Friday, March 18, 2016

The Odious John Edward

On the way to work in this morning, I saw a billboard advertising the advent of John Edward coming to town to fleece gullible and vulnerable members of the public. The board named Edward as a “psychic medium.” I don’t believe in psychic powers of any kind, ESP, remote viewing, astrology or having conversations with dead people. If people with such powers do exist, John Edward is not one of them.

I dislike “mediums” of Edward’s ilk because they prey on sad and grieving people for money. Oh, some say they are harmless and offer people comfort and closure by delivering messages from their deceased loved ones. I look at it as ripping off vulnerable individuals for cash. Edward used to have his own television show, which I watched occasionally for entertainment value and to marvel at his laughable made up “powers.” He’s a slick showman who knows how to manipulate his audience. It is evident that he uses a typical conman/clairvoyant technique known as “cold reading” to influence the crowd and pretend to talk to dead people.

Cold reading consists of manipulative techniques used by mediums, psychics and other frauds to convince the public that they have supernatural knowledge or abilities. Anyone can learn it, anyone can do it. Practitioners start with general leading questions (“Something bad happened to you lately,” or “Someone in the crowd lost someone close to them ... someone whose name starts with a ‘J’.”) Their queries are so general they resonate with someone. When that person identifies themselves, these frauds make mass generalizations while the “victim’s” brain struggles to make their guesses fit into their own narrative. Human brains look for patterns and to make things fit. What was not shown on Edward’s TV show were the vast majority of statements he made or things he guessed that were incorrect. People will ignore the 90 out of 100 things he got wrong and gasp at the 10 things that were vaguely on target. And sometimes the mediums read people well and get very lucky. Those positive guesses are the things the audience will remember.

John Edward
“Entertainers” such as Edward, James Van Prague and Theresa Caputo, the so-called Long Island Medium, all use cold-reading techniques. I have to wonder ... are they all just outright lying? Or do they really believe themselves to have psychic gifts? I don’t know the answer (I have my suspicions). But to take money to help people wallow in their grief is not only mercenary, it’s obscene. I hope no one goes to this charlatan’s make-believe show and gives him a penny of their hard-earned cash. Instead, consider donating to the Randi Foundation, at It’s a site run by James Randi to expose and explain frauds like Edward.

If you think there may be something real about Edward's well-honed shtick, do me a favor and read up on cold reading and how it works. Then take that information and sit back and watch him with a critical eye, just for argument's sake. I think you will have a new insight to the great man's psychic powers. 

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