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Randi Challenges Top "Psychics" After Nightline Episode PDF Print E-mail
Swift

LOS ANGELES—The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) has just directed its Million Dollar Challenge toward the celebrity "psychic mediums" featured on last night’s episode of ABC’s Primetime Nightline: Beyond Belief.1

“James Van Praagh and Allison DuBois have turned the huckster art of ‘cold reading’ into a multi-million-dollar industry, preying on families’ deepest fears and regrets,” said James Randi, founder of the JREF and a renowned magician and skeptic who also appeared in the episode. “They should be embarrassed by the transparent performances they revealed to the world on last night’s show.”

The JREF’s Million Dollar Challenge Director, Banachek, also featured in the episode, said, “We’re issuing a challenge to these fakers: for once, show that you can get this supposedly supernatural knowledge without cheating. If one of you can demonstrate your ‘psychic’ abilities on randomly chosen strangers—not celebrities—under mutually-agreed conditions, without relying on known cold-reading techniques such as fishing around with vague questions, and without just using Google—we will donate our million dollars to you or to the charity of your choice.”

What Happened?

In last night’s episode on “Psychic Powers,” self-proclaimed psychic medium James Van Praagh performed a reading on Good Morning America anchor Josh Elliott. Elliott initially appeared surprised by Van Praagh’s accuracy before finally revealing that “every talking point of the reading” seemed to have been lifted from a two-year-old interview with Elliott2 that was available through a simple internet search. When Van Praagh was asked to repeat his performance on the spot with an ABC producer, he declined to try, claiming he had become too tired.

In a later scene, “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” reality-show actor Allison DuBois, also billed as the inspiration for the TV drama Medium, performed a similar reading on ABC News correspondent David Wright. Self-proclaimed medium Rebecca Rosen also performed a reading, and both readings focused on Wright’s family and his late mother. Wright was surprised by their accuracy and said they revealed “details that don’t pop up on Google.” Yet, shortly after the show aired, a Twitter user posted a link to a New York Times wedding announcement3 that contained the relevant details about the Wright family.

How They Do It

“Cold reading” is a set of techniques used by mentalists and so-called psychics in which personal information is elicited from a person, often through vague or leading questions, and then repeated back to the person in order to persuade them that the performer has supernatural access to that information.4 Another mentalism technique, called “hot reading,” involves obtaining information on a person in advance by surreptitious means. Both techniques are commonly used to create the illusion of psychic powers where none exist.

________________
[1] http://abc.go.com/watch/primetime-nightline-beyond-belief/SH55131205/VD55140044/psychic-power
[2] http://thebiglead.com/index.php/2009/06/19/a-qa-with-espns-josh-elliott/
[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/30/fashion/weddings/30bran.html
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_reading

# # #

The James Randi Educational Foundation was founded in 1996 to expose charlatans and help people defend themselves from paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. The JREF offers a still-unclaimed million-dollar reward for anyone who can produce evidence of paranormal abilities under controlled conditions. Through scholarships, workshops, and innovative resources for educators, the JREF works to inspire this investigative spirit in a new generation of critical thinkers. | www.randi.org

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written by NoDeity, August 18, 2011
Nice one. smilies/smiley.gif
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written by babaganouch, August 18, 2011
http://findarticles.com/p/news...n42899719/

"To be at home in London, England, are David J. Wright, son of Dr. John R. Wright of Williamsville and the late Deanna Wright, and his bride, Victoria J. Brannigan.

The couple were married at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Church of Santa Maria in Trestevere, Rome, Italy.

The Rev. Keith Pecklers and the Rev. John Wauck heard the nuptial vows of the bridegroom and the daughter of Philomena Brannigan of Carrick on Suir, County Tipperary, Ireland, and the late Joseph Brannigan."

Source From: Buffalo News / Oct 30, 2005
Victoria J. Brannigan is bride of David J. Wright

Want to know the ABC Anchor's dog breed? What about the pooch's name.
Lets see....I am getting a "B" 'Beer"..."Beirut". It has to be from Belgium...

