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'Sensing Murder — Insight'

A Skeptic Defects to the Dark Side


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Geoff Husson, Director & Associate Producer of 'Sensing Murder Insight' has read our review and emailed us the following response.

As with Nigel's response, we don't agree with all his comments so we have added our own in purple.


Response by the Director of 'Sensing Murder Insight' to this Website


Sensing Murder From: "Geoff Husson"
To: 'Silly Beliefs' Website
Subject: Sensing Murder "Insight"
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2007 12:24:27 +1200

Dear John, Rachel, and Gordon,

Please accept my congratulations on your observations and conclusions of the Sensing Murder programme 'Insight' - it obviously took you a long time to write and we are flattered that you feel it is worthy of such analysis.

Thank you, but you shouldn't feel flattered. We analysed this episode to provide an alternative explanation to that proposed by 'Sensing Murder' and Nigel Latta. We didn't set out to prove definitively that the psychic obtained her reading by cheating, but merely to show that this was possible and even probable. We're sick of gullible people gushing over how amazing these psychics are and merely wished to show that it could all be achieved by trickery. We weren't praising your show but exposing it as a scam.
Though I disagree with many of your conclusions I readily admit there are continuity inconsistencies and technical errors in the programme. These are as a result of production vagaries, time and budget. They may have resulted in causing doubts among perceptive viewers but, albeit after the fact, have rational explanations that you have not considered. These errors were inadvertent and are not connected with cheating. I particularly refer to different stools in front of Deb, red bins outside Sandwiches, scaffolding on the Sandwiches building and the open door of the house in which Margaret Walker died. You obviously don't understand that cutaway shots can be filmed weeks later and inserted later and, when used, do not distract from the fact that the filming of the psychic took place in one day. We do not break filming with the psychics to film cutaways, which means that through out the reading the camera is permanently looking at the psychic thus enabling us focus all of our attention on what is being said and recording the same. Therefore, to suggest that the psychics have time and opportunities to cheat while cutaways are being filmed is an absurd and ignorant conclusion. With particular reference to the door in the vacant house being open - think about it - if it had been left wide open as a clue for Deb, do you think Nigel Latta would not have noticed it and commented?! The house was completely locked up when Deb arrived. This open-door cutaway was filmed AFTER the psychic reading was completed.
You are confused. We said on two occasions that we didn't belief Deb was involved with your filming of fake shots or 'cutaways' so please don't accuse us of reaching 'an absurd and ignorant conclusion'. At no stage do we suggest that Deb was off cheating while you were filming these. Instead we accuse you of cheating by inserting these fake shots to portray a sequence of events that never happened. Deb never indicated the pub through the windscreen as shown, she never had a photo placed in front of her as shown and she never walked straight up to and into that house. You continually remind the viewer that all the scenes with the psychic were shot as one sequence, yet you then insert fake shots into this sequence. Viewers can not differentiate between the real scenes with Deb and the ones that you insert later, thus they assume they're all real. You know that your fake 'cutaway' shots help the viewer get a better impression of what the psychic appears to be doing, that's why you insert them. You don't have a shot of Deb identifying the pub so you insert a fake one. Regardless of whether she did or didn't, viewers now swear they saw Deb identifying the pub. Yet this claim is based on your fake shot. Whether you intended to be deceptive or not, the fact is you have tricked the viewer.

As for the door, Deb didn't know the house was vacant so the door could have been open or shut, but not both as we saw. It would only have been suspicious for Nigel who knew the house was vacant and ready for demolition. He seems to know a lot for someone that claimed he deliberately didn't want to know much about the case.

We dispute your claim that the Margaret Walker case was not 'little known'. Yes, there was 20/20 item about her son's struggle to have the ruling of accidental death overturned - but Deb Webber lives in Australia , and there is no chance she can have seen the 20/20 item. Yes, the 20/20 item is online, but it does not come up when you search for 'unsolved murder'. There is no reference to the case being an "unsolved murder" in any books or articles. Prior to filming the Margaret Walker case, Sensing Murder had never investigated any case that was not considered by police to be an unsolved homicide, and so even if she had attempted to research cases beforehand, it is highly unlikely she would have bothered to research the Margaret Walker case anyway. An interesting aside, nowhere in the only piece of publicity available (i.e, the 20/20 item) does it mention that Margaret had six children. Not many 23 year olds have 6 kids, so this was a pretty big punt on Deb's part if she was taking a lucky guess.
During the program 'Sensing Murder' told us that Margaret's son David 'created his freak persona and Freak fashion label solely to keep Margaret's case in the spotlight', yet you now seem to have forgotten that. Also once a story has been related on nationwide TV and in the major newspapers we don't think you can still claim that it is a 'little known case'. Boring, irrelevant and uninteresting perhaps but not 'little known'. And do we know for sure that the 20/20 episode never screened in Australia? And just because Deb Webber lives in Australia we can't say there is 'no chance' that she hasn't seen it. It's Australia not Siberia. She also spends time in NZ doing her travelling psychic shows so she could well have been in NZ when the episode screened.

