Lawyers for "Britain's best-loved psychic" Sally Morgan have announced that she is commencing an action for libel.
That lawyers' statement is rather vague, but her official Facebook page says the following:
"On behalf of Sally Morgan we would like to confirm that Sally Morgan has instructed Graham Atkins of Atkins Thomson to commence libel action in relation to press allegations that she is a cheat, following her show in Dublin. Thank you for your support and patience in this matter. Sally Morgan Management Team."
So it appears that it was to do with a stage show at the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin on 11 September 2011.
In particular, it seems to do with allegations made the following day on RTE radio by a caller ("Sue") to a call-in show.
You can hear that phone call here, which is worth listening to in full.
You will also hear another caller supporting Sue's account.
On 20 September 2011, my friend the respected professor of psychology Chris French published an article on this allegation.
(Please note that the headline and strapline to that article were from the Guardian and not from Chris.)
What he said, which has been denied by Morgan, is as follows:
"Let me describe what happened so that you can make up your own mind. On Monday 12 September, a caller named Sue phoned the Liveline show on RTÉ Radio 1, an Irish radio station. Sue said that she had attended Morgan's show the previous night at the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin and had been impressed by the accuracy of the readings she made in the first half of the show.
"But then something odd happened. Sue was sitting in the back row on the fourth level of the theatre and there was a small room behind her ("like a projection room") with a window open. Sue and her companions became aware of a man's voice and "everything that the man was saying, the psychic was saying it 10 seconds later."
"Sue believes, not unreasonably, that the man was feeding information to Sally through an earpiece attached to her microphone. For example, the voice would say something like "David, pain in the back, passed quickly" and a few seconds later Sally would claim to have the spirit of a "David" on stage who – you'll never guess – suffered from back pain and passed quickly.
"A member of staff realised that several people near the back of the theatre were aware of the mystery voice and the window was gently closed. The voice was not heard again.
"Sue speculated, again not unreasonably given the history of psychic frauds, that the man was feeding Sally information that had been gathered by engaging members of the audience in conversation in the foyer before the show began. This is a technique widely used by psychic fraudsters, as audience members will naturally discuss with each other who they are hoping to hear from "on the other side", how their loved one died, and so on.
"Subsequent callers to the radio programme supported Sue's account.
"The theatre's general manager, Stephen Faloon, claimed that the voice heard by the audience was actually the voices of two members of staff working for the theatre, not someone supplying information to Sally. Sally Morgan Enterprises also denied that the medium was being fed information during the show."
Sally Morgan then posted the following official statement:
"I would like to address this morning’s piece by Chris French, which was loosely related to the recent allegations made towards me regarding my show at the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin.
"All my life I have run the gauntlet of cynic and skeptics, many are genuine people that are intrigued or unsure but there are also people that point blank would never allow themselves to understand what I do. Because of the work that I do, I have to live with such accusation of being a “fraud” or a “con artist” on a daily basis, however this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t upset me.
"My live shows are very expressive and for this reason I have always used a head microphone instead of using a hand held microphone. The head-mic runs from my ear, down my back and into a radio pack. The head-mic I use is only for sound to go out to the audience not the other way around, it is impossible for me to hear through this.
"The recent performance at the Grand Canal Theatre, I felt, was a fantastic show, an amazing audience and over 700 people waited behind to meet me at the end. I was completely unaware that two young lads, who are employed by the theatre as technicians had been accused of feeding me information. Apparently, during the second half of the show, a window from the production room was open and audience members with their back to them could hear them talking. An usherette quickly diffused the situation and asked them to close the window, however someone construed that these two people were telling me what to say. I would like to state that I have never met these two boys before in my life and more importantly, they have nothing to do with my show. I have no communication with them and there is no way they would have been able to talk to me while I was on stage.
"I have also been informed of another theory, that staff from the theatre was going around the audience digging for information. To think that everyone at the theatre’s [sic] I perform in is involved in a big conspiracy is ludicrous.
"It is unfortunate that with my work, my accuracy stirs, in some people, the need to prove that it isn’t accurate. People wonder, “where am I getting messages from” and for many they would only ever understand if t could be explained scientifically.
"The work that I do opens up so many possibilities for us, but there are many people that are closed off to these. I completely understand this, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and idea’s, I myself ask questions about what I do every day.
"I am very aware that the work that I do isn’t for everyone, I don’t try to change opinion or force my ideas on anyone else, although my shows are related to a serious subject matter they are always entertaining for an audience and I always try to ensure that there is plenty of laughter as well as the tears that often come. I totally respect cynics and skeptics, as if we don’t ask questions we don’t get answers. However, I will not stand by and be accused of fraudulent behavior, from inaccurate sources of information.
"I consider this morning’s comparisons to Peter Popoff ridiculous and hurtful, as there are no similarities. Peter claims to be able to “communicate the supernatural good news of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit” but this is not something I profess in anyway.
"I receive hundreds of emails and letters from people who I have helped over the years and their support inspires me to continue what I do. As long as I can bring comfort and people want my help, I will be there for them. I do not force anyone to come to my shows, watch my TV series or buy my books, but if they do and they get some enjoyment, support, happiness or advice which enables them to overcome grief or understand the afterlife, then I shall carry on with the work that I do.
So Morgan's own positive account of what happened at the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin is:
- that it was "a fantastic show, an amazing audience and over 700 people waited behind to meet me at the end"
- that she was completely unaware that two young lads, who are employed by the theatre as technicians, had been accused of feeding her information [note the existence of these two "lads...employed by the theatre as technicians" is asserted as fact, and only their feeding of information is described as an accusation]
- that "[a]pparently, during the second half of the show, a window from the production room was open and audience members with their back to them could hear them talking"
- that "an usherette quickly diffused [sic] the situation"
- that this usherette "asked them to close the window"
- that "someone construed that these two people were telling me what to say"
- that she would "like to state that I have never met these two boys before in my life and more importantly, they have nothing to do with my show. I have no communication with them and there is no way they would have been able to talk to me while I was on stage".
This positive account - by which I mean it is not a bare rebuttal of what the callers said to RTE radio - is rather detailed, and it is especially emphatic in its final denial. Somehow she knew that it was two lads, what their employment status was, and that she had never met them. One wonders how, in the circumstance, she can be so sure of each of these points. [UPDATE - this now seems to have been based on the Faloon comments, now quoted below.]
Comparing the audio clip of the callers to RTE radio with Morgan's own account is interesting.
There would appear to be a lot at stake in this threatened libel action.
And, if the libel action proceeds, perhaps we will find out what actually did happen last month in Dublin.
I have now seen this posted on the Irish Independent's website dated 13 September 2011:
Stephen Faloon, the theatre's general manager, last night denied anything underhand was going on and said the voice heard by the audience belonged to two 'follow-spot operators' working for the theatre, and not Ms Morgan.
"These two guys, Stuart McKeown and Mick Skelly, are professional light technicians who were working for us, and unfortunately because a window had been left open, were heard talking.
"But as soon an usherette heard them talking, and informed her supervisor, the window closed and the talking stopped.
"It was a slight distraction but that was the chain of events on Sunday night."
The theatre stressed it would "never be a part of any scam", or attempt to "mislead" its audience.
This is not from the Dublin show, but it is from Sally Morgan's own YouTube channel - and just what is she removing from her ear after 5:40?
And screengrab of that particular moment (hattip @MissOceania):
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