The CIA "psychic" comedy, A Skeptic's Response

by James Randi--- Wizard (pictured at left) Sun, 28 Jan 1996 01:57:27 -0500


When we all learned that Ed May, the scientist, was in charge of spending 20 million dollars of our money to direct a team of "psychics" (I've always preferred the collective noun "giggle" to designate a group of these) for defense purposes, we felt a certai further failing of our confidence in the common sense of our government. What I'll tell you here with do nothing to restore it.

May figured that the psychics were about 15% correct in their guesses. It might be fairly said that that's not anything to take to the racetrack, but how was that figure arrived at? The success rate of a rambling discourse about "I feel that maybe..." and "Perhaps it might be that..." would seem difficult to arrive at. But when asked about this, Dr. May illustrated his method, and also the difficulties that it entailed.

There was always a general of some sort looking over his shoulder, waiting to be alerted to any disaster that might come via crystal ball, Tarot cards, fortune cookies, or whatever. Then one of the highly talented psychics that we were paying to sit around and guess, declared that she'd had a strong vision that a gang of Lebanese terrorists were going to take over a United Airlines jumbo jet at Washington's National Airport, load it with high explosives, and steer it into the Congress while Ronald Reagan was delivering his State of the Nation speech a few days from then. And, said the psychic, she felt there was also a lady in a red dress here, somewhere. (Perhaps she'd been mis-tuned in on the Dillinger capture by the Feds, back in 1934. That happens a lot in psychic circles, y'know.) Much alarmed, May informed his general of this prophecy.

" Are you telling me this officially, or unofficially? " demanded the officer. "If it's officially, I'll have to call out the militia, close down the airport, reroute all commercial aircraft, and spend millions to do it. If it's unofficial, I'll just ignore it. " Well, Dr. Strangelove -- uh, I mean, Dr. May -- was in a dither, but bravely decided to fly in the face of this Cassandra by making his report officially unofficial.

Reagan lived through the day (probably guided by his astrologer!) the Congress did not go boom, and no Lebanese villains showed up. But, Dr. May pointed out, all validation was not lost by the psychic, for -- hold your breath -- Margaret Thatcher showed up in a red dress!


The mind boggles....    


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