'Psychic' Threatens to Sue Skeptic Over Fliers

British skeptic Mark Tilbrook is being threatened by “psychic” Sally Morgan, who claims that a flier Tilbrook handed out at her shows urging people to think rationally about what they see amounts to libel and defamation. Here’s the flier that was handed out:

psychics_leaflet1

There’s nothing remotely defamatory, even under the appallingly broad British legal standards for such. Tilbrook says he’s not backing down:

Earlier this year I found myself standing outside a major theatre, on the receiving end of a tirade of abuse from John Morgan – the husband and manager of TV psychic Sally Morgan. John threatened me with violence, told me that I would be “lifted” and “disappear” – he told me he even knew where I worked.

What had I done to deserve this fate? I had merely tried to encourage people to think about whether psychics really can speak to the dead…

Shortly afterwards, I received a letter from Sally Morgan’s solicitor, Graham Atkins, informing me that she intended to sue me for libel. The letter claimed that my leaflet contained numerous defamatory allegations about Sally Morgan, and demanded an undisclosed sum of money in compensation – plus nearly £2,000 in legal fees. So far I had been mostly on my own with some help from local skeptics, but at this point I realised that I needed some serious professional backing.

After talking to the science writer Simon Singh, my plight was brought to the attention of Robert Dougans at Bryan Cave – the same solicitor who had successfully defended Singh when he was sued by the British Chiropractic Association. Simon and his organisation the Good Thinking Society have since been supporting me with my efforts, which is something of a relief when faced with threats of financial ruin and violence…

With the legal threats hanging over me and the worries about physical threats, it has been a difficult few months, but it will have been worth it if it has helped even a few question the information they get from psychics. I won’t pretend there haven’t been a few sleepless nights, but it has made me more determined to hand out more leaflets, regardless of the threats made towards me.

Good. These frauds are preying on the credulous and should be exposed.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • moarscienceplz

    I once attended a “psychic fair” with a friend who believed in psychic stuff. As we got into the car to go to the fair, he proudly showed me some wrap-around sunglasses he intended to wear during his “reading” because he didn’t want a possible fake psychic reading his facial expressions.

    So, even true believers understand that there is a lot of fakery in the psychic business. If Sally Morgan is a true psychic, she doesn’t need to use the tricks listed in that flyer, and she should welcome anyone who works to expose fakes in her field. I’d say the mere fact that she is being so threatening should be proof to any judge that her suit would be without merit.

  • jws1

    By “exposed” you mean left out in the wilderness to die? Because that would be fitting.

  • http://www.twisted-lines.com ambrosethompson

    Now I know where all the schoolyard bullies went- they became psychics. Clearly a blustery, loud, in-your-face ego helps pull in the dough whether it is school lunch money or people’s life’s savings. And as usual, the principal/politicians back them. When will grade school ever be over?

  • Athywren

    I don’t understand, Sally, why would a psychic consider such statements to be libellous? He’s telling people to look out for cold reading techniques that anybody with any degree of skill or supernatural ability could achieve, why would a psychic ever use such techniques? Psychics can hear from the dead! To use cold reading would be silly when you have actual ghosts talking directly to you. It would be like strapping sticky jam sandwiches to your feet to go ice skating, if your feet were literally ice skates!

    That said, I have to doubt whether Sally truly is a psychic. Psychics, you see, can read the future (ghosts exist in a non-linear plain and the future is, to them, merely another room into which they can walk) so surely she would know that such a case would fall apart and end up costing her a great deal of money and reputation?

  • Athywren

    *cough*

    plane

    Apparently my ability to spell has a shared power source with my ability to snark…

  • CJO, egregious by any standard

    Why would this not be summarily dismissed, with prejudice and a good mocking? The text says absolutely nothing about Morgan, or any other individual. Surely, even under what I understand is a very generous definition of libel, there is some minimum standard of defamation, like the accused has to have actually made a declarative statement about the plaintiff by name?

  • Athywren

    @CJO

    Surely, even under what I understand is a very generous definition of libel, there is some minimum standard of defamation, like the accused has to have actually made a declarative statement about the plaintiff by name?

