Because people will always get sick, there will always be others selling the latest, greatest cure, regardless of how inexplicable or unreasonable it might be. The Old West traveler hawking elixirs from his wagon became Orthomolecular Medicine Man in the 20th Century, promising to remedy aliments with a Vitamin C overload. His descendant today has online stores and holistic health huts from which he sells detoxifying peach-mango mixes, Himalayan salt treatments, and craniosacral rubs.
The seriousness of adopting these methods is parallel to the affliction. If your aunt treats her mild lupus with corticosteroids from her rheumatologist, she will likely get better results than her neighbor who treats the same illness with jasmine-infused owl feathers from a shaman. The latter would likely experience swollen joints and fever, meaning a less enjoyable life, but not an extinguished one. The greatest danger, of course, comes in the form of cancer patients bypassing chemotherapy for ionic foot cleanses and milk thistle.
But whether one goes with what centuries of research and double blind studies show, or with what 30 minutes on Google reveals, both patients will die eventually, either from the disease or something else. And that is when those who prey on the sick and frightened are replaced by those who pounce on the grieving and lonely.
In the past, these charlatans preferred to project an element of mystery. They were septuagenarians with eastern European names, accents, and accoutrements. They resided in rural villages and gave readings in hushed tones with raised eyebrows and eyes opened in amazement. By contrast, today’s mediums are often telegenic, loquacious, eager to help, and easy to find.
The latest example is Tyler Henry. Like snake oil salesman, the conniving ghouls have adapted for the times. Séances with mysterious strangers in darkened rooms have given way to unrealistic reality shows featuring fresh-faced congenial chaps and ladies with immaculate coiffures and snazzy semiformal wardrobes. Having turned 20 this month, Henry brings a youthful exuberance to the art of preying on the grieving at their most vulnerable.
While he is young, there’s nothing original in his techniques. He keeps it vague, jettisoning misses and focusing instead on what his subjects considers hits. He then shuts up and lets his client fill in the significant blanks. For instance, on a reading with Jaime Pressley, Henry insisted he was driven to write the letter B over and over, which he did. Pressley excitedly shouted, “Brittany Murphy,” and indeed, Henry confirmed that’s where the spirit was leading him.
About this revelation, Bobby Finger at Jezebel noted, “Mediums expect us to believe that the dead, in their desperate attempts to tell their survivors that everything’s just great on the other side, are only able to communicate in single words or syllables. The afterlife is apparently filled with stuttering apparitions of the formerly living.”
Whether Pressley was genuinely impressed or putting on for the camera, I’m unsure. But skeptics recognize what Henry did as a garden variety cold read. But Henry is versatile, as evidenced by his use of a hot read while victimizing retired basketball player John Salley. Henry mentioned “Moses” and Salley knew this was a message from beyond the grave from his friend Moses Malone. That Malone had died four months earlier and was friends with Salley are facts anyone could look up, but Henry added the extra element of procuring monetary gain from his online search.
His versatility is also seen by his purporting to have multiple psychic abilities. Besides speaking with the dead, he also claims clairvoyance, the ability to see the future. Put another way, he knew about the Paris attacks and did nothing to warn the victims. But can you blame the guy? Look how many potential new clients he has now.
He shows some originality by claiming another ability most psychics don’t, the capacity to diagnose medical conditions by merely sensing someone’s energy. What does your silly old oncologist know, I’m getting nothing but good vibes from your aura.
His public readings have so far been limited to the likes of Pressley, Salley, and Dr. Phil. But his stated goal is to fill a specific lowly niche in the pond scum of ghoulish mediums. He plans to specialize in parents whose children killed themselves. No one is more ravaged by guilt, tormented about words said or not said, actions taken or suppressed, than those whom Henry seeks to exploit. Dr. Steven Novella, founder of the New England Skeptical Society, said of Henry’s career ambition, “This is the worst grief a human can suffer. These are people at their most vulnerable. He is not a trained counselor, and working with the grieving is very tricky. The potential for harm is tremendous.”
Henry describes himself as a skeptic. Hold on a second while I hurl into my trash can. OK, I’m back. Henry said, “It’s important to have a healthy degree of skepticism. So in my readings, my goal is to bring up information that there really is no way I could know. I don’t like saying general things. I don’t like saying information that everybody knows. I focus on information that can’t be researched or Googled, and that usually includes inside jokes or sentimental pieces of information that only families really know.”
Skeptic activist Susan Gerbic noted this would be an easy assertion to test if Henry is sincere about it. She said, “If Henry really is a skeptic, surely he’s be up for a carefully designed and controlled test of his powers. I doubt that’s going to happen any time soon.” Indeed, Henry has relayed no premonition of when this test will take place.
Gerbic is correct. If I woke up with a newly-discovered ability to levitate objects, I would want scientists and doctors to examine it. I would want Penn & Teller and James Randi to see it, not to fool them and get a million dollars, respectively, but so that skeptics and scientists could try to deduce what unknown physics phenomenon was being accessed, how it could be controlled, and how it could benefit Mankind. Alas, as of this morning, I still lack this ability. The only thing I’m able to lift is the veil off of Henry’s fraudulent world.