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Secrets of the Psychic Exposed

Part 1 of a 5 part series
The clever art of deception
By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum

Watching a psychic at work can be an awesome, astounding, and enjoyable experience and can easily fool us into believing that they actually possess hidden and mysterious powers enabling them to read people’s minds, communicate with the dead, or are able to break or fix objects just by concentrating their supposed mental kinetic energy on the object. Their tricks are so well executed that many people are easily deluded into believing that certain people possess supernatural powers that can defy the laws of nature and make even the impossible happen. It’s only when we uncover their clever methods of deception that we are forced to admit how easily we can be bamboozled into believing the nonsensical and the absurd.

There exists an essential difference between a magician and a psychic. A magician never claims to possess any supernatural abilities or powers and clearly admits that everything he does is through deception and trickery. Psychics however, try to convince us that they possess supernatural powers and this is what makes psychics very dangerous. That’s because they can easily misuse their brilliant powers of deception in order to deceive people in ways that can turn out to be extremely harmful. They can use it to cheat people out of their money by promising to heal them of their illnesses or to bring them harmful advice from their long dead relatives or give them other nonsensical advice that can prove to be detrimental and damaging. The danger of going to psychic surgeons can be extremely fatal since they prevent a person from seeking proper medical attention. They can also use their psychic powers to convince people of false religious beliefs. The great Harry Houdini, a magician who gained worldwide fame for his amazing incredulous escape acts, spent many years investigating spiritualism. He would always tell people that no one possesses any mysterious psychic powers and that all of his magic was nothing but very clever illusions or tricks. In his excellent book “Houdini, A Magician Among the Spirits” he strongly denounces spiritualism as being fake and extremely dangerous and even unmasks many of their “miraculous” schemes. These deceitful methods he says, “Were the instruments used by the priests of ancient religious cults for the purpose of holding the mass of unintelligent beings in servitude.”

“It is not unusual for the eye or ear to play tricks with us, but when such illusions and delusions are taken for the spirit forms of the departed and the voices of the dead instead of being recognized as being brought about through clever trickery and deceit, the situation takes on a very grave aspect,” he says. “One little sign which appeals to people’s waiting imagination, shatters all ordinary caution and they are easily converted into believing their true powers.” These people are willing to pay great sums of money to those who supposedly bring them a message from their departed loved ones and therefore present “a menace to our health and sanity.” Only by revealing some of a psychics many tricks will people come to realize that a psychic is nothing but a magician in disguise. The intention and purpose of this exposé is not to reveal a magicians many tricks but only to get the reader to realize how a psychic performs his trickery so that he will avoid being taken for a ride by their mystical tomfoolery.

One of the most famous psychic superstars in the 1970’s was someone by the name of Uri Geller who became famous for his supposed ability to bend metal spoons or fix broken watches just by using his supposed paranormal mental powers. He made countless appearances on TV and made the cover of many magazines and newspapers and even convinced a prestigious group of scientists of the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in California of his amazing psychic abilities. This of course only proves how easily even intelligent people can be deceived. In fact, thousands of people were actually convinced that he was the “real thing.” “The fact that they are scientists does not endow them with a special gift for detecting the particular sort of fraud used by mediums, nor does it bar them from being deceived.” says Houdini the master magician who has baffled many scientists with his amazing escapes. Geller would probably still be around today if not for someone by the name of James Randy, better known as “The Amazing Randy”, who decided to expose his clever tricks in a book entitled “The Truth About Uri Geller”. Randy provides us with a well researched book that will certainly delight and enlighten all its readers. Ever since then, the popularity of this psychic superstar has faded even though he is still trying to make a comeback in England where he now lives.

The art of deception is nothing new. For thousands of years alchemists would use clever deception and trickery to convince people that they possessed mysterious powers and had found the secret formula to change base metals such as copper into silver or gold, or that they had discovered the secret ingredient to prolong life or cure the incurable. They became very rich by scamming thousands of people that fell for their ridiculous and bizarre claims. They would set up shop in a small village or town and convince people to throw their silver coins into a large kettle boiling over a fire. At first, most people were very skeptical of their claims and only a few people came along to throw their silver coins into the boiling kettle. The alchemist then poured in some of his very secret ingredients and told the people to leave the coins boiling in the kettle overnight and to come back the next morning to collect them. Lo and behold, the next morning when they came back, they were amazed to find that their silver coins had indeed turned into gold. News of this unbelievable phenomena and discovery spread far and wide and soon hundreds of people cast their silver coins into the large boiling kettle filled with the supposed magical ingredients in the firm belief that they would collect their gold coins the next morning. During the middle of the night, the alchemist would dump the contents of the kettle into the back of his wagon and disappear into the night only to repeat his brilliant scam in some other faraway village. This was of course before the invention of the telephone that could be used to inform the faraway villages to beware of the con artist who had ripped them off from their great treasures.

