The Thomas John Experience – Review

Susan Gerbic

The day before the release of psychic medium Thomas John’s new show on CBS All Access—The Thomas John Experience—I released an article with my predictions for the show. That was June 4, 2020, and now it’s time to review those predictions and see how I did. 

If this is your first introduction to Thomas John and want to catch up before reading this review, I’ll link to them here. In a nutshell, I can state that Thomas John claims to be able to communicate with the dead. He had a Las Vegas show at Caesar’s Palace until COVID-19 shut everything down, an event that I can prove he did not see coming. Thomas John also had a TV show called Seatbelt Psychic a few years ago. I and my team of Guerrilla Skeptics have been researching Thomas John since 2016. when he was caught in a sting I called “Operation Pizza Roll,” hot-reading Mark and Susanna Wilson’s Facebook pages, who were actually myself and Mark Edward. 

In the summer of 2019, my team started noticing Thomas John posting on Facebook these shout-outs for volunteers in cities where he was going to be filming for a TV show. We have seen this behavior from him many times, before every Vegas show … every single show: He would ask his fans “who will be in the audience tonight?” And because they were answering him on Facebook, he (and us) could easily browse around those profiles and get enough information on the attendee to make it appear that he would be receiving messages from their dead family members. 

It is nothing more complicated than that. 

I’ve written about Thomas John’s first television show, Seatbelt Psychic, and when we learned about The Thomas John Experience and viewed the trailer for the show, it was pretty obvious that this new show would be Seatbelt Psychic redux. The differences would be that Thomas John would travel to cities around America and sometimes get out of his “rideshare” and go up to what appear to be strangers to tell them personal stories he allegedly hears from dead people. 

As I said, on June 4, 2020, I published my thoughts on what I expected would happen with this show, I even made predictions. I’ll let you, the reader decide how I did. 

Let’s first remind you that everything you see on a TV show is heavily edited. They will film for five hours to get twenty minutes of footage to use. Only what fits the narrative the producers of the show want to tell will be shown. This isn’t a test of mediumship, there is no “two sides” or skepticism. It is a full-blown show about The Thomas John Experience. 

You also can’t trust that what you see is what actually happened; clever editing can make a shocked expression on one of the sitters appear out of order of when that expression actually happened. The real magic is in the editing room. 

And one more reminder: when the psychic or medium (Thomas John claims to be both) has knowledge that you will be sitting for them in advance, even if they never interacted with you before. Then the chances of you being hot-read in advance are very high. 

The show’s website claims that Thomas John is giving readings to unsuspecting people. They also claim that he is “behind the wheel of a rideshare.” 

So anyone watching the show would be expecting that this will be a bit like Candid Camera with hidden cameras and at the end of the reading the producer would hop out from behind the curtain and say, “surprise!” 

But this isn’t the 1960s. We all know how this works in 2020. 

Which of these two scenarios seems more probable? 

Number 1: These “unsuspecting people” called up for a rideshare, got in the car, told the driver where they wanted to be driven to, didn’t notice any cameras, and then Thomas John starts telling them that when they got in the car, their dead father got in with them. Then he proceeds to talk about their dead relatives, make them cry, and then drop them off at their destination. Where the production team would be waiting with all the paperwork they would need to sign for them to appear on TV. Because we know that paperwork is involved, lots of paperwork, right? 


Number 2: There is something else going on. These people know they are going to appear on television and are going along with whatever they are told to do. Paperwork was signed before they enter the car. And if Thomas John has a way of knowing who will be sitting in the back of the car before they buckle up, then he has ways of finding out information on them. Remember not only does the staff know who these people are in advance, but the person being read probably was recommended by their friend in answer to one of these Facebook posts by Thomas John. He does ask for you to nominate someone “and 2-3 sentences about why you would like to nominate this person.” 

Let us try and discover which of these two might be more correct. 

First, at no time does the person getting in the car give a destination, and the driver never asks for one, nor does he put on driving directions, appear to confirm the destination, or even check that he is picking up the correct person. Nothing is normal about the rideshare part of this. 

And cameras, wouldn’t they be obvious? Well maybe not, they make small spy cameras with really good quality. But then this is a TV show. Would they risk shooting in low light? They want to capture every tear, every expression, every shocked look. But we don’t have to speculate if the cameras are hidden or not; we can see what the footage tells us. 

