Yesterday afternoon I almost phoned a talk radio station to hurl insults at someone. As I got into my car to head home after a long day, I heard an interview of a woman named Jenny Shone who claims to be a pet psychic. That is, she alleges that she can communicate telepathically with animals.
Normally, the Jenny Crwys-Williams show (weekdays from 1pm to 4pm on 702 – a Johannesburg radio station) is dominated by Jenny’s rational, intelligent, personality but yesterday she was not hosting the show, and the task fell to Leigh Bennie. Leigh injected her own dose of credulous brainlessness by lapping up every word that spilled from the pet psychic’s mouth.
Jenny Shone was taking calls from the general public and dispensing animal handling advice based on the stories she was being told. I’m only going to give a few examples here, I’m sure you’ll get the idea.
The first caller who I heard mentioned that he had owned a cat (that is now deceased) and, when it was alive, the animal wouldn’t really come to him unless it was feeling ill. Apparently when Felix (not his real name) was feeling sick he would prefer the caller’s lap over that of the man’s wife.
Shone spewed the usual mumbo-jumbo about being a connected person and how the cat was picking up on the caller’s energy and blah, blah, bolloks. But then she dropped a bombshell and said that perhaps the cat was coming to him because he had some kind of underlying health problem and he should see if the cat favoured him the next time he was ill.
But he’d already told her that the cat was dead! Great psychic ability there Jenny. Can you tell me why my pet rock has been feeling a bit unhappy lately?
The second call I’d like to tell you about was from a woman whose dogs had been poisoned, a terrible thing. One had died and the other had survived but was grumpy and had a bit of a bad temper since the incident.
Jenny said that the dog was obviously pining after it’s dead companion and recommended that the caller get a REIKI healer to look at the animal, to cleanse the toxins from it’s body. And she gave the caller a mantra to say for a minimum of ten days while stroking the dog’s back soothingly.
Finally, a caller told Jenny that her pet cat had gone missing and asked what the chances were that Jenny could use her psychic abilities to help find the lost pet. Shone and Leigh Bennie had mentioned, on numerous occasions during the interview, that finding lost pets was a speciality of Shones, and she didn’t disappoint (me). She said that they could always make telepathic contact with an animal but couldn’t always find it. She assured the caller that they would come to her home and do a reading and give her landmarks of where to look for the missing feline.
You may tell me that I am being uncharitable here, that my tone suggests I have pre-judged Jenny Shone without first experiencing her abilities for myself and that I should not be so closed-minded. I would tell you to put your brain back in your head.
The majority of Jenny Shone’s advice was reasonably sound and would not fall far outside of the kinds of things I would tell someone who, for example, had been adopted by a stray cat (“He’s hanging around because you are feeding him.”), but Shone dresses this sound advice up in the trappings of mysticism and then heaps on mountains of new age mumbo jumbo.
First of all, if Jenny could communicate telepathically with animals we could test her claimed abilities and she could win a million dollars and, possibly, the Nobel Prize. You see, any blinded and successfully repeatable demonstration of psychic ability would be an amazing breakthrough that would revolutionise science and blow more than a few minds right out of their heads. The James Randi Educational Foundation has $1 million to give to someone who can prove these kinds of abilities under mutually agreed, scientifically sound testing. It hasn’t happened yet, although many people have tried. But that doesn’t mean that it will never happen and the challenge stands.
My second issue with Shone is the fact that she is dispensing medical advice to people and animals based on her alleged psychic abilities. This is unethical and dangerous. Jenny is neither a doctor nor a vet and she should keep her mouth shut in this regard. Jenny’s website points out that the “healing therapies” they use most often are reiki, crystal healing and pendulum work.
News flash Jenny, these aren’t healing therapies, they are made-up bullshit popularised by people who don’t know the difference between a placebo and a panado and would happily try treating cancer with homeopathy.
Ok, I’m generalising here and I shouldn’t.
Reiki is a form of psychic energy healing used by people who think that illness is caused by a disruption in the bodies essential life force. It works (as well as any placebo) by convincing you that it has a medicinal effect when it does not. There are not enough reliable studies for a healing effect to be claimed for reiki.
Crystal healing rode in on a greased pig and should ride out the same way. It is based on bullshit, superstition and wishful thinking. There is no scientific evidence that crystals have any healing properties, they are rocks for crying out loud.
Pendulum work… File this under ‘greased pig’ for the same reason as the crystals. No evidence. No mechanism. No basis in reality.
Finally, being able to give people landmarks after visiting their houses hardly counts as making a psychic connection. A lost pet is unlikely to wander dozens of miles from home, so local landmarks are surely a good, high-probability hit (as we like to call these things in the skeptical trade). And when you get it wrong… oh well, you did build in that little caveat about not always finding strays.
Jenny Shone is making a living off of people’s gullibility by feeding them lies about her ability to treat or find their animals telepathically. She is misleading people. Probably because nobody will pay for reasonable advice dispensed by some random person unless they wrap streamers of bullshit around it and slap its ass.
Want to prove me wrong Jenny? Let the Gauteng Skeptics test your claimed psychic abilities.
If you feel like subjecting yourself to cruel and unusual punishment, you can download a podcast of this interview from 702s online archive.