Psychic parasites (13/11/2004)
One of my local television stations is running an occasional series with the title Sensing Murder. The format is to take an unsolved murder and then get some psychics to try to find some clues that the police have missed. (To make it even more offensive to me they are running the next episode in the time slot usually reserved for Law & Order, although the silver lining is that I can watch the final episode of The Practice on another channel without having to record anything for later.) I have only seen one episode of this travesty, and apparently what they do is to take a big group of psychics and test them in some unspecified way to find the best two. These two are then asked to think long and hard about what might have happened, and they are then driven around until they find familiar places and can tell the stories about what they sense there. Of the two psychics on the show I saw, one was really impressive in the sorts of things he was able to come up with.
The narrator of the show made a big point about how these people were describing scenes and people that they could not possibly have known anything about beforehand. What the narrator forgot to say next was "unless they had read The Age newspaper of February 6 this year", because if they had read that paper they would have seen that this particular missing person case was quite famous. The article in the newspaper even included a lot of the details that the psychics "discovered". Apologists for the show and for psychics would probably say that it was a long time between February and September when the show went to air, but anyone who has ever had anything to do with documentary making for television knows that you can spend a lot of weeks to get an hour's television.
I think that psychic detectives are one of the vilest forms of the creatures who use pseudoscience and witchcraft to deceive desperate people. They arrive on the scene when families are worried about or grieving for their loved ones and they offer nothing but disruption and delay when the police are working in the most critical period after a crime. As if that is not enough, they keep coming back to remind people of their loss. And then along come the scumbags like John Edward to make things worse, but that is another story.
In one of those remarkable coincidences, a lawyer in the episode of The Practice which ran against Sensing Murder said something like "further victimising the victim is one of the grossest crimes there is". She could have been talking about what was going on two places along the dial. Perhaps the writers of that episode were psychic.
The following passage is a quotation from John Tate, whose daughter Genette disappeared 25 years ago and has never been found. It says all that has to be said about these crooks who exploit grief. The quotation was originally in the 1986 book Investigating the Unexplained by Melvin Harris, but I saw it in by my friend Lynne Kelly.
Many people came to us offering threads of hope. We clutched at them desperately in the early days. But the promises of the psychics were all lies. They raised false hopes in us. At times we really believed we were onto something. The suggestions and ideas preyed on our minds. But always, when it came to the crunch, the so-called leads and ideas led absolutely nowhere but into a pit of despair …
We soon found that the psychics who came up our garden path were "foot-in-the-door" types who, once they had wormed their way in, were very reluctant to leave again. They were strong characters who were not afraid to assert themselves. They rode rough-shod over our feelings, which were in a desperate state already. In one week, our emotions and normal grip on life had gone through a wrenching upheaval, and the influence of psychics started to have an unpleasant effect. Even when we didn't want them they were there, on our doorstep, always expecting to be met with an open door …
We discovered that the work of the psychics was not just ludicrous and laughable. It was sinister and evil. Once we got into that web of deceit – and that is what it was – we found it very hard to struggle free. None of it ever led anywhere except to despair and disappointment, misery and confusion. We had become enslaved to the suggestions of the psychics.
In November 2004 I wrote about the sleazy way that psychics try to infiltrate themselves into hunts for missing people. At the time I said "I think that psychic detectives are one of the vilest forms of the creatures who use pseudoscience and witchcraft to deceive desperate people" and little has happened since to make me change my mind. Reader Geoff Rogers has notified me of another example of the despicable behaviour of these parasites. Following the disappearance of his daughter in 1996 (a suspected victim of a serial killer), Don Spiers was assaulted by about 400 psychics and clairvoyants pretending to be able to help, usually in exchange for money. These relentless attacks added to the psychological effects of losing his daughter without explanation and eventually drove him into depression deep enough to trigger self-destructive behaviour. Mr Spiers asked the following question: "I can't understand why anyone would do this to someone in my situation. Why would they want to make it worse for me?" The simple answer is because they can and because they don't care about him, only about money and publicity.