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Mark Edward (born Mark Edward Wilson, May 19, 1951, Los Angeles, CA) is a professional mentalist who specializes in magic of the mind. He has written several books on mentalism, séance theory and production and appeared on television as both primary consultant and on-air performer in such diverse programming as A & E's Biography: "Houdini, the Great Escape," NBC's "The Other Side" and "Psychic Secrets Revealed," The Sci-Fi Channel's "Mysteries, Magic and Miracles," The Discovery Channel's "Forces Beyond," and on two episodes of The Learning Channel's "Exploring the Unknown." His featured segment as a spirit medium on the pilot episode of Showtime's "Penn & Teller's Bullshit!" series entitled "Speaking with the Dead" helped secure an Emmy Award nomination for that episode in 2002.[1] Mark Edward is not related to John Edward.

Mark Edward
Mark Edward at QEDCon 2014.jpg
Mark Edward at QEDCon 2014
Born
Mark Edward Wilson

(1951-05-19) May 19, 1951 (age 68)
Los Angeles, CA USA
ResidenceSan Pedro, California, United States
NationalityAmerican
EducationBachelor of Fine Arts 1974
Alma materCalifornia Institute of the Arts
Occupationmentalist, magician, writer, skeptic, psychic entertainer
WebsiteTheMarkEdward.com

Early lifeEdit

Edward became interested in magic through his maternal grandfather George Schaeffer, who was a card player and amateur magician. Edward became his test subject for many close-up magic routines. By 11 he was performing magic shows for school, friends and family events.[2][3][4]

From the ages of 14 to 18, Edward was involved in music in various Dada and performance art bands in and around South Los Angeles, including "ZaSu Pits and the Enema Dog Review - Featuring a Walk in the Closet", "Rat Salad" and "The Techno-Cats" (which later splintered into The Brainiacs, The Suburbs and Suburban Lawns). During a punk concert at LA's "Brave Dog" club where he was performing in the power trio Steak Sinatra, he was hit in the head with a half-full beer bottle at which point he decided to pursue a solo career in magic.[3]

 
"ZaSu Pits and the Enema Dog Review" 1968
 
"Ashes and Apples"

During this time, Edward was also studying post-studio, performance and conceptual art with mentor John Baldessari at CalArts. Baldessari greatly influenced his later work in magic and mentalism. These influences led to performances of juggling, fire-eating and magic in public places such as local laundromats and DMV waiting areas.[5]

Finding he was near starvation as an artist and realizing he could return to his magic roots and make money, in 1974, Edward formed a street magic group with several other CalArts performance and theater arts majors. After working several years as a street magician at Magic Mountain and in sales at Hollywood Magic Company, he decided it was time to audition as a performing member of Hollywood's Magic Castle.[3][6]

In 1975, when Edward became a performer at the Castle, famed magician of television's "Magic Land of Alakazam" Mark Wilson was on the Board of Directors. The younger Mark Wilson was advised if he wanted to perform he needed to change his name, which he did, deciding to use his middle name as his last name.

Bored with standard magic, Edward decided to pursue his interest in psychic and educated animal acts, studying under Ralph Helfer and later Ray Berwick at Universal Studios's Animal Actors Stage. This training led to his later performances with "Jim, Emperor of All Dogs" in a levitating dog act. According to the "Los Angeles Parkside Journal" Edward is quoted as saying, "My favorite kind of act is 'mental' magic".[4][7][8]

In 1985 Edward took the job of Associate Resident Medium at the Magic Castle in The Houdini Séance Room. As his séance work progressed he became more involved with the skeptical movement. In 1991 he met Michael Shermer and began giving lectures on psychic matters to the Skeptics Society. The next year he accepted a position on the Editorial Board of Skeptic magazine. In 1998 he became a member of the Psychic Entertainers Association. He left the Magic Castle in 1999, after 25 years, 14 of which were spent in The Houdini Séance Room.[4]

 
Jim - Emperor of all Dogs

Years as a "professional psychic"Edit

In 1990, Edward began working for the Psychic Friends Network. Highly influenced by 1930 movies about mediums and psychic scams and later the 1948 film Nightmare Alley, Edward decided to climb as high as he could in the growing psychic / New Age market. Magician Penn Jillette referred to Edward as a reformed con-artist on the pilot of their Showtime television series Bullshit! a claim that Edward denies.[9] "I've always been a skeptic because I'm a magician. When I see something in this hand (points to right hand) I automatically want to know what the other hand is doing".[10][11]

