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Close Encounter of the Secondhand Kind with ‘Psychic Medium’ George Anderson

Gary Posner

Volume 20.2, June 2010

One needs to listen to the entire recording to appreciate the endless stream of wild guesses and proffered questions that don’t offer any specific information from or about the “next level” of existence.

George Anderson is one of the country’s three major “psychic mediums.” He may be less well known than John Edward and James Van Praagh, but like the others he charges the bereaved a small fortune for the opportunity to ostensibly communicate with a departed loved one.

The closest I’ve ever been to Anderson was in October 1999 on the now-defunct MSNBC television show Crosstalk, which devoted an hour to discussing communication with the dead after that night’s premier of Linda Ellerbee’s HBO special Life Afterlife. Anderson was a guest in the network studio, while Ellerbee, a couple others, and I were scattered in various remote locations. During the program, in response to one of my comments, Anderson acknowledged that “skepticism is healthy ....t means you’re thinking.” But I don’t think the following is the sort of “thinking” that he would appreciate becoming the norm.

Several years ago, someone (to protect her identity, I’ll call her “Eve”) had lost her twenty-something-year-old son (I’ll call him “Adam”) in an auto accident and sought out Anderson, who charged her $1,200 to connect with her dearly and tragically departed. Fortunately for us “thinking” folks, she recorded the nearly one-hour session (with—amazingly—Anderson’s concurrence) and thoughtfully provided a copy for my review.

The session begins with Anderson’s announcement that “immediately a male presence comes forward... [pause, then under his breath] and two females follow.” Eve’s body language and verbal feedback help establish the sex of the deceased party with whom she desires communication. But age, unlike sex, presents nearly a hundred possibilities. Anderson: “He claims he passed on young? [Here he pauses due to apparent absence of feedback.] Excuse me, relatively young by today’s standards, yes? That means seventy down.” So, Eve’s son did not cry out: “Mom, I’m here!” or, to Anderson, “My name is Adam. I was killed at age twenty-five in an auto accident.” Instead, Adam decided to play a variation of the children’s games “Hot and Cold” and “20 Questions.” After some inane byplay with Eve (of the sort that occupied most of the session), Anderson continues: “He’s already on the defensive, saying [again], ‘I passed over young by today’s standards,’ but he wasn’t a child.” Anderson has obviously gone fishing: Husband? Son? Father?

At this point, only fifty-five seconds into the fifty-two-minute session, any “thinking” person should recognize that this “communication” simply cannot be genuine. The intact sentences that Anderson claims to relay are so ridiculous (the above example being but one) that I can only shake my head in bewilderment at the gullibility of his supporters.

Still floundering for the nature of their relationship, Anderson continues: “He says he’s your sweetheart, understood? [Pause—apparently not.] But not romantically? [Pause—Eve says, ‘I don’t know.’] I think I have two people; one states he is your sweetheart romantically, yes?” But he had earlier specified one male and two females. This sort of transparent game-playing, and Anderson’s excuses (such as, “He [Adam] said [‘sweetheart’] to be funny”) wastes minute after minute—at more than $20 each.

One needs to listen to the entire recording to appreciate the endless stream of wild guesses and proffered questions that don’t offer any specific information from or about the “next level” of existence.

Anderson’s excruciating attempts to divine the departed’s name continue intermittently until finally resolved at about the half-way point. At thirteen minutes: “He is now telling me his first name is short.” Eve offers a “yes” but no more, and Anderson abandons this attempt. At about sixteen minutes he tries again: “He doesn’t have the most common first name . . . but you can shorten it? [Actually, no.] He showed me six letters, but it’s less than that?” [Eve offers another “yes.”] A bit later: “[The] letter ‘J’—anything to do with him?” Then, “Now why did your son say ‘A, B, C, D’ and he stopped, understood?” He offers the names “Kyle” and “Keith,” both incorrect. He again moves on. At about thirty-seven minutes, after playing more letter games and with more help from Eve: success! (Though certainly not in my book.)

At forty-three minutes into the session, we learn why Anderson (and presumably his cohorts) would still choose to play such games even if they truly possessed their claimed abilities rather than spend the hour providing a treasure trove of information about the great beyond to their grieving, paying (through the nose) clients: “To me, it would be boring as hell if you walked into the room and he said, ‘Hi. I’m her son. My name is [Adam]. I died in a car accident.’ Everything would just be an assembly-line bore. This makes it very challenging...and exciting to work it out.”

And, as if he were being paid by the hour like Anderson, at fifty-two minutes Adam decides to “pull back” and depart the premises, having imparted not one iota of information about the afterlife to his beloved mom, aside from Anderson’s platitudes that he is all right and at peace. But he was thoughtful enough to provide Anderson with some time for a coffee or bathroom break before the next assembly-line client’s arrival at the top of the hour.

There was, however, one sliver of a silver lining in this mephitic affair: Eve, though $1,200 lighter in the pocketbook, is now much richer of mind. She has become a skeptic.

Gary Posner

Gary Posner, M.D., is founder of Tampa Bay Skeptics and a CSI scientific consultant. His website is gpposner.com.