Have any example sentence exchanges (maybe in dialog form) of cold-reading? or anything related?


“Just to confirm I’m getting vibes on the right person, you’re the one with a scar on your left knee, right?”

“Yes, wow!”

{almost everyone has a scar on his/her left knee}


I’m having trouble parsing your first sentence. Could you rephrase the question, please?

Cold-reading is the thing that people like John Edward and others do who claim to communicate with the dead. I’m looking for some sample dialogue exchanges that illustrate techniques that these charlatans use. Most websites on this just talk about the general idea and don’t have many examples.

Stan: [looks around at the adults, then] Alright, look. I’ll show you. I just need a volunteer. How about you?

Woman 4: Oh-ho. Me? [steps forward. The others clap]

Stan: Okay, I’m gonna pretend that a dead person is talking to me about you, okay?

Woman 4: Okay.

Stan: Okay, watch, Kyle. Uh, it’s an older man, someone very close to you.

Woman 4: My father?

Stan: Does this month, November, hold a special significance?

Woman 4: [gasps] My birthday’s in November!

Stan: Right, because he’s saying, “Tell her ‘Happy Brithday.’”

Woman 4: Oh my God.

Stan: See, Kyle? I just started with something really vague. I chose an older man because I’m betting that, based on this woman’s age, her father is most likely dead. But if her father wasn’t dead, I could still say it was some other older man.

Man 2: Well then how’d you know her birthday was in November?

Stan: I didn’t. I just asked her if November meant anything. Her father could have died in November, or Thanksgiving could have been really special for them. But I go with the birthday and validate it now, as if I knew, by saying “He wishes you a Happy Birthday.”

Woman 4: [gasps] What else does he say?

Stan: Okay, I’ll just use an old standard. He saying “the money. Stop worrying about the money.”

Woman 4: [gasps] Oh my God! My sister and I have been fighting over his inheritance.

Woman 3: That’s amazing.

Stan: No it isn’t! When a father dies, inheritance is usually an issue, and money is something everyone worries about.

Man 3: That sounds a little too coincidental.

Man 4: Yes. There’s only one explanation. This kid can communicate with the dead!

Adults: Wow!

Stan: What?! [his deconstruction didn’t work. The adults crowd in]

Man 2: Do me next. I wanna talk to my mother.

Woman 3: Can you try to reach my grandfather.

Stan: No wait.

Construction Worker: You have to tell me if my sister’s in a good place. [Kyle walks away from the crowd and into Jewleeard]

Man 5: Yeah, help me out too, 'k?

Man 6: I’m next. I’m next.

Man 7: Hey, get out of my way!

Man 8: Do me!

Scout: Kid, how would you like your own talking to the dead show?

insert ‘do you’ at the beginning, it should compile after that.

Ah, a verb and a subject! That helps immensely. As does the definition of “cold-reading,” because for me it means something entirely different in everyday use.

There were some examples of this in William Poundstone’s books Big Secrets and/or Bigger Secrets in the section(s) on the Amazing Kreskin.

Have a nice day.

Ian Rowland (who posts here by the way) wrote the definitive book on cold reading techniques which contains some sample dialogues. I recently bought a copy of this excellent book as should anyone with an interest in this subject.


Since no-one said so yet: nice one, Pencil Pusher! Would you like your own talking to the dead show? :slight_smile:

B.T.W. Do you really push pencils? I just press buttons, which, admittedly, sounds even less fancy.

Just thought I’d mention, anyone trying the specific cold reading question in the OP on me would get a blank look, a shake of the head, and probably a firm goodbye. I do have a massive scar from knee surgery, but it, and all of my many scars save one, is on the right side.

I’ve heard another failed cold-reading too, a psychic was being interviewed by a local DJ, and the psychic said something to the effect of, “You’ll be taking a trip in the future, somewhere high, high altitude.”

Which normally would have been a good guess, as the DJ was an avid snowboarder, except that he was going in a beach trip the next week.

There’s a good story about cold reading on the Randi Foundation site (well worth checking out for any fighter of ignorance!). I can’t recall how much actual dialogue there is, but a good read.

