Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sally, meet Toby.

Last October, you may recall, I wrote about "England's favorite psychic," "Psychic Sally" Morgan, who had run afoul of some skeptics when she was seen allegedly receiving information about her subjects via an earpiece.  (Read the post here.)  Psychic Sally was incensed by the accusation, and sued the reporters who broke the story for defamation of character, asking for £150,000 in damages.  This opens up the interesting question of how she would defend herself against the accusation of fraud without being required to demonstrate her "powers" under controlled conditions -- something she has been steadfastly unwilling to do.

But her troubles haven't ended.  She's still out there, doggedly doing "readings," and was playing to a sold-out crowd in Edinburgh, Scotland on February 23.  Among the people in the audience was one Drew McAdam, a reporter for the Edinburgh Evening News.  And during the evening's performance, Psychic Sally said to the audience that she was picking up the presence a spirit, but then hesitated.  It was a horrific death, she said, because the person had been killed in an explosion.

At this point, a woman stood up, and asked if it could be her son, who was killed in a suicide bombing in Iraq.  Psychic Sally said no, she didn't think it was him, and asked the audience, "Does anyone recognize the name Tobin?"

At this point, Drew McAdam's wife stood up, and said she did, and Psychic Sally said that yes, it was her!  She was the focal point for this communique from the spirit world!  So she, and her husband Drew, were invited up on stage, where Psychic Sally proceeded to tell her that she could see "Tobin" crouched over a bomb, trying to defuse it, and then it blew up and killed him, "throwing him through the air."  Psychic Sally was devastated by witnessing the horrific event, and said, "Oh, darling, I'm sorry.  What a way to die."  Mrs. McAdam admitted to having been in love with a man named Toby who had died that way, and Psychic Sally comforted her saying that Toby was still here for her, and was sending her reassuring messages from the spirit world.

Pretty impressive, no?

Well, no, and here's why.

McAdam and his wife had set Psychic Sally up, starting some weeks earlier, when McAdam had sent emails to Psychic Sally's website containing the details of the "Toby" story.  Then, before the show, he and his wife had put "love letters to Toby" in the drop box Psychic Sally has at the door at every show, placed there to collect materials she will then select from during the performance.  Clearly while up on stage, perusing the contents of the box, she recognized the story, connecting the "love letters" with the earlier emails, and realized she had a wonderful starting point for a reading.

But still... couldn't Toby's spirit really have been there that night, comforting the grieving Mrs. McAdam?

Unfortunately for Psychic Sally, the answer is no -- because "Toby" is the fictional character Toby Wren, from the 1970s British science fiction series Doomwatch.

For her part, Mrs. McAdam said she hadn't been lying about her feelings.  "I had totally fallen in love with (Toby) when I was a 13-year-old," she later told skeptic Simon Singh.  "He was played by Robert Powell.  I cried for days when Toby was blown up defusing a bomb on a pier."

Well, I don't know about you, but my reaction to all this is:  BA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA *falls off chair*

You have to wonder how Psychic Sally will deal with this new development.  Apparently Singh tried to contact her with questions about the set-up, and (surprise!) Psychic Sally hasn't responded.  (Read Singh's article on the incident here.)  McAdam, for his part, said he never expected the prank to go as far as it did -- he was just "having a bit of a lark," trying to poke fun at psychics (McAdam himself is an amateur magician, but says that he is "as psychic as a teapot").  It was quite a shock when his wife got selected, but I think he would probably agree that the results were far more wonderful than anyone could have reasonably expected.

So, Psychic Sally's long night of the soul isn't over yet, but she's showing no signs of doing what most of us would do in her situation, which is to retire in shame and humiliation to an island off the coast of Greenland, never to be seen again.  But as we've seen over and over, woo-woos are the least likely people in the world ever to give up, and will doggedly continue to defend what they're doing even when caught red-handed.

And about her psychically contacting the spirit of a deceased fictional character, I would just like to add that if Psychic Sally wouldn't mind doing me a favor, I'd love to have a chance to chat with Nick Andros from Stephen King's book The Stand.  He was an awesome character.  I cried when he died.

1 comment:

  1. She might be doggedly defending herself in order to maintain her career (if you can call it that), but I've got a strong assumption that people like her have a lot of trouble sleeping at night. Constructing your livelihood around a big lie has got to be a stressful.

    Temper that with the notion that if her brow starts to sweat, she can dry her perspiration with a big handful of cash from these sold-out shows she's doing.

    Did you catch Saturday Night Live last weekend? They had the "Psychic Awards"