I would say that I think there’s a special place in Hell for people who take advantage of a grieving parent, but I’m afraid you might think I meant it literally. I was saddened to read that Jude Deveraux, a bestselling author, had been bilked of $20 million dollars by a psychic. The psychic told Ms. Deveraux that her son was trapped between heaven and hell, according to a detective working on the case.
Nine members of the Marks family who call themselves psychics and spiritual advisors were arrested in Florida on 61 counts, including mail fraud and wire fraud. They are alleged to have taken more than $40 million from more than a dozen victims. They would tell people they could lift curses and threaten terrible consequences if their clients didn’t continue to hand over money and jewelry.
It seems evident to us that no one in their right mind would believe this nonsense. But psychics often prey on people who are going through emotional turmoil and are vulnerable. They say they have gifts from God and use tricks to make people think they have special powers. One of the Marks defendants allegedly said she could talk with Michael the Archangel and get his help to chase away evil spirits and cure disease.
We tend to think psychics or fortune-tellers are harmless. If they were like magicians, this would be so. No one goes to a magic show expecting to see real magic, they go to be entertained. If you go to a fortune-teller expecting just to be amused by an actor, there’s not a problem. But some people actually believe that they have some insight into the future or that they can communicate with the dead. It’s hardly surprising that religious people would feel that way, but it makes them easy targets.
This is one of many reasons that we need to teach critical thinking in schools. We need to make sure that children learn about how easy it is to do tricks like cold reading and sleight of hand. We need to show them that psychics have been caught using accomplices to look up information and feeding it back to the performer. They need to know that there has never been any reasonable scientific evidence to show that anyone can read minds, talk to the dead or predict the future.