Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Talking to the Dead

EoR recently looked at Anthony Grzelka ("one of Australia’s leading spiritual Mediums"). Now he has had the pleasure of listening to Mr Grzelka in action on a local community radio station.

EoR's conclusion: as he suspected, it appears Mr Grzelka does nothing but a rather average cold reading act (it's interesting that he refers to his own public appearances as "shows"). It's actually not very good but, of course, the callers are Believers (and also usually emotionally distraught and not thinking clearly), and the show is hosted by a Believer, so there is no balance provided, and everyone goes away with the impression that Mr Grzelka really did chat to dead people in order to pass on the usual platitudes about forgiveness.

Here's an overview of the half hour "show" along with the complete transcript for one caller so you can see all the usual psychic scam tricks in full blooded action.

Anthony is introduced as "the psychic medium". That, presumably, is to differentiate him from the "non-pyschic mediums". EoR wonders why he doesn't go the full hog, and describe himself as "psychic clairvoyant medium with ESP powers who talks to dead people". Or wouldn't the punters fall for that?

There then follows a warning from the host that talking to the dead is not like ringing someone on the telephone. The "passed on" decides whether to chat or not. "For some reason or other" they can't always chat right now. Probably busy polishing harps, or chatting to other psychics...

Mr Grzelka is asked for his opinion on TV psychic dramas. His response is that some are better than others, and "Ghost Whisperer" is the best, especially since others don't portray mediums truthfully (what? as con artists?). EoR is shocked at this statement. Everyone knows Allison Dubois is the Only Real Psychic In the World, and that "Medium" is a documentary. Could Mr Grzelka be a little jealous of how successful she's been in her marketing mission compared to him?

The host and Mr Grzelka then engage in some cod-psychology (with some mention of alcoholics and thieves, but concentrating heavily, for some reason, on paedophiles), explaining how the dead like to chat to the living in order to "work out issues". EoR thinks the idea of dead paedophiles coming back to chat to their child victims just a little too creepy... EoR is sure there's material for a PhD there.

Kerry of Forrestdale phones about her dad. Mr Grzelka makes a guess that he might have had a heart attack. Correct! But statistically unremarkable. Having that information, Mr Grzelka suggests he died suddenly. Correct! So, he didn't have a slow, lingering heart attack... Then Mr Grzelka guesses "someone" tried to revive him. Correct! Again, statistically unremarkable. Mr Grzelka then suggests there is a "miscarriage or termination" associated with Kerry. Correct! This, apparently, was also a ploy used in his earlier appearance on the ABC. As a commenter to EoR's previous post noted, most women would either have had a miscarriage, or have known someone who did (notice he said it was "associated" with Kerry, which is an extremely general phrase).

Kerry is the first, and last, caller that Mr Grzelka achieves anything like a series of successful guesses with.

Mr Grzelka insists that the next caller, Margaret of Maddington, has someone trying to talk to them with a "brain tumour or stroke." No, her father had heart problems. Mr Grzelka persists: it's an "aneurysm or stroke". No. "A stroke or something that affects the head. A feeling of Alzheimer's or dementia." The guesses are becoming increasingly vague and general and desperate. Throughout his "psychic communications" Mr Grzelka uses this method repeatedly: a best guess. If that fails, immediately restate the guess in a more general manner. Getting no confirmation from Margaret, Mr Grzelka immediately goes onto a different topic (this is another ploy Mr Grzelka resorts to frequently). Later, he says Margaret is alone, and her family are worried about this. Again, given her husband has died and the fact that he can tell she's an older woman, this is hardly even guessing. Mr Grzelka says Margaret is a nurse. No. Whoops. Then he asks who the nurese or health care professional (notice how he's expanded the list of possibilities dramatically) "connected" with her is. She's an older woman. Whose husband has died. Of course there are nurses and health care professionals connected with her!

Jane of Leeming phones. Mr Grzelka asks if she has a deceased dog associated with her. No. Mr Grzelka insists it may not be recent. Well, Jane's brother had a dog that died... A hit! A palpable hit! EoR can't think how he did that. How many people would have, sometime in their life, a dead dog, or have known someone whose dog died? "Sadie" also wants to talk to her. Sadie? She doesn't know any Sadie. Mr Grzelka says he'll "leave that with her". And quickly moves on to hide his failure. Here's a third ploy: stuff that is meaningless to the caller is "left with her" (it's usually a her) and the call is terminated.

EoR is starting to lose interest in the show. One reasonably remarkable example of cold reading is impressive. A series of them just shows up the cumulative failures, and the repetitive techniques to perform this act.

Eor rapidly skips over Brad from Wembley (who recently split up with a partner and has been getting "stuff" from someone on "the other side" about it), Barbara from Armadale (Mr Grzelka insists someone with a breast or lung cancer wants to chat, Barbara says no, nobody she knows; Mr Grzelka insists Barbara was interstate when her mother died, Barbara says no; Mr Grzelka insists it might have been a relative or "someone", Barbara says no; Mr Grzelka is getting desperate, Barbara has to provide the answer herself when she says she had been out of the room at the time!), Gladys of Willeton (who is going to have surgery, Mr Grzelka insists. No, says Gladys), and Karen (who is thinking of travelling. Mr Grzelka tells her to go to New York where she will find glamour and will be surrounded by beautiful or popular people. Like wow. Glamour and beautiful people. In New York. Who'da thunk it.).