In the 1800’s, three sisters known as the Fox sisters began reporting that they had heard strange rapping sounds during the night and that the noises were supposedly coming from spirits coming to them from the next world that were communicating with them. They managed to fool many scientists who also heard these strange rapping sounds and were convinced that these rapping sounds were from the world of the spirits. This was the birth of the whole spiritualism movement which still flourishes in many places around the world. It was only in 1888, before their deaths, that the sisters confessed that they had produced the rapping sounds by cracking their toe joints, a special skill they all seemed to have possessed. Yet despite their signed confession that “it was all fraud, hypocrisy and delusion,” Spiritualism continued to grow and become more popular.

Psychics use many tricks in order to convince their audience that they posses superpowers. There are many books such as “Practical Mental Magic” by Theodore Annemann and many others that explain how they play their tricks of thought transmission, prophesy and other psychic effects that amaze and dumbfound their audience. There they explain a variety of ways to pull off these scams. Sometimes they pass an empty slate to someone in the audience and ask them to draw a picture on the slate. With their eyes blindfolded, they proceed to tell the person what he has drawn on the slate. With some great acting on the psychic’s part, the performance can look very impressive. What the audience does not know is that the psychic has an accomplice. The person sitting behind the person drawing the picture is in cahoots with the psychic and can easily see the drawing. The accomplice whispers this information into a tiny transmitter held in his hand. The psychic is then made privy to this information through the use of a small hidden earpiece that he is wearing.

In a fascinating book titled “The Psychic Mafia” by Lamar Keene, also known as the “Prince of the Spiritualists,” the author, who posed as a priest for many years, relates many of the amazing psychic stunts he pulled on his thousands of gullible victims who showered him with great wealth because of his great spiritualistic abilities. In it, Keene exposes some of the ingenious secrets of the séance room used by mediums to exploit the gullible public into believing that they are actually able to communicate with the dead. He tells how thousands of people would depend on the advise of his supposed spirits to solve both marital, legal, medical, and other problems they encountered in their lives. He carefully describes the devious methods psychics use to fool their believers. The book is an eye-opener and brilliant exposé on this very fascinating and amazing subject and will teach you a variety of ways in which mediums create their dramatic effects of speaking to the dead and also shows how all of us can easily be deceived given the right circumstances. Believers will find some of their cherished beliefs and delusional gibberish totally demolished. Once we read this book, we will better understand why the Rambam gives these beliefs absolutely no credence and says that they have no foundation in reality.

The only reason I have chosen to expose a psychic’s clever tricks is in order to prevent people from losing both their money, their health, and their treasured beliefs. One of the most dangerous things about this fraud is that “some people put their complete faith and lives into the hands of these fraudulent individuals who claim that they have a direct line to the next world,” says Randi. Only by exposing a psychics devious ploys, will people learn to be careful to keep their distance and avoid being conned by their persuasive and brilliant schemes. Let’s just remember that no book or article can ever detail all the devious methods by which the psychic performs his many wondrous feats. Yet, once we become familiar with at least some of their schemes, we will learn to beware and not fall victim for their other frauds which we may still fail to understand. Let’s remember that the most vulnerable are the bereaved who are only too happy to be reassured that their beloved departed souls are still alive and that they can even communicate with them. These people will pay any price to once again hear the voices of those loved ones who have passed away.

One of a psychics many persuasive ploys is called billet-reading. This is when a blindfolded medium asks his audience to write their names and questions on a piece of paper and then fold the paper and put it into an envelope. The envelopes are then sealed and collected and put into a basket which is placed in front of the psychic. The psychic, who has been blindfolded, then pulls out an envelope from the basket and holds it against his forehead. He then calls out the name of the person on the envelope and provides him with an answer to the question he has supposedly received from the spirits in another world.. When the person in the audience acknowledges that the answer was indeed appropriate for the given question, the audience is easily convinced of the psychics incredible powers. The more envelopes he pulls out and answers correctly, the more convincing he seems to be.

