Learn about the origins of clairvoyance and psychic abilities. Understand how to spot their grifter con-man tactics to avoid being a victim.
To better understand the topic of clairvoyants and their abilities, you need to define terms. You need to know what it means when you hear the words like “con man, grifter, psychic, and clairvoyant.” Put your thinking cap on. Here we go.
Defining a Grifter and a Con Man
The term grifter is someone who uses confidence tactics to persuade someone to do something. The term con man is short for confidence man. A confidence game is what professional grifters use to defraud people by gaining their confidence. It is not the same as gaining trust because the agreement often involves greed and deceit. The person targeted by the con man or grifter is the mark.
Knowing what a grifter does is helpful, but it does not protect you from their tactics. One sure way to spot one is the deal is “too good to be true.” You’ve been warned. Now let’s look at the heritage of the grifter and how these con men show up in our modern culture.
Psychic and Clairvoyance Abilities
The word Clairvoyant is French. It comes from the word “Flair,” which means clear. They combine this with the word “voyance,” which means extraordinary vision. These people employ a variety of confidence games to manipulate to gain the confidence of the people they trick and swindle, just like the grifter and a con man.
The heritage of Spiritualists dates back to the 1600s. The Gypsy and Traveler cultures of Europe include those traditionally known as the Roma (1). It also includes Sinti, Calé, Romnichels, Ludar, Irish Travelers, and Scottish Travelers. The Roma made their living as grifters. They often used the cover of doing odd jobs and maintenance work tasks to gain intelligence to find the right mark for their next confidence game.
Spiritualist is another term for the grifter and a con man. They use the same trick under the umbrella of psychic and clairvoyance abilities. These tricks help them swindle and defraud people. You find them under the umbrella of names:
- the newest title, life coach
Some claim they perform the same function as ancient shamans since they act as intermediaries with the spirit world. However, the intent of the clairvoyant differs from the Shaman. A Shaman helps others without charging a fee. The medium performs a show to gain the trust of their mark. Then, they exploit the trust for financial gain.
Selling their shows and psychic abilities, the grifters became a profitable industry. By the 1800s, they were a part of The Modern Spiritualist Movement, which opened a whole new market for clairvoyance abilities.
This movement spawned several performers who perfected the showmanship, enabling them to become very successful and highly sought high-society acts. These acts pioneered the signs of clairvoyance, like levitation, precognition, and channeling. All done with sleight-of-hand, misdirection, and good old engineering. They used trap doors and hidden levers to astound their marks with seemingly powerful magic.
The Fox sisters (2) (1814-1892) set the bar for popularity, profit, and showmanship. They became famous and wealthy, traveling the circuit of rich merchants, and their success spawned an increasing number of copy-cats using their con man tactics. For example, Esther Hicks (3) made channeling a profitable offshoot of this age-old grifter scam. Séances and automatic writing became staple sideshows on the Spiritualist tour. It proves you don’t have to be a male to be a grifter and a con man. Women are just as talented at using these psychological tactics.
The Signs of Clairvoyance Abilities
The confidence game of selling clairvoyance psychic abilities has gone virtual. Not only can you get your fortune told, but you can also learn how to be a psychic. Yes. Psychic and clairvoyant abilities are for sale through more outlets than ever before.
- Astral Projection — This is projecting your awareness outside your body. This out-of-body experience is not the same as a near-death experience. It is one where you have control over the journey. Siddhis practitioners say this is the natural growth of consciousness. It is not supernatural but a natural progression of consciousness.
- Automatic writing — It is the process of writing without conscious intent. It is a technique to open the subconscious mind. Anyone can do this one. All you need to do is follow the process.
- Divination is the expertise of seeing the future using some instrument. It is the old version of precognition.
- The Dowsing Method — This technique uses a dowsing rod tool to locate water. Some believe the key to this method is selecting the wood for the dowsing rod.
- Energy medicine — This is a healing method that uses empathy or chi. It is also known as Pranic Healing.
- Levitation — To float in the air using mystical or supernatural power. It is a claim of some Eastern mystics. Those who practice the Siddhis are also familiar with the Sutra, making one “lighter than air.”
- Mediumship or Channeling — Communicating with the spirits of those who have passed away has proven to be one of the most profitable spiritualist circuit scams. Some say that this is a psychic and paranormal skill. This is perhaps the most profitable of the signs of clairvoyance. All it takes is good acting skills and an unsuspecting audience.
- Precognition — The ability to perceive the future. This skill is the essence of fortunetelling and divination. One of the most well-known fortune tellers was Michel de Nostredame, or Nostradamus. His book Les Prophéties, published in 1555, is a collection of 942 poetic quatrains that contains his famous predictions.
- The Fortuneteller is a person who predicts the future. In reality, they are skillful interrogators who learn to use questions and generalized statements to find the “soft spot” of their mark. They use various research techniques to learn about their “marks” to exploit them. The sham of fortunetelling is perhaps the most well-known of the clairvoyance psychic abilities.
