Humanist Association of Ottawa Educates Psychic-Visiting Crowd July 14, 2010

Humanist Association of Ottawa Educates Psychic-Visiting Crowd

Last week, the Humanist Association of Ottawa found out that there was an event in their community that they really needed to attend — “The Psychic Experience” with Matthew Stapley. Basically, Stapley was going to perform cold readings (a la John Edward).

So the Humanists decided to take action.

We were armed with pamphlets from Ottawa Skeptics entitled “How To Be A Psychic” (PDF here). Inside, it gives basic instructions on standard techniques such as cold-reading and the Barnum (also known as the Forer) Effect. These are methods a psychic can use to convince an audience that he knows things about them that, by rights, he couldn’t know — ergo, he must be getting that information by magical means! The idea behind the pamphlet is that it doesn’t directly label the psychic as a fraud — but does make people aware about the ways they might be getting manipulated, and perhaps leads them to question whether the claimed supernatural phenomenon might, in fact, have a completely prosaic explanation in applied psychology.

(That PDF is great, by the way.)

They stood near the venue, passed out the pamphlets… and Stapley’s people called the police on them.

You can read the whole account here.

Thankfully, no one was arrested/tased — It sounds like the Humanists were following all the proper protocols so they likely wouldn’t have been arrested, anyway. But you have to wonder what Stapley was so worried about. It’s not like the audience was running away after being given the pamphlets. If Stapley had real powers, you would think he’d welcome the opposition and convince them of his powers.

Unless he’s a fraud, in which case, the Humanists were giving away his trade secrets and they had to be stopped.

I’m going with that option.

Having just come back from The Amazing Meeting, I have to mention that Stapley could always submit himself to testing and win $1,000,000.

But he won’t. He doesn’t have the guts to do it. He’d rather just con gullible people.

(Thanks to Tony for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I had my own idea of what some might do with a psychic around:

  • Rick

    Nice work Ottawa!

    This had to make it awkward for Stapley to “perform”, knowing that he had an informed audience who may be analysing every move he makes.

    I wonder how it all turned out? Did he amaze or disappoint? It would have been nice to have one of the HAO members in the audience incognito to see what happened.

  • MaleficVTwin

    As a psychic, Stapley should have seen this coming.

  • Dan

    Was the PDF rushed? I’ve found what seem to be multiple errors.

    1) “Observer the subject” Is that a grammatical error? Shouldn’t it be “Observe the subject”?

    2) In the section “Ask questions that seem like statements” they use a sample phrase, but it doesn’t begin with a quotation. However it does end with a quotation after the word grandfather.

    3) Under the “Use Barnum statements” section, the examples given are the only examples in the PDF where the quotes are not capitalized in the first letter of the first word.

    4) The “Ignore your mistakes!” has an exclamation point, but no colon like all the others.

  • MaleficVTwin

    I’ve found what seem to be multiple errors.

    Ignore your mistakes!

    I don’t see the problem. 😉

  • Matt

    Those people are basically just magicians… except they aren’t as creative… or honest.

  • Guy Allen

    Did anyone have any extensive knowledge of his gifts? Did these Canucks just assume he was doing cold reading? See? This is the type of DICK behaviour that gives skeptics a bad name.

    I sure hope they had done enough homework to know for sure that Matthew was a true fraud and not a real psychic, like Johnny Smith from Castle Rock, Maine.

  • So this is where all the traffic is coming from ;-). Stapley had a friendly conversation with one of our group, and later sent us a very polite email thanking us for being there. Whether he’s an outright fraud or self-deluded (apparently, some of these folks believe their own spiel) I couldn’t say.

    In any case, if anyone’s giving the Mayfair a hard time by email or anything, please don’t. Apparently, they have had real trouble in the past with protests getting rough. So: I don’t like what they did, but I can see why they might overreact to a bunch of harmless geeks with pamphlets. I’ve said what I have to say to them on this subject, and escalation is not helpful.

  • Pedant points all round for those who corrected the PDF – I will point out that the printed copy that was handed out did have (most of) the errors fixed.

  • Dan

    MaleficVTwin, touché!

  • Dan W

    That’s a good pamphlet. Obviously not without errors, as previous commentors have noted. In any case, I noticed from the link that Matthew Stapley, when he confronted them, claimed he got his “psychic” information from “spirit guides”. What a load of bullshit! I’m glad there are people willing to expose psychics for the frauds they are.

  • jcm

    I’m pretty he never saw it coming, which reminds me of this.

  • Marlowe

    Thanks Hemant!

    Just one small (big) correction, though – The person who called the cops was the on-duty manager of the Mayfair Theatre (who has since told us that he wouldn’t tolerate “protesters” anywhere on the same block!). We have no idea whether Stapley, or his people, were involved. As Eamon pointed out, Stapley did come out to chat with us and sent the group an e-mail after the event thanking us for coming.

    Unlike Eamon, I don’t see “I once felt threatened” to be an excuse to abuse the law. The cop was very clear that we had the right to be there (well, in the vicinity, anyway) as long as we were peaceful, but the this was not enough for the manager. He wanted us gone. I don’t buy his “I was concerned for my staff” spiel.

    Rick – would have loved to, but the guy was charging, like, $20 a head! Even my zeal has limits!

  • Justin

    Did anyone have any extensive knowledge of his gifts? Did these Canucks just assume he was doing cold reading? See? This is the type of DICK behaviour that gives skeptics a bad name.

    I sure hope they had done enough homework to know for sure that Matthew was a true fraud and not a real psychic, like Johnny Smith from Castle Rock, Maine.

    Rich. Just rich. “Assume the guy claiming to see the world of the undead is legit until he is proven otherwise!” How about he subjects himself to scientific testing, establishes his ability, and then we’ll give him credit for it?

    I’ll tell you what is “DICK behaviour;” taking another person’s hard earned money to feed them comforting lies.

  • You should see how defensive and irritating one of the owners of the theater has been on the OHA web site. He even posted comment on my blog because we skeptics dared defend the actions of the organization. Pathetic.

  • Actually, this situation is about to get a little more interesting. Stay tuned =)

  • A threat was made, but it was withdrawn. Seems there won’t be any more to this story for now.

  • Godless Lawyer

    Always nice to see some hometown news on a blog!

    Good on the HAO!

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