Cold reading is a technique as old as civilization. From looking at a person and the details about them, you can guess things about their past and present.
If someone is from Montana, for instance, you can guess they've ridden on a horse. You can even guess someone they knew fell off of a horse.
If someone is from the South, you can assume someone in their family has diabetes (no offense, but sweet tea).
Almost everyone has a woman close in their life who has suffered a miscarriage, because everyone knows several women and a large percentage of women have had a miscarriage. So for almost anyone, you can guess they or someone close has suffered a miscarriage.
Now, you the psychic can't just blurt out "Your friend fell off of a horse," or "your wife had a miscarriage", because maybe that's wrong and you'll look foolish.
So instead you lead the client into it: "I'm seeing someone... someone on a horse... there is a bad accident..."
You didn't make a prediction, you didn't state who, you didn't even necessarily connect the horse to the accident. Your hope is the client will say "Oh, that was my best friend Tammy, she fell off of a horse in 9th grade."
Or you begin: "I'm seeing a child... a baby. Very tiny, maybe not even born. The poor child is suffering..."
You didn't make a prediction, you didn't state who the baby is or whose baby it is, you didn't even state the baby died. Your hope is the client will say "Oh, that must be my child. I had a miscarriage 5 years ago." Or "my wife/sister/mother/etc. had a miscarriage."
You the psychic don't actually know anything. Cold reading is going off of general information (like a tragically high number of women have miscarriages) or small details (like this person is from Montana) to make vague predictions to lead the client into filling in all specific details.
The remarkable thing is that even though the client gives you all of the information, when they recall the event, they will think you knew this information.
You knew that her friend Tammy fell off of a horse in 9th grade.
You knew her mother had a miscarriage 5 years ago.
But how could you have possibly known that? The client will think you had access to information you should't have had.
That's how mediums and palmisters and astrologers and tarot card readers and others all work. It's how all of them work. They cold read you. If you keep going back then they actually hot read you (where they research facts about you to present as though they were learned supernaturally).
It is at this point that many Christians will interject: that not all mediums and psychics work this way. At least some mediums and psychics have real powers that they get from consorting with demonic spirits. To argue this case, they will bring up the story of Saul and the witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28, who conjured up the spirit of Samuel. That, they say, is an example of a real medium who really had power over the spirits of the dead.
Now, it's the Bible, the Old Testament even, and so it's really old. Thousands of years old, old. The story took place in the bronze age, around 1000 BC. People then were not as skeptical as people today. So maybe you'd just scoff at the idea of using any book that old as a proof of ghosts existing. Fair enough.
The point I want to make is that even taking the story literally and at face value, it actually shows the opposite. The story actually shows that the witch of Endor was a charlatan who was pretending her entire career and never expected the ghost of Samuel to appear.
Let's set the backdrop of the story. Israel used to be ruled by judges and priests, but they have just appointed their first king, Saul. The prophet Samuel appointed him, lending the authority of his office to the new office of king. Saul was not a very good king. By the time this story occurs Saul has been rejected by God. Saul is in a battle for his throne, and he wants to turn to Samuel for advice -- but Samuel is dead. As king, Saul had banished all mediums and other necromancers out of Israel, threatening them with death. But his throne on the line, now he decides to consort with one in hopes of speaking to Samuel. He asks his men:
“Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.”They reply:
“Behold, there is a medium at Endor.”The witch in Endor was known even to the men of the king. She was famous then. She is still famous today, thousands of years later. People are still talking about her powers as a medium. She is not just as a medium; she is the medium.
Saul disguises himself and sneaks to her at night. He's disguising himself so other people won't see who he is -- he's the king who banned mediums, going to see a medium. Here in the year 2020, I think we can relate to politicians banning things then getting caught doing that same thing. He goes in, and he asks for her to consult a spirit for him. A specific spirit that he is going to name:
“Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you.”She replies:
“Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?”Now, when I read this, it sounds to me like the witch knows this is Saul and she is trying to get a promise of immunity without revealing anything. I think this because Saul immediately promises she won't be punished and she believes him:
Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”
Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”She believed his promise she wouldn't be punished, so she must have believed he had the ability to withhold punishment. She either knew he was Saul, or at least one of Saul's nobles, or some other person trying to entrap her and promising not to. So she believed him. She offers to conjure up a spirit for him.
Notice her confidence. "Whom shall I bring up for you?" Anyone he wants, just say the name. She's very sure she can do this. Saul is going to say the name of someone, she's going to say some words, and the ghost of that person is going to show up and give her some advice for Saul.
Saul asks her to bring up Samuel.
The very next line says that Samuel appeared. But let's pause and review.
We have the most famous medium of all time offering to bring up the ghost of anyone Saul wants. Saul wants the ghost of Samuel, so she's going to conjure the ghost of Samuel, the former prophet who anointed Saul. This medium apparently believes she can do it, and she's setting out to do it. The next thing we should expect to happen is for Samuel to appear. And yet the next line reads:
When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice.She was going to summon Samuel. Samuel came. So why does she cry out?
The entire exchange (1 Sam 28:11-14):
Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?"
He said, “Bring up Samuel for me.”
When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.”
The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?”
And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.”
He said to her, “What is his appearance?”
And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage.This doesn't seem like someone who expected a ghost to appear. This is someone who has been pretending her entire life to have the ability to speak to the dead, now seeing the dead. The witch does not know who this spirit is. To her it's just the spirit of an old man, and she is terrified.
The rest of the story, the spirit of Samuel approaches Saul and speaks directly to him, condemning him for turning to asking spirits of the dead instead of God, and announcing that God has forsaken Saul, Israel will be defeated by the Philistines, and the crown will pass to David.
Taking this story as a factual description of the history of Israel's first king, and as a factual description of the spirit of the deceased prophet Samuel appearing to Saul, the witch at Endor is still a charlatan. She couldn't actually summon a spirit, and she wasn't expecting to summon a spirit. She was planning on faking with Saul as she had every other time in the past. To her great surprise, this time a spirit actually appeared.
Samuel appeared, not because the witch summoned him, but to issue a rebuke to Saul as punishment for his turning from God. The ghost of the prophet is sent by God, for God's purpose of ending Saul's reign. After this, the morally defeated Saul goes on to be mortally defeated in battle against the Philistines, and his body afterwards desecrated.
All this to say, it is possible to believe the story of the witch of Endor happened as described in the Bible, and also believe that mediums, psychics and the rest are all charlatans who use cold reading methods to trick clients into revealing information. That's what the witch of Endor was planning to do. This story doesn't teach that the witch of Endor could conjure spirits. It teaches that she got sent Samuel anyway.
If not even the witch of Endor was a real medium capable of actually conversing with the dead, how much less are any of the modern pretenders today. They don't consult with spirits, neither demonic or otherwise. They cold read. If you know what to look for, you can actually see them do it. Look up one of these medium shows, and pay close attention to the statements they make, vs. the statements the audience makes. You'll immediately see it, and you'll never be able to take it seriously again. A great example for contrast is a guy called Tyler Henry the Hollywood Medium. What makes him such a great example is he does both hot and cold reading. You can find videos of him hot reading celebrities, and contrast with him cold reading audience members. Is it that the ancestors of celebrities can speak more clearly, or is it that he's using two different techniques? Now that you know what to see, you'll see it.