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A Wild Weekend

by Mark Edward, Sep 05 2012

From the New York Times – in My Evil Lair

Dragoncon 2012 is over and after five days of the craziest in public and press related fanfare, things are hotting up with “Psychic Blues.” Some folks don’t seem to be doing their homework or paying much attention to the actual text, preferring to focus on more personal attacks on my motivations for writing the book and my so-called shady past.

I’m setting the record straight. Again. Just so that anyone who might stumble upon my words here will not be mistaken. I certainly haven’t been duping the public and stealing money from little old ladies for 40 years as the latest New York Times and UK Daily Mail would have people believe. I seriously wonder if anyone at either of these august enterprises took the time to actually read the book, or just went for sensational headlines like: “PRO MEDIUM REPENTS FOR LIFE OF CONS.” Really? And then there’s “SECRETS OF MEDIUMS UN-MASKED: ONE REPENTS FOR LIFE OF CONS AND REVEALS HOW HE DUPED PEOPLE INTO BELIEVING HE COULD TALK TO THE DEAD.”

If you consider being on the Editorial Board of SKEPTIC magazine since its inception in the spring of 1992 a “life of cons” well then, this begs the question, which side are you on? I have never got a hook in any prospective “sitter” or “wallowed in self pity” as the Daily Mail suggests. I wrote a book based on facts gathered by infiltrating the worst offenders and attempted to craft a novel about what it’s like to live day to day in that dark world, warts and all. If at times I may come off as a nasty unlikable character, …guess what? I wrote it that way to show that’s what it’s really like in the world of the “professional psychic.” As such it’s part me, and part a construction of the deceit I saw all around myself during those years.

New York Times article Here:

Daily Mail article here:

Randi and I Amused at the New York Times Headline “Medium Reveals Tortured Life at Edge of Virtue.”

If I seem a tad defensive it’s because I feel passionately about this work and it’s potential to reach people across a wide spectrum of belief. It’s not enough to just stick my observations in the craw of people like Van Praagh, Browne and that other Edward. As actor Lee Marvin once opined, “…I want to appeal to the guy who picks up the garbage.” Well, maybe I’m not exactly Lee Marvin, but I was scamming the scammers and playing their game to extract the sometimes  uncomfortable truth I’m telling in “Blues” and nothing less.

That much should be self-evident, but apparently it’s easier to take the offensive and assume the worst. I knew from the get-go when I started to scribble thoughts about that looney world that so fascinated me that if I merely wrote a dry semi-detached dialog of cold humorless de-bunkery, I would lose a huge demographic audience of those out there who are not yet thinking skeptically and sitting on a mighty big fence. It’s a whitewashed picket fence nowadays that stretches across America and a whole new generation of people are growing up without the slightest clue that the paranormal manipulations they are buying into have no basis in reality. I want to (once again) straddle that rickety fence, only this time out shout the real message that mentalism entertainment for fun is one thing, pretending to talk to dead people for a living is quite another.

If there’s a slight patina of woo evidenced now and then in “Blues,” it’s because I want the reader to feel how I did when immersed in that confusing segment of society faced with the people I met and their insane delusions. Removing every shred of anything magical would have been unrealistic and unacceptable given the circumstances of what I’m trying to convey. I have always made it my goal to try to reach the biggest audience I could reach and I suppose with headlines like the aforementioned, I will.  It’s a trade off. That’s why it’s called “conflicted.”  I had to become a crook to catch a crook and I caught a bunch of ‘em red-handed. I’m not repenting, I’m reporting

As to whether or not “…There are no new secrets revealed in “Psychic Blues,”  (NYT) while that may be true for the reporter who covered this story, I’m betting there are still plenty of folks out there who have no idea how mediums, televangelists and psychics get their information or how they can appear to be so uncannily accurate. Cold, hot and warm readings, radio screenings, pre- show work, editing and lots of other techniques are going to open eyes that heretofore never thought their sweet little cardigan wearing medium would ever stoop so low.

I seldom, if ever “duped people into believing I could talk to the dead” unless it was a seance performance at The Magic Castle (and there were indeed many years of that performance I did, …right?) or on television exposes like “NBC’s Secrets of the Psychics Revealed” (in which revealing of said tricks of the trade nearly destroyed my magic career) or Penn & Teller’s “Bullshit;” in which case the very reason for “duping” anyone was to show the world how easy it is and what despicable people mediums are. There’s a difference here ladies and gentlemen and many in the press seem totally ignorant (so far) of this Big Picture. Yes, I took on the dirtiest of  jobs and my finished book in the hands of the next potential “dupe” is my reason for writing it.

BTW: As long as I’m setting records straight here. When Penn referred to me on the “Talking to the Dead” pilot episode back in 2003 as a “reformed con artist” he didn’t get that right either. I was performing magic (and not conning the public) when he was seven years old. I’m fairly confident he was merely reeling off the line in the script written for him, but my dealings with skeptic groups were well in place long before that show was filmed. A little homework on his part would have helped too.

Check Your Facts Guys! Please?

One has only to read my Wiki page to see that as far back as the late 1990’s I was doing lectures for The Skeptics Society at Cal Tech and recording freaking VHS tapes for SKEPTIC magazine on such topics as “The Psychology of the Psychic and Believer.” I doubt Michael Shermer would have given me a platform to speak from if I had not been committed to critically thinking and working with the movement.


Harry Keller (July 11, 1849 – March 10, 1922)

So what’s to be done? Nothing really. They say there’s no such thing as bad press and the more I do interviews and talk with people, I’m confident my message will eventually be understood.  Yes, in some ways what I’m doing truly isn’t anything shockingly new.  Some of the core methods have shifted to more high-tech variants and today’s mediums are certainly more lazy than they have ever been in the past, but (not that I would dare put myself anywhere near the same category) people like Harry Keller, “Dean of American Magicians” started questioning the antics of Spiritualism back when he learned the “cons” from the Davenport Brothers. Later Harry Houdini came along, then Blackstone and Dunninger – and today we have James Randi to carry on the tradition of saying “Enough!”

How long will it take to turn the tide? Maybe it will never happen. But when you see the damage that can be done and know where the trap doors are hidden; Hey, somebody’s gotta try.


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