by Claus Larsen

Graham Bishop is a self-proclaimed “spiritual teacher, trance medium, trance healer and medium”. He is also one lousy cold reader.

After watching his performance in a Copenhagen cafe a sunny evening, that much is certain.

After the initial warm-up, we got the usual cop-outs: Even though you don’t think the message is for you, it might be for you anyway. Even though not all of the information given might fit, it might be for you anyway. And sometimes, it just doesn’t work.

Where have we heard this before? Oh, yes: Every psychic medium has his or her own version of these litanies of excuses and cop-outs, where the whole issue is to establish that, whatever happens, it’s not the psychic’s fault! But if the psychic can get just a few people to believe that the messages are for them, personally, then all is well.

I’ve got a handful of readings to sing you…

Graham Bishop only managed to give a few readings, because he really had to work for it. I mean, the guy was struggling to drag out some positive response from the few in the audience who acknowledged – extremely reluctantly – that some of the messages might be for them.

He tried most of the cold reading techniques. Inflating the chances, disclaimers, the subtle questions (“Do you understand that?”), and the nauseating platitudes.

After the first reading, which was of average quality (which doesn’t mean we saw a lot of hits, it just means we would, in the comprised version, see Bishop get something that looked like a few hits), it went downhill from then on. Yes, it is actually quite a feat, considering how poorly he had done so far, but he managed beautifully. Bishop simply did not get very lucky with his guesses, and I have a sneaking suspicion I know why: He got specific. All of a sudden, he threw out a name.


Now, Julie may be a fairly common name in the UK, where Bishop comes from, but in Denmark, only 15,957 (as of 2003) has that name in Denmark – out of 2,721,084 women in all. However – and this is very important – Julie is the third most popular name for newborn girls (as of 2002).

He got nothing. Not a single person in the audience would confess to having – or even know – a Julie in the family or among the circle of friends. He droned on and on about Julie, expanding the possibilities with furniture with three drawers, old ladies with short curls, something that went missing within the past weeks. Nothing.

At one point, he even had to stop the show and leave the stage for a few minutes. He had tried desperately to get just some kind of feedback, but since that didn’t work, he had to talk to the spirits more privately, despite his earlier claimed ability to manage to cajole the spirits to come closer, so he could hear better. Seems that even spirits gets tired of hanging around bad channelers with bad hearing.

Guess what he did when he came back? He asked (I think we can safely assume that he certainly was not talking to any spirits) if there was a “Morten” in the audience – or if someone had connection to one. There are 34,786 males called Morten in Denmark, more than twice as many as there are people called Julie.

Inflating the chances? You bet. A quick glance at the list of those who had booked a ticket in advance? Quite possibly. But Morten did not show up, either. Perhaps Morten was one of those who had not picked up his ticket, of which there were quite a few.

The reasons for Bishop’s failure

Maybe it was because the audience was much younger (and therefore much more media-savvy) than we usually see in these performances. Maybe it was because he only got a hit when he was being vague – and then, far from always. Maybe it was because Graham Bishop, on his website, actually doesn’t give any sessions, be it healing, clairvoyance or “cleansing” of houses. He has been so adviced by the spirits. Why he was doing a clairvoyance session here is a good question.

He even had to make excuses on why he had performed so badly. Even he could see that this was not impressive – or even acceptable – at all, especially not for the admission price, 100 DKR. But even in the moment of defeat, he still put the majority of the blame on the spirits. Should we take our complaints to the spirits, Graham?

Nah. Let’s face it: Maybe it was just because this is what usually happens, but we just don’t see that on the TV screen, because what we see has been edited. For time, and for content. A psychic Greatest Hits, if you like.

Go see a live psychic medium and you will learn why they do so much better on TV than in real life. Or in the spirit world.