Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Am I going GaGa?

That is the question I have been asking myself ever since receiving an email from the man who runs a website called BadPsychics*.

As its name suggests, BadPsychics is largely dedicated to exposing ‘psychics’ and ‘mediums’ as nothing more than frauds and conmen (or conwomen); or at the very least as individuals who are deluded into thinking they might have paranormal abilities. The website also hosts a collection of forums on which members debate (or perhaps debunk) the latest psychic to grace our television screens.

The email was to inform me that someone had posted to one of the forums asking if Dr Matthew Smith had gone gaga as they had read that I had been quoted as describing a particular medium as ‘one of the most impressive mediums I have seen’.

You might wonder why anyone would care if I had gone gaga. Well it all stemmed from the fact that the good folks at BadPsychics knew me as a voice for the ‘sceptical community’ through my involvement on a TV show called Most Haunted. My role, as a psychologist and parapsychologist, was to put forward alternative explanations for apparently paranormal occurrences that took place during an investigation of an allegedly haunted location. As far as this programme was concerned, I was the ‘voice of reason’ who did not believe in ghosts and was there to ensure that the rational explanation for any apparently ghostly phenomena was heard.

So to be quoted as describing a medium as one of the most impressive I’d seen clearly raised a few eyebrows. But being sceptical doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t, rule out being open to apparently paranormal phenomena. It is more to do with having a questioning approach to unusual and extraordinary claims.

Mediums claim to communicate with spirits of the dead. By anyone’s account, this is quite a remarkable claim and so it is reasonable to be sceptical. But I am also intrigued. Many mediums give messages that are rather vague and likely to apply to quite a few people, and so they do not provide compelling evidence that they really are receiving messages from the dead.

However, on the several occasions I’ve seen this particular medium perform, he has given messages that seem to contain both accurate and specific details such as names (first and last), dates, even addresses. He has even been known to provide such information under conditions that seem to rule out some of the more obvious non-paranormal explanations like cold-reading. So, yes, I am happy to be quoted as regarding this medium as one of the most impressive mediums I have seen.

The question I am now asking myself is, how does he do it? Is he really communicating with spirits of the dead? Is he drawing upon some other as yet unexplained power of the mind like telepathy? Or is there some other non-paranormal explanation for his apparent abilities?

These are the really interesting questions to ask. And sceptics should ask questions – they should seek to find answers – not make assumptions.

*The BadPsychics website has since closed down. 

This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Paranormal Magazine. You can view it in its original format using the widget below!

25 comments:

  1. I've seen Gordon and he gave very specific information, names and address, he couldn't have known this previously as he didn't know me and I have never given these details to anyone, as I hate my real name and only my mum called me it and I go by my middle name, so I can't see how he did it other than having my mum there or telepathy, like you say.

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  2. Quote:
    "I’ve seen this particular medium perform, he has given messages that seem to contain both accurate and specific details such as names (first and last), dates, even addresses. He has even been known to provide such information under conditions that seem to rule out some of the more obvious non-paranormal explanations like cold-reading"

    Bold claims indeed Matthew. If he has these powers, why does he not put himself forward for the Million Dollar Prize? In my opinion he needs to put up or shut up. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I believe he won’t do it as he makes too much money from it. If exposed, his career would die quicker than the spirits he claims to communicate with. So what about it Gordon, I’m sure there are a few deserving charities that could do with the donation of a Million Dollars.

    Gordon, Gordon, are you there? thought not.

    Cheers,
    Willie

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  3. I agree with that post Willie. I would like to see all people making such claims tested. But as you said, comforting words and reassurance that a loved one hasn't really gone, but for a few gold coins crossing their palm, you too can reconnect with them, makes my blood boil. I can't tell you how much money I too paid out for those words I wanted to hear, when really I should have put the money towards grief counselling instead.
    Be honest, there is more money to be made in theatres where you don't have to provide evidence for everyone that their loved ones are there. Not everyone knows about hot/cold reading/ plants in the audience and grasping on to the small hits and forgetting the misses.
    When I went to see a Livingtv programme being made:Psychic live, the researcher who called to get all my information from me asked me what I was hoping to get out of it. Me being a greenhorn, I told her how I wanted to communicate with my mum and grandparents etc as they had been dead for x amount of years. Didn't have a clue that this information could be relayed back. Not suggesting it was, but you can see how excited I was to get the chance to communicate with them again.
    Derren Browns programme with Joe Power should be shown to eveyone in the land before they go to see a 'medium'. It's quite eye opening and informative.

