“An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.”
— Marcello Truzzi, “On the Extraordinary: An Attempt at Clarification”, Zetetic Scholar, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 11, 1978
Originally devised by American ad-man Martin K. Speckter in 1962, the interrobang (or “ibang”) glyph represents both surprise and questioning. In combination, that seems like the ideal response to claims of hauntings, magic powers and other supernaturalisms, and so we here at The Ghost Racket have proudly adopted the neglected interrobang as our symbol and mascot.
The inestimable Orson Welles offers lucid insight into the skill of cold reading and the danger of “becoming a shut-eye” in this 1970 television interview conducted by David Frost. Here follows an excerpt from a 1967 Playboy Magazine feature, with Welles touching on the same themes:
Interviewer Kenneth Tynan: Another prevalent rumor is that you have the power of clairvoyance. Is that true?
Orson Welles: Well, if it exists, I sure as hell have it; if it doesn’t exist, I have the thing that’s mistaken for it.
I’ve told people their futures in a terrifying way sometimes – and please understand that I hate fortunetelling. It’s meddlesome, dangerous and a mockery of free will – the most important doctrine man has invented. But I was a fortuneteller once in Kansas City, when I was playing a week’s stand there in the theater.
As a part-time magician, I’d met a lot of semi-magician racketeers and learned the tricks of the professional seers. I took an apartment in a cheap district and put up a sign – $2 READINGS – and every day I went there, put on a turban and told fortunes. At first I used what are called ‘cold readings’; that’s a technical term for things you say to people that are bound to impress them and put them off their guard so that they start telling you things about themselves. A typical cold reading is to say that you have a scar on your knee. Everybody has a scar on their knee, because everybody fell down as a child. Another one is to say that a big change took place in your attitude toward life between the ages of 12 and 14.
But in the last two or three days, I stopped doing the tricks and just talked. A woman came in wearing a bright dress. As soon as she sat down, I said, ‘You’ve just lost your husband’; and she burst into tears. I believe that I saw and deduced things that my conscious mind did not record. But consciously, I just said the first thing that came into my head, and it was true. So I was well on the way to contracting the fortune-teller’s occupational disease, which is to start believing in yourself; to become what they call a ‘shut-eye.’ And that’s dangerous.