Tarot card readers and storefront psychics are found everywhere, but those who can do the trick on TV are not so common. Some people believe in psychics and others feel it’s all just a good old-fashioned con; either way, here are some psychics who have made a name for themselves on the small screen.
JOHN EDWARD was once described by the New York Times as “the Oprah of the other side.” His late-night show Crossing Over was such a hit on the Sci-Fi Channel that in 2001 the show was purchased for the daytime lineup on CBS, running through 2004. Crossing Over featured Edward in a studio talk show setting, apparently passing pyschic messages from the Great Beyond to members of his live audience.
Like John Edward, SYLVIA BROWNE says she deals in spirits who have “crossed over.” (Browne believes she is led by a personal spirit guide known as Francine.) Browne began her professional psychic career in 1973; in the 21st century her appearances on the talk shows of TV’s Montel Williams and Larry King and radio’s Art Bell gave her wider fame.
(Photo: Carrie Devorah / WENN)
Another regular on the talk show circuit has been JAMES VAN PRAAGH, who also claims to be alert to messages from the dead. Van Praagh got his own Edward-style TV show in the fall of 2002, titled Beyond With James Van Praagh. A 2002 TV miniseries based on his own life and works, titled Living With the Dead, starred Ted Danson as Van Praagh.
DIONNE WARWICK gained psychic fame without ever claiming to be psychic herself. Her TV infomercials for the Psychic Friends Network were a late-night TV staple in the 1990s. The paid programs featured Warwick hosting a faux talk show, chatting with PFN founder Linda Georgian and other celebrities and eventually urging viewers to call the pay-per-minute phone service for “psychic” advice. The infomercials became a pop culture joke and made Warwick more famous than she’d been since her pop music heyday of the 1960s.
Following in Warwick’s footsteps was MISS CLEO. Sporting a tropical headdress and thick Jamaican accent, the sassy shaman dispensed no-nonsense romantic advice to simulated callers on TV infomercials for the Psychic Readers Network, a pay-per-minute competitor of Warwick’s Psychic Friends Network. Miss Cleo ran into unforseen trouble in 2002, when investigators for the state of Florida revealed that the Jamaican psychic was in fact Youree Harris, a 39-year-old actress born in Los Angeles. The Psychic Readers Network was shut down shortly thereafter.
The Amazing World of Kreskin, starring THE AMAZING KRESKIN, was one of the hottest syndicated TV shows of the 1970s. The half-hour weekly program had Kreskin mingling with a studio audience while using his powers to (apparently) read minds and perform feats of mental legerdemain. Though Kreskin was widely regarded as a psychic, he himself never used the term, preferring to call himself a “mentalist.”
JEANE DIXON was the grandmama of all pop psychics, though she rarely appeared on television. Dixon predicted in 1956 that a Democrat would be elected president in 1960 and then die in office; when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Dixon became a celebrity. Her annual list of predictions was trumpeted in tabloid papers and her daily horoscope column was widely syndicated. She also became the target of skeptics who coined the term “Jeane Dixon effect” to describe what happens when psychics get credit for a few correct predictions while their many wrong predictions are ignored.
CARNAC THE MAGNIFICENT was never a serious psychic, though he was reportedly inspired by The Amazing Kreskin. Carnac was a character created by Johnny Carson for comic bits on The Tonight Show; dressed in a turban, “Carnac” would hold sealed envelopes to his forehead, predict the answers, then open the envelope and read the gag questions to laughter from the audience.