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Britain's Psychic Challenge
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Britain's Psychic Guesswork
Britain's Psychic Challenge

After the pilot programme in December 2005 the actual series proper began on Sunday 15th January 2006 (Channel Five). The format has changed a little but the tests themselves are clearly designed to be good television rather than an effective examination of claimed psychic abilities. There is a thin veneer of science crudely smeared over the cracks to try to make this appear more credible.

This can only work in the psychic claimant's favour.

 

The website
The Programme
The Psychics
The Tests
Programme 1
Programme 2
Programme 3
Programme 4
Programme 5
Programme 6 - The Final


The website.
In a section called ‘facts and theories’ we have an attempt to sound scientific. I say “attempt” because along with comments about animals not dying in the tsunami we have the old chestnut, “we only use 10% of our brains”. A quick point on the 10% nonsense before we continue. One of the references cited for this momentous research was “Uri Geller’s Mind-Power Book”. They might as well have quoted Harry Potter.

There’s little point in spending time explaining either the 10% brain of tsunami avoiding critters here so for those interested in exploring the facts rather than perpetuating myth I refer you to two excellent articles by Benjamin Radford which I have linked at the bottom of the page.

But in case you don’t read the full article I can’t resist a quote from Radford’s article about the 10% myth;

Have you ever heard a doctor say, ". . . But luckily when that bullet entered his skull, it only damaged the 90 percent of his brain he didn't use"?.

Priceless!

The rest of the ‘theories’ are just padding and offer no evidence for psychic powers at all. In fact I’m not sure why they ever get mentioned. They say. “While some scientists discount the existence of a sixth sense for danger, new research from Washington University in St. Louis has identified a brain region.” And? The sentence implies that if you carry on reading it will say something like, “and they believe this to be the source of all psychic power.” But it doesn’t. In fact it seems to have no relevance at all.

The whole thing is a mish-mash of half-truths, mixed with a few maybes held together by a dollop of psuedoscience.


The Programme
There are a total of eight psychics* who are to be put through a series of weekly tests. Strangely it would appear that they don’t actually have to pass any tests at all. Each week a jury decides who was the best performer and who was the worst, the latter being eliminated. Presumably this means we will end up with someone at the end who is crowned as ‘Britain’s top psychic' or something, even though they may have done nothing at all.


The ‘Psychics’
We are told that around 2,000 people were tested, a number eventually whittled down to the final eight. It’s a bit odd then that three of them were in the pilot episode last December. Did they do all the tests as well?

Part of this procedure involved being interviewed by Norwegian ‘psychic’ Deborah Borgen. I can’t begin to work out the rationale behind this. The host Trisha Goddard asks the question, “Are psychic powers real or is it all in the mind?” If this is yet to be established what expertise is Ms Borgen bringing to the selection process?

Of course no psychic worth their salt could fail to point out how close-minded people are, well at least those who doubt their wonderful abilities. So it was interesting that when they all met Mentalist entertainer Philip Escoffey one of their number, Dennis Binks, says to Philip, “There is the saying that to an unbeliever all they need is proof, to a skeptic no proof is enough.” A curious comment because later, during the tests, Dennis piles failure upon failure but his faith is never so much as dented. Perhaps a new saying is needed, “A skeptic looks for proof but to a psychic everything is proof.” I honestly don’t know why but I quite liked Dennis.


The Tests
These had a curate’s egg quality about them but considering this is TV they were better than I hoped - in parts.

That said, I think a few general comments wouldn’t go amiss. There seems to be no attempt to find out what it is the psychics claim they can do and to design experiments based on that claim. The assumption seems to be that if you’re “psychic” you can do anything that is, well… ‘psychic’.

Another point is that at least some of the tests are not truly blinded, both Chris French and Philip Escoffey know the correct answers and are present during the tests. Speaking of which, Chris has much expertise in this area and Philip knows about all the various ways of cheating, so why is it that neither was asked to come up with the tests? Who in fact did design them and what qualified them to do so? My guess is the production team. They obviously believe their combined experience of working in the media fully equips them for the task.

To stand a chance of Trisha’s stated goal of determining if psychic powers are real or not they need to determine exactly what each psychic claims to be able to do, with what accuracy and under what conditions. One thing that seems to be missing is an objective measure, stated in advance, of whether the psychics have been successful or not. Some tests are objective but if we take the ‘Great Expectations’ test (see below) as an example, although they come out with a definite score it is not made explicitly clear whether the psychic has passed or failed. They just imply that the psychic performed either well or poorly. If this was done correctly there would be no need to have a ‘jury’ to decide who stays and who goes.


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Programme 1
Test #1: “Great Expectations”
A room has ten women two of whom are in the early stages (9 weeks and 16 weeks) of pregnancy. The test is to identify the two pregnant women.

As the psychics performed no better than chance (students achieved identical scores) I take it that all of them failed. There were the inevitable excuses. Open-minded Dennis said he completed the task too quickly and others tried to rescue a bad situation by claiming that the women would be pregnant soon. Even if this turns out to be the case this was not the criteria on which the test would be judged and is therefore irrelevant.

During Amanda Jayne Hart’s turn the voice over tells us, “Then an extraordinary moment that takes everyone by surprise.” For a minute I thought she was going to levitate. In fact it was simply that as she placed her hand near one woman (Debbie, who wasn’t pregnant) and said that she could feel her heart pounding. This was nothing to do with the test, was not with a pregnant woman and was not ‘”extraordinary” in the least. I suggest it was an attempt to make us think something psychic was going on even if in fact nothing was. I can imagine the director, beginning to despair and desperate to salvage something, resorted to some very generous editing. I can’t altogether blame them. At the end Trisha fudged the scores by declaring them as “mixed results”. The results were not “mixed”, they all failed.

Test #2: Matching married couples.
The basis of the test was to match 5 husbands to their 5 wives. It is by no means clear what ability this was testing. If it was telepathy then there are far better ways of going about it. If it was by mediumship then again this was a strange choice of test. I am honestly unclear as to what this was meant to prove. However this was to be the one test where one of the psychics actually did rather well.

The possible outcomes are 0/5 (achieved by open-minded Dennis) 1/5, 2/5, 3/5, and 5/5 (you can’t get 4/5). The odds of getting 5 out of 5 correct are 120 to 1 and this was achieved by Diane Lazarus. I concede this was an impressive result, but why only 5 couples? This means even 100% success doesn’t prove very much. It certainly isn’t enough to start rewriting current scientific theory (by which I mean real science not 10% brain nonsense). If it had been 6 couples the odds would have shot up to 720 to 1.

In a segment where the 3 sceptics (I make it 2, but hey who’s counting) meet to discuss events thus far it was correctly pointed out by Philip Escoffey that staff serving drinks, etc. mingled freely between the couples and the psychics. This does give the possibility of an off hand comment or worse still deliberate cheating, thus stacking the deck somewhat. I don’t say this is what happened but those controlling such conditions owe it to the psychics to prevent even the possibility otherwise people like me will harp on about it. Even finding information on one couple reduces the odds to a mere 1 in 24. Jackie Malton’s contribution was, “…logic never, doesn’t apply to… with, for this kind of… you know the scientific approach. Um something about energies, you know we can’t quantify it, nobody will ever, ever be able to quantify it.

