Debunking New Age Woo

Turning Tides: Fraudulent Psychics Brought to Justice


Psychics are people who pretend to have various supernatural powers such as extrasensory perception (ESP), the ability to move objects with their mind or being able to talk to the dead. They typically deceive grieving and unsuspecting victims by telling them what they want to hear in exchange for large sums of money. Some alleged psychics have built massive careers (including popular television programs) and fortunes by exploiting vulnerable people. Although most scientific skeptics can see through the dishonest smokescreens deployed by these individuals, it is enormously frustrating that the belief in psychics is so widespread. According to a Gallup poll from 2005, 41% of Americans believe in ESP, 26% believe in clairvoyance and 21% believe that people can communicate with the dead.

Yet, the light of reason is starting to break through the clouds of unreason. Several alleged psychics have been convicted, jailed and forced to pay back money to their victims in recent years. Here are a few examples:

Cynthia Miller: claimed to be able to communicate with spirits and remove curses from her clients. She even conned a man with psychotic symptoms into giving her gold coins worth almost half a million dollars to treat his problems. She also exploited a woman for another half a million dollars who went through multiple brain surgeries against cancer. That woman is now losing her home due to not being able to pay her loans. Miller was sentence to three years and five months and prison and forced to pay 1.2 million dollars to her victims (source, webcite).

Rosa Marks: claimed to be able to connect people with their dead loved ones by “soul-swapping”, stole people’s jewelry in order to remove curses from them or protect people from tax audits. She also told her victims that money were evil and they could only avoid the encroaching evil by removing money from the bank account and give it to the psychic. In total, she conned her victims for 18 million and got 10 years in prison (source, webcite).

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Sylvia Mitchell: claimed to be able to remove negative energy from her victims, help them get over their strong attachment to money and tell them about their past lives. She got 5-15 years in prison and was forced to pay money to her victims as restitution (source, website).

Karl Lang: manipulated two young women to have sex with each other in front of him by promising that he could connect them with their dead relatives. He was sentenced to two years in prison (source, webcite).

James Van Praagh

Nancy Marks: scammed almost a million dollars from a victim by claimed to have the power to improve the success of in vitro fertilization. Marks advised another victim to be fearful of her husband, as they had been warriors in a past life and the husband had killed the wife. She was sentenced to three years and nine months and ordered to repay over 2 million dollars to her victims (source, webcite).

Peaches T. Miller: allegedly “protected” her victims against voodoo curses by taking over 800 000 dollars over a period of ten years. Miller had so much control over the life of her victims that they even took out home equity loans and did not take any major decision in their lives without her approval (source, webcite).

These are just a few examples from the last couple of years and there are probably many more. Alleged psychics are no longer getting away with exploiting vulnerable people without societal and legal reactions. This is a welcome improvement, but there are still a lot of work left. Protect yourself and the people you care about by reading up on the deceptive tactics used by alleged psychics and talk to friends and family about the exploitative nature of psychics and how the con their victims.


Debunker of pseudoscience.

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