Hayley is a Ghost

Is it wrong to not call someone a fraud when you don’t have the proof they’re a fraud?

Posted on: November 18, 2011


Update: *sigh* Fine. I was trying to be clever with this one worded post, but let me add some context for those who couldn’t work out that the ‘No.’ was the blog post.

It has been suggested that some skeptics are pussyfooting around psychics by refusing to call them frauds, or by making it very clear they’re not accusing psychics of being frauds. However, I say this isn’t a bad thing and it isn’t ‘pussyfooting’ at all, it’s about looking at the proof that lays on the table in front of you and only making claims that have proof to back them up. You know… like we keep insisting other people do?

The claim that, for example, ‘Sally Morgan is a fraud’ is not one that has evidence to support it. It’s possible she is a fraud but nobody has proven it to this day, so to not call her a fraud isn’t pussyfooting and it’s not skeptical correctness gone mad – it’s simply not making an unsubstantiated claim. Fact.


17 Responses to "Is it wrong to not call someone a fraud when you don’t have the proof they’re a fraud?"


In general I’d say it would be wrong to do otherwise. Or is the “not” in the question a typo?

No. People have been saying that people are pussyfooting around psychics by refusing to call Sally a fraud when, in fact, it’s not pussyfooting – it’s not having the facts to back such a statement up.

Unless a “psychic” confesses to being a fraud you’re never likely to be in a position where you have proof. That said, I would say they are all frauds in a sense. Some of them may believe their own nonsense but none of them can demonstrate that they can do anything out of the ordinary. The onus is on them to prove their claimed magical powers, not on you to disprove them.

Colin Fry and the trumpet incident, Derek Acorah and the Kreed Kafer incident, Peter Popoff… need I go on? Don’t need a confession to prove someone is a fraud.

Touche. Point taken. I guess the difference then is the default position. Mine is that they are all frauds in the sense that they can’t really do what they claim and/or they are pretending to do stuff they aren’t really doing. The ones who get found out like Peter Popoff are the proven frauds whereas the others are just frauds.

I’d call “Psychics are frauds” the null hypothesis.

A lot of the problem here seems to be with the use of the word “fraud”. Like most English words it has a range of definitions and interpretations. It certainly can be used as a general label for things that are not really as they outwardly appear to be (which is how I would class purported psychic abilities). However, lists of definitions of “fraud” tend to start off with something along the lines of “wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain”, and that makes perfect sense as most people reading the word are going to think ‘intent to deceive for gain’.

A statement like “psychics are frauds” may be intended to mean that whatever self-declared psychics appear to be doing it isn’t going to involve anything supernatural or inexplicable, but an un-skeptical audience are much more likely to read it as the blanket generalisation that ‘all people claiming to have any psychic abilities are doing so with the deliberate intention of deceiving others for personal gain’, which is demonstrably false. So, for the audience whose opinions could most productively be changed by a better understanding of the reality of ‘psychic’ phenomenon that statement actually provides them with an excuse to dismiss all skeptics as biased/bigoted generalisers applying double standards to the ‘evidence’ that they spend so much time banging on about; that is, as hypocrites. An excuse to stop bothering to even listen to skeptics.

If there is any intention to go beyond preaching to the choir then there are better way of saying what needs to be said.

things that are not really as they outwardly appear to be (which is how I would class purported psychic abilities)

I would call things of that nature ‘misleading’. Psychics can be misleading, but they can be misleading themselves as much as anyone else. This does not means they are a fraud.

There is a distinct difference between those that knowingly mislead people (frauds) and those who don’t (not frauds).

If a ‘psychic’ is found to cheat just once then I think that it’s quite permissible to brand them as a fraud. Derek Acorah was found out and so in my mind he’s a fraud. If a ‘psychic’ is found using an earpiece to receive information then they are a fraud. Perhaps we need a concerted effort to have the radio frequencies in theatres monitored by a spectrum analyser and recorded. But who has the time and money to do that? Would theatres have the right to ban entry to someone found to be using such equipment?

Should we give them a second chance? Why yes; they should present themselves to a proper blind test. If they can pass then they have vindicated themselves and paranormal research will benefit. But how many have submitted themselves to proper testing? They probably all know the outcome and not by the use of any special powers!

My ‘psychic powers’ tell me none of these alleged frauds will ever do that. And I can back that up because my Red Indian Spirit Guide, Wotsisname, agrees with me … and he’s never wrong. All my dead relatives are in accord with him …. but I do wish they would go away (and all your relatives too) because I’m dying to use the loo and it’s putting me off!

Too many negatives, Hayley! I think I’m having a brain infarction.

I think you’re all just pussyfooting around 🙂

I would say that unless you can show pretty good ‘evidence’ that a fraud has been perpetrated youre on sticky ground legally. The person concerned has every right to sue for defamation of character (plus libel or slander depending on the circumstances)
The onus is on YOU to PROVE fraud not on the person to prove that they havent cheated.
Of course you are all entitled to your own opinions, i suggest you stick the phrase ‘in my opinion’ before you shout fraud to cover yourself!!

“In my opinion” will not protect from libel in most cases

“Claims require evidence.” – What Marcello Truzzi wished he’d originally said instead of the line that Carl Sagan appropriated from Truzzi about “extraordinary” stuff….

There’s a major legal difference between the statements…

“‘X’ is a fraud.”


“It is my opinion that ‘X’ is a fraud.” (…when you can prove that elements of their whatever can be accomplished fraudulently.)

Ask James Randi who was successfully massively sued for this boo-boo by Yuri Geller.

Sue and I were (thankfully) lectured once by David Gower, former chair of Skeptics Canada, that you must watch how you call things like this… because we were DYING to make some statements about two specific characters (individuals, not working together,) in our neck of the woods who, although not as public and ‘successful” as Sally, their ventures made her look like a combination of Jonas Salk and Mother Theresa.

His exact words still ring in our ears…

“You don’t have enough money to say that without absolute evidence.”

There may not be any evidence that she’s a fraud, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that, even if she is psychic, she’s not very good at it. Maybe that should be the tack we take now. Cowboy builders get put out of business for doing shoddy work, so the same should apply to mediums whose ability doesn’t justify the money they charge.

Words mean things. A claim of fraud is a serious thing and particularly if you’re in the UK the legal ramifications of casting such an aspersion without substantial evidence is unwise to say the least.

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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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