So what do we do then? Perhaps we could just get Deborah Borgen to pick the winner and save everyone a lot of time.

Assuming no cheating or accidental information leakage happened we are left with the possibility that she just guessed correctly. Okay fair enough, but as I say I’m not sure what psychic ability this is supposed to support. If she is just ‘generally psychic’ in some way then I would have expected her to be similarly outstanding in the other tests. She wasn’t. But there is another difficulty in that if she redid the test say 3 times what would be a fair score? We know it is possible to guess 3/5 as this was achieved by both Lisa Moore (non-psychic) and Amanda Jayne Hart (psychic) so I submit that 3 out of 5 is not outstanding. The other problem is that there are additional clues that might narrow things down a bit such as height and age. If there is a psychic talent that enables them to match things up perhaps we should try pet owners. Have women all of a similar age who own black cats and match them up. But let’s make it 8 owners, the odds of getting 8 right is (by my estimation) 1 in 40,320. This would at least reduce the possibility of dumb luck.

Test #3: The Eagle
This was the dumbest, loosest test of them all. Each psychic was taken blindfolded to a pub called “The Eagle”. This pub has a long history but during WWII it was frequented by British and US Servicemen who used candles and cigarette lighters to burn their names and other details into the pub's ceiling.

Here’s the psychic’s task, as stated by the narrator;

… .but will our 8 psychic contenders be able to decipher exactly what happened in this room all those years ago.

This is a little vague but I suggest key phrase is, “exactly what happened in this room”. Now we’ve just learned that servicemen came to let their hair down and burn information on the ceiling. I take this as being relevant to the task at hand.

Each was given a photo of Lt. Col. James Harlow (known to have drank Bombardier's Wings in the pub) sealed in an envelope (a little redundant if the blindfold works) and, wrapped only in tissue paper, his solid silver Bombardier’s wings. Yes you read that correctly, tissue paper! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

It strikes me as no coincidence that the least sceptical of our invigilators, Jackie Malton, was allotted this task. I have a feeling both Chris and Philip would have tightened things up considerably. Still Jackie also had the services of air force historian Clive Stevens.

Now as this is largely and exercise in cold reading you might imagine that someone would tally up everything that was said, both hits and misses. You might think that but you’d be wrong.

Despite the evidence of previously scoring zero Dennis eventually manages to come up with the name “James” and a military connection, the latter snippet of information no doubt thanks to the tissue wrapped wings. Thus his faith in his psychic ability was fully restored. Dennis was over the moon. Pardon me if I don’t share his enthusiasm. He tells us sceptics we can run but we can’t hide. I don’t intend doing either. Which ever way you cut it Dennis did not tell us anything about the pub, “all those years ago.

We have no way of knowing how long he talked for and what more he said. Still probably not important eh?

Diane’s ‘matching people up’ ability did her no good on this test and neither did her mediumship skills. The star turn this time was Amanda Jayne Hart.

As Amanda held the 'wings' she mentioned a “military uniform”, “American Servicemen”, “Strange Presence” a “war time air crash”. She talked of an aeroplane crashing into the ground.

All this was too much for air force historian Clive Stevens who was visibly moved by what he was hearing. He started to cry.

Taking off her blindfold Amanda looks at Clive and with a slight air of drama says, “Oh gosh, you’re the man.” But presumably not the WWII pilot who crashed. “Is it something to do with a brother? She asks.

Not my brother, his" (referring to James Harlow).

James tells us that this convinces him completely. Alas it doesn't convince me..

1. The aim of the test clearly stated, “to decipher exactly what happened in this room all those years ago.” I feel safe in assuming the plane did not crash into the pub.

2. We don’t know if James Harlow’s brother ever drank at the pub.

3. When she took off the blindfold Clive was probably still crying or at least visibly moved. It was therefore obvious that he had some connection. “You’re the man” conveys nothing.

Once more the Director dresses up inaccuracy so as to appear something more.

I score all of them zero.

The Jury
This is my assessment based purely on performance criteria. The only person who achieved anything of significance was Diane Lazarus. The test was not as tight as it could have been but that wasn’t her fault.

The jury agreed but rather than dismiss the other seven as psychically inept they can only dismiss one of them. Arbitrarily Soliera Green gets the boot which she takes with good grace.

Psychic powers are not decided by voting.

Next week the remaining 7 continue their quest to be the last man or woman standing. Whoever succeeds has a glittering career ahead.


Programme 2
I have spent far too much of my time analysing this programme and although I feel it has been worth the effort I don’t intend to continue every week, at least not in this detail. What I have seen and learnt to date has lead me to the view that the show has a heavy bias towards the psychic hypothesis.

Despite a determined attempt to give an air of impartiality there are simply too many loopholes to make this a credible investigation into claimed psychic powers. The only two people in the show capable of actually conducting a fair series of tests are Professor Chris French and magician Philip Escoffey. Chris has much experience in this field and Philip has shown himself to be extremely capable. Had either of these two been involved in the actual test design I would not have a problem. However even listening to the voiceover shows a determined effort to portray the psychics in the most sympathetic way.

So far the psychics are performing so badly that they are in danger of looking ridiculous and this is surely not an acceptable outcome for the producers. But what Townhouse TV probably realise is that the eventual winner must put in a credible performance and this, in my view, produces an unacceptable conflict of interest. Even at this stage I am prepared to make the somewhat rash prediction that Diane Lazarus will emerge as the victor but as I do not pretend to possess psychic powers I could of course be completely wrong.

In embarking on this series Townhouse TV had a problem. If they subjected their would-be psychics to properly controlled tests they must have realised that the chances they would all score a big fat zero were high and so getting beyond even the pilot programme would have been difficult. As for another series, well that would have been out of the question. So a solution was needed but a careful balance had to be achieved: If it was made too easy it would be slammed. Their task was what Tony Blair might call a ‘high-wire act’.

The solution;

  1. The tests should not be designed by experienced sceptics.
  2. Tests involving an objective score must be fairly low probability.
  3. Some tests must be entirely subjective so that pass or failure is unclear.
  4. The protocol should not be too tight.
  5. Judging should be done by people without specialised knowledge.
  6. Programme construction should be such that someone will be the overall winner even if they are not remotely psychic.

Why not get Chris French to design the tests?
Why not get sceptics to run the tests as opposed to merely invigilating?
Why not have tests that are clearly defined as pass or fail?
Why have such sloppy test conditions?
Why would none of the psychics on the programme take the JREF Challenge and win a million US dollars?

