Debunking Charlatan Ghost Hunters and Psychics

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Debunking frauds is detective work. Image by mconnors.

Debunking is the process of exposing scams, hoaxes and frauds. It takes detective work to debunk; outrageous claims abound in the realm of the paranormal – and debunking has been common throughout history.

  • The first rule of thumb when it comes to evaluating any claim is that, if it sounds too bizarre or fantastic to be true, it most likely is not true.
  • Secondly, research the subject: Find legitimate sources of information, then reference and cross reference. Ask the person whom you are evaluating for qualifications and credentials. If the person is evasive or refuses to answer, chances are you’re dealing with a charlatan, also known as a con artist, fraud, scamster or scammer.

Debunking Online Ghost Hunters

There are myriads of ghost hunters and paranormal societies that have websites on the Internet and offer free investigations. How do can you debunk the imposters?

1. Check their ‘facts’: Some websites feature false definitions in their glossaries. If they can’t define paranormal terminology appropriately, chances are they aren’t a reputable source.

2. Cross reference websites’ definitions using glossaries from the Parapsychological Foundation’s, PF’s:  and/or the Parapsychological Association’s, PA’s: . Some definitions may vary, of course, because parapsychology is a theoretical, speculative science.

3. Research members of the website’s team to find out their qualifications.

Bio phrases such as “Ghosts are interesting,” “I like ghost hunting” and/or “I had some paranormal experiences” aren’t solid qualifications.

I’ve studied psychic phenomena for x number of years,” or “I’m a member of the PA, AP or American Society for Psychical Research, ASPR” indicate a higher degree of reputability.

4. Another red flag are organizations basing their expertise and claims to fame on cases that have been debunked. Lorraine and the late Ed Warren’s major claim to fame is based on the Amityville Horror, for example, which experts have debunked; one of the con artists who helped create the scam even publicly admitted it was a hoax planned to make money.

5. How current is the site’s information? One site claiming ‘ghost hunting’ expertise includes a ghost hunting event – lectures, dinner and ghost hunt for a hefty price and asks people to make reservations. The event was dated over two years ago.

Debunking Charlatan Psychics

These scamsters have two major tricks. Knowing what these tricks are helps to expose the frauds in the ‘psychic’ business.

  • Hot readings: A ‘Hot’ reading is when the charlatans secretly gather information about the subjects before the readings. They might research the people’s backgrounds or bribe others to give them little known facts about the subjects.
  • Cold readings: A ‘Cold’ reading is a mind game in which fakes try to obtain information from subjects while appearing to know more than the subjects think they do. These scamsters know that people are apt to remember information that seems to be accurate and forget those that don’t. For example, the con artist might say, “You know someone who has brown hair and was born in early July,” The subject might reply, “My brother was born in late July and has brown hair!” The subject will remember the hair and the month and forget that the psychic said, “early,” not “late.”

Other tricks psychic frauds use include ambiguity and negative statements.

Ambiguous statements seem to be specific, but actually fit most people. “You get nervous when you drive the car in some situations.”

Well, who doesn’t?

“There’s an old woman here talking about glasses.

Glasses can be something people drink from or eyeglasses.

Negative statements are another ploy:

You don’t like walking in the woods late at night, do you?” If the answer is “Yes,” The scamster says, “I thought so.” If “No,” The con artist’s reply is, “I thought not.”

Fraud psychics twists their words so that it appears that they are always correct, regardless of the answer.

Jeane Dixon: Debunked

Jeane Dixon was an astrologer and self-proclaimed psychic, a pop culture celebrity in the 1960s. Her claim to fame was that she predicted John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Unfortunately, however, she didn’t.

A 1956 article in Parade contained the actual text of Dixon’s predictions. Dixon predicted that the President who won the 1960 election would be assassinated or die in office, but possibly not during his first term. Then, in 1960, Dixon predicted that JFK would not win the election. After JFK won the election, Dixon said she saw ‘Dark clouds’ over him.

Ambiguity is a trick charlatans use; as you can see, many of Dixon’s predictions were ambiguous – and contradictory.

Dixon’s worst wrong prediction was in relation to the USS Scorpion (SSN 589) – the ship was declared missing on June 6, 1968. Dixon said the men were alive and well on Tom Snyder’s late night TV show.

Unfortunately, the Mizar found the Scorpion’s wreckage off of the Azores on October 30th of the same year.

Debunking: Feelings are Important

Listen to your intuition when you’re checking out a paranormal practitioner. If it doesn’t “feel right,” something may be wrong – that’s intuition. We call intuition by many names, including gut feelings, hunches, and so on. Gavin de Becker, an expert on the topic of predicting and managing violence, discusses the topic in a chapter on intuition in his book, The Gift of Fear.

When you feel something isn’t right, listen your instinct, then begin to debunk.

Be a detective and follow the clues. Enjoy.


Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. (1992). FactsOnFile.

Tomlinson, Alex. Psychic in the Whitehouse. (2009). Fortean Times. Accessed December 3, 2013.

Parapsychology Foundation. Basic Terms In ParapsychologyAccessed December 3, 2013.

Ebon, Martin. Test Your ESP. (1969). The World Publishing Company.

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© Copyright 2013 Jill Stefko, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Past

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