Whether or not you believe in psychic powers, there have been many people who have made their livings claiming to be able to see both the future and the past, and to be able to communicate with the dead. In the past, people paid to witness the seances of famous psychics, but in more modern times, psychics have moved into television.
Miss Cleo starred in a series of late-night infomercials in the 1990s. In these spots, she claimed to be a psychic from the Caribbean and offered her services via a pay-per-minute psychic hotline. Miss Cleo became a pop culture joke long before it was discovered that she was not from Jamaica, or anywhere else in the Caribbean, but was in fact an American named Youree Dell Harris. Miss Cleo was sued by Missouri attorney general for fraud, false advertising, and various other unlawful business practices in 2001, which was followed by other lawsuits, including one by the Federal Communications Commission.
John Edward is a psychic who claims to be able to talk to the dead. He’s written several books and has had two different television shows, “Crossing Over With John Edward,” which ran in syndication for six years, and “John Edward Cross Country” on the cable station WE. Edward has been called a fraud, and audience members have claimed their responses were edited to make it look as if Edward was more accurate than he was.
James Van Praagh
Another famous TV psychic who says he can speak with the dead is James Van Praagh. Van Praagh began his TV career as a talk show guest, appearing on “Oprah,” “20/20” and “Larry King Live,” among others. He made many appearances on the NBC show “The Other Side” and eventually got his own talk show, “Beyond With James Van Praagh.” Critics have accused Van Praagh of simply “cold reading,” using leading questions and answers to gain information instead of actually having any psychic ability.
The Amazing Criswell
The Amazing Criswell, born Jerome King Criswell, was most famous for making astoundingly inaccurate predictions. He began with a radio program and writing syndicated columns full of his strange guesses, such as Mae West becoming president of the United States and himself and George Liberace flying to the moon in a rocket. Criswell gained his own TV show in Los Angeles, called “Criswell Predicts,” which led to roles in the bizarre B-movies of the legendary director Ed Wood, who cast him in “Night of the Ghouls,” “Orgy of the Dead,” and “Plan Nine from Outer Space.”
Criswell did make one accurate prediction. On the Jack Paar show in March of 1963, Criswell said John Kennedy would not run for re-election in 1964 “because of something that will happen to him in November 1963.” Kennedy was indeed assassinated in November of 1963, but Criswell soon went back to making predictions such as the total destruction of Denver and the end of the world in 1999. Criswell himself left the world in 1982.
Amber D. Walker has been writing professionally since 1989. She has had essays published in "Fort Worth Weekly," "Starsong," "Paper Bag," "Living Buddhism" and more. Walker holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas and worked as an English teacher abroad for six years.