Susan Gerbic

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Susan Gerbic
Head shot of Gerbic
Gerbic in 2016
Born1962 (age 59–60)
EducationBA Social & Behavioral Studies (2002)
Alma materCalifornia State University, Monterey Bay
OccupationStudio photographer
EmployerLifetouch Portrait Studios (1982–2016)
Known forScientific skepticism

Susan Gerbic (born 1962) is an American studio photographer who became known as a scientific skepticism activist, mostly for exposing people claiming to be mediums.[1][2][3] A columnist for Skeptical Inquirer,[4] she is the co-founder of Monterey County Skeptics[5] and a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

The youngest of three children, Gerbic was raised as a Southern Baptist in Salinas, California.[7] Her father was born in 1918 in Euclid, Ohio, to parents from Slovenia; he served during World War II and after the war went to live in Salinas.[8] Gerbic attended Freemont Elementary, El Sausal Junior High School,[9] and Alisal High School in Salinas, graduating in 1980.[1] She became an atheist in her junior year. After high school, she studied at Hartnell College, also in Salinas,[7] obtaining AAs in general studies in 1993 and history in 1998,[9] while working and raising two sons. In 2002, she was awarded a BA in Social & Behavioral Studies by California State University, Monterey Bay.[7]

Career and activism[edit]


Gerbic worked at Lifetouch, a portrait studio in JC Penney in the Northridge Mall in Salinas, from 1982[1] for 34 years, including as manager.[7] In May 2015, she said she was taking around 70,000 professional photographs of people, mostly children, every year, and about another 5,000 photographs with her own camera.[9] She retired in 2016 when the studio closed.[7]

Guerrilla Skeptics[edit]

Gerbic, with D. J. Grothe (left) and James Randi (right), receives the James Randi Award for Skepticism in the Public Interest at The Amazing Meeting, July 2013

Gerbic first read Skeptical Inquirer when she was 33,[7] and in 2000, she attended the Skeptic's Toolbox workshop in Eugene, Oregon.[10] In 2009, she went to Mexico on an "Amazing Adventure" cruise organized by the Canadian stage magician and skeptic James Randi; according to the New York Times, Randi used a MacArthur grant to fund "annual ship cruises filled with skeptics".[3]

Much of Gerbic's activism has consisted of organizing sting operations against people claiming to be mediums. She and a group of volunteers calling themselves "Guerrilla Skeptics" would set up fake Facebook profiles, then visit mediums claiming to be receiving messages from the subjects of the profiles. Gerbic's team would record the session and post the evidence online.[3]

In 2010, Gerbic founded "Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia" (GSoW),[11] a group of editors who create and improve Wikipedia articles that reflect scientific skepticism.[7][12] The New York Times Magazine reported in February 2019, in an interview with Gerbic, that GSoW had 144 editors who had worked on nearly 900 Wikipedia pages.[3] Gerbic's work with GSoW led to her becoming a consultant for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI),[13] and in February 2018, they appointed her as a fellow.[6]


In October 2015, Gerbic conducted a series of workshops in Australia and spoke at the Australian Skeptics' Convention.[14] To promote CSICon, she interviewed scheduled speakers in 2016 and 2017 in advance of the conferences, including James Alcock, Taner Edis, Kevin Folta, Craig Foster, Harriet Hall, Britt Hermes, George Hrab, Maria Konnikova, and Richard Saunders.[15] In September and October 2017, she lectured in several European countries on her "About Time Tour";[16][8] in October, she was a guest on Bloomberg TV Bulgaria.[17] She spoke about GSoW at CSICon in Las Vegas that year.[18] At the Australian Skeptic's Convention in December 2019, she spoke about her interactions with mediums, including Thomas John.[19]

Awards and honors[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Gerbic married Robert Forsyth in 1983.[22] The couple had two sons, and the marriage ended in 2002. As of August 2018, Gerbic was in a relationship with the mentalist Mark Edward.[7] They met in 2009 on one of James Randi's skeptics' cruises to Mexico; Edward was working on the ship as part of the entertainment.[3]

