SkepticblogSkepticblog logo banner

top navigation:

ESP Boot Camp

by Mark Edward, Feb 23 2009

Last month I was approached by someone to help out with an “ESP Bootcamp.” Sound interesting? It did to me. My mind immediately went to work imagining rubbing shoulders with remote viewers, having good natured contests with bootcampers moving objects around with their minds and perhaps even influencing a few random number generators. You should know by now I can’t resist sticking my nose into such folly. If I can find out for myself what kind of intellects are behind these operations, I’m only happy to step up and play the game. Knowing what I know about psychic fairs, (or “faires” in some parts of town) psychic house parties, corporate seers and the tangled webs they weave, I was cautiously intrigued.

Unfortunately, my dreams turned out to be nothing like the glamorous “Avengers” meets “Push” styled camp I had fantasized. My involvement was initially agreed to include input in a series of online and phone interviews and sharing information to inculcate a whole new breed of what were being called “Executive Psychics.” I reasoned that playing along might open up another camp of spurious claims worth infiltrating and asked for my usual “consulting fee.” (Sorry skeptics, I gotta make a living as it comes to me until we sell this show…) I was granted access to the group by a somewhat shadowy fellow I will refer to here only as The Leader. I quickly found out the much ballyhooed “when times are tough” excuse for drafting in a new cadre of specially trained psychics was only a small part the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. I have to admit that The Leader had a novel lexicon that borrowed liberally from Buckminster Fuller, John Lilly and other modern guerrilla marketing gurus instead of the usual VanPraaghs, Brownes and Edwards. I’m always on the look out for the latest angle in this never ending parade. The slick entrepreneurs who were running this event made a great show of buzz words and accolades assuring me of their ultimate plans for “complete transparency” in all their business dealings and even a long range altruistic goal of “pure drinking water for everyone on the planet.” Hmmmmm.

When I first heard that line, I seemed to remember hearing it from the latest James Bond villain and my already sensitive fraud antennae began vibrating. Eco-villains are the latest thing in megalomania these days, watch out! I resolved to be ever on my guard and was soon let into the grand scheme of things. In the finest traditions of exploitation, I was only being given the water they wanted me to drink. Luckily for me, my own intuition was on high alert and without benefit of a crystal ball, it soon became apparent that this crew was being groomed to be…. can you guess? None other than our old standby in the world of greed and avarice: yet another 900 psychic phone line! What’s old was once again rearing an ugly albeit stylishly coiffed head. A kinder, gentler, more 80’s mind set was being polished up and pitched to separate the gullible from their recessionary discretionary funds. Was I getting myself into another clinch that would ultimately prove dangerously similar to all the other frequently dubious partnerships I had kicked around in my past? Common sense told me: Yes, …of course! But I’m a Skeptologist now. I know because I have the polo shirt with the logo on it. I would have to play my cards very close to the table this time out. Executive Psychics? You gotta be kidding me. I had read “The Corporate Mystic – A Guide for Visionaries with Their Feet on the Ground ” back in the late 90’s and despite the misleading “mystical” aspect of the title, it was not a bad book about dealing with people, intuition and integrity, but a far cry from what was now being modelled as an “Executive Psychic.”

As I have done since being burned by the borderline criminals who would seek to make huge profits for themselves and throw scraps back in my direction, I planned my own counter-attack even as I was live in conversation with The Leader and his call-in group. Verbal persuasion played a large part in the incubation process of the neophyte psychics. Attempts were made to get me to comply on verbal agreements without contracts and I was prompted that in their business, speed was what made winners and hesitation was unacceptable. I was also admonished to stop using the word “greed” and accept the inevitable wealth coming my way in a backhanded tribute to “The Secret” and other contemporary cult improvement concepts. Uh huh. Right. I may have been born in the morning, but it wasn’t yesterday morning.

