Hayley is a Ghost

Amber Ja Lee predicts an earthquake in Manchester

Posted on: October 12, 2011

photo of Amber Ja LeeI was contacted late last week by a Manchester Journalist who wanted a skeptical opinion on a prediction that a local psychic had made. He had found me through ‘Project Barnum’ and I was happy to take a look at what had been predicted.

The psychic, Amber Ja Lee, predicts there will be an earthquake in Manchester. Today an article has been published in which I am quoted as ‘the skeptic’.

According to ‘Mancunian Matters’:

n one of her latest visions, Amber saw The Trafford Centre, Manchester’s largest shopping complex, hit by underground tremors.

“I won’t go to The Trafford Centre because it doesn’t seem right to me,” she said.

“I went in once and I was looking around and could see cracks appearing.”

The piece quotes me as saying:

Hayley Stevens, a sceptic, established the ‘Project Barnum’ campaign to warn people against taking predications like Amber’s too seriously. Miss Stevens said: “I would suggest that if such a thing were to happen, then the fact that Amber dreamt about something similar was a coincidence and nothing more.”

Which is very true, but as my full statement wasn’t used (due to them having to trim it to make it fit) my quote is a bit out of context. I thought it would be worth posting the full statement I wrote for them to provide the context it was written in.

A little bit of digging online into earthquake statistics in the UK showed that Ambers prediction would be even less impressive if an earthquake actually struck the area. Here is my full comment:
Lets examine Ambers prediction – if it comes true it would seem impressive at first; however, most earthquakes occur on the western side of the British mainland, and earthquakes have been felt in the city in the last decade so it wouldn’t be that strange if there was seismic activity in the city. I would suggest that if such a thing were to happen, then the fact that Amber dreamt about something similar was a coincidence and nothing more. 

Psychics often claim to be able to predict things that seen to be spookily accurate in hindsight when in fact the only reason the prediction came true is because of probability and chance. It can seem uncanny not only to us but also to the alleged psychic too, which is why they continue to believe they have an ability when this might not be the case. These are the sorts of things we examine at Project Barnum – that and trickery used intentionally and unintentionally by Psychics and Mediums. We also offer advice to people who think they may have been misled or scammed.

it’s important to remember that nobody claiming to have a supernatural ability has proven so under controlled conditions to date. To find out more visit  www.projectbarnum.co.uk 
I hope that can provide context to my comment about Amber’s dream being coincidence.  I’m not dismissing her claimed abilities in this instance (though I see no evidence other than testimony which isn’t strong enough proof), I’m just demonstrating how statistically it wouldn’t be weird for there to be an earthquake in Manchester. Not an impressive prediction.

3 Responses to "Amber Ja Lee predicts an earthquake in Manchester"

I think your full answer was very well put, and it is sad it was not better integrated into the piece.

There are so many subtle points when discussing this, and all to often skeptics are seen as just closed minded people dismissing everything out of hand, when in fact it is the more open minded attitude, as is shown in your answer.

The fact is that the psychic most probably thinks she really is a psychic, an earthquake might happen, but this is not any kind of proof that she is psychic, and more to the point, there is no pressing reason to avoid the Trafford centre.

But unfortunately people reading the article might come of with impression that you are just dismissing her.

But it is fantastic that project Barnum is giving you, one more, opportunity to reach a broader audience with your voice of reason!

“I won’t go to The Trafford Centre because it doesn’t seem right to me”

I think that as well, but that’s got nothing to do with psychic powers!

Hi Hayley,

Love what you’re doing with Project Barnum and hope you are able to stick at it. I think the unconfrontational style you are using is best, and you’re right when you say that rudeness or crude dismissal may reinforce the loyalties of the psychics’ followers.

However, I do find Amber Ja Lee’s statements especially infuriating. We must say that the great probability is that she is either making cynical, insincere claims of her talent, or that she is making a mistake about normal dreams. If she is being insincere then crude dismissal is the best she can expect (especially considering how flippantly she is evoking the awfulness of earthquakes, for which there are no useful predictive methods). If she is making a mistake and really thinks she has supernatural powers then we can reasonably say that she has made no effort to properly test this extraordinary talent before she set up her £30 per hour consultancy.

You are doing a great job of promoting skepticism here, but, there is also the idea (from Dawkins) that if you merely share a platform you are lending her credibility, by making it appear as though there is an actual debate. “She says this, the skeptics say this, you decide…”, was the thrust of the story, and someone with not much experience of weighing probabilities in these things might think there really are two sides. What do you think?

All the best and keep at it.

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Hayley is a ghost

Hayley Stevens is an advocate for science-based research into seemingly paranormal experiences and occurrences. With a background in the pseudo-scientific research into ghosts, Hayley offers a unique insight into the strange world of ghost hunting through her experience.

She describes herself as 'a ghost hunter who doesn't hunt for ghosts' and this is her personal blog where she writes about ghosts, people, and other interesting things. Read more here.

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