There is NO WAY the Psychic Could Have known!

Susan Gerbic

Mark Edward and I hear this statement so often that I’m going write an article about it. “There is NO WAY the psychic could have known that!” With a lot of emphasis on the “NO WAY” part.

These are the statements that usually follow that first statement:

  • I’m not on social media anywhere.
  • This happened years ago before the internet.
  • My loved one that the psychic knew all about died before the internet.
  • My name is too common for searching on the internet.
  • I’m not on the internet anywhere.
  • The psychic knew specific information.

Well I hate to break it to you, but there are many ways the psychic could have known. And I’m going to explain a few of the ways, hopefully some you had never considered.

So, before I get to the more obscure possibilities, let’s clear up some of the obvious ones.

Memory is really interesting. From what I understand when you recount a memory, it isn’t a simple replay exactly like it happened. It is not like watching a movie where no matter how many times you watch it, nothing changes. Instead, sometimes your memory fails some of the details.

What happens is that each time you tell a story, you change the memory, embellish a bit here and there, change details, misremember completely, mix up stories with other stories. And each time you do this, it feels real.

This is the most common problem with the recounting of the psychic knowing all about you. When you have told the story several times to your friends and family, it changes, and you don’t even realize it. Humans are social creatures; we love to tell stories, and many times that story you are telling becomes embellished for the effect it has on the person hearing the story. So, you aren’t lying; you are misremembering.

We tend to forget the misses and only remember the hits the psychic seemed to get. This is why we need to have a video or at least audio or notes from the reading. Otherwise it is almost impossible to know what the psychic actually said, because you probably are misremembering.

Let me give you an example: a woman wrote to me about a year ago telling me that she has been trying to figure out how the psychic knew so many specific details about a reading she was given. I’ll call her Kim; the psychic was Tim Braun. As I wasn’t there at her reading, I asked if she might have something I could listen to. And she did. It was recorded on a cassette (that shows how long ago this was). Kim told me she needed to transfer it from cassette to digital so she could send it to me. Before she did, she assured me that it was so detailed and accurate that she was shocked.

A few days went by and I checked in with her, and she said that she was embarrassed to admit that she hadn’t listened to the reading for many years, and the things she remembered him saying, actually weren’t on the audio when she listened again. I asked her to send it to me anyway so I could listen to it as she did still think that there were many specific things that were said.

I listened to the first ten minutes—taking copious notes and finally sent my notes to her. I had thought it was a phone reading when she first wrote to me but listening to the audio, it was obvious she was in the same room with him and giving Tim a lot of feedback. She was excited and when he would pause or ask leading questions, she filled in the gaps … boy did she fill in the gaps. There wasn’t a lot for him to do but repeat it back to her.

Plus when you are in the room with the psychic, there are a lot of tells that he can get from looking at you.

After sending her my notes, we talked about it and Kim realized that she had misremembered a lot and had given away a lot in feedback. Plus many of the specific statements really weren’t all that specific once you thought about it. I was suspicious about how accurate she really thought he was at the time. I know this psychic; Tim Braun doesn’t have a long waiting list, he isn’t expensive, and you can get readings with him over the phone. If Tim had been as life changing as Kim had first said, then why had so many years passed and she hadn’t had a reading from him again? If he really had been communicating with her dead loved ones, I would have thought she would have mortgaged the house to get in contact again; I sure would have.

So let’s move on to the other ways the psychic can know without using any paranormal means.

If you are walking in off the street to see the psychic without them having the ability to know your name, then the psychic is probably going to use cold-reading techniques that are very dependent on the skills of the psychic. Most are good at observing and sum you up as you walk in the room. Remember these psychics have probably done thousands of readings and are pretty good at it, possibly learning from their mother and grandmother. Humans are more alike than they are different, so psychics can make general statements that apply to most people, watch for feedback and course-correct during the reading. Throw out a few specific things, and maybe it will stick to the wall and you will make the connection. Or not. If you don’t, then the psychic moves on and you are likely to forget the miss. But if it hits, it is a big deal.

