Hits and Misses: A Crossing Over Transcript 

After three controversial years on the air, Crossing Over With John Edward is going off the air.

When I began watching this show during its first season, I never guessed that I would end up writing three essays about it - much less that I would argue that Edward's abilities are (probably) genuine, and that skeptical explanations were simply inadequate.

As a sendoff to the TV show, I decided to post one more essay, this time presenting a point-by-point analysis of a John Edward reading. This particular reading took place during an episode of Crossing Over that aired in syndication on December 29, 2003. The episode may have originally aired earlier; I don't know if the broadcast I saw was a repeat.

Skeptics tend to focus on Edward's least impressive readings, while Edward's defenders often select the most impressive ones. I tried to choose an average reading. It was not spectacular, and there were apparent misses as well as apparent hits. Because four audience members ultimately became involved, there was a certain amount of confusion. This made writing the transcript difficult. The fact that Edward talks so fast didn't help.

My transcript of the reading follows, with my comments in square brackets.

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Edward. I'm being pulled over here in that back row. Whoa. Um, I need to come to the lawyer or the legal person.

[No "lawyer or legal person" responds.]

Edward. There's like a legal issue that they want me - they're showing me the scales of justice in that whole back section up there.

[From "a law person," he switches to "a legal issue," a subtle shift.]

No. 1. Libra is the scale.

Edward. Same symbol but not for being a Libra.

[Here Edward is offered the chance to reinterpret the scale as Libra, but he sticks to the legal symbolism. A cold reader would probably have taken the bait.]

Edward. The symbol for legality is what I'm seeing. So either there's a legality that's pending or there's something lawsuit-related happening right now.

No. 1. Yes, there may be one coming up.

[The sitter's response is too tepid and uncertain to qualify as a hit. Edward rejects it, while continuing to defend his position.]

Edward. No, let me tell you there is a total legality or lawsuit issue or court-related thing that is coming up in that back section. So that's what I'm seeing, I'm seeing the scales of justice, and it's not the sign of being a Libra.

[No further confirmation. It's interesting that Edward has now passed up two opportunities for "easy" validations. He could have gone with the Libra suggestion, or he could have accepted the sitter's uncertain response. Again, a cold reader lets the sitter guide him, but Edward seems intent on sticking to his guns.]

Edward. Now either your dad, or there's a father-in-law who's passed, but I've got a father figure who's coming through. They're telling me to say Richard or Rich. There's got to be an R name.

No. 1. Raymond.

Edward. There's got to be an R connection. Is that for him?

No. 1. Raymond was my father.

[Edward said there was a dad or father-in-law with an R name, and this is correct. On the other hand, he said "they're telling me to say Richard or Rich," and the name is Raymond.]

Edward. Okay, well, your "R" dad is here. He's telling me to talk about having your dog with him, or his dog is with him 'cause he's got a dog barking.

[Here he gives three options: "your dog," "his dog," or "a dog," multiplying his chances of a favorable response.]

Edward. And it's not a small dog, it's a bigger dog, so to me it's got to be like a shepherd, it's got to be like a bigger dog.

No. 1. My sister's dog -

Edward. It's a big dog, though.

No. 1. Yeah, my sister's lost two big dogs.

[On the minus side, Edward mentioned one dog, not two; the dogs were actually associated with the sister, not the father; and lots of people have owned a dog at some point in their lives. On the plus side, Edward was correct in specifying a big dog that is deceased. Still, a less than impressive "hit." But keep reading ...]

Edward. Okay. I'm only getting one of them, but to me when they give you the fact that a dog barks, you can let her know that our pets are well taken care of on the other side.

[This could be seen as a fudge, since he may be rationalizing his error in claiming there was only one dog.]

Edward. They're telling me to talk about Charles or Charlie as well. There's a CH or an SH name that I'm supposed to be letting you know connected to your dad.

[The statement is not confirmed, although Edward is talking so fast that the sitter may have failed to register what he's saying.]

Edward. And your dad's telling me to talk about colon cancer. So I don't know if he had something that affected here or surgery here but somebody has this or they had this in this area.

[Edward is indicating his stomach. Note that while "colon cancer" is specific, the statement "he had something that affected" his stomach is vague. "Or surgery" brings in another option. "Somebody has this" - not the dad anymore? "Or they had this" - another reformulation, so that the claim can now apply to anyone, living or dead. Even with all these possibilities presented to the sitter, there is no confirmation.]

Edward. And Maggie. Or Maggie or Margie or M with a G, Mugs, Muggsy.

No. 2. Muggsy was our dad's dog that died.

[Edward ran through Maggie, Margie, and Mugs before getting to Muggsy. Still, the name Muggsy is so unusual that it's hardly likely to be a lucky guess. Edward doesn't appear to register the audience member's response, though he does switch his attention to Sitter No. 2.]

Edward. Your dad passed through [sic] too?

No. 2. My dad's dog died the day of my dad's funeral. That was his favorite -

[Although Edward does not pick up on it, this statement may apply to the barking dog mentioned earlier. Muggsy clearly had a close relationship to Sitter No. 2's dad. Were Edward's earlier statements about the "R dad" really meant for Sitter No. 2? Unfortunately, we never learn the name of Sitter No. 2's dad.]

Edward. Okay, I thought I was cracking up here because they're telling me to say like Maggie -

No. 2. My name is Maureen, my dad's sister's Margaret -

[Note that the sitter, who has already identified the dog as Muggsy, is now stretching to make the name "Maggie" fit also. Edward, however, does not accept these suggestions.]

Edward. It's an MG name like Maggie, Margie, Muggsy.

No. 2. Muggsy is -

Edward. Is that the dog?

No. 2. That's the dog that died.

[He finally registers that Muggsy is the dog. If he really didn't hear it the first time, this tends to give the lie to the claim that Edward is a cold reader. A cold reader would pay much closer attention to what the sitter is saying. Also note that Sitter No. 2 described Muggsy as her dad's "favorite" and said Muggsy "died the day of my dad's funeral." Thus the dog would have had strong emotional significance to the dad.]

Edward. Okay. But your dad's passed as well.

[Sitter No. 2 already mentioned "my dad's funeral," so this information was given to Edward. He did not seem to be "divining" this, merely repeating it for clarification.]

No. 2. My dad's passed.

Edward. And the P name like Pete or Peter?

No. 3. Peter was my grandfather, and we came together.

[This is the third audience member to participate. All three are sitting together. "Peter" is correct, but of course it's a common name.]

Edward. Passed?

No. 3. Yes.

Edward. Did you actually say that if they came through, you'd be happy to hear from [addressing Sitter No. 2] your dad and [addressing Sitter No. 3] your grandfather?

No. 2. Yes, we did.

[Skeptics would say that this sort of conversation would be predicted, but there seems to be no necessity that the sitters would have singled out one's father and the other's grandfather, as opposed to various other deceased relatives.]

Edward. Somebody worked for the Transportation Department too. Somebody worked like subways, buses. They did something that would be transportation-related.

No. 3. My grandfather was a tractor truck driver.

[Note that Peter was Sitter No. 3's grandfather, so this information connects with Edward 's earlier reference to Peter. Driving a truck is not the same as working for the Transportation Department. Still, it's certainly "transportation-related." Edward is wrong in saying "subways, buses," but a tractor-trailer truck is close.]

Edward. Your mom is still here, right?

No. 2. My mom is.

[Edward is correct.]

Edward. And she's got the Eileen background or the Ellen, where's the Eileen name?

No. 2. My dad's cousin Eileen who passed away - it's Eileen -

[The name Eileen does mean something to the sitter, but the association comes on the father's side, and Edward said it was on the mother's side.]

Edward. Okay, for some reason you need to let your mom know that Eileen is with your dad, okay?

[This could be seen as a way of rationalizing the mistake. Eileen is associated with the dad, but "for some reason" it's important to convey Eileen's message to the mom.]

No. 2. Okay.

Edward. And Donna or Diana, the D name is still living, or [addressing Sitter No. 1] is that back for you?

[Edward's query "Is that back for you?" may have been prompted by Sitter No. 1's reaction to the name.]

No. 1. That's me, I have a brother Don.

[The name Don is fairly common, and since Edward is now talking to three people, there is a good chance that one of them will know a Don.]

Edward. Okay.

No. 1. Actually we're best friends. We all came together.

[If they describe themselves as "best friends" as opposed to sisters, cousins, etc., they are probably not related. Thus there is a large pool of deceased relatives connected to three of them - a separate group for each family. This increases the chance that any given name will be verified by someone in the group.]

No. 3. We all came together.

Edward. Oh, you came together. No wonder why ...

[Edward seems to be indicating here that the messages for the three of them were somewhat confused because they all came together. It had not previously been clear to him that all three sitters - not just sitters No. 2 and No. 3 - were connected.]

Edward. Then one of you has the story about the woodpecker outside your house. Or you actually have a woodpecker-like thing outside your house. There's either a woodpecker or a hummingbird right outside the house.

["Woodpecker" or "hummingbird" or "woodpecker-like thing" multiplies the chances of a hit.]

No. 1. My sister has a hummingbird feeder attached to her glass doors.

[Since Edward said, "You actually have...", he was referring to someone present, not to the sister. This would appear to be a miss - but in the post-reading interview, it is revealed to have been a very good hit, when a fourth member of the group says, "The woodpecker - the woodpecker my daughter and my husband watch every morning on our tree right in front of water out the window in the kitchen! Every morning!" Sitter No. 4 is embarrassed not to have thought of this during the reading, and adds, "Putting the pieces together - it takes a while."]

Edward. Okay, let her know that, you know, your family sees this as a way of acknowledging that this might be new since their passing, or her residence is new since their passing, and this is their way of kind of looking at this.

[A vague formulation that could mean the bird feeder is new or the house is new.]

Edward. And there's an issue about either the new house, the construction, or something about the property that was built upon where they didn't know what kind of, like, staircase to put in or should it be like straight up, should it be like a curved one, should it be like up, level, then up again, but there's an issue about a curve or something with construction with a staircase happening too.

[This prompts the fourth member of the group to speak up.]

No. 4. I live on the lake where we're disputing where we're going to -

Edward. Put your stairs?

No. 4. Put the stairs to the lake because we are up on a hill and I have two little kids.

[Edward has said there is an issue about construction, property, and a dispute about a staircase. All of this turns out to be accurate. Also, as we will learn in the post-reading interview, it was Sitter No. 4 who had the woodpecker outside her house, so Edward is correct in connecting the woodpecker with "the new house, the construction."]

Edward. Okay, a lot of property on the grounds?

No. 4. A lot of property.

[Edward is correct, although the sitter's statement that the house is "up on a hill" may have implied that there was a lot of property.]

Edward. Boundary's this then. [sic] It needs to be fenced. All I know is what they just showed me - it's a caution with the boundaries and the property.

No. 4. Okay. We've been disputing how we're going to put the boundary line at the hill to mark off where we go down to the lake.

[Edward seems to be right again, and the issue of building a staircase doesn't logically entail a boundary dispute. On the other hand, Edward did not specifically mention a boundary dispute. He said, "It needs to be fenced... It's a caution with the boundaries and the property" a fairly vague formulation.]

Edward. Okay, but these will be wood steps, correct?

No. 4. They're rock.

[Edward is incorrect.]

Edward. No, they're showing me wood steps, like I see wood, like I see a wood step or in this case maybe it's a wood decking.

No. 4. We have a huge deck we just built - we have a rope swing and everybody uses the rope swing -

Edward. Okay, from the wood deck?

No. 4. Yes.

[A skeptic could say that Edward, having failed with his identification of wood steps, rescued himself by switching to the subject of "wooden decking." Still there is a wood deck, which the sitter says "we just built" - a phrase that harks back to Edward's comment about "construction."]

Edward. Okay. They're pulling their energy back. Thank you very, very much.

[End of transcript.]

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Remember that the reading began with the claim that "a legal issue" was coming out - "a total legality or lawsuit issue or court-related thing." Unfortunately, Sitter No. 4 didn't make it clear if the dispute over the boundary had legal ramifications. Her statement, "We've been disputing how we're going to put the boundary line," could be taken to mean a dispute with the neighbors or simply a disagreement within the family over the best way "to mark off where we go down to the lake." If a dispute with the neighbors was taking place or was expected, then the early reference to a possible legal issue could well have been correct. Perhaps this is the issue that Sitter No. 1 was referring to when she said, "Yes, there may be one coming up." Or perhaps not. There's no way to know.

If we assume that the boundary of the property is a potential legal issue, and if we assume that the "R dad" is Sitter No. 2's father, then we have a pretty clear logical progression in both cases.

Logical progression A proceeds in a circle: real or potential legal issue > Sitter No. 4 > woodpecker > new house > stairs > property > boundary > real or potential legal issue.

Logical progression B also comes full circle: "R dad" > dog > Muggsy > Sitter No. 2 wanted to hear from her dad.

We also have a modest cluster of information around Sitter No. 3's grandfather: he is deceased, his name was Peter, he was a professional driver of a large vehicle, and Sitter No. 3 wanted particularly to hear from him.

People's reaction to a transcript like this is very much dependent on their standpoint on the subject of psychic phenomena as a whole. Skeptics will tend to focus on the clear or apparent misses: colon cancer, wood steps, a CH or SH name. Those who are not skeptical will tend to focus on the hits: Muggsy, woodpecker, stairs, boundary. As for the more ambiguous statements, such as the legal issue or the transportation-related job, each side will interpret them either positively or negatively to bolster their case.

The same is true of the Crossing Over series overall. After three years, the show has its passionate defenders and its equally passionate critics. Only one thing is certain: even with John Edward off the air, the controversy that surrounds him will go on.

 

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