As for the six children, the documents that son David was publicly displaying appeared to list her six children. It wasn't a secret. The production team knew she had six children. What would have been surprising would have been Deb saying six if the production team didn't know that, and then listing their names.

I note the methodology used to derive your conclusions is a recurrent process throughout the document and, in my view, has gaping holes in its logic. The detail of which I will address. I suppose I'm sceptical about sceptics because I find you don't apply your own methodology to your own work (point in case above re cutaways - you simply haven't done your home work). Incidentally, by publishing those stills from the programme you may be liable to prosecution by TVNZ for breaching copyright.
Or to be more frank, 'by publishing those images you're showing people exactly where we cheated'.

Readers should note that Cinna Smith, a representative of Ninox Television, has also threatened us with legal action if we didn't remove them and the 'Sensing Murder' logo. We have removed the logo. She evidently was a writer and associate producer of 'Sensing Murder Insight', although she didn't mention her position with the company or connection with the program in her email. She also did not challenge our accusation of cheating, merely that we remove the visual evidence of it.

New information regarding Margaret was provided by Deb. True or false? Who knows?

She went to the house with someone
That person left the house.
Margaret went to the loo.
There was a struggle
Margaret was possibly going to commit an act of prostitution
She wasn't raped
It's like I'm collapsing onto the floor and I'm bleeding, not like I've had a fit so much, but something's popped inside, like lungs or something, I don't know what's bleeding.

May not be much, but its enough to discredit your claim that Deb brought no new information to light. The fact is she did.

No she didn't. You started this section by asking whether Deb provided new information about Margaret and correctly answered it with 'Who knows?' You realise that none of these statements can be verified and must remain guesses. A guess is not a fact. Deb could have included in that list statements such as, 'She was a secret fan of 'Star Trek' and 'The person she struggled with was a Gemini'. You would describe it as new information brought to light, we would describe it as vague, useless rambling. There is not one statement in that list that is new and surprising. New information would be things like the name of the person seen leaving the pub with her.
It is also the case that psychics often concur (as Deb did in the Insight Programme) with police records. However, psychics do not and cannot gain access to police files - therefore they can't cheat. The production crew rarely get access to police files - another fact. Only by contacting the police after a filmed reading will the police confirm or deny questions we put to them. These questions are composed from our analysis of the filmed readings and at this point our investigators (former police officers) make enquiries with investigating police to check the relevance and quality of content. Neither we nor the psychics have access to police files. In the George Engelbrecht case, when the psychic's findings were presented to police, the former 2IC on the case admitted that the psychics had come up with detailed information held in the police files that had never been made public. Superintendent Paul Nickalls (who appeared on the Insight programme to congratulate psychic Kelvin Cruickshank) confirmed that the psychics correctly stated information about the weapons; the offender's shoe-print; the location of the victim's body; where the offender's footprints went in the house; as well as crucial details about a suspect that was originally discounted, but is now being actively re-investigated as a result of the psychic's conclusions, with police hopeful of a breakthrough. Superintendent Paul Nickalls said this information was closely guarded by top-ranking police, was never made public, or leaked to the media, and there is no way the psychics can have obtained it.
It is well known that police often keep certain details of cases secret for operational reasons, so why would they then release this to the first film crew that came along for broadcasting on nationwide TV? It hardly seems a good way to keep a secret. It's likely that any information revealed to 'Sensing Murder' was already considered to be public knowledge by the police. There is no doubt that a case may be solved by the renewed interest created 'Sensing Murder', but this will come about by natural means, not psychic. Remember that not one 'Sensing Murder' case has been solved even with the added bonus of your psychics.

Dear Psychics: Stop telling the police what they already know, even the secret stuff, tell them what they don't know, what they need to crack the case. Then we might take you seriously.