Something very specific and personal like a miscarriage is a great example. A lot of women have miscarriages, and if it didn’t happen to you, it could have happened to a family member or your close friend, or it will happen in the future or even the psychic could claim that it did happen and you didn’t realize you were pregnant. And suddenly you will remember that one time you had an extra heavy period and you make the connection that it might have been a miscarriage. BINGO!

Or it might have happened to your mother or grandmother before you were born. How can you even know, but if the psychic states it with confidence, who are you to believe?

Psychic – You have a scar on your right knee.

Sitter – Yes, I do – but it is my left knee

Psychic – Yes, it is your left knee but as you are sitting across from me, it is on my right side.

Sitter – WoW – there is no way you could have known that!

Hands up everyone reading this right now, which of you does not have a scar on your knee?

  • The psychic can tell you all about that time that you fell off your bike or hurt/broke/sprained your arm … or maybe it was your wrist … or finger.
  • The time the bird flew into the house and everyone was laughing trying to get it out.
  • The psychic sees someone sitting at the piano—feet too short to touch the floor—the child touching the keys but very gently.
  • Who was it that fell off a horse?
  • There is a broken fence on a hot summer day, rabbits and farm animals are nearby.

All statements that seem pretty specific—but once you think about it, these statements apply to most people, or to your parent or grandparent, or even a sibling, aunt, or uncle. And remember the psychic is reading the feedback you are giving. It’s almost impossible not to give feedback to the psychic. I’ve heard all these above statements from various psychics. Just go to YouTube and search for “bird in the house,” and you will be flooded with videos of people laughing when a bird flew inside and everyone scrambled to get it out.

Pianos were commonplace in homes in some cultures for many generations, if not your specific family member, someone in the village or town they grew up in. And what child can resist touching the keys to a piano?

If you don’t remember this happening, no problem, it happened before you were born, just ask your mom.

People tell me that they get a reading, but don’t give feedback, they sit stone faced while the psychic throws out general statements. After a few minutes, the psychic says, “Everything is great, I’m not getting anything specific, here is your money back, now go away … next person.”

And that is the same if the psychic is hot-reading you (that means they have information about you before the reading) and can’t find information, they don’t know your name, or it is too common, you aren’t on social media. The psychic throws something out to see if it will stick, try some cold-reading and then if nothing, they move on to someone else. They say that they must be getting the person who was just in the room sitting in that chair, or it was the person from yesterday or who will be coming in later. They just move on to someone else, and there are always a lot of others who are easier to hot-read.

The most common way to hot-read is when the psychic has already read you. Trust me, they take notes (or someone in their entourage is). Once a few things are discovered—family names, family drama—the psychic can simply repeat the story, embellishing as they go. Once at a Thomas John show, I had a woman come up to me afterward and tell me that she was really excited when she got a reading, she said “This time my grandmother came through.” I said, “This time, you mean you have had a reading with Thomas John before?” She explained that she had attended one of Thomas John’s spirit circles recently and had a fifteen-minute reading from him, a lot of her family came through.

This is an example of a hot-reading: he had everything right already, all he has to say is that the same people are still around her, and this time grandma wants to send her love. Easy money!

I’ve heard from people who are big fans of these psychics, attend many of their shows, and have had many personal readings, not suspicious at all that when they are in the audience (often the front two rows) and their family comes through. It’s just laziness from the psychic. They need a direct hit, and they pull in the person that is unaware they are a plant. Instant hot-read.

After a Thomas John show one of my team attended, a very distinctive looking woman had some very specific hits, very specific. Afterward my team member went over to the woman to chat, and as some other people walked by they said to the woman, “Your family always wants to talk to you, how come he calls on you every time you come to the show”?

She might have been a willing stooge—she might really think her family is very strong and just pushes others out of the way when she attends a Thomas John show. Either way, to the unsuspecting people in the audience, they don’t know what is going on and think that Thomas John just scored a big hit.

Now to address those people who are not on the internet or have no social media. You may be more at risk because you don’t understand how much of your history is already out there to find.

Most of the time, if the psychic is hot-reading, they will just skip over these people. The psychic only needs a few in each event to make a good show. If not you then they find someone else.

But if the psychic really needs to find something on the person, there are ways.

If the sitter says that the psychic knew the name of their second-grade teacher—that would be pretty remarkable. But that isn’t exactly how it happens.

It’s not as if the sitter goes to the psychic and says, “Tell me the name of my second-grade teacher” and the psychic knows the teachers name and everyone is wowed.

It probably went more like this:

Psychic: I’m seeing you as a young boy—and there is this woman who you really looked up to but wasn’t a family member or a neighbor or even a friend of the family.

Sitter: Hummmm well I don’t know ….

Psychic: Why am I getting a name like … Ann …. Ahhh … something like that?

Sitter: Humm well maybe (trying really hard to help the psychic) it could be my teacher? I don’t know if she has passed over.

Psychic: That could be it, it’s getting clearer now, was she Mrs. … An something?

Sitter: Miss Anderson?

Psychic: That could be it, it’s not quite clear …

Sitter: That must be Miss Anderson, I was her favorite student, she was my second-grade teacher when I was living in Utah before we moved to Virginia, I thought she was great and I missed her and the rest of the class because I could not finish the year and went to a new school where I didn’t know anyone, it was pretty stressful for me, I was quite shy.

And then later when the sitter re-tells this story he will say, “I went to this psychic who knew my second-grade teacher was Miss Anderson and that I had to switch schools mid-year and was stressed to start over in a new school where I knew no one, and I hadn’t known that Miss Anderson had died but it was fifty years ago, so I guess it’s possible.”

See how this story morphs? The sitter made the connection and when recounting the story to his friends it is much more interesting the way he tells it, and not that the psychic was struggling to make a connection to some woman’s name that had an “Ann” sound somewhere in her name. Also notice that the sitter said “she,” which allowed the psychic to become more specific.

And everyone has a teacher of some kind when they are young, or it could have been someone at church, or someone somewhere that you sorta remember but aren’t quite sure. And if they miss—then the psychic moves on and you forget about the exchange.

Another way to get the hot-read without being on social media is that often times psychics are recommended. “You must come talk to my psychic, she is amazing, here let me arrange an appointment with her.” And what happens is that the psychic pumps the friend for information so that when you go to your first appointment, the psychic seems to know a lot about you. “I’m sending my best friend to you, she has been stressing a lot lately because her oldest daughter is dating this really flakey guy and she is worried that her daughter is going to get pregnant and drop out of school, I just know you can help her.”

I’ve also had people who have been fans of the psychic for a very long time who have started to realize that something isn’t quite right with the readings. Two people have told me that they have confided to Thomas John’s assistant some personal story and then during their next reading with Thomas John, he seemed to know about that personal story. The only person they had told was his assistant.

Psychic events with audiences are ripe with information gathering opportunities. You don’t know who is working for the psychic and who is not. That friendly woman who is asking you “Who do you hope to hear from tonight?” might just be a friendly person, or she might be someone who will be feeding what you tell her back to the psychic.

The bartender, waitstaff, people sitting near you at the bar before going into the psychic event can be gatherers of information. You could be talking to someone in the elevator in the parking garage with someone else you don’t know who looks disinterested but is actually paying close attention to you talking about your upcoming vacation to Hawaii. And don’t rule out coincidence, someone might just recognize you as the brother of someone their sister once dated. The psychic’s confederate sees you sitting in the audience and remembers a story about you, tells it to the psychic and shazam you are getting a personal reading that there is NO WAY the psychic could know.

Mark Edward tells the story about a late 1940s nightclub mentalist called Dr. Jaks who would sit in the venue’s bathroom stall waiting for other men to come in and chat to their friends about their personal life. When he got something interesting, he would peek under the stall door and look at their shoes, then walk out behind them and watch where they sat.

Microphones in the lobby where people are gathered to enter or mingling disinterested people in line who are looking at their phones might actually be listening and then texting the content to the psychic. I’ve done this myself while waiting for the start of Edward’s show at Hollywood’s Magic Castle. I look like a bored lady sitting beside groups of friends that are talking about vacations and their grandchildren. I watch where they sit and send a text backstage to Edward with a description, where they are sitting and the general knowledge I gleaned. When Edward puts his special spin on the information, being very general and then becoming more specific as he holds their hand after he calls them up on stage. Starting out with, “I see you are a grandparent, but wait … I feel like there is something new happening … is your daughter expecting her second child this Spring?” It is so powerful, the grandparent rushes to agree and the audience is shocked. There is NO WAY he could have known that! You haven’t even shared that information on social media yet.

