Britain’s The Skeptic magazine celebrated its tenth anniversary with a Top-Ten survey of paranormal phenomena of the decade.

In reverse order:

  1. Most irrelevant use of astrology: Sky Sports hiring Mystic Meg during the semi-finals and finals of the 1996 US Open Tennis Championships to tell us about the players what anyone who had been watching the previous day’s coverage would have known.

  2. Most useful lesson the Duchess of York could learn from Hillary Clinton: make sure your psychic counsellors are dead. (Late in 1996, the Duchess’s psychic published a confide-and-tell book about their relationship; Hillary Clinton revealed early in the year that she was in the habit of calling up the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt when she wanted advice.)

  3. New British pseudoscience most likely to endure: cereology, the study of crop circles. Admissions by hoaxers have not deflected the UFOlogists, dowsers, healers, and weather cranks from continuing to believe that the universe is trying to tell us something.

  4. Most wasted opportunity for psychics to get rich quick: magician and paranormal investigator James Randi’s $1 million prize on offer to anyone who can demonstrate paranormal powers under proper observing conditions.

  5. Government programme that has done the most to undermine public understanding of statistics: the National Lottery.

  6. Most inventive Creationist explanation of why the Earth appears to be billions of years old, instead of the 6,000 years they believe the Bible states: the speed of light is slowing down.

  7. Most unproductive use of the Internet: Uri Geller’s $1 million challenge to Internet users to bend the spoon in the transparent safe in his home. Users logged on to Geller’s Web site to watch the spoon via a digital camera. If it bent, they got to do it all over again by telephone and then in person in front of Geller and a representative of his insurance company. Prediction: the primary beneficiaries of this exercise will have been the phone companies and Geller’s insurance company.

  8. Most unwanted US import: belief in alien abductions.

  9. Most unwilling control group: Transcendental Meditation, whose members claim to lower the crime rate in areas where they have established permanent settlements. Although the TMers have been established in Iowa for many years, the safest place to live in America, (according to CNN) is Amherst, New York, home of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the world’s largest and oldest skeptical organisation.

  10. Resurrection, the proof: the reappearance of belief in angels.

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