John Edward McGee Jr.
October 19, 1969
|Occupation||Purported Psychic medium|
|Children||2, including Olivia Edward|
|Part of a series on the|
Born in Glen Cove, New York, Edward says he was convinced at a young age that he could become a psychic. After writing his first book on the subject in 1998, Edward became a well-known and controversial figure in the United States through his shows broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel beginning in July 2000 and We TV since May 2006.
The only son of an Irish-American police officer and an Italian-American working mother, Edward was raised Roman Catholic. Although Edward later stopped practicing that faith, he has said he never stopped feeling connected to God and is still closely connected to his Catholic roots. Edward once said, "This is something that is driven by a belief in God. It's the energy from that force that I think allows us to create this energy."
According to Edward, when he was 15 and "a huge doubter" (in psychic abilities), he was "read" by a New Jersey woman who convinced him that he could become a medium.
"She told me things that there is no way she could have known. And the first part of the reading was that this was the path that I was supposed to be on and that I was supposed to be a teacher and help people and – I thought she was nuts." Speaking of the same encounter in a 2002 interview, Edward said, "She told me I would one day become internationally known for my psychic abilities through lectures, books, radio and TV. I thought she was full of it until she started to tell me things no one in my life knew about... The details were unbelievable."
Later, Edward worked as a phlebotomist while pursuing a degree in health care administration at Long Island University. He met his wife, Sandra McGee, when he was a student in a dance studio, and he became a ballroom dancing instructor before entering his current field of work. He and his wife had their first child, Justin, on September 25, 2002, and their second child, Olivia, on January 25, 2007.
Edward published his first book, One Last Time, in 1998. His related appearance on Larry King Live later in the year prompted enough phone calls to overload the show's switchboard. The next year, Edward had a show of his own.
Crossing Over with John Edward
From 2001 to 2004, Edward was the producer and host of the show Crossing Over with John Edward, which has been syndicated and was broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel in the United States and on Living TV in the UK. In Crossing Over, Edward gave psychic readings to audience members.
Readings in Crossing Over involve Edward questioning audience members with what is presented as information being communicated by their deceased friends and relatives. Edward says he receives images and clues from "the other side" which the audience must try to interpret. The audience is not supposed to supply Edward with any prior information about themselves, their family or whom they are trying to connect with "on the other side", aside from questionnaires filled out prior to taping. Audience members respond to Edward's statements and questions, adding any details they feel are appropriate. The show often employs a split screen, the view of a reading without sound on one half of the screen while on the other half the subjects of the reading are shown in a later interview as they discuss their experiences. A voiceover by Edward is also implemented at times, sharing further insights.
In other instances, Edward conducted private sessions away from the studio audience. The subjects of these segments later talked in greater detail about the situation that led to their reading with Edward and the effect the reading had on their lives. Periodically, segments revisit people who have previously appeared on the show.
Shortly after the September 11 attacks, Edward began filming at least one special in which he met with some relatives of the victims, with the intention of communicating with those who were killed. According to Edward's autobiography, he did not know that the producers had chosen the victims' families to appear on the show. The trade magazine Broadcasting & Cable sent a story, "'Psychic' Plans WTC Victims Show", on the daily subscription-fax sent to news media and TV-station executives on October 25, 2001.
Steve Rosenberg, president of domestic television at Studios USA, the company that distributes Edward's program, had tentatively scheduled the program(s) to be broadcast during the November sweeps period, but news of the taping sparked a national outcry. Both the Sci Fi Channel and the Crossing Over with John Edward production office were flooded with phone calls and e-mails, some expressing outrage at the exploitation of the national tragedy, others at what they perceived as extreme tastelessness in search of ratings. Rosenberg initially ignored the criticism, insisting the programming would go on as scheduled, but within hours he terminated his plans.
John Edward Cross Country
Edward's next show, John Edward Cross Country, was broadcast on We TV from March 2006 to late 2008. In each episode, after a reading, Edward is filmed visiting the person or people whose reading was televised, along with their families, to see how the experience had changed their lives.
During the first season of Cross Country, Edward traveled across the US, giving readings to large audiences in public venues. In subsequent seasons, the show has been broadcast from a set similar to that used for Crossing Over.
Edward's tours outside the USA have included performances in Canada, Australia, the UK, and Ireland. In response to the announcement of his 2019 Australian tour, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article by Peter FitzSimons which called Edward a fraud, saying:
What chance you might stop this fraud? I am not sure it gets much lower than capitalising on people’s grief by taking money for talking to the dead, but the whole thing is selling snake-oil to mugs; an old story. ... I can feel a word coming on ... it starts with an “f” ... and ends in a “d” ... Fraud? That’s it! FRAUD! ... The only amazing thing is that it still goes on this far into the 21st century.
No less than Time Magazine has suggested that beyond the vague questioning, much of his more specific stuff depends on having his own people mill around the foyer before the show, looking for hard info. You get the drift. FRAUD. He is not talking to dead people, and it is like his damn hide to take money from the grieving while pretending to do so – even while saying other psychics are frauds! The sheer chutzpah! I repeat: “So here is the question, one more time. While we have all kinds of laws against false advertising, how is it that they don’t cover this? How is it that a show ... can be brought to Australia and put in big stadiums to prey on the grieving, and take their money for him pretending to do something that he is NOT DOING?” Last time he came I wrote: “Too harsh? So sue me, John Edwards, you fraud.”
