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Ultimate Psychic Challenge
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The Ultimate Psychic Challenge.
Shown on Discovery Channel and Channel Four

This programme was transmitted in August 2003 and here is a brief outline of my own contribution. How hard is it to teach someone to appear psychic?

I was asked by Fulcrum TV to attempt 3 things;

  • To teach an actor to successfully pose as a psychic.

  • To be given a reading and not give out any information to see if this affected the efficacy of the reading.

  • Analyse two readings given to two female subjects.

All this was filmed in a single day so it was a heavy schedule.

Teach an actor to successfully pose as a psychic.

The actor in question was Ian Rose and although we had a couple of hours together much of this was spent filming rather than actually teaching. The original idea was for Ian to practise on a volunteer straight away and then follow this up in about a week with a more polished reading.

As it turned out the first ‘practice’ reading went so well that it was felt the second reading was unnecessary. Ian’s volunteer was so impressed the reading was stopped early. This surely goes some way to illustrate just how easy it is to fool people. Why spend years developing your ‘psychic’ talents? And yet psychics continue to plead that they don’t use cold reading techniques (either consciously or unconsciously).

To receive a reading – and not give out information.

I don’t intend to name this medium as this was not shown on the programme. The medium does however claim to have impressed certain celebrities and his office is adorned with press cuttings testifying to his wonderful abilities.

I explained that I would not answer any questions. I was assured this wouldn’t be a problem. During mediumistic training, he told me, everyone is taught specifically not to ask questions. Great then! Then I was told all I had to do was say either ‘yes’ or no’.

Hang on a minute! Say yes or no to what? A question I imagine. So I told my ‘trained’ medium that saying yes or no was in fact giving out information. I hear this rather a lot from mediums, e.g. “Don’t tell me anything. Just say yes or no.” It sounds so fair don’t you think? Well I don’t. They are meant to provide all the information. Otherwise this is just a ‘twenty questions’ session.

Needless to say the reading was hopeless. I listened to a series of random statements all of which were wrong. Actually they were wildly wrong.

As expected, without feedback the reading just fell flat. This was also amply demonstrated by Keith Charles during the actual show. With his subject behind a screen (but still obligingly indicating yes or no via the presenter) he had to resort to widening out his reading to someone (anyone?) in the audience. True he didn't have much feedback there either but having found someone with whom the intial statements vaguely fitted he could at least salvage something.

This part was so boring that it was never shown.

Analysing the two readings.

This was rather interesting to do, if not to watch. Personally I was amazed at the medium’s style of delivery. In my opinion it looked like she was verbally bludgeoning her subjects into submission.

At the start they were ordered to not say ‘no’ or even make gestures if something was wrong. On the other hand if something was right then they should say ‘yes’ in a very bright way as this would ‘raise the vibration’.

They were then shown a series of sketched faces and asked if any of them looked familiar. If an actual face didn’t register (and they didn't) then they could simply pick any part of the face, e.g. ears, eyes, nose, mouth, etc. (I shall resist jokes about picking your own nose, Doh!)

The reading itself touched upon many disparate subjects and if any registered the bright "yes" obligingly provided the right feedback. One of the women was particularly affected by reference to a kindly woman who had passed over. The medium never said who this was although the sitter clearly identified them in her own mind as her grandmother. This apparent hit was then developed further by the medium.

Curiously one sitter was impressed when the medium mentioned a 'mandrake' a plant that was once supposed to scream when pulled out of the ground (the root was thought to resemble human form). It transpired though that she (the sitter) was confusing this with a ‘mangrove’ having previously visited a swamp in Australia.

The idea behind this section was to show how people misremembered what had actually been said during a sitting. A fact amply demonstrated by the medium herself who 'remembered' that the sitter had identified one of the initial drawings of her grandmother. A fact which the sitter confirmed that she did not in fact do. Both women considered their readings to be not as good as they first thought. I would like to add that I feel this showed great strength of character on their part because many people adamantly insist that the psychic was 100% correct. In fairness neither of them totally dismissed their readings either.


Transcript of Keith Charles reading here.

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