    When Simon Singh was sued, it was because he said that the British Chiropractic Association “happily promotes bogus treatments,” with the supposed implication that they do so while believing that they’re bogus – intentionally scamming their customers. In this case, all Tillbrook did was point out how cold readers operate, share links to a couple of videos on youtube that discuss the issue, and advise people to watch for the signs of cold reading. In order for Morgan to really be able to take issue with this, as far as I can see (I’m not a lawyer) is if she actually is engaging in cold reading. I suspect it’s just a threat to make him back down and apologise publicly, because I don’t see any way for her to have any luck in court unless she admits to being a cold reader – if she wasn’t a cold reader, he’d merely be helping her customers spot dishonest competitors, and I doubt she’d take issue with that.

  • zmidponk

    You know, if it weren’t for the stress it’s obviously causing Mr Tilbrook, I’d really want this to go to court, just so that it could be put on public record Sally Morgan’s answers, under oath, and therefore potential legal consequences to lying about it, to such things as ‘in what way do the questions and statements on this flyer apply to you and what you do professionally?’

  • Nick Gotts

    I use my psychic abilities to predict that Morgan will not take this to court. It’s simply an attempt at intimidation, like the threat Tilbrook reports from Morgan’s husband.

  • John Hinkle

    Shortly afterwards, I received a letter from Sally Morgan’s solicitor, Graham Atkins…

    Why pay for a solicitor when she could just talk to a dead one for free?

  • Pierce R. Butler

    … he told me he even knew where I worked.

    Apparently the wrong member of the Morgan family was up on the stage.

  • grumpyoldfart

    In Australia there was a mother/daughter crew (I don’t know if they are still operating) who actually encouraged their marks to be cynical. Mum played the part of a bumbling old lady who didn’t seem to know what the hell was going on but usually managed to get some really good hits during a cold reading.

    Behind the scenes and during TV interviews, however, the daughter would always pretend to be agnostic regarding mummy’s abilities. Her basic message was, ‘I don’t actually believe in psychics, so I don’t know what mum is doing; maybe she’s just making educated guesses, but she gets it so right so often, it really makes you think there might be something in what she says.’

    And the audience would instantly decide that there really must be something in it – because the pair would not encourage cynicism if it was a scam. And even the daughter (a cynic mind you!) thinks that the old lady is pretty good at telling fortunes.

  • thebookofdave

    A real psychic would have contacted Tilbrook before he printed his flyers, and asked him not to waste so much ink. Her legal threat is self-refuting.

  • Pingback: Nurturing Skepticism in the Grieving: Mark TIlbrook | Grief Beyond Belief()

  • Bob Cash

    ANYONE claiming to be psychic is in one, or both, of only TWO states.

    1) A CON ARTIST.

    2) MENTALLY UNWELL.

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/70539

    How many of the con artists display the disclaimer, “For entertainment purposes only”?

    In any event, they should not be permitted to influence the feeble-minded or vulnerable people who might believe such nonsense!

    Whilst most of them look and sound incredibly stupid to those with more than two firing synapses, one can only assume these thieves they simply don’t care because they are making so much money,.

    Trying to con others is one thing but, if you are trying to fool yourself, you need urgent help.

    (Incidentally, if YOU are one of the many people who genuinely believe in such garbage, I defend your absolute right to believe in whatever nonsense you chose, no matter how stupid. However, it is highly recommended you seek urgent help immediately.)

    NOW, at last, YOU can actually DO something positive! Click the link above and sign the petition!

    Join the campaign to stop these evil individuals stealing from so many such unfortunate individuals. Email your M.P. and request the issue be raised in parliament to prohibit these thieves from advertising or performing.

    If ALL thieves should be imprisoned, why does the government condone this huge (and growing) group of con artists stealing with impunity? They should also be imprisoned and their vast profits applied to support victims. It’s nothing short of legalised theft!

    The truth is posted everywhere that these con artists should be in PRISON like ANY con artist so isn’t it strange why they never try to sue me if they claim they really possess such a supernatural skill ? !

  • freemage

    I suspect that, if the fraud is serious about going to court, she’ll try to argue that she was indentified ‘contextually’–by the fact that the fliers were being passed out at her events.