Update 17 Dec: This was a (failed) windup – she writes about it here.
One of Wendy M. Grossman’s unsung talents (besides writing interesting books about the Net and having an interesting column and those sorts of things) is her role with the Skeptic [sic] in the UK, and hence the semi-professional role of debunking so-called psychics. Debunking is the sort of thing that James Randi, the magician, has done so well; while he’s never called Uri Geller a fraud (and, honestly, who on earth would?), he has reproduced by magicians’ sleight-of-hand ever so many of the things Geller does using his unexplained powers – apart of course from appearing lascivious on the first I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!.
So Wendyg was asked by the BBC to appear as a sceptic (I prefer that spelling) on a program looking at spirituality: their plan was to do a sort of test today and then do something more comprehensive early next year. I don’t think they expected at all what actually happened. Certainly, I didn’t.
She was asked to write down five facts about herself and keep them secret. (Just pause, though, and consider how hard that is for someone whose life is so widely spread around the Net as Wendy’s; a bit of research and you’d think any would-be “psychic” could find out five things she might say about herself.) Then a psychic called “Shirley” (a man) would divine them, to stun and amaze everyone.
In the end she chose the following:
- I have two old tennis balls in my dryer
- I am currently reading Bodies in Motion and at Rest, by Thomas Lynch
- My youngest friend is 19; my oldest friend is 73
- Two of my teeth have crowns
- I cannot draw
You’ll have to read the whole thing, which is well worth the journey, to see the amazing attempts that Shirley made to discomfort Wendy and justify his amazing “reading” of her facts. Let’s just say they diverged a little. He hardly did himself any favours by opening the conversation with her by saying that the word “skeptic” puts him in mind of “septic”. As anyone who knows Wendy could attest, this is as wise as dangling your arms in an industrial shredder.
Oh, OK, just a taster of the postcript: When I phoned Chris French afterwards — he’d also been filmed in a discussion with Shirley a few hours earlier — his experience was similar (without the test), although instead of suggesting incontinence he suggested adultery (‘Names!’ said Chris. ‘I want details!’). I have no idea whether they’ll be able to use any of it.