Why I don’t think Sally Morgan hears voices
Noted charlatan Sally Morgan recently performed a show for vulnerable and gullible people in Dublin’s Grand Canal Theatre. Depressingly, there is no shortage of demand for her fraudulent pablum and the event was sold out. It would have passed largely unnoticed outside its target demographic were it not for a caller to a radio show also beloved of provincial housewives, RTÉ Radio 1‘s Liveline. Listen here .
Sue, who was sitting at the back of the stadium near the open window of a “projection room”, claimed she heard a man’s voice saying things which were then repeated by Sally. Her take was that Morgan had plants in the foyer listening to audience members share their stories, and then relaying them to her.
Another caller, sitting a few rows in front, confirmed her story.
Now this could well be the case. Many others who make a living pretending to be psychic have used this method. But I don’t think this particular fraud makes her fortune in quite that manner. Or at least not this time. Here’s why:
- The location is problematic. I can’t see any reason why the assistant would be at the back of the theatre on the fourth floor, as far away from the stage as he could be. It would make far more sense for him to be backstage, where the wireless link would undoubtedly work better and where there would be far less risk of detection.
- The information allegedly relayed was not particularly detailed or specific. A man named David, who had a bad back, and died suddenly. If I were a con artist like Sally Morgan, I’d be furious if that was the best my assistants could come up with. Any two-bit carnival cold-reader could come up with that on the spot.
- The information didn’t find a mark. Despite being about as broad as a statement can be, and with 2,000 people eager to swallow her lies, Morgan failed to find a match. This suggests that she was simply using the same easy methods beloved of shysters for centuries and “shotgunning” the audience with something that’s bound to apply to someone. If the staff had picked up some information from the audience, wouldn’t it have matched one of them?
- The management of the Grand Canal Theatre issued a statement identifying the two men who were speaking as lighting technicians in their employ, and naming them. Either this is true or they are going out of their way to embroil themselves in a potential scandal for no apparent reason.
So what do I think happened? How do I explain what “Sue” and “Dorrie” heard? Well, it’s notable that Dorrie initially thought she was hearing a heckler who was quickly silenced. She then only provided information that Sue had already given, and in fact, her recollection contradicted Sue on the point of the man’s accent (easily reconciled if there were two men speaking).
As for Sue, I think she was simply mistaken. She heard a voice (or voices), somewhat indistinctly and interpreted it after the fact to have been the same as what Morgan said moments later. Perhaps some long-dormant skeptical part of her brain was triggered and she recalled hearing about how other confidence tricksters would plant people in audiences, and then deduced that this was what must be happening. The people around her who seemed annoyed may have been annoyed merely at the distraction of people talking during the show.
Now I could be wrong. As well as cold reading, it’s certainly possible that Morgan uses other methods to trick grieving people into parting with their money. She may do research on recent murders in the area, knowing that some heartbroken relative will almost certainly turn up seeking solace. She may use information from ticket sales to do research on individual audience members or, as was alleged, plant eavesdroppers among the audience. But if she does, she’s doing it the hard way. Sally Morgan strikes me as a flamboyant phoney with a mediocre skill for cold-reading. Unfortunately, in the world of the “paranormal” that’s all it takes to become a star.