Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

The Sacramento Scene


Terence J. Sandbek

Originally published in BASIS




September 1982

Gullibility knows no boundaries: It infects young and old, rich and poor, male and female, educated and uneducated. What happens in Sacramento happens in San Francisco and Chico. People who fall for psychic foolishness here are no different from people all over the world. As we report happenings in our area, remember that we in metropolitan Sacramento are neither more nor less gullible than people elsewhere.

Several months ago, Bob Steiner and I appeared on a local radio talk show. The hostess introduced us as “two gentlemen who claim to be psychics”. She went on to say that “if anyone wants to call in and talk, feel free to do so.” Almost instantly, the telephone lines were full. This is interesting in itself. Since I had been on that particular show several times concerning other issues, I was familiar with the trickle of responses common to most talk shows. At other times, I have listened, and it appeared that the host or hostess was trying desperately to get people to call in.

This day, that was not a problem. The first caller, of course, wanted information about her life in terms of how something was going to turn out in the future. Bob did a standard “cold reading”, which lasted several minutes, and the caller’s response was one of satisfaction. After twenty minutes and six cold readings, the hostess asked Bob if he would mind giving his credentials as a psychic. His response was: “Sure, I’ll be glad to. I’m a fake! I’m no psychic. I can’t read people’s minds.” Bob went on to explain that what he had been doing was something almost anyone can learn to do.

After some more questioning by the hostess, it was quite obvious that Bob had fooled everybody into thinking he was really a psychic by using the age-old trick of cold readings. The difference was that Bob claimed nothing supernatural, merely a skill capable of being learned by almost anyone.

No sooner was this explained than the phone rang and a man asked Bob to tell him how his job was going to go next year. Incredulous, the show hostess asked the caller if he had been listening to the show. When he said “yes”, Bob inquired whether the man had understood the explanation of what had occurred. The incredible response from the caller was:

“Yes, I understand fully what you are doing, but do it anyway.”

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