So-proclaimed ‘psychic’ Rosemary Altea was scammed

June 16, 2009

So-proclaimed ‘psychic’ Rosemary Altea was robbed of $200,000 by her own accountant. And no, she didn’t see it coming.

From the Rutland Herald article:

Denise Hall of East Arlington faces one count of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return after investigators with the U.S. Attorney’s office say she stole money from self-proclaimed spiritual medium Rosemary Altea – using four credit cards to obtain cash advances, forging checks and giving herself unauthorized electronic paychecks all under Altea’s name for the past seven years, according to court records.

Seven years this went on and the “psychic” didn’t have a clue. I’m sorry to make light of this terrible crime but when you make a career out of defrauding the public out of their hard-earned dollars by claiming you have the ability to see into the future, among other popular psychic claims, you really make it damned near impossible to garner sympathy. And apparently I’m not alone:

The sad thing is that Rosemary “earned” enough money from her readings to actually allow for $200,000 to be stolen. And while I don’t approve of anyone breaking the law in such a manner, it is hard to feel too much animosity for Denise Hall. After all, consider how Rosemary got the money in the first place.

A little poking around shows that Rosemary influenced one Llewella Day, a dying cancer patient in Vermont, and after one meeting, Ms. Day donated her $750,000 farm to Rosemary under the condition that it remain a farm with structures intact. This last-minute change of will surprised and angered Ms. Day’s family, who took Rosemary to court, and sadly lost.

In celebration of her legal victory, Rosemary demolished the farm buildings and house to create a “healing center.” Which brings to mind the obvious admonition: Rosemary, heal thyself.


Psychics prey on the vulnerable in desperate times

April 18, 2009

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Dr. House debunks Oscar the death cat

March 19, 2009

A while back I remember hearing a family friend describe an unusual news item about a cat at a nursing home that the staff believed correctly predicted that particular patients were about to die. And while I didn’t necessarily know what the true explanation was, I was fairly confident there was a more rational explanation than a psychic death cat.

But this week, Dr. House solved the mystery of Oscar the death cat at least within the fictional world of the drama series House. It might not be the exact solution to the real life case of the alleged psychic cat, Oscar, but it will hopefully get people thinking about all the possibly simpler explanations that might have explained Oscar’s seemingly psychic abilities.

Follow the link above if you don’t mind having the episode of House spoiled.

And I’m a particular fan of the actor who portrays Dr. House, Hugh Laurie because he doesn’t shy away from admitting he’s both an atheist and a skeptic of the supernatural:


‘Psychic’ looks ahead to 6 years in prison

March 10, 2009

psychic-crystal-ball_1114702cFlying Spaghetti Monster bless the San Francisco Chronicle for that awesome headline. Fake psychic Janet Adams just pleaded no contest to elder fraud. And what’s elder fraud? Defrauding old people.

Ms. Adams is specifically guilty of pretending to be psychic in order to con  more than $80,000 out of an 85-year-old woman by claiming that both their husbands would die if the woman didn’t hand over money. Wow!

In court today, Judge James Ellis of San Mateo County Superior Court called Adams’ actions “despicable” and said he regretted that the maximum sentence wasn’t longer, said Steve Wagstaffe, chief deputy district attorney.

I’m with Judge Ellis. Sure I’m opposed to capital punishment but would it be wrong to mail her to Abu Dhabi or Afghanistan?


Bad Predictions from the past

January 6, 2009

Well it’s that time of year again, folks. This is when every “psychic” crawls out from under the rock they came from to make predictions about the coming year. These predictions tend to be a combination of guessing events likely to happen, longshot guesses that will look particularly impressive if they happen to occur, doomsaying that usually involves the economy going down because that’s usually a sure thing, and really fantastical mystical or science fictiony guesses that have no chance of happening. I don’t know why anyone bothers with the last category. Then there’s the classic trick of making the same plausible prediction each year so that it’s likely to come true eventually. For instance, if you predict that Lindsey Lohan will get pregnant every year it probably won’t be long before it comes true.

