Monday, June 27, 2011

Worst Psychic Ever Has Competition

As I've noted previously, bad psychics abound. Some such individuals are confidence artists, while others may be dangerously delusional. In the Texas case an inept psychic called in a police tip that led to a full-scale search of a property on which she claimed many dismembered bodies were buried. Then last week, a "message from God" prompted another would-be psychic to tell an airport worker in Dayton, Ohio that there was a bomb on board a flight en route to Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. This led to the grounding of all flights at Reagan National while the TSA investigated. As you can probably guess from my headline, nothing dangerous or even out of the ordinary was found.

No explosives were found aboard the jet that flew from Dayton International Airport to Reagan, but the threat shut down the airport near Washington for about 20 minutes, the FBI said.

The woman approached a US Airways ticket agent in Dayton about midday Sunday, said Terrence Slaybaugh, director of the Dayton International Airport.

"She communicated to the agent that there was a bomb on board and that people were in danger and they needed to turn the plane around — that people were going to be killed," Slaybaugh told The Associated Press on Monday.

The 54-year-old woman from Shelbyville, Ky., was immediately taken into custody, he said.

She later told police she had received the message about the bomb from God, Slaybaugh said. That explanation was first reported by the Dayton Daily News on Monday.

The woman, whose name was not released, remained at a mental health facility Monday, FBI officials said. She has a history of mental health problems, Slaybaugh said.

All things considered I'm guessing that the Texas psychic is likely still the winner as far as overall badness goes, since the two separate searches in that case probably cost more in terms of time and manpower than a twenty minute grounding, even at a large airport like Reagan National. In addition, she gets some extra points for falsely accusing an innocent family of mass murder. Still, the Ohio psychic can always try again with an even more fanciful prediction, and I'm guessing that once she's out of the unnamed mental health facility she probably will.

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Pallas Renatus said...

I'm thinking the Ohio psychic wins on monetary value lost, though. The amount of business alone that would be disrupted by shutting down an airport boggles the mind a bit.

Ananael Qaa said...

Well, maybe - it is a big airport. But the thing is that flights were only grounded for twenty minutes, so you have to figure out how to determine the monetary value. I'm not a big fan of the methods that some businesses use to count their theoretical losses from various events, because it inevitably winds up exaggerated beyond all proportion.

Back when I was in college, for example, one of the arguments leveled against spam e-mail was that each message sent out cost "the Internet" some ridiculous amount of money. Now I hate spam e-mail as much as the next person, but as I recall the way the number got calculated was by doing something like taking the total amount each node spent on their network feed and then dividing that by the number of e-mails they processed - ignoring that those nodes paid exactly the same monthly fee regardless of how much traffic ran over their portion of the network.

Most of the time the same sort of analysis gets applied to "lost productivity" calculations and the like in the business world. Inevitably, those totals come out to be many times the entire value of the US economy, which is simply not believable. You know, kind of like both these psychics.