The Snake Oil Bulletin: 'Wi-Fi Suicide' Would Make a Great Band Name

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Salutations, readers! We got us a big ole newsdump shipped in from out east past the Mississippi. Let's not mince any words jibber-jabberin' because we got us a psychic time traveler back for another story! Yee-haw!

Even MORE Details Emerge In The Time-Traveling Psychic Case

Think way back, dear readers. Way way waaaaay back to the halcyon days of a few months ago. We reported on the curious case of Priscilla Delmaro, a psychic who cheated a lonely single man out of some $700,000, pulling such audacious scams as claiming she needed a "time travel machine" (read: Rolex watch) to go back in time and remove demons, building not one but two "psychic bridges" in the spirit realm to trap ghosts, and insisting that her mark's lady love wasn't really dead but had been reincarnated in a younger woman. We loved that story not just because it let us make TARDIS jokes, but because we secretly admired the sheer chutzpah of such an obvious psychopath. No scam was insane enough for her, as not once did she stop and say to herself, "Nah, there's no way he'll fall for this."

Apparently we weren't the only one who ironically admired Delmaro. Seems she had quite the fan in the Manhattan district attorney, who has agreed to let Delmaro plead guilty in exchange for a year in jail and no restitution to her victim. That's right, she gets to Piper Chapman this thing away and doesn't have to give back any of the money she scammed from her mark. That deal was enough that Delmaro's victim couldn't stay quiet anymore.

While previously unidentified in court documents and news reports, Delmaro's victim has finally come forward as 33-year-old Englishman Niall Rice, and details have emerged that contradict previous reports on the matter, such as the fact that Rice actually got scammed by TWO different psychics and that Delmaro was simply the worst of them. The first psychic was a woman named Brandy who operated a psychic booth on Delancey Street. Brandy was the first one to notice that Rice was hopelessly in love with a girl named Michelle that he'd met in rehab, and it was in fact she who asked Rice to buy her the $40,000 Tiffany diamond ring which she super duper promised she'd give back just as soon a, uh...cleansed it of demons! Yeah, that's it!

Yet after being assured that his relationship demons had been cured through the magic of jewelry, Rice flew across the country to talk to Michelle and things went disastrously, resulting in a five minute conversation on the sidewalk during which she asked him to leave. We hate to besmirch Rice's character, but he does come across in much of the interview like that lonely, creepy guy on your friends list: the one you met years ago at an old job or who was a friend of your cousin's, but who nevertheless religiously follows your updates and goes back to "Like" old pictures of you in a bikini from 2006. You know that guy, and if you don't, you are that guy.

Rice lost faith in Brandy after this encounter, and decided he'd find a more legitimate psychic. It was at this point that Rice finally met Delmaro, at the time going by the name Christina Alvarez. Almost immediately Rice started treating "Christina" like family, going to her for hours at a time and spending holidays with her, much like he had done with Brandy. Even Rice's friends acquaintances knew Christina was a bullshit artist, and said in testimony that Rice, a former drug addict and alcoholic, seemed "addicted" to Christina's psychic readings. Sounds like Rice was just replacing one addiction with another, as he admits in the interview that he still believes there is some truth to psychic powers.

After getting in tight with Delmaro , Rice began to shell out for the $90,000 golden spirit bridges (PLURAL), but Delmaro's reaction to the news of Michelle's death is most telling. After Rice logged onto Michelle's Facebook and saw she had died of a drug overdose, he immediately called Christina to ask what to do:

“Christina said, ‘Don’t believe it,’ ” he said. “‘If you believe it, it’s true.’ ”

Knowingly manipulating someone going through the denial phase of grief -- no one ever said Delmaro was a saint, but that's fucking infernal.

The saddest part of Rice's interview is when he admits, obviously sighing even through text, that he slept with Christina just once, as it was the piece of evidence that apparently sunk his entire case:

“I slept with Christina,” Mr. Rice said. “We slept together once. It was a massive mistake.”

Ms. Delmaro’s lawyer, Jeffrey Cylkowski, said the change in the relationship, however brief, throws his accusations of theft into question. “If you’re involved with somebody, was it a gift?” he said.

