If Chip could read my mind lol, what a tale my thoughts would tell

by Paul Dechene

Chip Coffey
Radisson Plaza
Hotel Saskatchewan
Sunday 28

Fans of paranormal reality shows will be familiar with Chip Coffey. He’s a psychic and spirit medium who’s been featured in A&E’s Paranormal State and Psychic Kids. And he’s coming to Regina as part of his latest Coffey Talk tour of North America.

In his show, he’ll tell stories about his life and career and do psychic readings for audience members. But it’s the final segment that will appeal to the local ghost-hunting crowd.

“We try to establish some sort of communication and connection with any spirit energy or entities in the locations where we are,” Coffey told me by phone, adding that the show’s producers chose the Hotel Saskatchewan because there have been reports of ghostly disturbances there.

And Coffey is hoping to lure some of those ghosts out.

When he isn’t traveling the highways and byways of North America, pestering the various denizens of the spirit world, Coffey has television projects he’s bringing to fruition, and he’s done some guest starring roles, such as his recent turn in the Paranormal Activity spoof, Paranormal Movie.

He also continues to do psychic readings, a job he’s able to carry on from home, as he does all that work over the phone.

Over the phone? Really? Like through fiber-optic cables? How does that work?

“I have no idea. But it just does,” he said. “Perhaps it’s just the fact that when my clients have paid money to do a reading with me, their intent is to have a good reading and for it to be successful.”

Well, in that case, my intent was to have a good interview, so I had to ask if he could pick up anything from me — you know, catch any stray energies through the phone lines.

“I wasn’t prepared to do a reading for you, but if you want to set up a reading with me for some time, I’ll gladly see what we can pick up,” he told me.

I tried cajoling him, but to no avail.

Which is too bad,because I was curious to find out if his psychic powers would have revealed that I am a completely duplicitous bastard. Maybe his spirit guides would have warned him that I had an interview already in the can with Mark Edward, a professional mentalist and magician.

Edward is also the author of Psychic Blues, which chronicles his time posing as a psychic, during which he infiltrated the multi-million dollar psychic-adviser industry and learned the tricks of the trade.

He’s very familiar with Chip Coffey, having been ejected from a Coffey Talk show in Los Angeles last year for distributing cheat sheets that explained the techniques of psychics.

According to Edward, like all psychics, Coffey not only lacks supernatural powers, he’s simulating them by using tricks that have been around for decades or even centuries.

The key tool in the psychic’s toolbox is something called “cold reading”, a system of making guesses about a person based on clues like their clothing, body language and the fact that they’ve turned up for a psychic reading. There’s nothing supernatural about it. It’s Sherlock Holmes’ deduction in real life. And ultimately, it turns on the fact that people are only after a few, predictable things.

“Basically, it’s love and money and health and travel. You can count the basic tenets on one hand. You’re just toggling between those different things and course correcting as you go along to ascertain what the person is really there for,” explained Edward.

He did caution that many psychics prepare for their shows nowadays by trawling the Internet for information on their audience — Facebook pages, blogs, Twitter; it’s all fair game. Some psychics will even exploit the credit card information audience members provide when booking tickets.

But he said he saw no evidence of such tech-savvy shenanigans at the Chip Coffey show he attended.

“He’s just lazy. He’s terrible. He’s not even a good mentalist,” said Edward. “He’s not even entertaining. He’s just using basic cold reading — at least when I saw him — and everybody just loves him so much he doesn’t have to do anything.”

But, he said, shows like these are more than just a night’s entertainment. They’re also about gathering a list of potential clients.

“They’re not just like a magic show where the guy comes in, pulls a rabbit out of his hat and goes to the next town. They want to get as many people as they can on their books,” said Edward.

And when I spoke with Chip Coffey, he confirmed that people who attend his Saskatchewan shows can set up private phone sessions with him.

“Absolutely. Anyone who pays money and sits in my audience, as a thank-you for them, if they call to book a reading with me and mention that they have attended one of the events, they get a discount on any sort of reading they set up,” he said.

Which isn’t illegal.

But claiming that you have psychic gifts and that you’re able to communicate with the spirits of the dead to lend credibility to your “readings”, some of which are done for people grieving the loss of loved ones…Well, I’d hesitate to even suggest that that falls into a legal grey area because, according to Edward, Chip Coffey is very litigious.

And maybe my reticence to use a word like “fraud” in the same sentence as Chip Coffey’s name — you can call it cowardice if you like — is a clue as to why so-called psychics and mediums can ply their trade unchecked and unchallenged. And with mainstream media outlets like A&E not only failing to question their claims but actually playing along and acting as ringmaster for a seemingly eternal reality show circus, it’s not surprising that peddlers of the paranormal only seem to become more popular.

No wonder Edward likes to say we’re in “the golden age of the con.”