It is becoming clear that the two sceptics are unimpressed by what they have seen so far and I wonder how this is going down with those inclined to believe in psychics and the paranormal? The “closed-mind sceptics” mantra will no doubt be repeated in living rooms across the land but I believe the British public as a whole are a lot sharper than that, it’s just that most of them will not be watching.

This week offered the usual mixed bag of tests and Jackie Malton trotted out some amazing statements. I have also discovered a few things the viewer may be unaware of and which seriously compromise the tests. Read on.

Test #1
The task required was basically to identify an ex-criminal from a group of six men. From this we can work out that each psychic had a 1 in 6 chance of getting it right. The task was overseen by Jackie Malton.

The test was also done by a control group of which 4 out of 10 were successful. Maybe they're psychic too?

As with last week it was interesting to hear the justifications for failure. For example Amanda lamented that she, should have gone with her gut instinct implying that this would have achieved a better result. The programme also continue its attempts to bolster the idea that something mysterious is happening even when it isn’t. At one point Amanda said she felt ill and the irritating voiceover pointed out she was close to the correct person. Of course she was just as close to someone else but this is apparently not worthy of comment. Our volunteer (Simon) is now a fully reformed character and does volunteer work so should we assume Amanda can detect ex-offenders as well? What about those who get away with it, do they make her feel ill as well? If a criminal moved in next door to her would she permanently feel sick?

Anyway as it turns out only 3 were correct (Dave, Dennis and Diane). Each of course just ‘knew’ they were right. Dennis with his powers waxing to the max topped things off with a quick reading in which he said the man was now reformed and did voluntary work helping prisoners. Really? And there was me thinking this guy had only just been caught red-handed earlier that day. I imagine most criminals would prefer to keep their dark past to themselves, unless of course they are now using this experience in some positive way.

Following the test Jackie Malton tells us, “For me when it does happen it’s quite powerful. You kind of go, hmmm.” Also, in the discussion that took place afterwards, whilst Chris and Philip remained unconvinced Jackie Malton trotted out an amazing statement for an ex-police officer. Talking to Philip she says;

It’s the truth as you see it. There’s no such thing as truth. My truth is my truth, your truth is your truth, and that’s about you and your relationship with your soul.”

I can honestly say that if DCI Malton had brought me to justice I would now be putting in for an appeal. Yes I was guilty in her truth, but my truth said I was at home watching TV.

I bet Townhouse TV wish they had three Jackies.

Other criticisms.
Not blinded and by using people as the subject of the test not possible to blind. Only a 1 in 6 chance. Extra readings by successful psychics are irrelevant and should not be considered in the evaluation.

Test #2.
The task was to match a pair of boots to a Lincoln City footballer. There were 6 pairs in all so again we have a 1 in 6 chance of success. A control group of 10 factory workers scored a duck. As for the psychics only Anna got it correct.

The test was overseen by Chris French and they used three different footballers.

Comments: During the test the first footballer took the precaution of wearing a pair of trainers two sizes too big but the others didn’t bother so a quick peek at their feet could have helped.

But there was something else that gave an even bigger clue. Each pair Watchof boots also contained a watch and you could be forgiven for thinking that each belonged to the owner of the boots (as stated by the commentary), but they didn’t. The first watch picked up (by Mary) still had a price tag on it (see photo). It had been borrowed from a jeweller’s shop. Do you think this might have reduced the odds?

Again this test wasn’t blinded but it could have been. Apart from Chris being there, the footballers could have been present but behind a screen and therefore not aware of which boots were being considered. With odds of only 1 in 6. I would have expected people with powers greater than us mere mortals to have performed considerably better. Probably Townhouse were as well.

Test #3 (linked to test 4)
The psychics returned to prison, and were shown a stuffed Lurcher dog. Their task, as outlined by Trisha earlier, was stated as, “Can our finalists feel its energy?” Vague doesn’t come close but the voiceover firms up the task slightly by asking, “What can our contestants tell us about the story of William Clarke simply by being in the same room as his stuffed dog?”

Before we see how the psychics performed a bit of background research would be useful.

William Clarke we were told was hanged in Lincoln Castle prison for shooting and killing a gamekeeper. More precisely he shot the gamekeeper in his left leg. This took place over 100 years ago (1877).

This was taken from:
http://www.real-crime.co.uk/Murder1/docc.htm#Clark%20William

William Clark was sentenced to death at Lincoln Assizes on 8th March, for the murder of Henry Walker, a gamekeeper at Norton Disney, in February. He was arrested at Lowestoft , and at the trial two colleagues testified that they had been with him when he shot Walker dead. He was hanged by William Marwood on the 26th March 1877 in Lincoln .

For even more detail go to:
http://www.ndstory.com/murder/ndmurder.html

Another thing to consider is something about Lurchers.
This from: http://www.lurcher.org.uk/lurchers.htm

Lurchers have a reputation for being large, the typical poacher’s dog, but in truth they can be all shapes and sizes. A Lurcher is not a breed of but a type of dog, usually having a member of the Greyhound family as one of its parents. Lurchers are rarely seen outside of Great Britain and Ireland , where they originate.”

Also if you type in “Lincoln paranormal” in Google, you will find this site which, amongst other things, provides this piece of information; (See: BBC)

Lincoln Castle Guide Chris Collins shows me William Clarke's stuffed Lurcher. A very eirie thing to see looming out of the darkness as the flashlight pans around the room it is currently kept in.

William Clarke was a poacher who murdered a Game Keeper. He was caught and sentenced to death. He had a Lurcher dog which was kept at The Strugglers Pub whilst William Clarke was awaiting his execution. The dog would regularly come over to wait at Lincoln Castle until after Clarke was executed the dog pined away. The ghost of the Lurcher can still be seen late at night in the castle grounds.

The psychics did know they were travelling to Lincoln, indeed they had been filming in the prison they day before (Test #1). I understand the prison has a gift shop with details about people hanged there. Again this is a weakening of protocol. I feel the need to point out that I am not making an accusation of cheating but the production team do owe the psychics an obligation to make sure this type of allegation cannot be raised.

So how did they do?

Austin : Mumbles about a “loyal dog” and a bed. Wow!

Anna: Mentions “Gamekeeper”, & “1860”. The dog would not have been alive then.

Diane : “Royalty, 14 th Century – guarding something. Way off.

Dennis : “Hunting, biting” and “William the Conqueror”. As the guidebook says William the Conqueror built the castle.

Dave : “The person who would have been connected with this would have also had difficulty, and I feel with this leg here.” But it wasn’t anything to do with Clarke’s leg.

Amanda: Describes a white floppy hat.

Mary: It’s worth repeating the full text of what Mary said, “I can see um a river now and with the river though I’ve got a trauma. It’s as though some incident, some accident has taken place. I can see that there’s um a man that’s been injured, a gentleman that’s been injured. I’m being drawn to his leg area with some injury. Linking to the animal again somebody that connected or was in regular contact um I got hanging.

