How Psychics Use "Shotgunning" To Deceive Their Audiences

April 27, 2024 1:00 AM ‐ ParanormalPsychic Readings
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The term "shotgunning" refers to a technique used primarily by psychic mediums during readings or séances. It involves throwing out a wide range of general statements or questions in the hope that some will have meaning to the participants or audience members. It is called "shotgunning" because, much like the dispersal pattern of a shotgun blast, the medium covers a broad area with their statements, aiming to hit something relevant to someone present.

The technique relies on the likelihood that certain experiences, names, or events are common enough to connect with someone in the group. For instance, a medium might say, "I'm getting the name John." Considering John is a common name, there's a good chance someone in the audience might relate this statement to their own experience.

Mediums may also use shotgunning in more intimate settings, such as small group readings or private sessions. In these scenarios, while the approach might seem more personalised, the technique essentially remains the same. The medium might offer up many general and broad statements, hoping to strike a chord with someone specific in the room.

Similar methods can even be used in one-on-one readings, often used by mediums that offer fortune-telling services. Rather than throwing out statements about past events, a medium might use a method known as scatter-shot forecasting or rapid-fire forecasting. This is where the medium quickly delivers a large number of vague, broad predictions about the future. The aim is similar to traditional shotgunning used in mediumship: to increase the chances that some of the predictions will resonate or eventually come true for the client.

The fortune teller might make such vague predictions as "You will come into some money" or "Someone new will enter your life soon," which could apply to many different scenarios. By delivering a high volume of predictions, the fortune teller maximises the possibility that at least a few will stick or be remembered as accurate due to their sheer number. The predictions often include events that are likely to happen to most people at some point, such as meeting new people, facing challenges, or experiencing moments of happiness or sadness.

In this fortune-telling setting, or in its traditional use, shotgunning often involves the use of statements that are intentionally vague and cover a wide range of topics. The most common approach is to leverage common names that have a high likelihood of being relevant to someone in the audience. For example, "I'm getting a strong connection with a name starting with 'M'... maybe Michael or Mary. Does this resonate with anyone here?"

But mediums might also play on common experiences and say something like, "I feel like someone here has recently gone through a big life change, possibly a move or a new job." Such experiences are common enough that at least one person is likely to have experienced them recently, allowing the medium to claim a spiritual connection.

Days of significance like anniversaries or birthdays are also common, and there's a good chance that someone will have recently celebrated or be about to celebrate a notable day when a medium offers up something like, "I'm being told about an important anniversary or birthday that just passed or is coming up soon. Who here is thinking of a special day?"

These examples show how shotgunning casts a wide net, making it easy for at least one person in the audience to feel that the statements are specifically relevant to them, but not all psychic mediums use the shotgunning technique. While it is a common method amongst fake mediums, particularly among those who perform in front of large audiences, there are many mediums that claim to use different approaches.

Some mediums may focus on what they describe as "direct voice" or "clairaudience," where they claim to hear messages directly from spirits. This method typically involves less generalisation and more specific information that is purportedly communicated by the spirits themselves.

For fraudulent mediums, shotgunning is often just one of the many techniques used to deceive their audiences. These other techniques represent a more considered attempt at deception than the scattergun approach achieved through shotgunning. Cold reading, for example, involves the medium making high-probability guesses and picking up on cues from the person's reactions to refine their statements. For example, a medium might observe a person's age, clothing, and body language to make educated guesses about their life circumstances.

Taking this a step further, hot reading involves prior research about an individual. A medium might secretly gather information about a person before a reading, often through social media, pre-session questionnaires, or even eavesdropping. This pre-acquired knowledge allows them to appear surprisingly accurate about personal details.

Shotgunning, or at least the psychology behind it, also intersects with the world of ghost hunting. While it might not always be as overt as in mediumship, it can manifest in ways that affect the credibility and interpretation of findings. One such method involves the use of a spirit box, a device that rapidly scans through radio frequencies, supposedly allowing spirits to communicate. Investigators listen for words within the static, noise, and fleeting bursts of radio broadcasts. When an investigator is listening for an answer to a specific question, any relevant word or phrase is more likely to be interpreted amidst the noise. This scenario essentially mirrors the scattergun approach used in shotgunning, where the rapid emission of sounds from the device invites random connections, much like a medium casting out broad statements in a reading.

Skeptics argue that shotgunning is evidence that discredits all genuine psychic abilities. Paranormal investigations should be equally cautious when assessing evidence.

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