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  4. Spiritualists and or survivalists only call themselves such, because they have been given irrefutable evidence, personal to us. We come from the whole spectrum of society which does include intellectual, professional people, those who work in the arts and sciences, police, judiciary, even those who hold authorititive places in most of the religions of the world who (the belief system includes all religions as well as everyone else!) have been given proof which cannot be denied under circumstances which, the medium - or even perhaps someone whom they meet on the street - are inspired enough to speak and give them details of, maybe aspects of their lives, but only to inspire the recipient of the message that there is no death - hence, the evidence given. The medium can only give evidence that they are given by Spirit - evidence which perhaps will not sound spectacular to an audience which craves sensationalism but will maybe such that strikes a personal chord. The more flamboyant the medium, usually the less evidential. There are plenty of little old ladies and men who travel the churches for their bus fare and tea and biscuits in order only to serve. In many cases what really would be the point of demanding to know the name of your cat for example, if you do not deserve a message from Spirit at all, or perhaps the message that is struggling to get through to your perception is more evidential and profound than that. We only receive messages for reciptients that are inspired by Spirit, friend or relatives. We are given - if we are lucky enough that is, what we need or deserve or to know. You cannot make demands from Spirit. You perhaps will receive a message that is full of detail, addresses and telephone numbers - it does happen - be given much more than that which you demand, and it still not be enough - this has happened in the past many times - just because an agreed special word or name of pet has not been provided. Should we discount the evidence still? What is the lesson given here? Should we not investigate scientifially, openly.. The mental barrier perceived by the true psychic or medium cannot be breached only rarely or with great diffiuclty (the premis being from the skeptic that all mediums and psychics are false) - mediums and psychics work differently as a rule anyway. Certainly a medium has to be psychic in order to be a medium. But a psychic, it seems, does not necessarily hae be a medium. As a rule, we work differently, and develop as Spirit sees fit. Mediums work primarily as healers - have you ever been open enough to respond to someone in such a way that you feel "lighter" as a result. These are subtle energies we are working with, not party tricks. We can at times work in such a way that we are given abilities beyond even our comprehension, but this situation must be looked at even, as an experiment. We are working together. We being: open, and not simply blindly accepting just anything put before us without discounting everything that may be explainable by our current understanding as it stands. We being: scientific and not discounting evidences, coincidences, happenings. Mediumship, is not always successful. The true medium and or psychic must be viewed as one who is willing to take part in an experiment. We are part of the experiment. Oh, and, Gordon Smith, IS a true and a remarkable medium and healer. One who serves and does his best as a great communicator and wonderfully inspiring speaker - one of the good guys, who is I am told, closely related to those little old ladies (and men!) who have for decades, trudged around serving those of us who are looking for a message and or answers. He is "only" a medium - as we are always told by Spirit - we are nothing special - we are all just part of the equation..

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  5. Forgive me Samantha but that just sounds like psychobabble.

    Maybe Matthew could arrange for a proper controlled test to be done on Gordon Smith aka The Psychic Barber. Or does his gift not allow him to profit from his alledged psychic abilities? Oh wait a minute, he sells books, CD’s and tours around the country earning money from his ‘psychic gift’. I think it’s time for Gordon to take the JREF challenge. (All for entertainment purposes only you understand).

    Come on Matthew lets make it happen, or are you keeping the prize just for yourself?

    Cheers,
    Willie

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  6. Willie, I think you'll find Gordon is one of the few mediums who has been tested under scientific controls and who scored highly on them. Sceptics will argue over the data but the fact is Gordon was willing to be put through a lot of blind and controlled tests.

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  7. Where and when were these tests done and by who?

    When you say that Skeptics will argue over the data, what do you mean by that? Surely if done properly the data should prove one way or the other. There should be no middle ground, only a pass or a fail. Is this data available for all to see? If not, where can I get a copy?

    Do you think Gordon would be up for taking the JREF challenge, with all the prize money going to a charity of his choice? I’m sure Living TV or a similar channel would be up for broadcasting it.

    If he truly can score highly under proper scientific conditions it would be the biggest discovery since Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

    I’m no psychic but I predict the silence will be deafening from Gordon’s camp.

    Cheers,
    Willie

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  8. "So, yes, I am happy to be quoted as regarding this medium as one of the most impressive mediums I have seen."

    Good for you. In skepticism, politics or anything else, it's more important to be honest than to "stick with your side."

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  9. Lol, I spoke to Matthew in great detail regarding Gordon Smith, I even told him EXACTLY how Gordon Smith performs his tricks.

    In fact any magician with basic knowledge could tell Matthew how Gordon does it.