All I saw was the old fashioned hanging block. And Ireland , there’s a connection with Ireland . I’m getting like Lassie, so it must have come home. I feel like it made it’s way back.”

Now come on you’re impressed aren’t you?

Just to repeat, “What can our contestants tell us about the story of William Clark simply by being in the same room as his stuffed dog?

With the exception of Mary I’d say bugger all.

The only thing Mary said of real significance was, “…I can see that there’s um a man that’s been injured, a gentleman that’s been injured. I’m being drawn to his leg area with some injury. Linking to the animal again somebody that connected or was in regular contact um I got hanging.”

Nevertheless I’m prepared to accept this as a hit but I do have a few caveats. Overall the comments are a little light on detail and perhaps seem more relevant as they tie in with the information we’ve been told by the programme. However to be fair if you read the account in the link given above you will also notice a brook (river?) is mentioned as indeed is Ireland.

But consider what we are being asked to believe. In the account of the murder no mention is made of the dog and there is nothing to make you think that it might have been. How then did the dog acquire this knowledge and even if it did how does its preserved skin manage to convey the information?

And here’s something else you didn’t know, for this test and the next one Deborah Borgen was present and knew what tests were being carried out. I’m assuming you remember just who Deborah Borgen is? The ‘Advocate’ who having apparently already been accepted as psychic is supposed to, “act as a counterweight to the sceptical panel, encouraging and defending the contestants as appropriate.” In my opinion this fact alone makes the whole test null and void. How can you have a claimed psychic who is there to support the finalists while the tests are going on? More to the point why was this not made clear to the viewers?

In the discussion that followed Jackie Malton comes up with another classic statement. She accuses Chris and Philip thus, “You won’t believe anything because you apply logic to it.” She’s got them there.

Mary’s reading certainly impressed Jackie Malton. She quotes her as saying a man had been shot in the leg” which Philip reminds her was not said at all. An nice example of retro-fitting power of cold reading.

Test #4
This sort of ties in with the previous test but I have classified it as separate because here the scoring is at least straight forward. The aim was to determine which of 5 covered headstones belonged to the previously mentioned William Clark. The chances of guessing correctly are obviously a mere 1 in 5.

Only the men managed to get the right answer, Austin, Dave and Dennis. So what?


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Test #5
This next test skirts the borders of good taste but I feel a lot of credit should go to the young man’s mother Jo. This can’t have been an easy thing for her to do.

Her son, Andrew Marcon was killed in a road traffic accident on May 4 th 1997 . He was only 23 years old. Jo Marcom was present during the tests (and as Philip later pointed out should have been witnessing this on a monitor or something).

In the first phase of this test the psychics were given a sealed envelope containing Andrew’s photo and were asked to give their impressions. When this produced little in the way of results they were each allowed to remove the photo, were told the person’s name and handed his watch. They were then told that a location nearby had “significance”. This was not made clear during the programming. Also not made clear was that the watch was clearly damaged.

The purpose of test can be gleaned from comments from Tricia, “Psychics believe that a tragic event like this produces powerful energy which may remain in objects worn at the time and may even still exist in a place where it happened. So with Jo’s help we’ve decided to put this to the test.”

Vague to say the least.

Again the voiceover makes things a little more specific, “What can they tell us about his tragic story? Can they lead us to the scene of the accident?”
They were placed halfway between the scene of the accident and Andrew’s home. If they found the spot were Andrew died then I assume this would fulfil the requirement for a successful outcome?

None led them to the scene but they did get to the home, however why would there be “Powerful energy” here? The strange thing is that all of them were driven passed the location but never picked anything up.

So the clues were;

They are in the street in a residential area.

They were given a photo of a young man and his smashed watch.

A woman (Jo) was also there to verify what they said.

This could really only be one of two things, an assault by someone or a road traffic accident.

Austin: Talks about tragic circumstances and an incident with a car. He gives the names Martin & Sally which are later made to fit.

Amanda: Got nothing but was then shown the photo and given a watch. She said she “felt he was your son” and talked about working with angels. It turns out Jo has a lot of angel figures in the house.

Mary: Sod all

Dave: Blank

Dennis: mentions a female and later (after presumably being but right on the matter of gender) asks something about whether he was good at do-it-yourself? Good grief!

Anna: “Sad & tragic, stabbed in the side (assault?) A lot of blood”

Diane: Doesn’t identify location so gives a reading instead.

Nothing I would class as a convincing demonstration of psychic ability. In fact it’s a lesson in how clues can be used (even if unconsciously) to come up with an apparent psychic reading.

But here’s another fact of which the viewing public were blissfully ignorant. Once again, present during this test was good old Deborah Borden who was fully aware of all aspects of the test. This fact alone gives it no validity at all. Perhaps Townhouse should explain this to Jo Marcon?

The Jury’s Verdict:

This week’s Star: Dave Summerton

Booted out: Amanda Jayne Hart (who ‘knew’ she had to go).

By way of interest here’s my own scoring so far.

Scores this week:

 

#1
#2
#3
#4
#5
Total
Amanda
-
-
-
-
-
0
Austin
-
-
-
+
-
1
Mary
-
-
+
-
-
1
Anna
-
+
-
-
-
1
Dave
+
-
-
+
-
2
Dennis
+
-
-
+
-
2
Diane
+
-
-
-
-
1
Odds
1/6
1/6
?
1/5
?
             
Last week
 
#1
#2
#3
Total
Amanda
-
-
-
0
Austin
-
-
-
0
Mary
-
-
-
0
Anna
-
-
-
0
Dave
-
-
-
0
Dennis
-
-
-
0
Diane
-
+
-
1
Soleira
-
-
-
0
Odds
1/45
1/120
?
         
Running total
 
#1
#2
#3
#4
#5
Total
Amanda
-
-
-
-
-
0
Austin
-
-
-
+
-
1
Mary
-
-
-
-
-
1
Anna
-
+
-
-
-
1
Dave
+
-
-
+
-
2
Dennis
+
-
-
+
-
2
Diane
+
+
-
-
-
2

Depressing isn't it.


Programme 3
What can I say? The tests are getting worse. The first test this week asked the psychics to identify three ghosts that evidently reside at The Black Swan Hotel in Helmsley.

Now I was under the impression that there was supposed to be at least a smidgen of scientific merit to these tests but the very idea that this could prove anything at all is ridiculous – whether you are a skeptic or a psychic.

The basis of the test was that the psychics had to identify the three ghosts most frequently sighted by staff and members of the public. Think about it, first of all the show is trying to discover whether psychic powers are real. Secondly, ghosts have never been proven to exist, so in essence they are asking a group of people whose powers are unproven to find something that science does not believe exists anyway. Talk about looking for a non-existent black cat in a dark room.

So from a scientific standpoint this is nonsense on stilts, but is it any better if you actually believe in psychic powers and/or ghosts? We are told that the hotel is steeped in 500 years of history and the psychics have to zoom in on three ghosts that have been reported by non-psychics. Presumably after 500 years there could be loads of them, indeed Dennis Binks seems to find plenty.

