Last night I was fortunate enough to be at Brighton Skeptics in the Pub where the always entertaining Paul Zenon gave an excellent talk about mediums and psychics, such as Sally Morgan for example. For a bit of background on the whole Sally Morgan saga click here, here, and here. Obviously Paul could not discuss any specifics relating to the current legal action, but was here to talk about the ‘art’ of mediumship in general.
At The Caroline of Brunswick pub there was a packed out top floor eagerly awaiting Paul and his talk. He did not disappoint. He gave us an interesting background into the world of spiritualism and mediumship, beginning with an interesting tale about Claude Alexander Conlin, aka Alexander, a vaudeville mentalist/psychic/medium of financially epic success!
Paul then went on to tell us about how he was invited to comment on Sally’s “earpiece” incident by the incredibly popular Daily Mail newspaper, and the resulting controversy, which has led to him taking a brave and potentially damaging stand against Ms. Morgan and her ilk. He spoke brilliantly (as usual) but was careful not to make direct accusations against Sally, instead talking about how the results she achieves could potentially have been done, and went into detail about some of the tricks that are often employed to make it seem as though a person is displaying some form of psychic ability.
I am fortunate enough not to have to be so careful, and I’m happy to point out that Sally is most definitely conning people out of money, but more importantly, she is destroying the memories of some people’s dead loved ones, whilst keeping them from gaining closure on the grieving process. As a member of the legal profession I only wish I could prosecute her for Fraud, but alas, the laws governing “entertainment” (and libel) in this country are so flawed as to allow a charlatan like her to get away with making millions of pounds every year at the expense of vulnerable people.
Paul mentioned at the close of his talk, that in order to tackle this nonsense it doesn’t make sense to challenge her followers directly (especially on Facebook or the internet) as they are so entrenched in their views, and so deeply emotionally invested that you a)Won’t convince them, and b)Will probably polarise them further towards Sally’s defence. What really needs to happen is for us at the grassroots level to challenge Sally’s abilities directly, and I think that sending in false information on her site and ‘love letters’ is a good start as she can use her psychic ability to differentiate fact from fiction. After all, if she’s real, she won’t be getting ‘messages’ from fictional characters
Also, mocking these type of acts for the joke that they are, and pointing out the blatant nonsense, tricks, and vague ‘hits’ in a humorous fashion is likely to be more effective. Especially if done by some of the more high profile comedians out there – I’m looking at you Dara O’Briain, Stephen Fry, Charlie Brooker, Robin Ince et al.
Overall, as a huge Paul Zenon fan since his Channel 4 Street Magic days, it was a joy to meet him in person, and a pleasure to hear him talk. I sincerely hope the resulting legal action he’s named in ends up in the bin where it belongs and doesn’t cost him for being honest and outspoken.
Project Barnum – more info on how to spot a fake, and resources to help fight them