The tl;dr version:
A plethora of platitudes, indistinguishable from cold reading.
- Value for money:
- Harm to the public:
- Perceived psychic abilities:
- Ability to name months of the year without context:
In more detail:
The first thing to note about this show was that it was a home gig for Dominic Boag. He’s from Inverclyde, and was taking the opportunity to give one of his protégés (Debbie Hempseed) the chance to shine alongside him. He started the evening by painting himself as a sort of psychic Mr Miyagi, and Debbie was his Daniel-san. Disappointingly though Debbie failed to pull off the supernatural version of a crane kick to the face of the sizeable audience (appx 130). Not that Debbie comes across as any more or less ‘psychic’ than her mentor (because in my opinion there was no tangible evidence from either of them), but Dominic clearly showed his experience in working the crowds with the way he deflected his many misses throughout the evening.
Let’s be perfectly clear here, I’m not for a moment saying that either of them are NOT able to connect with the dead … it’s just that their performances were exactly what you’d expect to see if you were watching someone knowingly doing a combination of cold & warm readings. In fact, considering it was a local crowd and the likelihood of familiar faces was higher than usual, the accuracy of readings was even lower than expected.
I brought a friend along for his first experience of a psychic show. He left at the interval as he’d had enough. He emailed me his thoughts of the (first half of) the show, and I’d say his assessment pretty much nailed it:
“The woman called Debbie Hempseed was actually quite bad, went better with her mutual reading with Dominic but still….is she new? I think so. She might need to learn few more tricks I would say. Dominic seems to know every trick in the book, joking when wrong, rude but not too much, compassionate just enough.
The technique: for me, it works in circles: General name and ideas, if someone reacts then a second circle with more intimate questions and feelings then if wrong always find an escape and so on…..seems to work pretty well, just always too evasive to say if it is right or wrong….”
Dominic and Debbie took turns, and occasionally paired up. There were eleven readings in total, all following the same format as mentioned above. The audience were of course very keen, but despite that there were occasions where it was a painful wait before someone raised their hand to ‘accept’ the names and causes of death that were being reeled out. The deceased would always be a ‘mother figure’, or ‘father figure’ – which by extension includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, close friends etc.
Considering how common the names being thrown out were, it’s no surprise that they (eventually) managed to convince the audience that they’d made a connection. Here’s a list of all the names that were thrown out in the evening, and where they rank in the top baby names of the 80’s * in Scotland:
Male names called out:
- David: #1 for males (taken by audience member)
- John: #4 for males (not recognised by the audience member being read at the time)
- James: #5 for males (recognised by the audience member being read at the time)
- Craig: #6 for males (not recognised by the audience member being read at the time)
- Paul: #7 for males (recognised by the audience member being read at the time)
- Mark (also suggested Marco): #11 for males (not recognised by the audience member being read at the time)
- Robert: #12 for males (not taken at first, but audience member ‘accepted‘ it eventually)
- Daniel: #28 for males (taken by audience member)
- Tony / Anthony: #52 for males (not taken by anyone in the audience)
Female names called out:
- Nicola: #3 for females (not recognised by the audience member being read at the time, so Dominic tried Nicole without luck, and then decided to go geographical and try ‘Nicholson Street’ for size – still no luck)
- Angela (Angie): #28 for females (not recognised by the audience member being read at the time)
- Leanne: #29 for females (also tried Elle … not recognised by the audience member being read at the time)
- Catherine: #41 for females (not recognised by the audience member being read at the time)
- Elizabeth (Lizzie): #42 for females (not taken at first, but eventually recognised by audience member)
- Margaret: #64 for females (used a number of times – some hits, some misses)
- Joan: #74 for females (eventually taken by an audience member after Margaret Gilmour, Sue and Susan had all failed to be recognised by the audience)
- Anne: #98 for females (recognised by the audience member being read at the time)
- Mary (or May): #90 for females (taken by audience member)
- Emily: Not in top 100 (note: no-one ‘took’ this name and she went on to say ‘a weird name, like Maya’ which was also not taken)
- Maureen: Not in top 100 (not recognised by the audience member being read at the time)
- Moira: Not in top 100 (not recognised by the audience member being read at the time)
- Jean: Not in top 100 (used twice, one was a hit, the other was a miss)
There were also some pretty standard causes of death rolled out such as cancer, heart attack, ‘some kind of infection’. Strangely no other causes were given, the deaths were simply described as ‘sudden’, ‘after a long illness’ and other such vague assertions.
Winner of the ‘Most Obvious Statement’ award for the night went to this beauty about a female who had died of cancer:
- “She was in and out of hospital before passing”
Of course, no psychic night would be complete without an attempt to dredge up the death of a younger person due to suicide, drugs or alcohol. Fortunately there were no members of the paying public who who raised their hands to accept these, however one of Dominic’s event staff grudgingly took the reading. Awkward.
In summary, it was an enjoyable enough evening, but for all the wrong reasons. Dominic knows how to work the crowd well. He’s relatable, humorous, and likeable. Debbie seemed a little nervous and somewhat unequipped for how to deal with misses (of which there were many). Unfortunately, neither of the performers seemed to be particularly accurate. If they are indeed able to talk to the dead, they don’t appear to be very good at it. The misses significantly outnumbered the hits, yet the audience members who took the readings seemed happy enough with what they got.
Of course, if either Dominic or Debbie are unhappy with this assessment, we’d be more than happy to work with them to design and conduct a controlled test of their alleged powers.
* It was somewhat difficult to find extensive lists of most popular names in Scotland from before the 80s. It should however be reasonably indicative of popular names of people born in the 20th century. All of the names used by the two performers were memorable and relatively common (particularly for the older generation).