Despite all the smooth talking sales pitches and promises of “$1,000 a day” that were being promised to the bootcamp survivors, I told it like it is (or was) about my many years toiling under the most grueling and manipulative “psychic sweatshop” conditions imaginable and made it clear that if any of the acolytes being tempted into that particular seventh ring of Hell known as a 900 company wanted fame and fortune, it would be a frequently dirty job with little or no perks and plenty of soul searching grief to deal with. One rung of a greasy ladder at a time would have to be climbed and no allusions to spiritual advancement were likely to be quickly attained after a ten or twelve hour day of speaking with lost souls, psychic junkies and fellow seekers of cheap fortune. I paraphrased sections of my book “Psychic Blues,” giving the most down to earth, nitty-gritty vision I could muster of what it’s really like to be in the belly of that vampire monster. Nothing was sugar coated to paint rosy pictures of what to expect from an occupation that lies tremulously between phone sex and drug dealing. I stuck to my guns when I was asked questions like,”…Don’t you think it’s your duty to tell people if you see medical problems?” or “Isn’t this work the higher calling that we are all here for?” I hated to step on their pie in the sky, but after all: they hired me to relate my experience. I doubt if any of them were ready for what I had to say. I stayed relentlessly truthful, reminding everyone that acting as a lawyer or doctor when not even close to being qualified was a foolhardy enterprise no matter how many crystals you have lined up on your windowsill. I advised those listening to compile a call list of 800 numbers for suicide prevention, battered women’s shelters, teen pregnancy clinics and other emergency resources and keep it on hand. They would need it. Everyone would be better served by dispensing those rather than attempting to plumb the depths of issues that are so obviously physical and not the least bit metaphysical. It went on like that.

I figured my points were being well taken and if more of my sage wisdom was needed, I would follow up with more scheduling down the line. After two sessions a long wait ensued. Some of my books had been purchased by The Leader and I had mailed them out to him around the time this whole deal got started. I had a sneaking suspicion they probably weren’t exactly the textbooks he had wanted to borrow from to tend his flock. Then I received a terse email. Apparently, we didn’t speak the same “business language” and whereas the week before I had been the psychic super-star considered indispensable, my involvement was abruptly terminated. I was also advised that the information I gave out in the recorded sessions now belonged to The Leader and our relationship was ended. Nice huh? I wasn’t surprised. It was simply a matter of waiting for the other shoe to fall. As far as I’m concerned, the ESP Boot Camp and their leader got their money’s worth out of me and as I told them all; if you listen to what I say, pay attention and do the right thing, they would save themselves  a lot of money in the long run and learn the truth about the cons, scams and blunders of the bankrupt 900 company owners who lost their vast fortunes to lawsuits, false advertising and that nasty word … greed.

Of course, all those warnings and common sense fell on deaf ears and I’m sure the recordings of my talks have been highly edited or jettisoned in favor of some other “professional” without conscience, scruples …or skepticism.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we are up against! This is what is out there baiting their hooks to take advantage of not only the economically distressed among us, but also the out of work millions looking for a quick buck. Expect a deluge of seers, prophets and profits in the near future. With the Internet, we now have a whole new window for these thieves to crawl into. It’s unprecedented. I predict this new wave of soothsayers will be of monstrous proportions and unlike anything we have seen since …well, …maybe ever.

All the more reason to get The Skeptologists up and running. Are you network executives listening out there? Do you need an “Executive Psychic” to move you out of your sitcom comfort zones? WAKE UP! Again I ask: What will it take?

I hate to sound fanatical, but seriously folks, I can’t help it. It’s getting too bizarre out there or haven’t you noticed? Can I suggest starting Skeptics Bootcamps in every major city? Without sane counter-attacks on this creeping crap, thinking rationally may soon be overcome by yet another new guerrilla form of lassitude and another nail will be driven into the coffin that is becoming America’s Dead Dream. It might already be too late. Let’s hope NOT.

21 Responses to “ESP Boot Camp”

  1. oldebabe says:

    A ‘bootcamp’ on how to defraud. Amazing. Disconcerting to think of all the people, both the defrauders and the about-to-be defrauded, who will make this new thievery possible…

  2. Doubting Foo says:

    Skeptics Bootcamp sounds like a good idea!

  3. tmac57 says:

    Unfortunately we are likely to see more of this type of fraud as the economy worsens and desperate people fall prey to unethical scammers of all sorts.
    Thanks Mark for a look inside of the world of woo.

  4. Mastriani says:

    Very interesting Mr. Edwards, quite an informative article.

    This leaves two burning questions:

    1. What is the likelihood that a show of factual integrity, dispossessing the unenlightened and willingly unknowing of their favorite misconceptions, will be sellable to the capitalist “showbiz” piranhas?

    2. What does it take to move the “average person” out of their comfort zone so that they may actually learn useful information, and stop being duped by the bottom feeders posing as economic messiahs?

  5. MadScientist says:

    I wonder how The Leader is editing your tapes. Hang on, let me try my psychic powers … Nah, nothing. As Curly would say: I’m trying to think but nothing happens.

  6. jackd says:

    Mark, as much as I appreciate the message you’re providing, I find your posts difficult to read. Please, please, please get an editor. You bring a remarkable perspective to the blog and it would be even more valuable if your writing were cleaned up.