Even after moving to California, Rice remained in regular contact with Christina. He paid her massive amounts of money (Rice admits to at least one payment of 100 grand) because she claimed that his constant need for her services had made her unable to take on other clients, rendering her homeless and forced to live in a church. Did her rent payments total $100k a month?

Rice admits that he sunk his own case in many ways. In his original statement to police, he lied and left Brandy out of the mix, claiming Delmaro had taken all his money. In fact, by then he had actually gone back to Brandy because he believed he needed protection from Delmaro's psychic retaliation, and didn't want Brandy to get involved in the case. We would have paid cash money to see that psychic showdown:

"Pew pew lasers!"

"Pew pew my golden spirit bridge smooshes you!"

"Nuh uh, because I had my Rolex time machine that took me back in time and totally killed you!"

"Yeah huh, because I had my reincarnation portal and it totally undoes the effects of time travel! You can't stop me VWOOM pew pew!"

Rice has gone back to drinking and is barely making his $500 a month rent (if he could find a place in Los Angeles for $500 a month, maybe Rice is the real psychic). Rice hopes his coming forward will help him find some sort of restitution, but the outlook is grim. Rice's own private investigator, who exposed Delmaro, sums up quite succinctly why it is that these sorts of psychic cases are often impossible to prosecute.

Mr. Rice’s misstatements, and the affair with Ms. Delmaro, did not help his case, the private investigator, Bob Nygaard, acknowledged. But they are not unusual, he said.

“The things that make a person a perfect mark also make him a bad witness,” Mr. Nygaard said.

On that note we'll depart from the tragic clusterfuck that is the tale of Niall Rice. We hope he finds some way to curb his addiction, because if bankruptcy didn't stop it, what on earth will? For starters, we'd recommend getting rid of Brandy. Sure her Cinderella movie had Whitney Houston and was freaking awesome, but what has she done since then?

Mother Claims WiFi Caused Chronically Ill, Depressed Teen's Suicide

Speaking of manipulating grief, we have a new story gracing the Wonkosphere. Remember months back when we reported on that teacher in California who wanted to remove WiFi from every school in the state because she claimed to be allergic to pernicious internet rays? Turns out she isn't such an isolated case after all. A mother in Oxfordshire, England, is campaigning to end WiFi in schools because she claims it drove her teenaged daughter to commit suicide.

Debbie Fry has faced one of the most devastating events in the life of any parent: she witnessed her own daughter's suicide. The Chadlington mother found her daughter Jennifer, 15, hanging from a tree in a children's playground on the afternoon of June 11th. Any parent would be rightly devastated to make such a discovery, especially after finding the suicide notes Jennifer had written six months before and another the day of the tragedy.

But what brings Ms. Fry to our humble Bulletin is the reason she claims her daughter committed suicide. She apparently wasn't convinced by Jenny's suicide notes on social media, which made special note of the fact that she still hadn't gotten over the recent suicide of a friend. It also couldn't be the fact that Jennie had been suffering from severe health issues and depression for a while. Instead, Ms. Fry decided that the most obvious explanation for why a teenager would kill herself is that she was being attacked by evil internet beams.

For three years, Jenny had suffered from undiagnosed symptoms that made it difficult for her to concentrate in school. They were undiagnosed not because doctors couldn't find a diagnosis, but because Ms. Fry admits that she never sought one. For months, Jenny had been suffering from crippling headaches, chronic fatigue, irritability, and bladder control problems. Wonketteers who have some experience in the matter may note that all these symptoms are pretty much copy-pasted from the symptom list for diabetes, a real medical condition that a real doctor could really diagnose if you only went to one. Ms. Fry, assured as she was that she had "mother's instinct" (her words), decided to go another route:

Jenny was getting ill and so was I. I did some research and found how dangerous WiFi could be so I had it taken out of the house.

Both Jenny and I were fine at home but Jenny continued to be ill at school in certain areas.

Weird how getting your internet through dial-up doesn't cure (probable) diabetes. So weird.

