On June 21st, The Granite State Skeptics put together a quiet protest outside the John Edward show. Our goal was modest: Make aware and Inform. For those that may be interested in doing something similar, I thought a full run down of our story from the very beginning to the end would be helpful.
Back in October, 2010. One of the founders (Andrew Cramb) sent me an email stating psychic John Edward would be performing at The Palace Theatre in June. I thought it would be a good idea to put something together, but till I had a good idea best to put it on the back burner. After all, there was plenty of time to do something. However, what I did do in the mean time, was come up with a pamphlet called “Rational Guide to Psychics”.
Then, back in November, I was on a Skeptical Activism panel at TAM Australia and ideas were being kicked around about what people can do to become more active. When I brought up the John Edward protest idea, one of the Young Australian Skeptics (sorry, I can’t remember who) threw out the idea of the “Psychic Bingo Cards”. I thought this was a GREAT idea.
After arriving back to the states, I did some research on the bingo cards, and bookmarked a few sites. I shared the ideas with a few people I could trust to keep my thoughts quiet till I was ready to implement a plan.
While coming up with a full plan, I tried first to get the show shut down. So I contacted The Palace and their president, Peter Ramsey. I had no idea what Peter Ramsey thought of John Edward- did he believe in his abilities? Would I receive flack for trying to meddle and waste his time?- but he agreed to meet with me. When we met, Ramsey said due to the nonprofit status of the Palace and how they operate; Denial of use or closing down any show is not an option. Anybody that pays for the cost of its use is welcome to hold a performance there. However, the real surprise not his support, but how much of his support he offered. Peter Ramsey was coming from the idea of free speech. He was giving me the same opportunity he would give anybody else to protest any performance or event going on at the theater. Happy with the end result and confident with the knowledge that The Palace Theater, at least, wouldn’t force us away.
As it became closer to the date of John Edward’s show, I made sure to notify the Manchester Police Department of our intentions as well as City Hall. (This is an important step, in case things should go wrong. Nothing was expected too, but covering your self is always a very good idea) I also had some trouble getting the bingo cards done. I didn’t need 800 completely different cards. What I did want however, was enough cards that had some kind of random look to them. Thanks to Tim Farley, he pointed me to an online bingo card generating website, I was able to use 27 words and generate enough cards with the effect I wanted. 800 of the same card would not have the same positive affect… if any at all.
My original plan was always to get the stuff done a day or so before the show: stuff the envelopes with cards and pencils, then go protest. Then as probability taken personally would have it, the Thursday before the event I ended up getting a staph infection in my hand (we think due to a spider bite) and spent the weekend dealing with it. Monday -the day before the show- I spent half the day in the ER, while my wife was dealing with an important family matter. I spent Tuesday morning in the ER again, as things were not looking better. Thankfully, it didn’t take too long so I was able to drop off stuff to be copied for the protest. After everything that happened, I was feeling kind of down due to my hand, and I had no idea how I was going to stuff envelopes, 800 of them, before the show basically one handed.
At this point of the tale, all I can do is express how important it is to have a good V.P. When the leader of the group is feeling sorry for themselves, the VP needs to motivate your sorry depressed ass. It also, helps that my VP (Dale Roy) is also my wife. She knows how to motivate me and kick it into gear. I was ready to pack in the idea of putting the bingo cards into envelopes with golf pencils. However, after what we’ll call a “heated discussion” Dale convinced me that we needed to go through envelope stuffing process. Handing out the bingo cards alone would be a failure. So, while we were waiting for the printing to be done, she ran back to the store and got the envelopes and golf pencils. I wasn’t the fastest guy stuffing envelopes with pencils, but we got a lot done.
Next stop was Staples to get the printouts, then to the Manchester Library with our crew of 5 others to stuff envelops. We worked our butts off until 6pm, we had just over 500 stuffed. Short of the 800 we printed, but I really didn’t think we’d get them all handed out. When we arrived to The Palace, we met with the officer on duty, the general manager (Mike) of The Palace, and I had an email from Peter on my phone saying that if we had any issues with anybody to deal with the cops and a “good luck”.
So our original idea was to hand out the cards as people walked in, say they were for the show. If anybody asked questions we would tell them we’re not with the show, but that these were to help you keep track of what was said. After a short time, we were told we couldn’t say “for the show” because that makes people think we were with John Edward. We of course, apologized and changed that to “These are to help you remember what was said during the performance and just so you know, we’re not with the show, “. With the exception of a couple people who gave them back to us and one forcefully handed it back crumpled up, people seemed to like them. Quite a few people came out and asked if they could have more for the people they were with. We ended up giving out every single bingo card we had stuffed. People loved them!
During the time handing things out, because of my fun injury, I walked around to make sure things were going smoothly and talked to a reporter from the Nashua Telegraph who was conducting interviews. One of our members works for the Telegraph, but he wasn’t the one interviewing. He knew we were trying to be low key and not identify our selves as Granite State Skeptics till the end of John Edward’s performance and he respected that.
After we handed out all our cards we went to get dinner at the fabulous Penuche’s, where the waitress asked what we were doing and asked for a copy of the bingo card and the pamphlets. That was a surprise, but we all had a good chuckle about psychics and the show going on next door.
I will admit, we were worried about part two of the plan.. I don’t know what happened during the show, but with around 500 people, in a 800 seat theater having these bingo cards, Edward had to have noticed. If he addressed it or not, or just ignored it, or if anybody even asked about them, I have no idea. However, when people leave the show and see the same people handing out pamphlets that state “RATIONAL GUIDE TO PSYCHICS” and that it’s presented by the Granite State Skeptics on the cover, there was no hiding it anymore. To ensure there were absolutely no problems, we were even more passive. We stood in the same places as before, but this time we were not actively passing out the pamphlets. Rather we had them in our hands ready for people to take them if they wanted. If they had any questions we would tell them to please read the pamphlet and they could email us if they wanted.
Surprisingly, very few people came out actively seeking us out due to anger. Instead, most just ignored us. A few people took the pamphlets and there were a few people actually came out looking for us wanting these things. Well, they didn’t know we had them, so I’m assuming they wanted to talk to us but they were excited to see the pamphlets and took them happily. Of course, those that were taken, a majority of them ended up in the trashcans along the street. I hope some people read them before trashing them. However, even those few that took them because they actually wanted them, is considered by us as a win.
The only real issue that happened was when Dale got a “talking to” by a patron of the show. A woman came up to her and said “Why are you protesting this? Go protest something that matters, like the abuse of animals…. You should go to a circus and protest them, they really abuse animals. This is just a harmless show, YOU ARE SO STUPID!”
So all and all it was a great event and we had fun doing it. The response so far has been more amazing than I could have imagined. We were even added under the criticism section of the John Edward Wikipedia page, but due to a bit of a Wikipedia battle, we are no longer there.
I’d like to thank all those that helped, Andrew Cramb, the Young Australian Skeptics, http://skeptico.blogs.com/ (for the Bingo idea), of course the people at The Palace Theater and Peter Ramses, the Manchester Police, the people that handed stuff out, Darrik Fauvel, Lindsey Miller, Charles Windheim, and Anna Naglebush, Penuche’s for providing a great place to crash while we waited, The Nashua Telegraph, Mark Edward, Susan Gerbic, Rational Alchemy who interviewed us the night of the protest, and of course Dale, because of her motivation, this event was a huge success, the pencils and envelopes did make all the difference.