Well, that's what soi-disant psychic medium John Edward was before he became "The Biggest Douche in the Universe".
Glen Cove native John Edward, as reported by Newsday, will be giving a series of live performances at the North Fork Theatre at Westbury here on Long Island from Wednesday through Sunday.
The far too credulous entertainment reporter for Newsday, Denise Flaim, recounts a telephone conversation she had with ten years ago:
"But just before I sat down with Edward for our first formal interview, I got a phone call at the office. It was Edward, fresh from the StairMaster. Three entities kept "coming through" while he was at the gym, he said. And they were not taking no for an answer.
Then, rapid fire, came my late grandparents, if you want to believe it was them. Edward gave me their names, clear as day. He knew plenty of things that you couldn't check on the database at Ellis Island: The still in my maternal grandfather's basement. The great-uncle buried in the family plot, and what he died of. The fact that I had my grandmother's rosary beads - even if I didn't know I did, until, at Edward's insistence, I went home and looked."
Call me a dogmatic skeptic, but I can't help but feel that Edward hired someone to get information about Flaim's family members and then called her up to catch her off guard. I mean, this is a guy who in front of an audience is stammering out "Does the name Mike mean anything?" and he suddenly calls Flaim out of the blue to tell her where her grandmother's rosary beads are?
Flaim does make an obligatory nod towards the skeptical viewpoint, mentioning Joe Nickell of the Center for Skeptical Inquiry. She quotes:
"The average person watching John Edward is not better suited to understand what he is doing than the average person watching a magician perform an illusion and trying to figure out how he does that," says Nickell, who has never met Edward but who has studied tapes of his appearances and written about him. "If you are a willing participant, if you've already bought into what he is doing, you will start helping clarify what he is saying."
But Flaim goes on to write:
"Not surprisingly, Edward is dismissive of his critics, noting that everything they accuse him of they turn out to be guilty of themselves, such as manipulating tapes of his readings to make the validating information land on the cutting-room floor."
Nickell has much more to say about Edward in this article he did for CSICOP.
And here is a clib from Youtube featuring Australian magician Mark Mayer on an Australian talk show discussing how John Edward plies his trade:
You can e-mail Ms. Flaim at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell her what an ignorant fool she is.