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The Psychic Mafia

Cover of "The Psychic Mafia"

Cover of The Psychic Mafia

I am indebted to the Bad Psychics forums for pointing me at an online copy of the book “The Psychic Mafia“.  This book exposes the tricks of psychics and how they are used to con the unwitting.  I have reproduced the book on this site – you can start reading it by looking at the top of the page and the link sits between the “Privacy Policy” and “Subscribe”.

I disabled commenting on the pages so that you can read them as they were presented to me.  This thread has been created to allow readers to discuss the book.

The book verified much of what I knew already, not just about Camp Chesterfield but about the psychics themselves, but I hope that another reader who is thinking of giving money to these charlatans will read it and think twice.  Most of the words in the book are by Lamar Keene – a man active in the field.

I am not The Anonymous Typist, nor do I know who he is or was.  But I hope he will accept my sincerest thanks and best wishes for making this available.

I hope you find it at least interesting, but hopefully informative as well.

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Big Finish – Audio Productions

A few months ago, I finished the series of posts on the TV series of Sapphire & Steel. If you will recall, they ended in 1982 and were sands_003_allfalldown_big_mconsigned to the television history books. It’s worth noting that although it was somewhat different from most other shows of the time, UK television was pushing the boundaries of what had been possible and were really flexing their artistic muscles. There were shows such as “Play for Today” which started any number of now well known writers and actors on their path to stardom.  Was there a real, single, reason for the end of Sapphire and Steel?  Probably not, there were any number of factors involved and any creative endeavour will suffer them.  The ideas were left on the shelf and became largely forgotten.

In 1998, Big Finish Productions was founded.  The company began with the licence to produce audio plays based on the Professor Bernice “Benny” Surprise Summerfield character.  These were popular enough that the company were able to expand their range, moving into Doctor Who plays (being the main output of the company to this day), plays based on the 2000AD comics, the Tomorrow People and others.  They also produce, of course, the Sapphire and Steel audio series starring David Warner (Steel) and Susannah Harker (Sapphire).  They began the series in May 2004 and continued producing them until the end of the third series in 2008.  These audio plays are notable for their high production values and the fact that they have been able to have many of the original actors from the TV shows reprise their roles – particularly in the Doctor Who series. Read the rest of this entry

On Scepticism

The Bible Car: Driver Side
Image by ASurroca via Flickr

I have been doing a little light reading recently, mostly online.  I don’t want to discuss the content of what I have been reading, though.  Instead I would like to discuss the reactions to the reading I have been doing.  The nature of true scepticism is to have an open mind: to say that I do not believe the claim made but if sufficient proof can be found I will change my view on the matter.  True scepticism applies to everything: crime reports, whether your partner is/isn’t having an affair, the daily news, whether the fish caught really was “that big” and so on.  It is healthy to be sceptical, otherwise we would all walk around looking like idiots as we believed without question absolutely everything we were told.
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Well, it’s taken me around 10 months to write up these posts and we’re now at the end of the television series.  This series was a big part of my childhood and pretty much spoiled me for “normal” sci-fi or horror.  Not for me the joys of “pew pew lasers!” shows or simple non-psychological horror.  No, I want my shows to be a little unusual and thoughtful.

Hopefully, I have ignited a small spark within you to find these shows and watch them to see what I’m on about.  I am completely serious about wanting these to be returned to the small screen and updated.  With the new Dr Who shows, Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, The X Files, Lost, Heroes and so on the audiences of today have also shown that they want shows that are not strictly mainstream and that do interesting things within the genres.

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Assignment Six

So here we are, after almost a year we are now at the final episode of Sapphire and Steel.  I really thought that this wouldn’t take me all that long to do.  For such an inventive television series, six series seems very short.  Many other shows ran on for much longer and stand the test of time (no pun intended) far less well.  We have seen them solve problems in an isolated farmhouse, a railway station, a stately home, an antiques shop and a futuristic invisible living space.  And now, for this final showing, we are at a lonely service station just off a British motorway.  This is fitting as all of these shows are set in innocuous locales where that sort of thing just doesn’t happen.

Silver (the ever smooth David Collings) the technician, is already there.  The three adjourn to the cafe attached to the service station to wait developments.  A couple drive up in their car.  However, despite the service station being located in the present day, the car and the couple are both from 1948 and they seem to have little interest in anything that is from their future.  Later, they see the station as it was in 1925 and a traveling musician from 1957 arrive.  S&S quickly realise that this is a trap set for them: technicians always arrive after operatives, the service station is stuck in a time loop lasting a few seconds and all the people who should be there have disappeared.

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Assignment Five

Assignment Five has it’s detractors.  It’s one which, oddly, doesn’t entirely fit in with the rest of the series.  As we have seen with the other Assignments, they are all set “today” with an outside force opening a door to a previous era to allow someone or something to come through.  In this one, the force opens the door to send things back.  Normally, in a longer running series, we would be able to see this as an escalation in tactics and would have time to get used to the idea.  Because of the nature of S&S, rather than a steady escalation this is thrust upon us.

Lord Arthur Mulltrine is throwing a party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his business partnership.  His partner, Dr George McDee, had died some years previous.  As a part of the celebrations, Lord Arthur recreates the era by insisting that all the guests dress in period costume, by removing all “modern day” appliances and replacing them with antiques from the time.  Can anyone say “trigger”?  Sapphire and Steel arrive just before the whole house is sent 50 years back in time.

During the party, the guests notice that they have begun to speak of events that happened then as if they were happening now; before long they are fully subsumed into the time period.  Our operatives soon have to act as detectives as people who were not born in the earlier period start to be killed.  Soon, the events of the night being celebrated start to recreate themselves as Dr McDee arrives at the party.  On that night, he had created a lethal virus but was shot by a jealous lover before it could be released.  Time has taken over the lover’s body in order that the virus can, this time, be released.

As ever, and with the benefit of hindsight, we can look at this as a piece of televisual nonsense.  But the fine acting from our players mean that it is easy to believe in the events.  This Assignment suffers from the same malady a lot of older television does: it does look very much like a stage play.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that visual effects aside, this could be transported to the stage with very little change to the script.

There are some lovely touches, one of the guests realises that S&S are not who they say they are and, further, realises that they can speak telepathically.  They enlist his help, even going so far as to give him his own name: Brass, and to enable him to communicate with them.  There is also some wonderful flirting by the ever lovely Joanna Lumley to the wonderfully stiff David McCallum.

The finish of this Assignment is very well done, the horror that is touched on in other episodes is well realised in this one.  The finale is touching and chilling at the same time.  Again, as with other Assignments, S&S will move on leving the victims to pull back the pieces of their lives.  And yet, with all the great parts of this Assignment, it just doesn’t work as well as others.  I think it’s because there are just too many people in the show.  S&S is a very intimate, secret thing and it’s easy to imagine the one or two victims carrying on and being believed to be a little odd.  In this one, all of the guests are respectable and, presumably, well known people and if they started to discuss the events they would be believed by many people.  As well, the dead people would have to be explained away to the modern day police force.  Even though there are potentially many many plot holes and loose ends in all S&S episodes, this one has far too many.

Although it fits within the S&S mythology, it doesn’t fit as well as earlier episodes and stands out as a script that was calling out for a different show to be part of.