"I'm the proud father of 3 little girls, the happy husband of a wise woman, and lucky owner of a handsome Belgian shepherd from Beirut."

From: http://www.linkedin.com/in/wright885
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David Wright was misleading
written by marcopollo, August 18, 2011
smilies/tongue.gif
How can someone in the news business not know that the NYtimes had an article online about his personal life, new wife, parents and the marriage in Rome to victoria Branningan? Don't they check their facts during editing and before making foolish deceiving claims?
People get so easily fooled by believing whatever others tell them to be true.
They just take their words for it. I guess the words coming from ABC anchor news David Wright makes it somehow more believable to the ones that do not question reality verses fiction and when the TV dictates what is real for ratings and corporate greed. Why don't psychics ever win the lottery? Simple! They are NOT psychic.
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The media doesn't want to alienate, so it lies.
written by Dustyisgodless, August 18, 2011
I was so happy with last nights episode, up until the end. The last segment was edited in a classically pro-psychic fashion. No misses were shown, all hits. I'm glad someone found that wedding announcement, unfortunately, we can't undo the damage. Banachek will never get his proper rebuttal because the media doesn't want to alienate viewers. JREF needs door-to-door missionaries to present this kind of information, because those who need it most won't check this website, which is a shame.

I think I saw John Edward's name listed as the editor at the very end of the credits.....
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Wright's mother name and death is no Secret
written by marcopollo, August 18, 2011
http://findarticles.com/p/news...n42899719/

That was easy to find, his wedding story is all over the place, here is another announcement with the whole family history and their names. Even the time of his wedding. Google rocks. smilies/cool.gif
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The Wrights daughters. Deanna born april 07 and Philomena August 21 2008
written by marcopollo, August 18, 2011
http://classes.harvard.edu/olc...chapter=85

This one give away his first daughter Deanna born April 2007and the name of his second daughter Philomena born August 21th 2008. So much is available on that guy it is believably unbelievable.
Just scroll down to the anouncement.
Here is the copy:

"David Wright (1986, COL) and Victoria Brannigan Wright are proud to announce the birth of a baby girl, Philomena Grace Wright. She was born on August 21, 2008 in Sibley Hospital in Washington DC, and weighed 9 lb., 7 oz.. When Barack Obama talks about how, since he started his campaign, babies have been born who are now walking and talking, we figured that was our Deanna (born April 07, just as we moved back to the states to cover Obama). Then little Philomena arrived 16 months after Deanna, right on the eve of the general election. Happily for us, ABC had switched me over to McCain during the summer. Philomena was born the week before the Denver convention, so I had a little bit more time before I had to head to St. Paul and get on board the Straight Talk Express for the duration. Yet another reason our family is looking forward to the end of this long election: we'll finally be able to spend some quality time together!"" smilies/wink.gif
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Someone should do a sting...
written by Son of Rea, August 19, 2011
Plant a blog post or "news release" article about the life of a reporter (who will have a unique, fake name). The article can be backdated to look like it's a few years old. Wait for it to come up at the top of a google search for the fake name.

Call up a psychic and say you'd like to interview them for a story, and tell them who you are using the fake name. Do a video interview of the psychic and record how what they reveal is only what was posted in the article.