Here are nine screenshots from the first episode “Unique Connections in Chicago.” We can tell there is a camera on the roof of the car filming the unsuspecting rider walking up to the car and opening the door. We see her getting into the backseat, the side of the car next to the curb, a shot of the car with Thomas John, and the rider. Then angles of Thomas John driving, a full-on shot of the rider, the driver’s side of the car, a shot directly looking out a car window, and then a camera crew filming her as she gets out of the car. Good thing they knew where he was dropping her off so they could be waiting to film her.

Later on in the episode “Unique Connections in Chicago,” Thomas John talks about how he keeps getting messages from the dead family members of his film crew, and he shows these images of the cameras in the car.

Are you seriously trying to tell me that an “unsuspecting rider” is going to walk up to a car with these monster cameras on each side of the car and the roof and calmly open the door and get in? You have got to be kidding me that they don’t know what is going on. Then get in and not comment on all the cameras pointing at them? Right—that didn’t happen. 

The very first woman in the very first episode we later learn is someone named Laura Lee. She gets a reading from her son’s best friend, which leads to a later tear-jerking reading with that young man’s family at the end of the episode. But what they show in the episode—remember this is the very first one—is Laura Lee walking up to the car, opening the door, and looking right at one of the cameras and says, “Gee this is different.” Do you think that she expects her rideshare is really going to have cameras all over it like this? Is this normal for Chicago? I suspect that she knows already that she is going to be on camera, that this is a TV show, and I guarantee that the production company has her signature on a stack of papers before she sits down in that car. Liability laws being what they are, no way is that car moving away from that curb without her knowledge of what is going on. 

But it gets better. 

Thomas John looks at her and says, “We are actually filming a TV show, is it okay to film you?” And without a thought she responds, “Oh yeah.” 

At this point, are there any viewers still thinking that this wasn’t completely planned? I am visualizing thousands of people reaching for their remotes to change the channel. Only the truest of his fans, or those like myself who must enjoy this punishment, will watch on. 

And it does continue, he drives on—probably using his psychic powers to know where to drive to because nothing else was said; they could be going in loops around the block for all we know. 

Thomas John says that he might shock her with what he is about to say and then he says, “Do you know a lot of people who have died?” She responds, “Uh huh, what TV show are you filming?” 

Sigh, that was so not believable. 

Thomas John goes on to tell her about a young man who was her son’s best friend who had a heart attack on the basketball court and died. Her father also got in the car with her—no word on if he had to sign any paperwork—and he was watching over her and (cue emotional music) tears flow. Later on in this episode Laura Lee arranges for the family of the young man to get a reading from Thomas John. Thankfully not in the car. He meets with them in a room the production team hired for the purpose. More tears and music. He already knew this story, so repeating it to the family and embellishing it with some more information gathered wasn’t exactly difficult. 

To be clear, I don’t think these people are acting. These are real emotions. They are being manipulated; their grief is being preyed upon, clearly. They might say afterward how great they feel that their dead family is watching over them and sing Thomas John’s praises, but it is a farce. He is relaying information he already knew about these people right to their face and saying that he is getting it from their dead family. What kind of person can do that? Only a Grief Vampire. 

There’s one more thing to consider about the “unsuspecting rideshare” people before we move onto the other readings Thomas John does to fill up the rest of the show. 

These people just like with Seatbelt Psychic are suspiciously dressed. No logos, no cleverly worded t-shirts, no sport’s team hats, no bags or luggage and they look “finished”: nails painted, hair nicely styled, makeup, clothing attractive. They look like someone who knows they are going to be on TV. And they were warned not to wear anything that would show any trademarks; this is what all extras are told when they report to filming. Not suspicious at all. I’m sure they always look this good, just in case they might accidently get on a TV show. 

Take a look for yourself: here are four women in the back seat of the car. You will see this throughout the show. 

Remember I also predicted that when two people get into the backseat of the “rideshare,” they will always sit on the curbside and the other person will stay in the middle seat–never will they slide over to the other window side which would be more normal. This photo is of a couple—you can see them holding hands. But their reading must not have been that exciting because only about twenty seconds made it into the show. Thomas John tells them, “The dogs want you to get another dog.” To which the man in the white shirt (plain white shirt with no writing or logos on it) says, “We just got a new couch.” 

The guy in the middle with the black shirt (no writing or logos on it) looks uncomfortable. Of course you have guessed why he is sitting like that. So the camera can see him. If he was to move to the window side, he would be blocking the other camera. Why did he sit in the middle seat? Because he was told to sit there. And why would he do what he was told? Because he knew he was going to be filmed for a TV show. 

