In my line of work, I hear horror stories every day. Some involve ghosts and goblins or psychics with premonitions, but not in the way you might expect. The James Randi Educational Foundation exists to bring light to claims of the paranormal, and often to the ways people fake paranormal abilities to take advantage of others: from false hope to reconnect grieving families with dead relatives to offering hollow promises of miraculous cures. So when I heard that priceline.com was featuring "Long Island medium" Theresa Caputo in their commercials, I knew I had to fire off a letter to Priceline's CEO and ask them to prove that Ms. Caputo is what she claims to be. And I even put a million dollars on the line.
To: Jeff Boyd, Chief Executive Officer, Priceline.com
Dear Mr. Boyd,
On behalf of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) and the countless Americans who have been exploited by fake psychics and mediums, I am writing to address your recently debuted commercial campaign featuring "medium" Theresa Caputo, performing her usual gimmick of claiming to communicate with dead people, and to make you an offer of one million dollars if she can prove her talents are real. As you know, in your ad, she speaks to the fictional "Priceline Negotiator" from beyond the grave, but sadly, she claims to speak to the dead in real life as well, and the results are not so funny.
Since 2011, Ms. Caputo has starred in her own reality series, Long Island Medium on TLC, wherein she purports to speak to her often grieving clients' dead relatives. I have seen the show myself, and as a magician and a skeptic, I couldn't help but notice that her "readings" looked suspiciously like a well-known manipulative collection of psychological techniques by which self-proclaimed psychics and mediums make it seem like they are receiving otherwise-impossible messages from the deceased. It is difficult to watch the show and not feel heartbroken for those who are desperate to hear from the departed... and even more so if they are being manipulated by a charlatan.
I respectfully invite you to have your new representative, Ms. Caputo, apply for the James Randi Educational Foundation's Million Dollar Challenge. Since 1996, the JREF has offered a prize of $1 million to anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal ability under mutually agreed-upon scientific conditions and without cheating. So far, no one has claimed the prize. Should Ms. Caputo win, we would be happy to award the prize to the charity of your and her choosing. Perhaps the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County, of which your company is fond?
If Ms. Caputo can do what she claims to do, she ought to be thrilled to have the opportunity to prove to the world that her talents are real, and to give the prize money to a worthy cause (or to keep the million dollars for herself). If she is unwilling to take the challenge, I suspect her talents may be as manipulative as her motivations are selfish. In fact, the JREF recently awarded Ms. Caputo this year's tongue-in-cheek Pigasus Award for paranormal performers, to highlight the harm of her untested claims. Please consider salvaging priceline.com's good name by putting your new spokesperson to the test. After all, you wouldn't hire a doctor to represent your company without asking for her credentials, would you? Let's make certain that this medium's astounding claims are legitimate, as opposed to greedy manipulations of those who are mourning.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.
D.J. Grothe, President
James Randi Educational Foundation