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What really frightens me about Halloween

Sleepy Hollow-eenap.jpg

A Halloween display greets visitors to Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.AP

Here's what frightens me about Halloween: It is not the ghosts, witches and psychics but the fact that people believe in them. 

My leeriness about celebrating Halloween has absolutely nothing to do with religion, safety, health or the sexualization of young girls, although those may be valid concerns. 

My reason is much more subtle.   

According to Gallup an alarming 30% or so of Americans believe in Halloween-related myths such as haunted houses, ghosts and witches. Over half believe in psychic or spiritual healing, and extrasensory perception (ESP).

It is not the ghosts, witches and psychics but the fact that people believe in them.

Halloween is centered on a culture of superstition and witchcraft. This culture does much harm to society. While not everyone celebrating the holiday believes in the myths, alarming numbers do and the psychic industry takes advantage of this.

The psychic industry has become the wild wild west of fraud and deception, preying on the naive, grieving and vulnerable. 

It is a $2 billion a year business, with millions dialing "900" numbers, even after decades of lawsuits, the inability of any psychic to prove their paranormal powers and collect the Randi Educational Foundation’s million dollar prize, and even criminal fraud.

Rose Marks, a South Florida psychic, was recently convicted on fraud charges for fleecing $40 million dollars from unsuspecting "clients." 

Sylvia Mitchell, another psychic, was recently charged with grand larceny and a scheme to defraud after she told a desperate single mom a convoluted tale that she was an Egyptian princess in a past life and should therefore give her $27,000 to remedy her dependency on money. 

These stories are all too common.

Celebrity psychic Sylvia Brown made a patently false prediction on the "Montel Williams Show." She told grieving parents that their missing daughter, Amanda Berry, was "in heaven" and her last words were "Goodbye, mom, I love you." Earlier this year Berry was found alive, but by then her distraught mother had died from heart failure.

Pew Research shows that an alarming 1 in 7 Americans have consulted a psychic.

Psychics use belief in Halloween mythology to promote their “services.” 

This month, the Psychic Source issued a press release claiming: [o]ur collective focus on the spiritual world makes Halloween a favorable time for contacting the ‘other side’ … on Halloween psychic and spiritual readings can be especially productive because ‘messages flow effortlessly.’  

International psychic reader Lisa Barretta told Fox News last year that around Holloween time “people look for little trips to Salem and Lillydale in New York, which is a big psychic center.”

According to another press release, by Hollywood Psychics, over 80% of psychics surveyed recommend getting a reading on Halloween because "people tend to be more open-minded and to concentrate better on their past and present memories on historically spiritual days.” 

With astounding numbers of people believing in Halloween-related myths one wonders whether the holiday helps to subtly reinforce dangerous beliefs used to financially exploit the vulnerable members of our society.

If you celebrate Halloween use the occasion as an opportunity to dismiss, ridicule and make fun of ghosts, the paranormal, and other dangerous superstitions that psychics use to financially exploit the vulnerable members of our society. Party safe.

Eliyahu Federman writes frequently on religion, culture, business and law. Follow him on Twitter @EliFederman and find him on Facebook.com/eli.federman. He is also an executive at the e-commerce company 1Sale.com. The opinions expressed here represent his personal views.