What the audience does not know is that this is a simple trick that anyone can perform. It can be done in many ways. One popular way is called the “one ahead method” This technique calls for pilfering one of the envelopes beforehand and reading its contents without the audience noticing it. This can be done in a few different ways. One way is to have a confederate who is collecting the envelopes sneak him one envelope without the audience noticing it. The psychic now takes out any envelope from the basket and puts it against his forehead. He however reads the content of the previous pilfered envelope and makes up some standard spiritualistic answer. He then tears open this envelope and scans the question inside, making believe that he is satisfied with his answer. Actually what he is now doing is reading the next envelope. And so the game continues on. There are other clever schemes to pull this off like having a confederate in the audience. When the psychic reads the first envelop and makes up any answer, the confederate acknowledges that the answer was correct to his question. Now, of course, the psychic continues by using the “one ahead” method to read the rest of the envelopes. Another method is to smear lighter fluid on the envelope and put it over a strong light set beneath his podium. This makes the envelope transparent so that its message can easily be read. Little does the audience realize that even when the medium wears a blindfold over his eyes, he can still look downward and see things from between the small space next to his nose. Try it yourself and you’ll see how this works. Magic supply stores sell special blindfolds that make it very easy to cheat. This is how psychics are able to drive a car while blindfolded.

The more secrets - that supposedly no one could ever have known - that a psychic reveals, the more powerful and convincing the psychic’s act will be. One of the great secrets behind a medium’s great powers of deception therefore depends on the information they can obtain before the actual sitting. This is called a “hot reading”. There are many ways to obtain this vital necessary information about their prospective client. People must naturally make appointments in advance and this gives the medium plenty of time to find out all about their client. There are many deceitful ways to gather pertinent information about people. Sometimes people are planted in a psychic’s waiting room and their casual conversations can be heard over the secret microphones planted in the ceiling or walls. Another psychic once sent some stranger over to his prospected client to check out his house. The stranger knocked on the door and pretended to be lost. When the stranger was let into the house he studied it and put some of the interesting things he saw to memory. When the person later came to visit the psychic, he was very surprised that the psychic was able to describe some of the things hanging in his kitchen and even the interior of his house. This immediately convinced him that the psychic possessed mental telepathy.

Sometimes psychics will lift a women’s pocket book, in the midst of the total darkness of the séance or through other means, and pass in on to an accomplice who would check it out very thoroughly. This method would usually yield their social security number and much other confidential data that the medium could use during the séance. Later, the pocketbook would be returned to the very same place and no one would be any the wiser. Sometimes the people were told to lock up their valuables in a locker to which the psychic’s assistant had a duplicate key. Keene also tells how he once hired someone to deliver flowers to a family he was setting up for a demonstration of spirit power. He asked the person who delivered the flowers to lift some small object and bring it to him. He pilfered an expensive religious medallion which the spirits later returned to the owner who was thereby convinced of the medium’s great powers. He tells how he once asked his delivery boy to find something in the house and then hide it in a place where it would be very unlikely for the person to find it. He found a diamond ring in one of the drawers and slipped it into a crevice behind the stone mantle in the living room. It wasn’t long before the owner of the ring called him almost in tears telling him that she had lost something that meant a great deal to her. She asked him to please ask the spirits to find it for her. When he told her that the spirits claim that it is behind the mantle, she quickly went there and found it. She returned to the phone ecstatic, filled with great praises for the great spirits who had revealed the hidden secrets to her. There are hundreds of other ways psychics use to get their information. The Internet has now provided them with another good source to learn about their client. Both Keene and Houdini expose some of the devious methods used to get such hidden information.

Secrets of the Psychic Exposed
By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum
Part 2
More Tricks Revealed

A psychic usually uses a trusted accomplice for many of his tricks. When the psychic is sent out of the room, the confederate asks the audience to pick a number. Upon the psychics return into the room the confederate asks the entire audience to concentrate on the secret number they picked. After giving the appearance of concentrating very deeply, the psychic is easily able to announce the selected number. Actually it is his accomplice who acts as the master of ceremonies that gives it away. He does it by using a word code that they have prearranged between themselves. The word “silence” can equal 100, while the word “concentrate” can equal 10. By asking the audience to concentrate or be silent he is actually revealing to the psychic the selected number. Using code words to reveal information is a much used trick by both magicians and psychics.

