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Demystifying John Edward of Crossing Over

This article covers, the following:

    1.  Introduction
    2.  Is The Studio Rigged?
    3.  A Sample 'Annotated' Psychic Reading
    4.  The Houdini Factor
    5.  What's the Difference Between a Psychic and a Medium?
    6.  More Information - John Edward Related Websites


     How does he do it? How often have you wondered how John Edward is able to communicate with loved ones who have "crossed over"? Well, it's actually easier than John Edward would like to let on. Contrary to his show, Crossing Over, boasting that John Edward has had a "psychic" ability since an early age, what he actually does is called "cold reading."  A cold reading is the "sleight of tongue" procedure that fast-talking artists or so-called "Readers" use (as opposed to a "warm reading", where the Reader has actually acquired information about the subject beforehand). Cold reading has many methods whereby the Reader can get out of a blatantly wrong guess with extreme speed. So fast that, unless you listen very carefully or are able to review a transcript of what was actually said during the reading, few would ever notice. Cold reading is used by such other "psychics" or "sensitives" as Sylvia Browne and James Van Praagh (John, Sylvia and James being the three most popular Cold Readers at the moment). All of whom claim to communicate with loved ones who have crossed over. A sample of a cold reading can be found below, together with explanations along the way so that you can see how people are duped into believing the Reader has some form of psychic ability.

Is The Studio Rigged?

     The following letter was sent to the James Randi Educational Foundation, psychic debunkers extraordinaire (Ghost Busters of the paranormal sort), who allow the individual reading this letter to draw their own conclusions. Also decide for yourself if John Edward is a "cold reader" or a "warm reader" as those terms are explained above.

      The concerned member of the Crossing Over audience writes :

    I was on the John Edward show. He even had a multiple guess "hit" on me that was featured on the show. However, it was edited so that my answer to another question was edited in after one of his questions. In other words, his question and my answer were deliberately mismatched. Only a fraction of what went on in the studio was actually seen in the final 30 minute show. He was wrong about a lot and was very aggressive when somebody failed to acknowledge something he said.

    Also, his "production assistants" were always around while we waited to get into the studio. They told us to keep very quiet, and they overheard a lot. I think that the whole place is bugged somehow. Also, once in the studio we had to wait around for almost two hours before the show began. Throughout that time everybody was talking about what dead relative of theirs might pop up.

    Remember that all this occurred under microphones and with cameras already set up. My guess is that he was backstage listening and looking at us all and noting certain readings. When he finally appeared, he looked at the audience as if he were trying to spot people he recognized.

    He also had ringers in the audience. I can tell because about fifteen people arrived in a chartered van, and once inside they did not sit together.

A Sample 'Annotated' Psychic Reading

       Below are two sample readings. The first involving Doris Stokes a famous cold reader. Following that is one by John Edward of Crossing Over fame.

       Immediately below is an excerpt from the BBC television program "40 Minutes" in an expose about cold reading. Doris Stokes was one such cold reader featured, and very popular in the U.K. and Australia. Simon Hoggart, a well-known British writer and co-author of "Bizarre Beliefs," provides the commentary. The performance was done before a sizeable studio audience.

       Doris Stokes begins, as most Readers do, by throwing out names, initials, suggestions, clues, anything that might evoke a response from her audience. Our excerpt begins when she throws out the name, "little Daniel." This is an almost guaranteed "carrot" to dangle in front of an audience this size, and it gets an immediate bite. Mr. Hoggart, our commentator, will frequently break in on the exchange to point out what has occurred, and what to anticipate next from the Reader at a particular point:

       Young Woman:  I've got a Daniel.

       This response, in its present tense, indicates to Stokes that: (1) "Daniel" is alive, and (2) that Daniel "belongs" to this woman.

Doris Stokes:  Little Daniel?

Young Woman:  Very little.