AS YOU SEE IT, THERE ARE AT LEAST SIX OPTIONS AS TO HOW DEB WEBBER ARRIVED AT HER INFORMATION.

The six options you publish are out of the 'self fulfilling prophecy' mould. You make a statement in line with the outcome you seek.

Why for example have you not made exhaustive research into the following list of options (and its by no means definitive) as being subjects that might explain or vindicate your preconceived notion that Deb is cheating?

Psychogenesis
Psychokinesis
Autism
Savant Syndrome
A sixth sense
A gift
A talent
The collective unconscious (Jung)
Synchronicity (Jung)
Extra sensory perception
Bioelectromagneticism
Bioelectric phenomena.
Precognitive remote perception
Gaia precognitive shadowing

The answer is simple - it's because you have an outcome which you wish to achieve and construct statements to support what are no more than your beliefs. The tail wags the dog. Not very scientific. And scary also as the implication is that the end justifies the means.

For a start, please don't pile all the blame on Deb. We blame you of cheating too, remember?

We investigated the explanation put forward by 'Sensing Murder', in which the narrator said the series 'saw the psychics tune into the spirits of the six murder victims'. Viewers are left in no doubt as to how your psychics obtain their information — they are communicating with the spirits of the dead. Your skeptic patsy then went on to state that he could conceive of no rational explanations, leaving the viewer with the conclusion that they were indeed talking to the dead.

Rather than defend your program's claim you now suggest other explanations, implying that you don't believe they talk to the dead either.

If 'Sensing Murder' had claimed that their people investigated murder cases using 'Psychokinesis' or 'Bioelectromagneticism' we would have debunked those claims as well, but you didn't. It was solely put down to chatting with dead folk.

We see this new list as akin to saying, "OK, you've convinced us that Santa Claus doesn't bring the toys at Xmas, but you've said nothing about the Tooth Fairy. Why haven't you considered the Tooth Fairy as an option?"

The fact is that your new list of options is just as flaky as the 'spirit of dead people' explanation. The rational options that we provided are still the most likely explanation for what we see on 'Sensing Murder'.

Let's quickly explain why for those doubters out there:

'Extra sensory perception' actually includes psychic ability so you haven't given us a new option at all.

'Psychokinesis' is moving matter with the mind, nothing to do with dead people.

'Autism' and 'Savant Syndrome' are related and involve serious mental disabilities. Savants can exhibit amazing natural abilities such as mathematics and art, but again, never messages about past murders.

'Psychogenesis' means to have its origin in internal or mental states. I would take this as meaning that anything Deb comes up with is being generated in her mind, her imagination. Carl Jung wrote 'The Psychogenesis of Mental Disease'. Interpret that as you wish.

'The collective unconscious (Jung)' and 'Synchronicity (Jung)' are both discredited theories put forward by Carl Jung. While psychiatrists Jung and Sigmund Freud still feature large in the layman's psyche and especially the New Age crowd, their theories have largely been eclipsed in academic circles. And synchronicity, even if it were true, wouldn't explain Deb's performance.

'Bioelectromagneticism' and 'Bioelectric phenomena' are basically the same thing and concern the electromagnetic interactions within the cells of our bodies, such as the firing of nerves and the opening of ion channels. It's a part of every functioning body and nothing to do with observing murder scenes in the past.

'Precognitive remote perception' describes being able to psychically see a scene in your mind that is at a remote physical distance from you. Not only are you not viewing a scene from the past, precognitive means you are viewing something from the future. This is as much crap as psychics but even if it wasn't, you could only have visions of murders that were yet to happen. So again it can't be offered as an explanation for Deb's performance.

'Gaia precognitive shadowing'. This is my favourite even though we have no idea what it means. It just sounds great. I googled the phrase but didn't get a single response, so obviously it's not a popular subject, let alone a well researched one. However the inclusion of the term precognitive again means that whatever information it would provide is coming form the future and not from the past where Deb thinks she is.

'A sixth sense'. A believer and researcher in sixth sense defines it as 'a hunch, an instinct or an intuition that foretells the future'. More rubbish in our view, but either way it's describing the future and not what happened in the past.

'A gift' or 'A talent'. Oh puleeze!! We're really clutching at straws now. You just know someone is struggling to provide a sensible answer when they suggest they have 'the gift'. This is saying absolutely nothing.

