The US is a great country in which to be a conman

If I were a conman, the US is definitely the country in which to try my luck. It has plenty of gullible and fearful people who have lots of disposable income and are easy prey for any smooth-talking huckster. The only question is what kind of scam one should pull. Religion is of course an obvious one. It does not have to be even Christian which is a crowded field. You can claim to be some kind of vaguely spiritual eastern mystic, something that appeals to a certain kind of disenchanted person.

But with my science background, what I think I would be good at is persuading people about the existence of the paranormal. I would be able to lace my spiel with enough real science to make it plausible for the rubes. I would be better at churning out this kind of rubbish than Deepak Chopra. There are enough reports of strange phenomena to serve as my basic source material. Who knows, I may even manage to become as successful as supposed psychic Lorraine Warren and her husband, the former who just died at the age of 92.

Satanic Panic and the hauntings and possessions that the Warrens dealt with (all conveniently located in their own New England backyard) mostly occurred in the ’70s and ’80s, when fears of the occult and devil worship bubbled onto the national scene as never before. The Warrens, devout Catholics, decided to hop on the pentagram bandwagon (the Catholic church does, after all, acknowledge demonic possession). Where there was a knock, a smell, a draft, or a person possessed, the Warrens stood as consultants to predominantly Catholic families who were suffering from household demons. Sometimes they only had to show up and talk into empty rooms where angry spirits dwelled, dust off their hands, and leave. Other times, they had to be more hands-on.

The Warrens hit the lecture circuit, wrote books, consulted on films, sold stories to studios and showed up for all the paranormal reality shows. They were rolling in dough, so if you had a haunting, they wouldn’t charge you to look at it.

Nice work, if you can get it.


  1. blf says

    You mean quantum physics is for real? It has all the makings of an elaborate scam: Weird mumble-jumble, confused cats in a box, zen-like proclamations from famous names, and supposedly-billion dollar machines… All you have to do is look at a few dials at CERN, and then sneak out the back way with a suitcase full of cash (obviously stored in the vault occupying the tiny part of the so-called LHC “tunnel” that actually was built)…

  2. jrkrideau says

    @ 1 blf
    Of course quantum physics is not real. It is something Deepak Chopra invented after he decided he was not making enough money from Scientology.

    For a non-physicist such as me, there was an interesting program (BBC ?) on the radio the other night about quantum gravity and quantum time but I cannot locate it.

    Quantum gravity is extremely weird so Mano should be able to make a (figurative) killing.

    BTW re the Warrens.
    The “devout Catholics” line seems to mean that they conned people there too.

    The Church does acknowledge demonic possession but I believe they frown upon do-it-yourself exorcisms. They may be nuts in some ways but they have rules. They even have formal training for exorcists—the mind boggles but they do.

    In most of what Mano describes as the Warrens’ cases the Church would be more likely to call in a psychiatrist or a building inspector than a exorcist.

  3. jrkrideau says

    As an aside, the Satanic Panic was massive and destructive, up there with the damn “repressed memory” panic.
    A somewhat cynical colleague of mine asked in the early 1990’s, where are the five million bodies?

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