Catherine Ferguson learning that this horse used to be Abraham Lincoln. What are the odds??

“Pet psychics” now pass as legitimate columnists in supposedly serious newspapers.

Catherine Ferguson learning that this horse used to be Abraham Lincoln. What are the odds??

Not to suggest that crap like this is why newspapers are dying a slow death, but I’m sure it doesn’t help. It seems you can write into The Jersey Journal for a reading from a “Pet Psychic” who will reveal your pets’ innermost thoughts and dreams:

My 9-year-old cat Lotus lives the good life in that she sleeps and eats all day. My question for you is as follows: She tends to meow and twitch a lot when she sleeps. I’ve often wondered if she is reliving a previous life. Could this be the case?

By now I’m sure you can guess that the “Pet Psychic” is going to answer in the affirmative, but you’ll never guess what one of Lotus’ past lives was actually spent as:

Lotus tells me that you are very wise, in general. But, she is quick to add that you are way off base this time. She does admit to having a past life as a Roman general, but that’s not what she’s viewing when she sleeps.

Got that? Kitty used to be people and an important people she was! But that’s not what she’s dreaming about:

Instead, she is frequently living scenes of great conquest in animal form. She is a tiger, or sometimes another big cat, stalking then pouncing on her prey. She is proud to wind up with hard-to-catch, but delicious fresh food.

Well isn’t that just a stunning revelation. Well, no, it’s not.

Here’s the great thing about being a Pet Psychic: You can make up whatever bullshit story you want and the one person who could call bullshit on you… can’t because they’re an animal now. So go wild and claim whatever nonsense enters your head! Fluffy was once Cleopatra! Tickles used to be a famous 18th century German brewmaster!

Apparently the Pet Psychic in question is Catherine Ferguson who advertises herself as a psychic for pets and people as well as a Reiki master, and she has a PH.D (probably in advanced bullshitting). Her fees for readings run from $25 for one question via email or snail mail for approximately 15 minutes worth of a reading at a limit of 15o words to $90 for a 60-minute consultation in person or via phone, e-mail or snail mail. That’s roughly a buck and a half per minute which is a good rate of pay if you can manage to bullshit well enough to get it.

Here’s the thing I don’t get: Since when is this something worth putting in a newspaper? Granted, I haven’t subscribed to a paper in years so maybe I’m unaware of the sudden legitimacy of “psychics” as columnists, but it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that would encourage people to take your paper seriously. Given that I just wrote a similar entry a week or so ago about a local news website, Ann Arbor.com, also putting woo in its pet advice column, I guess I must be totally out of touch with current trends in pet care. But at least in the latter example it wasn’t a full-time woo column like this one appears to be.

However, there is once again a silver lining in the comments to this article the first of which reads: “Oh, for #$%&’s sake.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

11 comments

  1. Given how many creatures were apparently Roman generals, witches burned at the stake etc. etc in a previous life where did the souls of all those people who lived uneventful lives as peasants go?

  2. I was at the library a few days ago, and had the same reaction to Sylvia Browne’s new book: Afterlives of the Rich and Famous. It was actually in the biography section, instead of the completely stupid fiction section. Same problem: she can make up anything she wants about famous dead people, and they can’t come back and call her out on it. And people believe her?!

  3. And people believe her?!

    The people re-elected Bill Clinton.
    The people re-elected George W. Bush.
    There are about 2 billion Catholics in the world.
    There are about 2 billion Muslims in the world.

    Need I say any more?

    ;-) :lol:

  4. As Barnum said “there is one (sucker) born every minute.

    Having said that, I have to tell you that I use an animal communicator on a fairly regular basis. When I was doing dog rescue full time I was able to find out helpful information about the dog’s behaviors and fears. I use Cindy Wenger in Hershey, PA. She has been dead-on accurate so many times with the only information to go on is the name, species and color of the pet. She can also talk to the pet, sounds weird, but I had two dogs who were literally at war. If they saw each other they tried to fight…not so good if you live in a small house. Cindy talked to them and the war was over. It was just over! I was stunned to find that after I hung up with Cindy these two stopped snarling at each other through the gate. They could now actually pass each other without an attempt to fight. They still didn’t like each other but the war that had sent both my husband and myself to the hospital with bite wounds was over. It was a truce that lasted until I could rehome the German shepherd.

    I also have a little pit bull that a fighter tried to beat to death. Gloria has severe brain damage and, although she is intelligent, she doesn’t process information normally. I was worried that she was having headaches and asked Cindy to talk to her – no info but her name and color. Cindy told me that something was wrong with Gloria’s brain. She said it was like trying to talk to her grandmother who has Alzheimer’s. No headaches but not much information either….oh look shiny object.

    Another direct hit was on Nikki a German shepherd mix who had been early starved to death as a little puppy. As a result she had brain damage that left her extremely hyper and obsessive compulsive. Her fixation was a ball, she had to have one in her mouth at all times, she even slept with it. We were experimenting with medications to help her and Cindy tried to ask her how she felt. After a long silence Cindy said, “I’m sorry I can’t see anything except a ball, does that mean anything to you?” The only info given was name and color. Pretty damn accurate. But Cindy, like all real animal communicators does not go in for woo. She makes appointments, charges a pittance (she even gave me free readings when I had 15 dogs here.) If she can’t help, she says so. No stringing along for you to spend more money.

    I wish the purveyors of woo would be called out and dismissed as the frauds they are. They make the few who are real look like frauds too. And trust me, if I wasn’t getting accurate information I would not spend the money…that I don’t have…

  5. I’m sorry, JaneGael, but I’m very skeptical. Not a single psychic can provide any basis for how their supposed powers work and they never seem to work when tested with a soundly scientific method. I don’t doubt that you believe this woman is capable of doing what she claims to do, but anecdotes aren’t good evidence. A good mentalist — not a psychic, but a stage performer — can pull off the same tricks.