Fry claims her daughter suffered from "Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome," which, as we have explained in previous posts, is fictitious. In double blind studies in which participants with EHS were asked how they felt based on the presence or absence of WiFi, none of them could accurately detect whether WiFi was even there. Even if it were real, and Jenny really did suffer from it, the fact that Jenny was exposed to WiFi at school is irrelevant considering that just walking around outside was enough to bombard her with an electromagnetic soup from literally every device and wire anywhere near her. We're rather upset that out of all the sources we consulted for this story, the only one that seemed to even question whether EHS was real was fucking Teen Vogue:

Dr. Jean Kim, psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at George Washington University[,] confirmed to Teen Vogue that EHS is not recognized as a true medical condition. “There is no scientific evidence at this time that says Wi-Fi or electromagnetic waves can cause physical or neurological symptoms,” she says.

Rather, Dr. Kim says EHS is more likely a “somatization disorder,” or the recurrence of various physical and mental symptoms without a cohesive cause, and often caused by “unconscious and unresolved psychological distress.” The takeaway: It’s less likely that those who claim they have an allergy to Wi-Fi are actually physically affected by the signals, and more likely that they have underlying psychiatric conditions that are manifesting themselves in a physical way.

Hear that, Mirror and New York Daily News? The sterling writers at Teen Vogue did more fact-checking than you did.

For years, Ms. Fry campaigned against the school where her daughter attended, demanding they remove the school WiFi so that her daughter could concentrate. When asked if she had evidence that Jenny suffered from EHS, Ms. Fry showed the school headmaster lots of "information" (read: probably blog posts) showing that WiFi was dangerous, but her claims were dismissed. When asked if she had a doctor's diagnosis of the condition, Fry had a very telling answer:

Fry admitted she didn’t take Jenny to the doctor, fearful that she would have been institutionalized or given drugs that the mother was suspicious of because the family knew a boy who had committed suicide after being on antidepressants, according to the Mirror, a British publication.

We want something to be very, very clear: we are not blaming Ms. Fry for anything related to the death of her daughter, and we want to be very clear that we don't want any of you in the comments WHICH WE DON'T ALLOW to assign any blame either. It is awful when a teenager dies, truly awful, and we extend our deepest sympathies to these poor parents for their loss, but the saddest fact is that teens do commit suicide of their own accord. Teens face a dizzying cacophony of dating pressure, social pressure, academic pressure, parental pressure, sexual pressure, hormonal pressure, and this poor child was facing the added pressure of having recently lost a close friend of hers to suicide. And let's not even mention the fact that her health problems were, by her own mother's account, going completely unaddressed, no doubt causing her schoolwork to suffer and leading her to feel even more pressure to get good grades despite the splitting headaches.

In the rush of grief after a loved one passes, some people can get stuck along the way, trapped in certain phases like bargaining or denial to try and rationalize the death. We're incredibly sorry Ms. Fry has had to go through this process in so public a way, but we hope she can find acceptance soon. It pays to remember in this line of bullshit debunking that these are really people suffering real pain. People believe nonsense because it offers them something they haven't found somewhere else. This is how Ms. Fry has chosen to process her grief, and we accept that for her. We just wish there were a happier ending to this story than grief turning into a personal crusade.

Flotsam, Jetsam, and Hokum

  • Looking for that perfect last minute gift for the wingnut you are contractually obligated to love by blood oath? How about some delightful soap emblazoned with Barney Frank's lovable mug? Or some pot?
  • A Wonkette Primer on How Not to Jewsplain to Jews, brought to you by an actual Jewish! It's Jewriffic, but Jewerrible for the Carsons and Santorums.
  • Gather 'round, kidlings, for Ben Carson's History Kavalkade! On this week's episode, we'll discuss how much Benjamin Franklin and God were totally gonna go steady, right after Benny got done nailing some French dames.
  • Aww, look, widdle Ted Cruz is sitting up all by his widdle self. Sure, he's only right about 6% of the time, but he should get a big gold star sticker just for trying.

[New York Times / NY Daily News / Mirror / Teen Vogue]


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