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"Psychic" Sally Morgan Sues Critics for £150,000 After Refusing $1 Million to Prove Her Powers PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by D.J. Grothe   
Published on The Huffington Post
2012-01-31-PsychicSally

Last week, Sally Morgan -- a performer who bills herself as "Britain's best-loved psychic" -- sued the publisher of the Daily Mail for £150,000 for printing an article suggesting that she and other self-proclaimed psychics might be using trickery rather than mystical powers when they appear to talk to the dead.

Maybe the Mail's article (by magician and former psychic Paul Zenon) really did damage Sally Morgan's reputation so much that she needs the money. The irony is that just after that article was published, when the allegations that "Psychic Sally" was a cheat were front-page news, our organization along with peer organizations in the UK offered her $1,000,000 and the chance to clear her name, simply by proving her powers were real. Yet, she declined. Why?

If Sally Morgan is not a fraud, then the preliminary test we proposed to prove her powers should be easy. The test -- devised by Professor Chris French, Simon Singh, and the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) -- was based on the same routine she performs every time she takes the stage: looking at photographs of deceased persons and communicating with their spirits to learn their names.

Since 1996, The James Randi Educational Foundation has offered $1 million to any psychic who can prove their powers are real under fair conditions that prevent cheating. When challenged, many psychics have made excuses for why they won't put their powers to the test, saying they don't need the money or that they don't want to use their powers for financial gain. Neither of those excuses can work for Sally Morgan, since using her "powers" for financial gain is her full-time job, and she's telling a judge she needs £150,000 from the Daily Mail because Paul Zenon questioned her authenticity.

So what's Sally Morgan's excuse for turning down the chance to prove herself for $1 million? She never gave one, preferring instead to respond to the offer with the threat of a lawsuit.

When a celebrity "psychic" spends so much time and money trying to quash reports of fraud and silence people who question her claimed abilities... yet turns down a $1 million opportunity in order to avoid a simple test that could prove she's on the up-and-up... It makes one wonder if even Sally Morgan believes that Sally Morgan's powers are real.

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Good interview
written by Dan Mullen, February 03, 2012
Good interview with Paul Zenon, I think he put his point across in a way that laypeople would understand. Anything that helps to expose this sort of deception to the wider public is great - unfortunately, there is far too much "flim-flam" given airtime and not enough skeptical and logical rebuttal.
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written by JWideman, February 03, 2012
I never thought I'd be siding with the Daily Fail.
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written by Xiphos, February 03, 2012
"Yet, she declined. Why?"

Just spit balling here but I would guess she declined because she doesn't actually posses a super power like she claims?
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Grrrr.....
written by Gaius Cornelius, February 03, 2012
If Sally Morgan had claimed that she could walk though walls then any person with an iota of common sense would image the claim to be untrue and that it followed that she was either lying or deranged. And, in the absence of any compelling evidence to the contrary, there should be no problem with saying so.

The claim of being able to speak with the dead is sufficiently common and culturally embedded that many people are reluctant to call it out for the pernicious nonsense that it clearly is. I hope the Daily Mail stands firm on this; if it does it will earn some respect from me - something I previously thought rather unlikely.

The Paul Zenon’s articles are clearly opinion pieces, but if they fall short of accusing Morgan of cheating, they only just do so. I very much hope that Zenon will not be called upon to prove in court that Morgan does not and cannot talk to the dead. I fear that English libel lay may be on Morgan’s side – and still needs to be changed.
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@Gaius
written by sibtrag, February 03, 2012
I think the problem is not so much cultural context as it is falsifiability. It is easy to prove that she cannot walk through solid walls. It is harder to prove that she cannot speak with the dead, especially if she controls the demonstrations.




(By the way, between reading your comment and writing mine, I walked through walls four times. Each time, I used a door.)
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written by jmarley42, February 03, 2012
@sibtrag,

as long as she controls the conditions of the demonstration, walking through walls isn't too far-fetched, David Copperfield used to do it all the time. Having control over the conditions is the key. JREF takes that away. At least a BS libel suit offers her a chance of winning.
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Skeptical of skepticsm, Lowly rated comment [Show]
More coverage elsewhere
written by latsot, February 03, 2012
Friend to the JREF Simon Singh is all over this story (he was also involved with the Halloween challenge). Here (http://simonsingh.net/2012/01/...mber-2011/) he conducts a quick study, which is as hilarious as it is unscientific, and asks why Psychic Sally appeared to lose her magical powers at pretty much the exact instant she was accused of receiving instructions via an earpiece. Great stuff.

Follow Simon for updates on this story. Sally is not very bright or careful and it's bound to be hilarious. Plus, this is a phony psychic suing the Daily Mail, which is pretty much win-win.

@Myk5, what are you talking about? Don't we already have enough Chopras in the world abusing their childish misunderstanding of quantum physics?

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written by latsot, February 03, 2012
The interview really is very good, surprisingly for BBC Breakfast, which recently showcased Rupert Sheldrake and his psychic dogs without the slightest speck of critical thinking.
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written by latsot, February 04, 2012
Here is Sally's MO, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...re=related

What do you think?
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written by rosie, February 04, 2012
Paul Zenon is a very skilled and experienced magician. He could certainly do anything Sally can do and could demonstrate the fact in court. But it will depend on the judge just how much he is let demonstrate and how much of his explanations are allowed as testimony.
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lol
written by Myk5, February 05, 2012
I could probably do most anything Sally could as well, with a believing audience. It's a matter of probability combined with a hunch and pretending to have psychic powers. The problem is that I'd meet with so much success after a while I'd wonder if maybe my hunches really were psychic and after more time I would have to accept they are psychic because to not do so would be to insult my money ticket - and confirmation bias would kick in.

A trained mentalist would likely be far superior to Sally or myself in simulating psychic power.

Still, there is real mystery in the real and common 'hunch'. I suppose by leaving it as 'hunch' and not indulging the synonym, 'psychic' it's allows a person to believe they are entirely science based? I would suggest that Sally likely believes in her psychic power but that power is what you or I might called an educated hunch.

The hunch is real, it saves lives of American soldiers abroad every day. Like placebo effect, it can be measured. And both are psychological phenomena - but that fails the test of an explanation. I should like to offer 1 million dollars to anyone that can prove placebo effect and the hunch, are NOT SUPERNATURAL! Alas, I'm a pauper, and realistically could offer at best a 50 cent prize. smilies/grin.gif
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@Myk5
written by FledgelingSkeptic, February 05, 2012
Myk;

If you are familiar with quantum physics then you'll also know that physicists in that field understand that the laws of physics that apply on a subatomic scale simply do not apply on a macro scale. Thus you simply cannot apply the same laws to both. It's a common misunderstanding and one I used to make, myself before I educated myself using reliable, scientific sources.

As for the "difficulty" you relate, that's a bit like saying "Let's not run tests to see what this disease is. Instead we'll just throw random treatments at it until something works or the patient is dead". Objectivity allows us to observe the world in as unbiased a way as possible. We're all human and we all have biases. Even scientists. That's why tests are structured the way they are: to weed out and minimize or eliminate those biases. You can have all the personal biases you want, but applying them to science will taint your results and then you get really crappy, unreliable studies that can't be used.
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written by lytrigian, February 06, 2012
Myk5 has this much right: psychics who start out fake really can start believing in their own powers. This can happen even if they're naturally skeptical. Orson Welles had it happen to him, as he relates in this interview:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjPsnfysrp8
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