- Psychic Surgery is a trick of misdirection and the use of props. It is an act where a person operates with the bare hands via an “energetic” incision, which heals immediately. Another magic trick uses sleight-of-hand techniques to conceal and produce blood or tissue. A good magician can make it look real.
- Psychokinesis or Telekinesis is the ability to manipulate objects with the mind.
Uri Geller publicized psychic abilities of this nature. He is known for his trademark television performances of spoon bending and other illusions in the 1970s. After they exposed his psychic powers as stage tricks, he fell back into obscurity.
- Psychometry or Psychoscopy — The skill of gaining information by touching a person or an object.
It is an easy scam to perform if you can gather personal details about your mark to establish trust and credibility. Peter Popoff was a popular televangelist who used this ploy, but he was caught red-handed using an earpiece to receive radio messages from his wife. She gave him the names, addresses, and ailments of audience members during Popoff-led religious services. Even though his scam was revealed, he still performs his routine in the Christian Faith movement, confirming people’s need to believe in clairvoyance abilities.
- Telesthesia — Remote viewing or sense of a distant target using extrasensory perception
- Retrocognition or post-cognition is the ability to retrieve memories of past events or even past lives.
- Telepathy — The ability to read the minds of others goes along with psychoscopy. It is the ability to transmit or receive thoughts.
- Teleportation — Making an object disappear is, by far, the most popular magic trick. It is an illusion you see magicians do on TV. They accomplish this illusion using trapdoors, hidden compartments in a box. Mirrors are integral tools for hiding people or objects.
How Grifters Use Psychic and Clairvoyance Abilities
Magical showmanship is still the main cash generator. Since the explosion of the Spiritualist movement in the 1800s, psychic readings have moved from the telephone to the internet. Everyone can sell the signs of clairvoyance. Here, Spiritualists use the internet to conduct background research on databases and social media accounts to impress clients with their clairvoyant skills in real-time. Beware. They can use any information online as a “sweet spot” to be leveraged.
Above all, the Spiritualist must be a good showman. They often begin their training by conducting sleight-of-hand tricks at magic shows. Spiritualists claim to have precognition. They will contact the deceased and relay messages or act as intercessors to facilitate miracles of healing and prosperity for a price.
In short, the clairvoyant persona is a parlor game used by grifters. They use them to gain the trust of their “marks” to exploit them. Mediums or clairvoyants use confidence tactics, including séances, gazing in a crystal ball, spirit channeling, fortunetelling, and tarot card readings.
Rebranding and Selling Clairvoyance Psychic Abilities
This lucrative showmanship caught the eye of the early Christian faith movement. They turned the stage theatrics of the Spiritualist to work for the Church. Out of this show were born the Christian Faith movement and Spiritualist Churches.
Some of the most famous Christian teachers built empires cashing in on selling faith. Many Christians use these stage tactics, including well-known spiritualists like Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947), an early pioneer televangelist. Aimee Elizabeth Semple McPherson (1890-1944) was another radio show pioneer. Johanna Kuhlman (1907-1976) was famous for her showmanship in healing services. Finally, Granville Oral Roberts (1918 — 2009). They perfected the use of grifter skills sold as clairvoyance psychic abilities.
Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner (born January 14, 1944) is a former evangelist preacher. At age four, he first gained attention on the revival circuit as an ordained minister as “Marjoe.” He possessed extraordinary memory and speaking ability. He was the youngest known in that position.
Marjoe was just a child when he began performing on the revival circuit. He made his family a fortune in the church revival circuit in the early 1970s. He exposed the Church’s tactics in a documentary. His documentary explained how they use prayer cards to obtain information to prompt donations. He also revealed how they paid people to come in wheelchairs and mimic healing with his touch, which would spark contributions to their cause. He isn’t the only one exposing the blatant fraud and deception of these grifters and con men.
Exposing The Fraud
James Randi (4) was a modern-day skeptic who performed stage magic for many years. He gained valuable experience in performing sleight-of-hand illusions. It led his career to investigate supernatural claims made by these grifters. He could unmask their claims of magical abilities as sleight-of-hand acts. He debunked a wide variety of clairvoyance abilities, everything from astrological horoscopes to psychic surgery.
“Predictions are uttered by prophets (free of charge); by clairvoyants (who usually charge a fee and are therefore more honored in their day than prophets); and by futurologists (salaried). Prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurologists. It is not the business of novelists. A novelist’s business is lying.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin
The sad part is that the people who use these grifter tactics taint those seeking their spiritual gifts. Grifters give spirituality a terrible reputation. The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to shy away from anyone who claims they are a life coach, clairvoyant, medium, or psychic.
We suggest you watch any of the TV shows with magicians. They will demonstrate the sleight-of-hand techniques used by these magicians. You will see how people mistake these illusions for clairvoyant psychic abilities.
(1) The Roma, Romani People: Wikipedia
(2) The Fox Sisters: Wikipedia
(3) Esther Hicks: Wikipedia
(4) An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural by James Randi: