After losing some of the most important people in my life, for a while, I became pretty interested in death. I suppose everyone has their coping methods, and mine was to learn about death. It felt like if I could get a grasp on it, talk about, and learn about it, perhaps I would and could fear it a little less. The end result was that I learned it’s not death I fear so much, but the loss of hope and losing the loved ones I hold so dear to me. I think a lot of people, when faced with death, follow up with the question…what, if anything happens next? Are our loved ones’ energies still around somehow? Are there ghosts? Why do ghosts always seem to be from the Victorian era, and not Bobby the crack head from around the block? Are ghosts and spirits real? Or are they just a figment of our imagination we use as a coping mechanism? Can we somehow communicate with the deceased, or they with us? Or, when you die, is that just…it? End of story?
Last year, I started looking into self proclaimed psychic mediums. I was curious what they had to say, and whether any appeared to be legit. I saw one who did some readings online, and started paying attention to see whether he was on point, or whether he was cold reading. If you’re not familiar with cold reading, take some time to look it up. It’s a bit of an art form, and once you know what it is, it becomes easier to spot. Cold reading is when a person can sit with someone and effectively throws out statements and questions, common names, letters, and other info to try to “pull in” the person sitting. Usually the person or people sitting WANT to believe, often because they have recently lost someone close to them and want to get some message or closure. For example, someone professing to speak to spirits may do a group reading, and say…”I am seeing an older woman, and I am getting an “M” name. Mary? Maggie? Marie?” Now an audience with older people in it have pretty good odds that their parents, aunts, grandparents or great grandparents may have passed away, and all of those names are common. Usually someone will acknowledge the connection, and say “yes, my grandmother’s name was Mary!” Now the reader has a target. “She is telling me she is very proud of you. You do so much for others!” The reader, hearing flattery, is likely hooked in at this point, agreeing they do much for others. The reader may then make generalized statements about ‘Mary’ that could apply to just about anyone, before saying “I see a male energy, he is pretty quiet though”. At this point, this male energy could be anyone, and is open to interpretation. Any info by the sitter to the reader can lead them on to the next piece of info. Hits are celebrated and focused on, misses are brushed aside and occasional excuses are made “hmm, not sure who that could be, but she is definitely telling me something about a man with the letter G. Think about it.” Often times, the person getting the reading begins to fill in the blanks. This makes it easier on the reader, and they can then use that info to play into. Cold reading is a bit of an art form, but with the help of an audience that is already pre-programmed to believe, it usually isn’t all that hard.
I started watching a medium who does readings online, usually in groups. The messages are often prefaced by implying that those watching should see how the message may be relevant to their lives. He makes general statements, and the viewers dive right in. I watched as people feed him info without meaning to. The saddest are those who are determined any info that may come up is from their loved one, even when the statements are incredibly general. It becomes inherently clear that people want to believe and will do so at all costs. I’ve watching him read for people I know, and while one person raved that he gave them specific, detailed validations, the others I watched were full of sweeping statements that the person determined MUST be a message for them. When a medium says…”I am seeing someone pointing to their chest…as they may have died from a heart issue or a lung issue” it doesn’t escape me that 2 of the number one killers are heart attacks and lung cancer. With statistics as they are, the person is bound to get a hit. I can spot the cold read, but then again, I’m familiar with it and looking for it.
I dove in and scheduled a reading with a psychic medium that came highly recommended a few months ago. I was admittedly curious, as the person who recommended them has a close tie to me, and the meeting they had with him had info that was so specific, it caught my ear. Even information on the spacing of writing on a headstone was mentioned, as well as info that one could certainly link to my mom. I scheduled a video conference with him, and settled in. As someone who is inherently familiar with cold reading, I was cautious to listen intently, but not really provide a ton of information. I felt comfortable that my social media was locked down, so there was no way to garner much info about me online. I didn’t offer up details or much, just confirmed what was applicable, denied what wasn’t. The reading, sadly, didn’t really go anywhere. Without me offering details, I found he really struggled to give me much info at all. Honestly, though, the guy was really pleasant, and I felt a bit bad he was so stumped. He didn’t even charge me for the reading.
