Psychics have come in many forms over the years: Soothsayers with their portent of doom; fortune tellers hovering over crystal balls; intense men in suits presiding over a séance in the dark. The most prominent these days is a woman who is from Long Island, is a medium, and is short on specifics.
While the skeptic movement is my greatest passion, I try to keep my posts light and nonjudgmental. That is not the case when I address the likes of Teresa Caputo and John Edward. I reserve great disdain for those who tell persons they are speaking with their dead relatives. I called them vultures until I realized this analogy was amiss. Vultures scavenge from the dead. John Edward and Teresa Caputo prey on the living, making millions off grieving parents, children, and siblings, when they are at their most vulnerable.
These hucksters are graduate students in the twisted art of cold reading. They will ask, “Is there anyone here that has lost a sibling?” Well, yes, in an audience of 500, of course someone is going to qualify. Then they keep subsequent “guesses” vague enough that they keep scoring “hits” and the person, desperate to think they are connecting to a lost loved one, will buy it, and discard any “misses.” What seems like innocent conversation is actually the medium mentally feeling out the subject. They can gauge body language and voice inflection, and know when to proceed further. On television, of course, any misses are edited out, and there is the possibility of it being scripted.
Mediums claim the dead person is saying they loved music, being outdoors, or family time. Not once has the deceased announced, “My name is Joe and I was born on Jan. 26, 1931 in Tyler, Texas.”
Even some who acknowledge that Edward and Caputo are charlatans believe some good comes from what they do. They think Edward and Caputo offer those left behind peace and comfort. At best, this is true in the short term.
In the Kübler-Ross model, the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Someone who buys what Edward or Caputo are selling is vulnerable to spending an indeterminate amount of time in stages one or three. If someone claims to be speaking to a deceased loved one, the departed might not seem dead at all, and denial is an ongoing process. Those who see the same medium regularly are especially susceptible to the bargaining stage. For a price, the medium will send a few more pieces of netherwordly reassurance your way.
Not everyone accepts the Kübler-Ross Model and, of course, people grieve in different ways. But relying on a medium, rather than going through the normal process, will keep a person stuck in their grief and no genuine healing will occur.