During this time, Edward also worked on radio talk shows in Hollywood and Hawaii, gaining notoriety that eventually led to being chosen out of 160 other psychics to be second in line and backup Master Psychic for the ill-fated Psychic Friends Radio Network. Finally, he did a late night psychic infomercial for the Psychic Revival Network. This caused much controversy which angered magicians and skeptics alike.[3]

In an interview with ABC's Good Morning America, Edward recounts his years as a professional psychic working the 900 phone lines. Reporter Eric Noll quotes Edward, "The psychic business is built on lies. There is no supernatural power. You can't see the future... We're in the golden age of the con. There are people coming out of the woodwork that would love to separate you from your money. But people just want someone to talk to. That's the bottom line".[12]

CriticismEdit

In his book, Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium, Edward describes himself as 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.” Many skeptics, who are magicians and mediums, consider themselves not only uniquely qualified, but also obligated to teach the public that psychics are fake. They consider it a moral duty to inform their audience that they are performing tricks and not using supernatural powers. Edward used his expertise as a mentalist to expose the charlatans as frauds, but prefers not to use disclaimers, defending his work as a psychic as pure entertainment. “It’s as if he believes he can deceive people and enlighten them at the same time.” [13] Edward stated in his book that using a disclaimer is like ordering a dinner at a fancy French restaurant and, just when the waiter is about to serve the meal, the chef comes out and says it came out of a can. His critics would argue that the problem isn't that the appreciation for the meal was ruined. The problem is that the customer paid a premium price for canned food.[14]

At The Amaz!ng Meeting 2013, he participated on a panel discussion entitled Magicians vs. Psychics. With him on the panel were Ray Hyman, Jamy Ian Swiss, James Randi, Max Maven, and Banachek, moderated by D.J. Grothe. Swiss criticized Edward, referring to the statement on his website: "Mark neither declares himself as a genuine psychic nor gives any disclaimers, preferring to let his work stand on its own merit and allow each individual to arrive at their own personal conclusions." Swiss called him a “lower case skeptic,” and said that he didn't consider him to be an ally in the skeptical movement. “Upper case Skeptics are not just concerned with what you as an individual sees about the world, but are concerned with educating others and improving other’s lot in the world.” In his defense, Edward pointed out that his website has skepticism written all over it, and that anybody who knows him, knows that his work is valuable in the skeptical movement.[15]

 
James Randi and Edward Dragon Con 2012

Whereas most magicians and mentalists openly claim that they have no psychic ability, many psychic entertainers assume that no real disclaimer is required. Ray Hyman used the term "invited inference," meaning "you present as the real thing" without claiming outright to be psychic.[16] "A disclaimer is a declaration that 'disclaims' that any supernatural agencies or occult forces are in any way involved, and that everything is being done through purely natural means, including trickery."[17] James Randi and Edward discussed the importance of disclaimers in mentalism. One that would satisfy both believers and skeptics, would be to say, "I use my five senses to create the illusion of a sixth sense." Randi said that he always uses disclaimers. Edward said he has used different kinds of disclaimers, including one that he calls a "double bind." It's a disclaimer that doesn't. The idea is to vehemently deny having psychic powers to a point that the audience wonders what he's up to. He said that what sets him apart from other skeptics, is that he likes to have a little mystery.[18]

SkepticismEdit

Edward's involvement in the skeptical movement has been extensive. In an interview with Skeptical Inquirer, he stated his skeptical history goes back to the 1970s, when he became involved with searching out the methods of Uri Geller.[19] Years after working for the Psychic Friends Network, Edward decided to blow the whistle on the $2 billion a year industry. He said the industry soars when the economy tanks. People have moved, changed jobs, and even divorced after receiving a consultation, but psychics have no special abilities. They use specific techniques designed to be vague, flattering, and drawn out. They use generalities that are true about everybody.[20] Psychics at the 900 hotlines were trained to scam callers out of their money. They were told to keep people on the line as long as possible, and to ask for their birthdays, names and addresses. Then the hotlines would start spamming people. The callers would get letters telling them they're in danger and that they need to call their psychic friend immediately.[21] Another trend involved seeing a psychic over Skype, whereby the customer paid in advance by credit card for the psychic session, upon which the ‘psychic’ on the other end would not only receive the money but was able to see the payer’s itemized credit card history. Then the psychic had information on the sitter and would seem even more credible.[22]