When editing the segment, reveal to the audience the fabricated details of the interviewer's life first. Then show how stupid the psychics look as they repeat the falsified information.
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Answered
written by ayhtida, August 19, 2011
That last bit of footage did leave me with some questions. Thanks for showing it was no more than what can be found on the internet!
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Psychic Therapy
written by pollomarco, August 19, 2011
Interesting to see that even David Wright realized that the 'mother' seemed to always be the focus of psychic readings, on the youtube clip of Allison Dubois from the real house wife of beverly hills episode, she also brings up the daddy and mommy issue.
Psychics are pretty much in the same class as psycho-analyst.
Makes many people feel better to talk about their father or mother.
Especially when they are dead, it is much easier to confront a ghost.
Where are you again?? Oh sorry I could not see you. The invisible and the non-existent look so much alike.
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The ultimate test
written by pollomarco, August 19, 2011
Why not doing what Houdini did with his wife?
Approach some people that have love ones that are terminally ill,
have them give a love one a 'secret password', document it and test the 'medium' factor.
Invite John , Dubois and Rebecca Rosen and all other 'medium' that claim to talk to the dead
and see if they come up with the same password. That should become the norm like accessing an e-mail account.
Get a secret word before someone we love passes away and then the proof is in the pudding. That is the simplest and clearest way to know someone dead is talking
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Common sense
written by babaganouch, August 19, 2011
That is a great way to find out what is real and protect love ones from false psychic exploiting the psychologically and emotionally vulnerable people.
People should learn to do a 'password' protection if they want to talk to the great beyond and even add it to their last will. Why Not! They will then not be fooled.
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Passwords
written by Son of Rea, August 19, 2011
Psychics would just claim that they deal with imagery and feelings, and that something as exact as a password is beyond the capacity of inter-dimensional communication. When they are guessing names, it's usually just one letter, and the participant fills in the rest.

I guess you could have a pre-designated imagery "password" with your loved-one. Like a pink crocodile on top of the Eiffel Tower, but would you expect the psychic to reveal such an obscure image even if it did somehow flash into their mind?
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We Got Your Wiki Back! Nightline Numbers
written by sgf8, August 19, 2011
Just finished working on the numbers generated by hits on the Wikipedia pages of people featured on this show.
What effect did ABC Nightline "Beyond Belief" have on our skeptical spokespeople's Wiki pages. http://guerrillaskepticismonwi...-from.html
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written by bfundom, August 19, 2011
I saw a major flaw with the tests given to the profiled subjects. In the million $ Challenge the applicant is given the opportunity to participate in the construction of the testing procedure and all must sign off that the method agreed upon is fair to both the tester and tested. In the program the tested were told what they had to do to demonstrate their claims. When they all failed miserably then they had a built in excuse for doing so. The clairvoyant said it was hard to read through manila envelopes. The tarot card reader claimed that matching bios to names on a piece of paper was not the same as reading face to face. The palmist said reading palms from black and white photos was much harder than doing it while actually holding a persons hand. I believe there was one more subject but I can't remember what they were trying to prove. If they had been allowed to pick out how to proceed with their test in agreement with the testers then they would not have had a valid reason to make any excuses for their failure. I was very surprised to see that anyone connected to the Randi challenge would make such a major error in procedure.
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What is it good for?
written by babaganouch, August 19, 2011
Well if a psychic cannot come up with the answer to a simple riddle, what is the point?
Anyone can pretend to be psychic and exploit superstitious people to foolishly believe
that the dead are hanging somewhere beautiful with rainbows and unicorns,is that what another dimension looks like? Who came up with that stuff? Was it M. Night Shyamalan? Other dimensions only appear to exist in the twilight zone new year marathon. Just heard of a psychic being busted for a $40 million dollar scam in Florida. There is a lot of money to be made in the psychic business.

Here is a taste: Source NYdailynews

"A Manhattan psychic busted in a $40 million scam preyed on naive tourists who were all too eager to pony up cash for glimpses of the future, neighbors said Wednesday.

Accused swindler Nancy Marks, a relative of the flamboyant, late gypsy leader Jimmy Marks, lured customers into her W. 58th St. parlor by promising "psychic intuition."

Instead, the unwitting journeyers were tricked into handing over piles of money and valuables in return for nothing more than curse-killing prayers."



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written by Caller X, August 19, 2011
That gypsy sounds like the scam that fooled recent JREF author Josh out of $1700. Forty million dollars? That lady was doing Darwin's work. Shoutout to my gypsy homies!

The current article doesn't make it clear if Van Prawn knew in advance that he would be reading Elliot. I didn't see the show because I'm too snooty to watch tv. And there was another show on.

