Tyler Henry Koelewyn
Hanford, California, U.S.
|Residence||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|Occupation||TV reality show personality, self-described psychic and medium|
|Television||Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry|
|Part of a series on the|
Tyler Henry Koelewyn is an American reality show personality who appears in the series Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry as a "clairvoyant medium". The series began its broadcast on the E! Television Network in the United States in January 2016, and was E!'s largest launch of a non-spinoff unscripted series in the past three years with 3.2 million viewers for its third episode. In November 2016, Henry released a memoir, Between Two Worlds: Lessons from the Other Side.
Skeptical activists and others including John Oliver concerned with Henry's rise in popularity have actively attempted to counter the public perception that what Henry does reflects reality. Numerous critics maintain that Henry's readings are performed using deceptive cold reading and hot reading techniques, and not "psychic" powers. Susan Gerbic and others also criticize his TV show for targeting people who are grieving and vulnerable, and exploiting them for entertainment.
According to Henry, he noticed that he had clairvoyant abilities when he was ten years old. After giving readings to students and teachers at Hanford's Sierra Pacific High School, from which he graduated on an accelerated academic program. Henry initially aspired to attend college and become a hospice nurse. However, Henry soon was "discovered." Before long, he gained a celebrity clientele and a reality TV development deal. Henry began filming his E! television series when he was 19 years old; the show began airing a week after his 20th birthday. Henry reportedly welcomes skepticism about his work: "I am content with people asking questions," he told the Fresno Bee. Henry is openly gay.
Hollywood Medium With Tyler Henry premiered on E! on January 24, 2016. After a successful premiere, E! ordered two additional episodes, making it 10 episodes total. In March 2016, It was announced that E! had ordered a second season of the show. A memoir, Between Two Worlds, was released in 2016.
Henry has given readings to many celebrities, such as Nancy Grace, Alan Thicke, retired NBA player John Salley and actors Monica Potter, Amber Rose, Jaleel White, the Kardashians, Carmen Electra, Matt Lauer, Chad Michael Murray, Rick Fox, Megan Fox, Chrissy Metz, Kristin Cavallari, Bobby Brown, Roselyn Sanchez, Tom Arnold, Erika Jayne and many more. Alan Thicke's death several months after his reading with Henry has become the subject of media reports and controversy.
In February 2018, People.com printed an article in advance of the third season of Hollywood Medium. The article detailed Henry's claims about his abilities, the development of his "powers", and his reading with La Toya Jackson set to air in the new season, in which he claimed to contact Michael Jackson.
Death of Alan Thicke
On December 13, 2016, actor Alan Thicke died due to aortic dissection at the age of 69. Several months before his death, Thicke was the subject of a reading done for the Hollywood Medium TV show. Among the many topics discussed by Henry, the concern of possible heart problems was addressed:
When it comes to a family gene perspective, it's possible that within your family that there may be multiple men who at a later age have to deal with a blood pressure issue, but also with a heart murmur or heart arrhythmia, but I have to go to heart which correlates to blood pressure. So, keep that in mind, I have a couple people passing on a similar sense saying keep in mind your own heart. There is a man who is very stubborn who passed away, he acknowledges dying because of a heart problem. His message is don't be stubborn like I was … it could have been treatable if we had known about it.
After Thicke died, this part of his reading was referenced by Henry's fans as evidence that Tyler had actually predicted Thicke's death. Various news outlets reported on this uncritically, some with sensational headlines such as "Tyler Henry Eerily Predicts Alan Thicke's Death on Hollywood Medium".
Skeptical activist Susan Gerbic challenged the claim that this was a successful psychic prediction in a September 15, 2017 Skeptical Inquirer article. In a detailed break-down of the entire reading, Gerbic reports that immediately following the above statements, Thicke joked "Thank you Doctor Henry, I'm going to take that to heart." Gerbic reported that this prompted Henry to throw back his head and laugh. Gerbic said "I'm mentioning this because it seems so heartless (pun intended) that if Henry REALLY thought that Thicke's heart would give out only a couple months later, he should have been less flippant about it, and actually very stern." Gerbic continued:
Keep in mind that Henry was again playing the odds. The number one cause of death for American males? You guessed it: heart disease ... My intent with this investigation is to show that there is no evidence of any communication with the dead is happening, everything that was said was general, or edited. If this is such a great case of prediction of someone getting a call from the "other side" to get your heart checked out, then why was it so vague? Is Hollywood Medium blaming Alan Thicke for not taking Henry's reading seriously?