 
A protest against Sylvia Browne led by Edward

Edward has been very public about exposing celebrity psychics and the techniques they use to fool their audiences. On the premiere episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, he demonstrated how television psychics, John Edward, James Van Praagh, and Rosemary Altea, convinced their subjects that they were actually communicating with the dead.[23] On Inside Edition, he showed how Theresa Caputo used similar techniques to give the appearance that she can contact the deceased.[24] He also appeared in the Halloween 2017 episode of Adam Ruins Everything with Adam Conover,[25] in which he explained cold reading. Often, what is perceived as psychic powers, is nothing more than a simple magic trick, as in Uri Geller’s famous spoon bending trick. Edward performed one of several possible techniques in the TV series, Weird or What? [26]

Edward pointed out that if communication with the dead was possible, psychic hotlines and celebrity psychics would be obsolete, and the scientific community would give this type of phenomena a great deal of attention; however, sufficient evidence is lacking. "What is more likely" Edward asks, "that somebody can talk to dead people, or they're just conning you?" [27] He made a similar argument for haunted houses. If we could prove ghosts were real, it would be the greatest scientific achievement in history, and we wouldn’t be paying twenty dollars for a Hollywood ghost tour.[28]

Despite his efforts to expose psychics as frauds, Edward found that some people's beliefs cannot be changed. Even though he was introduced as a fake on the Jeff Probst Show, one of the audience members requested a reading from him.[29] On the TV series Brain Games, Edward demonstrated that the planchette on the Ouija board is controlled by the live participants and not by someone who has passed, and yet some of his sitters were convinced they had received messages from beyond the grave.[30]

Edward said that he was always a skeptic. At the same time he was working the 900 numbers, he was also on the editorial board of Skeptic Magazine.[1] He was a member of the team for the network television pilot The Skeptologists, working with Yau-Man Chan, Steven Novella, Phil Plait, Kirsten Sanford, Michael Shermer and Brian Dunning. The program never aired.[31]

Edward was a steering member of IIG West, a group aimed at investigating paranormal claims.[32][33][34] He has also worked with Investigation Network, teaching workshops and exposing psychic frauds, like Sylvia Browne[35][36] and John Edward.[37][38]

 
Lecture at Skeptrack at Dragon Con September 2012

Edward has been a speaker at a number of skeptical conferences. At Dragon*Con 2012 Skeptrack, he performed psychic readings and demonstrated techniques celebrity psychics use, like hot and cold readings, in front of an audience packed with skeptics. In his talk entitled Psychic Readings for Fun and Prophet, Edward explained that no one can actually read minds or talk to the dead, but that people can be fooled and that they can fool themselves, and he offered a variety of explanations.[39]

At QEDcon 2014 his talk was entitled Psychic Blues: Using Guerrilla Skepticism To Fight Psychic Fraud. He told the audience that he was sick and tired of psychic fraud and encouraged them to join his movement and help make a difference. He showed a video of how he and a group of skeptics demonstrated at a Sylvia Browne show, and then he outlined a plan describing how audience members could organize a similar local protest.[40] At the same conference, he sat on a panel about magic and skepticism, along with Paul Zenon, Richard Wiseman, and Deborah Hyde.[41]

Operation Pizza RollEdit

 
"Susanna Wilson" (Susan Gerbic) and "Mark Wilson" (Edward) undercover, with unsuspecting John after their 2017 reading

In March 2017, TV medium Thomas John was caught doing a hot reading in a sting operation named "Operation Pizza Roll", which was planned and implemented by Susan Gerbic and Edward. The unmarried couple, Gerbic and Edward, attended John's show using aliases, and were "read" as a married couple Susanna and Mark Wilson by John. During the entire reading, John failed to determine the actual identities of Gerbic and Edward, or that they were being deceptive during his reading. All personal information he gave them matched what was on their falsified Facebook accounts, rather than being about their actual lives, and John pretended he was getting this information from Gerbic and Edward's supposedly dead—but actually nonexistent—relatives.[42][43]

As Jack Hitt reported in The New York Times:

"Over the course of the reading, John comfortably laid down the specifics of Susanna Wilson’s life — he named “Andy” and amazingly knew him to be her twin. He knew that she and her brother grew up in Michigan and that his girlfriend was Maria. He knew about Susanna’s father-in-law and how he died."[44]

These details were from the falsified Facebook accounts for the pair which were prepared by a group of skeptics in advance of the reading, and Gerbic and Edward were not aware of the specific information in these accounts. This blinding was done in order to avoid John later being able to claim he obtained the false information by reading Gerbic and Edward's minds.[42] In her report, Gerbic also revealed that during an after-show private event, John disclosed in a group setting that at least one of the people in the audience which he did a reading about was actually his own student.[42][45][43]