       Rather than just answer the question with a simple, Yes. The woman freely volunteers that Daniel is — very little, and Stokes takes it — correctly — to mean that Daniel is an infant, something she didn't know until the woman volunteered that information. Remember that the victims of this process are "expected" to provide help to the Reader, and since they want the reading to be a success, they eagerly provide clues. Stokes then re-issues her finding, quite safely:

Doris Stokes:  You know, a baby Daniel. Did he have to go back to the hospital, love?

       This last sentence is a question — not a revelation!  Should the answer be "no," Stokes can still have a partial win here because she had at least guessed that he'd been in a hospital previously. Many infants must return to the hospital in the first few years of their life in order to receive their immunization shots. In addition, in this day and age, the probability that little Daniel was born in a hospital, is extremely high.

Young Woman:  Yes, he had to go back to the hospital.

Doris Stokes:  But he's all right now, love.

       This is both a question and a statement. A question because it can be taken to inquire about the status of the infant, and a statement because if it's true, it's a "hit." In this instance, it backfires!  Luckily for Stokes, as often happens, the woman wanting a successful reading, attempts to justify the Reader's mistake.

Young Woman:  No. Well, he might be all right on your side [the spirit side], but we've lost him.

        Some fast talking is urgently needed here from Stokes, and, true to form, she delivers:

Doris Stokes:  Yes, that's what they're saying, he'll be all right now, love.

       Good save! The "they" she is quoted as saying is the spirit population on "the other side."  "They" are often blamed for giving out wrong information, which "they" like to do as a prank, or so the Reader would have you believe. Here, Stokes has quickly recovered and fixed her mistake by dropping into the favorite view held by spiritualists, that we all go on living on "the other side," and Daniel's doing just fine "over there."

Doris Stokes:  And they said, "We've brought little Daniel, and he went home and then he had to go back to the hospital."

       There it is!  The absolute favorite ploy used by Readers. Stokes is repeating exactly what the person has just helped her to develop, as if "they" have just told her this!  An example of this same technique, in one of James Van Praagh's readings, which often — far too often — contain this same sort of sequence. He asks questions, but when he doesn't know the answer or he receives useless information, he immediately reconstructs the answers as if he had them just revealed to him by "the other side."  Here's the sequence, in which Van Praagh has "contacted" a spirit for a widow:

Van Praagh:  Is this your husband?

Woman:  Yes.

Van Praagh:  Because he just said, "Husband! I'm her husband, I'm her husband." Okay? Was he in the hospital before he passed over, please?

Woman:  Yes.

Van Praagh:  Because he's talking about being in the hospital before he passed over. Did he die in a hospital?

Woman:  Yes.

Van Praagh:  It's like — I'm waiting for him to come through with this — "Yeah! I died there!" He says he died there!

       You can see how this rather obvious gimmick, when used quickly and in the heat of an exchange, can easily get past the observer. Also notice, that those were three questions from Van Praagh, not statements! Each one had to be rephrased into a statement from the deceased!  How convenient the spirtitual world can be at times.

        But, back to the Stokes event and little Daniel:

Doris Stokes:  And he never went home again, but they said, "He's all right now." And he's about three now, lovey?

Young Woman:  Yes, he is.

       Of course, little Daniel never went home again!  He died!  And again, here's that premise that no one ever dies. Daniel is living in Heaven, and is now three years old. A comforting thought to the bereaved.

Doris Stokes:  I can see him. He's got auburn hair, love.

Young Woman:  Yes, he has.

       You must be wondering, what if this guess had been wrong?  No problem!  The Reader simply insists that the deceased now has hair this color, or now plays this sport, or now is tall and thin, "now" that they're in Heaven. If the Reader guesses incorrectly, he or she can simply state "Well, they do now that they are in Heaven."  Who's going to go to Heaven and see if they're right?  Further, simple genetic statistics show that most children will take thier mother's hair color.

       Let's go back for a moment to the year 1922 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and another seance, when Harry Houdini's dead mother, Cecilia Weiss, was contacted through a Medium, a Mrs. Doyle. The spirit of Houdini's mother was coming through speaking and writing in fluent English, which was a big surprise to Houdini, who informed the Medium that his mother had spoken only Yiddish all her life, and not a single word of English nor could she write, let alone in English. Undaunted, and in true fashion, the Medium snapped back, "Well, in Heaven, everyone speaks English!" Houdini was not convinced by this assertion, especially since his mother appeared not to know anything about her former life, the life she spent on "this side."