    Unfortunately Matthew chooses to ignore the bleeding obvious, and ignore the truth.

    Gordon is Matthews friend, and Matthew has let friendship cloud his once clear mind.

    Gordon Smith has NEVER passed any legitimate credible test as Matthew Smith well knows.

    Gordon Smith does not speak to the dead.
    It is simple cold reading, and when in his own church HOT reading.

    Matthew wake up.
    Forget the greedy book deals, forget the TV shows.
    Regain your credibility and stop trying to be a celebrity.

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  10. Interesting insight Jon. Maybe Gordon or Matthew would like to respond to your post?

    In my opinion Gordon Smith should now do the right thing and either put up or shut up. If I claimed to be able to levitate I would obviously be asked to prove it. Claiming to talk to the dead is no different.

    Cheers,
    Willie

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  11. Thanks for the comments...

    Jon: Yes, I appreciate you have argued that Gordon's readings can be explained by cold or hot reading. As I say in the article such 'non-paranormal' explanations may well be responsible, but these are only two possibilities. I'm wanting to equally explore the other possible explanations!

    Willie: I think your point about Gordon taking the Million Dollar Challenge is a good one! Watch this space!

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  12. Thanks for the reply Matthew. I’m already excited about the prospect of Gordon being involved in the Million Dollar Challenge.

    Cheers,
    Willie

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  13. I didn't say Gordon would take the Challenge! ;-)

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  14. Your such a tease Matthew. I’m sure you could talk Gordon into taking up the challenge. With his psychic ability the Million Dollar’s would be in the bag.

    In these tough financial times, I’m sure a number of charities would only be to happy to support Gordon in return for a share of any prize money. :-)

    Cheers,
    Willie

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  15. So Jon Donnis has resurfaced! Glad to see you're still around Jon. However, you are as always far too angry. You talk to Matthew like he is a child when he is far more qualified than you at making these judgements on Gordon or any other meduim.

    You're opinion is far to angry, negative and caught up in your own self worth. Hence I imagine the closing down of your website.

    As for Gordon or any other medium taking the test, I think like Willie says it would be great to do it for charity. Is this something you plan on doing Matthew?

    Sukie

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  16. Sukie, ignore Jon Donnis, everyone else does!

    I'm very skeptical but I've seen Gordon and other than him having a plant in the audience or classic hot reading I can't explain it. I actually spoke to the person afterwards who I thought must be 'the plant' and have kept in touch with her since and know she's not a plant now. In fact shall I get her to contact you Matthew? She has a wonderful message to share and I have a tape of the message, so you could hear that if you're interested, it's a bit quiet as was recorded in the theatre but you get the gist.

    Gav

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  17. Just wandered on to here. Look what Google can do:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Smith_%28psychic%29

    It shows when and where this Mr. Smith was tested, and by whom. Also it shows he did quite well on The Weakest Link, until he lost to another psychic Mia Dolan.

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  18. “Archie E. Roy, a psychical researcher, tested Smith and claims to have found in him some ability“

    He must have been cutting his hair as he has no proven psychic ability. The Nobel prize awarded for haircutting, now that does sound good. :-)

    Cheers,
    Willie

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  19. Its a fact that not one psychic has proven any ability. Its all down to personal experience and how much the sitter believes the psychic has hit on things.

    Gordon has not impressed me but then only seen his shows...we all know how well they are edited.

    Interesting Matthew thinks he is impressive.
    Maybe Gordon and Matthew can get together to prove that Gordon can indeed do as he claims.


    lifes.

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  20. Quote Anonymous: ”Maybe Gordon and Matthew can get together to prove that Gordon can indeed do as he claims.“

    No need, like Matthew, Gordon can just accept ‘The Million Dollar Challenge’ to prove any psychic claims.

    The prize money and Nobel Prize awaits you Mr Smith. :-)

    Cheers,
    Willie

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  21. True Willie.It has been said that the protocols for the test are made so that many cant take it.Mmmm,not so sure about that.lol.

    Its a shame that not one medium has proved they can really do as they claim. I would love it to be true.

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  22. Gav,

    On the off chance that you might still be reading these comments... yes, I would be very interested to listen to the tape of the message you mention!

    Matthew

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  23. Matthew, just wondering if you ever got to hear the message from Gav's friend? If so, what is your opinion of it - and would you be willing to share it with us(with Gav and friend's permission of course).

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  24. Interesting reading. Well, for me, an open mind means just that, open to everything and all, if that's possible. Scepticism is good and healthy. Criticism, especially when it gets personal isn't and it does little to advance our knowledge of unusual things such as this.

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