Psychic James Van Praagh has made a fortune by allegedly speaking to the dead, but apparently he has no time for the undead.
That's what a group of zombies recently discovered when they showed up at one of Van Praagh's $100-a-head "spirit circles" hoping to pick Van Praagh's brain about his so-called psychic powers.
For the record, the zombies were actually members of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), an organization that works to expose paranormal and pseudoscientific frauds.
Still, that doesn't mean they weren't out for blood, as protest signs reading "Talk to us, we won't bite," and "Psychics do not talk to the dead" demonstrated.
According to head zombie D.J. Grothe, who is also the president of the JREF and a Huffington Post blogger, the zombie attack was a fun way to make a point the organization is dead serious about: People who claim to speak to the dead, such as celebrity psychics like Van Praagh, Sylvia Browne and John Edward, are taking advantage of grieving people.
"We're not rabble rousing," Grothe told HuffPost Weird News. "This is a guy who is taking advantage of people's grief. He's not performing for entertainment, he's claiming he's giving messages from dead relatives. He gets people when they are at their lowest and sees them as his target market."
Grothe says the group decided to dress up as the undead because Van Praagh has, so far, dodged questions about whether he'll accept the foundation's million-dollar challenge to prove his claimed psychic medium abilities under scientific conditions.
In the video, Van Praagh's representatives first promise to get someone to talk with the group, but instead have the group kicked out by security.
Despite numerous exposes, such as a recent one on "ABC's Primetime Nightline: Beyond Belief" where Van Praagh performed a reading on "Good Morning America" anchor Josh Elliott in which "every talking point of the reading" seemed to have been lifted from a two-year-old interview with Elliott that was available online, Van Praagh is still able to attract people to his events with the promise that he will help attendees communicate with their dead relatives.
Grothe says what separates Van Praagh, Browne or Edward from a Las Vegas magician is something he calls "ethical deception."
"A magician or psychic entertainer tells you in one way or another that they are going to play a trick on you," he said. "But Van Praagh looks people straight in the eye and says 'I am honestly communicating with your deceased loved ones, getting messages from them.' Reasonable people may say, 'You can't talk to the dead,' but others believe this stuff hook, line and sinker. Thinking that some opportunistic huckster is giving you a message from beyond keeps you from experiencing the natural stages of grief, from dealing with the loss in a healthy way. It is offensive that he seems to be bilking the bereaved."
As might be predicted, Van Praagh has yet to comment publicly on the zombie attack or explain whether he ever intends to take up the $1 million challenge offered by the JREF.
Meanwhile, Grothe says there's nothing to distinguish Van Praagh's performances from common psychological tricks traditionally used by magicians and phony psychics.
"If James Van Praagh is making his living by faking psychic powers and pretending to speak to people's deceased family members, that's truly shameful," said Grothe, a former professional magician. "That's why we put a million dollars on the line and gave him the opportunity to prove he can really talk to dead people.
"It seems that when James Van Praagh is asked to prove his 'psychic' powers, even dead people get the silent treatment."
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