It is the opinion of scientific skeptics that mediumship is a con, and that Henry is no exception. As such, skeptical activists and others concerned with Henry's rise in popularity have actively attempted to counter the public perception that what Henry claims to do reflects reality:
- Gerbic, a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, has dismissed Henry as one of many "grief vampires" who have gained recent cultural notoriety, and she is particularly critical of Henry's stated aspiration of offering counseling to parents who have lost children to suicide, a practice Gerbic describes as "prey[ing] on families when they are the most desperate and vulnerable." Gerbic describes the performances as "a fabric of lies," saying that people like Henry "prey on the poor and disaffected." As of February 2018 she has published seven articles detailing how she believes Henry's feats are actually accomplished. In March 2018, Gerbic published an article on the Skeptical Inquirer website summarizing a number of techniques which she says are used by psychics, such as Henry, to achieve their effects.
- Author Sharon Hill of Doubtful News and the 15 Credibility Street podcast, has also been critical of Henry, stating "It's hardly a 'skill' to guess at celebrities' lives," noting that his apparent successes on the show are "craftily edited" for television audiences.
- "What Henry's doing isn't entertainment" states activist Hemant Mehta, "it's deception." Mehta doubts that Henry will submit to scientific trials, and feels that he is "just the latest telegenic star on a network dedicated to celebrating vapid people."
- Neurologist Steven Novella, founder of the New England Skeptical Society and host of The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast, states that psychics like Henry are "grief vampires" who say they are giving comfort to grieving families: "Henry wishes to inject made up BS. He is not a trained counselor, and working with the grieving is very tricky. The potential for harm is tremendous."
- Surgical oncologist David Gorski of ScienceBlogs writes in his January 22, 2016, article "The rise of a new grief vampire" that:
The next generation of psychic scammers is here, led by a handsome, boyish-looking 20 year old who is being advertised as three, three, three psychic scammers in one. First, he claims to be a medium, claiming that he can communicate with the dead. Second, he claims to be a clairvoyant, implying that he can predict the future. Third, and finally, he claims to be a "medical intuitive," defined as having the "innate ability to describe the cause of a physical or emotional condition through the perception or feeling of another's energy.
- Gorski goes on to say:
It might well be that, as long as Henry restricts himself to doing readings on celebrities for his show, all he's doing is harmless entertainment. The problem is that we already know he isn't restricting himself to that. He already advertises private bookings on his own website ... He has stated that he wants to "help" parents whose children have committed suicide, and no doubt before too long he will do that. Likely the producer of his show is looking for such grieving parents right now, fodder for the grief vampire, to be shown for the morbid entertainment of the masses.
- Huffington Post entertainment writer Cole Delbyck criticized the show and Henry's claims to connect celebrities with their deceased loved ones, saying, "from the previews, it looks fairly exploitative and tasteless."
- Mentalist Mark Edward and Gerbic commented on the readings Henry gave to Ross Matthews, Margaret Cho, Jodie Sweetin and Jillian Rose Reed. They state that Henry does not need to know whom he is reading in advance as "it appears to be nothing more than lukewarm cold reading, flattery and generalities." The sitters in the post interviews claimed that Henry had been very specific, but Gerbic and Edward could not find one single hit, noting errors in memory for each sitter. In the case of a reading Henry did for a staff editor from Cosmopolitan Magazine and which was released on video by the magazine, Gerbic notes that there might also be evidence of Henry having information ahead of time, thus also doing some hot reading.
- Bobby Finger calls Hollywood Medium "the worst show on television" and a "deceptively cruel little experiment in exploitative programming." He analyzed an episode in which Henry met with Carole Radziwill and showed that everything Henry told her was easily accessible public information. He concludes "The loss of a loved one causes its own special, terrible category of pain, and to exploit someone's grief in a way that presents the afterlife as this bleak, murky place where our dead friends and family members are constantly on the hunt for people like the Hollywood Medium ... to spread a message that is almost without fail, 'I'm fine,' doesn't just con their desperate, mournful targets out of a few hard-earned dollars, it does a disservice to the memories of those they lost." Susan Gerbic agrees with Finger that "this is not innocent fun." She analyzed that same episode and came to an only slightly different conclusion. She states that Henry doesn't need to have advanced knowledge of his sitters "because he just needs to throw out general statements and then remain silent while the sitter fills in the details." She looks at the specific time when Radziwill handed Henry a woman's gold ring and Henry states that the ring is a reference to someone who died at an early age, then asked if she knew anyone who fit that. Radziwill said, ""yeah [pause] a girlfriend [pause] her name is Carolyn." Gerbic points out that "These pauses are important to note. This is where Henry is just letting the sitter talk and dropping all the information he is going to need."