Your maths too is appalling. The pie chart is complete fiction. The facts are that we filmed Deb for 6 hours for insertion into a programme which is sixty six minutes in length. Obviously something has to go! But why assume unused material is worthless or plain wrong? The truth is that a considerable amount of Deb's reading was valid and accurate according to police records - we simply have to make professional decisions and choices of what to include. It would be true to say in Deb's case we were spoilt for choice.
Obviously maths was not your strong point at school although you at least recognised it as a pie chart. We produced this pie chart with MS Excel using the following data. You told us when Deb's reading began and when 30 minutes had elapsed. Between these two points you only showed us 103 seconds of this 30 minute segment of the reading. You showed us less than 6% of the first 30 minutes. The pie chart correctly represented this fact.

However we have now altered it slightly, not because it was wrong, but thanks to your information. We didn't know how long the reading was so we took a conservative guess at 4 hours. You inform us it that it actually lasted 6 hours. We got to see less than 12 minutes of Deb's 6 hour reading, which now comes out at around 3%. So 97% of what Deb said wasn't considered important enough to feature on the show. The pie chart now represents Deb's entire reading, not just the first 30 minutes.

Of course we realise that not all of the footage can go on the show, but why did you show Deb revealing bits of information that we already know? Surely in the 5 hours and 48 minutes of video that we didn't see Deb said something of importance, something that we didn't know, something that might help the police? Anything?

The following paragraph is from the transcript. The segment played on air is highlighted in red. You will see the surrounding material is relevant, but too long-winded for inclusion in the episode:

"She keeps saying mother to me, so I've got her as a mum, not a good relationship, bad relationship with the fathers of her children. Lot of toughness, arguments. Not a lot of money, not a lot of new things. I'm getting a struggle, single mother energy, this hurt her, she was devastated, she misses her children. She says she was too young, too young to have too many children, but she loves them so she doesn't want to hurt them by saying that. She must have been very young when she first got pregnant, 16, 17, (She didn't know what she was doing. I just asked if there were different fathers for the different children cos I'm feeling that different genetics with the kids. She just said I was a bad girl that's how she felt, but she wasn't, you shouldn't judge someone for their experiences on earth, that's what we're here for and she had some hard calls. She doesn't feel like she was a very good mum even though she loved her kids, she didn't feel like they got what they needed but she didn't realise that until she passed, she was too in a different reality, not stable, rockiness, which we've already gathered through her earlier communication. God there's a few kids here a pile of children, wonder if she's got six, amazing, they're just there, but it's like theyre not all with her, she keeps saying I couldn't look after them, I couldn't look after them".

All of this paragraph is correct, and yet we just chose to broadcast the final sentence. Therefore, I ask on what scientific basis do you conclude that unused material is worthless or plain wrong? And further: what relevance has wedding photographers to do with Sensing Murder? Incidentally, one of my colleagues was formerly a wedding videographer and said that he used to film up to 8 hours of video to edit into a 20 minute finished tape.

It's funny how you claim that 'all of this paragraph is correct', yet the sentence that was screened is not exactly the same as your transcript. There are several mistakes in this sentence alone, so your transcript is not very reliable. We conclude that it is worthless for the same reason that you didn't broadcast it. It's vague and contains mistakes. For example she began by saying that Margaret had a bad relationship with the fathers of her children. She says she knew they had different fathers, yet half way through she then says she is now asking Margaret if there were different fathers for the children. Why has she forgotten?

As for your colleague, being able to only provide 20 minutes of the most important day in a woman's life is probably why he is no longer employed as a wedding videographer.

How can you say a huge proportion of what Deb said is WRONG when you haven't read the transcripts? Wild conjecture I think!
We'd be happy to read the entire transcripts and perhaps revise our opinion. Please contact us to arrange delivery. However, since there are errors in just that one sentence, the entire transcript is probably rife with errors, so please arrange to send us the video footage instead. We'll send it back. Promise.
It has never been the intention of the programme to solve a case nor have we ever proclaimed as much. We have clearly only sought to bring new insight or perhaps a new perspective to an existing enquiry. This we have done. Indeed one police department opened a new incident room as a direct result of the programme.
Well at least you won't be disappointed then. You never intended to solve a case and you haven't. No sleepless nights then? You should make this lack of intention more blatant on your program. The gullible public is of the opinion that your psychics are there to provide the information that will break these cases. They are convinced that it is psychic information that will solve these cases, not conventional police work that may be generated by renewed interest in the case.

