Michael Wilson has a fascinating article in which he examines the transcripts of psychics testifying before the parole boards where they come clean and admit that they are running scams. What was interesting in the article is that it seems like there is no shortage of people willing to give them huge sums of money. He cites the case of Celia Mitchell.
Celia Mitchell, 38, was pointedly asked that exact question last year: “What is the psychic business? Is it real, or a bunch of baloney?”
She answered, “It’s a scam, sir.”
“The whole thing is a scam?”
Ms. Mitchell would know. She herself was a psychic. But after making a living portraying herself as a vessel of supernatural powers, she was coming clean.
She worked out of shops on Ninth Avenue in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan. In 2009, Ms. Mitchell told a client that a dark spirit was keeping happiness at bay. She asked the client for an $11,450 Rolex watch and a lot of candles and cash to clean the spirits. In all, the client paid her $159,205, according to a criminal complaint.
Another psychic got $713,975 from a marketing professional by promising to reunite him with a woman he loved. He paid her even after the man discovered that the woman had died. [My italics-MS]
Mitchell was asked if there were any legitimate psychics out there and replied, “If they are taking your money, they are not for real.”
Of course the psychics know that the whole thing is a scam. But one has to be skeptical as to whether these confessions signal real remorse on their part. After all, what these psychics are really good at is not foreseeing the future but figuring out what people want to hear and then telling it to them in a plausible manner. They may be doing the same thing to the parole board in order to get out early.
Digital Cuttlefish has more on this story, where it is pointed out that there is a temptation to think that it serves the victims right for being so foolish and that their losses can be viewed as merely a tax on the gullible. But while some of the victims of these scams may not have lost large sums of money on an absolute scale, what they lost may cause them much greater hardship than those who could afford to squander thousands. Yes, they should not have been so gullible but it is wrong to take advantage of people’s gullibility.