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Conning the Con

by Mark Edward, Sep 20 2012

Dragoncon’s 2012 Skeptictrack was an absolute blast this year. In between getting to meet Alice Cooper through my dear friend James Randi, hanging out for hours talking mentalism with him and wading through thousands of the most intense costumes I have ever seen in one place – ever, I managed to get a standing room only 400+ group of both paranormal seekers and skeptical minds in one room for an hour of my best psychic “readings.”Using some of the skills I wrote about in “Psychic Blues,” I laid it on thick and in the character of a “medium”for the first fifty minutes; accurately telling different people I was sorry they had recently lost their pet dog, how another had recently had some  difficulty with her brown car and in one of those moments every mentalist or psychic lives for; I blew one woman away by telling her I saw a vision of the name “Stanley” and a picture that came into my mind of a clown walking through a graveyard, putting flowers on the graves. She stood up and looked like she was going to break out in tears. She then proceeded to tell the stunned audience that when she was a little girl in her home town, there was a “crazy old man” who used to dress up as a clown and put flowers on the tombstones in the local cemetery. Her name was Cindy, but amazingly, he had called her “Stanley.” I had even described his long clown shoes.

With James Randi, Doing Tricks for Kids

So how did I do that? I can’t tell you here, it would take too long. But suffice it to say that this woman was so freaked she came up after the show, (after I had done the “reveal” to the rest of the audience explaining how I had accomplished what they had only a few minutes before been so taken in by) and flatly refused to believe the simple “law of large numbers” explanation I gave her. When I asked if she had been about to cry, she answered with a line that I will always remember and that made the whole trip to the humid climes ofAtlantain August worthwhile. She said, no, she had been so struck by what I had said, she, “…thought I was gonna’ puke.” High praise indeed for a psychic with the blues.  

It is always very satisfying to see the look of wonderment on an audiences’ face when I spin my readings out into their midst, but even more rewarding when I stop, then quickly ask, “You didn’t think I really saw dead people around you talking to me did you?” Then proceed to swiftly explain exactly how I knew what I knew and how I found that specific information out. When teaching magic, this is that moment I refer to as the “ah ha” moment. When illusion suddenly turns into disillusion and I can audibly hear the crowd either groan in a sort of despairing exclamation, or simply moan at the realization of how simple it all really is – once you know the secret. As I told the crowd the next day in my lecture on the how and why of what I did, it’s as if the audience exhales their ignorance. It may not be as enchanting or mystical as going away thinking I could read their minds, but it shows in a flash just how easy it is for today’s crop of psychics, mediums and grief vampire charlatans to convince an audience that they have supernatural powers or a direct line to the world of ghosts and spirits. Bullcrap. Nope, …sorry. If I (or they) could do that, (think about it) I would be the most dangerous mind on the planet.

The Happy Revelers

Thanks Again to Susan “Bunky” Gerbic for all the fine photos – she’s the best!

10 Responses to “Conning the Con”

  1. scott says:

    For the believers who attended, that performance was probably more powerful than all the books and blogs on skepticism put together.

  2. Mandy Moon says:

    I thought your panel was one of the most fascinating I’d seen at the entire con. I’m a skeptic, and had been so before going to your show. I thought everybody knew that your panel was a skeptic one, and was shocked once I realized that a good part of the audience came to the performance to see “real” psychic readings.

    I wondered if the believers were going to be shattered, heartbroken, in denial, etc. once they realized what you were actually doing, but what impressed me the most was the “psychic” advice you gave people who had come for guidance.

    To the woman who said that her family had a curse, you said (in kinder words than mine) that there was probably one family member who was a loudmouth and perpetuating this belief. To the kid who lost her grandfather and was waiting for a sign from him, you said she should stop waiting and live her life. Instead of dashing these people’s hopes, you actually gave them great advice in a non-hurtful way. That’s what impressed me the most.

  3. Susan Gerbic says:

    Scott – I think you sum it up perfectly. The people that came over afterwards to talk to Mark, and we even had people talking to us in the elevator about how they heard from a friend and wish they had attended.

    One man told us he missed the lecture but his 18-year old cousin had gone. She was on the fence before listening to the lecture, and way in our camp afterwards. She had no idea that the psychics were doing something so easy to fool people.

    In the next week or so there will be a link to the lecture. I’ll put it up here so visit this blog again. You won’t want to miss it!

  4. Blaze says:

    That’s what I tell many folks when the topic of psychics comes up. “I won’t pee on your belief that there are people out in the world with ESP or Psychic power. But consider that any people with real juice will working their lives sitting on pile of money, probably on a yacht. Good, bad or indifferent, people with real power would not be hustling chump change talking to your grandpa’s ghost.”

  5. Max says:

    Judging from the photo, that can’t be more than 200 people. I’d guess 150.

    • Mark Edward says:

      The Skeptrack Wrap-up lecture had a long discussion on getting a bigger room next year. Derek Colanduno told us they had set up 400 chairs in the room. That doesn’t take into account the people standing or those in the doorway milling around trying to squeeze in. Looks can be deceiving. Jeez, skeptical fellow aren’t you?

  6. bea says:

    Well Mark, that sounds cool . . . if you ever do something like that in Los Angeles, I would like to check it out.

    Your favorite fake psychic bully and sociopath Chip Coffey is on the war path again. This time he is getting himself involved instead of letting his old grannies do the dirty business of stalking and bullying me all over the net and he refers to your blog Knock Chip Off the Block as proof that I am stalking him . . .even though I did not agree with showing up at his events.

    He is starting his lame rip off tours again and this time I hope you kick his fake psychic ass.

    Have a great day, week, month and rest of the year.