Birds of a feather: A "special hit" does not hold water

by Claus Larsen

One of the most touted readings by proclaimed psychic John Edward is the “Feather at Niagara Falls”. It is pulled out whenever John Edward-believers want to prove that John Edward is a real genuine medium.

Here is how John Edward himself describes it:

“Why is Niagara Falls significant?” I asked Catherine.

“We were just there,” she said.

“You were just in Niagara Falls. Okay.”

“With my daughter.”

I concentrated in silence for a few seconds. Catherine’s husband was showing me something important.

“Did you find a feather there?” I asked her.

“Yes, and…” Catherine was crying.

“Did your tell your daughter that was from Daddy?”

“Yes.” She buried her face in her hands.

“This is a validation that he was there for you. Because he’s showing me the feather.”

I told Catherine it was a good thing that feathers are my mother’s symbol to me. She leaves feathers for me. “That was definitely him there for her.”

Source: John Edward: “Crossing Over” (p221+)

Pretty impressive, right?
John Edward apparently zooms in on the feather, without any feedback from anybody. Unfortunately, this is not as impressive, once we investigate a little.

First, the reading did not go the way John Edward claims it did. Here is the actual transcript from the reading:

John: Why is Niagara Falls significant?

Lady 1: We was just there.

John: You were just at Niagara Falls, ok.

Lady 1: Me and my daughter.

John: Did you find a feather there?

Lady 1: Yes, and my daughter…

John: Did you tell your daughter that was from daddy?

Lady 1: Yes.

John: Ok, this is a validation that he was there for you, ok? ‘Cause he’s showing me the feather. Lucky for you that’s my mother’s symbol when she communicates with me. I find feathers. So it was a very easy symbol for me to get. But I need to validate for you that is was definitely, definitely him there for her.

Lady 1: Thank you.

Source: John Edward on “Today” and “Later Today”  

The difference here is that Catherine tells John Edward that there was something that connected the daughter with the feather. In the book, John Edward seems to get the connection between the daughter and the feather directly.

It isn’t the only time he enhances this hit: Later in the book he says:

“Would Catherine start to wonder if it was possible that while waiting for the taping to begin, she had been standing near some hidden microphone and mentioned the feather that fell at her daughters feet at Niagara Falls?”

Source: John Edward: “Crossing Over” (p252+)

At no time did we hear where the feather was when the daughter found it.

John Edward presents himself better than he really was. He enhances his own performance.

But what of the feather? Isn’t that a fantastic piece of evidence?
Not really. According to the 35th Annual Niagara Falls Christmas Bird Count   on Saturday, December 29th, 2001, a total of 101 species of birds were found, and a total of 49,744 birds in Niagara Falls, NY.

There are also quite a few photos on the web from Niagara Falls with birds in them:

Tons of birds on these ones.

I think we can safely say that it would not be uncommon to find a feather at Niagara Falls.

OK, then: What about Niagara Falls itself?
What does John Edward actually say about Niagara Falls? “Did you tell your daughter that the feather she found at Niagara Falls was from her Daddy?”

No. Previously in the reading, we have learned that Catherine has lost her husband. First, John Edward asks: “Why is Niagara Falls significant?” He doesn’t say anything about the nature of the significance. He asks Catherine!

From there, she tells John Edward that she was there with her daughter. Since birds are commonplace there, it would be likely if the daughter found a feather – it is fun for kids to find feathers.

Immediately after, Catherine – tearfully – begins to tell John Edward that “her daughter” – and then John Edward breaks in and asks about the father.

It takes three steps, and after each, John Edward asks a crucial question. It doesn’t take a genius to see what is happening here.

Postlude
From comparing John Edward’s own description of what happened to what actually happened, we learn that he is not terribly accurate when it comes to the truth. If he had made errors “both ways” – one that would make him look smarter, one that would make him look less smart – it would have been easy to simply chalk it up to faulty memory.

But not when it happens consistently in his favor. Then we have to sit up and take notice.

This example of a heralded example of John Edward’s ability to get information from the spirits has been shown to be anything but: It is flawed, it is self-enhancing and is not based on spirit communication but on readily available information, pared with a woman who almost spills over when giving John Edward information he can use.

The “Niagara” reading is not such a big deal after all. We must then ask: If this is some of the best John Edward can offer, what of the rest of his readings?