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MARTHA SEZ: ‘I know better. After all, I wrote the book on scams, literally’

Several years ago, I received the following message from Adrian Ross Duncan, whose ad for a free astrology reading I found on Facebook.

“Dearest Martha, Thank you for getting in touch with me. It is my pleasure to tell you that … Your life is ready to begin a new course… Read on my dear, and prepare yourself for this incredible “transit” you may soon embark upon …”

Duncan then sent me pages and pages of similarly vague, yet seductive, enticements, encouraging me to buy his astrological guide. He likens this to leading me through a maze to my heart’s desire.

“What do you think?” I asked my friend Woody.

Woody and I have been friends since I attended his 20th birthday party when we were students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. We are now of a certain age, or older. This sometimes makes us pretend to wonder, when we get bored, whether we knew each other in a past life. Granted, we communicate only sporadically, and usually from a distance of many miles, but still. Are our stars in some kind of cosmic alignment? Should I use my credit card on line to ask Adrian?

Why I would even ask this question is beyond me. I know better. After all, I wrote the book on scams, literally.

I published “Flimflam Man: How Con games Work” with Paladin Press in 1985. It came out under the name M. Allen Henderson, because my publisher, Peder Lund, thought the book would sell better if people thought it was written by a man. I sent off for a false beard and mustache made of real human hair and cleverly disguised myself as a man for the photograph on the back cover flap. I looked a lot like my younger brother, Jim, or rather like a weaselly version of Jim. I said at the time that I did this in order to show how easy it is to fool people, but actually I just thought it was really funny.

I often think that I am really funny. Probably because I have Mars in Gemini.

In “Flimflam Man,” I wrote, “If he is a charismatic person (as many con artists are) … he has only to find himself the right niche in the spiritual scene and he can put anything over on his faithful following … Desperate people turn to the supernatural … The spiritual bunco artist is waiting for them with open arms, and he does not disappoint them. Or at least not at this stage of the game.”

While I don’t believe in astrology, the way astrologers sometimes uncover hidden truths is truly uncanny. How, for example, did Adrian know that I am “extremely intelligent, philosophical and imaginative”?

Unfortunately, Woody and I were unable to get any information on our cosmic connection from Adrian. He has a very impressive biography that can readily be found on line — I only wish I could create a resume so confidently. We enjoyed his flowery prose in the beginning, but then we began to suspect that the messages we were receiving were not wholly sincere. In fact, we surmised, they were not written by the great man himself, but by mere hirelings with no real dedication or feel for the job.

Thinking back on our disappointment, I decided to look up Adrian again. What went wrong? Did Woody and I misjudge him? In a recent edition of “Psychic Review,” I found an article by Sarah Abramson that explains a lot. In the article, she points out that there are two platforms using Adrian Ross Duncan’s name: “Astrology Answers” and “AstroWOW.” According to Abramson, “Astrology Answers” is a less trustworthy source of occult information.

“It is clear, “ she writes, “that Adrian Ross Duncan is actually a genuine astrologer … However, his name is commonly associated with cheesy email reports sent by Astrology Answers …Therefore, many people consider Duncan as a fake astrologer … Astrology Answers distributes crappy emails signed by Adrian Ross Duncan.”

Just as we suspected!

Still, Duncan — or whoever — could be compelling: “There is an incredible potential inside you — a Life Force – waiting to break free. It KNOWS that its time has come to be released.

“I must tell you though,” the message went on to warn, “there could be some not so good news in your future … And isn’t it about time the fog you have been drifting through lifted, to unveil the path you need to take?”

Gives you goosebumps, right?

Have a good week.

(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley. She has been writing for the News for more than 20 years.)