  7. Mark Edward says:

    Okay. So I guess I can’t write well enough to pass for this group. Who wants to be my editor and what’s you availability? These posts have to be ready to go by Fridya afternoon to be up on Saturday morn.
    I’m all yours…
    Mark Edward

  8. Well I had no problem reading it. And the skeptics bootcamp idea is kind of already in the works. It is called SkeptiCamp and it’s run sort of like a BarCamp. Google can provide further info!

  9. Xplodyncow says:

    I’m a writer and an editor (eh, it’s a living), and I’m not quite sure what needs to be edited in this post. Is it too long? Perhaps adding subheads with jump links (or whatever they’re called) would help. Are there typos, grammatical errors, or punctuation mistakes? It’s a blog. It happens. If you want polished prose, don’t look to the InterWebs.

  10. MadScientist says:

    I volunteer to channel Shakespeare’s ghost to do the writing. Then again, for short essays Eric Blair is probably a better choice. Either way I’ll be channeling an Englishman so we could call it the “English channel sessions”.

  11. Carl says:

    I’m also a writer, and I had no complaints.

  12. Mastriani says:

    Okay. So I guess I can’t write well enough to pass for this group. Who wants to be my editor and what’s you availability? These posts have to be ready to go by Fridya afternoon to be up on Saturday morn.
    I’m all yours…
    Mark Edward

    I don’t think your writing style is bad, it’s just more a matter of the structure of the articles. You have a lot to say, and other than very long paragraphs, (think ADD here, average readers just have problems paying attention to long thought development), and the occasional run on sentence, you provide solid information.

    As Xplodyncow stated, prose and the Intarwebs are just mildly antithetical.

    Just try to compartmentalise your thoughts into more “reader friendly” paragraphs.

  13. Mark Edward says:

    Thanks to those of you who responded with support for my writing. I was getting a bit peevish about what to do: shorten my posts to brief alerts or just pack it in for a while. All of us on the Skeptologist team are doing this writing gratis and with nothing but a glimmmer of distant hope on the horizon. There’s no promise this whole project will come to anything in the future. So far, it’s a wish list of what we would all like to see happen. I agree with others in stating; this is not a novel in progress or a Holy War and I’m not going for the Pulitzer or any other prize. I tend to write “from the heart.” There’s no doubt I could do with an editor. However, nobody including my literary agent who continues to pitch my work as it is has stepped forward to take on the task. The books I self-publish at my website sell relatively well and I have yet to get a complaint from a magician or a mentalist – That may not being saying much but at this point it’s the “thought” that counts… I will continue to get the word out as best I can.

  14. Mastriani says:

    I already offered once Mr. Edwards.

  15. tmac57 says:

    MadScientist:”“English channel sessions”.” That’s a good one!!! LQTM…
    Hey Mark don’t worry about it. We fellow skeptics are all on your side my friend. Keep up the good work, and I will see you on the cruise!!

  16. Mark Edward says:

    To Mastriani: It’s EDWARD, not Edwards…

  17. Mastriani says:

    I noticed that after the post, my apologies for pluralising you. Even a great one, is but one.

  18. “To Mastriani: It’s EDWARD, not Edwards…”

    And Mastriani would be your editor. Tsk, tsk.

  19. Have you ever considered doing an article on the publicity stunt Randi million dollar challenge and how in actuality it is disingenuous and impossible to win. How Randi has a history of lying going way back to the 1980 Gauquelin fiasco Randi and CSICOP shamefully participated in ?

  20. Scammers, posers and con artists will always find a way to make money, whether it’s the old fashioned pigeon drop and three-card monte or a newfangled ionic detoxifying foot bath — as long as there are people who want a quick fix.

    The question I always wonder is: Does the purveyor really believe in what he or she is doing or is it an out-and-out fraud? Ultimately, I suppose, it doesn’t matter since the mark is separated from their moola either way.

    But what about in-betweeners? One thinks of certain (though not all) Ponzi and pyramid schemes where the perpetrator may truly believe they’re simply creating value and everyone will win out “if only the government will keep out of their business.” The Charles Keating fiasco of the late 1980s is a good example.

    On a side note, I agree with the other editors here — your writing is “good enough” though it could stand a bit of paragraphing.

  21. slippery slope says:

    to Jim Veindeffer,
    In reply to your statement: “Scammers, posers and con artists will always find a way to make money”

    Challenge is, they don’t ever MAKE money, they steal it. Just because your mark is uneducated, doesn’t make it ‘ok’ to separate them from their capital. Capital can be money, time, or even just effort. They will always find a way so long as the masses stay conditioned. Instead of brow beating thieves, why not create a solution through education? Or wouldn’t that inevitably pull back the curtain of the entire scam? Capitalism creates competition. Competition creates losers. Slavery is, and was a very lucrative business. Cheers!