Deathhacker: We Put A Psychic ‘Ghost Whisperer’ To The Test

Suzie Price is an Australian psychic and self-described “ghost whisperer” who purports to be able to communicate with the dead. Last week, we arranged for Suzie to conduct a face-to-face psychic reading with three Lifehacker staff: an ultra-sceptic, a fence-sitter and a true believer. The results were not what we were expecting…

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Suzie Price is one of Australia’s leading “psychic mediums” who has been conducting personal readings for over 15 years. She recently won the International Psychic Association’s “People’s Choice” award for 2014 Psychic of the year and just published her first book.

Suzie claims to have been able to see spirits since the age of seven when she was involved in a serious car accident. She now uses her alleged gift to connect people with their deceased loved ones, at $150 a pop. Here’s the spiel from her website:

The psychic messages that come to Suzie can be startling and astounding. She is such a clear and angelic messenger to the other side, her readings can unexpectedly take many people by surprise. Suzie’s kindness, honesty and accurate readings are earning her a healthy reputation throughout Australia, she is now receiving many clients internationally as well.

To discover whether there’s any truth to all this ghost malarkey, we invited Suzie to Lifehacker HQ to conduct a psychic reading. Along for the ride were Gizmodo editor Luke Hopewell, Allure Media’s design guru Joy Oxley and myself. This represented a pretty even spread of belief levels: Luke is an agnostic at heart, whereas Joy is a firm believer in things that go bump in the night. Personally, I think anything that can’t be readily explained by science probably hasn’t been studied hard enough.

Suzie proved to be a delightful woman in her late thirties who was happy to be scrutinised under Lifehacker’s microscope. Until the moment she stepped through our doors, Suzie had no idea who she would be reading for. This removed the possibility of sneaky information gathering via Google.

The reading involved the three of us holding hands while Suzie scribbled down messages from alleged spirits and quizzed us about what these ghostly tidings could mean. We also had to hand over an important personal artefact which Suzie would occasionally touch throughout the reading. (Joy and I gave our wedding rings. Amusingly, Luke opted to hand over his iPhone.)

The reading took around 40 minutes, during which all manner of seemingly on-point messages came to light. Were they lucky coincidences or revelations from beyond the grave? Read on for our individual verdicts:

Chris Jager (The sceptic)

As much as I love a good spine-chilling ghost story, I’ve never been a big believer in the supernatural. As far as I can tell, there’s never been a single shred of compelling evidence to suggest this stuff is legit. (Grainy photos of vaguely humanoid shadows and weird lights aren’t particularly compelling in my books.)
Believers are always banging on about how ghosts appear in hundreds of ancient cultures that were developed independently of one another. To me, this doesn’t prove anything. After all, the same thing can be said about fairies, goblins, dragons and mermen yet you don’t see many people insisting these exist. Also, if ghosts are real, how come there hasn’t been a mountain of evidence since the advent of the camera phone and 24-hour digital surveillance? Tch.
Personally, I think our belief in the supernatural stems from some bizarre cognitive defence mechanism that helped cavemen make the right decision during fight-or-flight situations. Think about it. You’re a lot less likely to hang out in dark, potentially dangerous places if you believe in spooky spirits. But I digress.
After watching Suzie the ghost whisperer in action, I can’t say my opinion has changed much. Some of her statements were surprisingly on the money — the CBS thing with Luke [which he explains below] was particularly weird. She also did a pretty good job at pinpointing which family members had passed on in all of our families.
With that said, there were also a lot of questions and messages that went nowhere. A believer would probably put this down to interference from other spirits. If so, our office was pretty crowded with spectral hangers-on that day.
Regardless of whether Suzie’s abilities are the real deal or not, there’s little doubt in my mind that she sincerely believes in her abilities. This isn’t some gypsy cardsharp looking to hoodwink the gullible. If you believe in this sort of thing, I reckon you’ll probably get your money’s worth.

Luke Hopewell (The fence-sitter)

So I’m the fence-sitter in this psychic caper. As a Christian, I’m open to religious happenings and spiritual connections with things not of the world that you or I can touch, see and feel. Having said that, people are assholes as a general rule, meaning that people like TV ministers willing to cash in on the beliefs of others are a dime a dozen. It’s religion mixed with a healthy dose of real-world cynicism.
I’ve wanted to do a “reading” type experience for a while, mostly because I’m interested in the idea of what’s coming at me in life. Honestly, I believe that “readings” that predict the future or guesstimate the past serve to give people a sense of destiny. “There’s a new job in your future,” might prompt someone to be open to new career prospects in a way they might not have been before the reading. Likewise with family and children. “I see many new kids in your future,” might friendly-up the idea of having kids to the person having the reading. It primes the mind for new things rather than predict the future.
When it comes to spiritual crossing over events, I’m even more sceptical, mostly because it’s John Edwards-style word association for the most part. While Suzie came off as genuine and strongly convinced by her readings, I was still in two minds.
I haven’t really had anyone pass over who means a whole lot to me just yet. I’m lucky in that way. That made me very interested in what my “reading” would turn out to be.
For the most part, it was fairly uninspiring and focused on the departed souls of people related to Chris and Joy, but one thing which did shock me was when Suzie was able to accurately work out who I had previously worked for and where I was doing a lot of work now outside of Gizmodo.  

I previously worked at a publication called ZDNet, which is owned by CBS Interactive in Australia. For a moment, Suzie turned to me and asked if I had worked at CBSi: not something you’d easily know unless you were weirdly familiar with how Australian tech publishers work.
She followed that up within seconds with a question about the nature of my on-air work with the ABC. For the last few years I’ve done countless TV, radio and online things for Auntie, popping up here and there to talk tech with various programs.
There’s the assumption that Suzie knew who I was going into the experience, but she swears she didn’t do any research on any of us beforehand.
I’m still a fence-sitter, but I’m a little more creeped out than I was before.

Joy Oxley (The believer)

Although I am a ‘believer’, I still go into any kind of psychic reading with a little scepticism. After all, there are many frauds out there who only want to cash in on people’s emotions.
Suzie however, doesn’t come off like one of those people. She’s sweet, kind and genuinely seems happy to help you connect with a loved one who has passed on. The thing I noticed with Suzie compared to some mediums you see on TV is that she didn’t constantly ask questions unless your answers were vague. The three of us weren’t too eager to give too much information – so we probably weren’t very helpful!
With me in particular, she would ask a name, and ask uncertainly if they had died a certain way (though she was accurate on all accounts) – and from there she would make statements. Something as simple as “X really misses Y.” with no prior indication if Y were still alive, or even still in the picture. She made many statements about me that were eerily accurate – without any extra information from me. (There was no way she even knew I was coming for a reading, and my personal life is not out there for anyone to research.) There was a certainty in her statements that have made me, even as a believer, question my own way of dealing with “the other side”.
All in all, I think save for one or two things that could be chalked up to mixed messages with her having to read for 3 people at the same time, Suzie seems like the real deal.

So what do you guys think? Have you ever experienced a “happening” of one spooky description or another? Share your stories (or well-placed cynicism) in the comments section below.

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