Are these rideshare customers actors like in the Seatbelt Psychic show? I don’t see why not; it worked just fine before for the show. I’m the only one that pointed it out. And why would they care what I write? I mean it isn’t as if it ends up on his Wikipedia page or anything … well, actually it does

On the Seatbelt Psychic show we checked in on the IMDb website, and many of those actors had added their name to the page. It’s been three months and still the only person mentioned on the IMDb page for this show is Thomas John. Maybe in time they will be listed. (IMDb is a subscription website for actors to add their names to the show, unless they personally do it, it won’t be done.) 

There’s only fourteen reviews and two comments on the IMDb page; no photos either. Looks pretty forgotten. A 6.2 rating is okay, but that is based on only those fourteen reviews. There are two reviews that are quite revealing. What is really interesting is the first reviewer is automatically assuming that people might not believe that Thomas John is a real psychic. 

One last thing to keep in mind: if there aren’t actors in this show, why is there a Casting Director, Lead Casting Director, Senior Casting Producers (two of them), Casting Producer, and two Casting Associates? Seven people in casting: Who are they casting? Thomas John is the only named person on the show, the rest are “unsuspecting strangers.” I called him out on this exact same issue for Seatbelt Psychic. I guess they didn’t care or think anyone would check.

So now we get to the rest of the show: the part where Thomas John gets out of the car and reads strangers. But we already know based on the social media posts Thomas John put up on Facebook that he was looking for people to read for this show. And that he wanted personal information on them as well as their contact information. He personally—not the producers of the show—wanted them to directly email him at Why would he want this information? The show’s producer must know that Thomas John supplied the people he read. 

Here is the scene viewers see: Thomas John visits a random ice hockey rink in Chicago. First, he gets a group of five men in their twenties into a locker room. All are still wearing their bright red hockey apparel like they just got off the ice. Again no logos, nothing showing any brand, two have their white baseball hats on backwards, possibly because there was a logo or writing on the hats, even their gym bags casually thrown on the floor at their feet are carefully turned so no logos show. Why do I keep harping on about this? Because I want you to understand that this didn’t just happen at random. Thomas John didn’t just walk into that room and say, “Hey can I give you all a reading?” No, they had to get the camera crew in the room, set up the shot, position people so they all could be seen, cover up anything showing licensing, and so on. Probably also paperwork was signed first with all these “unsuspecting” sitters. 

They joke with each other about getting a reading, then Thomas John unleashes his information about guy number 2’s grandmother. He has specific names and the target is stunned. Guy number 1 was having none of it. Number 1 is pissed off that some stranger would infringe on their personal lives saying he was talking to a dead grandmother was just too far. Thomas John responds that most people are respectful when he approaches them with personal information. But still number 1 felt there was something wrong with this situation but couldn’t put his finger on it. He tries some impromptu skepticism back at Thomas John saying, “Is your name Thomas … how could I have known that?” 

The target number 2 is very skeptical but just not there yet. He says that Thomas John is just throwing out names and he knows a lot of people that those names apply to. (The show inserts eerie music in this spot so the viewers don’t miss how important this part is.) Number 2 says, “It’s weird that you hit on my grandpa and my grandmother but at the same time I’m skeptical, why are they talking to you?” Guy number 1 pushes back saying, “I’m not very receptive to someone saying, ‘Hey you want to talk to your dead grandmother?’” Thomas John says, “I understand your perspective, it was nice meeting you” and walks out of the room. 

For some reason, the camera crew remains in the room. The team doesn’t move from their seats, and they all look introspective about what happened. Number 2, who was clearly the target in this bit of the show, says, “He did hit on a lot of things but I don’t think those are spaces and areas I want to go and interact with.” 

And someone on the camera crew follows Thomas John out of the room and the show adds Thomas John’s voiceover as he is walking back to the rink to find his next targets. The voiceover says, “They were not open to connecting with the other side—I think everybody to a degree has a little skepticism; it’s just a part of what I deal with.” In other words, it was this teams fault for not being amazed. The target in this moment didn’t understand how Thomas John knew his personal information. Hopefully, the target will figure out which of his peers, family, or someone at the ice hockey facility answered Thomas John’s Chicago post to recommend him for a reading. 

Next Thomas John says he sees another team on the ice and wonders if maybe they would be more receptive. He finds a group of men in blue, all in their fifties, who agree to move off the ice, again still in their gear to a place in the rink where Thomas John can (hot) read them.

