Gullible is as gullible does

Poker room in the Bird Cage Theatre. Photo by Brandon Bracamonte
Poker room in the Bird Cage Theatre. Photo by Brandon Bracamonte/Arizona Sonora News

Earlier this summer a scam artist tempted tourists to visit historic Tombstone with promises of an unforgettable experience. The tourists paid, and the experience was unfrogettable.

There was no tour. There was no lodging. What was promised was never delivered.

These types of scams happen as the passion for finding evidence of ghosts, talking with psychics and spending money, open the opportunity to get scammed.

The current investigation in Tombstone is attempting to uncover the defrauding of numerous people around the United States and Canada, says Deputy Ivan Bernal of the Tombstone Marshal’s Office.

When companies host paranormal investigation events or provide guidance using a psychic connection, does the consumer knowingly attend out of curiosity or entertainment? This question can only be decided by the person purchasing a chance to see paranormal activity or hear from a dead relative through a medium.

People interpret information through past knowledge and past experiences. When these types of people go to on a paranormal activity investigation or visit a psychic they have their own perceptions.

Consumers must know the differences between the beliefs and facts of these types of businesses.

Most businesses that are successful have high moral and ethical values. When unethical people try to take advantage of others it ruins the trust that consumers might have with the business and causes future business to decline.

As television reality shows such as Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters are becoming more popular, The Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone began offering ghost tours and allowing private groups to go on paranormal investigations. This was one of stops the scam artist promised the tourists they would see.

People that visit the Bird Cage Theater looking for paranormal activity come for their own passion and entertainment.

“The sounds of cards shuffling, chips clicking, things you cannot explain,” have all happened inside the Bird Cage Theater, says manager Bill Hunley. He believes there is a paranormal presence at the Bird Cage Theater. He has had the smoke from a cigar, cigarette and pipe tobacco blown into his face.

Hunley said because of Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters the demand for the theater’s paranormal investigation is now in high demand. The rate is $400 for a four-hour tour for up to six people to be inside the theater with a host.

Mitchell Katz from the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Public Affairs said as long as companies don’t guarantee that something will for sure happen, they aren’t deceiving the public. It is the purchaser’s own prerogative if they want to spend money on these types of skeptical events.

Hunley tells people that the spirits are not on his payroll. Sometimes the paranormal activity can be more active some nights than others. He says that when people come, they know it’s a 50-50 chance that they will see anything. He recommends coming more than once to increase your chance of seeing paranormal activity.

“It’s like playing the lottery,” says Hunley “the more you come the better your odds.”

Other people might be interested in the abilities of psychics and mediums in order to learn of their past or future. The first time Raven Tempest, a self-described spiritualist counselor in Tucson, saw a deck of Tarot cards she fell in love.

People schedule appointments with Tempest to find guidance, discuss issues on their mind or to know what their soul wants of them. Tempest lets clients know that she is only a counselor and that she only tells them what she sees.

When the University of Arizona starts a new school year each fall students visit Tempest out of curiosity. Tempest said many of them get more than they expected.

While reading the Tarot Cards, Tempest and the client focus on the individual card. “This person is sitting there with their mind wandering, wondering what’s next,” Tempest said. “Then all of sudden the client is caught, and when that connection happens,” this is called a psychic connection that happen between her and the client. The client and then Tempest speak her mind about their life.

Many times people wonder how she knows such information. She responds because “you just told me. There is no woo woo at all. It is an exchange between two people.”

Tempest claims to see an aura around people letting her know if the client is having a backache, for example. When this happens she says she “sees little tiny lightning bolts going away from the body out toward the edge of the colors.”

This profession isn’t something magical, says Tempest. Taking classes and studying was how she gained the ability to help individuals.

Tempest says she also will deliver messages from dead people if the client wants to hear from a dead relative.

Tempest says that some psychics end up telling people that they will charge one price the first time then keep increasing it each additional time. She says they will proclaim they are the only ones that can resolve the issue in order to keep the client coming back.

Hunley and Tempest both get their majority of clients from people who love doing these types of activities and who seek them as a form of entertainment.

Both Hunley and Tempest let paying customers know that there are no guarantees.

“People always ask about their future and they already know. Nobody bats a thousand,” says Tempest. She gives clients her wisdom at the moment about what they are asking, and the client is made fully aware she might not be 100 percent correct.

Skeptics argue that people should be wary of the money they spend on these activities and to double check the veracity of the deals being offered.

Brandon Bracamonte is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at bmbracamonte@email.arizona.edu

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