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Old 12-09-2003, 11:11 AM
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Debunking Psychic John Starkey

About a year ago, I got into a "discussion" with a friend about psychics -- he thought I was closed-minded because I proceed from the assumption that the paranormal is bunk. And we briefly discussed hot-reading and cold-reading techniques. Then he described a session he had with a British psychic called John Starkey. At that time, I couldn't find any information about him from the Randi site, but now I see that he is president of something called the Psychic Research Foundation of Great Britain. My friend's description of his session with Starkey seems to be difficult to fit into the usual cold-reading patterns. Of course, it's difficult to debunk a psychic based on second-hand information given that a major tool of the psychic is to take advantage of the subject's perception of events. However, I was wondering whether anyone had any ideas as to what might have been going on:

I mentioned John Starkey (from the UK) because I don't believe he can be accused of cold-reading in the way that J.E. [John Edward] sometimes can. Starkey's method is totally different from J.E.'s. For starters, he doesn't conduct a conversation of any sort with the querant in the initial stage of the reading. He simply gives a monologue. He used to appear on a local radio show that I used to listen to years ago. Over a two-hour period he would take calls from listeners and, based on their "voice vibrations", he would proceed to tell them things regarding past, present and future. Typically, he would ask the listener to talk about the weather or somesuch trivial topic that revealed zilch about the person, but allowed Starkey to "tune in" to his/her energy. Judging, as I was forced to, from the reactions of the listeners, Starkey was uncannily accurate regarding past and present. To the extent that he would be able to "see" and describe what the listener at that moment was seeing in his or her bedroom/hallway/living room or whatever. These were accurate and detailed descriptions of furniture, decor etc. To the extent that he would be able to "feel" if the listener had a pain in his/her left pinkie because s/he had banged it when hammering some nails earlier in the day etc. Now, if I accepted for a moment that the whole thing wasn't fixed, I had to admit that Starkey was exhibiting remarkable abilities that were consistent and accurate week after week. Of course, the only way to find out whether or not the show was rigged was to ring in myself. Which, after many months of trying, I managed to do. I began calling the station at 11.45pm and got lucky. I got through and was the first caller that night after the news at midnight. So I knew that the callers were genuine and not plants. Or, at the very least, I knew that I wasn't a plant. In the preliminary small talk, me and the host and Starkey talked first about my name and its meaning. Obviously I mentioned the fact that I was Indian and I asked Starkey about his personal philosophy... was he approaching his work from a Christian perspective etc? Then I asked if he was picking up anything with me. He told me several things that were in my future, which I therefore couldn't verify on the spot. They all struck me as being unrelated to me and highly improbable considering what was going on in my life at that time. My frustration was pretty obvious and I was questioning each statement and suggesting that they made no sense. After a bit more of this, I decided to forget the fortune-telling aspect and concentrate on finding out about his beliefs and ideas on morality etc. I should stress that the predictions he made had absolutely nothing to do with religion or my ethnicity. (The fact that he knew I was Indian and interested in religion was of no use to him in the reading.) He made two very specific predictions that came true within two years and could not have applied to anybody and everybody. The others, thus far, have been neither proved nor disproved.

A couple of days after that show, I went for a private session with Starkey. And it was mindblowing. He took hold of my watch, closed his eyes and started speaking a monologue for approximately 10 minutes. I did not interrupt him, he did not ask me anything and he kept his eyes closed throughout those 10 minutes. He did not cold-read me. I did not manifest my reactions outwardly, so even if he had wanted to pick up clues from my face/body, he wouldn't have gotten much. Again, a lot of those statements were specific and unambiguous predictions. Several of them have subsequently come true. Of the others, none has proven false and some I am still waiting for.

After that initial, unprompted outpouring, I was free to ask questions. I did so and received specific replies - again, some statements regarding then current events and situations I knew to be true at the time, some predictions which have since come true and some which are scheduled for later in my life. At no point during the session did Starkey ask me anything at all. He did not ask me to verify anything that he had said or to reveal a single piece of information. He never once said: "Do you understand this?" or "Is this making sense?" or "Can you relate to that?" etc. He was making statements of fact. He did not equivocate. He did not generalise. He did not fish! The session lasted for about 30 mins in total and I paid the princely sum of 15 pounds. I was not ripped off. I was not duped. Starkey did not allow for any margin of error by use of vague pronouncments. He was either going to be right with what he said, or he was not. Time would tell (and, partially, has.) I have no doubt that he is able to foretell future events. I know he can see past and current events. So I'm not too sure what you mean by "the circumstances were chosen by the psychic himself". Erm... I was read in his office. Beyond that, I don't know what circumstances were chosen by him. I'll certainly mention the Randi test to him. I've no idea whether he has been tested with scientific protocols or not. Like I've said before, I can't and won't extrapolate from the example of Starkey to anybody else. Including J.E.. For all I know, Starkey is the only genuine psychic in the world. He's certainly the only one who has provided me with sufficient evidence to believe in such phemomena. And his methods seem pretty unique and distinct from those of other mediums and psychics.

[acsenray], I understand your scepticism. It's healthy. But it seems as though you've decided that since the sort of experiences and abilities I have described are so outlandish, so contrary to your mindset/views of the world, you won't open your mind to the possibility that they are real. Would someone winning the million dollars really convince you to reassess your conception of what is real, what is true?

If you're ever in the UK, I would advise you to gamble with the 15 pounds (actually, I believe it's closer to 20 pounds these days) that Starkey charges. Experience for yourself and then make some sort of judgement.
Old 12-09-2003, 11:24 AM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: colorado
Posts: 678
Sounds like a hot reading to me.

The person's experience is too subjective to gain a good perspective of this Starkey from. Need more info, but the probability that this psychic uses neither hot nor cold reading techniques is, oh say 0%.
Old 12-09-2003, 11:32 AM
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Hm ... There really is a difficulty in trying to debunk someone's self-reported experiences. I wonder whether it's even fruitful to try -- I'm sorry, buddy, but you must have been the victim of a hot reading -- Impossible! How could he find out stuff about me?

Of course, it's even more difficult since my friend apparently didn't want to disclose the specifics of the "revelations" made to him.

I wonder whether there are any who know more about John Starkey in general and what his usual m.o. is.
Old 12-09-2003, 11:46 AM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: colorado
Posts: 678
The 'revelations' he hints at all seem to be future predictions.
But what? Did Starkey predict that your friend would wake up tomorrow in bed? You are right in wanting to know the specifics.

But the easiest way to make hot readings from just a name and a birthdate is to look up demographics on the internet or other data sources. If he gave a credit card number, oy vey!
Old 12-09-2003, 12:21 PM
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He calls himself a "psychic". That's enough debunking for me.
SnUgGLypuPpY -- TakE BaCk tHe PiT!
Old 12-09-2003, 12:35 PM
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I agree, but, unfortunately that's not necessarily an effective argument in these situations.
Old 12-09-2003, 01:01 PM
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Grits Country
Posts: 3,842
I've read of many investigations on "psychics" where the subjects vehemently INSISTED that at NO TIME WHATSOEVER did they offer any information about themselves, that they never once provided any clues to their personal lives, and that they sat silently the entire time while the "psychic" rattled on and on about them in a way that no one but themselves could possibly know. But then those subjects were presented with a tape or exact transcript and it's very obvious they were providing all the answers.

The day any psychic takes Randi's $1MM is the day I'll believe in them. But that will never happen.

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