Gerbic in December 2013

In 2013, Gerbic discovered she had breast cancer after she and a colleague at Lifetouch studios scheduled mammograms in response to Angelina Jolie undergoing a preventive mastectomy.[23] By December that year, Gerbic had completed 20 weeks of chemotherapy for stage II cancer and, by March 2014, 33 radiation treatments.[24] Gerbic continued to work throughout the treatment, and her follow-up mammogram revealed no cancer. She said the experience had made her tougher.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Nordstrand, Dave (July 5, 2014). "Staying on the job during cancer treatment". The Salinas Californian. Archived from the original on August 30, 2015.
  2. ^ Matsakis, Louise (July 25, 2018). "The 'Guerrilla' Wikipedia Editors Who Combat Conspiracy Theories". Wired. Archived from the original on July 25, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Hitt, Jack (February 26, 2019). "Inside the Secret Sting Operations to Expose Celebrity Psychics". The New York Times Magazine. Archived from the original on February 26, 2019.
  4. ^ "Author: Susan Gerbic". Skeptical Inquirer.
  5. ^ "Monterey County Skeptics". Archived from the original on January 2, 2015.
    Taylor, Dennis L. (January 3, 2015). "Skeptics take on God, psychics, even science". Monterey Herald. Archived from the original on June 11, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c "Committee for Skeptical Inquiry Elects Six New Fellows". Center for Inquiry. February 7, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Hale, Mike (August 23, 2018). "The enthusiastic life of a happy skeptic". Voices of Monterey Bay. Archived from the original on August 29, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Gerbic, Susan (March 2, 2018). "Skeptical Adventures in Europe, Part 5". Skeptical Inquirer.
  9. ^ a b c School details. Susan Gerbic Voice.ogg.
  10. ^ Radford, Ben (March 2012). "Skepticism One Wikipage at a Time: Talking with Wikiskeptic Susan Gerbic-Forsyth". Skeptical Inquirer. 36 (2): 32–33. Archived from the original on January 19, 2020.
  11. ^ Gerbic, Susan (March 8, 2015). "Wikapediatrician Susan Gerbic discusses her Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia project". Skeptical Inquirer. Archived from the original on August 30, 2015.
  12. ^ Plait, Phil (May 23, 2013). "'Bad Astronomy' on the Front Page of Wikipedia Today. Literally". Slate.
  13. ^ "Ten Distinguished Scientists and Scholars Named Fellows of Committee for Skeptical Inquiry". Skeptical Inquirer. 39 (6). 2015. Archived from the original on October 16, 2015.
  14. ^ Gerbic, Susan (January 11, 2016). "The Wikipediatrician's Whirlwind Australian Tour". Skeptical Inquirer.

    "2015 Skeptics Convention – Schmidt, Gerbic, Nickell". Australian Skeptics Inc. March 1, 2015. Archived from the original on February 29, 2016.

  15. ^ "Special Articles – CSICon". The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Archived from the original on November 19, 2017.
  16. ^ Gerbic, Susan (February 8, 2018). "Skeptical Adventures in Europe, Part 1". Skeptical Inquirer.
    Gerbic, Susan (February 9, 2018). "Skeptical Adventures in Europe, Part 2". Skeptical Inquirer.
    Gerbic, Susan (February 16, 2018). "Skeptical Adventures in Europe, Part 3". Skeptical Inquirer.

    Gerbic, Susan (February 20, 2018). "Skeptical Adventures in Europe, Part 4". Skeptical Inquirer.

  17. ^ Ayvaz, Hulia (October 6, 2017). "Can We Trust Wikipedia?". Bloomberg TV Bulgaria. Archived from the original on October 6, 2017.
  18. ^ "Schedule". CSICon. Archived from the original on November 21, 2017.
  19. ^ "Speaker Schedule". Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  20. ^ a b "The Amaz!ng Meeting 2015: Susan Gerbic". TAM13.
  21. ^ "2017 JREF Award". James Randi Educational Foundation. Archived from the original on March 28, 2018.
  22. ^ "Marriages". The Californian. 3 November 1983, p. 15.
  23. ^ a b Norstrand, Dave (July 5, 2014). "Working during cancer treatments". The Californian, pp. 1C, 8C.
  24. ^ Saunders, Richard (January 17, 2014). "An interview with Susan Gerbic". The Skeptic Zone podcast. Archived from the original on August 30, 2015.

Further reading[edit]