Palm reader arrested for scamming $71,000 to banish demon from victim's daughter

Palm reader Tracey Milanovich, 37, of Somerset, Massachusetts, was arrested for conning $71,000 out of a client in cash and property. According to police, Milanovich "convinced the victim that her daughter was possessed by a demon, and that cash and household items were needed in order to banish the spirit from her daughter."

From CNN:

(Milanovich) is charged with six counts of obtaining property over $250 by trick, attempt to commit a crime, criminal harassment, larceny over $1,200 and intimidating a witness, a spokesman for the Fall River District Court in Somerset, Massachusetts, told CNN...

Through a business called Tracy's Psychic Palm Reader, police said Milanovich convinced a client that she needed to provide cash and purchase household items, including towels and bedding...

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Oops! Gentleman who fakes a fall to collect insurance money is caught on surveillance camera

A sly gentleman working as an independent contractor thought he'd pull a fast one by faking an accident to earn some big insurance bucks. 57-year-old Alexander Goldinsky from New Jersey was at a job when he threw some ice cubes on the kitchen floor and then lay down on top of them, pretending he had slipped. What he didn't think about were the surveillance cameras watching his every stupid move.

According to CNN, Goldinsky "filed a false insurance claim for the ambulance service and treatment he received at a local hospital for his injuries...He was arrested in January over this incident, which occurred between September 1 and November 1 last year." Read the rest

Border Patrol officer flashes badge to avoid getting fined for parking in the disabled spot; gets fined

Hurrah for the Sonoma County Sheriff deputy who took no guff from a Border Patrol officer who headed for a disabled parking spot at a NASCAR race— than flashed his badge when caught. Not everyone gets a ticket: sometimes they're just told to get lost. Sadly for this gentleman, his bully move earned a fine: according to KRON, up to $1075. Read the rest

Classic video: James Randi exposes psychic fraudster

I watched An Honest Liar this weekend on Netflix. It's a Kickstarter funded documentary about James "The Amazing" Randi, the accomplished magician who became famous for exposing charlatans. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Before watching this I didn't appreciate Randi because he seemed crabby, but this documentary cleared up that dumb false impression I had.

The documentary included a bit about the time Randi debunked James Hydrick, a guy who claimed to have the power of telekinesis. This happened on a 1981 episode of That's My Line, hosted by Bob Barker. Here's a longer segment from the show.

According to Wikipedia, "in 1981, Hydrick's psychic powers were conclusively exposed as frauds by investigative journalist and professional magician Dan Korem. Hydrick confessed to Korem that he had developed his trick in prison, and that he had not learned it from a Chinese master as he originally claimed. Hydrick confessed, 'My whole idea behind this in the first place was to see how dumb America was. How dumb the world is.'"

(Icky side note, also from Wikipedia: "In 1989, Hydrick was sentenced to 17 years for molesting five boys in Huntington Beach, California. After serving his sentence, he was remanded to Atascadero State Hospital for treatment under the state's sexually violent predator law. He now resides at the Coalinga State Hospital. Hydrick petitioned for release in May 2013, but a trial resulted in a hung jury.")


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Comic books' real-life supervillain: psychiatrist Fredric Wertham

In the New York Times article about my research on psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, novelist Michael Chabon referred to the doctor as Ahab, obsessed with the white whale of comics. Well, if Wertham was Ahab, call me Ishmael.

(Images: Seduction of the Innocent website)

For anyone studying comics, Wertham is a difficult figure to avoid. A New York City-based forensic psychiatrist and pioneering mental health advocate, Wertham also was a prolific cultural critic, who decried the potential effects on readers and viewers of violent images and racial stereotypes in the mass media. Between 1948 and 1955, this German-born doctor was also among the most vocal opponents of the nascent comics industry. He was certainly not alone: teachers, librarians, parents, police officers, religious leaders, and other adults lent their voices to the anti-comics movement. But Wertham was different from many of the others in that he had a scientific / medical background and could enrich his arguments with examples from case studies of children.

In his book Seduction of the Innocent published to coincide with the 1954 Senate hearings on comics and juvenile delinquency, Wertham's thesis - stripped of all its rhetorical flourishes - was simple: crime comics corrupt children. Although he was against outright censorship, Wertham advocated that the government restrict the ability of younger readers to purchase crime comics. His definition of crime comics extended beyond the lurid and racy titles such as Crimes by Women and Crime SuspenStories to include more pedestrian fare like Superman and Classics Illustrated. Read the rest