Is this new incident room a psychic driven room or conventional? If conventional methods are used your psychics can't take the credit, if psychic then perhaps you could tell us which of our police departments now officially employs psychics.

As you point out, we have openly declared that positive statements can be, but are not always, confirmed. Deb out of the blue said the letter 'M' - this was confirmed. No other letters were confirmed. All the letters Deb spoke of were letters contained in the word MARGARET. Whether Nigel saw the confirmation of 'M' or not is irrelevant. Because Nigel didn't see it does not make it cheating, it merely makes Nigel unobservant at that particular point in the reading. So again no proof of cheating. Frequently names have been forthcoming without confirmations, as in the case of Agnes Ali'i Va 'a and many others.
As we explained, with this ploy of confirming correct statements, all 'Sensing Murder' has done is legitimise a form of cheating by writing it into the rules.

We didn't say it was cheating since Nigel didn't see it. We pointed out that Nigel was a poor observer of what was going on between Deb and the film crew, failing at the very task he was there for.

As far as 'counting' horses are concerned you still failed to described how the information allegedly conveyed was conveyed. Either from human to horse or crew to Deb. You merely state that if a horse can do it so can Deb. Again not a scientific argument.
You invited Nigel onto the show and trumpeted his skill in reading body language, yet now you're saying you don't see how non-verbal cues could be passed unconsciously between humans and/or animals. You obviously don't believe us that there is science involved so perhaps you should give your expert a call and get him to explain it. (In the References at the bottom of the main essay we have provided some links to articles on Clever Hans the counting horse.)
For your information the crew know nothing of a case. They are hired from a company that provides freelance crews. It is total pot luck as to which crew turns up on the day. They are booked only days in advance by a booking manager and most don't know where they will be working next until 24 hours before a crew call. There is no possibility that any crew have either the time or inclination to research a case and then work out a clandestine way of communicating the information to a psychic. However in the event that you wildly conclude that this is not the case, and you believe that information is being passed on, then if its not by spoken word or written secretive notes, or writings on an off screen black/white board, (and Nigel Latta will attest to not seeing any of these things or activities), then you must subscribe to a theory of mind reading. In which case you are obliged to admit that something extraordinary is happening.
By 'film crew' we mean, along with Nigel Latta and most lay people, everyone that was present during the filming of Deb Webber. This includes producers, directors, associate producers, researchers, production assistants etc and not just the team holding the cameras, microphones and lights.

You may believe you have eliminated the freelance crews from suspicion in that they weren't informed of the case they were filming, yet you have no way of knowing that they didn't recognise the case as the reading proceeded. These people live where the death occurred, they may have watched the 20/20 episode and may even have helped film it. We all recognised the case as did many who watched the episode, so we can't simply assume that the freelance crew would be ignorant of it.

Even if we do assume that the freelance crew was completely ignorant of the case, we know that there were most definitely people in the room that knew about case, that knew the answers. We know this to be the case since we hear these people confirming correct answers, and in other episodes, actually providing the correct answers and correcting mistakes. These people would include yourself, writer and associate producer Cinna Smith and in this case, Nigel Latta.

We most definitely don't subscribe to mind reading between Deb and yourself, but as long as there are people interacting with Deb that know the answers the possibly exists that information can be exchanged, either deliberately or unknowingly. By 'unknowingly' we mean through subtle, unconscious body movements, and we take it that this is what you have a problem with. Imagine you say to your wife, "I thought we might go and check out that new hardware store this weekend?" You immediately notice an almost imperceptible drop of her shoulders and you know she's not so keen. Without saying anything your wife has already signalled to you how she feels about your suggestion. Even if she replies, "OK, if you want to", you know she'd rather not. Her body language has betrayed her. It's the same with the reading. Nigel says that both he and the crew were amazed at the information Deb provides. You can't be amazed and completely hide this reaction from Deb. She would know when she had made a good guess.

As we've said, the only way you can stop your psychics from picking up these non-verbal cues is to stop telling the film crew about the case, and you say you don't tell them, but you keep forgetting to remove yourselves from the room.

