Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Evening With James Van Praagh

Last summer, I had the opportunity to hear psychic medium James Van Praagh speak before a thousand people in Chicago. Before I describe the evening, let me tell you how it was that I first became familiar with James.

In early 1998, I was working at Barnes & Noble and so was frequently up on what the best selling books of the day were. Several people came up to me over a period of a week or two asking about a book called "Talking to Heaven". They must've seen him on Larry King or something. The book wound up being a huge best-seller and was turned into a TV-movie starring Ted Danson which premiered to huge ratings.

I didn't buy "Talking to Heaven" when it was initially released. I finally got around to it when B&N had it for sale on the clearance shelfs a few years later (I bought his second book "Reaching to Heaven" the same way). Over the years, I've seen him numerous times on "Larry King" and have to admit that I am a great believer in what he does. He was apparently going to be doing some "I see dead people" readings during his workshop that evening. Should be a good time, I thought.

Shortly after 8, one of the ladies putting on the conference introduced James and out he came. He was very funny, making light of being vertically challenged ("I'll sit down now...or did you think I was already sitting down?"). He first talked about how as a young child, he became aware of his abilities, but then squelched them feeling they were more trouble than they were worth. On one fateful night, however, he was dragged to a psychic medium who told him that one day he would be a medium as well. He didn't believe it at the time, but look at him now. He goes much more extensively into this in his books.

He talked about how he came up with the idea for the TV show Ghost Whisperer or as he sometimes calls it Boob Whisperer (a reference to Jennifer Love's ample cleavage).

He said she doesn't mind when he refers to the show in this way.

Shortly after 9, James said it was now time to do readings. He had everyone close their eyes and then told the women to open their purses. He was going to do a magic trick involving money. No, some music was played and we all became very relaxed. Upon opening our eyes, James had grown 5 inches! The women swooned. The readings were everything I had hoped for. I'd never been to an actual one before. He really was on fire, getting a ridiculously high percentage of hits. It really was something to behold. The lecture was scheduled to end at 10, but James was allowed to continue for another half hour.

There was this one tough dude that came through for someone and James didn't want to say two words that were being expressed to him in regards to the dead man's family. The audience said they wouldn't mind if he said them and with that, he said sheepishly, "He's telling me, 'Fuck 'em'" There were audible gasps as many in the crowd did not expect to hear such vulgarity coming from a keynote speaker. No, they ate it up.

A lady that lives near Ground Zero said that she constantly sees spirits in the evening when she's trying to sleep. A man that had passed on expressed to his wife that he sits in their old recliner from time to time and helps her solve the crossword puzzles she works on each day. She said she was wondering how she had gotten so much better at them in the last couple years.

Around 10:30, James closed and an announcement was made that he would be signing books immediately after. Just as I did with Deepak the night before, I took the liberty of taking his pic while he was signing, but it didn't quite go as planned. I took a pic of him, looked at it, saw it was distorted, deleted it, and then took another. Same thing happened. I did this again and again and again. I took 5 pics of him and every one was distorted! I decided to take a pic of my wife to ensure there wasn't anything going on with the camera. Nope, the pic of her was crystal clear. I was going, "WTF", but then realized that if what he says is true, there must be spirits all around him. I had no such problem with any of the other authors that weekend. Course, none of the other authors were psychic. Submitted below are two of the pics:

My wife and I discussed the distorted pics with a couple female attendees nearby before heading back to our room.


Timothy Smith said...

You ever have a private reading Tom?

Thomas said...

Hey, Tim. Good to see you. The day after I heard James speak, I had a toe reading (laugh if you want); go here for the details (and have a kick-ass weekend):


Thomas said...

The link above is a typo. Go here:

or go to:

and scroll down to XVII (17).

Rocketstar said...


Cold, Warm and Hot Reading is something that anybody could learn how to do (some better than others).

As a skeptic, once these "psychics" can hold their power up to the light of scientific testing, I'll believe but everytime one of these psychics is put to the test, they fail. If the person being read never verbally gives them any info, they fail.

Sorry, I'll stop here as these guys get me worked up. ;o)

Thomas said...

Rocket, I don't doubt that there are charlatans out there, hell, the legitimate ones are probably in the minority, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be possible.

Same thing for ghost stories; if just one is true, then spirits exist. I actually came to my beliefs by doing a lot of reading and research.

Quantum physics even plays a part in it as scientists are now seeing that in order to explain the world, there must be many more dimensions than what we can see.

We assume that because we have five senses, we are privy to everything. It would be like a blind man thinking that sight is impossible because he's never personally experienced it.

Check out this easy-to-understand vid on quantum physics:

Randy said...

I once knew a psychic of diminutive stature who was convicted of a crime. He escaped jail and the headlines read "Small medium at large".