Another story Edward tells about hot-reading (mentalists call it pre-show) was for a magic class he was teaching. A fellow mentalist took a few minutes before class to take a quick look around the cars of his students. One had left some real estate papers on the back seat. A quick message to Edward and later he is able to receive a message from spirit that this student was involved in a real estate deal. There was NO WAY he could have known that. Unfortunately, this valued student didn’t appreciate the effect, not waiting for the explanation and walking out of the class, never to be seen again. In this case, there should have been NO WAY for the psychic to know. Getting too personal can be a liability.

For some psychic events—you purchase a seat and with a bit of research—they know who you are. It doesn’t take much effort to connect the person who has purchased the seat—to a Facebook account. Especially when after purchasing the ticket online there is an option to share the event on social media. Seriously, they have a button to push that says, “You have purchased a ticket to see Theresa Caputo, share this with your friends.” And then you see the icons to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. It’s easy for the Caputo staff to follow-up on a few of those leads. They only need a few ringers spread out in the audience to wow the crowd. A compelling story about a missing child, a grieving widow, a firefighter who died rescuing a family, any tearjerker stories will do.

You think I’m making this up?

Mark Edward attended one of Caputo’s shows when he was researching for an investigative television show. He watched a small crew move to an area in the large auditorium and set up the camera and sound boom. When they were in place, suddenly Caputo would get a message from the spirit world to go to that section where the camera and audio were conveniently set up. Maybe it was a series of coincidences? Maybe the film crew are the ones who are psychic? How did they know to be right in the correct row before Caputo pounced? This was repeated several times throughout the show with great accuracy on each set-up reading. It seemed odd to Edward and the reporter he was working with that no one noticed (or seemed to notice) this little extra floor show. Then again people at a psychic show aren’t looking for these sorts of things that Edward looks for and are not generally interested in paying attention to these (from his point of view) obvious technical gaffs.
Look at the size of this venue. To get good audio and video they have to move around. This is Caputo’s September 18, 2020, venue at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They have had to cancel most of her events because of COVID-19, but apparently they think it will be safe to return to crowds in September in Tennessee. We shall see. Do you think Governor Bill Lee knows? Maybe someone should tell him that psychic Theresa Caputo is predicting that it will be safe to sit in a large auditorium by September 18, 2020. Good to know!

In an investigation by the Operation Grief Vampire group I run and the Las Vegas Society of Skeptics, we witnessed Thomas John at the Thomas John Experience at Caesars Palace concentrate on a specific area of the room looking for a “Joe from NYC” only to discover that the woman that the reading was for was located on the other side of the room. She stated that she had been sitting in that area before but moved, leaving Thomas John to remark “Well your dead people didn’t know you had moved!” We don’t know if others put two and two together and wondered why he knew where she had been sitting before and the spirits around her didn’t know she had moved to another seat.

And there is this bit of video I stumbled upon. Someone sitting in the back of the room recorded her reading and posted it on YouTube, as I was listening to the reading, I caught this thirteen-second clip. “We are taking a 10-minute break guys, but uh we will come back, when you come back the only thing I ask is that you please sit in the seats you were in.” That’s an odd request. And the only request he made. Why? Did he have a seating list like in grammar school? The person and the location of the seat must be associated. The only reason I can think of is that he has specific readings he will be giving but does not know the person associated with the reading well enough to pick them out of the audience. And if they move seats, he will not be able to locate them. Otherwise after the break he will come back and speak to an empty chair. Something like this, “The woman that had been sitting in this chair before the break—can you please stand up, I have a message from your dead family members.”

Let us skip the obvious hot-read, someone who is talking with the psychic over social media and the psychic has their Facebook page right in front of their eyes, possibly open on a separate computer screen, scrolling though photos and posts. Possibly a member of the psychic’s team is doing the scrolling and slipping notes to the psychic that is giving a reading over Facebook.

One woman wrote to me and said that Thomas John had given her an exact reading, he had even known her stepfather’s nickname, and there is NO WAY Thomas John could have known that.