Granted that, on occasions, Deb may take a little time in reaching a conclusive statement. But conclusive statement she makes. She revealed fifty six facts about Margaret Walker and only three confirmations witnessed by Nigel Latta. Apart from those three, the room was silent from all others except Deb.(as the field sound tape bears witness to)
As we've revealed, Nigel's memory about how many confirmations you provided is flawed and the broadcast episode proves that. We never get to hear the field sound tape, and based on the editing you did to the video tape we wouldn't know what you might have added or deleted. Remember that two of the confirmations that Nigel says he heard have been deleted from the episode that you broadcast.

Of the 56 facts Deb revealed about Margaret Walker, why wasn't one of them that her name was 'Walker', or the name of the man she left the pub with or any important fact that the police didn't already know?

By confirming the letter 'M' how could that possibly guide the psychic to come up with: Margaret had 6 children, she was a prostitute, she was a thief, she had been in prison etc etc.... No, you are on the wrong trail here and your evidence is absent.
We never suggested that your confirming the letter M led to Deb getting the other info. What we did raise was the possibility that by confirming correct statements and ignoring false ones Deb could, if given enough time and by process of elimination, arrive at all these facts. Deb could throw out all manner of possibilities and sprinkled in amongst them would be, by accident, a few correct bits. She could say Margaret might have been a dressmaker or a shop assistant or a housewife or a prostitute or unemployed or a biochemist. A devious editor could then pluck out the 'prostitute' sound bite and delete the rest. And remember there is 5 hours and 48 minutes of Deb saying things that we never get to hear. You can pack a lot of guesses into that amount of time. And remember that it's easy to make up statements with unsolved cases. Being unsolved means there are things that no one knows and thus the psychics can waffle with complete freedom.
I defy any sceptic to sit in a room with a down turned picture of a deceased person and come up with 56 facts.
This is silly. Skeptics have never even suggested that they could do it. If you remember we're saying it can't be done.

In fact we challenge a psychic to do it under controlled conditions. Remember your psychic wasn't really alone in a room with a down turned picture as you suggest, they had a film crew with them who knew the answers. Then this film crew edited out the bits they didn't like and added a few of their own. Get rid of all this potential for trickery and then let's see how your psychic does.

Unfortunately, I have to move on to my next job and my time has run out on this e-mail. I'd love to write more. I'm sorry it's so sketchy. These comments are spontaneous and I know are broad observations - I'll conclude with this.

I'm the biggest sceptic of all. I directed 8 out of the 16 Sensing Murder shows and was also one of the two associate producers. I am not sure if I believe the psychics communicate with the dead. I am more inclined to believe they have some kind of gift or savant inclination that enables them to see things or tune into passed events. I believe, in fact I know, the crew and production team don't cheat, and do not pass on information. Nigel Latta (whose expertise in profiling criminals and liars is indisputable) does not believe the psychics have studied up and retained information about every unsolved case in New Zealand . He was confident he could ascertain through the psychic's body language whether they were recounting previously learned facts. I do not have Nigel's expertise in detecting body language - what I do have is a lot of experience interacting with the psychics. And based on my experience, I do not believe they cheat. They have no networks around them to help research; the psychics appearing on the programme have had or still have learning difficulties and in no way could be described as intellectuals. They are spontaneous, almost child-like people who die heartedly believe in what they are doing. I have filmed hours and hours of readings and have been astounded at what has occurred. We as programme makers insist that we totally control the conditions in which the psychics do their readings as far as is humanly possible. Yes, we made errors in continuity when it came to editing, but I categorically refute that the team cheated. The one thing I can't get my head around from your point of view is: if they do cheat - how do they get access to police files? Even we as hardened media professionals have not been able to gain access to police files.

Once again you say that you're not convinced that the psychics are doing what they believe they're doing and what your audience believes they're doing — talking to the spirits of dead people. You've had all this experience and exposure to the psychics and you still don't believe. Shouldn't we perhaps defer to your experience and also claim that psychics don't talk to dead people? Oh wait a minute, we do!

Admittedly you still think they are personally gleaning this information from somewhere, but not through dead people or cheating. Saying that they have a 'gift' is as empty as saying cancer is caused by 'something'. As for the 'savant' explanation, while this does involve serious mental disabilities and your psychics may well be intellectually impaired as you imply, there is no evidence that savants 'tune into passed events'. Go and watch Dustin Hoffman in 'Rainman'. He doesn't describe any murder scenes.

