Posted on : Aug-20-2009 | By : maggie | In : Blog Post, skepticism
Tags: bridgewater, psychics
It’s time once again, ladies and gents, for the truth to set you free, for the dead to speak, the bones to talk and for you to peer into the spirit world and thwart its dastardly interference in your day-to-day dealings. That’s right, it’s psychic fair time in Bridgewater, MA. Or at least it was a couple of Saturdays ago and will be again the second Saturday of next month when the whole charade is played out again for the curious, gullible and/or those mired in something akin to false hope syndrome.
Throughout the year, events such as this entice people to pay a fee (the Bridgewater fair at Uplifting Connections is $1 per minute and runs for 7 hours) to sit and have someone tell you what you what they think you want to hear and, by way of some vague generalities, make you feel that they truly know the secrets to make your life better. And sometimes, to keep it mysterious and interesting, maybe giving you a little spook. For while these fairs, which resemble speed-dating more than anything, may be a recent phenomenon, the tricks of the trade have changed little from the hokey carnival mediums of old who were just as adept at taking your money.
The sponsor is, as you’d imagine, a woo-tastic ‘healing arts’ / ‘wellness’ business that offers such non-healing ‘treatments’ as reiki, shiatsu, aromatherapy, accupressure and kinesiology (see Massage Therapy: Riddled with Quackery by Dr. Stephen Barret). In addition to these, you can partake in:
- Angelic healing – “Angelic Healing Session combines Reiki, Magnified healing, IET, and Intuitive energy reading… This treatment will leave you feeling relaxed, peaceful and you will be given exactly what you need to know and hear at that time.”
- Trace mineral hair analysis – Quackery of the highest quacking. Even a well-equipped professional lab could not possibly offer the information they claim to be able to provide.
- Angel readings – “Angel Readings and Goddess Empowerment Readings. A supportive and loving journey with the Angels and Spirit Guides in your Angelic Reading.”
- And my favorite, the “Animal Communication Development Circle” – “Bring a picture and be prepared to learn interesting facts about past and present animals in your life. No prior experience necessary.” Well… past life would, necessarily, be experience, no???
- Finally, every second Saturday of the month they hold their Psychic Fair.
For those of you who haven’t heard of them, psychic fairs are im some ways like the seasonal fairs you may have participated in when you were in grade school. For fall fairs, we’d often have someone’s mom dress up as a fortune teller and gaze into a crystal (or glass or plastic) ball. Now just imagine a room full of adults doing this, in one fashion or another, and you’ve got a psychic fair. The main difference being that all the kids in my class knew Mrs. Bridgman didn’t really have psychic powers. But we probably had just as much chance of hearing our actual future through the borrowed glass ball on a card table as one does from a psychic fair reader.
If you think I’m being too harsh on these so-called ‘readers’ and mediums and self-proclaimed psychics, then please do find me one, just one, who can make specific predictions and is willing to submit to a scientific demonstration of this power where their success is greater than random chance. And by specific, I do not mean vague generalities such as those one might find in a newspaper horoscope (see Forer_effect). As it stands, many so-called psychics have been un-masked as charlatans, and none that I can find has ever proven their powers in a simple but controlled testing environment where the possibility for the use of trickery (see Cold Reading) is removed from the equation. After all, when was the last time you saw “Psychic finds murderer” or “President saved, medium pinpointed gunman’s location” — well, aside from those mysterious mysteries of the mysterious shows that play in the ‘got an hour to fill’ slots on the History Channel (I guess thousands of years of history isn’t enough to fill their schedule, so UFOs and crystal skulls it is…)
So why do so many people flock to these sorts of events? What is it that people are looking for? Quite simply put, I believe they are looking for someone to tell them things will be OK; To reassure them that life will improve or take a particular turn. We all want to be comforted and reassured when we feel things are out of our control. And a few patrons are just looking to inject some drama into their lives. A clever reader will pick up on this and deliver them a few juicy tidbits that will add some fantasy excitement to their world. But for the most part, people are looking for reassurance or a a morsel of hope that says “tomorrow will be better”. And there seems to be no end to the people who will take their money and do so, regardless of whether or not they can actually deliver such notions honestly. Morally bankrupt doesn’t begin to describe this sort of behavior.
It should be said that not all self-identified psychics are just out to make a buck (although readers at psychic fairs _are_ there to make money — the general idea is to get as many people in and out during the allotted time, each paying a fee to be there). Some genuinely believe, or want to believe, that they have a special gift. And, just like the drama-seeker above, for some this gives them the feeling that they have purpose, that they’re not ordinary but are, instead, special and unique. Some psychics are seeking exactly what their customers are: validation. A sense of worth, and a sense of future worth, is something the true believers on both sides of the table seek. It’s a very powerful and, not always rational, drive and, in some way or another, we all play into it. And some attendees are there just for the fun, the novelty of it. Others, the repeat customers, are looking for more and there’s always someone around who’ll claim they can give it to them.
Which brings us to the sharks. The charlatans who see an easy mark and won’t think twice about taking your money and telling you whatever you want to hear — harmful or not. Some rationalize that they’re just “giving people what they want”, while others are more sociopathic and just don’t care. Fleecing the public, for the latter sort, isn’t giving them what they want, but giving them “what they deserve”. A shark is all too happy for you to walk off a pier straight into their greedy maw. And when called on the carpet, the shark will shrug and point out that you walked into his mouth of your own free will. Fuggedaboutit. (BTW – Shark on the carpet = hilarious.) This sort of con artist sees you about to take that wrong step and, rather than help you, steps in for the easy, greedy meal. And, sadly, there are a lot of hurt, angry, sad, depressed, worried, nervous, etc. easily exploitable people out there willing to take that walk.
Tragically, both types of ‘psychics’ are just as dangerous. The believer or the shark are equally prone to lead their prey into dangerous waters. Or, worse, devour them uncaringly if doing so will make them more money. Only the personal motivation of the two types is different. But the outcome can be just as treacherous. People have been known to stop taking medication, to throw away all their money, to leave loved ones and… worse. And whether a believer or a charlatan is to blame does not matter in the end if the ‘advice’ you’ve received does harm to you or your family.
So if you find yourself in Bridgewater on a second Saturday and have a few bucks to blow, I’m sure you can find a better and more rewarding use for your cash. Maybe an ice cream cone. Or a donation to the Disabled American Vets. But if you do decide to give the psychic fair a whirl, record your sessions (we’d love to hear them!). And, hey, if you find a real psychic, they could win a million bucks and give your money back.
Suggested reading: Scientists put psychic’s paranormal claims to the test