Challenge accepted, she had written to me on Facebook, so I had her profile right in front of me. I gave it to one of the team members of Operation Grief Vampire, and a few minutes later, my team member came back and asked, “Is the nickname Sunny?” I asked the woman if that was correct and she was surprised that we knew that.

Turns out she had shared the obituary for her stepfather a few months before on her Facebook feed. When we looked at it, in the first line it said the man’s nickname was Sunny. The woman said she had completely forgotten that she had shared that obituary. Once we had that information, we knew all kinds of things about Sunny, other relatives’ names, some living, some having died. His occupation, his clubs, his military service all on that one clipping. She said that Thomas John had shared some of those same things with her. And she thought they have been direct hits that Thomas John could not have known.

Sometimes when looking for information for a hot-read, there is little on the Facebook page, or it is locked down so only their friends can view the content. No worries, often there is something that can be gleaned. People wishing you a happy birthday is usually one of those posts that appear on most semi-locked down pages.

And if you can see friends or comments, then you can click on those friend’s pages. One of them won’t be so locked down and if they can figure out the relationship with you, then they can glean information. Did they go to college, elementary school with you? Are they a cousin or coworker? If they are a relative then even better, you probably share the same grandparents at least on one side of the family. If they make a comment about missing their grandmother whose anniversary of their death is coming up, then it might pertain to you. I’ve used family members’ Facebook pages often to get information from a locked down page. It really isn’t that difficult.

I have also found interesting information in the Facebook URL. When you first create the Facebook account, you might have used your full name, maybe even your maiden name. It was so long ago that you have forgotten all about it, and now use a different name on Facebook. When you have a woman’s maiden name, it isn’t difficult to do a Google search and find obituaries for family members. Here is just one of the many Facebook friend requests I receive. The account name does not match the name that was first used when they made the account.

Another tip is when you can tell who the spouse is—their page might not be as locked down. The psychic can peek over on that page and then when giving the reading, suddenly the father-in-law is the one coming though telling you that they didn’t like you at first but now are feeling differently as they watch from the other side.

Once you have a full name, you have a lot of options. Especially if it is an unusual name. One woman who wrote to me could not figure out why the psychic was telling her about a family farm she grew up on in Ohio. She told me she didn’t know anything about Ohio or a family farm. I did a Google search on her name and the first hit I got was a farm in Ohio with her last name. The woman’s Facebook page was really well locked down and I could only see her profile photo (which turned out to be a very old photo of her as a young woman) and her name. She said that the psychic kept trying to tell her about this farm, and finally when nothing was hitting, the psychic offered to give her money back. Now she understood why the psychic kept failing, the psychic was trying to hot-read her and could not make a match.

Now let’s get into the really obscure things. If a psychic really, really needs to find something about you. Just because you are not on social media, does not mean that content about you isn’t there somewhere.

There are many Facebook groups devoted to towns and schools. If the psychic can figure out where you might have grown up, they can infiltrate one of these groups, almost every school has a Facebook group for alumni. If they don’t know which one, then they can join them all from the area you grew up in.

Once inside the group they can make casual conversation and ask the group if anyone knows what happened to ole so-in-so. They can say that they had a crush on you in school and didn’t know what happened to you after graduation. If you were in that class, then someone will know something helpful. People share all kinds of photos in these groups even elementary school class photos. So if a psychic wants to take the trouble to look through them, then maybe they will get lucky. Maybe they will know who your second-grade teacher was?

There are also websites that are devoted to uploading yearbooks and school photos. If you were in a yearbook playing on a sports team, or a club, or only the school photo, it may come up on a search. Imagine your surprise if the psychic can describe a moment from your high school years? They can see teachers and the faculty in the yearbook also. If a student died during the school year, there is often a memorial to them at the back of the book. Maybe you knew them, maybe you didn’t. But the psychic might try mentioning the student in the hopes that you could have interacted with them at some point, very likely that death would invoke a memory.

