Thomas John, who bills himself as a psychic medium, is getting his closeup in a new series.
“The Thomas John Experience,” premiering Thursday on CBS All Access, follows John (born Thomas John Flanagan) as he travels around the country, meets strangers and puts them “in touch” with deceases loved ones.
“The show is really about my work as a medium,” says John, 35, on the phone from Las Vegas, where he does a live show from Caesar’s Palace (which is still closed due to the pandemic).
“I travel quite a bit for my work, and so in normal circumstances, I do a lot of on-the-road events,” he says. “The show is really about me traveling to new cities, meeting new people … and really kind of connecting with them and asking if they believe in the afterlife. I’ll give them a reading if they’re open to [that].”
John filmed “The Thomas John Experience” last fall, visiting LA, New Orleans, Chicago, and Boston — where he meets drag queens and Civil War reenactors with whom he discusses the afterlife.
In his previous show, Lifetime’s “Seatbelt Psychic” (2018), he gave surprise readings while posing as a ride-share driver — think “Cash Cab” with a driver who communes with the dead instead of hosting a game show. He’s also worked with celebrities including Goldie Hawn, Stevie Nicks and Jennifer Lopez.
“It’s more guidance and them wanting to connect with their loved ones,” he says. “Just like anybody else.”
While John claims he saw his first ghost at the age of 4 (it was his grandfather), his family wasn’t so sure about his “abilities” while he was growing up in Plainville, Mass.
“I had these [supernatural] experiences and my family really turned me off from that,” he says. “They were negative about that type of stuff and they didn’t want me to talk about it. So I ended up just kind of going about my life.
“I still had these different experiences, but I didn’t share or talk about them.”
That changed after he became more comfortable in the field living in Chicago in his 20s, leading to what he’s doing now. He also had a stint as a drag queen named Lady Vera Parker during this time.
“There was an episode [of ‘The Thomas John Experience] that we did where I was able to help a woman connect with her deceased son, and that was very meaningful,” he says. “And there was an episode in New Orleans where I connected a drag queen and I was able to bring through a message from their grandfather — they didn’t have a good relationship with him, so that was helpful,” he says.
John has also sparked controversy; critics, including HBO host John Oliver (“Last Week Tonight”), say that he and fellow psychics use information gleaned online to dupe people.
“When you’re in the field that I’m in, it kind of goes with the territory that people are skeptical [and] negative,” he says. “I did a reading for a man who wanted to connect with his wife. He said, ‘I don’t really believe in this, but I want you to tell me things that only she would know.’ Not things that I could find out [by] researching him, because that’s not the way true mediumship works.
“I’ve actually been scientifically tested by Gary Schwartz, a PhD-level psychologist who studies afterlife communication,” he says. “What he’s found is that there is a certain subset of the population who can connect with the non-physical elements of somebody who has died. He was fascinated with my work.
“I tend to go more with that [opinion] than with somebody who is a naysayer.”
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