We all know grief is a complicated process, and dealing with it takes time and understanding.
Well, not for all of us. John LaCross, a police chief in Rhode Island, thinks if your friend or family member dies, you just need to see a psychic medium to connect with them. It’s not enough that he’s fallen for this form of pseudoscience; he’s encouraging others to follow suit.
He says he sees mediums to talk his older brother, Joey, who died from suicide about 40 years ago.
Seeking comfort, he began meeting with people calling themselves mediums, but it wasn’t until 2000 that he met someone he says gave him evidence of an afterlife.
It’s a shame none of that “evidence” has ever been published in a peer-reviewed journal. But it’s fairly easy to see why that hasn’t happened. LaCross seems like he’s very susceptible to cold readings.
Years later, he met with another medium who he says correctly described his brother’s timing and cause of death, down to the manner: hanging. “But can you give me his name?” LaCross said he asked.
“It’s a J name; Joseph,” LaCross said the medium responded.
After that, he started keeping his brother’s picture in his patrol car, talking to him and asking him for signs. Later, a different medium, he said, confirmed his brother was sending him messages.
That’s what it took to convince him: “It’s a J name; Joseph.” First of all, his brother went by Joey. Why would his spirit tell any medium “Joseph”? And, perhaps more importantly, why would the psychic be working with letters. How would that even work? Is the spirit whispering, “J, J, J”?
No, of course not. The answer is that so-called mediums use a tactic known as “cold reading” to convince people they are psychic. They do this by guessing vague details and waiting for the customer to make a connection. This is extremely common practice, and the easiest way to do it is with letters. There are only 26 of them, so it’s easy for connections to be made. (Keep in mind that it’s entirely possible this was a “hot” reading in which the medium, knowing that LaCross was going to visit, did a Google search or something similar and learned about the brother in advance.)
This particular medium was even lazier than usual. “J” has been consistently ranked the most popular first letter in boy names. Joseph is one of the most common “J” names in the United States, too, which makes the odds even better. And when a man dies at the age of 21, the odds it was a natural cause is fairly low. (When someone’s young child dies, for example, it’s likely to be the result of an accident or drowning.)
What’s disturbing is how many people who ought to be champions of science, given their field of work, aren’t saying any of these things. They’re going along with LaCross’ insistence that psychics are real.
The president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police said he’s not ready to dismiss mediums as crack science.
“I’m not going to discount anything simply because it does not line up with logic,” said the president, Jack Rinchich, former police chief at the University of Charleston in West Virginia. “There are occasions where mediums have been spot on; you can call them coincidences.
They might be coincidences. But notice that hot and cold readings aren’t even options in that black/white worldview.
None of this stops people like LaCross from promoting psychic services, but it should make just about everyone else ask some serious questions and perhaps reconsider who they give their money to. More likely than not, they are just buying false hope.
(Image via Shutterstock)