Oh, and the last trick that’s employed by some of the more famous “psychics” is to simply go in and edit their own pages to retrofit predictions to seem more remarkably accurate and more specific  than you remember their predictions being when they were first made. For instance, it’d be kind of weird if you saw a famous “psychic’s” predictions for 2008 include the passing of young Heath Ledger–seems like the kind of unlikely prediction you would have remembered, right? Of course some people will have the audacity of screen saving their predictions so they can compare their pages then and now.

Here’s a short recap at some of the epic fails of predictors for the past year.

Here’s a look at one mystic’s predictions published in the New York Times back in 1909 about the year 2009.

Then of course there’s Pat Robertson, who apparently gets text messages from God himself every January that foretell the events of the coming year. . .very inaccurately. Of course the big trick is to highlight the hits while ignoring all the misses and when foretelling doom that never occurs just saying that God changed his mind because people prayed so hard.

Here’s Pat Robertson’s predictions for this coming year:

Now last year I made a blog on my Myspace page addressing the “psychic” predictions made of the previous year and made my own list of “psychic” predictions to see if I could outdo the “psychics.” I plan to do this again in the next few days but here I’d like to repost my old blog from last year unedited except that I will put the predictions I got right or close to right in BOLD along with some possible comments in parentheses. So here we go:

—————————————————–

From January 20, 2008:

Predictions for 2008

Well, it’s the beginning of a new year, and you know what that means. Yup, all the psychics and evangelical nuts are making their amazing predictions for the events that will unfold in the coming year, a remarkable number of which will oddly require no psychic powers at all.

Here are some of the psychics who have predictions already out there:
The Psychic Twins (Seems like these predictions are A LOT MORE SPECIFIC than I remember them being back in January. Hmm, how strange? And really, really accurate. What are the odds??)

Nikki Psychic To The Stars (includes her past years predictions!)

Sylvia Browne:

Of course, then there’s Pat Robertson

Wow, it’s a good thing God stopped last year’s terrorist attack or else one might have thought Robertson was WRONG about a prediction that seemed like a fairly likely possibility to those who don’t receive text messages from God but simply read the news, you know, not like this year’s prediction of a worsening economy. I mean, what are the odds of that under President Bush, right? Right?

For more about the psychics making predictions about the coming year, see: The Skeptics’ Guide To The Universe Podcast (1/2/08 episode)

But those psychics don’t know what they’re talking about, so I’m going to reveal what will REALLY HAPPEN IN 2008:

-Jesus will not return in 2008, leading hundreds of millions of Christians to wait longer.  (Point for me)
-But guess who will return in 2008–that’s right. Van Halen featuring one of their previous singers. (Okay, I think it was Guns N Roses. Close enough, right?)
-The U.S. economy will get worse. (Point for me)
-The troops will not return from Iraq in 2008, but The Bush Administration will proudly announce that we’re winning…though not enough to bring the troops home..
(Point for me)
-Brittney Spears will trade in her mild Texan Chistianity and her Kabbalah bracelet and will “really” find Jesus. (Doh!)
-Paris Hilton will also join a cult/religion and begin serving as an activist for the group. (Okay, she didn’t join a cult but she was sort of involved in activism. Anyone else remember that anti-McCain commercial she did?)
-Ron Paul will make a 45-minute speech that only includes the words “Freedom” and “Constitution.” (I’m sure this is true. Just the media didn’t care enough to cover it)
–Hilary Clinton will be elected the 44th president of the U.S. (Doh!)
-The Church of Scientology will sue somebody. (Did I nail it or what?)
-A single suicide bomber will kill hundreds in the Middle East. (Okay, it wasn’t hundreds because God decided to spare a lot of people)
-The Bush Administration will be involved in a major scandal.  (Goes without saying)
-No evidence that 9/11 was an inside job will surface.
-After decades of investigation, Dr. Stanton Friedman will still fail to provide physical evidence that extraterrestrials crashed in Roswell, New Mexico.
-The terrorist attack Pat Robertson predicted in 2007 will not occur in 2008 either.