Here is a very simple trick I showed my students in order to demonstrate how easily they can be fooled by these supposed psychics. I told them that I wanted to make an experiment to see if anyone in the class possessed any hidden psychic powers. I called upon different boys and had each of them cover their eyes with a coat over their head while I held different colored sheets of paper in my hand. I told the class to concentrate on the colored sheet that I held before their eyes and asked the blindfolded student to concentrate and see what color came to his mind. Of all the boys in the class, there were only two boys that would always get the color right. I now had some of the class convinced that there are some people that indeed possessed hidden psychic powers. It was only then that I showed them the simple code that I had previously taught these two boys. The word “What” color am I holding, meant green. “Now” what color am I holding, meant yellow, etc. I then showed them how one can perform this same trick even without saying a word. I placed a boy in front of me, blindfolded him and he was still able to identify the proper color paper I was holding. This time I showed them how his foot was extended under my desk and all I needed to do was tap his foot according to a prearranged code. I then sat the boy in the back of the classroom and didn’t say a thing and he was still able to know what colors I held. I then explained that this time I had prearranged the order of the colors which I would show him and what the class thought was random, wasn’t random at all. The moral was that there exists more than one way to skin a cat and that we may not always be able to know how the trick is being done.

Yet there are many other devious ways for a psychic to be privy of hidden information. An accomplice sitting in the room with a prospective client or a confederate in the audience can simply have a cell phone or small transmitter hidden in his pocket which is continuously connected to the psychic who is listening in to all that is being said in the room. When the psychic is then dialed from a regular phone, he seems to know all that has transpired in the room and can reveal the number that has been selected as well as many other things that he overheard.

Here is another clever psychic trick that when staged properly can be quite convincing. The psychic begins by writing a number on a paper and sealing it in an envelope that he places in full view of his audience. He then asks everyone in the audience to pick a number from one to a thousand. He then calls up a few people from the audience and asks them to write down their selected number on the small pad that he is holding in his hand. He then asks a person from the audience to come up and add up the numbers written on the pad and not to show the number to anyone. He continues by selecting another member of the audience whom he asks to tear open the large previously sealed envelope that the entire audience had clearly seen standing in front of them and had not been tampered with. After tearing open the envelope and reading its contents, sure enough it is found to contain the very same number that is written on the pad. How did the psychic know what this number would be before it had even been selected? Can he really know the future? That’s preposterous! The secret lies in a simple trick anyone can easily perform.. As he took the pad upon which the three people had written their number and given it to the fourth person to add up the numbers, he quickly turned the pad to the other side. The other side also contained three numbers which he himself had previously written and for which he already knew the total. The person totaling up the three numbers is under the impression that he is totaling the numbers the three selected people had written on the pad. What he is actually doing is totaling the numbers that the psychic had previously written on the pad. This was the exact number that the psychic had written in the envelope that he had previously sealed. No big trick after you know how it is done but very effective when preformed properly. A simple variation of this trick is to continue the performance by dialing the telephone number of a psychic. As soon as the psychic answers the phone, the performer hands the phone to the person holding the hidden number. The psychic naturally answers the phone by immediately telling the audience the number the person is holding. An amazing and astonishing feat for those who don’t realize how easy it is to do.

There are hundreds of different mind reading tricks some done through the use of a confederate and others done by easily having a look at what you have written without you being able to know how this was done. But if the psychic still insists that he is not using any trickery but can actually read your mind, then put him to the following test. Tell him that you are now thinking of a number between one and a million, but under no circumstances are you to put it to writing or reveal it to anyone. If he can now tell you the number you are thinking of, then you have finally discovered the world’s first true psychic! The James Randi Foundation is willing to give a million dollars to anyone that can do it. Actually if he truly possessed such amazing skills then he can make a good living picking the winning lottery ticket each week.

Secrets of the Psychic Exposed
By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum
Part 3
More tricks of the trade

As we have previously explained, many of a psychics clever tricks are take from a magicians arsenal. However, while the magician readily admits that it is all trickery and deception, the psychic claims that he possesses unexplained mysterious abilities or supernatural powers. This, as we have already explained, makes them extremely dangerous and it is for this reason that we expose some of their many devious schemes. Unfortunately, the average person does not seem to realize the great suffering, monitory losses and misfortunes, these fraudulent spiritualists can cause to their loyal steadfast believers.

