Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Ghost Hunter, The Psychic and the Sting in the Tail.

On the last post I wrote about Amy Bruni and her outburst against skeptics, and in particular skeptical activism. People who know more about Amy than I, have expressed some surprise at her comments. Especially as, being an investigator, she should know the value of a skeptical approach.

Many are wondering, as did I, what was the cause of this outburst, why now? I'm pretty sure I have the answer. I actually hit on it in the post I wrote.

Before going on to that its worth mentioning that Amy has issued something of a retraction, which I repost here in the interest of fairness:

"Let me just elaborate on a few things regarding my "skeptics" post because I feel my responses are getting lost in the comments.First of all - I welcome skepticism. I love and think we need skeptics to bring up logical arguments to what we experience. I love when scientists assist us - because for me anyway, the goal is answers. I won't believe you if you present me with a blanket statement like, "Ghosts don't exist" - because I've seen them and I've experienced them. I will be more apt to listen if you give me an explanation as to what they could be, or try to help me find out. My belief is that most paranormal phenomena can and will be explained by science one day. I welcome help with that, because I will be the first to admit, I'm no scientist. Also, please stop falling on the argument that I employed scientific methods while on television. I'm not kidding myself - of course I didn't.Also, believing in psychics and ghosts does not mean I think every single experience or self proclaimed psychic is legitimate. So yes, I do think people who are interested in these things need to be realistic and even, harsh on them. Be hard on your evidence, don't believe everything every psychic tells you. Be careful who you give your money to, go with your gut.
What I'm saying is, I stand very much in the middle. I am very passionate about this "field" - but I am also very realistic about it. It means I shoot down 99% of the evidence I collect or see. It means I am more apt to take everything a psychic tells me with a grain of salt. Note it? Yes. Make life decisions based on it? No.
Critical thinking IS severely lacking in this field and it makes us easy targets. Which brings me back to my original post. Again, I have nothing against skeptics in general - but I do have everything against the methods some are employing and the fact they are attacking people who I love and trust intensely. Furthermore, I am a free thinker and everyone should have that right. It is not anyone else's job to make those decisions for you. Their argument is they're saving you from yourself. I say - stop worrying about people who don't need your advice or sympathy. Live and let live. And trust that people are grown up enough to make their own decisions.
Ok, I have a LOT of work to do today and this snow won't quit! smile emoticon So, until next time. Love and respect for everyone!
Fair enough..... But Amy is standing by her initial comments regarding skeptical activism:

 " I have nothing against skeptics in general - but I do have everything against the methods some are employing and the fact they are attacking people who I love and trust intensely." 

So what Amy is saying is:

"Be hard on your evidence, don't believe everything every psychic tells you. Be careful who you give your money to, go with your gut..... UNLESS ITS MY MATE! YOU SHOULD TRUST HIM IMPLICITLY!"

So who is this friend she is referring to? And what have us nasty skeptics done to him that's upset Amy so much?

A quick search through the comments thread on the original post yields an answer:

Its none other than "psychic" Chip Coffey!

Amy, with friends like chip, you really don't need enemies. The man is utterly reprehensible!
Even if I accept for a moment that Chippy Tea is in possession of "psychic abilities", he isn't, he should receive nothing but condemnation for his involvement with the TV show "Psychic Kids". This was a show, so bottom of the barrel, it took children and "trained" them to use their "abilities". This clearly involved the enforcement of delusion, and involved adults, in some cases, insisting that the kids should try to "see" ghost and spirits. In one particular episode, the only one I could stomach, Coffey took a clearly traumatised 14 year old child back to her old family home, where clearly something terrible had happened, and encouraged them to confront a "dark force" (The Demon House- 30th June 2008).


Chip, you are scum. The makers of this show are scum. And I don't give a damn who thinks that is unfair. Your mere involvement with that show means that you were involved with the exploitation of children. And vulnerable children at that!

 Bottom line: that's the worst of the worst.

So basically its Operation Bumble Bee that Amy is so worked up about.

Devised by Skeptic Susan Gerbic, Operation Bumble was designed to expose Chip as using "Hot Reading" methods in his shows. Before I carry on, its worth noting, the skeptical community in general is very divided on projects such as Gerbic's. Some see them as counter productive and damaging to "skepticism" in general. Personally I have always believed that skeptics should be more concerned with outreach and education than operations such as this.

There is no doubt that this Operation put money in Chip's pockets, which I'm sure everyone involved would have preferred to avoid. Unfortunately it was a necessary evil.

When it comes to "characters" such as Coffey, I genuinely believe the measures taken to expose him were warranted. The man profits from the grief of others. Let's not worry too much about "fairness" towards him.

I'll let Gerbic describe, in her own words how the operation proceeded. You can read a comprehensive version of this here.

Unfortunately the operation wasn't as conclusive as one would have hoped. As Gerbic says:
"As you will read from the blogs that recounted what happened at the Los Angeles and San Jose events, Chip Coffey did not use these Facebook profiles at all to get a hot read. He did clearly communicate with our nonexistent family members, but he learned about those because we had been loudly chatting to everyone around us about who we were there for. When he stated from stage that he was "getting an older woman and a child," we sprang on that statement as coming from our people. Then we just rode it through agreeing to everything he said.
In our opinion, everything he said that entire night could have been a cold read. Everything was general, and the audience gave lots of feedback and information. At least a third of the room had paid $160 to get a seat near the front. People who have invested this much money and time reading his books, attending his live shows, and memorizing his TV performances are likely to overlook any mistakes he might make and not be interested in an alternative explanation for his accuracy.The only thing that could be considered a hot read was the statement he made to me: When I said privately to his manager during a break that I was worried that my son Matthew would be too young to contact, I was assured that Chip had reached children who were stillborn. Then when Chip spoke to me thirty minutes later he said, "You said you are worried that I won't be able to reach your son." The only person I had said that to was his manager.After all this work, months of preparing, and over $900 given to the Chip Coffey experiment, all we could be reasonably sure of is that he did not know we were skeptics and he did not know we were lying, and he claimed to have seen the two nonexistent people we pretended to have: a sister for Jan and my son Matthew. He "spoke" to Wade's dead mother who was really alive and is nothing like the personality that he described. He even smiled through the photo session we had paid extra for. In my opinion, there was nothing more we could have done to make it as easy as possible for the Coffey team to find our bait and repeat it back as messages from the other side.I know the argument could be made that even psychics have a bad day and "it doesn't work like that," but if he was able to clearly see all that he had seen that night, hundreds of statements down to one woman from the spirit world showing him a bottle of Vicks Vapor Rub, then you would think that one of these spirits would have told him to avoid us. Yet he didn't."
Clearly this, while not a stellar success, was enough to rattle Amy's cage. Chip himself has posted about it on his Facebook page. The posts have all the cocky arrogance of a man who has had a very lucky escape.

One might also question: If Operation Bumble Bee was such a failure, why did it prompt Amy to rail against it?

 He implies that he is somehow going to get back at the skeptics who coordinated this.

I've got a suggestion.

Submit yourself to testing Chip! Surely that would be the best way to hit out at all skeptics everywhere. Prove that you actually have the abilities you claim under rigorously controlled conditions.

Because if you would submit to this, there would be no need for "stings" or anything else.

So let's do this!

Here's a psychic prediction of my own:

You won't will you? 

As I stated on the last post, believers should be behind this kind of action. They should be even more motivated to expose the frauds than skeptics. As such they could rally behind Chip taking a formal test...