Susan Gerbic is a skeptical activist who frequently works to expose paranormal nonsense, and she just wrote a lengthy article about a brilliant “sting.”
In this case, she wanted to expose “Manhattan Medium” Thomas John, the star of the Lifetime show Seatbelt Psychic. But rather than buy a ticket to a show, sit in the audience, and wait for him to make a vague statement about a deceased loved one that might apply to her, all so she could expose his “cold reading” technique, she did some prep work in advance.
Specifically, last year, her friends trotted out some fake Facebook profiles and created a group in which they discussed in great detail how excited they were for Susan and her friend Mark to see Thomas John… along with exactly who they hoped the two would connect with. For example, a group member mentioned how great it would be if “Andy came through” for Susan because the “twin connection is always so strong.”
They planted enough seeds so that if Thomas John or a member of his staff did some cursory digging into people who purchased tickets online, they would easily have stumbled across those conversations. The plan was set. If Thomas John brought up people like Andy, it would strongly suggest there was no psychic power in play, but rather just some basic Googling that made the effect work.
And wouldn’t you know it…
[Thomas John] said “I’m getting someone’s twin” so I timidly raised my hand claiming the reading, and they brought me the microphone. He asked me if this was my brother, Andy, who died from pancreatic cancer only a short time ago. I responded very meekly, “Yes,” and pulled out tissues to dab away tears, pretending to get very hotfaced from the obviously stressful moment of hearing from my recently deceased non-existent twin brother. [My friend Mark] Edward had to get a paper from someone to fan me from time to time. What a loving husband.
It’s a great article describing a very clever bust. Read the whole thing.
Not that it’ll stop people like Thomas John from continuing the ruse; the vast majority of his (actual) fans are far too gullible to believe skeptics. But maybe some of them will stumble upon this experiment, or others like it, and think twice before blindly accepting the myth that there are people who can talk to the dead.
By the way, Gerbic also has an excellent (and critical) review of Seatbelt Psychic, Thomas John’s Cash Cab-like show where he picks up “unsuspecting” passengers then gives them a special reading. As Gerbic points out, though, the passengers are hardly unknown to producers and it’s even easier to get dirt on them before they appear on the show.
(Screenshot via YouTube)