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Devotees of rump reading purport to find deeper meaning in the lines, crevices, dimples, warts, and moles of people’s buttocks. Rump reading was big in ancient Babylon, where seekers of rectal wisdom (one wonders who they were) covered their hindquarters with liquid dyes and sat on a flattened section of papyrus scroll. The result was an inked impression that was used by professional rump readers to divine the seekers’ futures for a fee. The rump print below is part of a collection held by Sylvester Stallone’s mother, a professional psychic who bills herself as “America’s foremost rumpologist.” She tells her clients that their left cheek reveals the past and the right one reveals the future. Until her death in 2020 (which she did not foretell), Jacqueline Stallone read rump photos submitted to her online. 

Why do some people believe in such things?

Psychologists say they want to. No one knows the future, of course, but the ones who are most frightened by it want to believe that people with unexplainable talents can actually see the future. They want to believe it so much that they ignore all the warning signs and avoid taking a closer look at what is really going on. They are being fleeced, the term applied to someone being cheated out of money by the unscrupulous.

The phone rings

You answer and it is someone you were just thinking of! Wow, right? Stop and think for just a moment before rushing to believe you’ve just experienced a psychic event.

  • How many times have you answered your phone and you were not thinking of the person who called? Thousands.
  • How many times have you thought of that person without the phone ringing? Nearly every time.
  • Give it a try right now. Think of someone and see what happens.

What is a prognosticator?

The word comes to us from the Latin “pro” meaning “before” and “gnost” meaning “to know.” So it means “to know ahead of time,” especially one who predicts future events by divining them. The verb divine means “to conjure, to guess.”

Divine as an adjective means proceeding directly from a deity

Today, we use it in a non-religious fashion, meaning rapturous or heavenly, as in a pampering spa experience or a particularly delightful dessert. Divine is also the stage name of the drag queen who rose to prominence by eating a handful of dog excrement in John Waters’ 1972 film, Pink Flamingos.

A divining rod is a forked stick

Here divining means discovering secret knowledge with the aid of supernatural powers. Divining rods are believed by some to be able to indicate the location of water hidden underground by bending downward when held directly above a source. The idea is that the dead branch is seeking the water. Also called a dowsing rod, it is operated much like a ouija board, another object that is supposedly caused to move by unseen forces. In the old days, the best divining rods were said to be made of Y-shaped hazel switches.

Many modern versions are manufactured from slender copper, brass, or silver tubing, looking like old car antennas that have been bent at right angles

These are sold in pairs to rubes who think these devices are endowed with special powers that allow them to detect gold and ghosts as well as they detect water. Come to think of it, they’re right – divining rods work exactly as well detecting gold and ghosts as they do detecting water.

How to be a psychic in four easy lessons

  1. Be vague. Tell your client “You’re concerned with the health of an older female relative.” This is a very safe prediction, because it is deliberately very hazy – and nearly everyone in the world has an older female relative. “Concerned” is a nice touch because it can range from being mildly curious to being actively worried. Given the number of people with an older female relative and the range of emotions that fit the category “concerned,” it’s very likely your sucker is concerned about the health of at least one of them.
  2. Be positive. Tell people what they want to hear. A classic is “You’re far more perceptive than most people realize.” Another favorite is “Most people don’t appreciate how hard you work.” Even if they don’t work hard, people like to think they do, and they’ll make it fit because they want to. 
  3. Throw in an occasional statement having nothing to do with anything. Ask any good salesperson about the technique of getting the buyer to agree with you, “Sure is hot, isn’t it?” and “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” are not predictions, but they ring true, make your listener agree with you, and make them more likely to believe your other statements.
  4. Rely on the sucker to fill in the gaps. People will connect your vague pronouncements with specific things in their lives. Even better, they’ll voice these specific things so you can follow up on them. They will remember you making more specific statements than you actually did because they are putting their words into your mouth.

Here’s how it might go

You say “You’re concerned with the health of an older female relative,” and the patsy says “Oh, yes! My Aunt Zelda has lumbago and it’s been so hard for her to get around since Uncle Clayton died.”

You respond to this by saying sympathetically and knowingly, “Her back has bothered her for a long time, but doctors can’t help her.” This sounds really insightful but is ridiculously easy: if the doctors had been able to help, she wouldn’t still have the trouble, would she? Later, talking to friends, your subject will say, “My psychic knew about my Aunt Zelda’s lumbago!”

You did not know about Aunt Zelda or her lumbago, so why would your client say that? 

Experts call it source monitoring. When people collaborate on a story, they usually have problems recalling who contributed what. That’s because when I’m speaking, you’re picturing what I’m saying, and vice versa, making it easy for each of us to forget the source of each statement. When you repeat the words Aunt Zelda and lumbago several times during your “reading,” your undiscerning client remembers you mentioned both by name and thinks you were the one who said the words first.

Remember, your client wants to believe in the supernatural

– that’s how you can take advantage of human psychological shortcomings in reasoning and commonsense data collection to become a successful psychic.

This is a very good time to insert one of my favorite quotes

Bronislaw Malinowski is the anthropologist who pioneered participant observation as an ethnographic method. He explains how easy it is to pass judgment on things from long ago that now appear dumb:

“Looking from far and above, from our high places of safety in our developed civilization, it is easy to see all the crudity and irrelevance of primitive superstition.”

Click here to listen as Bullwinkle J. Moose utters my favorite incantation

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Extra credit

The Skeptic’s Dictionary tells us of Ulf Buck, a blind rump reader who relies on his sense of touch to divine the future.

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