The test was completely pointless as far as testing psychic powers went.

In test number 2 they had to identify which of four people made a piece of pottery. With a 1 in 4 chance it’s virtually certain someone will be correct and sure enough Diane Lazarus and Mary White manage to get a hit, as do 4 out of 10 people picked at random from the street.

But just to blur the edges of the test the psychics are asked to tell us something about the other three non-potters. We listen to their cold reading skills which achieve varying degrees of success but as we do not know how much was said and what clues might have been around this is of little use. Mary held the pot (which had nothing to do with the other three) and gave an excellent reading to no one in particular. Were the ‘jury’ at the end of the show told about how cold reading works and given the chance to see all the footage? I doubt it somehow.

Next up in test 3 the six remaining hopefuls are asked to match 2 handbags to 2 of 10 different woman and of course they are once again invited to give a cold reading to the two women in question. None of them manage to match up bags to owners.

Lastly in test 4 our pick of the bunch psychics are taken to a pub and asked to identify what the cellar was once used for. This website gives a clue:

… The pub was once used by Cromwells Roundheads as a hospital & mortuary.

A nice, subjective test wouldn’t you say? The test is overseen by an extremely helpful Jackie. For example Dennis begins by being characteristically way off and asking (yes asking!), “Could this be anything to do with Guy Fawkes?” But then he mentions about it being “part of a hospital.” To stop him making any further mistakes, ‘skeptic to the max’ Jackie jumps in and says, “Go with it, just go with it.” And sure enough he does.

This week Dave Summerton gets the wooden spoon and once again Diane Lazarus got the golden envelope.


Programme 4
The problem with keep writing this up is that every week Townhouse TV trot out a few more badly designed tests that prove nothing (except perhaps that producers of television programmes shouldn’t test psychics) and thus there's a danger I'll keep repeating myself.

Test 1 - Hide & Seek
Someone is hidden in a large wooded area and the psychics have to use their powers to find them. Well not find them exactly but get within 15 metres, which we’re told matches the precision of the GPS satellite navigation system. They have 30 minutes to achieve this.

To test how well hidden the ‘body’ is, a bloodhound (called Homer) and ex-Sargent Major Richard Nauyokas (Bad Lads Army), are asked to find him. Homer takes 5:08 minutes and Richard 20:11.

Now you need to understand that this was not dense forest and you could see where you were going. The floor was obviously covered in brown leaves. Philip Escoffey tells each psychic that the person is hidden somewhere “forwards of this path”.

In the segments we were shown everyone just looked like they were wandering about hoping to stumble across the target.

If it was me I would be working on the assumption that they would not be hidden in the flat areas, which made up a good deal of the forest and would focus my efforts on fallen trees and bushy areas. The camouflage used was mainly green and therefore did stand out a little. That’s not to say the test was easy, after all it took Richard Nauyokas 20 minutes and he was running.

Mary went first, ran out of time and by pure chance finished within the required 15 minutes. Anna just went round in circles and Austin drew a blank. Dennis Binks didn’t actually find the person but as with Mary got with in the 15 metre area – except Dennis did it in just over 9 minutes.

Philip said he would have been more impressed if Dennis had actually found the body not just the approximate area. Diane Lazarus was about to do just that.

Diane found the person in 7:04 minutes which is pretty damn good. However I’d like to nit pick a bit.

I would prefer to move the body to a different location each time and no one who knew the location would be allowed to leave the area. Brown leaf camouflage would have been better. The test itself is not easily quantified in as much as you can simply say it’s “very difficult” or something equally imprecise. Therefore I would like to have seen this done later on in the series when there weren’t so many people left which would have allowed each person to have more than one go. I would suggest that if you are psychic you should be able to get it right in at least 3 out of 3 attempts. I would have also hidden a number of ‘dummies’ in a similar way to the actual target.

It would have been nice to see an equal number of randomly chosen people searching as well.

In the circumstances I think it was entirely possible for someone to fortuitously come across the hidden person. We did this all the time as children but this is no criticism of Diana who was given a task that she successfully completed in record time.

Test 2 - Is that a sledgehammer in your pocket…
This was ridiculous, even the psychics thought so. Can male aggression ‘energy’ be retained in a hammer?

Questions,

Q. Do we know that such an energy actually exists?

A. No.

Q. Have any of the psychics on the show claimed they can sense this energy?

A. No.

Q. Could they get the right answer just by guessing?

A. Yes.

Q. What do we expect to achieve by this test?

A. Filling about 10 minutes of programme time.

Q. Did any of the psychics succeed?

A. No.

Q. What have we learnt about the psychics ability to find something that isn’t there?

A. Nothing.

Next!

Test 3 - Guessing murder
Now were on much safer ground. Let’s test the psychics ability to give a cold/warm reading. Just to make it difficult we’ll give them a few clues.

How do we know if someone has succeeded? Presumably by telling us the full facts of the case. On second thoughts that might be too hard so we’ll see who the jury thinks is best.

We are told about a local Disk Jockey who brutally murdered his ex-girlfriend with a hammer in 1985. This eventually resulted in her lover taking his own life and the murderer hanging himself in prison.

Firstly each contestant is given a photo of the female victim. A short time later they are given a picture of the murderer. Now what would you say? “I’m getting the feeling that this man went on to become a gas fitter and the woman is some how connected. Did he service her central heating and over-charge her?

Some of them pieced together bits of the actual story but no one could identify them by name or give us the full story. Of course there were a few things that inevitably fit but nothing to indicate psychic ability.

I’ll confess though to being mildly amused by Diane Lazarus who said the woman’s spirit was pushing her away and telling her she shouldn’t be there. It certainly sounds better than ‘I haven’t a clue’.

In the end though Mary once again showed that she was by far the best cold reader.

Subsequently, just prior to the broadcast of programme 5, Channel Five apologised as they (Townhouse TV) did not get permission from one of the families involved. I have therefore avoided compounding the felony and avoided naming them here. At the time programme four was shown the voiceover categorically stated that permission had been sought and given. I’m prepared to assume that this was a genuine oversight.

Test 4 - Guess the illness
Five people with 5 different illnesses and each of the finalists randomly chose 2 of them. Their job is to guess or psychically determine (don’t know how you tell the difference but at least guessing is a real phenomenon) what illnesses they have.

Mary chooses Noel who suffered a heart attack 9 years ago. She says it’s a respiratory problem but mentions angina. Turns out Noel is shortly to be tested for angina. Let me see…. That’s a ‘miss’ then. She likewise misses on her second ‘patient’.

Austin uses his “third eye” which, just like his other two, apparently needs some correcting. He is wrong with the first subject but for his second mentions hip, head & stomach. Yes she does have a ‘hip’ problem caused by her sciatica. Whilst I don’t claim to have medical knowledge ‘sciatica’ might well affect the legs and hip but the source of the problems is in the back (an inter-vertebral disk pressing on the sciatic nerve).