These yearbooks don’t exist only for your senior year of high school. I have two albums from Middle School and all four for high school. And just because you don’t have them on your bookshelf like I do, someone has them, and it’s possible that one of these websites has it scanned in and available for anyone with an account. Some colleges and trade schools as well as military classes issue yearbooks. The church my family attended had a directory every year; it included our phone number along with our street address and usually a family photo. A psychic that knew my phone number or address would seem pretty impressive. I appear in photos in the church choir and in my Sunday School classroom with my peers. And of course, there would be names of my pastor and others.

Remember the psychic isn’t looking for a specific piece of information, they are looking for anything that they find. They don’t go into this search to find out my childhood phone number, but anything.

If they learn your childhood address, then they can look to see what your neighborhood looked like. What were the businesses in the blocks near you? What were the school names? The psychic could say that you used to walk to a friend’s house near Cooper street. Oh WOW there is NO WAY they could have known that … unless they knew my address and know that Cooper street was right next to the street I lived on and had to walk on it to get to school and many neighborhoods. Same with the stores, checking of course to see if they were still located with that same name.

My friend, Lei Pinter, texted me that she knew that my parents’ names were Tony and Tressie, that I grew up on Towt St and that I probably played at Closter Park growing up. She knew my mother loved to quilt and my father played the guitar. That’s a ton of information, enough for a full fifteen-minute reading with a psychic. Where did she get this amazing information? As far as I know Lei isn’t psychic. Well she has an account, as do I. I have a very public family tree there that contains information about my ancestors (once they are dead their information becomes public; you can even find social security numbers). But even if I had not had this interest in genealogy, all those documents she found would have been there to be found.

A quick search on Ancestry will pull up my father’s death certificate, the newspaper obituary, a picture of his and my mother’s gravestone (which has an etching of a guitar on his side and a quilt on my mother’s side), the forms my father filled out to receive social security in the 1930s, his military records, his registration for the WWII draft including a description of him with any scars, missing fingers, or whatever. There are copies of his name, phone number, address in the city directories, he is mentioned in other people’s obituaries as having survived them, or when he preceded them. Birth, marriage, and death certificates for his siblings, children, parents mention him also. And every ten years in the United States we do a census; it will not be revealed for more than seventy years. We do not have access to the 1950 census yet, but as my father was born in 1918, he is on the 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses, along with people living in the household. And if the psychic wants to know more about my father’s parents, that wouldn’t be difficult to find, as you just keep following the leads to more and more information.

My siblings are anti-social media and resist having their photos or any mention of themselves on the internet and are sadly miss-informed. They are there also with a quick search. They are in many photos from high school. I’m looking right at them, I didn’t upload any of this, and they aren’t mentioned on my family tree. With my sister’s first and last name, a guess at her birth year, and a few seconds later I see her picture at sixteen, a photo of her running in track, and oh wow here is one I hadn’t seen before, here is another one where she is on the tennis team. I wonder if she even remembers that? She is mentioned on all kinds of documents. Wow I just found a 1965 class photo with her and other classmates.

Random search on Ancestry for Smith in Ohio is another resource for finding various information. A quick search for my sister, and I find her mentioned in our local newspaper many times: once she won a turkey in a Thanksgiving day race; another time she was hit by a car when she was riding a bike (very minor injuries). She and my brother were in the paper multiple times for singing in the school choir and in local plays.

I’ve seen all kinds of local, non-newsworthy stories that appear usually in smaller newspapers. I’ve found relatives that are cast in the elementary school play as one of the background characters. Announcements that a family gathered with neighbors for a bridge party. My mother’s home-town newspaper even these days mentions when someone comes from out of state to visit with a local resident. Class reunions and content you had no idea exists is there for finding. Imagine what a psychic could do with this information? There is NO WAY they could have known that.

Photos are my favorite; there is so much information hidden in these gems. People don’t realize how much detail they share on their social media feeds. A photo of a grandchild or a family reunion photo might contain information you weren’t expecting to reveal. Seeing a house number with the family standing on the front steps a psychic might say something about a white house with a hydrangea bush growing on the side of the door … and I’m getting the number 146 … . Your grandbaby might be the cutest baby ever, but the psychic is looking beyond the child to see items in the background.