When Hitt reached out to John for comment, John insisted that he did not use Facebook, saying "I do remember her [Gerbic] coming to an event... I recognized her because she was there with that other guy who wrote that book." He also told Hitt that "I have my eyes closed for an hour and a half when I'm doing readings. If she spoke up during that period of time, I don't remember that." John also argued that the entire experiment wasn’t really scientific enough, saying "For Susan to come to a reading and get a two-minute reading and say, well, 'I made a fake post about my dog, Buddy, and my father who died,' it’s really not any sort of scientific testing of psychic powers." He added, "First off, someone will have to be a scientist to do a scientific experiment, not someone who used to be a photographer at Sears."[44]

ArtworkEdit

Edward's work has been displayed at local art shows in the Los Angeles area. Create:Fixate is a quarterly one night art exhibit featuring a signature blend of over forty emerging artists, designers, DJs and musicians. Edward's piece was displayed on February 15, 2014 for the "I Art You" exhibit.[46] On May 18, 2013 Edward held a "Soothsayer" exhibition at the Fold Gallery where he displayed his art and performed illusions and psychic readings. At the La Luz De Jesus Gallery, throughout the month of March, 2013, his Death Ray and Nebulizer and Charger were on display at the "Laluzapalooza" show. For the Dia De Los Muertos "Sacred Memories" show on October 21 through November 18, 2012, Edward had two pieces, Memories and Final Seance, on display at the Pico House Gallery.

Edward's art collection includes paintings, collages, and elaborate sculptures, using vintage laboratory glassware, metals and mixed media. His creations involve science and mysticism, and consist of mysterious mechanical devices and imaginary alchemy laboratories. His work was inspired by art movements such as Dada and surrealism, which were pioneered by artists like Max Ernst.[47][48] He also designed a set of tarot cards to accompany his book, Silentium.[49]

BooksEdit

Year Title
1997 Restless Plots
1997 Mediums, Well Done!
1998 Psi-Lines: A Book of Psychic Quotes
1999 Sense and Séance
2000 Confessions of a 900 Psychic
2000 How to Increase Your Income with ESP
2001 Silentium
2002 Loose Ends: Leaves from a Medium's Notebook
2002 Bundles
2003 Hand Springs
2004 Top Ten Mentalism with Cards
2005 Graphick: How to Read Handwriting for Fun and Profit
2009 Psychic Blues: Confessions From a Conflicted Medium
2010 Tenebrae
2015 Dolphin Tears
2016 Class Acts
2017 The Real Deal
2018 Against the Tide
2018 Total Darkness[50]
2019 Psychic Blues: New Expanded Edition, with a foreword by James Randi, audio book[51]

