The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

The Ancient Art of Fortunetelling
(issue #4)

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“You will meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger….” Many people associate this statement with fortunetelling but few realize it is part of an ancient scam used by groups of fortunetelling criminals to cheat people out of money. After giving a person this fortune the thieves then send someone from their group to meet the victim. Feeling that the sudden appearance of the stranger is part of their destiny, the victim can then be easily tricked into trusting their new “friend” with money.


For thousand of years people have tried to predict the future by studying patterns in almost anything you can imagine — from tea leaves to chicken scratches. Why do these fortunetelling systems seem to work? And, when is fake fortunetelling a criminal scam? Let’s find out!

in this issue

The Ancient Art of Fortunetelling
  • How have people tried to predict the future?
  • What makes a meaningful pattern?
  • How to predict “random” choices
  • How criminal fortunetellers work
  • How fortunetelling really works
  • Cold reading: a psychic’s biggest secret
  • Texas students test astrology predictions
  • Mad Magical Science with Bob Friedhoffer


John Coulter, Michael Gilmore, Andrew Harter, Pat Linse, and Dr. Thomas McDonough

For those seeking a sound scientific viewpoint


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