Episode One of Be Reasonable is now online, and you should check it out by heading over to the Merseyside Skeptics website. In this episode Marsh and I talk to the medical dowser Anita Ikonen. The show is in the process of being added to iTunes, so I’ll post a link when it’s possible.

It has been great to read all of the positive feedback on Facebook, the MSS website, Twitter and more. I’m really glad people are enjoying the podcast. I was quite amused to see somebody comment on the MSS website that they wouldn’t listen to the show because they disliked me and, oddly enough, the way I speak. They said

Sorry guys, a podcast too far for me, it just seems to me to be taking the interview portion of the old RI podcast, which I always thought an excellent idea. I loved and miss that show, but the good thing about it ending was no more of that atrocious, self-obsessed woman with that awful, awful speech defect, every “um”, “er” and “erm” peeved me greatly. I won’t be listening.

I do have a very slight stutter that manifests when I’m flustered. Very occasionally I stumble over my words so will pause and mutter the odd ‘um’ while I reflect on what I’m saying. Despite this I continue to podcast, interview people, and speak publicly (at both skeptic events, paranormal events and more) to large audiences of people about scepticism and the importance of evidence based research into paranormal claims. I don’t let it get the better of me and I make the best I can out of what could be a negative problem. I can’t imagine letting something as unimportant as the odd ‘um’ trigger unnecessary negativity.

That’s just me though – and if the occasional ‘um’ or ‘er’ really offends you, well… that’s just you.

My favourite non-psychic psychics & mind readers

thumb mad

This was originally written for the Project Barnum website. I’m not talking about psychics and mind readers who aren’t gifted like they claim, but those who pretend in the name of entertainment and education and do a better job than those claiming super powers. I think there’s a lot to be gained from engaging with people in fun, entertaining manner, and I think more is probably taken away from performances by magicians and illusionists than from heavy lectures.


Ashley Pryce

I got to know Ash through various skeptical communities that we’re involved with, and I got to hang out with Ash and others over Halloween 2011 in Edinburgh. We investigated a frickin’ haunted castle! Anyway, Ash does a series of talks and shows named ‘How to be a Psychic Conman’, ‘How to predict the future’, and ‘How to talk to the dead’. I’ve seen ‘How to be a Psychic Conman’ for the Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub group and it was a superb, energetic, hilarious and hands on way of teaching people the tricks that psychic tricksters use time and time again. Everyone comes away having learnt something new. Naturally, it was Ash that I went to when I had the idea for Project Barnum (in fact, it was Ash that came up with the name!) Ashley Pryce is a great example of grassroots skepticism in action. Check out his website, and if you can, do see him perform. He does this thing with psychic surgery that makes everyone scream…

Doug Segal

Doug Segal

Doug is an award winning mind reader. The twist is that he tells you how he does it, and still leaves you speechless. I first “met” Doug when a mutual friend suggested he might be interested in helping Project Barnum educate the public about Psychic Trickery. He was mega supportive and helped us to produce a video teaching people about Barnum statements. In 2012 I had intended to see Doug perform during the run of his show ‘How to Read Minds & Influence People’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival but my plans fell through at the last minute. I watched happily though as he won awards, brilliant reviews, and as his shows sold out night after night. Doug even predicted the results of the 2012 London Olympics live on BBC Scotland, and comedian Al Murray threatened to burn him at the stake! He once performed live on television to an audience of 9.5 million people on a New Years Eve broadcast on BBC one. 9.5 million people! Visit Doug’s website and learn more about his stage shows and corporate entertainment, and if you get the chance, see him live. He knows what you’re thinking.


Ian D Montfort

I used to work in a tiny theatre in the Trowbridge, the county town of Wiltshire. During my time at the venue one of the performers was Tom Binns who performs as the character Ian D Montfort – a psychic. “He’s pretends to be psychic, but actually pretends“, as my boss eloquently put it. At the time I sort of knew how to cold read people, and impressed a few customers with my mad mind skills. I then came clean and taught them a bit about trickery and they bought tickets for the show, which was an added bonus. Ever since then I’ve heard Ian D Montfort mentioned again and again and again. With a whole bunch of five star reviews and a psychic act so blatantly false that it echoes certain stage psychics, Ian D Montfort is a psychic you’d be daft to not see. Check out Ian D Montfort’s website here.