        Back to the Stokes event and little Daniel:

Doris Stokes:  Yes, he's here looking at the flowers. Yes, Daniel, you can, love. He says, "Can I have some flowers for my Mum?"  [the audience sighs]  So when you go tonight, lovey, will you take some flowers?

Young Woman:  [Awkwardly]  He ... he wasn't MY child.

       Drat!  Wrong again!  Stokes had assumed, likely enough, that this woman was Daniel's mother. She now had to immediately act to cover this mistake. And she does:

Doris Stokes:  No ... but YOU know his mother?

Young Woman:  Yes.

       The "No" stated here is delivered as if Stokes already knew that, rather than being an "oh!" and thus, admitting a mistake. Stokes was a pro. Far better than John Edward, though they use the exact same technique. Maybe John should contact her and get some pointers, now that she's on "the other side!"

Doris Stokes:  No, I didn't say to YOU ... he [Daniel] said, "Can I have some flowers for my mother, because she'll never believe I'm here" ... and he's a beautiful child.

       Stokes has expanded Daniel's statement to make it accommodate her mistake, and has immediately tossed in an expected, and much accepted, compliment on the beauty of the child. The alternate observations, that the kid was ugly or a brat, never seem to be offered.

Doris Stokes:  Just a minute, Daniel ... He had a defect with his heart, darling [the Young Woman nods in agreement], and they tried to repair it, and it didn't work, but he's growing up and he's nearly three, he said, and he's talking away ...

       Stokes here repeats something she has already found to be true, that Daniel died three years ago, with the addition of trying for — and getting — the correct cause of death. Not an unlikely possibility, and it worked. What if there'd been no heart operation? Readers may insist that there was some procedure carried out which the parent or relative was unaware of. In one instance, a man who actually died of a stroke was said by Stokes to have died of heart failure, but she rationalized her mistake by explaining that it was his heart that delivered him to Heaven.

       As Mr. Hoggart has so aptly pointed out in this excerpt, Doris Stokes was right about the child's age, and about his hair color, although neither of these tidbits are particularly surprising. The young woman had told her that Daniel was very little, and the description "auburn" — reddish or golden brown — could apply to almost any hair color except blonde or jet black.

        Let's see how John Edward stacks up against Doris Stokes. From a Crossing Over episode that aired on July 5, 2002, John Edward appears in his Gallery and explains to the studio audience that he has been a psychic medium for 15 years, and that anything can happen during his readings. After that simple introduction, he asks the audience, "Are you ready? Ok. I'm over here," as he walks to a particular section of the Gallery and begins to bait the audience by slowly rolling out the following:

John Edward:  They're either trying to tell me someone has a name like Celine [no immediate bites from the audience] ... or they want me to acknowledge a name like Celina [still no bites] ... but they're telling me to say Celine [as he motions the letter "C" with his index finger].
Female Guest:  I have an Aunt Zia Lina.

        Finally! Someone bites. An Aunt Zia Lina's name is volunteered by a female guest who appears to be in her 40's, attractive with auburn hair, wide open brown eyes, and dressed conservatively. Well ... Celina and Zia Lina sound close enough don't they? But what about John's rather adamant spelling of the letter "C" with his fingers? Maybe this was an illiterate spirit.

John Edward:  Ok. Has she passed?
Female Guest:  Yeah.
John Edward:  Ok. We're going to start there.

        At this point, ask yourself "What does John know so far?" He knows that this particular guest is willing to go that extra mile to help him connect his guesses with her answers. He gathered as much from the stretch from Celina and Zia Lina. John also knows this guest has an aunt who has passed away. Based upon the age of the guest (40'ish) and that the average life span of people in the U.S. is their mid-70's, John can assume that both her parents have also passed. Also, based upon the aunt's name John can determine that the family is of either a Latin or Greek descent.