As regards psychics in general many aren't consciously cheating or lying, they're simply deluded. They honestly believe that the voices in their head are spirits and that their intuitions are messages from the paranormal. They really believe they have the 'gift' and are genuinely surprised when it fails them under controlled conditions. This is why psychics love to appear on 'Sensing Murder' but not on 'Mythbusters' or Penn and Teller: 'Bullshit!'.

You say you don't cheat, that you don't pass on information, but remember one of our options was passing on information unknowingly. You claim to 'totally control the conditions in which the psychics do their readings as far as is humanly possible', but this is laughable. There are several simple steps you could take to better control the readings. The best would be no confirmation. Get rid of the film crew and just have the psychic talk into an automated camera. Then get several people that have no knowledge of the case to independently analyse the reading and see if they all reach the same conclusion as to what the psychic was talking about. Of course there are many other controls that you would need to put in place as well, but while this would be a true test of psychics, it would make for terrible television. Your fans would be depressed watching psychic after psychic fail. We can confidently say this because on the rare occasions that psychics have submitted to controlled testing they have failed miserably. This is why you only find psychics on B-grade TV shows and not in police departments.

As regards the information in police files, the fact that you tell us in the program what this previously secret information was means that 'media professionals' do have limited access to police files. It would seem that the police are happy to talk to any ol' Private Investigator trying to verify something a psychic told him.

I note that you failed to analyse the Insight programme in its entirety. Perhaps it is too painful for hardened sceptics to repeatedly listen to factual comments such as this from the head of Lower Hutt CIB, DSS Ross Levy, "the follow up enquiries that we are doing in connection with this homicide are a direct result of the Sensing Murder programme."
We didn't analyse the second half of the program simply because this wasn't related to Nigel Latta investigating 'Sensing Murder' in any way. Our purpose was to counter Nigel's claim that Deb's performance couldn't be explained rationally. It is not our intention to point out the flaws in every episode of 'Sensing Murder'. We have exposed two other episodes, if people can't learn from those then they will never see the light.

That said, the second half of 'Sensing Murder Insight' can be summed up with one simple, concise and extremely accurate statement — Not one case that featured on the first series of 'Sensing Murder' has been solved. Not one. Not even close.

It surprised us that you highlighted this fact, albeit in a roundabout way, and that it took you over half an hour to say it. Surely you could have solved another murder in that time?

Finally, you let your slip show in your penultimate para: "They are offered a photograph but most contact the spirit long before they ever look at it" Isn't this admission by you that spirit exits?
Surely you jest? Do you really think that we are believers in denial? Even you don't seem to be too convinced that spirits exist so why should we? To remove all confusion we have changed that sentence to read: 'They are offered a photograph but most claim to have contacted the spirit long before they ever look at it.'

More importantly, we notice you didn't attempt to answer the conundrum that this section posed: 'How do psychics locate the appropriate spirit?'

Kind Regards

Geoff Husson

Director & Associate Producer Sensing Murder

Thanks for your response Geoff, but I guess we're going to remain at odds over this. We feel that 'Sensing Murder' and the psychic stage acts that would have inspired it are pure entertainment, like magic shows. They're both performing tricks but only the magician is honest enough to admit it. You no doubt disagree, but you could easily prove skeptics wrong by consistently solving the murders you look into, but you elect to leave them all unsolved. Your psychics have a proven record of complete failure. This is nothing to be proud of. In other TV shows failure to perform normally means the cancellation of a future series, yet 'Sensing Murder' seems to thrive on failure.

At the end of the day debate can only take us so far. Only by designing and controlling the conditions in which the psychic performs would it be possible to eliminate cheating and trickery, deliberate or otherwise, and prove psychic abilities. Almost without exception, psychics and shows like yours refuse to do this. To any rational person this suggests psychics have something to hide. Personally if someone was questioning my integrity I'd be fronting up to be tested and insisting on the most stringent controls. And if you prove your powers in certain places like the Randi Foundation in the US you will receive $US1 million for your troubles. If you don't want to travel that far take the Psychic Challenge in Wanaka and receive $100,000. Why won't psychics take these challenges? Even if they don't want the money surely there must be some charity they could give it to? Why don't they want to prove their abilities to a doubting public? Are they like you Geoff, doubting that they really do speak to dead people?

Return to 'Sensing Murder - Insight'


Authors:   John L. Ateo,   Rachel C.
Copyright 2007, by the 'SILLY BELIEFS' website. All rights reserved.


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Last Updated Sep 2007