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Jun 09 2014

Shocker: Long Island Medium a Fraud

I’m sure this will come as a huge shock, but it appears that Teresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium, might actually be a fraud. Radar Online has a report on some of the fans who went to her shows coming away disappointed and skeptical that she might not be telling the truth about her magical powers.

“Theresa is like a vulture preying on the most vulnerable,” investigator Ron Tebo, the creator of fraud whistleblower website SciFake.com, tells Radar. “I think it’s despicable.”

Tebo, who says he has been privately speaking with Caputo’s clients and associates for more than a year, claims the reality star employs old-school psychic techniques such as cold reading— or analyzing someone’s body language, clothes, speech and other initial impressions to make a high-probability guess about a subject— and shotgunning —or asking a large audience a vague question for a greater chance of a positive response.

“She schmoozes with the audience, and wins them over with her big hair, designer shoes and comedy. When they trust her, she goes in for the kill,” Tebo explains. “She’ll ask the group a question like, ‘Who lost an older male relative to heart problems?’ It’s the oldest trick in the medium’s book.”

This should be the most obvious thing that should convince everyone that all of these people are frauds. If they truly talk to the dead, why can’t the “spirits” just tell them their name? Why do they only give them letters, and always the most commonly used letters?

14 comments

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  1. 1
    Marcus Ranum

    An important point to make to non-skeptics when this kind of issue comes up: it is not possible to use techniques like cold reading and shotgunning without knowing, yourself, that you’re a fake.

  2. 2
    Trebuchet

    Her hair is a fraud too.

  3. 3
    Johnny Vector

    Marcus, that is not true. Confirmation bias works as well on the reader as it does on the readee. Look at how many dowsers applied for Randi’s prize over the years, all completely convinced they could do it. The people who know they’re faking are very careful never to hem and haw and back out, or simply refuse the challenge.

  4. 4
    Johnny Vector

    Argh, rewrite fail.

    “…careful to always hem and haw and back out…”

  5. 5
    Reginald Selkirk

    I recommend the Full Facts Book of Cold Reading by Ian Rowland.

  6. 6
    aaronbaker

    “. . . wins them over with her big hair . . . .”

    Well, it always seemed to work for Bill Clinton.

  7. 7
    busterggi

    Sylvia Brown reincarnates!

  8. 8
    Trebuchet

    @Johnny Vector: They only fail the challenge because Randi uses his psychic powers to make them fail. Yes, some of them seriously say that.

  9. 9
    tommykey

    Sadly, I have a friend who truly believes that Caputo was able to communicate with his deceased father.

  10. 10
    anthrosciguy

    An important point to make to non-skeptics when this kind of issue comes up: it is not possible to use techniques like cold reading and shotgunning without knowing, yourself, that you’re a fake.

    As has been said, that’s not true. You can fool yourself. An example is provided by Ray Hyman, who has described how he initially thought his palm reading was genuine. Then he tested it (by telling people the opposite of what he “saw” in their palms and finding they were just as satisfied with the results as when he told them what he “saw”) and realized it was not genuine. Mind you, I think the vast majority of these “psychics” know full well they’re liars, but it is possible to genuinely fool yourself into thinking you have real psychic ability even though you’re doing cold reading etc.

  11. 11
    vmanis1

    There is the kind of confirmation bias described in Martin Gardner’s Fads and Fallacies. He applied it to Rhine experiments, but it can be applied everywhere. He imagined 100 independent experimenters who attempted to determine whether subjects can predict how a coin with fall. 50 of them get roughly 50-50 results, while the other 50 get results that are not chance results (perhaps an experimenter, not understanding probability, considers 45-55 to be some evidence of predictive powers). So the first 50 experimenters are discouraged, and give up, while the second group think they’re on to something, and continue. This repeats, leaving 25 discouraged experimenters and 25 enthusiastic ones. Eventually, you are left with one experimenter, with a subject who passed all the tests. This one has the gift!

    Once you start to believe you have the gift, then the second form of confirmation bias kicks in, where you `forget’ failures and trumpet success. Even the occasional form of cheating is rationalized as just `helping’ your natural gift along on days when it appears to have gone off by itself to a picnic.

    I’m not saying that many `gifted’ people are not cynical cheats (possibly most of the ones who make money at it are). But if luck made you think you might have a gift, there are strong psychological factors why you might keep on trying to rationalize it. The same phenomenon applies to those who feel (incorrectly) that they are romantically irresistable. And, of course, it applies to many gamblers.

    So not all mediums (media?) are cynical crooks. Some are poor, deluded fools.

  12. 12
    cjcolucci

    I don’t claim to know this for a fact, but I have read about a small number of people who are naturally empathetic and have a talent for asking the kinds of questions that cause the person questioned to give up lots of information, some of whom come to think they have non-natural abilities. What they are doing is indistinguishable from (deliberate) cold reading, but they don’t know that’s what they’re doing until it’s explained to them.

  13. 13
    Brooks Austin

    Someone should let Ellen Degeneres know and hold her accountable for how she shamelessly promotes the Long Island Medium repeatedly on her talk show.

  14. 14
    martinc

    Here’s me thinking that a Long Island Medium was something you’d order at Starbucks.

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