Personally, I have long given up on assuming I could hide content from psychics, I’ve been careful not to mention my current address, but it wouldn’t be difficult for someone to discover if they were persistent. It’s easy to discover I live in Salinas, California—there are a lot of photographs from my front and back yard, a Google Maps search for a patient psychic would discover what my house looks like, the car I used to own (the picture on Google Earth is years old), and more.

I have posted thousands—maybe tens of thousands—of photos on social media, Google, WikiMedia Commons, Twitter, and places I can’t even remember having accounts. Any one of them might reveal interesting content to a psychic wanting to repeat it back to me as if they are receiving the information from the spirit world.

There are pictures of me as a child, my family photos from when my parents were children, me in school, my children throughout their lives, my vacations, pets, hobbies, with friends, at parties, conferences. And a lot of videos: me singing, reading stories, editing Wikipedia, joking with friends, giving lectures, interviewing other people.

All these photos and videos contain more content that to a trained eye looking for some obscure fact to pretend came from the spirit world are there to find. Pictures on by bookshelves that are behind me, even the book titles might give a clue. Some photos show my pets and in some you can see outside the window into my backyard garden. There are unlimited amounts of content a psychic could review if they wanted to appear to know something that there was NO WAY they could have known.

I’ve had psychics and their supporters tell me that I can’t judge a psychic until I have sat with them for a reading. I just don’t get that. They seem to think that is how you validate the legitimacy of a psychic reading. Really? It’s just that simple?

Thomas John has stated several times that he wants to give me a personal reading. But he already has, and Mark Edward too. That was what Operation Pizza Roll was all about, something that he knows fully well as he was interviewed for the very same New York Times article.

Edward and I sat in on one of his events, he called on us, read us for fifteen-minutes and repeated all the content that was on the fake Facebook pages that were associated with the tickets that were purchased. He relayed facts about our characters that we didn’t even know because we didn’t have access to those Facebook pages. We were sitting right there; he could have contacted my or Edward’s real family members. I would have loved to have heard from my parents. Where were they? So I have had a reading from Thomas John, in person. A fact he does not want mentioned to his fans.

Harry Houdini as well as many magicians in their psychic phase used to use pre-show to wow an audience. They (or one of their team) would go to a small town ahead of the show and check out the cemetery (to check for fresh graves) and get a beer and a drink at the local pub and pick up gossip. Then the psychic would appear a few days later on stage and would be able to recount these personal stories to an audience.

Mark Edward has shared the story of a TV show that had selected a woman (a friend of someone in the show) that would be attending Edward’s performance. Because he knew who she was days in advance, they sent someone to her home to ask her some survey questions. What they really were there for was to scope out the house. When Edward pulled her up on stage, he described the entry way to her house, her car, and what the kitchen looked like.

According to Edward, this was pretty common before we had Google Maps. Someone would be sent to the houses of people they knew would be at the psychic show. Knock on the door and when they answered they would ask some question like “Is this the Smith’s house?” but what they were really looking for was a glance around the living room. What art was on the walls, is there a piano, what color is the couch, do they have pets? All things that could be repeated back on stage as if the spirits were whispering in the psychic’s ear.

You only need one of these hits to get the audience excited and ready for anything you say.

Psychics who hot-read have subscriptions to all these sites and more. Many of them are free, like,, and many sites that gather obituaries, locations, conversations, and more. It’s a small price to pay to have so much content available to turn around and say you received it from the Spirit World. In fact here was a picture of grief vampire Thomas John’s computer desktop that he let slip showing that he uses these sites. Here on his reading list we see he is using, a website for finding information about people.

Do a Google search on yourself; what do you find?

Just give up—you can’t remove yourself from the internet completely. Go live your life without stressing over the content you are leaving in your wake. It started when you were born with a birth announcement and will follow you past your obituary and on into other people’s obituaries where you are mentioned as “preceded in death by … .”

Just be aware that there is a lot of content out there for someone to find. Your ignorance of where it is isn’t going to make it go away. Realize that there are many ways, maybe even hundreds of ways a psychic could know something specific about you. Be aware and be skeptical.


Special thanks to Mark Edward, Lei Pinter, Russell Tomes, Rob Palmer, and Kurt van Ryswyk for help with this article—and to the entire Operation Grief Vampire Team.

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.