Tarot cards, crystals, and witchery are all the rage these days– case in point: NYU hosted the first-ever (and sold-out) Occult Humanities Conference earlier this year. Now, more than ever before, it seems so not crazy to bring up the rift between a friend’s astrological rising sign and their actual sign in order to explain why they’re not exactly the most self-aware person, and the chances that you’ll be taken seriously if you suggest that a pal with back probz head to the acupuncturist are pretty, pretty high.
Meanwhile (and somewhat counterintuitively) old-fashioned psychics are seeing something of an inquisition– whether it’s a justified one or not, is hard to say.
In any case, fortune tellers like Priscilla Kelly Delmaro– who was jailed for nearly a year on grand larceny charges last year after she convinced some pooooor many-times-over millionaire to give her over a half-million bones for what he says was a promise to connect him with a dead woman he loved– when she was reincarnated, that is (no necro). Eventually Delmaro upped the package to include “special crystals, a time machine and an 80-mile bridge made of gold.” Personally, I’m pretty split on who deserves the sympathy here– the guy who believed this silliness, or the psychic who wasn’t able to get more out of the dude while she was at it. (However, as the Times reported, the business of scamming seems to run in Delmaro’s family– so, it’s actually pretty clear who’s at fault.)
Enter Thomas John– a clairvoyant to the stars (his clients include Jennifer Lopez and Janet Jackson, among others) who bills himself as the “Manhattan Medium” (he’s also based in LA). In preparation for a special group-reading event, Thomas John: A Night With The Dead, going down tomorrow night at the Lower East Side “neoburlesque” and performance space, the Slipper Room, we spoke with Thomas John Flanagan about everything from the controversy surrounding his past to how came to know that he was a medium, and what the experience of communicating with the dead is like, exactly.
(Tickets are $50 and selling quick, so if you don’t squeeze in there and get a chance to argue with your dead grandmother about who really burned her favorite potholder, we’ll be reporting back with a play-by-play.)
Considering the inquisition or, depending on your view, the dragnet being placed on psychics and beyond-reachers, it’s not so surprising that, when a reporter at the Daily News dug up some less-than-priestly deeds lurking in Thomas John’s past life (and by that, I mean 2009), the writer jumped on the opportunity to declare the medium had a “shady past as a scammer.” The article dropped last year, and revealed that in 2009, Flanagan was “busted for posting bogus apartment ads on Craigslist and stealing security deposits from unsuspecting renters.” (The author also, weirdly, made a point to highlight that Thomas John was once a “well-known drag queen.”)
You could say that Flanagan, the author of Never Argue With a Dead Person, is somewhat haunted by his past. But, in speaking with Thomas John last week, the medium offered another theory on why something that “is so not anything that is an issue at all” made it into the news cycle. Despite the bad publicity (and what Thomas John argues is an exaggerated take on what actually went down), it seems that a huge number of people simply don’t give a damn about this so-called “shady” past– John claims that his waiting list for private readings is two years long.
After I learned all of this juicy/sensational stuff (which Thomas John was super open about, as you’ll see in the interview below), I’m not gonna lie– I was just slightly nervous about what the consequences of my prying questions would be. Would Thomas John start mind-reading me right then and there? Would he get super pissed off and sic an angry ghost on me?
Turns out, John was surprisingly open about the Daily News piece, and anyway, it doesn’t sound like he’d be so mean as to sic a ghost on anyone. But I guess we’ll have to wait and see how this “Night With The Dead” goes down.
I saw my grandfather when I was four years old, so he would visit me, and he would tell me things, stuff like that. I would tell my parents about it. I guess, in a way, that’s definitely when it started. All throughout my childhood, different things would occur, I’d have these dreams, I knew when people would pass over, and people would visit me.
Then, as I got older, I sort of recognized that this is something that people do and that some people have this ability, for some people it’s not as strong. All of that kind of came after.
Usually I just bring through whoever comes through, and there’s never a guarantee that somebody’s gonna come through in that situation, so I just allow whoever wants to come through, do so. And sometimes it’s the people who might be the strongest, and somebody who needs the message the most, or something like that. I’m sort of just open to whoever wants to come through, but I’m able to get through a lot of people in that format. I think if you’ve never done [a reading] before, it’s a good way to get used to it.
I just tell people to have an open mind, you never know who’s going to come through, or why they’re gonna come through.
I wouldn’t say overwhelming, sometimes people are really hoping their person comes through at the moment, and sometimes they’re just not ready. Spirits always know what needs to be heard at a certain time, and who needs to come through, and why they need to come through and stuff. I always just let that be, let spirit guide that.
I see, I hear, I feel– so basically, the spirits that are coming through, they will actually use my body as a vessel for their communication. They will bring things through so that I can deliver the messages. They may give me a feeling of how they passed, they may give me a sensation about how they feel about a certain person. There are all these ways that I can take that, and I’m able to communicate that to the person. They’ll show me pictures of things, images– basically any way that they can get a message through. And then, I’ll hear things, so they may tell me something to tell the person.
But a lot of it is about validating their presence and make sure the person sitting there really understands that it’s that spirit coming through.
Very rarely, because I energetically and spiritually protect myself, so it’s very rare that that happens. But I think that, you know, those energies and spirits, they’re not really powerful. They’re definitely not as powerful as the other, good spirits. They usually don’t interfere so much. The spirits that are crossed over that want to reach their friends and family, they’re much more powerful than any sort of negative spirit.
It can be for a lot of different things– closure, checking in with people. A lot of times they want to express things that they may be aware of that have happened since they have been on the other side, maybe like new family members, a baby, or something that’s happen amongst the family.