        Time to get the ball rolling. This next part is done at such speed, that the guest doesn't have time to respond, and that's the way it's suppose to be. Who would dare be rude enough to interrupt John while on TV. He knows this, you don't. Now, with lightning fast speed, John delivers the following:

John Edward:  They're telling me to acknowledge November or the 11th of the month having some type of meaning because there's some kind of connection. They're making me feel like there's some type of mom vibration that's has passed because there's an older female coming through and I feel like [pause] ... is it your mom that's passed?
Female Guest:  Yeah.

        Ahhh! As expected, John is dipping into some of that information derived from what he gathered above. Based upon her age, odds are that the guest's mother has also passed but even if this guess is wrong, John can fall back on Aunt Zia Lina as the older female coming through. John continues with the following:

John Edward:  Ok. She's making me feel like ...

        She, as in the "mother," is making him feel? If John is already in touch with the mother, why did he previously have to ask if she had passed? As you noticed above, John did the same thing with the aunt, asking if she had already passed.

John Edward:  She's telling me to say "R" ... there's an "R" connection so I don't know who the "R" is. [The maternal side isn't getting any positive response from the guest, so John switches to the paternal side] I think it's like on dad's side of the family ...
Female Guest:  [The female guest is seen thinking hard, then appearing dumbfounded she finally shrugs her shoulders to signal John that she hasn't a clue what he's talking about].
John Edward:  ... and I actually think it's a name like Reginald ... Regina ... there's like an "RG" sound or a last name "RG." I don't know what this means but they're telling me "R" and it sounds like with a "G" connected to it.

        This is the second time is as many minutes that John has said, "I don't know what this means." John likes to use this statement when the guest isn't reponding well (or is that when his guesses are so far off?). He most often uses it in heated exchanges where the guest isn't given the opportunity to respond. If he's wrong, no one ever says anything. If he's right, when he finishes the exchange, the guest will most often pick out a single statement and comment on it. This gives John the opportunity to spit out dozens of guesses and the guest will only comment on the one which is right, making him look like he's actually communicating with a spirit. John continues guessing names:

John Edward:  ... like Reg ... Raj  [pause]  ... sounds like Reg ...
Female Guest:  [The guest just shrugs her shoulders to show a negative response].
John Edward:  ... Reggie ... Roger ... there's an "R" sound ... Regina ... but there's something about ... like the name Regina they want me to acknowledge.

        Thank the spirits it's only a half-hour show! We'd all hate to see John guess every name beginning with the letter "R" just to finally get it right. Frustrated, the guest herself volunteers a name, any name.

Female Guest:  Virginia?
John Edward:  Who is this?

        Hey John? You're the psychic. You tell us!

Female Guest:  My father's aunt who passed on.

        In this particular instance, John just decides he's had enough and quickly moves on to another subject with no further explanation for the people behind the "C" and "R" names. Wrong guesses? You bet!

        What separates John from other cold readers, is that John works with a sizable audience (the Gallery) and when his readings go like the above, as happens far too often, he will just say that he's picking up the "energies" of two different or distinct families which is suppose to explain away wrong guesses. Enough wrong guesses or if the guest isn't cooperating, he will just claim the "energy" is pulling back and then move on to someone else he hopes this time will be more volunteering of information.

        It's rather ironic that a person who alleges to be in touch with people who have crossed over can't even identify them nor discover if they had in fact already passed over. This isn't by mistake that John does this. If he doesn't have enough information and guesses wrong, he is exposed. Rather, he just simply asks, "Has this person passed over?" Which is phrased as both a statement AND a question, and which is almost immediately followed by an affirmative nod of his head and a statement by the likes of, "Because he or she is telling me ..." His inquiry to determine if the person has in fact passed over is posed almost like he is asking the question of himself and outloud. But don't be fooled, John is reading every expression on your face and as soon as he sees your response, he is quick to interject something further and hopefully before you answer verbally. In this way he is perceived as communicating with the spirits rather than with you. Remember, speed is everything to a cold reader.