Dennis bombed as did Diane Lazarus although she used the increasingly common ruse of naming more than one illness so that she could claim she was nearly right.

Anna was wrong on her first attempt but guessed better on the second.

Austin Charles along with his third eye was regarded as performing least worst this week and Dennis Binks was finally sent packing.


Programme 5 Why is it Tricia Goddard keeps telling us that the psychics (i.e. guessers), “face our most demanding tests yet” when in actual fact the new tests are just as lame as all the others?

This week took place in Newmarket and had a distinct horsey theme. Test 1 kicked off with them trying to guess which horse, out of four, had an injury. They were also asked to say what they thought the injury was. Interestingly in the control group of 10 non-psychics (as opposed to the remaining four non-psychics) all of them picked horse number 4. Not only that but so did horse whisperer Kelly Marks. Unfortunately the correct answer was horse number 1 (called Darth Vader).

The test was supervised by Philip Escoffey and first out of the trap was Diane Lazarus who correctly guessed it was number 1. We hear but a snippet of her diagnosis which is that Darth Vader needs “injections in his back” which is not the same as the actual injury of a fractured pelvis. She was supposed to tell us the injury not the treatment.

Anna Galliers went for number 2 as did Mary White but Austin, taking advice from his spirit guides, guessed correctly.

Part two of this test was to try and guess, using a horse brush, which stable lad looks after Darth Vader. There were 2,000 stable lads to choose from – only kidding it was just the usual 4. Anna got it wrong again and this time Austin’s spirit guides were having a tea break as he failed too. However both Diane Lazarus and Mary White guessed correctly.

In this test I nominate Diane Lazarus as being the winner but the problem is that this proves absolutely nothing. It’s worth asking why it is that of all the people who have taken the JREF $1 million dollar challenge, none have passed even the preliminary test? Psychics and believers in general will say that the reason is obvious - it’s “unfair”. Really? Well here’s a challenge, tell me what it is about the test that you regard as unfair. What possible reason is there for a psychic not to take this test? Kramer (who deals with JREF challenge applications) is eagerly waiting for your call. Well not eager exactly but certainly willing to deal with any genuine claim. And just so you don’t have to travel to Florida ASKE will offer to test you right here in the UK.

Anyway I digress. In test 2 each psychic is given 5 envelopes each containing a photo of a celebrity. As they sit blindfolded, a large image of the photo is projected behind them. Their task is to decide which celebrities are alive and which are dead but, as is the pattern in this series, to make things a little more imprecise and woolly they can give us the obligatory reading. In fact many of the readings were spectacularly wrong, e.g. boxer Muhammad Ali (aka Cassius Clay) didn’t like publicity.

Diane and Austin got 1 correct. Mary 3 and Anna 4. So this time Anna is the winner and again I have to ask, “So What?” If nothing else our quartet of professional guessers are inconsistent.

I’m going to pause here and look at the tests to see what is wrong. First the test with Darth Vader the horse. The rationale for this test would be if a psychic made the claim, “I can tell when a horse is sick and pinpoint the illness” furthermore, implicit in this, is that they would have to see the horse in the flesh.

If that’s the claim I suggest that we assemble at least 25 horses (a number plucked at random out of my head) 3 of which had a specific complaint that was verified by a vet. As with BPC’s test none of these problems would be apparent just by looking at the horse. So perhaps one has a problem with its pelvis, another has laminitis and a third navicular disease. However I’m not a vet so I would take advice from one. This would take place at a riding school/stables which would be different from race horses which are most likley to have muscular-skeletal problems.

In this instance I would expect a score of 100%. The claimant would have to give a very accurate description of the illness and no one present during the test would have any idea of the correct answer. Comments such as, “this horse feels sad” would be unverifiable and therefore disregarded.

For the second ‘living or dead test’ I assume the claim to be, “I can tell just by holding a sealed envelope containing a photograph of someone whether they are dead or alive.”

I would assemble a number of photos, say 100 (50 living, 50 dead) and allow the psychic to randomly choose 25 of them. They would then go through the procedure as outlined on the show and I would expect a score of at least 23 (92%). Again the experimenter would not know if the answer was correct or not (the photos do not need to be of celebrities) until the procedure was completed.

In the next test (number 3) the psychics are asked to identify a celebrity by their aura. Now there is no evidence that an aura exists and it would be easy to test their ability to detect one at all but if we accept that they can identify a celebrity just by being near them and sensing their aura then lets do just that. Obviously we wouldn’t test them on lots of horsey things and then ask them to identify someone strongly associated with horses – that would be stupid. In this instance each blindfolded psychic was stood in front of the subject and asked to name them.

This test was interesting because of the way the answers were interpreted. The celebrity in question was horse racing pundit John McCririck and in my opinion this was to some degree guessable. I suspect this thought crossed the minds of the test designers at Townhouse TV.

The results. Anna mentioned the letter ‘J’ and after removing her blindfold and seeing John said she actually thought of him at one point. Gosh, nearly a hit then. Mary basically bombed but the voiceover saves her pride with the following comment, “As any psychic will tell you reading someone whose not open to being read is almost impossible. John McCririck definitely falls into this category” So let me see if I have this correct, Townhouse TV are telling us that this test was basically unfair and not something any psychic would claim to be able to do. We can therefore infer that the people designing this test were pretty clueless. Who would that be now? Why Townhouse TV of course.

Meanwhile Diane bombs but in a similar vein to Anna immediately says, “I knew it was you!” Yes of course you did.

However Austin is credited with more success. He says that ‘J’ is the first letter and later says “I know John links in. John is a connection.” The voiceover rejoices by telling us, “At last we put a name to the face. For Austin it’s a real coup.” But Austin didn’t say, “…the person in front of me is called John”. His words could be interpreted in many ways. John might be the celebrity's Dad, brother, son, uncle, middle name, or best friend and anyway it’s a very common name. Later Philip Escoffey makes this very point.

 

Test number 4 introduces famous jockey Fred Archer who committed suicide in 1886. To start off with each of the psychics is given a cardboard tube containing Fred Archer’s whip and their task is to “tell us about his life and his tragic end”.

Mary is first to have a go and says she links to a gentlemen, “who got shot with this” tapping the cardboard tube for emphasis. I take this to mean he was shot with his own whip – which is nonsense but the mere fact that she mentions shooting (albeit not suicide) is enough to gain her more Brownie points. Austin flops and Anna mentions a bi-plane. Diane tells us he’s got a bit of a beard (incorrect) but that he likes horses as well. She doesn’t mention any connection with racing or that he was a jockey. When asked about the period she mumbles something about ‘57’ which we are told is significant because he was born in ’57. Of course if he had been married, won his first race or died in ’57 this too would be wonderful.

Another problem I have with this test is that it is being overseen by Jackie Malton who is not averse to giving out clues and from what I’ve seen is overly sympathetic to the psychics. As always we do not get to hear all of what was said, but regardless of what actually went on if the task was to tell us about Fred Archer’s life and tragic end they have all failed.

