An Australian man is on trial for allegedly killing his parents for their inheritance; he did so after a psychic told him that he was owed "an abundance of riches."
David Weightman, the adopted son of Sydney residents Pam and Bill Weightman, is accused along with an accomplice of strangling the couple and trying to disguise their deaths as a car accident in 2000. The ruse fooled police for several years until one of the men confessed.
In testimony against his alleged co-conspirator, Weightman said that a psychic inspired him to murder his parents. Weightman acknowledged that "greed kicked in" after visiting the psychic and that he spent "all day long" following the psychic's instructions in the expectation that "abundance would come to me freely." He also practiced rituals, prayers and mental affirmations — such as envisioning a heart along with a dollar bill — that the psychic claimed would bring him wealth and luck with women.
The abundance of riches the psychic promised was due didn't come immediately, so Weightman allegedly took matters into his own hands and killed his parents.
The psychic whose fortunetelling words encouraged the murder has not been named and will not be prosecuted. Presumably, the psychic did not predict that his or her words would lead to the death of two people, but the case raises issues of how seriously to take psychic advice. Many fortunetellers try to skirt responsibility by advertising their services "for entertainment only," though most people who visit psychics really do take the information seriously (as you might expect they would when paying around $60 per hour for "entertainment"). Those who seriously consult psychics are often troubled people looking for answers and guidance. [Where Do Murderous Tendencies Come From?]
But, most people are not mentally or emotionally unstable, and yet some of them are still influenced by information from psychics — after all, what's the point in going to a fortuneteller if you're going to ignore what they tell you? Thousand of people are scammed by psychics every year, falsely told, for example, that they are cursed, and that $10,000 in "faith money" can help end a bad luck streak.
Other psychics waste police time and resources offering well-meaning but vague and worthless information about missing persons. Psychic powers have never been proven to exist, and in fact a recent study cast doubt on a much-hailed 2011 study by a Cornell professor that seemed to offer evidence for psychic abilities. Whether people consult psychics for entertainment or education, belief in magic and ESP can have real consequences.
Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and author of "Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries." His website is www.BenjaminRadford.com.