Our host suggests callers have pen and paper handy so they can take notes, because they often realise later just who Mr Grzelka was channelling. Yes, given enough time, EoR could probably work out who "L" really is, who is connected with his mother's side somewhere, as well.

There's a brief pause for advertisements, including Colon Cleanse ("Nothing works like Colon Cleanse" - presumably, if you do nothing, it's exactly the same as using Colon Cleanse).

Mr Grzelka tells how he has been "challenged" and proven his powers on Breakfast TV (as all EoR's readers know, Breakfast TV is the highest form of scientific testing available), spruiks his "shows", mentions his website and phone number (but he's very busy with private readings), and departs gracefully to remove the makeup and stage costume.

Here's Jean of Toodyay in full, with observations from EoR (AG is Anthony Grzelka, PO is Pieta O'Shaughnessy, the host, and JoT is our caller):
PO: Jean of Toodyay is our next caller, hello Jean.
JoT: Hello, how are you?
PO: I'm well! What about you?
JoT: I'm very good, thank you.
PO: Good.
AG: Jean, did you want to ask a question, or...
JoT: Could you just see if you could make a connection for me, please?
AG: I'll see what I can do for you. [pause] Okay. What have we got here? I-I've got, um, a male coming through here.
JoT: Yeah...
AG: Jean, dad's passed for you? Your father?
JoT: No, he hasn't.

Jean's voice doesn't give a lot away, but it's clearly not a very young voice. Also, Jean is not a common name for younger people these days. Mr Grzelka guesses there's a "male" coming through. Can't he be more specific? Given the nature of his callers, and Jean's probable age, Mr Grzelka simply guesses it's her father. Wrong. Completely wrong. He's guessing and lying about his "powers". But this sort of failure doesn't worry our psychic. He's been through worse mistakes than this, and recovered by simply expanding his guesses or ignoring his failures. Which is what he does without pausing for a beat.
AG: Okay, has dad got a brother who's passed?

No, Mr Grzelka, you said it was her father (technically, he didn't even say this, since his guess was couched as a question).
JoT: [uncertainly] Oh.. Yeah.. He's got a few brothers that've passed.

This is the mother lode for Mr Grzelka. Jean is feeding him information. Jean's father is obviously an older person, since it seems Jean isn't that young, and her father's siblings have already died.
AG: That would make sense to me because I feel like I've got a male here who's connected to dad, okay and I feel like I want to, to, um, to bring this person, ah, what nationality are you by the way?

Without a pause, the amazing psychic who is in touch with the mysterious and all-seeing knowledge of the dead and "passed on", is directly soliciting information! What a con!
JoT: English.
AG: English. Where's, where's Fred?

A strange sort of question, but presumably Mr Grzelka is fishing (after mistakenly telling Jean her father was dead and not wanting to make the same faux pas again, and given her father's probable vintage and nationality, Fred would not be an uncommon name. No answer is forthcoming.
AG: [pause] It could be Alfred. [pause] But I feel like it's Fred.
JoT: He's passed over?

Come on Jean, you're not playing the game! You give the information, Mr Grzelka asks the questions!
AG: I'm not sure.

See! Why isn't he sure? He's either dead and talking to him, or Mr Grzelka is making the whole sorry farrago up out of thin air. EoR knows which option he's leaning towards...
JoT: I, ah, there's two Freds. My sister's partner is Fred and I also, err, there was a very good family friend that passed over and his name was Alfred.
AG: Okay, would Alfred have known dad?

Despite his insistence that it was Fred, and not Alfred, it turns out it was Alfred. But Mr Grzelka ignores his error, and carries on regardless. Again, Mr Grzelka fishes for information. If (Al)fred is talking to him, can't he tell Mr Grzelka directly whether he knew dad or not?
JoT: Yeah.
AG: Yeah.

Notice how Mr Grzelka likes to immediately echo any confirmations of his guesses, as if claiming that he knew them all along, despite his many wrong guesses and obvious fishing for answers?
AG: That's where I'm going. 'Cause I feel like that person is trying to acknowledge your father, okay?

So, is that a psychic communication? Or another guess? Of course, if it's right, it's a communication. If it's wrong, it will be quickly covered up in further guesses.
AG: Now, I don't know if your father has been of poor health recently.
JoT: Yeah.
AG: But they're talking about your father's health as being, dodgy to say the least, okay? Um, or difficult to deal with, okay?

Notice how everything is becoming a question, as he probes for a likely scenario. Let's see, an older man, whose siblings have died. Could he have health issues? Mr Grzelka is getting no confirmation about this from Jean, but neither is she denying it. It could just be something that's "difficult to deal with". That should cover everything. Indeed, it would be remarkable if an older man did not have some sort of health issues. Notice also how (Al)fred has become "they". This becomes a major gaffe shortly. Feeling a bit more confident finally, since Jean hasn't contradicted him for quite a long time now,
AG: These are issues that I feel like your dad has had to deal with for some time though.
JoT: He has.
AG: Also, I want to say, is dad the military man?

