Dead Silence: Our Experience at a "Live" Seminar with John Edward

By Phelps, Brady J.; Wogen, Elizabeth C. et al. | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Dead Silence: Our Experience at a "Live" Seminar with John Edward


Phelps, Brady J., Wogen, Elizabeth C., Pedersen, Scott C., Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


JOHN EDWARD CAME TO OMAHA, NE, in November, 2002, and appeared before a crowd of approximately 2,500 people. Some had traveled from as far away as Kentucky to see "the man who speaks for the dead." The scene had a revival meeting feeling, but instead of Bibles, Edward's devotees clutched dog-eared copies of his bestseller One Last Time. Three skeptics also joined the crowd and paid $45.00 to experience the Edward miracle. One skeptic--Brady Phelps--wore some buttons with photos of relatives who were still very much alive to see if Edward could be lured into trying to channel the living, but the opportunity never came.

Since there was no reserved seating there was chaos as the crowd poured in. Outside, the scene was equally chaotic as a group known as REASON --Rationalists, Empiricists and Skeptics of Nebraska--were protesting, handing out "consumer watchdog" flyers to educate the crowd about Edward's tricks and tactics. Believers hurried past, maintaining a blank stare of blissful ignorance on their faces--a "Stepford Wife" kind of look.

Born again Christians were also in force, urging those present to not seek the spirit world because of its alleged satanic connections. During the hour before the show started, Edward's security staff and stage crew mingled anonymously with the crowd, preventing anyone who carried a REASON flyer from entering. When one of the co-authors hid some REASON flyers in her purse she was detained at the door by a uniformed officer by order of Edwards plain-clothes security until the flyers were surrendered. Edward's men, outfitted with in-ear headphones and in-sleeve microphones wanted to maximize their control of the show to insure that it came off with no hitches. Other staffers were taking digital "mug shots" of the crowd, and during the show a technician taped from the back of the auditorium.

Clap you animals, clap

The seminar, we were told, was not being taped for television It was advertised as an opportunity for question-and-answers from the audience and readings from beyond the grave. The star emerged to thunderous applause.

Before taking any questions, Edward told the audience that he wanted people to understand the true purpose of "his mission" which was, ironically, that people shouldn't need mediums to talk to the dead ... except as a last resort! Edwards declared that he wouldn't "tell people just what they want to hear, as so many phony psychics do, since that would be unethical." (Like Hamlet's lady, he "cloth protest too much methinks.")

One of the first questions that Edward took from the audience was "Are the dead always with us?" His answer watt reassuringly vague: those who have passed over" (one is not to call them dead) have a very different concept of "always," and as a result they are not with us "always." And a good thing too, he added with a touch of humor, for we may not want them to catch us in embarrassing moments.

This was poor man's psychotherapy--psychobabble akin to Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura. Edward offered the possibility of resolving guilt and other issues by "contact" with a loved one, who though dead, can still accept your overtures of love and pleas for forgiveness. Edward blended conventional Christianity with new age beliefs, dispensing traditional love and forgiveness (from beyond instead of from God) without any annoying guilt or regret

Those on the other side must speak perfect English because Edward always understands them, no matter what their native tongue. (Amusingly, Harry Houdini's mother, who died without knowing a word of English, must have also learned it on the Other Side, for the mediums of Houdini's day always passed her words on to him in English.) At one point, Edward explained that the body is just the vehicle and the soul is the driver; even if the vehicle is wrecked, the driver can go on. The souls of the dead however, are now on a very different frequency (the vehicle must have had a radio in it). …

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