Perhaps because of their dismal performance or maybe it was planned anyway they are all given a second stab at coming up with something useful. They are taken to a location where Fred’s ghost was reported to have been seen 10 years earlier by some stable boys (gosh this is really scientific) and given an envelope with two framed photographs and presented with the whip.

Diane Lazarus comes up with nothing of interest, unless you count the fact that Fred wore boots. Jackie does try to help by reminding her that they are in Newmarket. I wonder if she ever helped suspects remember their alibis.

Austin, whose spirit guides had by now gone for lunch, thought it all began in the current location and that he died in his sport. Wrong!

Anna thinks he fell and got hurt. He probably did once or twice too.

Mary’s attempt was most interesting. Having decided the gentleman she linked into wasn’t shot with his whip she changed tack (there’s a pun there) and said she thought it was to do with Red Rum. Okay that’s it Mary you’re wrong. Thanks for coming. But wait! Jackie steps in again and tells her it isn’t anything to do with Red Rum and Mary has yet another go. Now she goes back to the shooting and tells us the man links to this room and mentions the name ‘Mat’. Wouldn’t you know it Mathew Dawson was Fred’s trainer and Fred eventually married his niece.

Despite Jackie’s helpful hints no one achieved the tests stated goal.

Test 5 Remote guessing
Basically they put a camera in a room in what was once Oliver Cromwell’s home along with a woman called Nora who was on the end of a phone to tell the psychics if they were on the right track. The room had a sort of wax model of Cromwell sat at his desk with a quill pen and a portrait of him on the wall.

At the start we were told that remote viewing was researched by the CIA although they didn’t explain how it turned out to be a complete waste of money. Still, just to help research this subject a little further and to add naff all to the some total of human knowledge they come up with what I’d call ‘remote viewing lite’.

All that was needed for this was for a camera to be placed in the empty room and have Nora there just looking around – without the bloody phone.

Austin got the name Charles by which we all assume he meant King Charles I. Mary mentioned a quill pen, Diane was rubbish and Anna told us that there was a table and that there was an object on the table and a few other things besides. But despite being guided by Nora’s helpful “yeses and no’s” never mentioned Ollie but nevertheless did better than the rest.

Chris French pointed out that this was not how you go about testing remote viewing. True enough - so basically this was a glorious waste of time. I also find it a Little suspicious that they knew the location was inside and not out in a field somewhere starring at a cow's backside. Just how much help were they given? What's happening with Deborah Borgen these days?

This week’s jury deemed Austin was best, though I’m not entirely sure why and Anna Galliers was kicked out. If I accept the rationale of the tests (which I don’t) I would say that Mary should have gone.


Programme 6 Hooray it’s the final.
The show has come to its inevitable end. Someone gets to be crowned the winner without ever actually having to prove they are psychic. The final was very interesting though. In fact it was unbelievable.

I think it’s worth a quick review of just why this programme could not achieve its stated objective. The following is taken from the home page of Britain’s Psychic Challenge……

Do you think you're psychic?

If so, you're not alone. An estimated 150,000 people in the UK claim to have psychic powers, and as many of us believe in parapsychology as we do in God. Of course, the sceptics rubbish all claim to psychic ability.

But what can people who claim to be psychic actually do? Could there be rational scientific explanations for some of the things they claim to be able to achieve, or is it just a matter of luck, trickery and the need to believe? Five is going to find out once and for all by putting some of these so-called psychics to the test... (my emphasis)

An ambitious goal that had no chance of success.

Although they used a parapsychologist he played no part in the test design. We can only guess who did. Equally Philip Escoffey who I single out for his outstanding contribution was not asked to design the test either.

Most of the tests were low probability such as a mere 1 in 4.

Many test outcomes were vague and there was no objective way of determining if the test had been passed or not.

The tests were not designed around the claimed abilities of the psychic.

The psychic readings were (perhaps of necessity) edited and we were shown the more significant segments. In assessing ability it is vital to count the misses as well as the hits.

The tests were contaminated by the fact that those conducting them were aware of the required result. Having three (actually two) sceptics would allow one to set up the test and another to carry it out. Not only that but the camera team knew as did the Assistant Director, psychic helper Deborah Borgen and God only knows who else. The test site should have been ‘sealed’ so that no one else knew the correct answer. The way it was actually set up leaves open the accusation that clues, both deliberate or inadvertent, could be given. That’s not to say they were, as we have no idea, but the possibility cannot be eliminated.

The success or failure of those taking part depended on the vote of a jury that were unaware of how psychics work. Test carried out by JREF are designed so that no judging is necessary, the result is self evident for all to see.

And of course a winner would be found regardless of whether they were psychic or not.

Pre-test – Clogged psychic channels
A pair of clogs were sealed in a box and the psychics had to use this to determine where the test would take place (Holland).

Diane said Dublin, Mary said “ears” and then Jersey, Austin went for Norway.

For the first real test they flew to Amsterdam and were required to come up with information about two assassinations, those of political leader Pim Fortuyn and controversial film maker Theo Van Gogh.

See these links for more detail:

Pim Fortuyn Theo Van Gogh

The finalists are told nothing about what happened and just given a sealed envelope.

Austin talks about anger and people getting their revenge. He also mention pain around the head area and breathing difficulties.

Pim’s brother Martin Fortuyn is present and confirms Pim was shot twice in the head and also in the chest.

Diane mentions a man in authority and connections with the government. As she is about to hear the story from Martin Fortuyn she adds, “Nothing to do with shooting?”. This is punctuated by dramatic music so as to drive home the remark.

When she learned the facts of the story she said she, “..kept seeing the rifle and kept stopping myself.” My understanding is that he was shot with a hand gun and not a rifle.

Mary kept getting the word “mystery” which was made to fit the fact that there were numerous conspiracy theories around the death and rather cryptically she said, “I feel because of the system, it’s not getting justices but systems do create injustices.

Next day they have a similar test this time for Theo Van Gogh.

First up is Austin,

“A blame, a charge was put on his shoulders, that wasn’t directly to do with him. He was blamed for something he didn’t do. And I keep being drawn to my throat area. I’m being told ‘stabbed in the back’”. Austin isn’t sure if this last bit in metaphorical.

As Theo Van Gogh had his throat slit by his attacker this was seen as highly significant although he was also shot on the back and stabbed twice in the chest as well. There is though a certain vagueness about “being drawn to the throat area”. For example I believe Pim Fortuyn was also shot in the neck and this would also match with Austin’s comments.

Diane says Theo was a Jekyll & Hyde character and “five people in one”. Thomas Ross who wrote about the case asked about his profession and here Diane is more precise.

I’m picking up this person was in the media. I’m seeing cameras all the time”.

Mary also gets credit for mentioning the initials V and G. As Chris French later points out these are more common initials in Holland than in the UK. Of course TVG would have been even better. For all we know Mary might have thought it was to do with Van Gogh the painter.