Veracity of abilities
Critics of John Edward assert that he performs the mentalist techniques of hot reading and cold reading, in which one respectively uses prior knowledge or a wide array of quick and sometimes general guesses to create the impression of psychic ability. Choosing the first reading from a two-hour tape of edited shows as a sample, illusionist and skeptic James Randi found that just three of 23 statements made by Edward were confirmed as correct by the audience member being read, and the three statements that were correct were also trivial and nondescript. In another incident, Edward was said to have used foreknowledge to hot read in an interview on the television show Dateline. James Underdown of the Independent Investigative Group (IIG) attended a Crossing Over show in November 2002 and said "there were no indications of anyone I saw collecting information... none of his readings contained the kind of specific information that would raise an eyebrow of suspicion. ... John Edward was a bad cold reader. He, too, struggled to get hits, and in one attempt shot off nearly 40 guesses before finding any significant targets."
Underdown also claimed that Edward's apparent accuracy on television may be inflated by the editing process. After watching the broadcast version of the show he had attended and recorded, Underdown attributed a great deal of Edward's accuracy on television to editing and wrote, "Edward's editor fine-tuned many of the dead-ends out of a reading riddled with misses." In 2002, Edward said, "People are in the studio for eight hours, and we have to edit the show for time, not content. We don't try to hide the 'misses'." Edward has denied ever using hot or cold reading techniques.
In March 2018, skeptical activist Susan Gerbic published an article in Skeptical Inquirer summarizing a number of techniques which she says are used by psychics, such as Edward, to achieve their effects.
In a 2019 segment of Last Week Tonight, Edward and other prominent TV psychics were featured. Several clips of Edward attempting cold reading and failing to get "hits" were included, as well as a clip of Edward telling an audience member, "I can only tell you what they're showing me, and if he's calling your mother a bitch, I'm gonna pass that on." John Oliver criticized the predatory nature of the psychic industry, as well as the media for promoting psychics, because this convinces viewers that psychic powers are real, and so enables neighborhood psychics to prey on grieving families. Oliver said "...when psychic abilities are presented as authentic, it emboldens a vast underworld of unscrupulous vultures, more than happy to make money by offering an open line to the afterlife, as well as many other bullshit services."
Gary Schwartz, a psychologist and researcher in the field of parapsychology, designed and administered a series of tests for Edward and several other mediums to investigate their paranormal claims and published his belief that Edward's abilities were genuine in his book The Afterlife Experiments. The study did not undergo scientific peer review, and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry's Ray Hyman, a psychologist and critic of parapsychology, wrote a detailed critique of Schwartz's methodology and conclusions in a 2003 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer. Schwartz responded to the critique, leading Hyman to write a rebuttal.
Appearances in the media
Edward has appeared or been mentioned in many television shows, including: ABC's 20/20, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, The Crier Report, Dateline, The Early Show, Entertainment Tonight, Family Guy, Fox and Friends, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Larry King Live, the HBO Special, Life After Life: America Undercover, Live with Regis & Kelly, Maury, Oprah, Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, The 7pm Project, The Tony Danza Show, The View, Smallville, The Wayne Brady Show, Will & Grace, Keeping up with the Kardashians, Kourtney and Kim Take New York and Dr. Phil. as well as in Law and Order S14 EP9 Compassion.
The Adult animated TV series South Park featured Edward in the episode "The Biggest Douche in the Universe", where Edward is portrayed as a cold reading conman. The series' co-creator, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, credit James Randi for Stan's explanation of cold reading.
- Ann O'Delia Diss Debar ("One of the most extraordinary fake mediums... the world has ever known" -Houdini)
- Flim-Flam! (Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and other Delusions)
- Fortune telling fraud
- Houdini's debunking of psychics and mediums
- James Van Praagh
- Linda and Terry Jamison
- Long Island Medium
- Mark Edward
- Monica the Medium
- Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium
- Rose Mackenberg (Historic investigator of psychic mediums)
- Sylvia Browne
- Thomas John Flanagan
- Tyler Henry
- Edward, John (1998). One Last Time. Berkley Trade. ISBN 0-425-16908-1.
- Edward, John (2003). After Life. Princess Books. ISBN 1-932128-12-3.
- Edward, John (2001). Crossing Over. Jodere Group. p. 21. ISBN 1-58872-002-0.
- "John Edward: An Alleged Psychic Who Claims to Communicate With the Dead". Larry King Live. Archived from the original on February 20, 2003.
- "Interview With John Edward". Larry King Live. October 2, 2003. CNN.
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- Edward, John (1999). Crossing Over with John Edward (Television series). U.S.: Sci-Fi Channel.
- de Moraes, Lisa (October 26, 2006). "Medium Crosses The Line: WTC Segment Canned". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 18, 2006.
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- Edward, John (2001). Crossing Over. Jodere Group. ISBN 1-58872-002-0.
- Gerbic, Susan. "Ten Tricks of the Psychics I Bet You Didn't Know". CSI. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
- Horton, Adrian (February 25, 2019). "John Oliver on psychics: 'A vast underworld of unscrupulous vultures'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on February 25, 2019. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
- Mehta, Hemant (February 25, 2019). "John Oliver Exposed the Media's Complicity in Promoting Psychic "Mediums"". Friendlyatheist.patheos.com. Patheos. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
- "Psychics: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)". Youtube. LastWeekTonight. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
- Schwartz, Gary (March 2003). The Afterlife Experiments. Atria Books. ISBN 978-0-7434-3659-5.
- Hyman, Ray (January–February 2003). "How Not to Test Mediums". Skeptical Inquirer. 27 (1).
- Schwartz, Gary (2003). "How Not To Review Mediumship Research". Retrieved December 4, 2006.
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- The ABC News report is viewable here. Archived October 29, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
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- "Psychic Investigations". Retrieved January 10, 2012.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 26, 2016. Retrieved 2016-02-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Trey Parker & Matt Stone – TAM 5". James Randi Educational Foundation/YouTube. April 26, 2013. Retrieved April 27, 2013.