For a lot of people, it can be feeling, especially if somebody died suddenly and that family member didn’t get answers or feel they didn’t get to ask about something at the end. Somebody may feel that their mom was never really affectionate to them and they don’t understand why, so for whatever reason it’s very healing for people, there’s a lot of closure.
I’ve never noticed a major trend in that, but I do think that in the first year, spirits can be much stronger. But I’ve had spirits that have come in from a long time ago that are really still very strong, and I’ve had spirits from a long time ago that are a little bit less available.
Do you think the cliché is true, that ghosts only communicate with people if there’s unsettled business, and that spirits with settled business don’t really feel the need to communicate with the finite world?
Well, no, I don’t think it’s always unsettled business, sometimes spirits really just want to say hi, or that they miss someone. When people are in that situation, they’re putting out a vibration that they’re open to receiving a message from a loved one. [The spirits] can pick up on that, and then they decide to come forward. I wouldn’t say that it’s always about unfinished business, sometimes it’s just acknowledgment.
I think it’s something that I’m always aware of. I’m always picking up on different things. I think that it’s not always something that I’m tuning into or focusing on.
I’ve had spirits approach me in uncommon places. I’ve been at a restaurant, I’ve been at the gym, and I have given messages when someone wasn’t necessarily at an event or a reading.
I think what I do is very special and very sacred. I don’t think it’s very respectful or really ethical to approach people on the streets and say, ‘Oh you’re grandmother’s here,’ or something like that. I really don’t think that’s how the work is supposed to be done. It’s very rare that stuff like that happens, but I have had instances where it has, and there’s usually a powerful or profound reason why that does happen.
This clairvoyance thing is something that’s been around for a long time, since humans have been around really, they’ve been communicating with the dead or trying to. I think it’s interesting that there’s still such a potent interest in it. Do you see people from all cultural backgrounds and personality types who are into this? Or is there a certain type of person who seeks this out?’
I think people who have an open mind, definitely, but I also think too that a lot of people are drawn to this because they really have lost somebody very significant and they feel that they want to connect with that person. They want to speak to that person.
A lot of times, people have said that it’s helped them more than therapy has. They’ve taken more solace in this. I always tell people too, you don’t need a medium to get messages– everyone can connect and receive messages from a loved one on the other side. All you need to do is to have an open heart and a open mind and know that there’s a new language of communication that’s a little bit different than how they communicate in the physical world, but there’s definitely a connection for anybody there who’s open to it.
No, I mean I think that as far as my religious beliefs go, I would describe myself as having a religion that’s based in spirituality. I don’t really subscribe to any religions. I have more of a spiritual perspective. I read certain books and believe in the law of attraction and, of course, in miracles. Catholics and Christians especially, I get some pushback from them, because they’ll say things like, ‘Oh, it’s against the bible or against this.’ I don’t think that’s true. I think the bible was written by psychics and mediums and people like that. And mediums and psychics have been around basically forever.
I don’t push it on anybody. I feel that if somebody comes to me, they’re coming to me for a reason. I just do what I do, I just deliver messages. Some people are skeptical, so people don’t believe, and some people don’t get the point. That’s fine, that’s just their way about things and that doesn’t bother me at all. I think that certain people are open to it, and certain people aren’t.
I think there’s a difference between people who are skeptical and people who are cynical– that’s an important distinction to make. I think skeptical people suspend judgment until they’ve made up their mind, until they have evidence. And people who are cynical don’t believe in anything, no matter what.
I do have friends that are clairvoyants and psychics, and I have friends that do everything else too.
I think that the way people get information might be a little bit different– someone might be more of a clairvoyant or a claircognizant, some people might be more clairaudient. But I think the point of everything is kind of the same.
There seems to be a witchy trend, where people are more accepting of occult things. I know several places where I can get my tarot cards read, and it’s something that I see a lot more of than I used to years ago.
It’s definitely becoming more mainstream. I think people are becoming more open to it. I think as we go through certain political and social shifts, people are realizing that the systems they’ve used for a long time, have not worked. People used to think that the world was flat. We’ve explored less than five percent of the ocean. There’s a lot in the world that we don’t know, and I think people are more open to that now.
And I think there are different forms of it– whether it’s tarot cards or reiki, or having hearings, or seeing a medium, or developing their own intuition, or crystals– they’re just different ways of healing the body, mind, and spirit. I think people are becoming more aware that it’s very important for your health, you really need to take care of all three things–your body, mind, and spirit.
That was a part of my life that was in the past. It was a very brief moment in time. They really didn’t do their research correctly. They made it sound like I was running around the world stealing security deposits from people. It was really more of a situation where I actually did have an apartment. I rented it, and my landlord got involved, and I was 23 years old. I didn’t return the security deposit, because I couldn’t sublet the place, and I’d already spent the money, being you know, 23 years old. Basically, I had a warrant issued and it was a thing I didn’t even know about. I had a traffic stop, and it was resolved smoothly within 48 hours. And it’s so not anything that is an issue at all.
But psychics are always somebody that the media likes to target, in positive ways and negative ways, there’s always a fascination. Yes, I did used to do drag. I still do drag, sometimes for Halloween. I like drag queens, I don’t see the crime in that. It was just kind of a dumb article. I think truthfully, without being paranoid, I don’t know all of the situation, but I think somebody who may be another psychic might be jealous of me– because there’s competition in my field like in everything else. And I don’t want to go too much into it, but I feel like somebody may have uncovered something and propelled it, or something.
They write articles about how John Edwards is a fraud, they write articles about how I’m a fraud– it’s kind of just like, it is what it is. You’re going to have people who believe, and you’re going to have people who don’t believe.
“Thomas John: A Night With The Dead” is happening Thursday May 19, 6 pm at the Slipper Room.