I firmly believe in the importance of skeptics attending a psychic show, in order to see firsthand how the biggest touring psychics in the country claim to put audience members in touch with the spirits of their dearly departed – for entertainment purposes only, naturally. In seeing such shows up close and witnessing their effect on devoted audiences we get to see how seriously people take the word of a psychic, and therefore how serious an issue it is if the person making the claims doesn’t have the supernatural powers they profess.
One such show I recently attended was that of psychic Paula O’Brien, whose Liverpool show saw a modest audience of around 150 gather in a hotel function room, eager for Paula to make contact with the other side. Amongst the usual fare of scattergun names (“Is there a Stephen or a Stewart or a Scott?”) and random numbers and dates (“What does the number 3 or the month of March or the 3rd of any month mean?”) there were a few points that particularly stood out to a skeptical viewer.
Most disturbing was the lady who told Paula she had attempted suicide on two occasions since the death of her husband. Clearly this was a sensitive subject, and one which needed to be handled with care – or, ideally, one best left to qualified experts. All of which made Paula’s response incredibly shocking: “I promise you, if you try again – and this is your husband’s words – you’ll be in a wheelchair sucking through a straw”.
We then learned that the audience member in question had taken to smearing her deceased husband’s ashes on her skin before leaving the house, after being advised by a previous psychic that she should abandon her plans to scatter his ashes, and instead should keep them close at all times. It is hard to witness such cases and still wonder if there is any harm in seeing a psychic.
During one part of the show, Paula highlighted perhaps her most impressive and interesting skill: after predicting one particular audience member was almost certainly pregnant (much to the lady’s surprise), Paula explained that she has an uncanny accuracy when it comes to such matters. In fact, Paula told us, in the two years since she started keeping score, she has correctly predicted no fewer than 3500 pregnancies, and can correctly predict the sex too.
The maths of her claim alone should give us pause for thought: assuming Paula was modestly rounding down her timeframe, allowing her a generous period of 3 years, that would still mean Paula needed to correctly predict almost 4 new pregnancies every single day, without breaking for so much as a holiday. That’s not even taking into account the odd (presumably rare) inaccurate prediction. That’s quite a feat of dedication, and a work ethic I have to express admiration for – especially considering the amount of time she must need to spend following up every prediction to be sure it actually came true. Perhaps she has someone in her team do those follow-ups.
This appears to an incredible gift. If Paula’s claim is truly genuine, then she deserves global recognition, as her gift would force scientists to rethink the laws of biology and physics. Indeed, to help her on the path to a Nobel Prize, Good Thinking would be willing to arrange a demonstration that would enable her to prove her extraordinary power.
We have written to Paula today. If she is willing to demonstrate her psychic sex-determination, then we will discuss details with her and then let you know the test protocol in due course. However, if Paula is unwilling to be tested, then presumably she has doubts about her ability, in which case we hope that she will stop making unsubstantiated miracle claims.
This article originally appeared in the Guardian, Tuesday 16th December, 2014.