copped pleas are due to be sentenced in the interim, and this past week, three family members were issued their sentences by the judge, in some instances even more substantially than had been asked for by the prosecution.
Rose Marks’s two sons, Michael and Ricky, were each sentenced to periods of house arrest and parole, based on evidence that they are both trying to change their lives with education and legitimate employment. Ricky’s daughter, Vivian (Rose’s granddaughter and at 23 the youngest of the clan) was sentenced to four months in federal prison, in addition to subsequent house arrest and probation, rather than six months in a federal halfway house recommended by prosecutors.
Maybe Vivian will get a clue before it’s too late that the family business might not be her best retirement plan. Four months of prison might provide more convincing information than gazing into her crystal ball.
More on the story here.
Meanwhile, British psychic conwoman Sylvia Mitchell was convicted on three counts of fraud and given a three-month suspended sentence due to ill health. Mitchell has been in trouble with the law going back to the 1980s, including for passing stolen checks.
In 2008, Mitchell apparently convinced a “friend” that Mitchell was suffering from cancer and was in need of financial assistance in order to obtain medical care, thereby conning her “friend” out of many thousands of pounds over a period of several years.
None of these charges has prevented her from getting television time and press attention as a psychic with a supposed list of celebrity clients.
She also managed to screw her recently hired personal assistant out of some £455 (more than $700 US) in unpaid wages, along with expenses for cat food paid for while he was cat-sitting, unaware that his employer was out of the house attempting to (unsuccessfully) flee arrest. I guess that gets you bonus points in scam school.
More on the story here.
I find it remarkable but encouraging that there are multiple stories in the news about prosecuting psychics. In New York City, storefront psychic, Sylvia Mitchell, is currently being tried on criminal charges for bilking her clients out of substantial funds, including a young British man for $10,000; a Singaporean immigrant out of $128,000; and a competitive ballroom dancer and dance instructor out of $27,000.
As with the Rose Marks case, Mitchell asked some clients to give her money that she would supposedly hold onto for a time and then return once her work of psychic “cleansing” had been completed. Only the money was never restored. And also as with the Marks family, victims were invariably seeking help at weakened times in their lives – lost jobs, lost relationships – which is just the kind of blood in the water that these psychic sharks go after once they catch a whiff.
In his opening statement at the trial, Assistant District Attorney James Bergamo declared, “Sylvia Mitchell wasn’t into cleansing spirits. She was into cleaning bank accounts.” Nice one.
And last but not least, there is Dr. Michael Persinger, a professor and neuroscience researcher who managed to get a small news item all but nowhere last week, claiming to have demonstrated telepathy under laboratory conditions. In this piece at ispectrummagazine.com, he claims, “two people separated in space but sharing the same circumcerebral (a rotating magnetic field around the head) magnetic fields can exchange information.”
Uh-huh. Turns out with a bit a research I discovered that Doc Persinger has been making this and other unsubstantiated paranormal claims since 1974. He repeats the claim in this 2009 interview here in which he claims that his research comprises “the first macro demonstration of a quantum connection or so-called quantum entanglement.”
Ever notice that when the word “quantum” comes out of anyone’s mouth other than that of a real physicist, it usually indicates the source hasn’t got the foggiest clue what it means? (In alternate cases, it may simply indicate the speaker is full of shit.)
I’ll be waiting here while Dr. Persinger actually provides some rigorous, double-blinded, replicable substantiation for his claims – he’s had 39 years since his first pronouncements on the subject, you’d think he’d have come up with a replicable demonstration in that time – or steps forward to apply for the Million Dollar Challenge.
But I’m not holding my breath.
Jamy Ian Swiss is Senior Fellow at the JREF. He blogs regularly at randi.org