America has seen its share of fraudulent spiritualists and psychics throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, and Tyler Henry is among the most infamous. Henry hosts a series called Hollywood Medium on the E! network, in which he provides psychic services to a wide range of celebrities. Most of his psychic readings incorporate basic tricks from a mentalist’s handbook. He’s specifically very good at giving his guests a “cold reading,” which is when a clairvoyant will say something vague and hope that it gets an emotional hit.
Psychics who lie aren't a new phenomenon; hucksters and snake oil salespeople have been bilking people out of money since the first person claimed that they could speak to the dead. But the fraud committed by Tyler Henry on Hollywood Medium feels especially cynical because he’s interviewing easily researched guests and asking viewers to believe that he isn’t simply using Google.
Henry's purported lack of pop culture knowledge forms a cornerstone of his backstory. He says that he's "from a small town," but Hanford, CA, has a population of over 50,000 - hardly a rural farm hamlet. But in the internet age, does the size of your town even matter? Now that he's meeting famous people for readings, it's hard to believe that the 22-year-old doesn't perform even a cursory Google search before he sits down with a star.
In his reading of Carole Radziwill from The Real Housewives of New York City, Henry makes sure to say, "I don’t know what you do for a living. I don’t watch much TV.” By saying this, he's admitting he knows Radziwill is on television. And this isn't the only time he says this: It's repeated slip-ups like this that give Henry away.
Henry deploys a classic clairvoyant move as part of his arsenal: telling his clients facts they already know or offering comforting generalizations. For instance, when he spoke to the Kardashians, he didn't provide any answers from the other side about Robert Kardashian, but he did talk about the tree-trimming business owned by Caitlyn Jenner's father.
By tossing off easily researched information and nice sentiments, Henry can get away with sounding like he knows more than he does.
Tyler Henry's MO is to sit back and let people tell him all the information he needs to perform his readings. For instance, when someone hands him a gold ring and explains how it was a gift, he's able to intuit the person who gave the ring probably isn't alive anymore.
Once Henry confirms that whoever gave the gift has passed on, he can pause and let his client feed him more information. After his client tells him what he needs, he can say he was receiving that information from the other side.
A "cold reading" is a technique used by psychics who don't know anything about their clients before meeting them. They use vague statements and cast a wide net to get a hit on the person to whom they're speaking. If they notice a specific mannerism that continues to pop up when they ask a question, then the psychic knows they've hit on something important.
In Henry's interviews, he makes broad, incredibly vague statements, asking questions about “someone who might have died tragically at a young age." But the fact of the matter is that nearly everyone on Earth is connected to someone who died young, which is tragic regardless of how they died. He also frequently mentions dead pets, which is another easy move because nearly everyone has had a dog, cat, or fish that passed away.