The frustrating thing about psychics, mediums, and fortune tellers is that they're still able to make a pretty goddamned comfortable living, even in 2013. Their inability to provide empirical evidence that what they do is anything other than a scam to prey on the gullible seems to have had little effect on their bottom line. Still, there have been little victories along the way, and cameras have been there to capture the hilarity.
#6. Uri Geller Is Exposed on the Johnny Carson Show
Contrary to what you might assume, the people most hostile to claims of supernatural powers are magicians. That's why nowadays they usually prefer the term "illusionist" -- they want to be clear from the outset that what they're doing is a trick. But then, every so often, one of them will hit the big time by claiming that they have genuine magic powers. Such is the case with Uri Geller, who in the '70s was basically the Sith Lord of illusionists. And millions of people believed him.
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"Let the naivete flow through you."
If you're too young to remember, Geller found fame with mind-reading tricks and, more famously, mind-powered spoon bending. Swearing that he had actual psychic powers, he used a bunch of sleight-of-hand tricks already well-known to magicians to apparently bend spoons with his thoughts. Of course, any magicians with a moral compass knew exactly what he was doing and made it their mission to take the weasel down. The result was one of the most tense and cringe-worthy appearances in talk show history (in a medium loaded with them):
When Uri Geller was booked to appear on The Tonight Show, host Johnny Carson (a former magician himself) was understandably skeptical about Geller's claims and had called up professional illusionist and psychic head-stomper James Randi to ask how the tricks might really be done. As Randi explained, the easiest way to bend a spoon with your mind would be to spend a few minutes before the show bending the spoon back and forth with your hand until the metal is so weak that it just falls limp when you hold it up to the camera.
With this in mind, Carson surprised Geller on the show by presenting a table full of assorted spoons and knickknacks, rather than letting him bring his own props, and gave Geller free reign to pick whatever trick he wanted to perform. You can watch Geller slowly descend into panic mode, knowing that his trick won't work and millions are watching.
He thought it would be a canned, no-sweat interview, like he was on [network you hate].
It just gets harder to watch as it goes. Carson looks on, annoyed, as Geller tries to stall by ineffectually waving his hands over the table while he works out how the hell he's going to get out of this one.
For the first time, he found himself genuinely trying to call on a higher power.
After a series of the most incredibly awkward silences you will ever witness on a television broadcast, Geller eventually squirms out of the segment by claiming that he's just not feeling strong enough tonight.
Geller spent the rest of his career trying to sue James Randi over the humiliation, and after consistently losing his legal battles, he eventually quietly admitted that he was nothing more than an entertainer and not a wizard who could wield the powers of black magic. No shit?
#5. Psychics Channel the Ghost of a Fake Person
A British television entertainer wanted to test the abilities of three psychics, inviting them to an abandoned chocolate factory to try to summon the spirit of its long-deceased owner. Amazingly, the psychics were all able to channel the ghost of the man -- an American named George Bull -- and provide a startlingly accurate account of his life on the spot. He had managed the factory in the late 1800s. Angry, aggressive, and generally the opposite of Willy Wonka, Bull got himself killed on the job when he caused a team of delivery horses to panic and trample him.
That's incredible information the psychics were able to glean just from speaking to the spirit, especially considering that Bull never existed and his story was completely made up on the spot.
In preparation for the show, the producers had planted fake information about George Bull on the chocolate factory's website and hung a fake photograph of him in the foyer. Even though they were told nothing about the story beforehand, the mediums still managed to channel a guy named George who got trampled by horses -- in other words, they revealed that they possessed the amazing power to do a basic Google search.
A power that you can now use to track the mediums down.
The host, who could not resist making the psychics look stupider than they already did, suggests to one of the mediums that it might help if she went into a trance. She replies that she could "probably go into a semi-trance, but not a full trance." Presumably a full trance could kill her with the sheer volume of bullshit. Turning off the lights, she closes her eyes and summons the ghost of, we reiterate, a man who never existed, and slurs "the horses, they ran me over."
Of the three psychics participating, only one of them had not clearly researched George Bull beforehand and relied on trying to draw information from the environment to construct his story. After seeing the portrait of George in the foyer, he suddenly channeled the name "George Bull." When it was pointed out that the portrait had a name plaque, he said he couldn't see it without his glasses.
"An' if I were going to sneak a peek, I'd na' have done it right in front of the camera, would I have?"
Ultimately, the host pointed out to all three psychics that the whole thing was made up and pressed them for an explanation. The trance lady bafflingly claimed she'd known it was bullshit all along, while the second theorized that he'd been drawing his information from the host's mind. The third, the guy who forgot his glasses, decided to argue with the guy who made up the story about the truthfulness of the story. Because when you've dug yourself into a hole that deep, the only option is to keep digging in the hope that you can escape to China.
#4. The "Fresh Prince" Calls a Psychic Line
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Some psychics don't need to go out in public to embarrass themselves; they can do that in a cushy studio, right over the phone. Take the case of a British psychic simply known as Wayne, who appeared on infomercials where people would call in looking for psychic advice, which he would respond to with vague, ambiguous answers. Some time in 2012, a man with an Irish accent called him with a tale about his childhood. Funny thing was, his childhood was verbatim the back story of the title character in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
The caller, identifying himself as "Will," spun a tale about growing up in West Philadelphia and hanging around the playground with his friends, like DJ Jazzy Jeff. But then, one day, "a couple of guys, they were up to no good, started making trouble in my neighborhood. I got in one little fight, my Mom got scared ..."
She said "You're movin' with your auntie and uncle in Belfast."
Ostensibly, his question was about whether he would ever meet up with his old crew from Philadelphia again. Missing the ruse entirely, Wayne shuffles his tarot cards and advises "Will" that he should try getting in touch with them through social media, which is exactly the kind of advice that you need from a phone psychic who is charging you several dollars per minute.
Getting bored, "Will" starts to see how far he can push it. Going on to say that he used to be a rapper, but because there wasn't much market for that kind of music in the '80s, he moved on to an entertainment career. In the end, he comes out and says "I'm Will Smith," which was literally the only point at which the other shoe dropped for poor Wayne. Probably too late for his career.