Manhattan-based psychic medium Thomas John is not yet 30, but he’s already established himself as one of the country’s foremost spiritual conduits. Back in February, he stunned a select group of paying attendees at a small room in Boca Raton’s Wyndham Hotel for an intimate gallery reading, in which he conjured the souls of their past loves ones, delivering messages and evidence of the afterlife.

John is the ultimate skeptic’s medium, a figure who can, and has, changed people’s outlooks on life after death. Everything he said at that reading, without fail, was as accurate as a time-stamp for the stunned participants – some of whom found themselves in tears, while others walked away with advice for the future.

Since that time, John’s popularity has boomed; his rates for private readings have more than doubled, and there is at least a six-month waiting period for an appointment. But Boca residents don’t need to wait that long for a chance at a reading: Next Friday, Oct. 18, John will be returning to the Wyndham for another gallery reading. Last week, he took some time out of his busy schedule for an exclusive phone interview with Boca Raton.

When was the first time you realized you had psychic abilities?

My first answer is that I had my first experiences since I was born, and I don’t have any memories of not seeing deceased people or having dreams and then the next day they would happen. At birthday parties, I remember seeing my grandpa there, who had passed away.

Then, when I was in my late teens or early 20s in college, it was probably similar to when somebody’s gay and they don’t really know how they feel about things, and then they realize that there are other people who are gay. You don’t necessarily realize that when you’re 9. Then I started to realize, oh, there’s people around here, and people are different, and everybody doesn’t have this.

When did you realize you could really help people with this ability?

I went to college, at the University of Chicago, and I majored in psychology and human development. I really wanted to be a therapist. I ended up going to Yale Hospital and took a two-year internship. I was working on a project with people who have borderline personality disorder. I was doing interviews and brain scans. A lot of those people had traumas in their life, and I started to get images of things, and I would realize that for people coming in for their interview, we would ask, ‘How many times were you raped? Where were your parents?’ And I already knew the things they were telling me before they got there.

I realized I have this ability to help people and bring closure to their lives in a certain way. Maybe it’s not the end-all and be-all, but it does help people with grief. It does help people to get guidance in their life, and I don’t necessarily need to have 10 years of graduate school to do that. I can just focus on what my God-given gift really is. I told my parents about it, and they were relatively supportive. I saw a couple of advisers myself, and all of them said, ‘if you feel you can help people, you should.’

Does it take a lot of mental strain to do what you do?

It does. I have to prepare, like anybody else. I feel that it shouldn’t be something taken lightly. I can see the entertainment value in it, and I try to bring a funny or lighthearted edge to it, depending on the mood. But it is something I take seriously. And because I’m empathic, I feel a lot of things through my body. So even getting some of those sensations, it can be a lot.

How are you able to distinguish a genuine psychic vision or visitation from your imagination?

I get into the flow of things. What I notice is that I just push out all my other thoughts – It’s almost like the thought before the thought. So as long as I don’t think about it too much … to me, it’s very natural. It’s like the process of going in the shower. I get in a zone. There’s certain things you can do naturally, but when you think about it too much, you can’t. I’ve come to a place where I just trust the information.

So it’s like you’re driving a very familiar route … you don’t think about what you’re doing. It’s a kind of hypnotic state.

Exactly. And I form agreements with the people I work with – the deceased people and my angels and spirit guides – so I often don’t even retain the information, because that would be really chaotic for me. So I just come in from a different place. I don’t judge the information. I just come from a place of acceptance and trust from it.

Can you tell if someone else has these abilities when they walk into a room?

Sometimes, if I’m supposed to. I have had that happen before, especially if people come for a private reading, and especially if people ask about that. It’s also something that can be, too a certain extent, a little bit taught. I do believe that it’s just like the piano. I’m sure Beethoven must have just had a gift he was born with. I don’t think that he did that from piano lessons. But can you learn to play the piano and practice and practice and become quite good. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be Beethoven. So I think that’s the thing with psychic abilities. I think everybody has a little intuition. To be really exceptional is another level.

Unfortunately, there’s not a plethora of psychics and clairvoyants that are truly exceptional, but there are people that are very gifted. Then there are some that are somewhat gifted, and then there are charlatans who aren’t gifted at all and tell people they are gifted.

On a percentage basis, how many psychic mediums would you estimate are fraudulent, either intentionally or not?