Photo galleryEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Edward, Mark. "Biography". The Mark Edward. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  2. ^ "Threading the Maze of Magik with Mark Edward". YouTube. 2010-08-19. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
  3. ^ a b c d "Walking with the Psychic Blues". Skepticality. 2012-07-03. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
  4. ^ a b c "Ross and Carrie Meet Mark". Oh No Ross and Carrie!. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
  5. ^ "Force One". Skeptic Blog. 2009-08-22. Retrieved 2011-03-14.
  6. ^ The Signal., March 8, 1976, "Diet of Flame"
  7. ^ Los Angeles Co Parkside Journal., Jan 9, 1980 "Area Magician Prefers Illusion"
  8. ^ Larsen, Dante (July 1989). "Bagdad". Genii, The Conjurors' Magazine. Bill Larsen. 53 (1): 899.
  9. ^ "Penn & Teller Bullshit! Season 1 Episode 1:Talking to the Dead (1/3) ". Penn & Teller: Bullshit!. 24 January 2003. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
  10. ^ "Mark Edward - Guerrilla Skepticism (part 1)". YouTube. 2011-08-03. Retrieved 2011-03-14.
  11. ^ "Mark Edward ~ SkeptiCamp Fort Collins, CO part 1 of 3". YouTube. 2011-02-27. Retrieved 2011-03-14.
  12. ^ "Psychic Hot Line Secrets: Clairvoyance or Hoax?". ABC Good Morning America. May 9, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-19.
  13. ^ Mark Oppenheimer (August 31, 2012). "Pro Medium Repents for Life of Cons". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  14. ^ Rael, John (August 21, 2013). "Inside the Psychic Mind, a book review". eSkeptic (ISSN 1556-5696). Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  15. ^ "Magicians vs Psychics Panel discussion TAM 2013". Las Vegas, NV: JamesRandiFoundation. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  16. ^ "Ray Hyman & Mark Edward discuss disclaimers in mentalism". YouTube. Susan Gerbic. July 17, 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  17. ^ Edward, Mark (2012). Psychic Blues Confessions of a Conflicted Medium. Feral House. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-936239-27-6.
  18. ^ "James Randi, Jeff Wagg & Mark Edward discuss mentalism". TAM 2009: Susan Gerbic. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  19. ^ Palmer, Rob. "Mark Edward's Psychic Blues". Skeptical Inquirer. Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  20. ^ "The Truth About Psychic Hotlines" (video). ABC News. May 8, 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  21. ^ Eric Noll (May 9, 2010). "Psychic Hotline Secrets: Clairvoyance or Hoax?". ABC News. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  22. ^ Scarlett Russell (May 1, 2014). "The supernatural swindlers! Whistle-blower exposes how bogus mediums con believers out of thousands by pretending to have psychic powers". Daily Mail. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  23. ^ "Talking to the Dead" (TV series). January 24, 2003. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  24. ^ "The Long Island Medium Can She Really Communicate with the Dead?". Inside Edition. November 8, 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  25. ^ Susan, Gerbic (29 August 2018). "Adam Does Not Ruin Everything—FACT!". Skeptical Inquirer. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  26. ^ "Mind Control War" (TV series). June 9, 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  27. ^ "Mentalist Mark Edward Says All Psychics Are Frauds" (radio show). November 12, 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  28. ^ "Ghostbusters: is Hollywood a spiritual 'vortex'?". Bangkok Post. May 30, 2012.
  29. ^ "Psychic Showdown: A Fake Psychic Speaks" (TV show). October 31, 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  30. ^ "Paranormal". Brain Games. National Geographic. Retrieved May 24, 2015.
  31. ^ "The Skeptologists" (TV series). skeptologists.com. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  32. ^ "The Independent Investigators". Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  33. ^ "Mark Edward Interview (Be Skeptical Episode 2)" (YouTube). outside of the Magic Castle: IIGWest. July 8, 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  34. ^ "Mark Edward Interviews Real Ghost Investigators" (YouTube). Croke-Patterson-Campbell Mansion.(Denver, CO built 1891). March 1, 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  35. ^ "Sylvia Browne Punked" (YouTube). Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal Studios: ForceOneUndercover. December 29, 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  36. ^ Javier Leiva (2 July 2019). "The Psychic Grief Vampires" (Podcast). Pretend Radio. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  37. ^ ""Psychic" John Edward Protest Draws Police" (YouTube). Pasadena, California: emeryemery. January 23, 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  38. ^ "Investigation Network". investigationnetwork.org. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  39. ^ "Psychic Readings for Fun and Prophet". Dragon*Con 2012: AbrubtMedia, LLC. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  40. ^ "Mark Edward QED Psychic Blues - Using Guerrilla Skepticism to Fight Psychic Fraud". Manchester, England: Susan Gerbic. April 29, 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  41. ^ "Magic and skepticism - with Paul Zenon, Richard Wiseman, Mark Edward and Deborah Hyde". Manchester, England: QED. December 10, 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  42. ^ a b c Gerbic, Susan (February 21, 2019). "Operation Pizza Roll- Thomas John". Archived from the original on February 23, 2019. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  43. ^ a b Westbrook, Thomas (28 February 2019). "Thomas John (The Seatbelt Psychic) - Busted for Cheating!". Youtube.com. Holy Koolaid. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  44. ^ a b Hitt, Jack (February 26, 2019). "Inside the Secret Sting Operations to Expose Celebrity Psychics". New York Times. Archived from the original on February 26, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  45. ^ Mehta, Hemant (23 February 2019). "Skeptics Set a Trap and a So-Called "Celebrity Medium" Fell for the Hoax". Friendlyatheist.patheos.com. Patheos. Archived from the original on 24 February 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  46. ^ "Create:Fixate: I Art You". Social Domain Los Angeles Area. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  47. ^ Derrick, Lisa (February 27, 2013). "Laluzapalooza Preview: Mark Edward and his Magical Devices". Cartwheel Art. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  48. ^ Derrick, Lisa (May 15, 2013). "CARTWHEEL Preview: Magician/Artist Mark Edward: "Soothsayer" at Fold Gallery". Cartwheel Art. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  49. ^ Edward, Mark. "Silentium Tarot Cards". the Mark Edward. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  50. ^ "Total Darkness". Themarkedward.com. Mark Edward. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  51. ^ "Psychic Blues: New Expanded Edition Audible Audiobook – Unabridged". Mark Edward. Retrieved 6 February 2019.

External linksEdit