Category: Reviews

Following on from my previous two breakdowns of the methods of mediums and the benefits of editing my next few posts will be dedicated to watching this Buzzfeed video with Hollywood Medium Tyler Henry and breaking down what I think is going on. In the video, Tyler Henry appears alongside the Try Guys four comedians/video creators working for Buzzfeed called: Zach Kornfeld, Eugene Lee Yang, Ned Fulmer, and Keith Habersberger.

Settle in, get comfortable and fire up your skeptical goggles. Here we go.

Early Skepticism

Near the start of the video two of the Try Guys offer some great skeptical points:

The goofy (and lovable) Try Guy Keith cautions: “There’s been hundreds and hundreds of years of people claiming they can talk to the dead [but] there is no one actual physical piece of proof.” I agree. This video doesn’t change that.

Meanwhile, Ned (the Try Guy with a wife) says: “Do you guys know what confirmation bias is? Like, if I go in thinking this guy can talk to dead people, the one thing that is like a little bit close, I’ll be like, yes! Yes, Tyler!” Sadly, his level of skepticism towards confirmation bias did not survive his encounter with Tyler.

Eugene, (the Try Guy all the girls love) introduces Tyler by saying:

“He’s not even just a regular medium, like, celebrities go to him. Which means, I guess, he’s better?” Nope, not really. As Ian Rowland author of The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading writes: “The ability to earn a living as an actor or TV presenter does not make one especially well-qualified to assess psychic ability.” Having celebrity clients just means the medium has a better agent or marketing team.

Even if a psychic were to read only Nobel prize winning scientists… this would not mean they are (necessarily) better because as Rowland cautions: “Expertise in one field does not automatically transfer to another.” Being able to detect new particles or cure cancer does not alone make a person better at spotting fraudulent mediums.

Tyler actively seeks out celebrities to read which further helps boost his profile while most ordinary members of the public end up on long waiting lists. On his Twitter, he claims that he reads only two to three fans a day when he’s not filming.

Tyler claims that he never knows who he is reading or where he’s going. I can’t dispute the veracity of that statement but I will say that celebrities make perfect targets for mediums because their lives can be researched in painstaking detail (this is an example of hot reading).

Scribbles

Tyler spends some time scribbling on a piece of paper throughout the readings – he claims it helps him “tune out” but it also gives him an excuse to take his time to craft a better cold reading.

He also says: “Oftentimes, if you’ve seen the show, you know that I work with an object. An object can help make a more direct connection to a loved one, but anybody can come through from an object.”

An object can also provide a rich treasure trove of information to a dishonest medium. For example, on his show, Tyler reads Matt Lauer who brings a pocket knife with him. This provides Tyler with several clues. As Joan Moore points out on nickiswift.com “an old pocket knife is probably going to belong to someone older who has passed.” It’s also more likely that it will have belonged to a male figure.

Does anyone in your family have a torso?

With introductions out of the way, the actual reading finally begins. First up to be read is Eugene. After a moment of contemplation Tyler explains that the spirits are having him bring up “this feeling of like, a filtration system, liver, kidney, pancreas, that area” I don’t think he could have gotten vaguer. Bringing up problems in the torso is like throwing a dart at a dartboard with a diameter of 100 feet from two yards away – you’re all but guaranteed a hit.

“That area” could apply to literally any area on a person’s torso. Even if Tyler had specifically mentioned just one organ I’d need serious convincing that he wasn’t just making a good chance guess as (I would argue) he is doing here.

Almost everyone will know at least one person who has at some point had an issue with an organ or biological filtration system at some point. This is hardly a very specific sign from the spirits. Maybe the spirits are just old but I’d expect better from them.

In response to Tyler’s totally ultra-specific comment, Eugene jokes that he drinks a lot and this seems to satisfy Tyler. If this counts as a hit then I really don’t want to imagine what a miss would constitute.

And on that note, I’ll leave you for now. Part two will be out soon.

Debunking Pop culture Psychics Reviews Skepticism TV Tyler Henry

I’ve been a fan of Derren Brown for a while. When I was 13 I bought Tricks of the Mind from Amazon for 1p. Although I had little idea who he was at the time after two weeks I’d watched every one of his TV shows and watched the recordings of his stage shows.

Tricks of the Mind is the book you have to thank for this blog. It was the book that introduced me to the ideas of scepticism, critical thinking and the power of our mind to mislead us. The book changed the direction of my life and gave me further motivation to study magic. A little over six years later the book is still one of my favourites.

I’ll be writing more on Brown and his books shortly but that’s not what this post is about. I hadn’t been planning to write this but on Saturday I went to see Browns latest show Derren Brown Underground and it blew me away.  Underground is a ‘best hits’ show featuring polished up versions of the best tricks from all his previous work built around a new theme.

Derren has asked us to keep the contents of the show secret so I won’t spoil anything but I’ll still try to get across how awesome the show is.

I’ve seen performances from some of the greats including: Penn and Teller, Paul Daniels and Gary the children’s magician from up the road. Underground blew all the others clear out the water so powerfully some went into orbit.

Browns performance will have you convinced that every single audience member present (except you) is in his pay but the scary thing is that this is simply not true. That’s what makes the show that much more mindblowing.

Brown is a master showman. His stage presence is powerful yet subtle. Intense but subdued. Forceful yet gentle. Every word and every pause is carefully accounted for. He had the audience in the palm of his hand throughout. Laughing, gasping and stunned in equal measure.

You’ll leave questioning whether everything you know about reality is false.  You might even swear that mindreading is real, psychic powers exist and that Derren Brown can see through a black envelope through a blindfold. You’ll also be very suspicious of any gorillas you see at the zoo.

Brown’s humanity and authentic respect is also evident throughout. He treats volunteers (well more like frisbee catchers) with kindness and humour. He doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence or celebrate his own brilliance. He just performs.

When you watch Brown you soon realise that in another lifetime he could be an excellent therapist just as he could be a brilliant conman if he wanted.

Brown is clearly a showman at the top of his game and in my view the best magician of his generation (sorry Dynamo).

If you haven’t already bought tickets to Underground (you only have a month left to catch it) then to borrow words from the magician Steven Bridges from when he interviewed Brown “you need to just make better life decisions.”

Magic Reviews