Lamar Keen in his fascinating book titled “The Psychic Mafia” tells how he once took a glass of water from in front of him and poured the contents over some nearby flowers. He then wrapped the empty glass in a handkerchief which he then smashed. After everyone heard the sound of glass shattering, he opened the handkerchief to show the jagged shards of broken glass. He then took one of the very sharp pieces and pooped it into his mouth, crunched on it and then proceeded to swallow it claiming that the great spirits would surely protect him. Little did the amazed spectators realize that all he was doing was swallowing some pieces of shattered ice. He used this simple magic trick in order to gain peoples’ confidence, giving them the impression that he possessed extraordinary spiritual powers that protected him from all harm. Another psychic put a glass on the table in front of him. He now stepped out into the audience and told the entire audience to hold hands and concentrate their combined energy on the glass in front of them. After a few minutes of singing spiritual songs, lo and behold, in full view of hundreds of spectators, the glass suddenly shattered into a hundred bits. This act was done to prove the great power of the mind. What the audience did not know is that this table was no ordinary table but rather had a sharp long metal rod attached to a spring carefully concealed next to the glass. This hidden pointed metal rod would snap out so fast, that the eye could not see it move out or spring back into place. The moment the psychic pressed a remote button, the pointed metal rod came out and hit the glass with great force and then returned to its concealed place without anyone being any the wiser. A remarkable mental feat for the uninitiated and unwary of a magicians bag of tricks.

The clever psychic’s spoon bending tricks are also taken from a magician’s arsenal. One of the ways of doing this trick is to cut the spoon at the place you want it to bend. The cut should only be made most of the way through and then covered by the fingers to conceal the place of the cut. One can either show the audience an uncut spoon and then secretly exchange it with the prepared one, or one can conceal the cut by holding it between the fingers. One can also fill in the cut with a metal looking filler so that the spoon looks like an ordinary spoon. Just a little finger pressure will easily get it to break at its weakened point and make it seem to have been broken by the psychics great mental powers. If the psychic still insists that he possesses such mysterious x-ray powers, let him try to break the spoon while you hold it between your own fingers. If he can still do it now, then I must admit that I am indeed baffled! If he does the trick while someone else is holding the spoon, then you can be sure that he is an accomplice.

There is a famous evangelist by the name of Peter Popoff, who claimed that "god" communicates with him and gives him special powers to heal the sick. Popoff appeared on radio and television shows around the country making millions from his thousands of admirers who all personally witnessed his miraculous "cures". They swore that he was the real thing, as he seemed able to know their names and what was ailing them, as well as other personal information. He would seemingly cure people of cancer and other diseases in front of cheering crowds of thousands who fell for his godly powers. It was first James Randi who exposed him on the "Tonight Show" as a master scam artist. He proved that Popoff had a tiny hearing aid in his left ear, connected to a high-frequency receiver, used by his informers to give him the needed information, and that all his healing powers were a fraud. People would fill out special healing cards before they entered the show and his wife would secretly broadcast the information to him. The audience was amazed at how they had been so cleverly fooled. If not for Randi, many naive Jews would probably believe that he possessed the secret powers of impurity (tum'ah), with which he was able to perform his miraculous cures. Yet despite this amazing revelation, people still continue to believe in his supposed miraculous powers. What a cruel hoax on his sick believing victims.

This is the reason why this subject is so important. Unless we become street smart, we too stand the chance of being ripped off by these "miracle men". A true tzadik gives blessings which we hope Hashem will listen to and doesn't claim to know the concealed neither does he promise any miracle cures. Neither does he advertise his great abilities in the media as some scam artists do. Anyone demanding money, promising miracle cures or claiming to read your palm, mezuzah or kesubah should be avoided like the plague, says Rabbi Hillel one of the foremost ballei mekubalim in Yerushalayim. These quacks are guided by the desire and greed for money and are nothing but booby traps for the gullible. These psychic healers have unfortunately defrauded their believers to the tune of billions of dollars with their claims of being able to cure the incurable. They take advantage of the sick, the destitute and the unwary, who will believe anything no matter how ridiculous and outrageous it sounds. Since a certain amount of illnesses go away on their own. it is quite easy for them to take credit for some of their miraculous cures. Yet most of the time they will simply give you a list of phony credentials or supply you with the testimonies of others that they have bamboozled . They thrive on the diseased and the suffering and are masters at exploiting human credulity and people's desire to believe.

Anyone that has seen David Copperfield, one of the world's greatest magicians make elephants disappear right in front of one's eyes or cut a person in half and piece him back together again will stand in awe at his amazing powers. Houdini, the world's greatest escape artist awed his audience with his amazing feats but always made sure to tell his spectators that he does not posses any miraculous powers and it was all a very clever trick. It's when the performer tries to convince others that he possesses supernatural powers as does Uri Geller, that he becomes a danger to society says James Randy who is himself a magician and has exposed many of those who have made these fraudulent claims.

