ABC Prime Time (Spiritualism)

(Photos below). This took place around 2002 or 2003. I'm unsure of the date but I look terribly young in the photos.

This item was taped as a Halloween special for the ABC 'Primetime' news and current affairs show.
 

A producer from ABC Television in New York said they wanted to set up an experiment about 'talking to the dead', based on the work of TV mediums such as John Edward and James van Praagh. They asked if I could do the same sort of thing, purely using cold reading. I said yes, of course.

 

The TV people were great to work with, especially producer Muriel Pearson. The production team found about 20 people who said they were neither sceptical about spirit mediumship nor committed believers. They were all 'open to the idea' but no more than that. I wasn't allowed to meet these people, see them or know anything about them until we started taping the first segment.

The production team took over the House of the Redeemer, 7 East 95th St, between 5th and Madison. They got there in the morning and installed lots of lights and about six cameras. The rest of the team and I got there in the afternoon. First, we taped a few bits of close-up mentalism they wanted for a separate segment. Then I was isolated in a room somewhere and the volunteers for the 'talking to the dead' segment came in. (For mentalists reading this, it really was cold reading and there was no p-s.)

[Part 1] Once the 20 volunteers were in place, I was introduced as a medium and I did my thing. The session lasted about 30 minutes. I got some impressive hits and strong emotional reactions. There were also some lukewarm hits and, of course, a couple of misses that didn't matter.

[Part 2] After a break, I sat down with presenter Chris Cuomo and the volunteers for a group discussion about what had happened. I explained, as tactfully and sensitively as possible, that it had been an investigation into cold reading but that everyone was entitled to their own interpretation. There was some group discussion and some different opinions, but nobody was upset or angry. Nobody felt 'fooled' or made fun of. They all said it was an interesting item to be part of.

[Part 3] The volunteers left and Chris Cuomo interviewed me for a while as I explained some of the cold reading techniques I had been using.

Once the item was edited together, I believe it was broadcast on or near Halloween. It was fed into a live show hosted by Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson.

So far as I know, I'm the only person in the world ever to have done this: to have given a 'test conditions' demonstration of supposed 'spirit mediumship' to a group of genuine strangers, purely using cold reading, and then admit that it was just cold reading. It's difficult to set up this kind of demonstration because of the ethics, strong feelings and sensitive material involved. I was very glad that ABC TV gave me this opportunity.

I probably have the video for this somewhere, on VHS or DVD. However, I'd need signficant tech help to transfer it and present it online and it might be tricky for copyright reasons.
 

You can always contact me: ian@ianrowland.com