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.
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).
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.