Ok, seriously, there was a 20/20 report some years ago by John Stossel where he worked with a psychic. The lady gave readings based on the birth date, exact time and location. She gave Stossel a reading that was very positive.

Trouble was the information he gave was for a mass murderer. She began justifying her reading, because everything she said could be applied to the murder.

20/20 then gave the same reading to 30 people in a room after getting their personal information. They were told not to discuss the specifics, but asked their opinion. Most agreed that the reading was very personal and directed at them. When they found out it was the readeing of a murderer, they were astonished.

But scarier than the charlatans are, I'm more afraid that they may be real. I do believe in spirits, but the thought of someone channeling these beings scares the bejeebies out of me. I wouldn't go near them. I can't see how they could be anything but evil.

Rocketstar said...

Thomas, yep, I know alabout quantum physics, it is wild and does show us that we have a lot to learn about the universe. I've just seen Edwards and Praagh busted and see them as frauds.

Is it possible, sure it maybe possible but until it holds up to objective testing, I can't drink the coolaid so to speak.

disestablishingpuritanism said...

I guess like many people I was skeptical about psychics. That is, until one night when I was at your favorite restaurant, Friday's. A few friends wanted to take me out for a drink before leaving to New England. One of my friends was talking to a fairly attractive woman who was sitting with a few of her friends.

One of the women came up to the bar and I began talking with her. Come to find out, she's this area's most renowned psychic. She was rather drunk but warned that my relationship wouldn't work up there. She also provided a few more intimate details, including the vast difference between my friend and I. She said I had a strong passive-aggressive personality, while he was like an oversized kid. She was right on that as well.

Psychics have been dismissed by predominantly religious institutions over our history. However, many psychics are actually strong practicioners of particular faiths. It was wrong for me to have those same pretentious thoughts before meeting this woman.

Timothy Smith said...

Tom, I would not laugh at you my friend. I have never had a reading but my sister did once. It was not accurate until she was leaving and paying for the visit then the lady was dead on about where she lived, birthday etc.

My sister did not figure it out until she left, she had her wallet open while paying and the lady saw her license.

As Rocket mentioned they seem to do poorly when under a controlled situation. There is a foundation out there that has a one million dollar prize for anyone that can stand up to scientific scrutiny. So far no one has been able to do so.

I did the Ouija board with an self proclaimed expert when I was 19. She said I would have a boy and then two girls and die a violent death at age 34.

I had a girl, boy and now another boy on the way. 2005 at age 34 I did become very sick and the doctors said another day out of intensive care and I could have been too far gone to recover (lungs were full of fluid and I went into septic shock and hypoxia).

I will have to comment on your other stories soon as I really enjoyed the car story.

Thomas said...

Randy, that is a great headline, no question. I'm of the belief that after we pass on, our consciousness continues, that we're free to observe our own funerals and to check in on loved ones from time to time. I've received unmistakable signs from both of my pets shortly after they passed that they continued to exist. I don't believe you need to be afraid of such things.

Rocket, I can understand your wanting to wait until there is objective proof before believing. Based on what I've experienced and read, I'm already there.

PJ, great story (especially the part about being at Friday's; I was there earlier tonight). All psychics are really saying is that life is eternal, that death doesn't exist. In that way, their views are very similar to conventional religion.

Tim, thanks for sharing that. I would say the psychic saw your death at 34 as the most likely outcome at the time. Thankfully, you were able to go down a path in which you didn't pass on (though it still wound up being a near-miss). I'm also a believer in alternate universes, that when making huge decisions, a part of us goes down that other path.

Timothy Smith said...

In my case I almost died because the ER doctor was a moron. He had this idea I was "faking" to score some drugs. It was not until the third ER visit I became so dehydrated they finally called in an ENT to stick a camera down my throat.

After that and some X-Rays the same doctor that turned me away at the ER three times in a row had to send me to intensive care right away.

The ENT said I had a lawsuit but after I recovered I did not see a point. The ER doctor actually billed me for the visits where he did nothing.

Lesson learned, ALWAYS have a family doctor, do not rely on urgent care. All they do is send you to the ER if they cant figure it out. If I had a family doctor he could have sent me to the ENT sooner avoiding the problem.

If you don't have a regular doctor I highly recommend getting one. If something goes wrong that is not easily diagnosed you want someone on your side.

Before heading to the hospital for my 5 days of hell the ER doc had to give me morphine. His last words were still "I guess you finally got what you wanted". I could not speak for a good week so I had to write down my response and hand it to him...

"Fuck you"

Thomas said...

Tim, that's a hell of a story; very blog-worthy. I remember being given morphine in 2002 when I came into urgent care writhing in pain from kidney stones. Thanks for the tip on getting a regular doctor. I'll have to look into that.