Steve Martin demonstrates the technique in the otherwise uninteresting film Leap of Faith. Gary Busey does a cold-reading of Jodie Foster in the film Carnie. The protagonist in William Lindsey Grasham’s underrated novel Nightmare Alley does a very spooky cold-reading. Possibly this is re-enacted in the film starring Tyrone Power; much as I would like to, I’ve never seen it . Interesingly, the Nightmare Alley scene involves manipulating a hostile policeman, as does the scene in Leap of Faith.

I also purchased Ian Rowland’s book on Cold Reading. It’s a VERY expensive book (about Cdn $100 – that about US $65) but it really does organize cold-reading techniques very well indeed, though I didn’t really learn anything new. (Mind you, I’ve done some cold-reading myself, on Yahoo chat. There’s an interview with me here: )

You can order Rowland’s book via his web site at

Thanks to hajario and Timothy campbell for giving mentions to my book.

To answer the OP… how much detail do you want or need? Cold reading is a VAST subject, and in any case the types of lines and dialogues and threads involved will vary according to the context. Someone pretending to be a tarot reader will use a differnet approach from someone pretending to talk to dead people (I’ve done both on TV, and they do require slightly different approaches).

You can visit many websites devoted to skeptical matters and find some examples of cold reading lines. There’s a list of some good ones on the Links page on my website.

Two words of warning, though. First of all, not all skeptical sources are as well-informed about cold reading as they think. Many will tell you that cold reading consists of Barnum Statements. A Barnum is a line of personality assessment which sounds plausibly as if it’s about you, the person to whom the reading is being given, but which in fact would be accepted as true or mostly true by almost anyone (e.g. “You do have a need to be appreciated for the contribution you make, and can feel unappreciated at times. But this is something you’ve learned to deal with as you’ve matured”).

Barnum statements play their part in simple (and lazy) cold reading, but they are just one small part of the whole picture.

Second word of warning. No collection of set cold reading ‘lines’ is going to give you the whole picture. They can come across as rather flat, as Dragonblink noted. It’s how they are presented and used, as part of a flowing, inter-active presentation, that really ‘sells’ them and gives them that air of authenticity. It’s the improvised, inter-active apsect of cold reading that really makes it look impressive.

Incidentally, I once wrote to one of the Mods offering a free copy of my book to the SD staff, to help when dealing with questions about psychics. I got no reply! I wasn’t asking for a plug or a mention or anything in return! I’d also like to offer reduced price copies to SDMB readers, but I can’t do that without the say so of the SDMB, so I’m sorry if anyone finds it expensive!

I would like to amplify what Ianzin said. While reading his book will teach you to spot the various techniques when you see them used, knowing the techniques won’t make you a skilled cold reader.

I mean, I know how certain magic tricks are done, but I can’t do them.

In my experience, cold reading is like stage magic: to do it you need a certain amount of inherent talent, a fair bit of nerve, and (if all else fails) lots of practice.

I don’t want to make it sound like it’s all that difficult, though. Sometimes it’s almost too easy.

For example, the last time I was doing cold readings on Yahoo Chat I decided that I would make my final reading as bad as I could possibly make it. I gave people lots of evidence that I was a fraud. Yet nobody there questioned my claim to be psychic!

By the way, you really should visit Ian’s site, if only to see the picture of the levitating cat!

You don’t need to know how to do it to know when it’s being done to you.

I have watched short con artists do “The Twenties” on videotape a number of times. I’ve done the math in my head, and I would, if I was going by my numbers, have paid the guy to buy stuff from me every time.

I have, however, picked up enough about how it’s done to recognize that it’s happening.

What is “the twenties”?


A famous example of cold reading, enhanced by the reader having a wee bit of prior information from a photograph:

READER: There’s a woman – she’s…she’s wearing a polka-dot dress…her face is careworn.

MARK: Yes. That’s Aunt Em.

READER: Her – her name is Emily.

MARK: That’s right.

hajario, it’s a scam where you approach the cashier at a store and start to pay for something with a twenty dollar bill, then ask for specific change, change your mind about what kind of change you need, and generally confuse them until you walk out with the item, most of the change, and your original twenty. I can’t explain how it’s done, and google’s being obstreporous right now so I can’t find a link.

That Twenties scam is described beautifully in the book Addie Pray, retitled Paper Moon after the movie came out. I forget if it’s featured as clearly in the movie or not. I have to actually sit down with pieces of paper representing the dollar bills to figure out how it’s a scam. :slight_smile: