By Mary Ann Bourbeau
RED BANK – When James Van Praagh was 6 years old, he told his teacher that a car had hit her son, but he was not seriously injured. Five minutes later, the principal came into the room to tell the teacher about the accident. Van Praagh somehow knew that the child was playing soccer, was hit by a car and broke his leg. When the teacher asked how he knew this, he started to cry because he didn’t understand it either. He thought perhaps he had caused it to happen.
“My teacher told me that God gives certain people gifts and maybe one day I could use it to help people,” said Van Praagh.
That’s exactly what he does today. Van Praagh is hailed as one of the most accurate spiritual mediums. For more than 35 years, he has communicated with the dead on television, radio and through live demonstrations, as he will do when he returns to the Count Basie Theatre on Wednesday, March 8.
The New York Times best-selling author, psychic medium and spiritual teacher will try to reach deceased relatives and friends of people in the audience. He starts out by explaining the process to those in attendance, instructing them in meditation and asking them to focus on their heartbeat and breathing. Mediumship is all about shifting your awareness from the mental and earth mind to the spirit mind.
“We have to open our minds to hearing spirits,” he said. “Whoever speaks the loudest to me is who I go to.”
He is very specific about who he is communicating with. He might tell the audience the spirit’s name is Katherine, she died at age 76, and she has a sister in the audience who is 5-feet 10-inches tall. Once he heard from someone’s grandfather John from Santa Rosa, California who had something to do with the bunny hop. An audience member reacted and told him it was her grandfather and he was a rabbit breeder.
Van Praagh then relays a message that he claims is from the dearly departed.
“It can be serious and emotional,” he said. “It’s a lot of unfinished business, like when I communicated with a man who gave permission for his gay daughter to marry. But we try to make it as fun as possible. If it’s a fun audience, I can get up to 20 a night. Everyone gets something out of it. Forgiveness, understanding, love – they leave floating on air.”
Van Praagh was raised in Queens, New York. He said he was just a toddler when he began seeing auras or colors around people, which would tell if they were good or bad. He also saw people who were deceased. He remembers being alone in his crib and a man with blue eyes and white hair used to put him to sleep. He later found out the description matched that of his grandfather, who died before Van Praagh was born. When he was in his 20s, Van Praagh moved to California to earn a degree in broadcasting. The fast-talking man with the boisterous voice, who might be mistaken for a musical theater performer, had hoped to be a sitcom writer. One day, while searching for a job, he decided to see a medium, even though he didn’t necessarily believe in such people.
“I walked in the apartment and he said to me, ‘You’re a medium. The spirit world will use you in two years,’” he said.
Van Praagh began reading a lot of books about mediums and how to communicate with the spirit world. He began meditating to visualize his future. Three weeks later, he began to see lights and colors around people, as he did when he was a child. One day, while working at Paramount Pictures, the grandmother of his desk mate communicated with Van Praagh. He was able to relay messages of love and also describe the woman’s house perfectly.
“That experience freaked me out,” he said. “I called the medium and he said it was exactly two years to the day that he took me under his wing. I had learned the proper way to use energy and receive people.”
His readings gained popularity through word of mouth. Soon, he was a regular on the NBC television show, “The Other Side.” He wrote a book and appeared on “Larry King Live,” and the book took off. He then created a mini-series for CBS, “Living with the Dead,” based on his life, and was creator and executive producer of the long-running series “The Ghost Whisperer” with Jennifer Love Hewitt. He recently launched the James Van Praagh online School of Mystical Arts.
“Everyone is psychically intuitive in one way or another,” he said. “But with mediumship, you can only teach it to a point. It’s like how everyone can learn to play the piano, but not everyone can be a concert pianist. You can feel the love, but not everyone has the skill to communicate.”
Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was first published in the March 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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