    If she really is legit there’s a million dollars from JREF she could easily walk away with. Would love to see her take on the challenge.

  6. A good mentalist would have to be in the same room. This is done with her in PA and me in CT over the phone. There are no clues other than name, type of animal and color. I was pretty skeptical too. I approached the first session like someone taking a car to new mechanic. Prove to me you know what you are doing. Oh and while you are at it, don’t over-charge and don’t try to get me to spend more money.

    The direct hits with only getting the image of a ball with Nikki and telling me that poor little Gloria’s thoughts are scrambled were dead on. How could she know that without meeting the dogs? Stopping the war was just plain amazing. Two dogs who clawed at a gate to get to one another suddenly stopped — just stopped. It was a complete cease fire that was astonishing. I’ve worked with at least a hundred rescue dogs and believe me, dogs who hate each other don’t suddenly wave the white flag after mom talked to someone on the phone.

    I doubt that any animal communicator (different from pet psychic) could pass Randi’s tests. Dogs/animals think in images and feelings, not concrete words. I was trying to find out what had happened to a hostile little Pomeranian. The only thing Cindy could get was the image of being under a bridge. They NYC shelter thought he’d belonged to a homeless person when they got him and this pretty much confirmed it. Communicators don’t give you earth-shaking news, or detailed reports. Animals don’t think the same things are important that we do and view the world differently. They give the communicator snippets of information that can be important or meaningless. This isn’t something that would win them a million dollars. Quite a few rescues use them and none of us have money to waste. If it didn’t help — we wouldn’t do it.

    The reputable communicators follow a code of ethics and list what they are good at (not all can find lost animals, for instance.)

  7. JaneGael wrote:

    A good mentalist would have to be in the same room. This is done with her in PA and me in CT over the phone. There are no clues other than name, type of animal and color.

    Actually, a good mentalist can do just fine over the phone. There’s any number of 1-800 psychic hotlines to attest to that fact. Have you ever wondered why she needs to know the type of animal, it’s name and color ahead of time? Seems like a true psychic would be able to pick up on that on their own.

    The direct hits with only getting the image of a ball with Nikki and telling me that poor little Gloria’s thoughts are scrambled were dead on. How could she know that without meeting the dogs?

    Based on what little I know about the actual conversation you had with her I can only speculate, but I do know how strong confirmation bias can be and that’s something all psychics rely on. For example, the statement about Nikki and a ball sounds exactly like the sort of generalized statement a cold reader would say if they had nothing else to go on. How many dogs don’t have a favorite ball? And as for the dogs that stopped fighting, again, without knowing more I can only guess, but it’s not uncommon for dogs to establish a pecking order on their own.

    I doubt that any animal communicator (different from pet psychic) could pass Randi’s tests.

    I don’t see why not. The psychic, or animal communicator, would be involved in designing the tests:

    2.1 Protocols must be “mutually agreed upon,” what does that mean?

    Neither the Foundation nor the claimant can force a testing procedure without the approval of the other side. The testing procedure is a negotiation, and no one can put their foot down. If at any time it a deadlock is reached, the application process will be terminated, and neither side will be blamed or considered at fault.

    You go on to say:

    Dogs/animals think in images and feelings, not concrete words. I was trying to find out what had happened to a hostile little Pomeranian. The only thing Cindy could get was the image of being under a bridge. They NYC shelter thought he’d belonged to a homeless person when they got him and this pretty much confirmed it.

    Is that really all it takes to count as a “hit”? Being under a bridge is a pretty vague statement that could apply to all sorts of things. Not all homeless people live under bridges and the shelter doesn’t sound like they’re even sure the dog’s previous owner was homeless.

    Communicators don’t give you earth-shaking news, or detailed reports.

    I hate to tell you this, but most People Psychics don’t either. The general rule seems to be vague and mundane. I would’ve been impressed if, just once, James “I Talk To Dead People” Edwards had said something like: Your mother says you were always a little bitch and you’re still a little bitch and that’s why she wrote you out of her will.

    But no. Dead people never say things like that to their living relatives. It’s always “I’m in Heaven and it’s great and I’m having a wonderful time so don’t worry about me and I love you and always have even if I didn’t always show it.”

    They give the communicator snippets of information that can be important or meaningless. This isn’t something that would win them a million dollars.

    Sure it would, if they could demonstrate that they’re actually doing something and not just faking it.

    Here’s a simple example of a test I thought of off the top of my head: Your psychic got a hit on Nikki and her ball. So present her with ten different well-worn balls of different colors and makes one of which is Nikki’s favorite toy. If she is really receiving images from your dog then she should be able to pick out the Nikki’s ball without hesitation. Any number of similar tests could be designed to fit the information she is supposedly receiving and Randi’s team is much more clever than I am in figuring out good ones to try.

    Again, there is no known mechanism for the sort of communication your psychic claims to be able to engage in and nothing you’ve said so far sounds like they’re doing anything different from any other cold reader out there.

    Quite a few rescues use them and none of us have money to waste. If it didn’t help — we wouldn’t do it.

    I believe that you believe it helps, but the anecdotes are unconvincing given what I know about how reality works and how the brain often deceives itself. I have a relative who swears that the Airborne herbal supplement really does help them when they get a cold even though the makers have had to settle a number of lawsuits for making false medicinal claims about their product and can’t provide any credible evidence that the product does anything at all. I’ve watch a lot of people spend money on things that they believed were helpful that only helped lighten their wallets. Hell, I’ve done it myself.

    I admit that for all I know your animal communicators might actually be doing what they claim to be doing, but until they can explain how it works and prove it in a rigorously designed test, well, I’ll continue to be skeptical.

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