After two false starts (bumped twice due to unforeseen circumstances), Larry King finally had his “Psychic Kids” episode Thursday (Transcript). There were hardly any calls, and so little chance to play Bingo (although there was one chance and it was pretty funny – I’ll get to that at the end). But no evidence of any psychic powers either.
The episode was apparently inspired by the A&E TV show “Psychic Kids” – a show I have avoided watching. With good reason, it turns out. Three children were featured, each one claiming to see dead people, “spirits” or “shadows”, or have dreams where they experience these things.
The first child started experiencing these visions just after she:
“…had just moved into a new house”
The second child’s mother described how her child:
…wasn't able to sleep through the night. She'd wake up about three or four times a night. She said that she heard footsteps following her to bed and she would see things.
And when my mother died, it seemed to increase.
The third child described when her experiences started:
I was six or seven and my parents got divorced and I moved. And a lot of things went on. And then all of a sudden I was starting to see shadows.
Now, I’m not an expert on child psychology or anything, but it seems to me these are just normal reactions from an imaginative and perhaps overly emotional child. Note that the “psychic” experiences all start or get much more vivid immediately after an emotionally stressful event such as their parents’ divorce or the death of a grandmother. Probably not that unusual. The problem is that the adults, instead of dealing with what is really going on, are determined to encourage these children in their fantasies by telling them they are actually seeing the spirits of dead people. Or as Michael Shermer was shown saying in a short video clip (the only sensible piece of the entire program):
These children are just extremely imaginative kids who are just having the normal fantasies and stories in their heads that so many of us had when we were kids. I think the show, the series has more to do with what adults want to make out of these stories than what the kids are making out of them. Having psychics proclaim the kids to be psychics is meaningless, because the psychics themselves have never been proven to be psychic.
True, true and true again.
They brought on one Dr. Lisa Miller, “psychotherapist, professor of psychology at Columbia University Teacher's College”, and co-host of the A&E show. Dr. Miller made a big deal of stressing that these children are not “psychotic”. But it seems to me she was proposing a false dilemma: either the kids are psychotic or they’re psychic. But surely there’s another possibility – they’re just highly imaginative and perhaps over emotional due to stress in their lives? Whether it really is good for these children to encourage them in their fantasies, rather than getting them to deal with their actual problems, is something I’m not qualified to judge. But it’s clear what’s driving Dr. Miller’s actions. A believer in psychics, she sees her role as encouraging and reinforcing the children’s fantasies. Or as she put it:
…I think it's our job to listen to [the children] and support them in really integrating their experience into their on going growth and development.
Listen to them and support them, yes. Tell them their fantasies are real – I don’t think so. Remember, the adults are telling these kids they’re psychic! Not only that - they’re putting them on TV! What kid wouldn’t respond by playing along? I was reminded of the story of little James Leininger, whose nightmares about being in a crashed World War II fighter plane started just after his parents took him to a World War II air museum. In that case, the adults around him decided his dreams meant he was a reincarnated WWII pilot. And in this case too, a woo therapist was brought in to validate the little boy’s experiences and encourage him to fantasize more. With similar results to what this A&E program shows.
I don’t know if any harm is being done to these kids by encouraging them to believe they really are seeing dead people, although I find it hard to believe it’s the best approach. But I am sure we saw no evidence these kids actually have any psychic ability.
And that brings us to the Bingo. Click the John Edward / James van Praagh Bingo link to see the explanation of the Bingo game. There were only three calls, at the end of the show. The first two calls were just vague questions eliciting vague answers. The third call and Edward’s answer was short, but it made me laugh:
CALLER: I had a second trimester miscarriage recently and it's my second miscarriage. And I was just wondering what the future might hold for me in terms of fertility and bearing a child.
EDWARD: I don't know if you've had three pregnancies already or if you already have three children, but they're showing me the number three
BINGO! – “Any number from 1 to 12”
…which to me would indicate there has either be three pregnancies, there will be a third, or there will be three children,
Or three anything. Something happened in the third month (March), or the third of a month. There’s got to be a “three” connection somewhere you will validate as a hit.
but that's what is being shown.
CALLER: I have two living children and I then had the miscarriage, and then just the recent second trimester.
Note TWO children and TWO miscarriages – ie it was a MISS. But she’ll take it as a hit because she wants a third child.
KING: Do you think she'll have a third child?
EDWARD: I think there will be a third. I know this might sound strange, but I see you getting a dog or I see a pet
BINGO! – “Dog or Cat”
It's almost making me feel like there's an opportunity for a new addition to your family with fur.
CALLER: I have one that's like a child.
EDWARD: I feel like there's something new that comes up around that as well. You have a lot of people actually draining on your energy. That's the feeling I have. You're giving out a lot of your time.
She has two kids and a dog, and has had two miscarriages. Yeah, I’ll bet this woman feels like she’s giving out a lot of her time. Thanks for the insight.
In less than about 30 seconds, Edward makes three guesses and a full TWO OUT OF THREE were hits on the Bingo card. Hilarious. Larry – PLEEEEAAASSSSEEEE have Edward on for a full hour. Please. Pretty please.