Next the psychics are taken to the actual crime scene and given the obligatory sealed envelope.

The task seems to be, “Will any of the psychics be able to describe the killing?

Mary correctly mentions shooting, “Somebody got shot on here, somebody else vary hurried situation here.”

With phenomenal understatement Diane says, “I feel there was a bit of a dispute here.” She continues, “A brawl. I can see a lot of blood here. Loads of blood, blood pumping from somebody. Killings going on. A connection between the killings.”

This does not adequately explain the events here but the “blood pumping” is seized upon as being a hit.

Austin, “I’m being taken back now. A lot kafuffle in the street. Incident to do with the law.

Philip asks him if he has any final thoughts on the link for today’s and yesterday’s tests might be.

Austin says they “were well known people who were either murdered or assassinated”. Which is true.

Hide & Seek II
The next test is a reply of the soldier hiding in the forest and to be very brief Mary and Austin do not pass – but for a second time Diane is spot on.

A young boy, Sam, is hidden by Chris French in a 2 square mile area on the NorthNorfolkCoast (Holkam Nature Reserve). Before the test begins a tracker dog (Biscuit) is used and finds Sam in 36 minutes. Next the Coast Guard are given the task and fail. In their words “It’s virtually impossible”.

When Diane goes she sets off in the right direction “After just a moment’s hesitation.” She finds Sam in just 10 minutes. Chris French is rightly impressed however I think the voiceover sums things up for me.

Gotcha. Unbelievably it’s taken Diane just 10 minutes to locate Sam.

Yep that’s just what I thought. Unbelievable.

And now with trepidation we move to the final test.

It dealt with the murder of 14 year old schoolgirl Joanna Young, something which I found wholly distasteful. Firstly because her death was being used in a silly test on a light entertainment show, secondly they seemed to imply that psychics can come up with useful information – for which the evidence is zero and lastly because someone may one again find themselves accused simply on the say so of a psychic. The test was supervised by Jackie Malton.

Once again we can dismiss Mary and Austin out of hand and the time was instead devoted to just how clever Diane Lazarus was.

The disembodied voiceover tells us,

As always our psychics have been told absolutely nothing about the case in advance. All they have to go on is Joanna’s photograph. They don’t know that she’s been killed let alone where the evidence or the body was found.

Then we are told that, “Diana immediately heads towards the wooded lane where Joanna’s trainers and jeans were found.

Throughout this sequence what I would call ‘mood music’ was played continually for effect.

Diane, “Joanna’s walked this path before. I know she has. Joanna’s walked this path before okay.

A bit of a tomboy really. I will say that as well because she’s, she’s pulling her socks up and sort of, you know, it doesn’t matter she gets a bit dirty.

Jackie Malton asks Joann’s ex-headmistress Jan Godfrey either, “Is she a tomboy?” or “Was she a tomboy?”. I can’t be sure which.

Ms Godfrey replies, “That was her strength at school.” I feel we should note the word was.

Diane continues, “I can hear somebody walking behind her. I can hear the crunch”. She wipes away a tear. “It happened. She’s smiling. It’s not obvious what happened to her. It’s not obvious. She was facing something she couldn’t see from. She was pushed into a situation where she was facing something and she couldn’t see anything. I can’t see anything.

This comment was later attributed to the fog but I don’t feel that quite fits. It could easily mean something entirely different.

The voiceover then tells us, “Diana’s now standing near the spot where her trainers were found.” And at this point the camera swings from Diane to the path. Although Diane has her back to the camera I consider this a risky move.

Diane: “I been looking and I keep seeing the bike. I’m looking for the bike, ‘Can you see it? Can you see it? Can you see it?’ and it’s a clear vision, she’s working very hard here, show me this bike. It’s important you see.

So nothing about trainers or jeans. And what’s this about a bike?

Voiceover: “Diana has been told absolutely nothing about the relevance of the bike, nor the note sent to the local newspaper.

Hmm. Nothing has been said about the bike other than a drawing of one shown on a card that was sent to the local newspaper. As far as I know this bike may not be of any relevance at all. Diane has mentioned a bike but without context. Did she mean Joanna’s bike or the killer’s or just a witness? She continues about the bike in a moment but I want to draw your attention to the above comment, “Diana has been told absolutely nothing about the relevance of the bike” Does this mean she was told about a bike but not it’s relevance? If she was told “absolutely” nothing this goes without saying.

Diane: “I know she was lying here. I dunno if she came off the bike or… because I’ve got more on the bike and I’ve got her off the bike. And I can’t do anything about it. ‘I want to go home’, but she can’t go home”.

As far as I, the viewer, has been made aware none of this is known and therefore is pure conjecture.

The commentary continues, “We’ve told Diane that we’d like her to try and identify a second significant location. Unprompted she steps off across the fields. She walks fully half a mile until finally she stops by a small copse.”

Diane, “I wanna go down there…

Diane, “I feel she’s been murdered. I wanna go down there.

Voiceover, “Diane has been drawn to the very spot where Joanna’s body was found.

A little later Diane says, “….I know the man involved in this. See he was following her. I know she was being followed. I feel 100% with that. She was being followed, and she was aware of him being there. She panicked, she went and he was there. I know he was there.

I have emphasised the word ‘know’ as Diane’s voice was emphatic on this point. However I beg to differ. She couldn’t ‘know’ and all this is completely unverifiable and therefore nothing to do with the test. In fact Diane’s success boils down to only two things. She identified the path used by Joanna and also the place she died. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying these are insignificant details because they’re not. But I would say Diane stood out in this series for one main reason and that was she identified certain locations. Namely the body in the car boot in the pilot programme, the soldier in the wood, young Sam on the beach and lastly the significant sites in the case of Joanna Young. I realise she matched up the married couples but that may have been chance.

Unfortunately that doesn’t mean I can accept that she is psychic and neither should anyone else, for the reasons I gave above. Chris French expressed a willingness to test her again (sans Townhouse TV I hope) so let’s see it happen. Better still she could try to win a million dollars.

Finally I’ll indulge myself in an ‘I told you so’ moment. When I wrote up programme 2, I made the following comment,

Even at this stage I am prepared to make the somewhat rash prediction that Diane Lazarus will emerge as the victor but as I do not pretend to possess psychic powers I could of course be completely wrong.

I could have been wrong - but I wasn’t.


*I use this is the sense of “psychic claimant” but for brevity I’m just using the word ‘psychic’ rather than ‘would-be’ psychic or ‘testee’.

http://www.livescience.com/animalworld/050421_tsunami_myths.html
Voice of Reason: The Myth of Tsunami Survivors' Sixth Sense
By Benjamin Radford
from the Skeptical Inquirer
posted: 21 April 2005
06:43 am ET

http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/10percnt.htm
The Ten-Percent Myth
By Benjamin Radford
Snopes.com

Britain's Psychic Challenge website

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