Hindsight is 20/20, but if Van Prawn knew in advance whom he would be reading, it seems to me that the thing to do would be to Google that person ahead of time, or have someone do it in real time during the reading and compare the results. Of course I'm not a professional designer of psychic tests, I'm just sayin'.
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Suckers
written by babaganouch, August 19, 2011
$40 millions, all by simply telling people what they want to hear,
that much money even made the news
on Forbes.com, they even added "yep, million".
They did not see that one coming smilies/cheesy.gif
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Psychic disorder
written by babaganouch, August 19, 2011
According to Mayo Clinic:

"In schizophrenia, positive symptoms reflect an excess or distortion of normal functions. These active, abnormal symptoms may include:

Delusions. These beliefs are not based in reality and usually involve misinterpretation of perception or experience. They are the most common of schizophrenic symptoms.
Hallucinations. These usually involve seeing or hearing things that don't exist, although hallucinations can be in any of the senses. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination among people with schizophrenia.
Thought disorder. Difficulty speaking and organizing thoughts may result in stopping speech midsentence or putting together meaningless words, sometimes known as "word salad."
Disorganized behavior. This may show in a number of ways, ranging from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation."


That sounds like the psychic and schizophrenia syndrome are very closely related.
I have also seen Alisson Dubois being herself on youtube "the RHWOBH dinner party from Hell". The line is very blurred. They surely thought so too....
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Psychic Hotline Secrets
written by babaganouch, August 19, 2011
http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Week...d=10590096

A former psychic says he is going 'rogue'
Good Morning America Interview, very 'enlightening'.

smilies/shocked.gif
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It takes a thief to catch a thief
written by babaganouch, August 19, 2011
http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/vide...s-10591847
That is the Video Version of the psychic whistle blower.
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Mark Edward interview on ABC Good Morning America
written by sgf8, August 19, 2011
@Babaganouch
Thanks for the link to that interview. Would you believe Mark Edward wasn't even aware that was out there? The video, yes but not the written interview. Just added it to his Wikipedia page.
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Van Praagh's Wikipedia page just got updated
written by sgf8, August 19, 2011
Check out this new addition...

Josh Elliott investigates Van Praagh for ABC's Nightline Beyond Belief program which aired August 17, 2011. Elliott's interview begins with a visit to Van Praagh's home with a reading Elliott called a "moving experience". He saw that Elliott was adopted, his mother's name was Susan and that a man named Leo was watching over him. Impressed at first until he remembered a personal online interview stating all these details was easily available on the Internet. Elliott asks Van Praagh, "You knew I was coming here...did you Google me?" to which Van Praagh states, "No I didn't know who you were."

During a walk on the beach near his home, Nightline watched Van Praagh stop complete strangers who were amazed with their impromptu readings, Elliott states that after observing several of these interactions it seemed obvious that the stranger was helping Van Praagh because they "wanted to believe" and using cold reading techniques. When they asked Van Praagh to do a on-the-spot reading for the shows producer, Van Praagh stated that he was "tired". Nightline then followed Van Praagh to a group spirit service where his followers paid $100 each to attend. Elliott states that he "asked general questions that were sure to resonate with someone". Elliott's conclusion at the end of the show was that "Van Praagh failed to make a believer out of me that day...after all he has plenty of those." [4]

More to come soon.
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The super-natural complex
written by babaganouch, August 20, 2011
The problem with all that supernatural mambo-jumbo is man's foolish arrogance to place human beings not one and as part of Nature but above and separate from Nature i.e. super-natural beings.

Yet supernatural concepts are all born of mythology,ignorance and fear. A solar eclipse used to get a few virgins sacrificed in the old days within the Aztec religion. Just because they believed the world would come to en end without a good amount of human sacrifices and fresh pumping bleeding hearts. It kept the world go around according to their spiritual wisdom or ideology. They feared the World would come to an end without giving some warm beating heart to the Sun God.

In the 21th century, have we gone pass these barbaric practices of sacrifice and even killing people out of superstitious beliefs? Think again.
Occasionally the BBC.co.uk under "human sacrifices in India" will document certain human sacrifices happening in India's Temple that are offered to various deities like Kali and only occur because of backward superstition, ignorance and fear.