       In the end, you are ultimately left to decide for yourself, cold reading — fact or fiction.  However, keep in mind two very important things: (1) John Edward's Crossing Over show originated on the "Sci-Fi" channel along side of the likes of "The Twilight Zone", "The Outer Limits" and other science "fiction" shows; and (2) remember what P.T. Barnum, the circus magnate and carnival game master, is quoted as saying, "A sucker is born every minute."  Don't let it be you!!

The Houdini Factor

     As mentioned above, Harry Houdini (the famous magician) spent years trying to communicate with his mother, Cecilia Weiss, who passed over in 1913. He spent so much time in fact that he eventually became a psychic debunker exposing the fraudulent spiritualists who preyed upon grieving families. He NEVER successfully acheived his goal of communicating with the "other side."

      Prior to his untimely death in 1926, Houdini made a secret pact with Bess, his wife of thirty-two years. They made a ten word code which only each of them knew. Each would try their best to communicate with the other once they passed over. The correct code would act as proof that it was really them coming through from the other side. For ten (10) years Mrs. Houdini offered a $10,000 reward for anyone, psychic or layman, who could communicate with Harry. She visited psychics from around the world in an attempt to communicate with him. Not a single psychic could produce the secret code, although almost all of them claimed to have communicated with Houdini himself on the other side. In her last seance in 1936, she tried one final time to reach Harry. After this final failure, Bess made this little speech, "I do not think that Harry will come back to me, or anyone. I think the dead don't speak. I now regretfully turn out the light. This is the end, Harry, good night!" She then blew out the candle that she had lit after his death and that had been buring for him for ten years. In 1937, Mrs. Houdini, sent out a final letter to the media, the general public and to those psychics who participated saying, "Since the failure of the ten year test, it is my opinion that all concerned have struck a mighty worldwide blow at superstition."

      By the way, Houdini's ten word secret code was: "Rosabelle - Answer - Tell - Pray, Answer - Look - Tell - Answer, Answer - Tell." It was based upon an old Vaudeville mindreading routine. "Rosabelle" was the name of the song Bess was singing when the two first met. The other words correspond to a secret spelling code used to pass information between a magician and his assistant during a mind reading act. Each word or word pairs equals a letter. The word "Answer" stood for the letter "B", for example. "Answer, Answer" stood for the letter "V". With this unique code within a code, Houdini's secret spelled out the word, "BELIEVE."

      For more information regarding Readers, Mediums, cold reading techniques and other paranormal debunking, consult the James Randi Educational Foundation.

What's the Difference Between a Psychic and a Medium?

     What exactly is a psychic? The word psychic comes from the Greek word "psyche," meaning "breath of life" as in a soul or spirit. A person who is psychic is said to be in touch with not only their own soul but everyone else's as well. As such, they can perform a soul reading, where they can connect with someone's soul through their aura energy field (which is said to be an extension of the body) and read information about a person's past, present and possible future.

     What exactly is a medium? The word medium means the thing in which something is transported or transmitted. It is for this reason that we talk of the Internet, television, radio and newspapers as a medium or the "media." The media transmits information from person to person through their respective manner, i.e., newspapers, television, etc. Similarly, a spiritual medium transmits information from a spirit to someone living.

     Mediumship is when a psychic raises their energy to such a level that they act as a conduit of information directly from the spirit world. Mediumship is a tricky art to say the least. It can be likened to the tuning of a radio to a transmitter when neither knows the exact frequency and that frequency keeps drifting due to atmospheric disturbances. A perfectly transmitted message may arrive at the other end with static and garbled words.

     When a psychic gives a "reading" it means they are reading you and your aura. Mediums, on the other hand, "deliver" messages to you from the "other side" of life. If someone from the "other side" comes through with a comment about your life, it is just their opinion and probably stated in the same fashion as it would have been if they were here on "this side." It is still your choice to dismiss the spirit's opinion or advice, the same as if they were here in person.

     As a rule of thumb, all spiritual mediums are psychic, but not all psychics are mediums.

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