In order to test the supposed abilities of one kabalistic healer who claimed to see all one's problems in a kesuba, ( a Jewish marital agreement ) we supplied someone who was not married with a fake kesuba and had him make an appointment with the kabalist under the false pretext that he had two sick children. When he finally met with this master scam artist, he wasn't at all shocked when the supposed kabalist looked into the kesuba and went on to tell him that he sees that he has two sick children and for a small fee of $5,000 he can make the proper corrections and thereby everything would be okay. Only after we exposed this kabalist’s phony schemes did he close shop and move elsewhere. Yet there are still people around that continue to insist that his powers are truly genuine. That’s because there seems to be a great hunger and desire to accept the strange powers of the supernatural and the oculists.

In Randi’s excellent book titled “Conjuring” he writes that when he was eighteen years old, “he performed a prediction trick for a newspaper for stunt purposes only. It appeared that he could indeed foresee, three days in advance, the final score of the World Series published in their headlines of their paper, and the resultant write-up was flattering indeed. The newspaper article attracted the attention of a man in Florida, who offered to pay him a handsome sum of money if he would agree to give him, via the telephone, regular information about what horses would be winners at a certain Florida track. Despite telling him that it was just a trick and publicity stunt he did not believe him. Of course Randi turned down the offer. Yet it revealed how easily a dishonest con artist could bamboozle others with their supposed psychokinetic powers, prophecy or other display of spiritual and mental chicanery. Many great minds have been successfully hoodwinked by fraudulent mediums. While Randy does not tell us how he pulled off this clever stunt, many different means can be found in books on this subject.

Randy also tells us about “a character by the name of Cagliostro who claimed to be able to locate gold and buried treasures for all his gullible paying clients. Years later, someone by the name of Joseph Smith, who was to become the founder of the Mormon church, worked the same racket, perhaps inspired by Cagliostro’s success. He and his crooked wife traveled around Europe selling age-regression potions to wealthy fools and claimed that his wife, then only twenty, was actually sixty years old. Paris went wild over him as he related fanciful stories about his conversations with angels, lurid accounts of his childhood discoveries of his great mental powers, and descriptions of gigantic cities in remote parts of the earth. He demonstrated physical marvels, such as writing that appeared on slips of paper which seemed to materialize out of thin air and were supposedly penned by spirits or beings from other planets. Serious and educated men declared themselves eye-witnesses of the alleged miracles. The mania for the supernatural and the frenzy for the belief in the miraculous was beyond belief. For his gullible listeners he promised to locate gold and jewels, taking a sizable fee and then moving on to other locations before delivering on his promises.” He had obviously learned the trade from the alchemists who did nearly much the same or from dowsers who also make similar claims. Certain nonsensical supposed cures may also be tied to “Masseh Emori” and therefore forbidden by the Torah under the lav of “Lo Tenachshu” so better beware!

While I've learned many of the tricks of the trade simply by reading some books, I certainly don't profess to know them all. That's because these clever con artists can always dream up some new ones that I haven't learned yet. I still remember one Purim that a friend of mine from Israel had been visiting me and so I decided to pull a good Purim stunt on my students. I told my boys that this man had just arrived from Israel and possessed psychic abilities and had magical hands. I handed the man a ten dollar bill and he carefully felt it with his hands. I then asked him to leave the room and told the boys to take out any book from the large bookshelf and to hide the ten dollar bill inside any one of them and then return the book to its place. The supposed psychic then came into the room and waved his hands around the bookshelf in very deep concentration until he finally walked over to the shelf and pulled out the correct book and took out the concealed ten dollar bill. Only after I played this trick on them a few times and had them all convinced that he really possessed magical hands did I reveal the secret and show them how easily they had all been fooled. I had previously arranged with him that when he would get to the twentieth book to the right of the correct one I would take a very deep breath. And so as he slowly walked around the room waving his hands around the bookshelf in deep concentration, I drew in a deep breath at the appropriate time and then walked away and sat down at a faraway table. He would continue his hand waving as he moved back and forth until he would suddenly walk over with great drama and pull out the correct book and find the ten dollar bill. I knew they would remember the hands-on lesson I taught them for a very long time.

One of the many mystifying scams pulled by the medium is called slate writing, on which the dead spirits supposedly write messages to the living. These spirit slates can be bought in any shop that sells magical supplies and are not as common today as they were in years past. There are many different tricks used to make the spirit writings appear on the slate and any book on magic can give you numerous ways that this can be done. It’s hard to believe that people actually fall for this nonsense but the fact is that many people swore that it was real. Perhaps they can get the spirits to tell them the winning numbers to tomorrow’s lottery?

