Call it an off day, or call it an exposure of fraud, but when a psychic slips up, the cynics will inevitably celebrate the failure. If a psychic – who proclaims to have supernatural abilities in anything from speaking to the dead to remote viewing – is wrong, the public can be extremely unforgiving, if not downright vicious. British trickster and skeptic Derren Brown, one of the most impressive ‘magicians’ and ‘psychics’ in the business, famously admits that his work is based purely on trickery, misdirection and behavioural psychology – actively denouncing psychics who claim a relationship with the supernatural.
The very nature of a psychics’ work, whether genuine or based on complicated ruses, means they have the burden of responsibility to help their fellow man. Often, vulnerable people will turn to the alleged supernatural for help when all else fails, and many well-known psychics can charge these people between $200-$300 per reading. With so many exposés, slip-ups and even actively fraudful behaviours in the industry, why do we keep giving attention and money to alleged psychics and mediums?
Perhaps that sliver of hope that a supernatural world exists – one in which we can connect to loved ones who have passed on, or learn details of our own mortal fate – is enough to trump the doubt. Perhaps it’s the fact that, despite some high-profile mistakes, mediums can provide legitimate help and reassurance to believers.
Some of the cases mentioned on this list are rather minor mistakes, heightened by the fact that they were televised to thousands if not millions of fans. Others are so astronomically face-palm-worthy that they could have inspired major protests. Whether you’re a psychic believer or a serious cynic, the following ten public blunders by high-profile psychics might, respectively, test your faith or prove your point.
10. Derek Ogilvie: The Baby Whisperer
Self-proclaimed psychic, Derek Ogilvie, is known as the “baby whisperer”, meaning he can read the thoughts and minds of children and babies who haven’t yet become fully verbal. In the television documentary, “Extraordinary People: The Million Dollar Mind Reader”, he was subjected to experiments to confirm that he could read the minds of babies. To control the experiments, Ogilvie didn’t have the chance meet the parents prior, and was asked to provide unique knowledge about the baby’s family. In both experiments to which he was subjected, he failed – and, of course, his failure became the subject of the television show.
9. Allison DuBois
Allison DuBois was the inspiration for the major television show, “Medium”, as she claims to have been a great asset to law enforcement during her career. Skeptics will claim that she avoids being called out as wrong by giving vague information. But this all changed for her in 2010 when she was asked by a KPHO-TV CBS affiliate in Phoenix to assist with a case on a missing baby. Unfortunately, DuBois’ predictions and timeline information were not only blatantly incorrect, but they completely failed to solve the urgent case.
8. Yanagi Ryuken
Yanagi Ryuken claims to be a master in the art of “kiai”, which is essentially psychic fighting. He claimed that he could use the power of his mind and chi to defeat his opponent without even laying a finger on them. Ryuken was so confident in his abilities, that he took on a $5000 bet from an MMA fighter that he could beat him. The bet was filmed, showcasing the psychic’s rather embarrassing attempts in hitting the air, only to be brutally defeated by the MMA fighter.
7. The One
This particular case was a group effort, and a group embarrassment. An Australian television show called, “The One” was the X-Factor of psychic abilities. The show featured ten people who were self-proclaimed psychics, who went through a series of tests and challenges to confirm that they were legitimate, or “the one”. One challenge in particular involved placing them in a forest and asking them to depend on their psychic abilities to find their way to the waiting helicopter. Unfortunately, none of these psychics were able to find the helicopter and instead, they all went in the opposite direction.
6. The George Bull Experiment
You have to give the BBC credit; they really know how to stir the pot. A television presenter for the BBC wanted to bring three psychics into an abandoned chocolate factory, but intended to give the owner a fake name and a fake story and see which of the psychics could figure out that the story was a sham. All three psychics claimed to have channeled or contacted “George Bull”, the name of the fake ghost. When the host revealed that the story and person were fake, the psychics all came out with excuses – one said they knew that it was a trick, one claimed to have accidentally gathered information from the host’s mind, and the last one actually argued with the host that the story was true. Woops.
5. Char Margolis
Char Margolis came under fire when she failed to give a successful cold reading to WGN Chicago’s news anchors. And reporter Larry Potash wasn’t going to miss a golden television opportunity, so he didn’t let her get away with it; he proceeded to call her out and rip her apart on national television. On the air, Margolis offered another reading to Potash without the cameras, one that would be completely private. He discussed the reading a few days later and confirmed that Margolis once again failed to prove her abilities.
4. John Edward
John Edward has face heavy criticism in the past, and was even called out by the show “South Park” for utilizing fraudulent cold reading skills. Interestingly enough, while his television show was on the air, audience members reported several inaccuracies with his readings. But then, the show’s editors would cut the parts where he was wrong and splice the clips together to make it seem like he had a successful reading.
3. James Van Praagh
James Van Praagh’s approach is very similar to John Edward’s technique, which means a lot of ‘cold reading’. When he was a guest on the Australian talk show, “The Circle”, he was attempting a reading on a female audience member. He first begins to ask vague questions about the woman’s mother in regards to medication – a safe bet, as most elderly women are likely taking some form of medication. But as he continued the cold reading, he kept getting blatant misses as the woman kept saying no to his questions. Towards the end of the reading and appearance, you see the woman rolling her eyes at Van Praagh, clearly unimpressed.
2. Sylvia Browne
Sylvia Browne has recently passed, but unfortunately, people still remember the times when she was embarrassingly wrong with her predictions. One of the most notable of these was when she told the mother of Amanda Berry, the missing teen who was kidnapped, that her daughter was dead. Berry’s mother accepted the tragic supposed fact that her daughter was dead, and once Berry was found, Browne found herself in the midst of intense controversy. This wasn’t Browne’s first public mess-up, as she also conducted an incorrect reading on The Maury Show claiming that a woman’s husband drowned – when he actually died in the 9/11 attacks.
1. Uri Geller
Uri Geller is a well-known illusionist and self-proclaimed psychic who claims to use his mind to bend spoons. He was an international sensation making television appearances the world over. However, an appearance on “The Tonight Show” in 1973 still stands out as one of the most memorable moments in his career, and for the wrong reasons. Geller would insist on bringing his own spoons to his appearances, but host Johnny Carson pre-selected the spoons and wanted Geller to bend them on live television. Needless to say, Geller wasn’t able to perform – due to the fact that he wasn’t in the right mindset or strong enough, so he says. Most believed, of course, that it was because he didn’t have his special (and supposedly rigged) spoons. Geller didn’t let that embarrassment stop him, though, and he’s had a sparkling psychic career.