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Pickwick & Psychic

paperback pickwickStephen Jarvis, the author of Death and Mr Pickwick, spent nearly a year trying to track down a missing, unpublished manuscript called The Life of Robert Seymour, which had mysteriously vanished in the 1920s; and which would have considerably helped him in his researches.  Having run up against one blind alley after another, he was persuaded by his brother to consult a professional psychic who worked with the police, to see if she could assist in finding the document.

During the consultation (which unfortunately failed to shed any light on the actual whereabouts of the manuscript), the psychic suddenly said "Who is Spencer?" This was a very significant name to Stephen, as Walter T Spencer was a man who had attempted to purchase the manuscript when it was put up for auction at Sotheby's in 1919 - but had been unable to pay the very high reserve price.  According to Stephen, only he really knew this fact, so it was, to quote him: "VERY weird for the psychic to say that name".

psychicMy explanation to Stephen was as follows:

"Asking a question such "Who is Spencer?" is a classic technique of a psychic. You will probably find she asked many such questions, but you forgot the others: you only remember the one that has some significance to you. Notice the vagueness of the question. She is not saying why Spencer might be of significance to you - she's asking you to make the connection. Most people when asked such a question would desperately search in their mind for anything vaguely related to a Spencer. Maybe they saw a film recently starring Spencer Tracey? Perhaps they were a big fan of Lady Di? Possibly they had a relative called Spencer? Whatever you come up with, the psychic will latch onto that and infer that is what she was thinking about when she asked the question. Occasionally they will strike lucky, which is clear she did in your case. If, at that point, you had given nothing away but said: "Yes, Spencer does mean something to me, can you tell me what?" she would have been flummoxed. But the natural response is to tell her why it is of significance and then she can enlarge on that (i.e. feedback to you what you've already told her).

spencer"If you had come back and said that Spencer meant nothing; either she will just forget about it and move on (in which case you will probably forget afterwards that she even asked the question) or she will make some vague statement like: "The name might have some meaning to you in the future". Then a few days later (or the next month, or the following year) you meet someone called Spencer (the fact that you meet myriads of other people with different names you conveniently forget about) - and give the psychic the credit for an amazing prediction."

Of course the other, far shorter and simpler, explanation - which is far easier to understand and agree with - is that the psychic was genuinely psychic!  

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