Now, before you say “well, maybe nobody came through” let me assure you….anyone who knew my mother knows if there was a tiny sliver of a way she could reach out to me, she WOULD. My mother believed in an afterlife. I think that’s part of the reason I believe some of the things I do. When my mom died on the operating table and had to be resuscitated, she told me a story after of what she had seen, that she had asked for proof of such, and we found the proof existed. After she died, I had a lot of strange electrical things happen, and it followed me from place to place. It became so bizarre that I have no doubt if she was able to communicate in any way, she would.
This leads me to today. I saw a discussion online about psychic mediums and a medium came up as HIGHLY recommended. I admit, my curiosity was peaked. As a birthday gift to myself, I made an appointment. At the very least, I figured, I’d be entertained. Best case scenario, I might get a hell of a birthday gift. Before I went, I spoke out loud my plan to the universe, and felt, if my mom was able to hear me, that I gave a few “keywords” I would be looking for. I walked in, sat down, and met the medium, who was, honestly, extremely sweet and lovely. Again, I had oodles of people who had said how “spot on” she was during their readings with them.
We started off with small chat about the weather, and suddenly, she delved right in about an older female energy. I decided to offer a bit of info, and acknowledged that could be my grandmother. She mentioned strife between my mother and my grandmother. I advised the two were actually very close. She then turned to my mom and said…so how are things with you and your mom? What’s going on there? I paused, unsure how to answer that question, which I think she took to perhaps mean an affirmative. I’m hearing that something is going on with you and your mom now, what would that be? I said “not much, I mean, she passed away”. “of course, I am seeing her now” she responded. Already, I was seeing that this wasn’t going to go very well. She said my mother always tried to look her best and dress nicely (don’t MOST women do that?). She said my mother was proud of me (doesn’t every child hope to hear that?) She kept asking me about a letter name, but it was nothing related to me. I explained I had a friend who passed with the same letter, but not that name. “He is telling me you were such a good friend. You always had things to laugh about”. Well, don’t most friends have things to laugh about? (Aren’t most friends kind to each other?) I didn’t offer up much info about my friend and she quickly left the topic. Back to my family it went, without saying much. “Your mom says you are very independent, very busy, always on the go” “You did things your own way”. These type of general, sweeping statements could apply to anyone. I was feeling defeated. This is just SO bad. I tried to offer a lead her way “I am wondering about a very random object in the dining room, as my mom would be very, very clear about it” I said, to which she paused, trying to clearly figure out what on earth I could be referencing, before switching topics.
She made a lot of statements, all of which were flattering, somewhat vague, or statistically plausible. None sparked me. In fact, while I tried to keep a straight face, inside I was dying. This was going just SO badly. There was a lot of flattery, a lot of generalized info, but I felt without a doubt, that she was not speaking with anyone I knew.
You know, they people we love and cherish are such 3 dimensional characters. They have passions, humor, and nuances about them that make up their spirit of who they are. My mom, at about 5’1, was a tiny force to be reckoned with. She had a somewhat dirty sense of humor that was often surprising considering her posh accent and clothes. She was a HUGE personality in a tiny package. She was talkative, kind, and always extended a hand to the new person or outsider to bring them in. I have no doubt that if she had a chance to truly send me a message, it would be quite specific and there would be something humorous about it. She would want me to have no lingering doubt it was her. The messages I received from the Medium today belied everything about my mom. I paid the woman for her time, but left almost angry with myself for wasting it.
Will I ever go to a medium again? I can tell you I don’t honestly know. I think my experiences and the fact I have seen so much cold reading should lead me to say no. I’m an optimist at heart, albeit a bit of a cynic, which is an odd combination.
I’d give anything to have any sort of conversation with my loved ones who have passed. Sometimes when I am mulling over something I can almost hear their voices telling me what I’m quite sure they would say. Maybe I don’t need a medium. Maybe the ones I love are always in my heart, and I know, deep down, what their thoughts of things would be.
So far all those claiming to be mediums have been clearly cold readers. Maybe they truly believe they have a gift, maybe it’s just a job with a parlor trick. Who knows? What I do know, is that HAD my mom been sitting in that room, she would have laughed and said “This is bloody bullshit, this is!”