John Holland is the perfect psychic for the History Channel. He eschews the usual gimmicks of media mediums, the schmaltziness of John Edward or the histrionics of “Most Haunted” and “Ghost Town”‘s Derek Acorah, and even goes so far as to say, with a slight roll of the eyes, that although he’s able to take on personality traits of people who’ve passed, he’s “not being possessed.”
Holland, a Boston born-and-bred psychic medium, is apparently well-known on the lecture and book circuits, but is looking to break into the lucrative world that is cable television with “Psychic History.“
In the pilot episode John is taken to Waco, Texas, to the former site of the Branch Davidian compound, Mount Carmel. Currently, nothing occupies the site other than a small non-descript church. All signs and identifying markers were either removed or covered. Holland is not told where he’s going and arrives blindfolded. He is able to relive the events and answer some of the mysteries surrounding the 1993 siege: Yes, the Branch Davidians shot first, and yes, some of the Davidians were being held against their will. What may be most remarkable is that Holland is able to get readings off of a house in L.A. that once housed weapons used in the siege. Apparently, this information was only known by police. (The pilot episode is being re-aired July 8 at 5 p.m.)
My only quibble with the show is an incredible credulity-stretching moment when John is taken to the garage where Lee Harvey Oswald was assassinated, as a sort of warm-up to Waco. In this very non-descript parking garage, accompanied by the law enforcement officer handcuffed to Oswald that day, Holland is able to determine that they are at the site of the shooting, but then seems to say that Oswald was a generous person. While the former officer completely disagrees with this assessment, the narrator chimes in with a line about how “John may have been right after all,” as his assassin Jack Ruby was known to be a very giving man. If that isn’t trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, then what is?
The show is typical History Channel treatment, featuring one-on-ones with experts and participants, for the most part properly couching language so as to not present Holland’s readings as absolute fact and leaving room for differing viewpoints. Plus, an investigative reporter from the Dallas Morning News accompanies Holland in order to verify what he’s saying.
Whether you believe in psychic abilities or not, “Psychic History” is an interesting, remarkably balanced show for the genre.