Mr Grzelka is asking the questions again! Notice also his penchant for ending statements with "okay?" to turn them into queries, and his "I want to say" phrase is also a recurrent feature. Let's see. An older man. English. Could he have served in the military. Highly likely. There's two ways of finding the truth. You could rely on your psychic powers and "know" the truth, or you could be so bold as to simply ask a direct question of your caller.
JoT: He was in the army.
AG: Yeah. Because I need to talk about this here being connected to military, like Alfred and um, Bill, uh, Alfred and um -- who was the first one I mentioned? [nervous laugh] I've forgotten the other bloke! They're coming through here and talking about dad's health here okay, like the male's health which would be connected to you because I have Alfred and I have the brother, that's, that's where I want to go, the brother, to that side-
PO: Is that William?
AG: No, it's not William. That's to dad's side here, okay, that I feel like I need to talk about.

This is just hilarious. Go back and read the transcript. There was only one spirit talking to Mr Grzelka, but he forgets that and seems to think there were two. Worse, he calls it William (a guess he'd made with an earlier caller!). He really gets fluffed, but demonstrates his amazing skills to cover up any and all mistakes and justs rambles on about another brother who seems to have wandered into the spiritual room unannounced. Rapidly, he decides to leave this minefield, and makes another brilliant guess.
AG: Um, also I want to say to you, is it dad that lost his eye?
JoT: No, no. Oh, he's had an operation on his eye, but he's not lost an eye.
AG: Okay, did that affect his vision or was it like, did it, was it to clear up vision or something?

More wrong guesses. Again, Mr Grzelka ignores his mistake, and makes further guesses based on the wonderful information his caller is feeding him. Most eye operations, EoR would hazard to guess, either affect vision, or clear up vision, or (the catchall disclaimer) "something".
JoT: It was to clear up vision.
AG: Okay, 'cause I feel like they're talking about one - was that only one eye though?

Mr Grzelka nearly fell into his own over-confident trap. He's already been so wrong about the dead father and the eye operation(s) he stops and asks more questions from the person he's supposed to be giving information to!
JoT: Ah, he's had both done.
AG: Right. Did they give one at a time or something because-
JoT: Yeah.
AG: The only thing I feel in here is like one eye's been done here, okay, that's the sort of feeling I get with this, okay? Um, I've got to also say to you here that, um, there was somebody here that passed during a military campaign here as well, that I want to tell you.

Spooky. It only took the caller to tell Mr Grzelka that her father was in the army, and now he's guessing someone died during a military campaign (he's not even brave enough to say 'war' because he might be wrong). Could it be the same "someone" he's been chanelling all along, or a different "someone"? He doesn't pause to allow Jean to respond.
AG: I get the feeling, you need to ask your dad about this, but during the Second World War, I don't know if you have a relative that fought on, you know the HMAS Hood, you know the big, big navy vessel, the Hood?
JoT: [sounding confused] Yeah...

Here Mr Grzelka is not receiving any psychic information, he's simply asking a series of questions in such a manner that it sounds like they might be statements. And, of course, Jean confirms his psychic powers by agreeing with him. Yes, she has, in fact, heard of the Hood. Though EoR suspects Mr Grzelka really means the HMS Hood, not the HMAS Hood. Obviously his deceased informant didn't even know which navy they were fighting for.
AG: Um, there's a connection to that navy vessel. The Hood. And I believe passed in that battle, or with that ship, or was connected to that ship the HMAS Hood, okay?

"That battle"? Which battle? Don't the spirits remember which battle they died in? Or was it just on the ship? Or "connected" to that ship? What "someone" they knew on the ship? Someone they'd heard of on the ship? Could it just be that Mr Grzelka is making all this up? Jean is beginning to think so... EoR certainly is. 8000 to 9000 men served directly on the Hood, let alone all those "connected" to the ship.
JoT: [doubtfully] Right...
AG: Just talk to your dad and your family about that because I really feel like there's a connection to that, um, that person.
JoT: [doubtfully] Okay...
AG: Okay.
JoT: Alright, lovely.
AG: Thank you very much.
JoT: Thank you.
AG: Pleasure.
JoT: Bye bye.
PO: Thank you for calling.

So, just exactly what psychic information did the spirits channel through the amazing Mr Grzelka to Jean of Toodyay? That her father served on the HMAS Hood. Or a brother. Or a friend. Or someone did, anyway. Really. Even if Jean of Toodyay thought it all sounded a bit farfetched. And even if EoR thinks it all sounds like overripe bullshit. But Mr Grzelka certainly knows a lot more from Jean of Toodyay after his many questions to her.


  1. You can't begrudge his style, your Uncle Grzelka,
    He couldn't budge a smile and do it for free.
    So righteous making a fudge, your Uncle Grzelka,
    So improperly reading others for a fee.

    I'm getting an M. Mike? Micky?... Monkee?

  2. You're right - remarkably similar to my Aberdeen medium. At least yours had the guts to go one-on-one, instead of fishing a crowd.


    If I were only a little less honest...


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