Coming Soon – Be Reasonable!

be reasonable slide

Next week sees the launch of a new monthly podcast from the Merseyside Skeptics Society, featuring Hayley Stevens (me!) and Michael Marshall: Be Reasonable.

Each month, we’ll be speaking to people who believe in ideas and theories that run contrary to the mainstream scientific and skeptical worldview, in order to examine how such beliefs are constructed and what evidence people feel supports their case.

Be Reasonable is about approaching subjects with respect and an open mind, engaging with people of differing viewpoints in an environment where debate is polite and good-natured, yet robust and intellectually rigorous.

Episode One features an interview with Anita Ikonen – a Swedish national who describes herself as a medical intuitive. Anita believes she can detect medical information about a person by simply looking at them. She runs a website called Vision From Feeling which documents her abilities, and her attempts to test them.

You can find Be Reasonable at the Merseyside Skeptics website, on iTunes, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and you can get in touch with the show by contacting

We look forward to exploring the other side of skeptical issues with the people who strongly believe them, and we hope you’ll join us.

Community. You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means…


I used to think there was a skeptic community. Then when I saw people being assholes to other people, saying stupid stuff, or focusing on things I didn’t think were important I decided that I didn’t belong to ‘the community’. I was naive.

Then I came to the conclusion that the community that I had thought existed – the all-encompassing community that contained everyone who called themselves a skeptic, didn’t exist and so I proclaimed that there was no such thing as a community. It seemed to me that the idea of The Skeptic Community was inconceivable given the variance of people and ideas involved. Again, I was naive.

There is such a thing as a community within skepticism, but I don’t believe that there is just one community that we all automatically belong to. Okay, I guess technically there is a wider global community of those who identify as skeptics, but that’s a loosely defined community that I personally don’t feel overly connected with. The only connection people within that community have is that they apply the term ‘skeptic’ to themselves. Nothing more.

I feel more connected with smaller skeptical communities – communities of people who research and investigate the paranormal, for example. I feel connected with some British skeptical communities, I feel as though I am a part of a community of people who attend QEDcon every year and meet up to talk, think, and laugh. I feel connected to a community of skeptics who nobody has really heard of who, despite this, are asked to speak at big events, I feel connected to a community of skeptical paranormal bloggers and podcasters, I feel connected to those who write for certain publications, those who are evidence based feminists, or a community of skeptics that I am mutual friends with that I speak to online.

Yet those communities are not clearly constructed – you wouldn’t find a list of rules, or a list of members, or a guideline on how to become a member of said communities. They shift, they’re things you self identify with, but they’re not necessarily representative of you – just as you’re not representative of those who also identify as belonging. What an individual takes from or invests in identifying with those communities probably changes from person to person. As do ideas on ‘what works best’ and ‘what is right’. So when I see people on Twitter, Facebook, and on blogs talking about how certain negativity has brought down ‘The Skeptic Community’ I remember how easy it is to think that everything is connected by a concrete bond, and how actually, it really isn’t like that.

This is a point that was hammered home for me late last year. I used to be very involved with the online fighting involving groups such as FreeThoughtBlogs, Skepchicks, and what are often coined (in some cases unfairly) as trolls and misogynists within ‘The Skeptic Community’. I used to think ‘this really makes us all look stupid and intolerant‘. I used to write in support of those involved that I agreed with, because I felt that as a member of ‘The Skeptic Community’ being spoken of, I had a role to play in defending good ideas. Then one day, by simply retweeting as ‘worth a read’ an article that was critical of a member of the Skepchick blog, I got unfriended on Facebook and unfollowed on Twitter by all of the Skepchicks I had been previously connected with and supportive of. I wasn’t told why, and I guess it was because the article was by someone that was accused of having been unfairly critical of that Skepchick in the past. However, I didn’t know that, and I guess by not knowing that and retweeting the critical article I had broken some unknown rule that was expected of me. However, I still identify as part of skeptical communities, even if others would shun me from their communities because I have opinions or ideas they don’t agree with.

The point I’m trying to make with this example is that just because some people within a community you identify with act in a way you don’t agree with, doesn’t mean the community as a whole is corrupt, broken, to deteriorating. There are certain things said and done that are wrong, but don’t be mistaken in thinking they represent you, don’t be mistaken in thinking you don’t belong simply because others would have you think you’re not welcome, and don’t be mistaken in thinking that differences of opinion aren’t compatible within the same community.


Community (plural Communities)

1[noun] a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common
2[mass noun] the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common