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In this week’s eSkeptic, Karen Stollznow wonders whether psychics are cashing in on the current economic climate. Stollznow has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of New England, and works as a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also an adjunct lecturer and consultant, and devotes her spare time to investigating paranormal and pseudoscientific phenomena. 

Paranormal Wall Street

by Karen Stollznow

On Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, CA, a sign in a store window reads, “Psychic Readings: 2 for the price of 1.” A street vendor barks at me, “I’ll give you a tarot reading for two bucks!” and a sandwich board advertises a “Free Psychic Fair” to attract new customers. Even psychics are affected by the downturn in the economy. Then again, Sylvia Browne still claims there’s a wait of up to eight years for her psychic readings, at a cost of $800. Asked when the economy might begin to recover, Barack Obama told the Washington Post earlier this year, “I don’t have a crystal ball. Nobody can tell.” But some people think they can…

item of interest…
John Demos
The Enemy Within:
2,000 Years of Witch-Hunting in the Western World

This original and fascinating lecture looks at the cultural, societal, and psychological practice of witch-hunts. Demos illuminates the dark side of communities driven to rid themselves of “evil,” no matter what the cost. Available on CD and DVD. Read More…
ORDER the lecture

In the current economic climate of the recession, subprime market foreclosures, the credit crisis, and mass unemployment, are psychics affected negatively by these factors, or are they actually profiteering (propheteering?) from them? Many industries are suffering, and it’s likely that psychics are too, but some allege that the economic bust has led to a psychic boom. According to several news sources, including USA Today, Time, and ABC News, new trends have appeared in the psychic industry over the past six months. Apparently, there are more clients, more psychics, different clients, and different client concerns.1 These sources explain that, during times of “uncertainty” about the future, people seek those who claim to “know” the future, and that as a result, psychics have experienced an increase in clientele. With a greater demand for psychics, supposedly there is also a growth in the psychic job industry. Given current unemployment rates, it’s possible that psychic jobs are appealing as tax-free, unskilled, remote work; and given inflation rates, they may appeal as second jobs.

If we are to believe these anecdotal accounts, the once “staple” female demographic now includes male clients. The sources further report that there is a change in client concerns; namely, a shift away from relationship advice-giving to a focus on career and money, reflecting the current employment and financial strife. Finally, some psychics believe that their new clients are from higher socio-economic brackets, often with backgrounds in finance.

It appears that psychics have skipped the MBA and securities training to become amateur financial advisors for failing financiers and customers who are now distrustful of orthodox financial services. In the articles cited above, one psychic claims she charges $350 for financial advice to individuals, and $10,000 for corporations.

Some try to close the gap between trading futures and reading futures. There’s Arch Crawford, “The Street’s Best Known Astrologer,” who believes in not only bulls and bears, but Aries and Pisces.2 Then there’s Mary T. Browne, better known as “Wall Street’s Psychic Advisor”.3 Henry Weingarten, author of Investing by the Stars, is a “financial astrologer” (or “corporate astrologer”) who uses a “top down approach” (i.e. astrology) to the stock market.4 Amazingly, they all claim to have predicted gold as a stable investment (although gold is traditionally an alternative investment to currency in such times.)

Some psychics have found a new niche as real estate gurus. If you’re lucky, you might find a real estate agent who is also psychic! To sell your home in this difficult market, California psychics recommend the use of a psychic-approved real-estate agent; and that the seller apply the principles of Feng Shui to improve the “energy” of the house.5 Don’t forget to bury a statue of St. Joseph upside-down in the back yard!

item of interest…
Peter Ward
The Medea Hypothesis:
Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?

Using the latest discoveries from the geological record, Ward argues that life might be its own worst enemy and proposes a revolutionary and provocative vision of life’s relationship with the Earth’s biosphere. Available on CD and DVD. Read More…
ORDER the lecture

At this point you could be tempted to joke, “At the moment, psychics couldn’t do any worse than the analysts!” Yes, they can. Here are a few examples. The telecommunications company One.Tel (a venture funded by the Murdoch and Packer heirs) Feng Shui-ed itself out of business. A change management consultant (and white witch) cost a local government over $800,000 with her advice based in eastern religion and astrology.6 Recently, a banker gambled up to $109 billion on the stock market, and lost $7.7 billion, relying on advice from psychics in what was euphemistically called a “high risk strategy.”7

Some psychics deny that they offer financial advice, and defend their craft as based in practical advice and common sense. However, there’s nothing rational or logical about unqualified strangers advising “clients” on life-altering decisions, based on gut-feelings, emotions, hunches, hopes, and intuition. Ironically, these are the very impulses that have contributed to the current economic crisis.

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Junior Skeptic cover

of Junior Skeptic

Haven’t discovered Junior Skeptic magazine, the illustrated kids’ critical thinking periodical bound into every issue of Skeptic? Now you can download a sample issue for free!

In this special “Great American Skeptics” issue, explore the skeptical work of Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, Harry Houdini, and Johnny Carson. Presented here as it appeared in print (inside Skeptic Vol.14, No.3): full color cover, with a greyscale interior.

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Skepticality: The Official Podcast of Skeptic Magazine
Charlotte Popfest 2009 logo

Reason and Rock ’n’ Roll
Double Feature

In this episode, Derek & Swoopy review Dragon*Con 2009’s Skeptrack. Then, Swoopy talks with Charlotte PopFest organizer James Deem. Benefits from this unique music festival benefit the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

In the followup episode, Derek & Swoopy return from Charlotte PopFest. Unexpected local media backlash against the PopFest’s support for “evolutionists” reveal why events like this are so important.

Featuring short interviews with PopFest musician Jill Sobule; members of the Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics; Keith Williams; and a local Charlotte skeptic who wrote a letter to to express concerns about WBTV Charlotte’s coverage of the PopFest.

LISTEN to episode #111 (17MB MP3)

An Economic Triage for Global Climate Change

Although the Skeptics Society is apolitical, Michael Shermer sometimes explores political and economic issues in his blog posts. This week, Michael discusses the economics of global climate change. • READ the blog post


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