The belief in the supernatural has itself been the cause of all evil on this planet.
Look at history. From countless wars, deaths, witch hunts, human sacrifices, gendercide to innumerable innocent animals being slaughtered daily for simply appeasing a human fear of a supernatural belief or an offering as a religious ritual.

The root cause is the super-natural illusory concepts cultivated by human beings.
If we all 'wake-up' to the reality of existence itself and that we are not apart from Nature but in fact one with Nature and nothing else, we will be doing all living sentient beings on this rock or beautiful planet Earth a great service by respecting Earth as being a unique balanced biosphere of countless living organisms and that we do not have dominion on an entire planet and trash all other living organisms has being lesser, even though Abrahamic religious theology all claim that man was given the Earth to use, populate and exploit because he is divine, therefore why would they care when the faithful customers to all organized religions have been brainwashed to foolishly believe that there is a much more beautiful happy place waiting for the dead somewhere in the sky to start a new life.

Why would 70 virgins waiting in Heaven be anymore delusional than daddy or mommy is waiting for their love ones to reunite and live happily ever after?. The supernatural concepts of Life after death are un-natural and ridiculous and yet many exploit these mythological concepts of after-life to pretend to talk with the dead or the departed. What about the crystal ball readings of the future for the living? Who knows about the future and who cares! The future is unwritten. Life is always unfolding presently. That is the only certainty no one can ever deny. Que sera, sera.

As the old saying goes, Life is what is truly happening while people are busy making plans. Most miss the actuality and joy of truly being alive. Does anyone want to know when they will die? That would be a great question to ask any psychic and see if it truly happens. Of course psychics are full of crap. They cannot tell anyone alive when they will die, they can only pretend to speak to the ones that cannot answer for themselves, the dead.

Educating people to break free from human superstition and religious ignorance is the only real Freedom.
Not too long ago wise people were almost killed by superstitious leaders simply because they claimed that the Earth was not at the center of the Universe and the Sun did not rotate around the Earth, and also that they Earth was not flat, thus the Universe did not exist to manifest our deluded man-made spiritual arrogance and desires. We just exist because the Universe exist. There is no other reason to be. That is simply the answer to 'why are we here'.

No metaphysical mystery.

Freedom from the supernatural is paradoxically Freedom from all bondage. Religions are the only ones claiming to their faithful customers that there is bondage when in fact there is only liberation.
Freedom is easy! No Savior is needed, just common sense and openness to investigate what is real.
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written by Willy K, August 20, 2011
I just watched the show on ABC's website.

Did anyone notice that the "psychic" stockbroker was wearing one of those "energy" bands on his wrist?
I have a prediction for anyone using his stock tips..... you will soon see your money depart this worldly existence. smilies/tongue.gif
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written by snairbs, August 23, 2011
David Wright has an obligation to expose brazen frauds. He should be chomping on the bit to follow through with JREF'S challenge for them to demonstrate their ‘psychic’ abilities on randomly chosen strangers—not celebrities.
He's smart enough to have granduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, he should demonstrate the ability to think critically. Is that not the point of investigative journalism?
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Re: Passwords
written by Joreth, August 23, 2011
Actually, everyone should have a password anyway. I live alone and I'm a small female. One day, a van pulled up out front and a guy came to the door claiming to be from my internet service provider, saying they were having problems in my area and they needed to access my lines. I immediately tweeted the situation and called my ISP to confirm. They did confirm, but also my boyfriend called me and asked me to say our danger password if I was in trouble. Since it turned out to be legit, there was no need for the password and everything worked out fine.

Everyone should have a danger word or phrase arranged with someone that only you and that person knows, in case you are in trouble but for some reason can't tell anyone you're in trouble. Just like I have a fire exit plan and a hurricane preparedness route and a set of emergency phone numbers labeled as such on my phone.

If you already happen to have this password set up, then it's no trouble at all to challenge a "psychic" to ferret it out, and you don't have to approach your grandma on her deathbed to say "hey look, I know you're about to die, but can you come up with a secret code phrase so what when you kick the bucket, I can tell a fake psychic if he doesn't know the code word?"
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