Terror Alert Level

Monday, November 01, 2010


The Post-Gazette's Mary Niederberger devoted over 800 words in today's paper to gush about the appearance of psychic (psychic is a two syllable synonym for the one syllable word fraud) Chip Coffey at the Heinz History Center yesterday. Over 800 words, and not a peep on if this charlatan can actually do what he says he can. Reading the article, I could tell right away that this guy is just practicing the old carnival trick of cold reading, while throwing out responses that are so vague they could apply to nearly anyone. For example:

To make the connections with those on the other side, Mr. Coffey asked audience members for the first name of the deceased, their relationship to them and how long they were dead.
Sunday night, Mr. Coffey told a recent widow that her husband loved her, that he was doing OK and he was glad that she was doing OK and that he was with a dog "who barked a lot" and he wanted her "to take the trip."
The woman appeared to recognize the description of the dog and acknowledged her daughter has been offering to pay for her to visit her family.

The very first sentence tells you this clown is a cold reader. First name, relationship, and how long dead, along with the apparent age of the audience member gives the cold reader an enormous amount of information from which to start building on vague generalizations, and start getting more specific based on the reactions from their mark. The article doesn't say how old this widow is, but I'll assume its an older woman. It is not at all unreasonable to surmise that someone who was married for a considerable length of time at some point owned a dog that barked, or had a neighbor with a barking dog. (notice that Coffey didn't say it was the couple's dog, he leaves it so vague that it could have been any dog). It also isn't unreasonable to assume that someone might be contemplating a trip, also a vague statement, unlike say, "take the trip to see your daughter's family that your daughter is offering to pay for" which contains detail that can be verified. Its just "take the trip." Also notice that the ghouls always say the deceased are "doing OK" and never burning in the eternal flames of hell.

Another example from the article:

One man was told his grandmother "with the apple smell" had dropped by to say hello. The man said his grandmother worked on an apple farm.

With the apple smell? Apple smell? Well hey, Granny worked on an apple farm! How many people have grandmothers that baked? Baked pie? Baked apple pie? Apple smell can relate to anything involving apples, and how many of us were served apple sauce by our grannies, had an apple when visiting grandparents or ate apple pie at grandma's? The worked at an apple farm is a happy random hit, but "smelled of apples" is sufficiently vague that it can apply to almost any grandmother.

And then there are the gullible:

Teresa Runkle drove four hours from Reading for the show, and the trip was made worthwhile when Mr. Coffey told her that her deceased mother was very close by her. Ms. Runkle originally asked to communicate with her late grandfather, but Mr. Coffey said the messages from her mother were much stronger.
"Her energy is so close she feels she's not dead," he said.
Ms. Runkle said she is a big fan of Mr. Coffey's. "I love the reality of it.

Sorry Ms. Runkle, but you were treated to a reality free evening on Sunday.

I found this little tidbit enlightening:

Mr. Coffey, 56, is a native of upstate New York, where he attended Elmira College and graduated with majors in theater and psychology.

Hmmm...theatre. A performing art. Psychology. The science of mind and behavior. Put the two together and you get......?

The fact of the matter is that Chip Coffey is a nasty little fraud who makes his living off gullible, grieving people. He charges $200.00 for a 30 minute "reading" and $500.00 for a 30-40 minute "mediumship/spirit contact." If he really could do what he claims he can, he'd take James Randi's million dollar challenge. Wonder why he hasn't? Oh never mind that question. If he does ten 30 minute readings a day, five days a week for a year, he's pulling in over 500k without having to prove anything. Looks like I'm in the wrong line of work, but unlike Coffey, I have a sense of right and wrong. Now if only the P-G would have a sense of shame for giving this fraud a platform.

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