Again just like with the red team, Thomas John points to specific people with specific information about their dead family. Tears and zero skepticism from this generation at least from what we are allowed to see in the show. I’m not going to go into detail of their readings, but it was spot-on. Either Thomas John was truly communicating with the dead family of these men OR someone that knows these men slipped some information Thomas John’s way, possibly in response to a request from Thomas John’s Facebook feed. I expect—I don’t know this as a fact but here is what I suspect—someone at this ice rink sent a message to Thomas John saying, “Film here; I’ll set you up with some guys that need a reading; they don’t know that they need a reading but it will serve them right.” And then proceeded to tell Thomas John some juicy bits. It’s even possible that one of the men on the blue team is the father of the target on the red team, and the wife and mother of those men was the informant. I’ll leave you, the reader, to judge if I’m close to the truth. If someone knows one of these people, please be in touch with me; I’d love to hear the conversation when they figured out who set them up. 

There isn’t much more to say about the rest of this show except this odd bit where they show clips of Thomas John reading the crew that is filming him. He says that he can’t turn it off and their dead wants to communicate also. Fair enough; if he is really communicating with the dead, then of course he would hear messages from people nearby who were off camera. 

But I’ve seen this before, many times from many different psychic mediums. Thomas John and his personal crew is around these people for days. Of course, the film crew is giving up personal information—it’s not uncommon for people to have conversations about their family, grief, and loss. Information that Thomas John can throw out at random moments when the camera is rolling. The observers who are actually being filmed aren’t in on it. All they see is that Thomas John just contacted the camera woman’s mother. They miss that the camera woman had a long conversation with Thomas John about her mother. 

Here is a quote from Thomas John: “It’s important to get readings because it’s a healing process that can help people.” Oh really? Most people think there is no harm in this kind of thing but let me tell you a quick recent story. 

In the past couple weeks, I received a message from a woman I’ll call Kim. She was about to purchase a full reading from Thomas John, but in Googling his name, she came across the Thomas John Wikipedia page. She read it over in disbelief never having considered that anyone could prey on grieving parents like he is doing. Kim wrote to me, and we had a long conversation where she felt that because Thomas John was on TV and CBS is a reputable organization, he must be real. Why would CBS allow someone like this on their network? Don’t they check the reputation first? I discovered that Kim had great tragedy come into her life very recently, so much so that her local newspaper had done a story on her loss. The headline talked about how Kim was looking for answers for why this tragedy had happened. One of my team members found that article in seconds with a Google search. Kim told me that had she booked that reading with Thomas John, she knows he would have found that same article, and it would never have occurred to her that someone would stoop that low to pretend to receive messages from the dead. Kim advised me to keep researching and publishing these articles; the ones she found kept her from being manipulated by Thomas John. 

Success! I smiled all day because Kim reached out to me with her story. Many days I feel like not bothering with another article about these Grief Vampires. How many will it take to make a difference? Well this one did for her. And possibly it happens every day; I just don’t hear about it. I do hear from people every few weeks, usually after they have already given Thomas John their money and then realized that he just read their Facebook post back to them. But not normally like Kim who was about to get a reading but stopped when she found out more information. 

Should Kim have known better? Possibly. The education system in the United States isn’t known for turning out great critical thinkers. Plus Kim assumed that she could trust content from CBS—after all there is no disclaimer on the show, no “for entertainment only” mention at all (not as if people really take that seriously anyway). And the situation Kim has found herself in with her personal tragedy is something that would tax anyone to be desperate for answers. She is grieving, and let’s have some sympathy for victims like Kim. Grief Vampires do what they do because they are enabled by corporations without a conscience who don’t care about its viewers, only about the money. 

So, I ask those people responsible for The Thomas John Experience, is this show something you are proud of? Was this just a paycheck for you? Do you think that perpetuating this kind of con is worthy of you? Are you comfortable with furthering this Grief Vampire’s career allowing him to reach more desperate and grieving women like Kim? Would you laugh it off if this happened to your family? 

Sorry folks. This is a Grief Vampire that preys on people and you are allowing it to continue. You are adults and should do your due diligence with at least as much research as Kim gave before she booked her reading with Thomas John. Show some integrity; society needs people who are willing to say, “No thanks—I’ll pass on this one.” I guess it’s just not you.

Susan Gerbic

Affectionately called the Wikipediatrician, Susan Gerbic is the cofounder of Monterey County Skeptics and a self-proclaimed skeptical junkie. Susan is also founder of the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) project. She is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and writes for her column, Guerilla Skepticism, often. You can contact her through her website.