A Psychic Comes Clean About His Trickery in New Book

Mark Oppenheimer of the New York Times has the story of a psychic who is finally admitting that he was faking it all along.

The subject, Mark Edward (no relation to John Edward), has written a new book — with a foreword by James Randi — titled Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium.

In his messy yet fascinating new book… Mr. Edward, 61, comes clean about the tricks that he has used to dupe people since he began working the Los Angeles magic scene in the 1970s. His book is a strange mishmash of self-pity, self-justification and genuine repentance — and a compelling look at the disputed territory where entertainment meets religion, where some practitioners actually think they can practice both at the same time.

Why come out now?

In an interview this week, Mr. Edward said that after years of sympathizing with the skeptics but making money from people’s gullibility, he felt he had to choose sides.

“My conscience — I could no longer do it,” Mr. Edward said. “I’d been walking both sides of the line. My magician friends” — many of them skeptics — “thought I was selling out to the psychics, and the psychics thought I was selling out to the skeptics.”

Good for him. Hope others follow in his footsteps.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • vexorian

    “Mark Edward (no relation to John Edward)”

    Except, of course, for the whole “being a fraud” thing.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    I am all in favor of this guy and others in his line of ‘work’ (i.e., fraud) coming clean.
    But how do we get his book to be read by believers (or at least heard about by believers)?

  • advancedatheist

    Psychics, magicians and clergymen just do different versions of the same con. I’d like to see a show analogous to The Masked Magician, only where a Masked Clergyman shows how the illusions of christianity work.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BKTFYJMAEGMY3JBQSJHHIIEAQQ rb

    Why come out “now”?? Mark Edward has been “out” for years. He was featured on the first episode of “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” in 2003 demonstrating cold reading techniques and debunking Rosemary Altea. His YouTube activism against the likes of Sylvia Browne is well-known and beloved in the Skeptic world. Where is this “revelation” idea coming from?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Lewie.Lewie Lewis Cox

    How Christian of Edwards to intentionally screw up for a lifetime, then apologize without repercussions.  

  • James

    Business was slowing down so he had to out himself by writing a book. So he’s gonna make a few thousand bucks off his new book until he comes up with another way to make money. Pulled the old psychic come clean trick. I guess I’d do the same if I were good at taking advantage of people.

  • http://twitter.com/MandarbZA MandarbZA

    Yes, that. He’s also been blogging at SkepticBlog for years  

  • Sue Blue

    Reading the NYTimes article about this guy, he strikes me as a not-very-successful psychic/magician who sees an opportunity to make some money by imitating (poorly) James Randi and Penn and Teller…although that could just be the bias of the NYTimes writer.   I don’t know that his book would impress believers all that much.
    I have two very dear friends who, like myself, have lost a child.  They spend time and money on these “psychics” and believe that every little coincidence or odd happening is a “sign” from their dead child.  They’ve tried to talk me into going to a so-called Afterlife Seminar in a nearby town, but I refused.  I’ve tried to tell them how these people use trickery, and even though they’ve heard about Derren Brown and James Randi, they’re still convinced that psychic abilities really exist and that some mediums are the real thing.  I don’t know how to convince them otherwise without ending our friendship, as this seems vitally important to them.

  • LesterBallard

    He was just a false convert, not a true Psychic.

  • Antinomian

    I shall now chanel the late P.T. (there’s a sucker born every minute) Barnum.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    “My conscience — I could no longer do it,” Mr. Edward said.

    If Mr. Edward’s primary purpose really is to soothe his guilty conscience, then perhaps he should use the money he’s making on this book to make material recompense  to those hundreds or thousands of people he duped for so many years.

    Let him seek out as best he can all his old customers, and let him advertise an offer that if anyone can convincingly show or state that they were hoodwinked by him, that he will give them a full refund.

    Let him put his money where his mouth is.

    This will have two good effects: It will heal his self-injured conscience, assuming that that is actually his motive, and it will encourage all his victims to admit to themselves that when they walked out of his parlor with more warm, fuzzy feelings and less cash, that they had played a necessary part in their having been deceived.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    At this moment, I’m more interested in reading Randi’s foreword than the rest of the book. Am I the only one?  I’m kind of cynical about Mr. Edward’s motives, too, but Randi’s . . . the man is nothing if not consistent, as far as I know, and I admit I consider him a personal hero.  I’d like to read his take on this.

    I remember his handling of “converts” like Uri Geller’s manager in *Flim Flam!* (I think?) and he didn’t cut anybody any slack for their past actions back then.

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    I’d like to offer Mark Edward a little more forgiveness than most of the commentors here.

    Although Richard Wade makes a good point about Edward needing to put his money where his mouth is, I don’t think finding the people he defrauded in the past all that practical. I agree with Richard that the proceeds for Mark Edward’s book should be donated to a worthy charity, for sure. Maybe a children’s hospital or a charity that does grief counselling.

    If Mr. Edward is seriously trying to make amends, and I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt, he should devote the rest of his life to debunking other psychics and educating the public on the dangers of woo. A tour of high schools would be a good start. I liken him to a gangster or drug dealer who has decided to come clean and wants to save kids from going down the wrong path as he did. He can’t undo the damage he did in the past, but he can make at least one corner of the world a bit better by offering to undermine magical thinking wherever he finds it.

    For these reasons I think it behooves us as atheists and skeptics to be a little more encouraging and welcoming of people who have decided that they can’t continue with the B.S. anymore. For sure, make certain that their contrition is genuine, but after that accept them as an ally rather than like vermin you tolerate because you need the scraps cleaned up off the floor.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Silo, you have a good point about encouraging and welcoming reformed woo mongers as allies, and your suggestions for what Mr. Edward might do to make amends are far more practicable than mine. Thank you for reminding me to look for how to make lemonade out of the lemons.

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    It’s all good Richard. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred it’s folks like me who are reaching for the tire iron to pummel magical thinkers, while you remain the voice of measure and reason. So you get a mulligan pretty much any time you ask for one. :-)

  • Aria Montgomery

    Want some extra cash? Click this link http://www.dataentryjobs.us/113381.html
    to start earning!

  • Nicole Introvert

    He did an excellent interview on Skepticallity a few weeks ago. Listen to his story. He seems like a good guy. Why so hostile towards him? How is this different than an atheist reconversion story? Podcast here: http://www.skepticality.com/walking-psychic-blues/

  • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

    By reconversion I meant deconversion.  Damn Kindle & fat fingers. 

  • nice_marmot

    That is patently offensive: Magicians are often entertaining.

    I love the Masked Clergyman idea! Ted Haggard immediately sprang to mind, though, which is both amusing and disturbing…

  • Aaron Scoggin

    It wouldn’t be a problem if people took their services for what they are – ENTERTAINMENT. If you take a “psychic evaluation” for any purposes besides entertainment, YOU’RE the idiot, and the “psychic” has every right “earn” your money.

  • Aaron Scoggin

    I don’t think any amends should be made at all. He provided a service (entertainment), and people paid for it, and got entertainment out of it. If they took it as more than that, then they’re to blame for being stupid.