-The ghosts that talk to John Edwards will continue to feed him mostly bad information. (Another point for me)
-The New York Yankees will win The World Series. (Doh!)
-Lance Armstrong will run in The New York City Marathon and beat last year’s time.
(Doh!)
-David and Victoria Beckham will get divorced.(Doh!)

-Lindsey Lohan will get a DWI and star in a reality TV series called “Lohen Behold.” (Okay, she didn’t have a reality show but her family did, so I was damned close)
-Jupiter will be in line with Mars and the Sun will be perpendicular to the Moon.
Uri Geller will prove his psychic abilities by having someone secretly choose one of five shapes and correctly predicting that they’ve selected the Star in the second position in the list.
-Ben Stein’s mockumentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” will win a Razzie Award. (Time will tell, but it was certainly panned by critics)
-Archaeologists will unearth the fossil remains of over a dozen new species. Creationists will ignore these finds.
-Jack Thompson will attribute a school shooting to videogame violence (Another point for me)

-February will have a 29th day. (Another point for me)

-“Indiana Jones and The Temple of the Crystal Skull” will break box office records in its opening weekend. (Doh!)

-An evangelical will claim that the end of the world is happening this year and will provide an exact date. The next day, when the world hasn’t ended, he’ll inform us that God saved us because of our faith. He’ll then sheepishly stop talking about it.
-I won’t pay my exorcist and will be repossessed.
-And the Writer’s Strike will prevent this Oracle from finishing his predictions for the year of


News From Around The Blogosphere 12.1.08

December 2, 2008

god-is-cancelledCincinnati Zoo holy alliance – This is pretty disgusting. The Cincinnati Zoo and the Creation “Museum” made a marketing agreement to sell “combo tickets” to get into both attractions for one price, meaning the Cincinnati Zoo was effectively promoting Young Earth Creationism. BUT that alliance was short-lived as it quickly met with such enormous criticism as to make the Cincinnati Zoo to come their senses and today cancel the whole thing. And thus once again good triumphs over the forces of evil.

Birmingham mayor who called for day of prayer arrested on multiple counts of corruption – Apparently Jesus has answer Larry Langford’s prayers, just not the answer he would have liked. That’s a shame.

American Atheists sues Kentucky – The other day I blogged about Kentucky declaring that its first line of defense was “God,” ordering Homeland Security to waste tax payer dollars publicizing this nonsense. So now Kentucky is being sued. I’ll bet every dollar I have that once again, God will fail to appear to testify in court.

It was a million-to-1 shot, doc, a million-to-1 – Apparently a vicar got a potato stuck in a very uncomfortable place:

The clergyman, in his 50s, told nurses he had been hanging curtains when he fell backwards on to his kitchen table.

He happened to be nude at the time of the mishap, said the vicar, who insisted he had not been playing a sex game.

saps-taps-parodyMason Dixon Paranormal Society determines a museum is haunted – How did they do that? EVP, among the stupidest methods ghost hunters have ever come up with. Seriously, watching ghost hunters listen for hidden messages in the static is like watching a room full of monkeys try to write Shakespeare.

When did Uri Geller go from “psychic” to magician? – Ugh! Of course James Randi long ago predicted Geller would eventually try to subtly make this transition. . .and without the aid of any psychic powers too. After all, after you lose enough law suits and more and more people become wise to the con, there’s nowhere else to go. But what one must remember is that the U.S. government literally spent I think millions of dollars on psychic research largely due to what Geller is now admitting to be tricks. Now there’s a term for this. It’s called defrauding the government. . .and it’s a FEDERAL CRIME!!!

WHAT’S THE HARM?

groin-kickEven skeptics can admit possessions were definitely involved here – An Atlanta woman burned down her own apartment because she believed her possessions to be possessed.

“She was extremely upset saying the material was possessed by voodoo spirits and she was trying to cleanse the apartment of the spirits,” said Marietta Fire Chief Jackie Gibbs.

Godless Christmas Cards! – I just saw Stephen Colbert talking about them and now PZ Myers has blogged about them. But damn, are they expensive!