Another way that the spirits supposedly communicate with their loved ones in this world is through something called table rapping. That’s when people sit around a table, turn out the lights and put both hands on the table. A person asks a question of the spirits in the room and miraculously the table raps out the answer. One rap for yes and two raps for no. Houdini as well as others give quite a few ways that these raps can be produced without being noticed. A very simple way is to use an electro magnet hidden in one of the legs of the table that can be controlled by remote. There are many other devious and ingenious ways this very simple trick can be done. Table levitating is also easily accomplished in the dark through the aid of a confederate as explained by Houdini in his excellent book “A Magician Among the Spirits.” One finds it hard to believe at how many people have been conned by this easy to produce deception. Obviously, the desire to believe the irrational and the supernatural can do strange things to our thought process. “Spiritualism is nothing but mental intoxication, the intoxication of words, of feelings, and of suggested beliefs,” said Houdini. No wonder so many people have been diluted into believing a person claiming that he heard a fish talk!

Secrets of the Psychic Exposed
By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum
Part 4
Palm Readers and Fortune Tellers

While most of us don't believe in crystal balls, we are quite gullible when a charlatan masquerading as a kabbalist examines our hand or our kesuba. Even the skeptics become ardent believers when the kabbalist makes a reading that is right on target, especially when we are convinced that there was absolutely no way that they could have been privy to that information. And so these Kabbalistic palm readers and fortune tellers flourish like weeds on a rainy summer day and take advantage of those who are troubled and have great pain and have no one to turn to. They also take advantage of the ignorant that don't have the faintest idea of how these tricks work.

I've often played some of these tricks in class on my students and written articles revealing some of their secrets. That's because only by understanding how these scams work will we be convinced that they are all a fake and not be bamboozled by any of them. Let's remember! You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time!

I must admit that I like many others, was always fascinated by those who seemed able to read people's past and future by gazing into a crystal ball or by reading ones palm or even one’s mezuzah. How are psychics able to reveal secrets that were totally hidden from man? Was it a science that I too could learn? Why did the Torah prohibit the use of astrology? Was learning to read a horoscope a true science yet still prohibited by the Torah for some other reason? I watched in amazement as people read palms with deadly accuracy and wondered how this supposed science worked? I'd heard psychics reveal people's past and predict their future and wondered what special powers they possessed and wondered if I too could learn it as well? I read the Rambam who claimed that all of these things are all a fake and wondered at how millions could be fooled by them? It all seemed so real! I studied the seforim such as "Tomim Thiye Im Hashem.." written by Rabbi Yaakov Hillel one of the leading mekubolim of our generation who warns that it's all a fraud and wondered how intelligent people fall for these hoaxes? (You can get the English translation which is published by Feldheim Press.). It was only after reading many books on the subject that I understood that it was all a clever hoax and that one better have his head on straight otherwise we too could easily be taken by these frauds.

The practice of revealing the hidden by reading one’s palm still fools thousands of people who are unaware of the simple tricks used. The more personalized secrets the palm reader or crystal ball gazer is able to reveal, the more one is inclined to believe that palm reading is actually a skill rather than a trick. While some readings are done by collecting information on the client beforehand or use known principles of psychology that apply to nearly everyone. and is referred to as a hot reading, others are preformed by what is known as a cold reading. This is when the crystal ball or palm reader uses both his clever intuition or insight into a persons personality or character traits to give the reading. He also extracts lots of information from his client by observing him very carefully and listening to his answers. He usually begins by making some general observations that usually apply to anyone and then continues on to probe deeper as he gets a clients feedback. Telling a person that he has “great hidden potential” or “is very sensitive” or that he has “gone through certain disappointments in life” or that he had some “financial setbacks” or “health problems” will usually strike the mark. After all, most people that go to see these people are doing it because of financial, marital or health reasons. Waiting for their clients feedback usually tells them how to continue probing. One can also add statements like “there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel” and that “better times are coming” or any other prediction that will make the client feel better and get him to come back for more. If the prediction comes true, then the psychic has scored a direct hit and the client will spread his amazing abilities to others and thereby attract other suckers to the poisonous spider’s web. A sitters reputation is largely based on many chance hit testimonials and a sucker’s belief in the irrational.

Many years ago I careful watched how a supposed “mezuzah” reader made many direct hits using this method. At first I was fooled as many others were and thought that he possessed some mysterious powers and was able to see what no one else could see. Only after watching carefully and studying his answers did I realize that it was all a hoax and they were practicing the generalization techniques used by all fortune tellers.. Unless one is familiar with their methods, one can easily be deceived as I once was.

