From Psychic to Sceptic

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Volume 20 Number 1, Spring 2007


James Byrne in retrospect on being a psychic

WE LIVE IN an age where many millions of people turn to psychics and mediums for help and guidance in so many aspects of their lives. You see the advertisements in nearly every magazine available on every newsagent’s shelf, “call this number for accurate readings”, “love, career, relationships”. The number you dial will either be an 0906 premium rate number where clients are charged at the rate of £1.50 per minute or you can pay by credit card, but you will still pay anything from £30 to £40. Yet so many times what you are told by the psychic you will not be able to relate to, and their predictions in many cases will turn out to be complete nonsense. This kind of disappointment is damaging and distressing to vulnerable individuals who are desperate for help. There may be psychics who genuinely have a desire to help those in need, but I believe they are in the minority.
Is it possible to give someone a psychic reading without having any psychic ability whatsoever? The answer of course is “yes”. Anyone can learn to do psychic readings and earn a very good living in the process. I will show you how to conduct a successful psychic reading later in this article. The only ability you will need is observation.

Another case I know of was a lady
who, during her consultation,
was told the child she was expecting
would be born with considerable
problems. “I can see blood all over
the child,” claimed the psychic.
Three months later her child was
born perfectly healthy

The psychic industry is now a multi-million pound industry all around the world and yet most magicians and mentalists are able to do what psychics do and, in many cases, do it better. Some people mistakenly consult psychics every time a problem crops up in their lives. If that psychic turns out to give wrong information, they will then consult another one in the hope that they will hear what they are looking for.
I know of a lady who consulted a psychic for a one day reading and was told that her husband might not see his next birthday. This dreadful information turned out to be wholly inaccurate but the worry and fear that this instilled into this poor woman was inexcusable. Another case I know of was a lady who, during her consultation, was told the child she was expecting would be born with considerable problems. “I can see blood all over the child,” claimed the psychic. Three months later her child was born perfectly healthy. Again, the distress this caused was enormous. It would be wrong to tar all psychics with the same brush. Some are very accurate in their utterances.
Sadly, they are few and far between. On the whole, more people gain nothing by consulting psychics, than those who do gain. An explanation of how a reading can be done without any psychic ability: It is always safe to assume that anyone who seeks out a psychic has a problem that they are in quest of an answer for. If it is a lady, it is often a safe bet she has a relationship problem. The golden rule is observation. For example, if you say to a client “You’ve been very upset recently”, more often than not they will be helped because you are right. If you take note of their reaction, it will always give you the answer. Go on to say, “This is to do with a man, isn’t it?” Nine out of ten times you will be correct.

By this time, your client is convinced you are psychic because you are spot on and all you’ve done is made a safe guess and observed their reaction. In other words, they have unknowingly given you information but they are convinced that you have given it to them.
A trick that seldom fails: You can then go on to say “Ah well, never mind, brighter times are on their way. This time next year, you will be wonderfully happy.”
Then you have created a happy optimism within the client. I am well aware that this practice of deceit is despicable and should not happen, but it does, and sadly many of the deceived will go back for more.

Then there are so-called psychics who really believe they have a gift but never really prove anything with it. Just before my wife and I met, she visited a medium who is now very well known throughout the United Kingdom. My wife had just lost her first husband in a road traffic accident and was hoping for proof that he was OK on the other side. The medium didn’t even mention this, which at the time of her reading was a huge sadness in her life. When he reached the end of the reading, he invited her to ask him a question, “I’ve just lost my husband” she said. “Can you tell me if he is OK on the other side?” “Oh yes, I feel a stabbing”. Wrong. “I know he was with you when he died, wasn’t he?” Wrong again. He went on to mention several more possibilities of how he may have died, none of which were true. It was plain that he was guessing in the hope that he would hit on the reason, but he didn’t. “Oh, he’s OK on the other side and sends you his love.” My wife left the reading feeling worse than she did before going there. The sad fact is that so many people look to psychics and depend on them to get out of bed in the morning. Well, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but very few of those who have regular psychic readings are aware of the tricks of the trade, so to speak. Many argue that great comfort is gained from readings and maybe that’s no bad thing. It should also be made known to the sitter that 90% of the time the information they are given is not from the spirit world. I recently sat through a public demonstration of mediumship where the medium was saying things like, “I’ve got an Irish connection here and this man came from a big family”. It was odd to me that the information being given, he gave to several other people in the same audience on the same evening. Other comments, such as, “I’ve got a man here that passed with a heart attack”. Don’t we all know someone, or know of someone, who died of a heart attack?

Many psychics are decent, giving people who would never intentionally hurt anyone. There is both self-delusion and deliberate fraud. I think most psychics fall into the former category and not the latter. It’s time to challenge them and show to them it is just not real. Having worked as a psychic myself, I know how easy it is to fool yourself into believing you are possessed by wonderful powers and gifts. I realise after years of indecision that I had to move on and take a very different view of the whole psychic scene. For over five years, I felt ill at ease with the work I was doing. I remember some years ago being invited to appear on a television programme called Head to Head. I was on as a psychic, and sitting in the opposite chair was a well known magician and sceptic, Ian Rowland. The idea was that he would do a fake reading for someone in the studio audience and I would do a genuine reading, with the audience being led to believe we were both genuine psychics.

The conclusion was that Ian’s reading was better than mine. When the presenter told the audience that Ian was a magician, they were gob-smacked, to say the least. On another occasion I was invited to be in the audience during a recording of James Randi Investigates at Granada Television. Each week he would look at various types of psychic practices and generally try to disprove them. At the time I thought that James was speaking from the wrong end of his person. With hindsight, I think the psychics taking part offered no real evidence whatsoever. What the majority of mediums put forward as evidence just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Psychics must really start to be brutally honest with themselves. Although I found Mr Randi’s approach rather harsh and hurtful, I do agree with his conclusions about psychics. I am confident that no-one will ever win the big cash challenge Mr Randi has on offer. Of all the television programmes I’ve ever been involved with or seen other psychics on, not yet has a psychic triumphed over a magician. It worries me that people are paying fortunes for what, in so many cases, turns out to be rubbish.

James Byrne worked as a psychic for thirty years before coming to the conclusion that it was all a sham. During his time as a psychic, he toured New Zealand twice, hosted radio shows in the United Kingdom, and performed at the London Palladium. He now earns his living as a writer and debunker of psychics.

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