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyBrain’s Magnetic Fields Reveal Autism Delays – “Faint magnetic signals from brain activity in children with autism show that those children process sound and language differently from non-autistic children. Identifying and classifying these brain response patterns may allow researchers to more accurately diagnose autism and possibly aid in developing more effective treatments for the developmental disorder.”

Sex Life Of Killer Fungus Finally Revealed – “Biologists at The University of Nottingham and University College Dublin have announced a major breakthrough in our understanding of the sex life of a microscopic fungus which is a major cause of death in immune deficient patients and also a cause of severe asthma.”

Humanity May Hold Key For Next Earth Evolution – “Human degradation of the environment has the potential to stall an ongoing process of planetary evolution, and even rewind the evolutionary clock to leave the planet habitable only by the bacteria that dominated billions of years of Earth’s history, Harvard geochemist Charles Langmuir said Thursday (Nov. 13).” Well that doesn’t sound good.

A Surgeon You Can Swallow – “In the future, tablet-shaped robots could perform some surgical operations without injuring the body. A new publication by the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems of ETH Zurich shows how such surgical bio-microrobots might function.”

Ants Practice Farming And Chemical Warfare – “According to an article in the November issue of Microbiology Today, leaf-cutter ants have developed a system to try and keep their gardens pest-free; an impressive feat which has evaded even human agriculturalists.”


Do unicorns exist? – I can’t believe how much analysis went into this. Here is an awesome site I found on Skepchick that takes a very close look at the complex research concerning the question of whether unicorns exist.


News From Around The Blogosphere 11.25.08

November 26, 2008

Witchcraft on India’s school curriculum – It’s part of an effort to dispel superstition and stop deadly witch hunts.

Victims of abuse can sue the Vatican!!!

A great blog article by Phil Plait on The Long Tail of Skepticism – It includes another plug for Stop Jenny McCarthy, so I’m happy. I’ve blogged in the past about how skeptics need to start focusing on strengthening the the “Long Tail” and I’m planning on writing a potentially very long essay on the direction I think the skeptics movement should be heading, which expands upon the popular essay by Daniel Loxton “Where Do We Go From Here,” the blog by Tim Farley of “What’s The Harm” that Phil Plait links to “The Long Tail of Skepticism,” and the Skepticamp essay recited on the most recent Skepticality podcast (episode #90). All of these are must-reads for those interested in getting involved in skeptical activism.

Boy did this psychic go to the wrong site – This is hilarious. It’s remarkable to me that “Sean” didn’t see this one coming. . .you know, with all the psychic powers and all.

No atheist ads in Australia – And probably won’t even be in the film, “Australia.” It’s particularly sad because all 3 slogan options were better than the recent ones used in London and Washington:

  • Atheism: Because there is no credible evidence
  • Celebrate reason: Sleep in on Sunday mornings
  • Atheism: Celebrate reason

If they didn’t even go for the last one, then I guess we can forget my slogan idea: “God Is Imaginary. Get Over It.”

A circuit court judge has ruled that Florida’s ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional – Reason wins out. But there’s still Utah, where no unmarried couples are allowed to adopt, be they gay or straight, and Mississippi, which bans gay couples from adopting, but not single gay people.

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyMissing Link’ Galaxies Discovered – “Astronomers in two UK-led international collaborations have separately uncovered a type of galaxy that represents a missing link in our understanding of galaxy evolution.”

Flies May Reveal Evolution Of Live Birth – “A species of fruit fly from the Seychelles Islands often lays larvae instead of eggs, UC San Diego biologists have discovered. Clues to how animals switch from laying eggs to live birth may be found in the well-studied species’ ecology and genes.”

HUMOR:

F.U.T.K. – Okay, so this time Toby Keith is being deliberately funny with this “War on Christmas” song from A Colbert Christmas (and it is very funny), but is there any doubt that Toby Keith take the message of the song seriously?

And of course here’s a little piece of unintentional comic gold. Proof that religion rots your brain: