Celebrity Psychic James Van Praagh – Real or Charlatan?

Some consider James Van Praagh to be one of the top three celebrity psychics. Others have debunked him, pointing out and documenting his alleged tricks and chicanery.

Van Praagh has his own website that offers books and CDs for sale, a calendar of appearances and online courses. He had his own TV show and was the inspiration for a fictional one. Based on documentation, many arrive at the conclusion that Van Praagh is a master of trickery that charlatan psychics use in their efforts to make money.

Van Praagh’s TV Show – Beyond

He’s charming and ingratiating and knows how to endear himself to audiences. Before being allowed to attend filmings of his (now defunct) show, people had to sign a four-page appearance release. A one-page release is generally the industry standard. There’s a nondisclosure clause stating people “shall” not talk to any member of the media about their participation in the show.

It has been alleged that show that’s broadcast is edited to make Van Praagh look authentic. Wrong readings are cut from the final version of the show. According to one account, Van Praagh was telling a woman that she almost died in an automobile accident, but her husband said she was saved with Jesus, then, rambled on about Jesus until the woman interrupted him to explain she was, in fact, Jewish. The comments about Jesus were cut from the version of the show that aired. Another account holds that Van Praagh stopped taping during another reading because he was correct in only one of six or seven guesses. The cameras then restarted taping, capturing the correct guess shortly before Van Praagh began a new reading.

James Van Praagh

TV Show 20/20 Captures Alleged Van Praagh Chicanery

Van Praagh was featured on the show 20/20. During a break in filming, Van Praagh was relaxing when he suddenly called out to an audience member, Mary Jo, and asked her if her mother had passed away. She indicated that her mother was alive, then volunteered that her grandmother had, in fact, died.

After the taping resumed, Van Praagh told Mary Jo that there was a lady behind her who “felt” like a grandmother. Van Praagh alleged that 20/20 had set him up. Neither he nor the show’s producers were aware that the camera was still taping during the break. When 20/20 correspondent Bill Ritter showed him the video, Van Praagh exclaimed, more than once, that he didn’t cheat, although no one said anything to him about “cheating.”

Allegations of Van Praagh’s Trickery During a Lecture

The Denver Post printed a story about the following incident on its front page. When Van Praagh gave a lecture at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, NBC taped a reading of a woman whom the NBC crew had placed in the audience in an attempt to try to catch him committing chicanery.

They told Van Praagh the woman’s sister had died. Van Praagh performed a reading and landed ten hits and twenty-four misses. Most of the hits were generic lucky guesses, such as “He liked sweets” – something that could be said of most individuals.

After he was interviewed by an NBC reporter, they brought the woman in for a reading. She began to cry. Van Praagh said he needed a bathroom break before he started the reading. He proceeded to turn off his microphone, giggled and told the audience he didn’t want them to hear him relieving himself. As he walked past the woman, unaware that he was being taped, he quietly asked her what her sister’s name was, She said it was Jan. During her reading, he asked her if her sister’s name was Jan or Janet.

Van Praagh’s Bloopers on the Howard Stern Show

Van Praagh was on a guest on the Howard Stern Show — which boasts an audience of over ten million people — promoting his new TV Movie. Van Praagh said Chandra Levy’s body would eventually be found. In fact, Levy’s body had been found about two years prior.

Van Praagh then proceeded to accuse TV psychic Sylvia Browne and others of being frauds, claiming they were irresponsible and in the business of advantage of emotionally distressed people. Stern accused Van Praagh of the same allegations – touché! Van Praagh giggled nervously, then, immediately changed the subject.

Van Praagh – a Possible Poster Child for Charlatan Media Psychics?

When he’s caught using chicanery, Van Praagh typically giggles and changes the subject. In at least one case, he protested that he’s not a cheater, despite the fact that no one had accused him of cheating. He denounces other media psychics, calling them frauds who prey on human misery, yet, when it’s brought to his attention that some believe he does this as well, he ignores it and abruptly spouts forth about another subject.

Van Praagh has been accused of exploiting distressed people who know little or nothing about psychic abilities, and creates his own terms for them. He’s charming, knows how to play to the audience and many believe that he is merely an actor playing the role of a medium.