Self-identified psychics and mediums claim they're channeling Gabby Petito's spirit.
The spiritual genre is big on TikTok, where videos about Petito have millions of views.
Some TikTok psychics are facing backlash from comments calling them exploitative.
"Psychic" TikTok, where self-proclaimed mediums and spirit guides vie for viral attention, is under fire after some psychics began spreading conspiracy theories about the killing of 22-year-old Gabby Petito.
TikTok videos about Petito's disappearance, which has since been ruled a homicide investigation, using the hashtag "#GabbyPetito" have amassed 820 million TikTok views in total. A TikTok search for "medium gabby petito" - an auto-filled search term recommended by the app - delivers dozens of self-professed psychics weighing in on what's now a homicide investigation.
The spiritual corner of Petito TikTok has exploded in tandem with the true-crime community's obsession with the case. While creators face backlash from viewers who call their content exploitative, some interviewed by Insider said they're just working to raise awareness.
But many psychics aren't spreading awareness about the facts of Petito's case, but rather claiming to have insight into details that are yet to be uncovered. And even when their theories are baseless or proved to be untrue, they keep going - to the tune of millions of views.
Kelly Ferro said she started having visions about Petito and Brian Laundrie last Thursday. The practicing medium from Illinois filmed a TikTok in a gray crop top outside her house to hypothesize about Laundrie's role in his once-fiancé's disappearance and share baseless theories about what happened to Petito.
"I know this is vivid and sad," Ferro said in the September 16 TikTok. "I really hope they find her."
Three days later, Petito's remains were found near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The FBI ruled her death a homicide on Tuesday.
Ferro, who did not respond to a request for comment, has accumulated 2.4 million views and more than 25,000 followers from her spiritual readings about Petito, the 22-year-old who had journeyed west in a van with Laundrie. Laundrie, who returned home to North Port, Florida, on September 1 without Petito, is a person of interest in the investigation and is now missing.
Psychic beliefs and practices are part of American "New Age" spiritualism, which takes inspiration from Indian, Native American, and African diaspora religions. According to a 2018 poll from the Pew Research Center, 4 in 10 Americans believe in psychics.
Today, women like Ferro can make hundreds of dollars an hour offering psychic readings that purport to connect you with a dead loved one or share your guardian angel's advice.
Not all professed psychics are mediums, but those who call themselves mediums claim they can communicate with the dead. The New York Times reported in March 2019 that psychic mediums are becoming the new life coaches, thanks to the wellness-industrial complex.
Videos criticizing the psychics covering Petito have also grown popular online.
"This is disgusting," Dustin Dean, a mentalist and magician who pushes back against TikTok mediums, said in a video with 750,000 views. "Using false claims to gain clout off something so tragic, all the psychics and mediums on this app should be ashamed of themselves."
YouTube news personality Philip DeFranco also devoted a segment of his Wednesday show to the Petito-TikTok psychics, calling them "trash" and Ferro a "horrible person."
"You should be ashamed of yourself," DeFranco said. "I hope that when you sit alone, you really feel that."
Ferro responded to "haters" on Thursday and said people leaving negative comments don't understand her.
Before Ferro disabled comments on her Petito post, one viewer wrote, "I'm just imagining Gabbys family coming across these videos from mediums and psychics saying these things and how they'd feel... Not ok IMO."
Ferro responded: "Ive helped find missing pets and even a missing person. I believe this gift is used to help others. I'm sure the family will take with a grain of salt."
TikTok psychics have even faced criticism from other mediums. A TikTok medium named Angela who has 115,000 followers said last Friday that posting on TikTok about missing-person psychic readings is "unethical," especially when the readings are conducted without permission.
"Regardless of what information we get, the police are the ones who have to prove it. You can't prove a psychic vision in court," Angela said. "You send information to the correct people, not post it on TikTok."
Read the original article on Insider