I think there’s a lot of people who actually think they have a gift and really don’t. There are some people who probably are trying to manipulate people, to tell them bad things so they’ll come back to them. I had a client once who was in this weird situation – her and her boyfriend were both going to this psychic every week, and she was manipulating the information. The boyfriend would tell her things and then she would tell the girlfriend that it was coming from ‘the beyond.’ I think there’s probably some people like that. Or with some of the psychics on TV, I’m told, some of the stuff is staged, or that they tell them some of the information before. So I think that’s kind of a level of darkness that I couldn’t affiliate myself with.

It’s hard to judge any of the TV psychics, because reality television lies so much. Every edit is a lie, when you think about it.

Right, exactly. I think that is true. It’s an interesting ethical question that I toy with a lot, because I’m not really sure that’s the place, for the psychics to be on the Letterman show. I don’t think that when God came to make people with this gift, that it was necessarily the arena they’re supposed to be in. I’m all for getting your message out; I’m just not sure Bravo should do the Real Psychic Housewives. I think that cheapens it.

Certainly, people like John Edward and Theresa Caputo are almost pioneers in a way. They pushed through frontiers for people who were never into psychics or mediums and would probably tell you you’re crazy. Now they’re like, ‘I love that Long Island medium!’ Because they can probably relate to her. I’m kind of a scientist at heart, because that’s where I come from with my schooling, and I couldn’t tell you if she was the worst psychic or the best psychic because she probably does 20 hours of tape and they put a half-hour on.

Have you been accused of trickery?

Not really. There’s always people who are skeptical and cynical, but I have a good reputation. You always have people come after you … I make predictions at the beginning of the year, and if a few don’t come out, people start attacking, or say I’m just guessing. Sometimes people tell me I put actors at my events. But people who are skeptical are kind of open-minded, and then people who are cynical just don’t want to believe anything no matter what you tell them – it doesn’t matter. But I haven’t had a lot of problems with that.

Do you have any stories of skeptics whose minds you've changed?

I’ve had that a lot. I had a man who came about a month ago, and he was a scientist who came after a lot of pushing from his friends, because he had just lost his wife. He was very, very sad and was totally skeptical. Then I started telling him things – pretty specific things that he had said, places where people were buried, things he had just done yesterday – stuff that was pretty reliable. Personal stuff that only this person would know.

I’ve seen you work, and I see that you’re able to come up with full names of people, while other psychics only seem to come up with first initials. Why is that?

I am not the only one that does that. I have a woman I see in Virginia who is a psychic, and every person I’ve ever dated, she’s told me the name three months before. So I think that if you ask for accuracy and specificity and you really work with good people and you thank God, you’re blessed with a gift you’re supposed to have.

But it is a cold reading technique; if you’re in an audience group of 500 people and you say, there’s a John here living or dead, I’m sure someone’s got a John connected with them. You could even throw a weird name like Bertha, and I’m sure somebody’s got one of those. So there are certain tricks I think people do use, consciously or unconsciously, I’m not sure.

And I also think that people who are in this field, if you’re going to guide people’s lives and tell them when they’re going to die, and tell people medical information and all sorts of things like that, I think it does require at some point that you organize yourself in some way to either register yourself, test yourself or become more empirically oriented. I think that’s definitely a frontier that people who work in my field need to do. It should be proven. You shouldn’t be able to just get a crystal ball, put up a sign, and say you’re a psychic.

Has this whole experience made you a more religious person than you were before?

I’ve always been religious; I’ve always been spiritual and connected with God. So I wouldn’t say more or less. It’s confirmed a lot of things for me. Religion is always an interesting thing with me, because I get a lot of people that are religious who are against me, which I always think is an odd thing, because I feel like I’m trying to prove what they believe in.

Can you connect with your own deceased loved ones?

I can have an awareness of them, some more than others, and I do get visits from them. I would say that I can, but I really don’t like to. I love to go and get messages on my own, and there are a couple people that I trust to do that. But I wouldn’t say I’m real gung-ho about that.

Are there people that just cannot be read?

I think so. It’s happened before. But I would say it’s a very rare thing.

How should someone prepare for a psychic reading with you?

I think it’s important to be as open as possible, and to not have expectations, and to not be rushed. I’ve had people who are eating food, or this and that – you need to not be distracted. But I would say the big thing is to not have expectations. Who knows who’s going to come through?

Thomas John will be at the Wyndham Hotel, 1950 Glades Road, Boca Raton, at 7 p.m. Oct. 18. Tickets cost $50 in advance or $60 at the door. For tickets, call 347/637-8592 or e-mail info@mediumthomas.com.