- In 2016, the Independent Investigations Group awarded Henry's TV show the "Truly Terrible Television Award", which read:
In recognition of the lack of scientific integrity, and in acknowledgment of the extraordinary ongoing deceit of the American public represented in this television program, the IIG is unfortunately obligated to present this award to Hollywood Medium for truly terrible television 2016.:06:15
- In a 2016 article "The Hollywood Medium has a secret," Ryan Houlihan describes and analyses the Tyler Henry phenomenon from a skeptical perspective. He explains how Tyler uses cold reading, and likely hot reading techniques as well, to give the illusion of psychic powers. Houlihan attributes Henry's success to the gullibility of celebrities as well as the media: "Henry's shtick is polished, but it only works because he has such great support. Besides the celebrities he interviews, Henry seems to have the full-throated endorsement of the entertainment press." Houlihan concludes his article with:
If Henry can truly speak to the dead, it would be the most important discovery in the history of the world. But rather than take his gift to scientists or religious leaders, Henry has decided to speak to actors about their grandmothers and deceased pets on a reality show. Before this story published, The Outline asked Henry's publicist one last time if he could prove his abilities. We did not get a response.
- In a May 2017 article she wrote for Skeptical Inquirer, Susan Gerbic analyzed in great detail a widely viewed E! Network video of Henry giving a fan, Jamie Horn, a reading. Following the session with Henry, Horn said "It was amazing and emotional!" But Gerbic's conclusion is that Henry simply used cold reading techniques to deceive her:
She [Horn] does not have the ability at that moment to pause, back up, and really think about what he is saying... [but] what was missing might be as important as what was said. Henry missed anything that could be considered specific. He never knew anyone's names, careers, years of death or birth, hobbies, nothing. Everything he threw out was general, and he expected Horn to come up with the answers... These are statements that will fit pretty much anyone if you are general enough.
- In June 2017, Nancy Grace sat for a reading with Henry. Grace was convinced that Henry was communicating with her dead father, as well as murdered fiancé, and said she had received closure. After the reading Grace said "there were many things [Henry] said were impossible for him to have gleaned on the internet or even a computer search, speeches I've given, of things that have happened, I find it difficult to believe … I find many of the things he said to be absolutely amazing." In April 2018, Susan Gerbic analyzed the reading, and detailed in Nancy Grace Should be Ashamed of Herself! exactly how Grace had unfortunately been fooled by the usual fraudulent techniques of cold reading and hot reading used by "grief vampires" like Henry to convince people that they have paranormal powers.
- In April 2018, Ben Fowlkes of MMAJunkie.com reported that during a reading of former UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey, Henry conveyed information about her father's suicide, as if obtained through mediumship. However, Fowlkes points out that the "revealed" information was easily available via a Google search because Rousey had publicly discussed these details on multiple occasions. Doing this is an example of a deception called hot reading.
- In a 2019 segment of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver criticized the media for producing shows such as The Hollywood Medium, because they convince viewers that psychic powers are real, and so enable neighborhood psychics to prey on grieving families. Oliver said that Henry may use hot reading in addition to cold reading. As an example, Oliver dissected Henry's reading of Matt Lauer concerning the father-son fishing trip that was part of the reading. Oliver showed examples of publicly available information about Lauer's love of fishing with his father, including Lauer stating this on his own show several times. Oliver summarized "Look, maybe Tyler Henry genuinely accessed the afterlife, an action which would fundamentally change our understanding of everything on Earth. Or maybe he just googled ‘Matt Lauer Dad’ and hit the fucking jackpot”. Speaking about psychics in general, Oliver said: “At best, it is reckless for a stranger to take a stab at ventriloquizing the dead. Loss is complicated, and mourning doesn’t look the same for everyone. But at worst, 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."
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