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Psychic fails to predict her utter failure

This isn’t surprising, but it is an excellent example of what not to do if you’re trying to win fame and fortune as a psychic. It should hopefully serve as an object lesson for why one needs to consider the simpler solution when someone claims special knowledge, but honestly, I don’t expect it will change anyone’s mind — some people appear to be hard-wired to simply accept special claims uncritically.

A woman visited a rural farmhouse in Houston, Texas, and evidently smelled something foul and decomposing, and spotted a bunch of blood on the porch. She made the conclusion that the residents were mass-murderers and reported a tip to police that via her psychic powers, she’d determined that there were dozens of chopped-up bodies buried nearby. Turns out the blood was from the family’s daughter’s boyfriend having attempted suicide, and the smell from a freezer that’d failed allowing the meat within to go rotten.

So not only was the tip unhelpful, it was all a waste of time and energy. “There’s no validity to the report,” one law enforcement official confirmed.
[…]
Police must follow up on all credible tips about crimes, including those from dubious sources. They routinely deal with liars, hoaxers, jailhouse informants with dubious motives, people with drug habits and mental illnesses, and so on.

Police cannot simply ignore a lead or tip even if it comes from a psychic — after all, just because a person claims to be psychic doesn’t mean that he or she is not involved in a crime. Suspects in criminal cases who have inside knowledge of crimes sometimes try to pretend that the information they have came from psychics.

I don’t suspect this particular “psychic” was involved in any of the events that transpired at the homestead, mostly because she was so spectacularly wrong on everything. I suspect this woman saw these few clues and via her superpower of overactive imagination, lept to a conclusion that did not follow from the evidence.

I can probably also ascribe a motive to her — psychics are big money. A really good pretender could earn a hundred thousand bucks for four hours “work”. All you need is a few lucky hits under your belt (and who doesn’t make wild predictions that occasionally come true?), and a shameless PR engine at your back, and you too could be on the path to insane riches by claiming to have special knowledge about how this universe works.

This particular story has the happy ending that not a single person was murdered at this ranch, and this so-called psychic failed miserably to springboard a lucky guess into a profitable career of lying to and/or cold-reading people. But even if she was absolutely correct on all the details, with the number of people in this world and the number of them that have made at least a few guesses about wildly improbable events, is it any sort of surprise that people will get one or even a few of these wildly improbable guesses totally and completely correct?

If you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras. If you hear a psychic prediction, think “prior knowledge” not “special knowledge”.

Update: Hilarious. Reuters reported “Up to 30 Bodies Found Near Houston, Some Children”. Then corrected themselves. Meaning they reported, uncritically, exactly what the psychic claimed.

Comments

  1. Daniel M. says

    I worked in retail when I was younger and a customer told me she was a full-time psychic. I looked at her with disregard and continued on with helping her. She asked me if I wanted a preview and I told her no. She decided that I should hear what she had to say so that I can have a full session with her. So without my permission, she continued to “read me.” This was her message:

    “You were in love once, but you got hurt.”

    I looked at her, ready to just ignore it, but suddenly I felt an urge to slam her. So I looked up and said…

    “Me and everyone else in the world…”

    She walked out.

    Haha.

  2. says

    That’s about as close to a Barnum statement as I’ve ever heard someone honestly make. Weird.

    Here, let me cold read you:

    “You’re mostly quiet and reserved, but given the right opportunity, you can be the life of the party.”

  3. says

    @Jason, “I see you are very sensitive to the energies around you….”

    Reminds me of this one a while back from Skeptico: http://bit.ly/dpkyEg

    Psychic makes predictions about an abducted child, without realizing that he had in fact been talking to the abductors themselves. Fail doesn’t get much epic-er.

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