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Psychic with crystal ball

When Psychics Get It Right

When scientists and skeptics discuss belief in psychics, mediums and an afterlife, they often frame it in terms of simple ‘lay-man’ gullibility (who don’t have the smarts that the skeptical scientist does) and generic explanations such as pattern recognition and confirmation bias.

What those explanations often ignore though is that people sometimes have much more penetrating experiences, where very specific information is offered that appears to be beyond cold reading or a chance guess.

These instances are referred to by many researchers as ‘dazzle shots’. I‘ve discussed this phenomenon previously here on the Grail, but the short film “What the Psychic Saw”, embedded below, also gives a good example.

Matthew Palmer’s mother, Susan, doesn’t believe in clairvoyance. She can’t reconcile that, however, with the fact that a psychic predicted—with inexplicable accuracy—her husband’s untimely death. It would happen, said the fortune teller, when her son turned 13. At that point, Susan didn’t even have a son.

After Palmer was born, his parents would sometimes joke about the psychic’s prediction. Then, three weeks following Palmer’s 13th birthday, his father died. Susan recounts the eerie story in What the Psychic Saw, Palmer’s short documentary, told entirely through archival home videos and a recorded phone call with his mother.

“I only learned of the impact the psychic’s words had on my mom while making this film,” Palmer told The Atlantic. According to the filmmaker, the shock and trauma of his father’s sudden death left Susan with limited emotional capacity. She couldn’t process the fact that the prediction had come true.

“It wasn’t until about a year later, when life became more stable and manageable emotionally, that I reflected on the prediction,” Susan said. “At that point, my reaction was one of awe and discomfort.”

Like his mother, Palmer doesn’t believe that psychics can predict the future. “But the fact that this one did just that still amazes [my mother],” Palmer said. “A few times when she’s told the story, she ends it with some variation of ‘Who knows?’ as if to say that maybe—just maybe—some people know things about the universe that we don’t.”

For more on scientific investigation of claims by mediums, see the story “Science Investigates Mediumship” here on the Grail. And of course, check out my book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife (Amazon US / Amazon UK) for discussion of all kinds of afterlife evidence, including NDEs, mediums, and death-bed visions.

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