Secrets of the Psychic Exposed
By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum
Part 5
Health Robbers

I first heard about psychic healers in an article I read in the Readers Digest many years ago. There I read about a psychic surgeon in Brazil that seemed to operate on a person using only his hands without any surgical instruments and without leaving any marks or cuts on the body. They claim that many people go to Mexico or to the Philippines to have these “supposed” operations done since it is illegal to do it in the USA. Some of these supposed psychic surgeons have in fact put together a large list of testimonials from their many satisfied customers that claim miraculous cures. This ought to be a warning to us on how much testimonials can be trusted! Many of them claim that this is done through the power of their religious beliefs. Their method of deceit was masterfully imitated by the great Randi who preformed such an operation in front of a large audience. He showed how by concealing some chicken parts as well as some blood in a small plastic bag in his fake thumb or sleeve and by some clever sleight of hand movements, he too, was able to perform such a psychic operation. The dramatic effect it had on the audience was truly remarkable and can easily fool even the very observant spectator. Yet, thousands of people fall for all sorts of occult healing methods that some claim are the work of “spirit guides” from the other world.

In an article in the October 1990 East West magazine, a former NASA physicist named Laura Brennan claims that she has been healing illness through what she calls the “human energy field” for more than fifteen years. She does it by communicating with spirit guides that enable her to see inside the body through “internal viewing” and she claims that reading “auras” enables her to detect tumors, heart disease, hepatitis and other illnesses. Her book “Hands of Light” has sold thousands of copies and has attracted many followers. Despite the total lack of any scientific or other type of evidence that it actually works, there are many that have fallen for it. What a terrible cruel hoax on the sick and destitute. Just proves once again that where there exists a will to believe, common sense goes out the window. Let’s remember that some illnesses are totally imaginary or cured by the body itself. For more information on this extremely important subject I suggest one reads “The Health Robbers” by Stephen Barrett, M.D. and William Jarvis, Ph.D. In another book by Randi called “Faith Healers” he uncovers much of the fraud perpetrated by these con artists who take advantage of the sick, destitute and the unwary.

Secrets of the Psychic Exposed
By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum
Part 6
The Séance Farce

The best account and description of what goes on in the séance room can be found in Lamar Keene’s great book entitled “The Psychic Mafia.” There he reveals in minute detail how with the use of trap doors, cytoplasm, a suspended trumpet and other fraudulent means, a medium is able to make phony spirits appear or disappear at will. He tell about his 13 years in the business and why he decided to get out of it. Yet the need for people to believe that it is possible to communicate with those in the next world is so strong that despite all he exposes, they continue insisting on the truth of the nonsensical and irrational.

He tells how in July of 1960 the entire spiritualistic world was rocked by a terrible exposé of the going on at Camp Chesterfield a world renown camp for psychic readings and spiritualism. Someone had filmed what was going on in the séance room using infrared lights and film and upon the developing of the film realized the entire fraud and deception. The July 10, 1960 issue of the Psychic Observer carried a full exposure of the deception they had found, calling Camp Chesterfield “a psychic circus without equal!” Yet despite these revelations people continued to stream there, believing that the exposé was the work of the non-believers and was done by trick photography.

One of the most popular mediums during the ‘90’s was James Van Praagh who has written an entire book on his conversations with the dead. Today’s big star is someone by the name of John Edward. They are clever enough not to bring up these make believe spirits since they surely realize that they could easily be exposed like many before them were. Claiming that the dead spirits talk to them cannot easily be proven false and anyone can make such claims. It is nearly impossible to disprove claims of people that insist that they have seen a flying saucer or have been abducted by aliens or that they saw Santa Clause climbing down their chimney. Both “Skeptic” magazine and “Time” magazine featured a skeptical piece on this entire nonsensical phenomena. Preying on the emotions of grieving people is not only unethical but can also be very dangerous. It is sad and even deplorable that radio and TV gives such people the publicity and ability to continue their fraud. But as we all know, the mighty dollar is the pillar of all fraud.

“The true-believer syndrome merits study by science,” says Keene. “What is it that compels a person, past all reason, to believe the unbelievable?” he asks. “How can an otherwise sane individual become so enamored of a fantasy, an imposture, that even after it is exposed in the bright light of day still continue to cling to it? The true-believers syndrome is the greatest thing phony mediums have going for them. No amount of logic can shatter a faith consciously based on a lie.” I’ll leave it to psychologists to find the answer to these difficult questions.

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